Recently, we finally managed to visit the Warner Bros. Studio Tour near London – it’s the place where you can see the making of Harry Potter. As a fan of both the books and the films this was definitely a magical place to visit.
The Hogwartz shield above the fire.
There were a lot of different parts to the Warner Bros Tour, much more than I expected. After looking around some of the sets and the outdoor parts (where you can try butter beer) there was a section which showed how some of the creatures were made – seen here was a mandrake plant.
One of the most impressive parts of the tour was the Hogwarts model. I had seen pictures of this but I didn’t imagine it would be this size. The attention to detail was incredible.
Many, many wands.
If you’re a fan of Harry Potter and can make a trip to the studios I would highly recommend it. It’s a set of stories that I have grown up with and it was wonderful to see how some of the films had been put together.
While in the Gion district of Kyoto I had read that you might sometime see Geisha or Maiko moving swiftly through the streets. I didn’t actually expect to see any, particularly as it was a busy time of day and the area was full of tourists. But, as I was taking photographs of something else a lady – either a Geisha or Maiko literally swept past me. It all happened in a matter of seconds , she appeared from a side street a moved along the street in a swift but elegant manner. The make-up on her face was beautiful, pristine and striking – you can see from the picture I took the pattern of the make-up that has been made on her neck.
One of the best things about Japan was the food. Whenever I talked to people about going to Japan the usual reaction was that they thought it would be expensive, but in reality you can eat very reasonably in Japan (in fact very cheap), it really depends where you go and the type of food you want. Here are a few of the delights we tried on our journey.
This wasn’t beer but melon soda in a restaurant in Hiroshima – despite the bright green colour this tasted very fruity.
What was very surprising was the McDonalds in Japan, much nicer than we have here in the UK. We stopped in a McCafe in Kyoto for coffee and Carlos decided to try some of the cake too. The sauce decorations were a nice touch.
While in Hiroshima we ate at a Chinese restaurant – mainly because I wanted to try the dan dan noodles we had seen in the window. But when inside the restaurant I saw a spicy version of the dish and decided to order that instead. This was probably the spicest thing I have ever eaten but was also extremely delicious. It got the the point where I didn’t want to eat any more because it was so hot, but wanted to keep on eating because it tasted so good. I ate as much as I could bear. That will teach me for ordering the spicy version of dan dan noodles. Yakitori in Tokyo!
This was a memorable meal. We found a restaurant with a menu that looked good but there was nothing in English and the staff didn’t speak English either but were very friendly. We managed to order with a combination of broken Japanese, smiling and pointing. We didn’t realise what we ordered would need to be cooked at our table so we were a little surprised when they brought a cooker to our table. But it was probably one of the more fun meals we had on the holiday.
In many of the department stores in Japan there were bakeries with all sorts of novelty food items – including these little sweet buns. The most amazing chicken Ramen I have ever eaten, from a small ramen restaurant in a basement in electric street near Shinjuku.
While staying in Kyoto we took a local train to Nara to visit a temple with one of the world’s largest Buddha statues. The Eastern Great Temple or Tōdai-ji is located in a complex a short walk from the train station. The temple grounds also have freely roaming deer. The deer were very comfortable around humans and there were plenty of places where you could buy deer food – I don’t imagine any of the deer around here ever go hungry.
This picture was taken just before we entered the park at a bakery at the train station. It puts train station food and drunk in the UK to shame. I had an apricot bun from here that I can only describe as heavenly.
Continuing our exploration along the Nishiki food market in Kyoto we manage to find one of the things that the market is famous for – baby octopus stuffed with a quails egg.
When travelling I love to visit markets, particularly food markets, they reveal so much about cuisine and culture. Nishiki Market in Kyoto was a great example of this. It is a very long shopping street that is covered and is known as Kyoto’s Kitchen because of the hundreds of market stalls and restaurants that line it (and the surrounding side streets).
While in Japan we had seen some cherry blossom in Tokyo but it was really towards the end of the season there. However, when we reached Kyoto many more of the cherry trees were in bloom. After visiting the temple of the Golden Pavillion we went for a walk in search of lunch and accidentally discovered a small park that had an event as part of the cherry blossom festival.
It was literally raining cherry blossom everywhere in this park.
Quite a few times in Japan, by wandering off the tourist trail we discovered places that were both beautiful and fascinating. This was definitely one of those times. Technically we ended up in this place because I mis-read the map, and I am very glad I did!
I have a lifetime ambition to visit as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible and on the trip to Japan I was able to tick quite a few off this list. One of the most spectacular sites had to be the Temple of the Golden Pavillion (Kikaku-ji) in Kyoto.
One evening in Tokyo we headed back to Shibuya, keen to see what the place looked like once the sun went down.
At the famous Shibuya crossing there were plenty of tourists heading backwards and forwards across the crossing trying to get that ‘in action’ shot. In the earlier Shibuya post I mentioned the view from the Starbucks store, and this is that view.