Sumo wrestling in Fukuoka

From Kyoto, it was about a 3 hour trip on a bullet train to Fukuoka, the largest city on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. A little off the beaten tourist path, I was headed down here because each November this  port city hosts one of the six official sumo tournaments that are held in Japan each year. While I had been trying to surpress my desire to neatly plan out this whole trip in colour-coded spreadsheet and go with the flow a little more, once I found out we would have the chance to see Japan’s national sport that was one thing I knew I was definitely locking in well ahead of time.

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Osaka and Kobe

While we didn’t stay in Osaka, with it being so close to Kyoto we visited a few times during our week in the Kansai area. While 30 minutes on the train in Perth might only get you from Perth to Joondalup, this time on a high speed train from Kyoto will find you in a whole other world. While Kyoto was all temples and mountains, Osaka smacks you in the face with its bright lights and big crowds. We did manage to find some zen moments away from the crowds though, and also took the time to visit the port city of Kobe which was an unexpected delight.

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Kyoto

After our mountain adventures we made our way south to the beautiful Kyoto, a city full of temples and shrines thanks to its status as the nation’s capital and the emperor’s residence from 794 to 1868.  A smaller city by Japanese standards, it has almost 1.5 million people squeezed into a valley between three mountains, and as a result no matter where you are you’re not too far away from bright city lights or some stunning natural scenery. We were staying in Kyoto for 7 nights which seems like a while, but with Osaka to visit while we were there along with a whole heap of sights, I knew it was going to fly by.

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Matsumoto and the Nakasendo trail

When we first decided to visit Japan earlier this year, trying to plan where we wanted to visit quickly became overwhelming. Three weeks, which initially seemed like a decent amount of time in a geographically small country, was quickly filled up when we realised just how much there was to do in the show-stoppers like Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka. While these must-visit cities held the allure of bright lights and non-stop action, I also really wanted to get out into the mountains to see the autumn leaves in all their red and gold blazing glory. After tossing up a few options in the Japanese Alps, we decided that a visit to the mountain city of Matsumoto and a hike along a Japanese feudal ‘highway’ would be a leisurely introduction to Japan.

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