Nov. 9-11, 2014
After two days of travelling and a really nice dinner at our friends Liz and Flo's in Los Angeles where we managed to take zero pictures, we land in Tokyo!
At the Tsukiji Fish Market, getting to know some of the friends we will be eating for the next week. Top right: our breakfast choices.
Clockwise from top left: our first Boss (hot coffee in a can sold in ubiquitous vending machines by Tommy Lee Jones), stone lanterns at Ueno Park, and the view from Bentendo temple, Ueno Park.
The Imperial Palace moat.
Clockwise from top left: Imperial Palace watchtower, a Japanese garden within the grounds of the Imperial Palace, koi, and a guard on a bicycle.
Sights from the Tokyo Tower. We witnessed a proposal at the top...the hysterical reaction of the woman made it impossible to tell if she said yes or no. (But we're betting yes.)
Our night out with the gentleman of Topcon: Max, Ed, Todd, Alex and the cameraman, Jay.
Nov. 12-13, 2014
We activated our Japan Rail Passes and started our journey east to Fujisan. We stayed at a traditional Japanese ryokan at the base of Lake Kawaguchi. The ryokan experience is similar to going to a spa with a really fancy dinner thrown in. And now we know it really stresses Becky out!
Clockwise from top left: Becky wedged in on a crowded train, Harry in a state of noodle anticipation, our gondola ride down from a lookout point above Lake Kawaguchi, Mt. Fuji peeks out from the clouds, breakfast with a view.
Nov. 13-15, 2014
Japan's capital from 794-1868, Kyoto remains the cultural center of Japan. Huge industrial growth and rebuilding after World War II, however, means that traditional wooden houses and temples stand side-by-side with blocky concrete office buildings and modern glass-and-steel infrastructure. That juxtaposition of old and new pervades the vibe of the city, with Japanese tourists dressed in full geisha attire walking outside cozy izakayas and glitzy nightclubs. A little less user-friendly than Tokyo, this was the only city where we could not, for the life of us, figure out the subway system. Luckily, buses work just about the same everywhere, and we found Kyoto to be a great bike town, too.
Clockwise from top left: a huge orange torii welcoming you into the Higashiyama neighborhood, bikes!, respecting Japanese culture over dumplings, the "Big Bell" at the Chion-in Temple, a pagoda at Chion-in.
Clockwise from top left: Harry at the Imperial Palace, Nijo castle, awesome sushi in Gion.
Clockwise from top left: the bamboo grove at Arashiyama, Harry along the Kamo River, leaves and sun at Arashiyama.
Clockwise from top left: autumn foliage, the shinkansen bullet train, noodles, and Harry housing some takoyaki.
Nov. 16-17, 2014
A two-hour hydrofoil ride south of Kyushu, Yakushima island is a World Heritage site and a slice of rural Japanese life. The coast around the island is home to about 13,000 people. The interior of the island is extremely mountainous and covered in old-growth cedar forest, home to the mighty Yakusugi trees. We spent our first day hiking the Shiratani trail in the interior of the island. Subtropical on the coast and subalpine in the mountains, Yakushima has a unique climate profile that makes the island home to many endemic flora and fauna. The mossy forests were the inspiration for Miyazaki's backgrounds in Princess Mononoke. Our second day on the island was spent on a tour around the coast, getting a feel for island life. The scenery was fantastic and the trip challenging, with no English spoken or Western customs adopted in this part of the country. It felt like we were getting to see a bit of the real Japan.
An epiphyte growing on dead cedar trees. Because the island is mostly granite, the roots of the trees are all mostly visible clinging to the bedrock.
Hiking the Shiratani trail. The kanji says "bean shell warning above" (watch your head.)
Clockwise from top left: a steep hike up to Taiko-iwa, crossing a gorge, Derek Jeter in the woods.
Clockwise from top left: our little overnight cottage, the Albo river, shochu dreams behind Harry at dinner.
Clockwise from top left: morning like a boss, green tea fields on the coast, the (less scenic) back of that bridge is just plain steel, and a misty morning on the beach.
Clockwise from top left: protecting roof tiles from typhoon gusts, a waterfall blessing, and a low-tide hot spring.
Clockwise from top left: an honesty shop on the island—just drop in 100 yen and take the produce of your choice, tropical fruit is one of many crops on the island, and the endemic Yakushima monkeys.
Nov. 17-18, 2014
We spent our last 24 hours in Japan in the city of Fukuoka, the largest city on the island of Kyushu. Closer to Seoul than Tokyo, Fukuoka (and all of Kyushu) is known for having a much more laid-back, surfer vibe and a friendlier attitude than Honshu. Though we never encountered anybody even remotely unfriendly in Japan, it did seem as though the people in Fukuoka were perhaps less reserved. We had a memorable dinner at a restaurant where only the owner spoke English (and then just a tiny bit!) But rather than being put out at having to deal with us, he was delighted to have us and brought us all his favorite dishes, then insisted on taking our picture outside the restaurant once we were finished with our meal. We encountered that type of hospitality over and over in Japan.
Clockwise from top left: everybody is so stoked we are at the Tofu restaurant!, a traditional Asian breakfast, one final pagoda, moon phase stone lanterns, the most advanced Japanese toilet of all, a nice offering of Japanese trees, the many faces of tofu at Mihara Tofuten.
Nov. 19-20, 2014
One overnight flight and one hairy Manila layover later, we're in Australia! Melbourne is the second-largest city, known for its coffee and culture. Winding alleys filled with delicious food or expertly executed graffiti abound. We stayed in an Airbnb in Albert Park, a small quiet south suburb. After losing daylight around 4:30 every day in Japan, it was fun to be in springtime and have the sun stay up past 9pm. Plus the water really DOES go the wrong way down the sink (and the constellations are upside down!)
Clockwise from top left: Harry finally let me wear something as a hat, a piece of Melbourne's beautiful Victorian architecture, on the southern banks of the Yarra river, getting to know the Australian flora, street art on Hosier Lane, the Shrine of Remembrance, samplings at the Matilda Bay brewery, yielding in new ways, downtown.
Hitting the Great Ocean Road!
GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Nov. 21-23, 2014
Beginning one hour west of Melbourne in Geelong is the Great Ocean Road, a winding two-lane highway hugging the limestone cliffs which give way to the Pacific Ocean below. Surf towns and beautiful nature abound on the route, which stretches 150 miles along the southern coast of Australia. We saw kangaroos and koalas, cockatoos and cows, and stayed in the worst hotel in Anglesea. Success!
Clockwise from top left: At the Little Creatures brewery in Geelong, possibly our new favorite brewery; wall art in Geelong, when the tide is out, and moonscapes in Torquay.
Clockwise from top left: Kangaroos!, Australian chiaroscuro, security measures at the Anglesea Hotel (not a hotel), and Pointbreak at Bell's Beach.
Some unstable cliffs in Aireys Inlet.
Beach explorations, Aireys Inlet.
Clockwise from top left: a wild koala, unauthorized waterfall access, nearing the Twelve Apostles, koala spotting.
The Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell. No, there aren't twelve of them—and they used to be called the Sow and Piglets until somebody figured they should have something a little more highbrow for tourism purposes.
Clockwise from top left: the Arch, the Razorback, Loch Ard Gorge, Victorian coastline, London Bridge (the bridge collapsed in 1990, stranding 2 tourists on the far side.)
Clockwise from top left: the Grotto, another of Australia's natural wonders, the meat pie; FYI, wading at Loch Ard gorge.
The Victorian coastline around Port Campbell is known as the "Shipwreck Coast"—at least 1200 shipwrecks lie right off land. The most famous, Loch Ard, had only two survivors who were washed into this gorge and recovered in this very cave.
Nov. 24-26, 2014
Monday morning we flew to Australia's capital and spent the next few days exploring one of the greatest harbors in the world (pictured from our plane at the top of this page.)
Scenes from Sydney.
Harbor bridge, Opera House, skyline.
Nov. 27-29, 2014
A 20-minute ferry ride north of Sydney is the suburb of Manly, a narrow strip of land with the harbor and Manly Cove on the west and the Pacific Ocean and Manly beach on the east. We spent our last two days right on the beach.
Choppy seas the first day.
Clockwise from top left: Manly at night, surf legend, Manly is home to the last remaining penguin colony in New South Wales...we saw one little guy our last night, all tuckered out from surfing, beachcombing.
Manly beach, with its distinctive Norfolk Island pines.
Manly cove, last evening.