Sunday 21st

Made our way via shinkansen and local trains to Koriyama, just outside Nara. En route saw a distinctly Western looking church near the shinkansen lines.

Further along the local track from Onomichi, saw the station with the Best Name ever – Bingo-Akasaka!

Grand Sunpia Hotel

Grand Sunpia Hotel

Arrived in Koriyama, checked into a wonderful hotel which was part of a church. Specialising in traditional weddings, quelle surprise… Nice big room by Japanese standards.

In search of coffee and cake, spent the afternoon in the local Aeon shopping mall. Had great fun trying to figure out what various products were. The area is known for goldfish production, and the mall had some impressive displays referencing this. James scored some awesome Neko (cat) shorts.

On tannoy in supermarket: “Victim of Love” by Erasure, circa 1987. Downloaded their first two albums, oh my the nostalgia. Also in supermarket – 4 litre (!) bottles of what seemed to be sake for cooking with. That’s a party right there.


Monday 22nd



Hopped a local express service to Kyoto for the day. It’s around an hour’s journey, and it showed just how built up Japan can be. Aside from some farmland and the odd stand of bamboo, there was housing along most of the line, often right next to it. Even a cemetery halfway along.

On the train we couldn’t help feeling we were being watched…

DSC02467Started our visit by going up to the top of Kyoto Tower. Perched on top of a hotel this gave great views of the city spread out around us – with high powered binoculars on stands to zoom in on detail.
The tower even had its own shrine.


All aboard!

All aboard!

Next we hopped a bus over to the Kyoto Railway museum ( As you can see, our helpful guard at the bus station is clearly in no mood to retire!

The exhibits here gave a great view of how Japan’s railway networks grew and evolved, from steam right up to the latest Shinkansen. They even had Shinkansen driving simulators – sadly we didn’t manage to get a go…
Lots of assistance from England in the early days (a beautifully preserved steam loco from mid 1800’s was made in Leeds), and we also supplied rails for their infrastructure up until the early 1900’s. I think I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…


imag00397After lunch at a great ramen (noodle soup) and gyoza (dumplings) place, we headed over to visit the Ryozen Kannon, an impressive war memorial. Wandered through the streets around, some beautiful houses. We also saw a statue of a Japanese folk legend called the tanuki. As you can see from the picture, he has most impressive…er…. ‘equipment’!

“Daikaidan” or Grand Stairway

“Daikaidan” or Grand Stairway

On our way back to Koriyama, we explored the facilities above – and below- Kyoto Station. Kyoto Station is more than just a place to catch a train. A massive ultra-modern complex of glass and steel, it was designed by the award winning architect Hiroshi Hara, and houses an incredible range of shops, restaurants, and recreational facilities. We first headed up through a department store to find some great views of Kyoto. The “Daikaidan” or Grand Stairway runs from the 4th floor of the west wing of the station all the way up to the Sky Garden on the 15th floor. 

We then descended into the other shopping centre in the basement levels, and found an impressive, detailed Lego reconstruction of – Kyoto Station! Amazing reflections of sunset clouds from the façade, and a night-time view of the Kyoto tower, completed our photography for the day.