Kyoto and Osaka are very different but both great cities. We based ourselves in Kyoto but one afternoon decided to pop down to Osaka (30 mins by train) and experience a little of the frenetic energy that characterises a large Japanese city.

Kyoto not only has height restrictions but also a ban on neon signs and even McDonalds has had to change their trademark red to a brown to avoid religious offence. Osaka on the other hand lets it all hang out! Neon signs line the river and thousands of young Japanese people crowd the streets…

We followed suit in search of some great takoyaki (octopus balls – typical of Osaka) and found a great stall by the river (see photo). They’re  a perfect combination of egg, batter and small bits of octopus fried to perfection and served with mayonnaise and fried onion. Yum!!!

Actually, food has to be a highlight of any trip to Japan and this one was no different. In five days we feasted on copious quantities of fresh sushi and sashimi (from 7-11’s and supermarkets to fancy restaurants – all good!), yummy Japanese curry (from a place who said ‘smells good, tastes great’ in their logo), tempura, oyakadon (rice with cooked chicken and egg on top) and of course a fun favourite – okonomayaki (egg pancake) cooked on a hotplate in the table you’re sitting at – yum!!!

To offset our excessive eating, we walked a lot… So much that I wore out my inner soles and had to limp my way to the airport train! We visited bamboo groves, a mystical temple garden with a moss floor, a laneway market of traditional pickled vegetables and a few more temples and shrines just to be sure.

So now, we’re in Helsinki – maybe more on that later…