Sunday, December 30, 2018

Species hunting fun in Japan : Kyoto & Lake Biwa.

The second city on our itinerary was Kyoto so we caught our first bullet train to get there. We booked seats on the right hand side to give us an opportunity to see Mount Fuji on the way. It wasn't a clear day however so only the snow covered peak of the the huge mountain was poking up through the clouds as we sped by. We didn't manage to get any good photos but the sight of the massive landmark dwarfing its surroundings off in the distance was pretty impressive.

The bullet train or shinkansen. They're incredibly fast.

Being much smaller and less densely populated the feel of Kyoto was a little bit of shock to the system after all the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. It had a much more relaxed feeling to it as a result which was a welcome change. After spending the first couple of days wandering around the older parts of the city visiting temples, shrines and castles we caught a train to Lake Biwa which wasn't very far away. When we arrived we wandered along the path hugging its shoreline and soon came across a large fish related sign.

It would seem that the bluegill, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass are all unwelcome additions to Japan's largest body of freshwater.

Carrying on with our walk we soon came to a bridge spanning a fairly shallow reed lined bay. Spotting a few fish down below the bridge I quickly got a float rig set up and put half a grain of cooked rice from my 7-Eleven bought lunch onto a small hook. In no time at all I was catching lots of small bluegill.

The bluegill were swimming up and taking this before my float had time to settle.
My first new species of the trip.
Not a Japanese one though!

Continuing our walk I then had a go for bass from some rocks after spotting one skulking around near some rotten wooden pilings. I didn't have any joy sadly but before we left we discovered that fish aren't the only type of creature that has been introduced to Lake Biwa. Large rodents called coypu are also an unwanted invader. Escaping from fur farms they have made the lake's shoreline their home and they can be seen in some of the reed filled bays with their young.

Coypu are a bit like a beaver but have a thick rat like tail. Seeing them was an unexpected bonus.

By now my knee was feeling a lot better so the following day we caught an old single carriage train to Arashiyama so we could visit a bamboo grove and climb a hill to visit a monkey park. If I'm honest the bamboo grove was a bit disappointing and because we went in the afternoon it was very busy too!

Lots of bamboo. Lots of people too. Go very early if you want to see lots of bamboo.

The monkey park on the other hand was one of the highlights of our time in Kyoto. I mean who doesn't love monkeys?! When you arrive at the top of the hill there is a small hut where you can go inside and buy small bags of apples and nuts. These can be fed to the monkeys who reach in to take them from you through wire screens. The juveniles in particular were very cute.

How adorable!
The views of Kyoto in the valley below made the climb worthwhile too.

In the evening we went for a walk along the banks of the River Kamo. We'd walked along it and crossed it numerous times already and I'd spotted some carp and catfish in some of the pools so this time I took my fishing gear and freelined some bread to see if I could get lucky.

Sadly my efforts were all rather futile. The water was quite low and crystal clear and any carp that my bait got near just turned away and swam off. It was a lovely spot to blank though with rich autumn colours all around.

On the morning of our last day in Kyoto we decided to visit the Fushimi Inari Taisha shinto shrine. It's a very popular tourist attraction and even has a dedicated train station. The main shrine sits at the foot of Mount Inari. On the way up to this from the station the street is lined on both sides by food stalls so I treated myself to a delicious stick of grilled crab and after buying a couple of bottles we had a look around the shrine and then began to climb Mount Inari. The path up to its summit passes through thousands of red torii gates and a photo opportunity under these seems to be the reason a lot of people visit, taking a photo at the first section of torii gates before heading off. I was determined we buck this trend and go all the way to the top. 

Many visitors seem turn back after the first double row of torri gates. More take a left at the red dot after the second section of gates. The further up we went the less people there were.
Perhaps climbing a mountain whilst recovering from gout wasn't the best idea and I had to take a few breaks to rest. The view at the top wasn't particularly great either as the summit was covered in trees but the sense of achievment made the three hour climb up and back down again worthwhile and my knee actually felt better afterwards too.

That afternoon we had a well earned nap. When we got up in the evening we decided to visit the Gion district after dark to do some Geisha spotting. Incredibly after only five minutes we spotted one which Lillian was very excited about as she loves the film "Memoirs of a Geisha". Climbing mountains, sleeping and Geisha spotting had made us very hungry so we crossed over the River Kamo again and headed to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant that also had touch screen ordering and mini bullet trains to deliver your special orders.

I love catching fish and I love eating it too!
Can you tell?
I tried a few new types of sushi and the sea urchin was a revelation. It doesn't have a very atractive appearance but the taste was incredible. It's hard to describe what it is like. It tastes like the sea.

We'd had a great time exploring Kyoto and I was looking forward to visiting our third Japanese city, Osaka. Situated on the coast I was also looking forward to fishing in the sea again. Having only caught two species during our stays in the first two cities and them being European and American species I was hopeful I'd catch my first Japanese saltwater species of the trip.

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Species hunting fun in Japan : Tokyo.

Last month I visited Japan for a three week long adventure with my partner Lillian. It goes without saying we were incredibly excited about visiting somewhere so far away, visiting lots of interesting and beautiful places, enjoying lots of tasty and weird food and emersing ourselves in a culture that's so different to our own back in the UK. Obviously I was also looking forward to doing the odd bit of fishing as well but with so much to see and do I was realistic about how much I'd be able to squeeze in.

I suffer from gout and during the night before we flew out I woke up and felt the first signs of an attack developing in my right knee. It's a horrible condition that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Luckily it didn't flare up properly until we reached Japan as the long journey there would have been a nightmare if it had happened twenty four hours earlier. The subsequent inflammation and associated pain in the joint reduced my mobility and slowed down our adventure for the first few days but despite finding walking difficult and at times painful I soldiered on, hobbling along as fast as I could around our first destination on the trip, the mega city of Tokyo.

Tokyo is massive. We went up to the observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building near our hotel to take a look. The city extends as far as the eye can see. In every direction. Tokyo is mind bogglingly massive.

Staying in Shinjuku we used the metro to visit a few places of interest nearby while my knee was a problem. On the to way to Shinjuku station we spotted this infamous mutated dinosaur doing what it's infamous for, attacking Tokyo.

Godzilla on the rampage.

It might be a sprawling metropolis but Tokyo also has many beautiful parks where you can get away from the crowds. We visited the Meiji Shrine and it's gardens early one morning before the bulk of tourists arrived and it was blissfully quiet.

Meiji Shrine is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. It is situated in a beautiful park the has hundreds of different species of trees planted throughout.
The Japanese visit the shrine to make an offering and pray.
After leaving the shrine we visited it's nearby gardens where there were some impressive Bonsai trees...
...and a pond full of Koi carp. If I'd had some tackle with me I may have been tempted.

On day three Lillian assured me she'd found a place where I could do some fishing in the sea. We caught a couple of trains and headed to DiverCity Tokyo Plaza shopping centre. After some lunch there we headed to the fishing spot, the Seaside Park in Odaiba, passing a huge statue of the mecha Gundam, a massive robot fighting suit, on the way.

The Japanese don't do things by halves. At just under 20m tall the statue was pretty impressive.

Sadly when we got to the fishing spot it was quite small being restricted to a few areas. As is usually the case the best looking bits where we spotted some large seabream swimming around and a stingray feeding in the shallows were off limits. I had a go in the area where fishing was permitted but it was pretty shallow and I didn't catch anything.

By this stage my knee was begining to feel a bit better and I was desperate to catch some fish so a short visit to Ishigaya Fishing Centre was squeezed in between some delicious lunch in a small sushi bar and a walk around the Imperial Palace gardens.

Tackle, including a bamboo rod, as well as a ball of paste for bait was provided.
The pond was well stocked, catching fish was incredibly easy and I quickly got bored of catching carp. The same carp (Cyprinus Carpio) that we have in the UK. If I'm honest it was a bit dissapointing that the first fish I had caught on the trip was something I can catch back home.

On the morning of our last day in Tokyo we visited Tsukiji fish market for some tasty street food before we visited the Wakasu Seaside Park Fishing Facilities near the Tokyo Gate Bridge for a second attempt at catchig something from the sea. It's a very long breakwater and as its name suggestes it's dedicated to use by anglers. It was very busy when we arrived but despite being lined with anglers none of them seemed to be catching anything. Unfortunately I didn't do any better and when it started raining after an hour or so I admitted defeat.

Our time in Tokyo had come to an end. Despite the discomfort caused by my inflamed knee we'd had a great time exploring a tiny fraction of the massive city. I hadn't done that much fishing and what I'd managed to do had been pretty dissapointing but there was plenty of time left to do some more and I was sure I'd soon catch my first new species.

Tight lines, Scott.

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