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Marc and Nic's Message Page

Ok everyone - Were back over on the China page now with more updates!

Updated 10/12/07

Hi Everyone!

Good Lord it's been a while!! Sorry for the delay in the update, it was a bit of a nightmare in Japan to 1, find free Internet and 2, to find somewhere that we could use it long enough for the time we required. In hindsight, should have brought a laptop as wireless is offered everywhere for free. Anyway, were back in Cheapo China now so no more worries on that front!

Okay, to finish off our Japan journey here are some of our final experiences!

It's karaoke Jim, but not as we know it!

Due to the way the train schedule worked, after our night to Mount Fuiji, we had to travel back to Tokyo first before travelling down to the south to a hotspring town called Beppu. We ended up arriving back in Tokyo at 8pm so too late to sort out a hostel and the first train we could book seats on wasn't leaving until 6am the following morning, so we were in a bit of a pickle!! However, we were to find out a little bit later that night that things couldn't have worked out better and before we tell you about the night we just want to let you know, we did not plan it!! Well it was Saturday night and Liverpool were on local Japanese tv playing against Newcastle. It was due to kick off at 3pm UK time so Midnight in Japan and we happened to have found a British bar early in the week where it was showing (honestly it was not planned!). So we hot footed it over to that part of town and settled in for the night. What made it better was they happened to play the Man Utd and Bolton match straight after and as we all now know UTD got stuffed and we won 4-1 woohoo, so a good night all round and it was due to get better. As you can imagine the night was getting on now but we still had a good few hours to kill before we caught our train at 6am. We got talking to quite a few people at the bar and the majority of people were Westerners that happened to live in Japan working. Two of the guys we got talking to were from Canada and one of the guys wives who was Japanese. They asked if we fancied going to a local karaoke bar. We had heard so much about the Japanese and their karaoke, it was too good an opportunity to miss...! Oh my God it was hilarious, not anything like we thought it was going to be like. For starters we were both expecting a huge room with random Japanese guys getting up and killing various songs, a bit like home I suppose... less the Japanese people of course?!? Wrong!! As it happened, in Japan they do it a little bit differently, you actually get your own small room, with your own karaoke system and the ultimate in choices of songs. Once we finally got the English version of the song menu there was 26 pages of just the Beatles!! You pay one fee for the booth and then they keep suppling the room with drinks, you just use the phone in the room to ring through your order and within minutes the drinks order was with us! All in all we had one of the most hilarious experiences ever and the two Canadian guys were great fun. Not to sure the Japanese wife was too impressed by our singing though because she fell asleep, how rude! Not to sure how she managed that with the racket we were making!! On the way out of our booth we listened into some of the locals and these guys sure go for it!! It was the most animated we had seen the Japanese since arriving!!

Our Karaoke Buddies
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The cats choir!!
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Needless to say we slept for most of the 8 hour journey to Beppu. With sore throats (singing) and sore heads (drinking) we arrived in Beppu. Oh, we forgot to mention we hadn't booked any accommodation so we just had to take the chance that when we arrived into Beppu there would be availability.  We had heard that if you go to the tourist information in the train station they will ring around the local hostels to check availability and as luck should have it we managed to get 3 nights in a really nice hostel. Beppu is know for its Onsen's (hotspring baths) and the scenery is amazing!

Marc by the Pacific Ocean
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While here we met a lovely girl from Osaka called Michiyo and a guy from Ireland called Enda we all decided to go out for dinner it was great due to the fact Michiyo was of course from Japan and could order the best dishes from the menu for us. We ordered loads of small plate of different things a bit like Tapas in Spain everything was lovely apart from the Chicken Cartilage!! The three of us didn't know what it was at first, it was the first thing to be placed on the table and it looked pretty nice so we all pilled in and put a piece of the cartilage in to our mouths. Michiyo really enjoyed it and she told us it is one of her favorite dishes. It was hilarious to see the three of our faces change as we started to chew the cartilage... The only way we can explain what it was like is to say it is chewy and a bit crunchy pretty much how you would imagine cartilage to be!!

On our last day in Buppu we took the rope lift up to the top of the mountain and both nearlly had heart attacks! It was quite an overcast day so once we got to the top we were above the clowds!!! Probably a good thing that we couldnt see how high we actually were! On the way back down we were able to notice all of the hot steam rising up from the ground in people's gardens, just to prove how volcanic the land really is!

The cable car!!
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On the assent!!
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At the Summit!!
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From Beppu we travelled to Kyoto and guess what we seen Geisha!! We were that excited we actually went running down the road to make sure we got photos to prove to you all at home that we actually seen one. Apparently there are only now approximately 100 Geisha in the whole of Japan still working so we were pretty lucky to catch them.

Kyoto!!
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First sighting of Geisha!!
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Ran after them to get a pic!!
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Kyoto TV tower from the train station
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Kyoto was great and with over 2000 temples your never really stuck for anything to do! It is rather ruined by concrete buildings, and at first has a feeling of just being like any other city in Japan. We were expecting a bit more of the historic Japan but once you look past the City you do see snipets of what it used to be like. The area of Gion, which is famous for the Geisha is great and there is still one road where the Geisha attend their appointments in the tea houses that they have kept and reconstructed the houses to be exactly the same as it was and that was amazing (straight out of Memoirs of a Geisha!).

The colours of the autumn leaves in and around all of the temples were beautiful and we hope this shows in some of the Photo's. On the day that we visited a Temple we had read in the Lonely Planet book about a walk that goes up behind the temple grounds and into the woods. It was great because even though the temple was full of local Japanese tourists they didnt seem to be bothered about taking the hike around the wood at the back. It was a great walk and once we found our way through to the otherside we came out at a burial ground with over 150,000 Cremation plots. The views across Kyoto was fantastic and well worth the hard work of the hike.

The day we hired our bicycles was probably one of our favourite days!!! We cycled out of town for about 2 hours to the Bamboo track, again the scenery was out of this world and some of the wildlife we seen was fantastic, we even managed to spot a Kingfisher hunting over the river!!

Locals on the river
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On the bikes in the Bamboo trail
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Cool bike!!
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Nic outside one of the Temples in Kyoto
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Down at the local Kyoto market
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Stop off on the way to watch the match!!
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Liverpool 4 Bolton 0

                                                 
                                                 
                                  
Osaka
 

Our last two nights in Japan were spent in Osaka due to our flight back to China being from here. We think we must have chosen a Hostel that was in the middle of the equivalent to the Bronx! It was a bit rough to say the least we never felt unsafe but it was just full of tramps sleeping everywhere. Needles to say we never spent too much time in this area of Osaka but went into the centre to see the Osaka Castle which was very impressive. We also stumbled across the Osaka baseball teams training ground so was able to watch them train which was cool.

Watching a local Baseball game!!
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Entrance to Osaka Castle
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Osaka Castle
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Sat on Castle wall enjoying the view!!
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View of Osaka castle
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Leaving the Castle!!
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The bridge across to Osaka Airport
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FAIRWELL JAPAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Updated 26/11/07

On our way to Mt Fuji!!
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Leaving Hostel in Tokyo!
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Mount Fuji or Fuji San!
 
Apparently Mt Fuji is quite a shy mountain and is normally very hard to see and is normally covered in clouds. You are supposed to be even luckier if you can see it from Tokyo which is 100KM away, well, it looks like we have hit the jackpot because we have seen it from Tokyo and have now seen it up close and personal and what a view it was!!
 
We got up at 7pm to catch the train to Kanda it was a quick swap to the Shinkansen train and then onto the Mountain Railway, which was worth the trip just for that, the views were amazing and not only of Mt Fuji but also the villages we passed. We had pre-booked our hostel the night before, it was the only one we could find available so we were not holding out much hope for it being any good...well guess again peeps because it was amazing. It was based on a Japanese Ryokan and get this... it had its own hot spring baths (Onsens), one for the ladies and one for the gents. For everyone that doesn't know how the Japanese Onsens work you get in completely starkers and you know how us Brits don`t do Nudeness!! First you get undressed in the room separate to the bath and just hold a towel around you. You then go into the main bath area and scrub yourself down, and I mean they scrub themselves down, so its like having a shower but with 5 other people or however many there happens to be in there at that point. You then go into the hot spring which holds the hottest water ever... Nic only got up to her waist and thought she was going to pass out so had to get out again!! Marc, however, was well in there and stayed in for about 5 minutes which is the maximum time you are supposed to stay in due to health reasons... Once you get out of the water you rinse yourself down, dry yourself and then go back into get changed into your Kimono. Nic was just glad they were single sex as apparently there is mixed ones all over the country, think we will give that a miss!!
 
We are staying at a place called Kawaguchi-ko, which is a village located on one of the three lakes based at the foot of Mt Fuji...The views were out of this world and we hope the photos do it justice. We took a picnic with us and off we went. We walked around half of the lake cutting across by the bridge. You will see from the photos we both freaked out a bit on the bridge as it started to shake everytime a car drove over it, anyway we got over it and went to the shop to buy a couple of well deserved beers and sat on the edge of the lake enjoying the amazing view and the great weather.
 
Hope you all enjoy the photos and we will be back on in a couple of days, we are going down to Beppu after here so will be back on then!
 
Loads of love xxx
Bingees

Our first glimpse of Mt Fuji san!
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View from train station
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View from Hostel!!
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Walking down to the lake!!
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Amazing Autumn colours!!
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The bridge crossing
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Views right across the lake
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View from under the bridge
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View from around the lake!
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Viewing point where we had a couple of beers!!
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Mt Fuji as the sun is going down!!
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Mt Fuji first thing in the morning
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Other entrance to the lake
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Thomas the tank train in the way back down!!
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Loving the Train!!
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End of our trip to Mt Fuji!!
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Updated 22/11/07

Konnichiwa!!
 
Well we have been in Tokyo now for 4 days and the contrast between here and Beijing is massive!
 
We slept at  the airport for our last night in Beijing. We were flying at 8.30am and needed to check-in at 6.30 so we figured, to save a few notes and also the stress of getting to the airport sooooo early it would be better to sleep there - the plastic bench wasn't the most comfortable of beds but, hey, we both slept so it couldn't have been that bad! We flew with Japan's national airline JAL and they were great, we both came off the 3 hour flight well fed and chilled out after watching a couple of films (marc watched Transformers and Nic watched Hairspray). Customs was really straight forward and we immediately noticed the increase in temperature, by the time we left it had gone down to -6 in Beijing and we landed in Tokyo with the temperature at 16 degrees, which was a bonus!! Oh, and surprise, surprise our backpacks arrived on the same flight as us!!
 
We caught the train to Asakusa which is where our hostel is, we had to swap trains once at Aoto but it was really easy... Everything here is sign posted in English and they seem to have a rule and procedure for everything which helps, unlike Beijing where it seems to be more of a free-for-all and a bit chaotic to say the very least (so glad were not there for the Olympics!!). Dont get us wrong Beijing was amazing and we enjoyed every bit but it is definitely different to Tokyo, like no constant smell of bad drains, no spitting, and no hassle from anyone trying to sell you anything, as long as you dont let these things get on top of you, which we didnt, Beijing is fantastic!
 
As we got off the underground at Asakusa, we were just about to go into the Tourist Office to find out where our hostel was (Khaosan Tokyo Hostel, 4,400 yen a night for both of us in a private room!) and we were occosted by a Japanese film crew who asked if they could interview us!! Not overly impressed due to lack of hair straighteners and night on plastic bench, left us not really looking on top form!! Anyway, we answered various questions about what research we had done about our trip to Japan etc. and carried on to the Tourist Office. So give us a shout if you see us on the box back home!! Once we found our hostel and settled in it really wasn't that bad, that is after we got over the initial shock of having a hole in the roof and being able to hear the American group in the next room as if they were lying next to us in bed! To be fair it's in a great spot and really clean so what more can you ask for just over 10 pound each a night in a SEMI private room!
 
That night we walked down to the centre of Asakusa to the restaurants etc. and decided to eat in a place where you pay for the meal you want at the machine outside and it issues a ticket which you give to the chef in the restaurant, well, we know that now but at the time we just walked in and the chef was nice enough to take our order verbally. The food was fantastic and really cheap (Japan can be done on budget after all!). At the time we both decided it was the nicest meal we have had yet, however, we seem to be saying that after everything we eat in Japan...! So major thumbs up to the food in Japan we are both very impressed, on this particular night we both had curry, noodles and rice with pork loin.
 
On our second day we mastered the Tokyo Subway and like we said earlier the system is fantastically organised, its huge but there's enough signs and procedures put into place that there is no problem jumping from one line to the other. Put's the British transport system to shame!! Here are the place's we visited on our first day in tokyo...
 
Sony Building - Great fun looking around the new technology, most of which have not been launched yet!!
 

Nic testing out the new technology
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Outside the SONY building
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Ginza - This area is a megga shopping district. Just to give you an idea, Lonley planet compares it to Park Avenue in New York and it is certanly the place to spot the rich! While we were in Ginza we took a look around the Apple Mac Shop, it had all of the latest equipment MP3's and stuff and we had a go on a few, dead cheap Nano's...75 quid! But with British passport they knock off the tax aswell!! We also looked around the Nissan centre where they have just launched the new GTR (Check-out Marc in his new car!!) One for the petrol heads!!

Marc's new Car
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The new GTR
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One for the cake lovers!!
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Outside the AppleMac store!!
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Shibuya - This is where all of the hip kids hang out (naturally we would fit in, in this area!) and the huge advertising lights. Shibuya was great just to see the masses of people, as you will see from the photographs.
 

Christmas has arrived in Tokyo!!
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The bright lights in Tokyo central
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THE FOOD SHOW - This was in Shibuya and it was fantastic, the foods that were there were all Japanese delicacies and everything we tasted (loads of freebies, great for the budget!!) was gorgeous, the first time Marc has tried sushi and he loved it and Nic has fallen in love with Rice and Salmon Roe!!

Delicious food at the Shibya metro station!!
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All the food on show has been preserved
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in some weird plastic!!

The Fish Market
 
Early on the 3rd day we got up to go to the Fish market in Tsukiji, we had been told to get there early to catch all the action and they were not lieing! This is the market that supplies all of the Tokyo restaurants and hotels with their fish. It was completely crazy and we both seen fish we never knew even exsisted let alone were edible! There were parts of fish getting thrown everywhere and it was fasinating to watch them in action!

Entrance to the Fish Market!!
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Big Fish!!
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Madness at the fishmarket!!
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Fish ready to be sold!!
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The Metropolitan Government building Tower
 
From here we travelled to the Metropolitan Government building Tower in the Shinjuku area. We travelled in the lift to the 45th floor to see the most amazing views of Tokyo. We were blown away by the views and were lucky enough to have a perfectley clear day so we could see right across the city and we really got a feel for the scale of the place!

Metropolitan Government building Tower
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Here is what we could see!
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Views across Tokyo
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Yoyogi Park from a distance!
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Yoyogi Park
 
We then had a couple of hours peace from the city in Yoyogi Park, again we managed to get in as students into the museum part of the park! The park was beautiful, however, we did see the mother of all spiders (Soph I suggest you dont look closely at these pics!) in the trees, infact once we noticed one we seen the bloody things everywhere!!!

Yoyogi entrance
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BIG SPIDER!!
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Marc chilling out enjoying the view!!
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Nic as student outside Museum!!
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You have to wash and garggle before entering the
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Main temple!!

Impressive offering to the Gods!
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More offerings to the Gods
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There are a lot of offerings here!!
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Nikko National Park
 
We activated our JR rail pass for today's trip to Nikko National Park, which means we have now got 7 days to bomb around and see as much of Japan as possible before having our last few days in Kyoto and the Kansai area.
 
The Nikko National Park was amazing and it snowed... a lot! But this really set the seen. We got up at 5.30 am which was a bit ungodly but we slept most of the 2 hour train journey. The bit of the journey we were awake for was well worth it... Mount Fuiji came into view which is now capped with snow and looks exactly like it does in all of the photos, we are going there tomorrow and we cant wait! We will let the photo's of Nikko speak for themselves but all we will say is we had the first taster of the Shinkansen bullet trains today and they were like somthing out of Startrek... The most amazing thing is how they are all exactly on time, to the second...  They actually pull in a minute or so before and pull out exactly on the dot! (If only it was like this in the UK!).

Beem me up Scotty!!
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Nikko town centre
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It was cold in Nikko!!
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At the Entrance!
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Nikko World Heritage Site!!
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Nikko in Autum is stunning!
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Amazing Gardens!!
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Walk up to one of the Temple's!!
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Outside one of the Temple's
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The three wise monkeys!!
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See, speak and here no evil!

walk down from temple!
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Nic with paper tree!!
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This is where people leave there messages

Where the monks live!
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Walk up to Temple 112!!
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Shoes off before each Temple!!
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Great Temple, Great views!!
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The snow with a view!
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Well deserved Hot drink!
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Great caff

Cafe owner waving us goodbye
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One last pic of the amazing scenery!
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Well that's it from us for the mo, it might be a good few days until were back on line while we are jumping from one area of Japan to the other, but once we are settled again in Kyoto we will be back intouch.
 
Next stop Mount Fuji!!

Take care, loads of love & Sayonara!
 
Marc & Nic xxx

The only things in life you regret are the things you don't do!