Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Kamakura and Nikko - plus getting up to date!!

So i'm offically 21, what a weekend.

**Pictures uploaded!! Specific links later, but now its time for bed, oh and btw, my friend uploaded some more pictures of me on his site, including my amazing emo train picture, w00t**

Finally strayed away from Tokyo for the 1st time too, and i gotta say it was kinda a nice breath of fresh air. Honestly though, I love the metropolitan atmosphere. I've always lived in a major city of some sort (St Louis, Minneapolis, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis again, and now Tokyo), so i just cant really imagine life outside a city, it would be so... unconvinient, haha. But living in a super megalopolis like Tokyo... dang. I've got pictures from the time i've gone before, but from the observation deck 200 some meters up in the Metropolitain Building in Shinjuku, all you can see are buildings. I'm not kidding. Its seriously a solid sea of buildings all the way through the horizon in every direction, except Tokyo bay of course. But even Tokyo bay is scattered with artificial islands. Tokyo is an amazing place, and I take alot of pride in living here now. However at the same time i've learned a great appreciation for more open spaces. The rest of Japan isnt nearly as packed as Tokyo.

I was browsing over the JR website and ran across this pdf that had some general facts about JR's operations and such. Theres 6 different branches of JR in all of Japan, and if you take a look at first page there, on the bottom right it shows a little chart of the daily usage of stations in the different branches of JR. Obviously much the fault of the Tokyo and Kanagawa areas, Tokyo and Yokohama being the biggest city, you can see there that JR East has 60 more stations with more than 100,000 or more passengers/day. Thats insane, and i'm one of em :P

Anyways, Tokyo, very busy place, yada yada. As you can imagine, a breath of fresh air is pretty nice after a month of narrow streets and packed trains. So Kamakura, quite a place lemme tell ya. I've been there before, so it was actually pretty sweet have a sense of nostalgia, as well as being able to take it in for a 2nd time from a different point of view, this time in the fall instead of dead of winter. The leaves here havent quite changed color yet, but at least there were leaves this time, heh.

First we went to Shakado Kiritoshi (釈迦堂切り通し), about a 15 min walk or so from the Kamakura station. After winding through neighborhoods and up steep narrow hill you arrive at this entrance to a tunnel cut into the side of the hill/mountain that leads to the shrine. Very cool. I'd not been there before, so it was of course to nice to see something new. It would certianly be fun to see all the stuff i have before, but new stuff is even better of course. I might read up on some of these places more later on, but i'm not exactly sure on the exact history of the place for the time being. There was this shrine of some sort where you can wash yur money and then dry it over the burning insense and like... you gain monetary luck... or something, idk. Basically, its this cool shrine thats litterally cut into the side of the mountain. Of course i took many many pictures, and a video.

After that we went back to the Kamakura station and split up from there to go get lunch, as it was, ya know, lunch time, and we were all starving. Oh, did i mention i had to be at Sophia by 10 am on a saturday. And with my commute taking about 45 min or so, i had to be up around 8:30 and leave shortly after 9. Why i was up till 2 or 3 the night before... i dont remember. Anyways, i didnt really get much breakfast, so i was starving. And what better to fill me up? Okonomiyaki baby. Soba iri Okonomiyaki to be exact (Okonomiyaki with soba noodles in it). Delicious. Seems you could make these yourself, similar to the previous Okonomiyaki place i went to, but we had them make em for us, cause that was easier and quicker, meh.

They gave us a couple hours for lunch and then we could go with our groups to go check out the most famous Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine (鶴岡八幡宮) in Kamakura. Now i have been there before, and it was really really cool to see familiar scenery in Japan, haha. It has been about 2 years though, so there were some differences i suppose. I did go to the shrine from a different route so, that was a different vantage point i suppose. The biggest thing through was that there were actually like... leaves on the giant famous tree next to the giant flight of stairs. Anyways, couldnt really spend a bunch of time there cause were had to get back to the Kamakura station again to meet up with everyone and head over to Kōtokuin (高徳院) where the famous Daibutsu (大仏) is.

We actually took one of old skool train/street cars to, i believe the Enoden Hase station, and from there walked to Daibutsu. I've also been here before as well, so it was again cool to see something familiar again. This was actually the only thing that cost money to get into, but it was only 200 yen, so its pretty cheap. Had some fun with pictures there, not that i really need 50 pictures of a giant statue of buddha but... w/e

Daibutsu officially ended the Amity event for the day, and most people headed off home, however several of us decided to go check out the beach in Kamakura for fun. Hey its free. It was really dark out, so you couldnt really see anything, but it was cool none the less to see the ocean... or hear it. Again had some fun with my camera, unfortunately i didnt bring my lil mini tripod (i love that thing btw, thank you dad), so i build a lil mound of sand that i set the camera on and opened up the shutter for some 15 sec exposure shots. They turned out pretty cool, adding to the 250 or so pictures i took for the day. Not all are gonna be uploaded to flickr of course. Well i could if i wanted to, i've got enough space, but... do you wanna look through all those pictures? lol

Oh yes, I was gonna meet up with my friend i stayed with in Fujisawa, since Kamakura is like, right next door, but she was pretty busy, so it didnt work out, bummer. I did head back to Shinjuku afterwards with the people that went to the beach and we went to a rather pricey, but delicious Indian curry restaurant. Good ol bowl of curry and some nan, delicious. It actually worked out pretty sweet, cause 2 of the girls there, being Japanese girls, only ate about 1/2 of theirs, so i pretty much got 2 meals out of it, and was actually close to being full, it was awesome.

By this time it was at least 10 pm, and i didnt get back home until 11 or so, after which, well i was hoping i could have taken care of this Kamakura buisness so this wouldnt turn into a giant post on 2 huge events but... partially being extremely tired, as well as exhausted, and at the same time still attempting to make last minute plans for Nikko the next day, i was up till 4 am, and had to wake up at 6:30, ugh.

So its my birthday now, and quite a fun day it was. Unfortunately it was extremely stressful at the same time, oy vey. Unfortunately i didnt get to look into a bunch of stuff about Nikko before going, so not really having a plan of action makes things very difficult. I know what Nikko is famous for, and what there is to see, but as far as getting there, timetimeables, etc etc... ugh

First off, it was extremely difficult to get up, being only 3 hours of sleep at best. Then i misjudged our time and although we did leave about when i wanted to, that was too late to get to Kitasenshu station and meet my other friends and head out for Nikko on time. This turns a 1300 yen ticket into 3300 yen or so for the next express train, sigh... not very good news espc whem my friends were hesitant to go on account of money issues. Then our seats were on different cars, 3 of us in car 1, and the myself and my other friend in car 5. In other words, we're waiting for the train on different ends of the platform. This hence causes me to get on the train right before ours cause its like, ya know, oh the trains here, get on it. Wrong train. Luckily there was some dude sitting where i would have been sitting so we figured this out and got off the train before it left. That could have been a big mess. However new problem. I think i dropped my ticket on that train, cause now i cant find it T_T At least i still have my express train ticket, but i lost the regular ticket that was 1320 yen (approx $10). Upon asking the station attendant, he tells us i'll prolly ahve to buy a new one, whoo hoo. Then i get on the right train, only to find my friend and I on the smoking car!!! seriously!!! agghhh!!!

ok ok, now begins the good news, and its about time

Upon asking one of the train attendants, we were able to move to car 2, and thank God! In less than 10 min my clothes were already reaking, and my throat would have been killin me after a couple hours of that, ugh. And then upon arriving in Nikko, it turns out that, well i did need that ticket, but seeing as though Japan is just amazing about being trustworthy, they let me go and told me to be careful. Yes!

So we're in Nikko... now what?

crap, what do we do? >_<

So, this plan had originated from our random venture to the Ueno zoo, and then unofficial plan was to meet up with Matt and use his car to get around (he drove from Saitama to Nikko). Well, there wasnt really room for the 5 of us, so that didnt really work out very well. Not that that would have been a better idea anyways, cause the roads were packed. Nikko is a different kind of narrow, Mountains narrow. But the open spaces were amazing, haha. As well i swear the air was just... fresher. Well of course it was, Tokyo is a gigantic city that spans as far as you can see in every direction. A little city in the mountains would have to have crisper cleaner air.

For the time being, we went and got something to eat. I had Nikko Ramen and Nikko Gyoza, i couldnt tell you how its different from regular ramen and gyoza, but i guess it was, heh. After lunch we headed over towards Tōshōgū (東照宮) for the time being, and would decide on anything else after that. I had brought my laptop with me assuming i could just stash my bag in the car but... that didnt seem to work out, so it was pretty heavy lugging that thing around. But then again i'm used to lugging a heavy back like that around. Anyways, we ran across some cool old skool looking Japanese building with a Japanese style pond next to it. I think it my have had something to do with a museum... or something... idk, it was cool, i took pictures, lol.

The first rather famous thing we finally came across was Shinkyō (神橋), a red bridge that spans over one of the rivers in Nikko. We didnt actually walk across it, that costs money. If you pay you can go down on some scaffolding and check it out too, but there was a lil shrine of some sort near it, and that was free, weee. oh yea yea, I put a lil 5 yen (the lucky coin) in this one thing and then rubbed this little stone, and i guess i get... well something good. w/e, it was just fun to do, hehe.

After that, and up a ton of steps and steep roads, you reach Toshogu, woo. Now this place was amazing. It was actually like... well i'm not exactly sure of all the names of the places, i should have got a map of the temple area. I have one of Nikko, but not of all the temples. Cause there were a few big buildings before we actually got to the main Toshogu temple.

The scenery up there is just amazing though. I can take some really nice pictures with my camera, even better than i used to, much thanks to my friend Davy whom i've mentioned before. I was definately wishing i had his camera up there though, haha. The main Toshogu temple was just breathtaking though. So the architecture in Japan is different from that of the US in the first place, but then you go to these shrines and temples that have been around for centuries, and some for millienia, and you just have nothing to compare it to. So yea, i took alot of pictures (over 500!), and some videos. I'm experimenting with taking some small video tours of these places, as there are alot of advantages that videos have in capturing the feel of a place that a picture just cant. For instance, I can take as many pictures as i can of the crowded trains, but you just wait till i get a good video of all the people getting off a train and then back on, heh.

We met up with the other friends of ours by chance that drove to Nikko at Toshogu, and hung out with them while we were there. As well we also stuck up conversation with a couple guys that live in Nerima-ku (where Azalea House in Heiwadai is), so that was one of those small world moments. But best of all (I wish i had a video of this), while taking a picture of one of the buildings, an extremely cheerful old Japanese guy asked if i was russian, upon replying in Japanese and explaining to him i'm American from Minnesota, etc, he seemed to be really excited and happy to talk to me. I doubt he was drunk, i suppose its a possibility, but i think hes just one of those awesome super happy people in the world. He went on to tell me about how he's a carpenter and makes Taiko drums. My friends then made their way over to me (this guy must have really liked shaking my hand, cause he was holding onto it for a good couple minutes) to check and make sure i was ok. Ya know, tall foriegner with a slightly confused look on his face talking to this very outgoing Japanese dude, haha.

So this cool Japanese guy is wearing a flat cap. Well so was my friend. Oh yea baby, this guy sees my friends cap and gets super excited and long story short, my friend switches caps with him. hahahaha, it was so funny. This Japanese guy was seriously the happiest man on the planet for a minute or so. I wish i got a video of the thing. Luckily i was able to snap a couple of pictures, one of em turned out really well, the one where he hugs my friend with the biggest smile on his face >_<

Anyways, it cost about 1300 yen or so to get into the main inner temple part of Toshogu, but it was definately worth it. Why it costs that much is beyond me, cause they've gotta be making a killing, i mean, the place was packed, and at 10 bux a head, thats alot of money!! But wow, breathtaking. So ornate and just... wow. Hopefully some of the 100+ picutres i took will help show you guys just how amazing it was. Some of them turned out really well. I dont like to take those boring straight on peace sign pictures, you've gotta make it interesting, get it from an angle and get a good shot fittin yurself into the scenery, hehe, anyways, i had a lot of fun taking pictures of the place.

That was pretty much most of what we did in Nikko. I really had wanted to go and see a waterfall or go to an onsen, some of the other things Nikko is famous for. But unfortunately we were short on time and enough pertinate information to make any decisions on what to do, so the better option was taking the cheaper train from Tobu-Nikko back to Kitasenju. All in all though, very cool day, frustrating at times, but lots of fun. I was really happy that i could go to Nikko on my birthday instead of just partying and getting drunk or something. I'm in Japan, call me crazy, but I just felt like i'd rather spend $50 on an mind blowing cultural experience than booze. I get enough partying from nomikai and karaoke anyways, as well as the lounge, haha, crazy lounge.

Well the 2 Japanese friends of mine went home, and the 3 of us stopped in Ikebukuro on the way home and ended up at a Shakey's (pizza). I wanted to get some yakiniku, as i've yet to eat that since getting here, but as is the case with most things i've been doing so far, i dont really know much about where to go and whats good, haha. But Shakey's was delicious, its been the first real pizza i've had since coming to Japan, and it was seriously delicious.

Didnt get home till rather late (again), so i'm still tired from not enough sleep this weekend, and exhausted from walking around for hours with a super heavy bag with my laptop in it, haha. But it was great, lemme tell ya, another awesome chapter to add to my travels in Japan. Upon returning to the lounge though, a friend of mine (who coincidentally goes to the U as well) went out and bought a ton of ice cream, so that was my birthday present, hahaha. Hey it was delicious, i'd also not had any ice cream since getting to Japan either, so woo.

And just to get completely caught up to date here, i'll touch on monday and tuesday, as well as today.

Monday: Drama, SMAP x SMAP, and Ainori, only the best of Japanese television. I'll go more in depth on that later, i love Japanese TV, except for the keeping me up late and not doing my homework part of course, ugh

Yesterday I went to a family restuarant (kinda like... a small dennys?) with some new friends from class now and chilled there for like, 5 hours, it was awesome, haha. Course i didnt get back till late... again and was up till 2 or so... again, lol, oh well, it was a lot of fun. Made some new friends, got to eat some really delicious Taiyaki, which means i know where theres a good taiyaki place in Yotsuya. Somehow i've been managing to giri giri get my homework done for class, that 15 min break inbetween the 2 hours is a life saver, allows me to like, go to bed earlier, and just finish up 2nd hour's homework during that break, haha

And finally today. Wednesday's are nice with their only morning classes part. I still have to get here by 9:15 which is kinda annoying, but i'm done by 12:30, so thats nice. I get to come to the computer labs after lunch and spend a couple hours doing this stuff, haha. Anyways, i've got a test in Japanese tomorrow, so i should prolly head back and study for that a bit, as well work on some other homework. I really need to start reading for my Japanese History class too. But for the time being, i've gotta think of a topic and write out a 5 minute speech for this contest i'm gonna be doing for the school festival apparently. More like, i dont really have any choice anymore, cause now i cant let down my friends, haha. I'm not really worried about speaking for 5 min, i just have to figure out what in the world i'm gonna talk about for 5 min, like, somethin interesting. I'll make something work, I always do.

Actually, i got the best compliment yet since coming to Japan yesterday, and i should try and use that for confidence in this contest thingy. Hiroki, the guy i met yesterday, complimented my accent as being the best of any foriegner he's heard. And i'm really glad, cause that means I'm doing a good job at it, I honestly feel the accent is one of the more important things in speaking the language. Cause you can know all the vocabulary and kanji, be waaay more fluent than i'll ever be, but you'll still sound really... stupid if you cant speak it like its supposed to be naturally spoken. Maybe i'm just good at impressions, ever heard me do Monty Python and the Holy Grail? ^_^

Well i should get going, I'll be uploading pictures tonight **uploaded** if I have some time, but i've gotta get something together for this contest for the meeting by friday, and the week after that is when i have to do it. I'm pretty much doing it on super short notice, but w/e. Hey, if i win i get 2 tickets to an onsen, thats pretty sweet



Anonymous jamie said...

That was a really long post... but fun to read :) Your friend takes amazing pictures- I really like the sepia one of you by the skyline :)

10/26/2006 8:33 AM  
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Blogger Kurisu said...

Holy crap, this post was EPIC. I'm marveling at this novel I'm creating here. Unfortunately though, this was 4 years ago so the details here are probably faaar more detailed than I remember now.

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