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.
There are so many high rise towers in Tokyo, and there are a few options for getting a view from up high in the city. We opted to try out the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Tower Observatories. It’s a nice area to wander around, with several gardens close by and plenty of places for coffee.
It was a pretty hazy day in Tokyo, so we weren’t able to see the mountains beyond the city, but nevertheless a spectacular view – you can even see the trees still with cherry blossom dotted among the park below.
We were in this area at what must have been the beginning of lunch time as there was almost a surge of people streaming out of the buildings in the area into the restaurants, cafes and shops. As you can see here, some people were really in a hurry!
After a walk through Shibuya and past Harajuku we ended up at the Meiji Shrine which is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirits of the Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shōken.
In many locations around the shrine there were places to hang Ema, small wooden plaques which are usually used by Shinto worshippers to write their prayers or wishes. They are hung around theses shrines so that the spirits can then receive them.
If you are in Tokyo and need a bit of peace and tranquility this is definitely a good place to try. It’s true that this place does get busy with a lot of tourists, but it is still one of the most peaceful places we visited in the city.
Before visiting Japan when I thought of Tokyo I thought of Shibuya crossing which is famous for being one of the world’s busiest road crossings. I have seen so many photographs of this place and it was one of the places I really wanted to visit. We ended up in Shibuya a few times over the trip but the photographs in this post are from the first visit. While it might look busy in this picture, this was actually pretty quiet for Shibuya – as we found out when we went back later in the day.
For a good view over the crossing it is worth heading up to the Starbucks that is on the first floor of the store you can see in this picture. It’s probably the best view I’ve had in a Starbucks. While the crossing does have ‘pedestrian crossing’ lines which cross in different direction it does seem like people will charge in more or less any direction, as you see in this picture.
The Ginza district in Tokyo named after the silver-coin mint established in the Edo Period, is now home to high end shops and restaurants. Our first hotel was in this district and it meant every walk home in the evening was a delight of bright lights. I don’t often get much chance in the UK to do much photography in the evening so this was quite a refreshing challenge to work with different conditions.
Here was the view from our first hotel room – a great spot for people watching.
While the main streets were full of high street brands that would be familiar in any city, it was the side streets that made Ginza so fascinating. Look down many of the side streets and you would see lots of different places to eat, but a totally different feel to the main street.
One evening we actually walked a bit too far, and missed the turning for our hotel but it meant we did end up seeing one of Tokyo’s most famous Kabuki theateres Kabuki-za.
This shop was closed but with this kind of shop front decoration I’m pretty sure I would have spent a fair bit of time in here! As you can see here there were plenty of shopping opportunities, although we were happy to just to wander around taking photos.
Much like in any city, I often discover things off the main street – you might just be able to see at the back of this photographs a Starbucks logo – this was the first Starbucks in Tokyo (which we did visit a couple of times).
For some reason I loved taking photographs of crossing in Japan. I think it is in part because they are so much bigger than in the UK and the bursts of activity that happen when the pedestrians start to walk make for some great images.
Finally, a day off work to go for a wander. With the sun still out we decided to head to Birmingham as it’s a place we’ve been meaning to visit for some time. I’ve never really explored Birmingham before, it’s usually a place I just travel past on the M6 of through when changing trains at Birmingham New Street Station.
As with any city, some interesting street art.