Ben Ungermann in Japan – part 1
Hi potential travellers! Got the bug and not sure where to go? Let me tell you about a wonderful place that combines technology tradition, rich culture, amazing cuisine and an incredible history.
Sydney to Osaka
You have perhaps seen some of the photos from my recent sojourn to Japan! It is in my opinion the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited and I’m no stranger to travel. The journey started with a comfortable flight with Qantas from Sydney direct to Osaka, I stepped onboard and was greeted by a friendly Qantas cabin crew with a glass of champagne and led to my Business Suite. Once I touched down, the first port of call was a DIY Takoyaki (bite-sized balls of batter with octopus pieces) at Takonotetsu Pizza Ball House in Osaka City. I loved being able to cook my own dinner right in front of me and then dress it with any toppings I liked! I happily went to bed on a very full stomach!
The next morning I got to experience the iconic Itsukushima Shrine located in the beautiful Miyajima Island. On the island, deer roam freely, there is a population of around 500 and they love to interact with the visitors. Itsukushima Shrine has a torii gate located in the water and this vibrant orange structure has been a prominent feature of the island for centuries and can always been seen in visitors photos.
I had been really craving a matcha latte since landing and I found a quaint cafe inside the massive Hondori Shopping Precinct in downtown Hiroshima that fixed my craving. After picking up some kitchen supplies, my nose led me to a small stall where I found a sizzling Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki! Crispy cabbage pancake with your choice of proteins added to it! Both chefs were Hiroshima Carps fanatics (for those of you who don’t know, they’re Hiroshima’s baseball team and pride and joy) and were so entertaining, they even taught me some Japanese! Oishii (that means delicious).
Matsuyama Castle was definitely a Japan highlight! The castle is poised upon 10 metre high stone walls which make it an imposing structure to stand at the base of. The castle itself is nothing short of an elegant design, and amazingly no nails hold the castle together, as it was constructed with wooden joins and mortar. The structure is impenetrable, being one of the few castles to never successfully be overrun. Matsuyama Castle is an interactive experience, I got kitted out in Samurai armour and was allowed to feel the weight of a real samurai sword…a little heavier than one might think.
After a day of pretending to be a Samurai warrior it was time for a hot bath, Japanese style. Onsen are gender specific majority of the time, as they require you to bathe nude, I actually thoroughly enjoyed my first onsen experience and found it to be quite liberating. The baths are usually themed heavily around nature, if they aren’t already outside and I left the onsen feeling refreshed and relaxed.
After gorging myself on so many flavoursome meals I felt it was time to get active so I could continue eating my fill on this trip. Don’t think this won’t happen to you because it is impossible to get a bad meal in Japan, due to the chefs and cooks executing every meal with precision and pride. See you have to understand, a sushi master for example, will spend years mastering every component before they can even pick up a knife to prepare seafood.
Having gained a little extra weight, I decided to take a breath-taking ocean view bike ride. I rode through the Shimanami Kaido, which is a series of bridges which connect 6 islands and 9 bridges, from Imabari to Onomichi. This route truly showed off Japan’s picturesque landscape and stunning ocean views.
I made a stop at the Yoshiumi Iki Iki Kan which has a sizeable seafood market where you can purchase your own fresh seafood and then sit down to a connecting restaurant overlooking the water. You are then provided with your own Hibachi (small Japanese BBQ), to cook the freshest seafood you’ve ever eaten. I collected a platter consisting of oysters, prawns, scallops, clams, eel and fish. Yoshiumi Iki Iki Kan was my favourite culinary experience during my time in Japan for a number of reasons. Not only was it the best seafood I’ve ever eaten but noises of popping clams on the Hibachi grill and the busy and bustling energy of other diners only added to the atmosphere.
Don’t miss out on creating your own adventure. Qantas is now flying direct Sydney to Osaka Japan, operating three-times per week*. Qantas also has daily flights between Sydney and Tokyo Haneda, in addition to flights from Melbourne and Brisbane to Tokyo Narita.
Continue to follow my sensational adventures in Part 2 of Ben in Japan!
*Schedule subject to change