The idea behind travelling through Japan and South Korea was to arrive to China by land, and getting a visa on the way there. Apart from that, it also gave us a break from travelling in more “difficult” countries like Russia and China, the side effect being our budget jumping up to the sky.
From Wakkanai, we took a train to Sapporo, a city we had already visited two years ago and liked a lot. On the day we arrived, the city held fireworks by the river (almost in time for 1st of August!).
We also went on another cycling trip along the river on small Japanese bikes to visit a sculpture park outside the city.
From Sapporo we took the Twilight Express to Kyoto, a 20-hour train journey. We were amazed by our compartment, just for the 2 of us, with one of the beds converted to comfortable seats during the day. Of course we couldn’t help comparing with Russian trains, and the samovar with hot water was definitely missing, as was the handtowel and cheap food sold on the train and on platforms.
We got off in Kyoto and were hit immediately by the heat and humidity, which made sightseeing very tiring. We still managed to see a few temples (although some of them are really overrun by tourists and full of souvenir shops) and of course eat some nice food.
From Kyoto we then took a Nozomi train (the super-fast bullet train) to Fukuoka, from where we planned to take the ferry to South Korea. Fukuoka was just as hot and humid, and unfortunately we chose one of the cheapest hotels which was not as nice as others we had experienced (and we had to pay for the air-conditioning).
One evening we went to eat at a Yakitori Restaurant, where everything is grilled in front of the counter where people sit, which makes for quite an amusing entertainment while you’re eating.
We left Japan on the 7th of August on a ferry to South Korea, a new country for me and reviving old memories for Miguel.