Japan: From Kyoto to London

The gates of Nijo Castle

The long journey home. My least favourite part of any holiday. And this particular one had always promised to be more arduous than most. With a morning departure from Narita Airport – situated well to the east of Tokyo – there was no way we’d ever get there from Kyoto without breaking the journey overnight. […]

Japan: A day of temples in Kyoto   

The gardens at Sanjusangen-do

Our last full day in Kyoto. And that meant we had to visit all those temples we’d promised ourselves when we were planning our holiday but had never got around to. And that would be despite my bad back. A bad back that had given me another restless night. But at least it wasn’t quite […]

Japan: Kyoto with a bad back

Another view of Shimbashi

What a way to spend a birthday.  I woke in our Kyoto hotel with dreadful back pain, aching legs and dodgy guts. Poor Graham – his big day and I was going to be no fun at all. However, I somehow managed to get to breakfast, ate lightly and swallowed ibuprofen. Outside it looked gloomy and […]

Japan: The train to Kyoto   

A pagoda amid the woods

Our stay in Takayama was over and it was time to head to Kyoto, the historic heart of Japan and the climax of our trip. Takayama had been an interesting diversion, a taste of a smaller Japanese city, but three days was quite enough. Indeed, many people we met there were surprised we’d visited for that long. So we […]

Japan: A tour of historic Takayama

The historic district of Takayama

At first sight Takayama looks much like any other Japanese town or city, with lots of post-war development that lacks charm. Perhaps understandably, the priority after the devastation of the Second World War was putting roofs over heads rather than architectural quality. Perhaps too, the Japanese prefer practicality rather than prettiness in a land devastated so […]

Exploring Tokyo’s gardens

The palace gardens

Tokyo may be one of the biggest cities in the world, full of gleaming towers and urban sprawl. But it also has several great gardens. And gardens were a good option on such a hot day, for we emerged from the efficiently air-conditioned Hilton Hotel to find temperatures well into the sweltering 80s. We quickly ducked into the […]

Touring historic Tokyo


Japan is notorious for its earthquakes and I’d wondered several times, with varying degrees of apprehension, what would happen if one struck during our stay – especially at night while we slept high up in a hotel tower block. We finally experienced one during a visit to a heritage site in Tokyo. Or rather everyone but me […]