Friday 29 November 2013

To most people, Hiroshima means just one thing. The city’s name will forever evoke thoughts of 6th August 1945, when Hiroshima became the target of the world’s first atomic bomb attack.

A painting of Hiroshima at night
Late last month I mastered the Japanese transportation system and made a 4 hour trip to Hiroshima for the weekend. It proved to be the most memorable, moving and insightful experience to date and I am extremely glad I made the effort to go.

I have travelled on the bullet train a couple of times, but this was my first long distance trip. Honestly, I could rave about the bullet train all day, not only are they extremely fast, but also hyper-efficient. Routes are timed to the second, delays are declared if trains arrive more than one minute late and they stop on the platform with clockwork precision. Also on board every train is an earthquake detection system (detects an earthquake 40 seconds before the shaking), the train will come to an abrupt stop if an earthquake is detected. It was the fastest and least stressful 450 miles trip by public transport ever. Arriva Trains Wales, Virgin trains and friends you have a lot to learn.

Fresh faced and ready to explore I arrived in Hiroshima at 9am and bought a 2 day trip card (2000 Yen, roughly £14) which is valid on all streetcar lines, the ferry to Miyajima and Miyajima ropeway. It is worth every penny as one trip on the rope way will cost you 1800 Yen if bought separately.

The starkest reminder of the destruction visited upon Hiroshima is the Atomic Bomb Dome. The building was an Industrial Promotion Hall until the tremendous bomb obliterated nearly everything within a two kilometre radius. It is a tragic reminder nestled amongst a modern, thriving and international minded city. I was so lucky with the weather and got many postcard worthy photos of the dome.

Across from the A Dome is the peace memorial park, which is dotted with memorials including the cenotaph which contains all the names of the known victims from the initial blast or exposure to radiation. Over 220 000 names are engraved on the memorial.

Centotaph Memorial
The inscription on the cenotaph memorial reads – “let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil.” It expresses the spirit of Hiroshima, pursuing harmony and prosperity for all, and yearning for genuine, lasting world peace.

The cenotaph frames the Flame of Peace which will only be extinguished once the last nuclear weapon on earth has been destroyed.

Nearby is the Children’s Peace Monument, inspired by Sadako Sasaki. When Sadako developed leukaemia at 11 years of age, in 1955, she decided to fold 1000 paper cranes. In Japan, the crane is the symbol of longevity and happiness and she was convinced that if she achieved that target she would recover. She died before reaching her target but her classmates folded the rest. The story has spread around the world, and now, approximately 10 million cranes are offered each year before the Childrens Peace Monument.

Throughout the day, many groups of school children from across Japan came to the memorial to offer their own cranes. All the groups sang and read speeches before presenting the cranes. Even though I couldn’t understand what they were singing it was very emotional. I watched humbled, as many children shed a tear for the children they never knew who suffered at the hands of the bomb.

Group of school children singing before presenting the cranes they had made.
The Golden Crane Bell inside the memorial.
Cranes donated by people all over the world. 

A statue of Sadako Sasaki stands on the top of the memorial. 
 All visitors are encouraged to donate cranes to the memorial. I made an offering of two cranes to the monument and registered my desire for peace.
The cranes I made and donated. 

Also in the park is the Korean Atomic Bomb Memorial. Many Koreans were shipped over to work as slave labourers during WW2 and Koreans counted for more than one in 10 of those killed by the atomic bomb. The Korean victims were given no funerals or memorial services and it was said that their spirits hovered for years unable to pass on to heaven. Then, on April 10th, 1970, the monument to Korean Victims and Survivors was erected.

After a quiet and contemplative walk around the park I headed to the Peace Memorial Museum (only 50 Yen to enter, roughly 7p). The museum presents the history of the city leading up to the dropping of the bomb, depressing displays of salvaged items from the aftermath of the explosion and the city’s redevelopment. The displays here are harrowing; amongst the displays are ragged clothes, a child’s melted lunch box and scooter, and some distressing photographs. It is really moving to read the stories of those killed by the explosion and for some visitors to the museum it was simply too much. At the end of the museum you can hear the testimonials of survivors. It serves as a reminder to not take peace for granted.

I am sure that my single signature will not create peace alone, but like millions of others; I signed a petition for world peace on my way out of the museum.

Next to the museum is Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall, a walkway circles down to a contemplative underground hall of remembrance and a room where the names and photographs of atomic-bomb victims are kept, along with testimonies from survivors.

With a mix of emotions, I decided that it was time to explore more of Hiroshima away from the crowds. I visited Shukkei-en which translates as shrunken-scenery garden. Valleys, mountains and forests are represented in miniature in the gardens landscapes. Around the main lake there are a couple of tea houses and it was the perfect setting to enjoy watching a traditional tea ceremony. I then took a short walk to Hiroshima castle, a traditional wooden castle re-build after the bomb.


Hiroshima castle 

After a busy day, I tucked into Hiroshima okonomiyaki. It consists of thin pancakes, topped with cabbage, and various other toppings such as shrimp, pork, garlic etc. Hiroshima okonomiyaki also includes either soba or udon noodles all topped with a special sauce. It is all cooked right in front of you on a hot griddle; I had opted for garlic okonomiyaki with pork and shrimp, oishii!

I took some night shots of a beautifully lit up Atomic Dome and headed back to the hostel. I intended to have an early night ready for an early start but I ended up talking for many hours and drank gin with my fellow hostel stayers. My room was a traditional tatami Japanese style room, it was basic but very comfortable.

Hiroshima at night 

As my first day came to a close I wished that visiting Hiroshima was mandatory for every person at least once in their lifetime. Many westerners often skip Hiroshima for the grandeur of the temples of Kyoto and the vibrancy of Tokyo city. The world has a constant reminder of the destruction and devastation caused by war, and worse, nuclear war. The city of Hiroshima and those who visit hope that we can, if not immediately, then perhaps with a new generation, get closer to the promise of enduring world peace. 

I am catching up with my blog! I will be leaving Japan in 3 weeks time, but watch this space, australiaismycanvas and newzealandismycanvas are next! 

I have had over 4500 views of my blog from all over the world. Thank you to all the strangers that get in touch. I am really keen to pursue a career in art, so if anyone knows of any internships starting in April in the UK or abroad please drop me a message!

It was a nice day for a fox wedding!!!

Saturday 2 November 2013

The Japanese are some of the skinniest and most gentle people in the world, so it’s a little ironic that the national sport of Japan involves two very overweight men trying to shove each other out of a ring wearing nothing more than a silk thong.

Painting of sumo wrestlers in the ring 
On September the 22nd (yes that is how far behind I am on this blog) we went to Tokyo for the day to watch some fat men wrestle. The truth is that it’s not just flab but there is a whole lot of muscle underneath it all. These men are huge in height and weight. They weigh anything between 29 to 40 stone and they are extremely flexible.

Barton, Ali, Tom,Cheryl and I outside the Ruogoku Sumo Hall in Tokyo
On a typical day they are consuming roughly 20 000 calories in two huge meals (the recommended intake for a healthy active man is 2 500). A typical meal is Chankonabe (stew filled with fish, meat, vegetables and tofu) which is accompanied by 5-10 bowls of rice and washed down with copious amounts of beer.

I was expecting to be bored after the first few matches but it was simply fascinating to watch as it’s a very unique sport that has kept its traditional etiquette and rituals. It may seem superficially simple; however, sumo wrestling is actually quite complex and requires not only strength but agility and skill.

A rikishi (sumo wrestler) loses if any part of his body lands outside the ring or if any part but the soles of his feet touch the ground.

Raising of the legs - a symbolic movement
Wrestling in the ring

Lower division wrestlers kick start the day’s events at 8:30am, however the majority of spectators (including ourselves) arrive about 2:30-3:00pm to watch the higher ranked divisions. After entering the ring the rikishi goes through a series of symbolic movements. To cleanse his mind and body, the rikishi rinses his mouth with water, the source of purity, and then wipes his body with a paper towel. He then extends his arms to the side and turns his palms upwards to show he is concealing no weapons. And finally, to drive evil from the dohyo(the ring), the rikishi lifts one leg to the side high in the sky, and then the other, bringing each down with a resounding stamp on the ground. Just before entering the dohyo the rikishi also scatters a handful of salt to purify the dohyo.

A Rikishi scattering a handful of salt
Apart from a silk mawashi, a thong to me and you, the rikishi are almost naked. They squat and face each other with their fists on the ground and proceed to glare fiercely at each other. This is called the shikiri. They engage in a kind of “cold warfare” going back and forth (for up to 4 minutes) before waiting for the right moment. The fight itself can be over in seconds! The best matches are always when there is an underdog or one is significantly larger than anther. One match we really enjoyed was a rather slim, muscular rikishi vs the largest rikishi of the bunch. Amazingly, in this match, much to the crowd’s enjoyment, the underdog was victorious!!!

What I loved most about this sport was how disciplined it all was. There was no arguing with the ref, no swearing and certainly no rolling around on the floor “crying” in pain! There is so much money to be made in this sport, but you certainly wouldn’t be able to tell by their reactions after winning a match, they take cool, calm and collected to another level.

On top of their salaries, wrestlers also earn money through sponsorships and other means. Kensho is when sponsored banners are bought up on stage as advertisement by prestigious companies. Each banner costs the company 60 000 Yen (£380) and each fight can have up to 50 banners. Once the match is over, the 60 000 Yen from for each banner is split, the winner will accept an envelope containing 30 000 Yen in his right hand and 25 000 Yen will be deposited in an account for the rikishi at his intai. 5000 Yen is used to pay various taxes. Now if there are 50 banners, you multiply those figures by 50 and that is a lot of money for a minute’s work. Best hourly pay I have heard of in a while.

dohy-iri ceremony (entering of the ring)
 Now, I am sure that if any of us won that kind of money in a minute or two we would be fist pumping the air running the risk of shoulder dislocation. Famously, a sumo wrestler named Asashoryu did just this (well not fist pumping, but gently raised his arms and smiled) and subsequently shocked and horrified the Yokozuna Deliberation Committee. He was promptly issued a warning for dishonorable and unsporting behaviour and labelled the “bad boy.”

I love how sumo has managed to survive with its formalized rituals and traditional etiquette intact. It really is unique. Amongst the ceremonies that take place is the colorful dohy-iri or entering of the ring. Before the tournaments being the wrestlers enter the ring wearing a glorified apron which are made from silk with elaborate embroidery and cost anywhere between 400 000 – 500 000 Yen (£2550 - £3200).

It is a great day out and the cheapest tickets only cost us 4000 Yen (£25) and I highly recommend going! It’s another thing ticked off the “things to doing Japan” list!!


p.s I forgot to mention about my day cooking! As most of you know I am a pro in the kitchen, I am the next Mary Berry *cough cough*! I recently went to Izu-nitta, a small village nearby for the day. I met up with some lovely girls and had a Japanese cooking lesson. We learnt to make pressed sushi, Japanese spring onion and tofu soup, tempura vegetables and prawns and a jelly and red bean dessert. The event was free and the kindness of the Japanese still continues to touch me. The volunteers picked us up from the station, bought all the ingredients and took several hours out of their Sundays to teach us. I met some lovely people and it was great. Master chef I am coming!!

The girls!
The team!

Friday 18 October 2013

Even though I am a little behind on the blog, I absolutely love doing it. My blog is now reaching many people across the world that I have never met. I have recently had a number of people email me, some to compliment me on my art and others to ask questions about teaching in Japan. It’s a pleasure to help people to hopefully achieve their dreams as I live mine. Today, I even received an email from a former teacher of my school (she taught here about 10 years ago) who coincidently just stumbled across my blog, it was a lovely thought of her to drop me an email.

It’s made me realise how much I regret not writing a blog/art for my travels in South America and even just less adventurous times like university and college. Although my most recent piece of art is not relevant to Japan, I still wanted to share it with you all. It’s for a good friend I met whilst in Peru, he commissioned a small piece of art for his home in Hawaii. Of course I chose to paint the most iconic image of Peru, Machu Pichu. John, I know you religiously read my blog so I hope you liked this one-off piece for you. You never know one day it may be worth a penny of two (a girl can dream) so keep hold of it.

Machu Pichu - A painting for John a friend in Hawaii
Back to Japan, and this blog is about the weirdest thing I have done in Japan yet. When I thought about coming to Japan I was aware that I would not be tucking into a delicious Sunday roast smothered in gravy for a long while, but more like fish, more fish, rice and some more rice! What I didn’t expect was one of Japans greatest dining specialities: themed restaurants.

In England, when you hear of themed restaurants, you will probably think the likes of hardrock café and TGI Fridays, but Japan has this and more. Look past the sushi and this is Japans second greatest dining speciality. From medical prisons to maid cafes, opera houses to Disney restaurants, Tokyo is exploding with quirky, bizarre, laughable dining experiences.

You can be served by ninjas or dine in an Alice and Wonderland themed restaurant. But Ali opted for Alcatraz ER, a medical prison themed restaurant. This is the granddad of all themed restaurants, the original, the trend setter. I honestly couldn’t tell whether it was meant to be a prison, a hospital, a medieval dungeon who knows! But it added to the eccentric appeal, and accentuated the fact that Japan is crazy!!!

Upon arrival, you have to state your blood type to enter. Once we confirmed our booking with a rather skankily dressed nurse she grabbed Mary, put her in some sort of machine which categorised her as unquestionably crazy, handcuffed her and led us to our cell! We were already in fits of laughter. We were given our medication (nuts and rice crackers in a polystyrene cup), a menu to browse and instructed to bang on the cell bars with a metal bar for service.  

Our cell for the evening!
The aesthetics are actually rather good, the cells are dark and dingy, blood is smeared up the walls, jars of embalmed body parts line the shelves and you even walk over a rather convincing disembowelled body under the floor. Not even the toilets were able escape a make-over.

Heads were often thrown into your cell or a container for a cocktail. 
You can order a range of dishes from penis sausage to titty rice, dead chicken in a cage to blue curry, all of which arrive in metal surgeon dishes used during operations. The drinks are also inaptly named; our choices included pussy juice (which comes with a vibrator), sperm, beer which arrived in a urine test bottle and a peach cocktail in a baby bottle.

Once you become as comfortable as you can be whilst sat in a small cramped cell it got interesting. Suddenly, with no warning, the lights went out, a loud siren started wailing, and the strobe lighting began. Then queue the escaped psychopathic prison convicts, dressed in a variety of costumes including clowns, shrieking and screaming whilst running around looking for a victim and throwing plastics heads at you.

The most bizzare moment though happens at the end, the nurses and psychopaths all walk around with massive fake sundaes with Christmas lights and sparklers all over them, whilst a Disney sound track blares loudly. There is no explanation, this is Japan and this is a themed dining experience…

The break out! The majority of the "show" was in the
dark so sorry for the poor photo quality! 
The cells! 
The food is not five star but it’s another thing ticked of the “things to do in Japan” list! 

I have lots of experiences to blog, I am trying to catch up... promise! My life is just super exciting and jam packed right now!

Thanks for reading! 


Tuesday 1 October 2013

2nd August was our final day in and around Kyoto, so what better way to explore the city than by bike. Usually bike hire in Kyoto costs roughly 1000 Yen (£6.50) a day to hire, but our hostel was offering a day’s hire for a mere 500 Yen! Bargain! Its such a good way to get around!

Our first stop was Fushimi Inari Shrine, which has ancient origins predating to the capitals move to Kyoto in 794. Fushimi Inari is a National Heritage site and the most important of several thousand Shinto shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Inari shrines are instantly recognizable by a pair of foxes which keep guard at the entrance. Capable of changing shape and vanishing in an instant, foxes are sacred in Japanese mythology and are said to be messengers for the goddess.

Painting of one of the foxes near the entrance of Fushimi Inari Shrine 
The central complex alone is beautiful and certainly worth exploring, at the very back of the shrines main ground is the entrance to the torii gate covered hiking trail. The trail begins with two dense parallel rows of gates call Senbon Torii (“thousands of torii gates”), it is this image that always features in many Japanese guide books. Looking down through the torii gates and these iconic aisles of torii gates appear endless. There are tens of thousands of vibrant, vermillion arches which form a path that winds through a forest and up the mystic and sacred Mount Inari.  

The Romon Gate stands at the entrance of the main complex
The Inari deity (god) is well known as the god of agriculture and business. As such, Fushimi Inari Shrine is frequented by businesses and businessmen and women praying for success. The torii gates are donations by individuals and companies in hope that it will bring them good fortune, costs start from roughly 400 000 Yen (£2500) for a small sized gate and increases to over one million Yen (£6400) for a large gate. You will find each torii bears the name of its donor on the left and the date sponsored on the right. Some torii are ancient and in need of repair, whilst others are more recent indicating that this religion is still very much alive today.

Senbon Torii - the entrance to the hiking trail

Torii Gates

One of the many sub-shrines on the trail
You can’t say you have properly visited Fushimi Inari Shrine until you have made the 2 hour trek up and around Mount Inari. As you venture further along the trail, not only do the torii become less dense, but so do the people, making the journey quiet and peaceful. On the way up there are numerous sub-shrines, each are graced by the presence of a fox and many ornamental sized torii (bought by those with a few less pennies than the high flying businessmen), a few tea houses are also dotted about. Visitors are free to walk as much as they wish before turning back; many will stop at the Yotsutsuji intersection (about a 40 minute walk) which offers beautiful views of Kyoto city.   

The trail is often frequented by dog walkers, joggers and pilgrims all year round and it was lovely to be greeted with a hearty konnichiwa as they pass.

We did the full hike, the shrine and the tens of thousands of torii are impressive, beautiful and serene. We really enjoyed spending the morning here although it appeared that Tom and James had both taken sweating to another level. It was extremely humid and hot all day!

A very busy Nishiki Market
Mini octopus with eggs inside
Next we cycled along the river and headed towards central Kyoto to see what the city centre had to offer. 

I wanted to visit the Nishiki Market, as it was a must see in my guide book. It is a narrow long shopping street lined with hundreds of shops and restaurants. Known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen” this lively food market sells all the weird and wonderful culinary delights that Kyoto is famous for. 

We tasted many delicious and not so delicious samples, we call it food roulette. I particularly enjoyed the dry chilli shrimp. I've heard that many of the stores have been running in the same family for many many generations. It was great to see a thriving market which is  very much a central part of many locals lives. 

Finally, after a pit stop for some delicious but expensive frozen yoghurt, we cycled to Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district. It is filled with restaurants, shops and ochaya (tea houses) where geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) and maiko (geiko apprentices) entertain. Many of the streets maintain their traditional wooden frontage, the most popular is Hanami-koji Street which accommodates many restaurants and the most exclusive and expensive ochaya (teahouses).

I was very lucky to catch a glimpse of a geiko on her way to prepare for an engagement at an ochaya that evening. As to respect her I tried to keep my distance so that she could carry on her day-to-day life, however many tourist act like ruthless paparazzi resulting in an increase in complaints in recent years.

A Geiko on her way to prepare for an engagement at an ochaya that evening
Overlooking the river

After a long and sweaty day, Tom, Ali and Mary wearily cycled home. Giant and I explored the area a little more. We had a little wonder around nearby Yasaka Shrine and Kenninji Temple, took a brief stop along the river to take in the beautiful views, and made several stops in shops to sample Yatsuhashi. Yatsuhashi is a small sweet famous in Kyoto. It is soft thin squares of cinnamon scented mocha (sticky rice) dough, folded into triangles and filled with a sweet paste such as azuki bean, apricot jam etc. Scrumptious!

Finally, Giant and I headed to the hostel to de-sweat and scrub up for our final night together. We headed back to Gion for Shabu-Shabu and a wonder round the city at night. It was lovely and romantic, until we went to purchase some pudding in a small convenience shop and some tramp in the queue weed all over the floor. Delightful!  

Shabu-Shabu in a small restaurant in the Gion district 

On that note, this bought our trip to a close; shattered we fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow. Saturday was spend slowly making our way back to Numazu on the local train (it took over 8 hours due to a problem on the track) and our final super at Hamazushi (a chain sushi restaurant).

I loved planning the trip and those of you who know me will know that it was of course run with military precision. Everyone very kindly bought me a lovely yukata (traditional summer garment worn at festivals) to show their appreciation.  It was perfect for Ito summer festival for two reasons, firstly I could wear my very own yukata and blend into the crowds, secondly, it was a great blanket for when I missed the last train home and had to spend the night on a public bench and in McDonalds.

This post brings our main summer trip to an end, and I really hope you have enjoyed my blog posts. My next post will be about our evening in a themed restaurant in Tokyo!!!


Wednesday 25 September 2013

Today’s plans were to head to what turned out to be my favourite place in Japan yet, the beautiful town of Nara, followed by a stop at Oksaka Aquarium in the late afternoon!  Nara was Japan’s first permanent capital in the year 710, it is a very charming antiquated town. Parts of the old town have retained its share of ancient temples and old shops from its feudal past. It is like an open air museum of traditional life from a century ago just with a few additional overheard power lines and Toyota cars.

Feeding a deer
Nara is only a 50 minute train ride from Kyoto. It has a great advantage of having the majority of attractions grouped together in one huge park enabling you to walk everywhere.

The cutest attraction by far is the 1 200 wild sika deer that freely roam the huge park. They are extremely placid so you can walk up to them and stroke them no problem.  It is a strange experience to wander around and see deer at a bus stop deer, in shops, in toilets…everywhere!  Some loose change (150 Yen) will get you some sika senbei (deer crackers), they look like something you may pick up at the supermarket if you were on a terribly unexciting diet. There are kiosks dotted around the park run by elderly women. The deer seem to recognise that the kiosk ladies are not a walking vending machine, when too many congregated near the kiosk they are shooed away with a broom.

Many deer began to surround us and took a strong liking to chewing my dress.
Cute, yes, but mix that with hunger and persistence and they become cheeky and determined. Whilst some deer lazed under trees, most were engaged in some form of chase with their human visitors, nipping at clothing, legs, arms etc. My biscuits lasted approximately 20 seconds, as soon as I walked away from the kiosk, deer began running towards me. Believe me it’s actually quite scary, don’t be surprised when one head butts you or bites you because you didn’t give it your last cracker. Some have even learnt to bow, which is adorable.
All of us at one of the lakes in the park

Within the park, finely wooded with ancient trees, are many historic old buildings, including temples and pagodas, and a number of large lakes. The park is packed with many temples, but you do get to that point in Japan when you start to feel like all temples look the same. Seen it, done it! 

Mary, Tom and Ali had given up looking at more temples. As this may be our first and only trip to Nara James and I decided to continue on and I am so glad we did. 

The sight of Todaiji temple was particularly magnificent and completely unexpected. It is one of Japan's most famous and historically significant buildings. It was the head temple of all Buddhist temples in Japan, and grew so powerful that the capital was moved to Nara. It is the world’s largest wooden building, and the main hall hosts Japan's largest bronze Buddha. Along the approach to Todaiji stands the Nandaimon Gate, watched over by two fierce looking statues which represent the Nio Guardian Kings (these are now national treasures). 

Todai-ji - a very prominent and magnificent wooden building.

James and I at the entrance.

The Buddha is 15 metres tall and it is flanked by two Bodhisattvas. It is extremely difficult to give a sense of scale, but his open hand alone is taller than you r average human. 

Apart from this, there are two main quirky details about the temple. One of the pillars has a hole which is the size of one of the Buddha’s nostrils. It is said that if you pass through it, you will be blessed with enlightenment in the next life. But, there’s a catch. You either need to be a child or extremely slim to be able to pass through. 

Thankfully, nobody got stuck on their quests for enlightenment that day.

Outside the temple is a statue of Binzuru, the most widely revered disciple of Buddha. It was creepy. The Japanese believe that if you rub a part of its body and then the corresponding part of your body, you will be cured. 

The forests surrounding the temples are also beautiful and offer a great hide away from the strong sun. Strolling through Nara Park was very relaxing. A beautiful part is the walk leading to Kasuga Grand Shrine, it is flanked with gorgeous moss covered stone lanterns. It’s a romantic and mysterious sight. The Kasuga Grand Shrine is a UNESCO Heritage site and is famous for the bronze lanterns decorating its interiors.

Hundreds of moss covered lanterns line the path up to the temple
Bronze lanterns decorate the interiors of the temple

Koto (wooden stringed instrument) player at Kasuga Grand Shrine
Later that afternoon we got the train from Nara to Osaka Aquarium, also known as Kaiyukan. The aquarium is located in the Tempozan Harbour area of Osakas bay, and it is one of the world’s most spectacular and biggest aquariums. Tickets cost 2 300 Yen (£15). Marine life is displayed in over a dozen tanks, each representing a specific region of the Pacific Rim. The central tank represents the Pacific Ocean and it is home to two magnificent whale sharks, a few hammerhead sharks, some manta rays and a variety of fish. You start your tour on the top floor and spiral your way down around the central tank. Many of the tanks also stretch across several floors, giving you a great view of the animals from different depths and perspectives.

 Gazing into the large central tank.

My favourite was the jelly fish tanks. I literally had my nose pressed up against the glass; I was mesmerised by the truly beautiful but dangerous animals. 

James amongst the jelly fish!
Another jam packed day, another early night in preparation for our last full day in Kyoto.