Tag Archives: sightseeing

EPIC Tokyo Trip part 2

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Talk about a long time gone. I’m coming up on my one year anniversary of my year of fabulousness in Japan. Thankfully, I’ve had some more free time lately and am catching up on logging my many adventures during that year. This is the first of many catch up blogs.

Actual time of post: July 2011

Saturday

WOOOOOooooo….oooo nonono no no. The morning started out well enough as we made our way to my first day in Harajuku. I was pumped, ready for action. I even did great on the subway. The 10 min switch at Shinjuku to get to Harajuku, however, did me in. I was an idiot and squeezed in with people… facing backwards. Yay. I spare you the gruesome details but let’s just say that I almost didn’t make it to the rest room. After this, I was queasy the rest of the day. Nicole’s friends met us for burgers at this pretty sweet joint. I had the most awesome avocado, cheese, and bacon burger sitting infront of me but… I just couldn’t do it. So I wrapped it up and took it with me. Notice I said that I wrapped it up. Japan isn’t so great with the doggy bag idea.

We split off after that for a little while her friends did some stuff. I can never live anywhere near anything like Harajuku. I would never have money. I ended up finding a lolita shop, Bodyline, and it’s now my favorite. They even ship to the states so I can continue this unfortunate addiction later. Why are they so good? Because the prices are reasonable. If I buy a regular lolita outfit, it’s so expensive that I’m scared to do any alterations to it; add lace here, buttons there, whatever. These Bodyline pieces are fantastic. I’ve only been able to wear the outfit I bought a couple times thus far but being out in the country, there’s not a whole lot of opportunity… and my wardrobe is not extensive enough to be lolita 24/7.

For real this time, Nicole and I went home on time. We were checking the time like the white rabbit. We got all dolled up and headed out for a night on the town in Shibuya, evidently the gay district. They have a whole district! So we got a cheap dinner at Sukiya, bowl of rice with meat on top and other things, and started taking in ‘the sights’. I wish I could’ve just walked around taking pictures. Lot’s of drag. Mostly all men. I was all done up with a corset and a tutu type skirt and I looked normal. I think the boobies gave me away, though. We stopped in at the first bar and it was pretty good. My main issue with it was the music. Sometimes the DJ just can’t feel the vibe. We made our way to the next club and it was a little better and people were starting to have a good time but it was starting to be that time so we split.

I love the looks I get from the hotel receptionists late at night. I’m sure they’ve seen it all.

Sun:

I have to admit how impressive the trains in Tokyo can be. Always on time… sometimes early. Because in Japan, to be early is to be on time. The above photo was morning on a Sunday so not too busy yet. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of rush hour when they’re cramming folks in on top of each other. Go here for that.

We headed to a local okonomiyaki place for some yumyums and to meet up with Nicole’s long time fan-dom friend, Liv. This was Tokyo style so it was a little different. I got the seafood version with shrimp and octopus and so on. Very delicious. Couldn’t finish it and felt bad about it. That’s not really a compliment in Japan… ever.

We then made our way to particular district known for it’s crazy fan-dom shops. However we had a nice surprise along the way. Lots of wall art! Some were old, some new, some in progress. All were lovely and really added to the beauty of the underground crossways (there’s a whole city of platforms and trains and stores under Tokyo).

Then came some heavy shopping – for Nicole and Liv, anyway. I’m not much for fan-dom stuff. I’d rather spend my money on food, clothes, karaoke, and adventures. But I can respect their love of these idols. It’s almost an art form.

Then we met up with another friend and had some fun in a fancy karaoke room. We ate, we drank, we sang and when the time was up, we took our time getting back to the hotel (got some snacks at a conbini on the way).

Mon:

Time to pack up and leave! But not before…

Odaiba! We wandered and talked and ate yummy burgers at a Hawaiian place Nicole was familiar with and it was such a good choice.

Then we headed to the castle. We were too late for a tour for the day but it was lovely just to see it from the outside. Besides, you see the inside of one Japanese castle, you see them all, right? Still, it is fascinating how such a peaceful, old world kind of place can be sitting in Tokyo.

We got hungry so we stopped at an izukaya. I’ve been to better. But it did the job. We still had some time to kill and debated about going to a karaoke place but on our way, came across what we think was an early Obon festival. Some fabulous yosakoi going on, too. What was so amazing was how it was just tucked away between a bunch of huge buildings. We heard the music and just followed it until we saw the big read gates all lit up and found the cutest little temple. Such a shame we had already eaten, too… I have a weakness for Japanese festival food.

We did end up singing some karaoke for a while but not too long since we had a free bath waiting for us before the bus ride. Lucky for us, it was in the host district. It was certainly an experience. I’ve seen women on street corners but never men. Supposedly there’s no sex involved but I think we all know how that works. They didn’t seem too interested in us foreign ladies though. So we found our bathhouse and got to it. I highly recommend it, too. I slept like a baby on the bus ride home.

Check out the whole Album.

With love- M

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Fujisan: Mount o’ Oxymorons

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August 25 2011

Few things in my life would I consider both awesome and awful at the same time. It seems as though most of these special moments have taken place during my adventures in Japan. Climbing the famous Mount Fuji is no exception.

First is the kids version with easy photo presentation and then I give the lowdown on how it went down. For info on climbing Fuji, google it. Or go here or here. For a full photo collection, go here.

Winding along the coast of Himi.

It’s not a town unless it has pachinko.

Biggest Godzilla statue I’ve seen yet.

Then into the mountains.

A cute rest stop for couples. You’re supposed to put a lock on the fence to signify your hearts being locked together forever I suppose.

This couple meant serious business.

We stayed the night at a friend of Craig’s place. He was rather awesome and ironically his name was Joel (the same as my boyfriend) so of course I assumed he would be awesome from the start haha. The three of us curled up on Joel’s floor and sort of slept. Yay Leo Palace. We received breakfast in bed the next morning with apples, pears, and nuts. Joel offered more and more but we thought it best if we were off.

We drove through the town on the northern side of Fujisan but I didn’t take any pictures due to the gloomy nature of the day. It was raining and we were set to climb a mountain. We took our time wandering around and eventually sat down for luch at a Cafe Gasteau. Not recommended. Coco’s Restaurant is much better thought some folks seem to really like Gasteau.

Almost there…

Welcome to Cloud-parking.

And there she is.

A beautiful artist’s rendition complete with English subtitles.

A couple prayers before I head to my impending doom.

As the sun sets on our climb, maybe 2 or so hours in.

One of the rest points.

Those crazy kids. And yes, it is that cold up there in August.

Don’t give up!!

There she blows!

So close I can taste it… The tori gate is the entrance to the top of the mountain.

Butt shot.

The colors Duke! The colorsss. Everyone was wearing lots of layers and in a multitude of rainbow assortments. Not typical fair in Japan. They tend to like their neutrals. Oh and here you can see people with the walking sticks. I bought one, of course, and am so happy I did. It was totally worth it and I even got it stamped with the base camp symbols and the summit symbols.

They’re still coming!

Here’s the story: We started off together, kind of bungee-chord-ing between eachother. Craig would bound off, Anna would pull steadily ahead of me, and I would drag along until Craig stopped to rest and we’d all come together again for a few moments before starting the next leg.

I was (am) not in shape. I don’t know that I’ve ever been very athletic in any capacity. Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy physical activity in that way, I just find it a bit more trying than some people. That in mind, I did not take offense when those two didn’t wait for me. In fact, I think we all enjoyed the alone time as we climbed. It meant you didn’t have to keep pace with anyone, worry about whether you’re pushing them too hard or vice verse. Oh, and yes there was some actual rock climbing, not trail trail walking. I almost fell to my death a few times…I don’t recommend a heavy non-hiking backpack for something like that. Very top heavy.

At some point during the evening, after about 4 hours of climbing, we decided it was time to rest. The next rest station we came to, we inquired about staying and it was a bit more expensive than we had thought and was for the entire night, not a few hours like we wanted.

The next station felt like hours away and was really a struggle for me. This place also was all night but was a little cheaper for some reason. They told us that the next station was the one we wanted, the one that let you sleep for a few hours and didn’t charge for the whole night. Craig and Anna were exhausted also but were considering continuing the climb but I reasoned that by the time we got there, we’d only have 3 or less hours to sleep because our pace was so slow right now from being so tired.

We stayed and it was worth it. I pulled my beanie over my eyes, put earplugs in and knocked out for almost 4 hours. We began climbing again around 1am (I don’t remember the exact times of anything). Craig took off before Anna and I even had our boots on. We couldn’t blame him though with all the folks now pouring up the trail. It was packed. Anna and I just fell into line in the middle of some tour group and tried not to get in the way.

Following those tour guides was the best. They have awesome pacing and even though they look like they’re going really slow, they never stop moving. At this point, everyone was in the zone. Just one foot in front of the other. The best way seemed to be walking like a duck so you didn’t slip on the rocks.

After some time of my silly waddling, I came across Craig hunched over on a rock to the side of the trail. Evidently he’d felt sick when he woke up but thought he could push through it since we were almost to the top. But we weren’t actually almost to the top… the last bit is the steepest and is packed with tired folks so it’s the slowest. I passed him my pepto bottle and advised that he ate something but he refused. I headed on and stopped to wait for him at the next station. He walked over, sat down on the bench next to me and promptly stood back up to go throw up over the side of the mountain. Yuck. Don’t test altitude sickness, it will win. I think he ate a little something and took some more pepto before starting on again, very slowly this time.

I pulled on ahead of him and struggled on up to the top where I hoped to find Anna. I learned later that she had walked around the whole crater, she just couldn’t stop walking lol. I had myself some hot chocolate in a hut and tried to warm up. Got my stamp on my walking stick and then decided to go ahead and start walking down. My phone was on the verge of death and I tried calling her once but reception up there is unreliable. Craig actually found me then and we headed down until we hear from Anna and stopped for a food break to wait for her to catch up.

The way down was crazy difficult. I wore my Five-finger gloves (Vibrams). Great idea for the climb, bad for the descent. Poor Anna’s toes were hurting bad from her new hiking shoes but Craig took off with his long legs. I stayed with Anna for as long as I could but towards the end I had to take off also because it hurt less to just leap down the trail. Rocks, so many rocks. OH! And I was harrassed by an older man that I think was slightly handicapped and wouldn’t take “Leave me alone” as an answer. He kept trying to have a conversation with me, completely ignoring Anna, and kept walking backwards or sideways, constantly getting in my way and slowing me down. It was weird. We lost him eventually…

I made it, waited for Anna to catch up and we called Craig who was asleep in his car. We took off our gear, agreed that this had been both the best and worst experiences of our lives and left in a hurry.

And it was the most awesome and awful experience of my life. Never again. A wise man climbs Fujisan once. A fool, twice. I’m stickin’ to it. I hope everyone gets to have something like that in their lives.

Thank you to Craig and Anna for joining me in that crusade.

With love – M

Candles across rice fields

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Senmaida Light Up – October 8 and other random thoughts

I realize my last couple posts have likely been, well… boring. Sorry. I’m lucky to be posting at all. These winter months are eating away at my soul more than usual. We’re finally getting some snow again, however, so things should be on the rise. What I mean is: if it’s gotta be dark when I wake up and dark when I come home, at least I have snow to play in. But the winter solstice is long past and the days are only getting longer from here on! Always look on the bright side of life, do dodo dodo dodo dodo.

Anyway, thanks to Joel helping to set up my ‘new’ computer during his visit for the holidays, I have been taking time to organize and configure everything to my liking. Now that all is where it should be, I can get down to business. Lots to do in the last weeks in Japan. Gotta finish some projects, update my portfolio(s), update online sites like LinkedIn, line up job interviews for April, decide what I’m leaving and taking when I head back to the States, and somewhere in there I need to ENJOY my remaining time in Japan.

Moving on. I shall recap an excursion that took place over 2 weekends. First weekend was a relaxing drive up to Wajima, the long way round on the westerly seaside. Below are a series of photos from the drive up with Nicole and Anna.

This is Ganmon.

Then we found our way to an old temple that doubles as a cafe out in the wilds of the Noto. Adorable little place with yummy hot cocoa and tasty cakes.

The next weekend we joined forces with some more friends and headed up the faster way, stopping for lunch at a local place that serves something special. It’s called Notodon with Noto being this whole peninsula area and don meaning a bowl (of rice). So these local joints take only local ingredients for the Notodons and we had beef something or other at this particular place on the bay side. It was excellent. Definitely not Sukiya style. Sorry I forgot to snap a shot, everyone was taking pictures so I got lazy.

So here are some shots of Wajima and one of their temples.

And this is Senmaida, our reason for the outing. It means 10,000 rice fields. Since it’s on a mountain side, the rice fields have to be set up like this. I assume it helps with irrigation and so on. It was gorgeous.

And then there was, of course, real fire. No Japanese festival is complete without a little fire. People lined the larger path and were given sticks with stuff on the ends and then they lit eachother up. Woohoo. Thankfully, I don’t believe anyone was injured. I wasn’t sure how I felt about some of the little old ladies holding up those big torches. I had to keep reminding myself that these were not the little old ladies from Delaware. These were inaka women. I wouldn’t wanna get in a tangle with them, not even the centennial ones.

What can I say about the Senmaida Light Up? It was gorgeous. We got lucky with good weather and a lovely sunset. There were a few vendors, same old same old. Not as good as the Fire and Violence Festival in Suzu but that was a much bigger venue anyway. We walked all around and through the paths of the rice fields. It was surreal going from top to bottom… and a bit tiring heh. The music performances and taiko were all fabulous. I loved the children’s taiko! Such skill. And of course the adults came on after and blew them out of the water.

I wouldn’t give up Nanao for Wajima (it’s super rural) but it’s definitely a must see if you’re in the area. There’s something to be said for the serenity and grace of the country side in Japan (and most other countries, of course).

With love – M

 

Matsuri of FIRE

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Experiencing the Fire and Violence Festival in Suzu

So many pictures to go through >.<! Right now I’m really loathing writing this… but maybe talking about it will help me push through it. I’ve been getting so much better about not putting things off as long as I can remember those things. My little notebook has become more and more of a diary written in shorthand and to-do lists. Since I don’t have internet at any of my schools, it comes down to organizing my life in that little book and writing up blog posts during free periods.

Okay, time warp. Back to July something or other day, 2011. The Fire and Violence Festival oooooo exciting. I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest. I assumed the obvious. What I got was, well… the obvious.

Friday was FIRE and lots of it. From the photos you can see what I mean. We thought the starter bonfire was cool. Then they started to light the big boys. There were at least 6 of those huge pine polls with tinder wrapped around them, ready to bust into flames.

A dude would take another long pole, bamboo most likely, wrap a rag around it and then dumped it in a can of something before setting it alight. He’d then very precariously reach out with up to touch the fire to the pine poll.

Off in the distance, across the little harbor at the center of town, we saw a long row of twinkling lanterns.

Oh and here’s us minus me before we got to the ‘stage’ area. There were some fireworks already going off. Sorry about the blur.

Then they came to us. These huge portable shrine things with kids playing music on top and town folks carrying them underneath. It was pretty crazy. The music was all the same song, I assume, but none of the shrines where playing together so it became this strange cacophony of sound as more and more shrines poured into the area. We didn’t even stay to see the last shrine. It was getting really late and we were tired and still had to drive the 2 hours back to Nanao.

Saturday was the Violence night. Nicole and I decided we crash in the car (not crash the car!) following the events of the evening. Liquor was the name of the game that night. Not just for spectators either. Everyone was drunk in some fashion. There were a lot less kids that night though, don’t worry.

Oh and the vendors! Of course there were vendors. It wouldn’t be a festival without them. A couple were particularly awesome. I got a sweet Gundam pin for my boyfriend and some delicious stuff on a stick. I kept going back to this one chicken on a stick place that was fantastic. I heart salt. And there was a beef man. His stuff was amazing.

Anyway, there we were – watching these men carry this wooden shrine down the streets of this compact little town in the middle of nowhere. All of sudden they would stop and throw that sommamabitch down and jump all over it yelling and screaming. They’d rock it over, back and forth, a preistly looking character would say some prayers and then the men would turn it back over, pick it up, and continue on their way to the next spot. Sorry for the lack of pictures but there was no way I was taking my nice camera. I took my phone (actually has a pretty nice camera function) but it was dark so I took video instead. Unfortunately… it’s in .3g2 format and I can’t figure out how to get it out.

Then they made it to the river er, large creek. On the bridge, they threw it off into the water and then quickly followed. Pounding and picking up and throwing against the high walls ensued. These guys must have been in some crazy rage to do all of this. I imagine there were lots of swore parts in the days to follow. I was lucky, however, and remained unharmed, mostly dry, and even found a piece of wood that had broken off of the shrine.

To the fire! They picked it up and continued the throwing and praying ritual until they reached a little waterfall/creek area. There was already a huge pine poll, like the night before, blazing next to the water. The shrine gets thrown in first, then the men and then the violence continues but this time with fire. By the time they hauled it out, we were bushed. So we said our thanks and made our long trek back to the car to sleep off our ridiculous night. We awoke to 5 eagles screaming at each other on a wire over top of the car and a cute little Japanese woman picking up leftover trash from the festival yelling back at the eagles. Nicole and I just looked at each other and laughed.

Oh! and then a random Cruella d’Ville car in Shika-machi. Weird.

 

With love – M

A visit from home

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Joel comes to Japan and I do my best to overload him.

The first week of May seemed to sneak up on me. Before I knew it, I had my weekend Osaka trip with Nathalie and Joel was flying in on Monday. To top it off, it was Golden Week here in Japan. I wasn’t invited to the tournaments that my Jr High was competing in during the week and weekend ( I think because they weren’t at the school) but it worked out for the best. Already, we had a lot on our plate.

This was Joel’s first visit to Japan so I tried to prepare him mentally for things to be rather different here. He can get anxious about change. But I think he did remarkably well. He even tried to learn some very basic Japanese. His city accent from Wilmington made it difficult for him. Those ‘R’s can be killers on both sides, I guess. I should’ve taken a picture of him talking to the information desk at the airport before he knew I was there. I think many of you would appreciate the look on that woman’s face. I was just too excited to see him.

Immediately, he was immersed. While riding home from Komatsu, he commented on the excessive array of lights. He sounded drugged. Somehow he stayed awake long enough to eat and make it in the door of my apartment. We both crashed. Early the following day I began my indoctrination. Below is a quick day by day summary.

Monday: Flight in and first conbini experience.

Tuesday: Visit Nanao city center to search for backup sneakers (he only brought one pair of walking shoes and they were very worn) in a size 30. We found a 29 that did the job! Impressive, I know. First taiko game experience in the arcade of Patria mall. Some fresh pastries for breakfast and then to Nicole’s to meet up for adventures. Melissa had just arrived, too, so we all headed for the Wakura footbath on the bay and then to boil some eggs. Tried a some delicious little cakes at the famous confectionary shop on the bay then to Mahalo for a Hawaiian styled lunch. Then to the Nanao Castle Ruins and the lookout at the top of the mountains (stupid fog). Stopped over at the obstacle park, this is not its actual name. Then home for short naps and back out again for kaitenzushi. Funny story: service was sloooow at the AL Plaza joint but Nicole got the call that her friend Will had just arrived at the station so she took off to get him while the three of us who were left went to the more trusted joint at Nappy Mall. Nicole and Will joined us and we were all much happier there. Some spontaneous bowling occurred after and then Joel and I went home to crash while the other’s had a few drinks.

The tasty stuff at Mahalo.

Joel and Nicole hoofin' it up the hill.

Watch out for the lava! and hamster wheels of doom!

Wednesday: Attempted going to Notojima Aquarium but too much traffic. Went to beaches there instead. Had some Coco’s Curry for lunch. Not anything like Indian curry back home but tastey in it’s own way. I miss naan bread. Then back to Nanao city center for adventures in finding the Seihakusai (huge traditional style floats). Human powered and almost too big for the streets. Some folks had poles to push the float away from their homes so nothing was damaged.

This is one of the decayama at the Seihakusai festival.

Thursday: Last day of the Seihakusai festival!

Mmmm festival junk food...

Friday: I had to work (boo!) so Joel fended for himself. Walked to the conbini and bought his own food. What a champ. Had Gogo’s Curry and bought some ridiculous Engrish shirts at AL Plaza.

He loves this shirt.

Saturday: We got up early and tried again for the aquarium with much greater success. It was the first time Joel had even seen a dolphin show. Also, first donburi experience and I think he really liked it. I love those little eateries next to the aquarium. Then we headed over to get lost between Shika and Togi town while finding a sweet cave and the world’s longest bench. Yay for aimless adventures!

Joel kept hitting his head on the tank and was not pleased with me.

It just keeps going and going and...

Sunday: Rising early, we left for Komatsu, stopping along the way at Kahoku Aeon mall and some cute little rock beaches in Komatsu. We even found a shinto temple and accidently walked around during a service. There were other people there just meandering like us but I still felt out of place and didn’t take any photos of it.

He's got a bad face on but really, we were enjoying ourselves. I swear.

It amazes me he survived all of that in one piece. And not a touch cranky the whole time! What a champ. For more photos, go here.

With love – M