Monday, July 11, 2011

the end.

I'm home now, and I have been for a little while, but here's the rest of the story anyway...

From Shin-Osaka we caught the Shinkasen (that is not the correct spelling, I know) to Tokyo. Tokyo Station is the MOST horrid place to find your way around, ever. Fortunately, they have a little old lady at the information counter whose job it is to give you directions (win). So we visited her, and then managed to find our way to our hostel.

At the hostel we were met by Summa's friend Sandra.  She took us to Harajuku for the afternoon.  I know this place is famous, kitsch and full of more tourists then locals, but it is genuinely excellent.  There are so many young people everywhere, crazy fashion, retailers calling to you and tourists snapping away with their digital slr's. So we spent the afternoon walking around and gawping at the clothes. I got followed around for a while by some crazy old Japanese man with bleached blonde hair for a while which was entertaining.  Then we went to a restaurant called Gonpachi.   Apart from being totally excellent, this restaurant is famous for two main reasons: firstly George Bush and the Japanese Prime Minister ate here last time Gee Dubbaya was about, and secondly (and more importantly) Quentin Tarantino modeled part of the set of Kill Bill on the interior.

Monday was Ghibli Museum day and OH MY GAWD I was so excited it was actually embarrassing.  We caught the train to an outer suburb/city called Mitaka to see the museum.  Basically, the museum was full of screaming children (children in a museum seem weird and wrong, especially when they are screaming and in the way and existing).  But anyway, the museum is wonderful and beautiful, but in Japanese so a little bit limited for international visitors.  Mind you, for me the most important element of Miyazaki's work is the transportive quality of the images and the ideas, so it wasn't really a problem.

Tuesday was DISNEYLAND DAY (!) and gosh it was fantastic.  In Tokyo there are two Disneyland's (I'm not even joking), we went to Disney Sea.  Many rides, ice creams, photo opportunities and the purchase of one crazy sparkly red bow for my hair later it was 8pm and we'd stayed to see the 'big show' which was big and filled with fireworks, lights and more sparkly things.

Wednesday was our last day in Japan.  We went for a walk from our hostel to the Imperial Palace to have a nosy around.  Then lunch. Then we missioned on off to the airport hideously early in order to miss the famous Tokyo subway rush hour of doom.

And then we flew home. The end.

Love you and missed you.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

tea and god.

I'm sorry it's so brief and, in all honesty, crap. But here goes...

Last Sunday we had a tour of Kochi by a friend of Jarra's. She's a student in his English class, and though retired works as a volunteer at kochi castle.  Firstly we travelled up one of the mountains behind kochi where there is a temple built in the exact image of one thats in china. We then drove on a bit until we arrived at a nearby temple complex which we walked around. My favorite was the 'one wish' shrine which as it's name suggests will grant you one wish. For some reason a lot of the prayers were for good school marks or exam results - what about peace and happiness i ask you? We then went to the kochi botanical gardens which was next door to the temple. The gardens were amazing and very beautiful. But it was raining so we didn't stay very long.  We had lunch in the city at a Vietnamese restaurant, which was excellent but not at all Vietnamese. In the afternoon we went to kochi castle, most of which burnt down a while ago, but has been rebuilt and is rather excellent. 

On Monday we caught a train out to Nahari which is where Jarra is living. It's about 1 1/2 hours to the east of kochi along the coast. The towns mainly involved in primary industries, there's a deep sea port, forestry, hydro and far too many 'snack bars' (read hostessing/strip club) for the number of people who live there... When in Nahari we walked for about an hour to the north of the town to visit some gardens that where in the style of Monet's gardens in france.  The main feature was naturally the water lilies, most of which weren't in bloom, but anyways. We had lunch at the restaurant there and then hiked back into town. We trained back to kochi and then the hostel, where we had dinner.

Tuesday was exit day for Kochi. We checked out of the hostel way too early in the morning (seriously, it was actually hideous) and caught the train into the main station and from there to Hiroshima.  When we arrived in Hiroshima we caught the tram (or street car) to the centre of town and from there walked to our hotel, the Aster Plaza.  In the afternoon we went the Peace Memorial Park.  The park is a wonderful testament to peace, but was a little disappointing as it looked in need of a little tlc. After the park we went to the A-Bomb Dome which is the remains of a building that have been preserved after the A-bomb was dropped almost dirctly above it.  It's a striking image; both sad and beautiful.  We then went for a quick walk around Hiroshima, ending up at the palace, which we didn't go into.  We then walked to our hotel via the peace memorial museum, which was amazing, but very sad.  

Wednesday we went to an island in the Inland Sea called Miyajima for the day.  It was a long tram ride out of Hiroshima to the port, and then we caught the ferry across the channel to the island.  Miyajima is most famous for its floating Tori, which sits in the bay just out from a temple.  The island is really lovely and peaceful. There seems to be quite a small population of people living there, most of whom seem to cater for the tourists that come to visit, so the place is quite unspoilt.   firstly we caught a cable car up the 'mountain' (read: hill) and we changed half way up and took to a funicular to the top.  From here it was a half hour walked (up hill, damn it) to see the temple, and a further 15 minutes (uphill again, not happy jan) to the summit, where there is an observatory, cafe and lots of puffing, sweating, exhausted tourists (myself included).  After ooo-ing and ahh-ing at the view for a while we started the hike down (all the way down).  On the way we went past (another) temple, this one called the dashi-on temple (or something like that anyway, I can't be bothered looking it up).  Once back in town we had a very average lunch, then wandered around looking at all the touristy crap for sale (I say crap, but that didn't stop me buying stuff).  Then we daunt the ferry and tram back to the city and our hotel.  In the evening we went to a nearby restaurant for dinner.  It was billed as Mexican/vegetarian but was actually totally freaking awesome as well as being Mexican/vegetarian and vegan (seriously, they even had homemade soy cheese. And no, I wasn't brave enough to try any of it). It was run by hippy/rasta japanese guy and there was Marley on the walls and MJ on the Telly. I loved it. And the food was good too (bonus).

Thursday we left Hiroshima for Shin-Osaka. After arriving we left our stuff at the hostel and went off to visit an open air museum of traditional Japanese farmhouses (god we're nerdy). It was pretty cool, and the grounds were really nice, there were gardens and an orchard. Unfortunately there were also Mosquitos. I managed to get bitten 9 times in the first 15 minutes (I swear mossies just think I'm some kind of walking buffet) at which point I asked to leave. We subway-Ed back into shin-Osaka. I bought some manga in English to read (yup, like I said: nerdy). And that was about it for thursday.

Friday we travelled to Koya-San for a day trip. It took us about 3 hours to get there, first the subway (subway in ruch hour was awesome, not), then the train, then a cable car up the side of the mountain and finally a bus. The best part of the day was the graveyard (sounds morbid don't it?). The graveyards huge (over 200,000 monuments) and its a UN World Heritage Site. Walking for 2km in the rain, surrounded by monuments and shrines and the sounds of the pilgrims bells and the monks chanting was pretty bloody fantastic. After the graveyard we lunchedr - tempura! - and then walked to a temple which is the 'headquarters' for Zen Buddhism in japan. The main entertainment at this temple was my being expounded at by some random german bloke about the incredible religious energy of the place (pretty sure someone forgot to take their meds that day... And why do I always attract weirdos? - don't answer that). After more sightseeing we made the trip in reverse back to shin-Osaka for the night.

Today we left Shin-Osaka for greener pastures, by which I mean Hakone. Hakone is something like the lake district of japan and on a clear day you can see Mt Fugi from the lake (but it wasn't a clear day, so we couldn't). We did a cruise of the lake on a PIRATE SHIP (it was excellent) and then a cable car up the mountain to see the geysers and inhale sulfur. Italian for dinner at a local restaurant, which was nice.

Tomorrow we are off to Tokyo for the final couple of days of the adventure, then home on thrusday!

Love you and miss you

Also, sorry about the spelling and grammar. I would care, but I'm tired so I don't. You should feel free to mark it with red or black pen, but no pencils please.