Thursday, August 23, 2007

All Good Things Come to an End

After 11 months, 5 days, looks like its just about time to go home.


I gotta say its gonna be really weird separating from Japan, and from Tokyo. This place really grows on ya. Its been really interesting this last week reflecting back on my year in Tokyo here. Things that used to be so amazing to me are now everyday common things. Japan is no longer some far off land on the other side of the world running on a different time, its been my home for a year. Speaking Japanese has become 2nd nature. Riding the train system here to get around is actually prolly easier than driving back stateside.... although I must say I'm really looking forward to driving again. It's been almost a year since I've been behind the wheel!!

As sad as it is to put an end to this chapter in my life, I find myself once again caught up in the next thing to move on to, which is nice, cause now I don't have the time or energy to dwell feeling depressed or w/e about leaving.

So, it's your last day in Tokyo, where do you wanna eat?
I dunno... I've got some coupons for McDonalds, I've been wanting to try that new pita thing too
...Yea, why not, me too

So where do you wanna go?
Lets go to Ueno, I really liked that place
**1 hour later**
...Its really hot out... let's just go Karaoke next door in Yotsuya and get something from the supermarket for dinner. Watching TV in an air conditioned room seems more comfy

And that's how I spent my day yesterday. There is a sense of trying to do something special in the end but... well I don't have to money for it for 1. Also I've done all those special things. In a sense, it's more comfy to just go about how I used to all the time. Get some half off stuff from Pororoca (the supermarket) and eat at Kana's. She has a really nice room, and a TV ^_^

Well, I've gotta get goin in about an hour or so. Planning on meeting at the station around 9:30 to head for the airport. Flight leaves at 3:30, but Narita is not in Tokyo, so it takes an hour or so to get out there. Plus we wanted to catch some lunch at the airport. I stayed up all night last night, or at least most of it. I can't fall asleep on planes, so I was wondering how a combination of sleep deprivation and NyQuil would work...

So my flight leaves at 3:30 pm Tokyo time, and get to Atlanta at 3:10 pm... of the same day. Total travel time = -20 minutes. Sweet. Oh yea, thats right, 13 hours of time difference somehow disappeared in those -20 minutes. For those of you keeping track though, 3:30 pm Tokyo time would be 1:30 am Central time, and 3:10 pm Atlanta would be 2:10 pm Central. That puts me at a little over 12 hours airtime, woo hoo. I then have a 3 hour layover which hopefully will give me and Kana enough time to get through immigration. Apparently Atlanta is the worst. After that ordeal, I'll get on a plane around 6:15 Atlanta (5:15 Central) and finally reach Milwaukee by 7:25 pm.

So if you plug in my getting on the train in Tokyo at 9:30 am (7:30 pm of the prior day in Central time), that would be... oh whaddya know, 24 hours of travel. A whole day

Ok fine, 23 hours, 55 minutes

Well its been fun Tokyo, I'm gonna go take a day to get to the other side of the world now.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Kansai Kanryo!

Alright, came over to Sophia to borrow their internet for awhile. Blogs and pictures online. So... I guess this just about finishes up the trip portion then. Well since I've been writing fairly often again finally thanks to this trip, I'll prolly see if I can't keep up with it a little bit more over the next week, my last week.

Pictures here:

Traveled to Tokyo Terribly Tired

Well its now… Wed-Wednesday??? Ok, I have completely lost track of time and the days, whew. Anyways I got back to Tokyo this morning. The bus actually got here about 45 minutes ahead of schedule, around 5:15’ish instead of 6.

I’m gonna be staying at a friend’s place for the time being, and I had told him to call me when he wakes up, then I’ll head over to his place. However I got an email from him around 4:45 saying that he had stayed up all night. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I would arrive in Shinjuku ½ hour later. I coulda asked him to stay up just a little while longer so I coulda gone straight to his place. Oh well, I had coupons for McDonalds, and now I’m in an Excelsior Café, so I can be here for several hours if I wanted. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any abundance of outlets up here, grr.

The bus back this time was… small. It was like airplane seats. I’m not made for airplane seats. For the few times I was finally able to doze off a bit, I would be awoken by a nasty sore in my neck from sleeping weird. Not fun, but cheap. Actually what really got to be is the fact that we waited over 20 minutes for some people that were late. I was kind of hoping I could get one of the open double seats to myself, that way I could, ya know, sit all the way down in a seat. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but that’s what it felt like. It was really funny, when I stood up in the aisle to get on or off the bus, my head touched the ceiling, where as all the rest of the Japanese on board were a good feet or two away. I sometimes forget how I really am a giant in this country.

Now what ticked me off was not the waiting, in fact, I think that’s a really good thing. I mean, what if someone gets caught up in something or say, someone misjudges their time, and gets to the station right on time, and has to run to the other end of the station to get to the busses. It would be horrible for that person to miss there bus. They even mentioned they were contacting the people who were late. Well hey, that’s really nice for them…


Geeze! I’m 5, 10 min late and the bus is long gone, and none of the bus people seem to care; but these people are 20 min late and we’re still waiting? We still made it back to Tokyo way ahead of schedule too! I guess people from Kansai are a lil bit more lenient on things. People from Tokyo must keep on schedule and have to get everywhere as soon as is physically possible, even if that means running across the platform 20 feet away to the next train waiting. Oy vey, calm down Tokyo. I actually vented this to Kana while I was on the bus, and she’s like, “Yea, most of Japan, espc Tokyo is very precise and on schedule. Osaka/Kansai is just… special”

I guess, yeesh

Anyways, I made it back, so that’s a good thing. My trip is officially over. Now I get to sit and twiddle my thumbs until the 23rd when I finally fly back home after 11 months of being in Japan… why don’t we just round it up to a year. A whole year, it’s be quite a ride. I must say I’m really glad I got over to Kansai, espc Kyoto. I know when I go back everyone will ask me if I went to Kyoto or not, now I can say yes. They’re also gonna ask me if I took the bullet train. To which I will respond, “I have no money” This is also the reason I am staying at friends houses until I go home. Thanks Tom ^^

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Osaka, I'm Spent

Today was… well, a blow off day. I did go to Osaka’s main tower, which was nice since I’d been doing that in all the other cities I’ve been to. I had hoped to go to Himeji, but it’s at least 1500 yen to get there, and the same to get back. That’s what I spent yesterday going to the beach, so I’ll have to hold off this time. Can’t do everything right? Kinda a bummer though since it’s one of, if not the best castle in Japan, both by size and how well preserved. Kyoto’s castle was fairly preserved. Nagoya’s was alright. But Osaka’s was just a reconstruction of the original that had been burned down so many times. It’s just a museum now, kind of similar to Nagoya’s. Still cool though.

But yea, went to Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka. This tower is a part of the area aptly named, “Shin-Sekai” which means, “New World” Now this was a very good title for the place when they built it in 1912. Then time forgot about it and its not really very… ‘new’ anymore. The tower is actually a reconstruction done in the 60’s I believe. Not too bad of a tower, but the ones in Nagoya and Kyoto were better. Nagoya’s was really really nice actually.

The mistake I made here though kind of killed my day. Unbeknownst to me, a lot of the shops close fairly early in Osaka as well. So not thinking about this, I went straight to the tower since I had nothing else to do, bummed around up there for an hour or so, then came back down to do some shopping. Shopping at stores that were now closed. Gah! Yea, definitely should have done my shopping first, then gone up. I could have even caught the sunset and night scenery again that way. Oh well, a bummer but hey, now I have less souvenirs to bring home.

I walked around the shopping districts for an hour or so, but it was nothing really excited. It would be to a normal foreigner I’m sure, but I’ve seen these types of places everywhere. It was just kind of like, “Oh, ok. So these are Osaka’s…”

Tired and beat from walking, I decided to come back to Shin-Osaka Station early and kill time at a McDonalds until I needed to go catch my bus. So I used my coupons for some cheap fries and a free iced coffee, bought a 100 yen, sat down, and here I am. Waiting in McDonalds. What a great cultural experience I’m having right now. Haha

I just wanna get on that bus and sleep.

6 Foreigners, the Beach, and Wakayama

Today (or rather now yesterday), I went... to the Beach!

Turns out that on the Monday I was here, my friend just happened to already have plans with his friends from Nova, the English cram school where he works at, to go to a Beach south of Osaka. On top of that, I by freak coincidence, had brought my bathing suit with me, so I was ready and able to go!

The beach we went to was about an hour or so south from Osaka. I'll get a google map of it on here later. It was a little pricey to get out there, a little more than 1500 yen both ways, but I figure I'm not paying for a place to sleep right now, so if I were, that would be at least 3000 yen, so now I get to go to a beach for that money instead.

Actually interestingly enough, as has happened to me prior, when we got to Wakayama, it seems there was a bit of confusion as to actually... what beach and where we were going, as well as how to get there. Yea, shoulda looked all that up the night before when I had the chance, but I didn't. Oh well.

Luckily we were able to find a descent beach just a bus ride from the station we were at. If we were to go to any of the others in the area, it would be another 30 to 45 min to wait for a train, and then the same amount to get to that place, plus the money for that Thank goodness we found a place near by that was just one bus away, seeing as though the further we go out, the further we have to come back, money too!

Well the place we ended up at is called Hama no Miya (浜の宮), which literally means, 'The beach of the temple' I guess there was a temple around there somewhere. Oh by the way, the name of the area we were in is Wakayama (和歌山) which literally translates to 'Moutain of Japanese song/poetry' Yes... Moutain. The name of the place we went to the beach was in the vicinity, of a mountain. But with Japan being made of volcanoes, I suppose thats not entirely impossible. Just kind of a amusing, "Hey, isn't the name of this place Wakayama? Doesn't that mean... mountain? Shouldn't it be Wakahama instead?"

But hey, great time. Really had a lot of fun. I haven't been to the beach in... wow, as long as I can remember. It's got to have been at least a few years. Perhaps its been since I went to the beach in Hawaii back in 2004. Although I did go to the beach on Lake Michigan once... but that doesn't count. Its not an ocean, and it's not very pretty, haha. No Palm Trees.

Well I did all those beach things I haven't done for years. I went swimming, collected some shells, played games in the water, had a snow cone on the beach, built a sand castle, and got sunburned. It was great. Oh by the way, the sun screen we bought at the beach, was an impressive 2 SPF. Two. Yea, ok, thanks, I'll spray this stuff on, then go swimming and wash off the small protection it even had. Who makes SPF 2?! If you spend 4-6 hours on a beach, thats 2-3 hours exposure. You're still gonna burn!! And I did, so I have a slight variation in color on my back now, with a deep red neck and shirt line, now more complete with gradiated pink shoulders and neck. Found a couple hermit crabs too, that was pretty cool. Also, sand castles definately get better with age. Good times.

Of course now this was the Pacific Ocean I was swimming in which makes that... oh wait, I swam in the Pacific in Hawaii before... Ok, well that was my first time swimming in the... Asian Pacific. Hawaii was the... middle of the Pacific.

Before we left, I snapped some cool shots of the beach, and found out a new thing I like taking pictures of: Crashing waves. Found a cool spot where the waves crash right under the sunset, and it made for a couple cool pictures, but nothing spectacular, just a start. ^_^

But this Wakayama area was really a nice place. To the left a little south of us was a really pretty bridge, with some nice apartment complexes on the other side of it. They've gotta have one awesome view of the beach from up there. Plus this place was over an hour away from Osaka, with is pretty much a slightly smaller version of Tokyo, so it wasn't the country, but it wasn't a big city either. Had the room, but still had the advantages of city. I gotta say, if I were to ever come to Japan, say on the JET program and they ask me where I wanna go, if a big city were out, or I wanted to do something slightly less busy, Wakayama would definately be up there on my list of places I wanna live. It was really a nice area. It would be really fun to live in one of those apartment complexes and go to the beach whenever you want. I'm sure theres a place to go surfing and other water sports close by too. Next time I might come to Japan and turn into a beach bum while teaching English. Sounds like fun.

And thats pretty much all I did today. Came home after the beach, went over to a friends for a drink and to chat, came back here and relaxed till I went to sleep. Really had a great day. It was nice to do a slightly different day of sightseeing. I'd been going 5 days solid of pure sightseeing, it gets tiring. Going to the beach was really good medicine.

Well I finally head back for Tokyo tonite. Gotta get on a bus for several hours and ride through the night back to Tokyo. Once in Tokyo I'll be staying at a friend's until I head back... back home, back to Wisconsin on the 23rd... which is only 9 days away now. Wow. Really gettin close to the end here aren't we. Good thing I've been keeping so busy I haven't noticed.

Alright, I'm gettin pictures up, and workin on some google maps, check em out!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Osaka Part 1

Well its late, and I'm extremely tired, so I'm gonna keep this short

So Osaka is pretty cool. Similar to Tokyo, being the 2nd largest city in Japan. It also has a fairly convenient subway system which I'm also very happy about, espc after coming from Kyoto which has... 2 lines.

Today wasn't quite as busy as I've been the past few days, but that was kind of a good thing, cause I'm getting tired out from all this traveling. My friend works from the afternoon till night, so I was able to sleep in and it was great. After some tempura for lunch with my friend and his girlfriend, I headed off to Osaka castle. Unfortunately the current Osaka castle is pretty much a modern museum about the castle constructed awhile back. That did make the place very nice and cool though, so I was ok with that. The history behind the castle is kind of depressing though. No matter how many times they built this thing, it would get destroyed from some war or another.

I spent quite a good amount of time at that castle, and left just about in time to catch the sunset from high up in the Omeda Sky Building near Osaka station. Unfortunately, I got lost on the way there and missed the sunset. Sigh... Although I have to say the night scenery for the place is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. Check it out on my Flickr, I uploaded everything.

The Omeda Sky Building is quite an interesting structure. It's basically 2 towers connected at the top with a giant circle where they connect that has two escalators spanning out over the opening between the two towers. Those escalators lead up to the observation levels. There an inside observation level, but the best part about the Sky Tower is the open air top floor observatory though. Perfect for taking pictures. Just breathtaking.

After that, I met up with my friend back in Nanba around 10:30 to go eat some Okonomiyaki. Osaka is famous for Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki and such, so I finally got a chance to experience the real deal Okonomiyaki! And boy it was pretty good!

Tomorrow we're going to Wakayama, which I believe is west of Osaka, to go to a beach. And believe it or not, I just happened to freak coincidence bring my swin suit with. Woo! It costs a little to get out there, but I'm not paying for lodging, so thats my reasoning for forking out the money, haha. I leave back for Tokyo on the night of the 14th, so that still leaves me tomorrow and the day after to tour a little bit more of Osaka, and I was thinking about going to see the most famous Castle in Japan - Himeji

Ok, time for some much needed sleep, I can't believe how late it is. Lookin forward to tomorrow though, if I can wake up that is >_<

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hello Osaka

Well I'm at my friends place in Osaka. Nice place. Got a nice cold shower, did some laundry, got to sleep in an air conditioned room, the best I've had this entire trip!

Anyways, I gotta get goin, I'll get more up later tonite

Hope to hit Osaka Castle, the Sony Tower, the Umeda Sky building for some scenery of the city, and some really old temple

Hello Osaka, here I come ^_^

Oh, pictures later for sure too! Sorry I couldn't get them up last night, it was late, and I was really tired!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Kyoto, I'm Spent

Whew, what a day.

First off I went to Sanjusan Gendo, or 33 Gendo. This temple is home of the longest wooden structure in Japan to date. And inside this beast of architecture, there are 1001 statues of buddah, or kannon or something, lined up in 2, 50 columns of 10 rows a piece on each side of a giant statue of Buddah, with 28 gaurdian something or others lined up in front of all that. What a spectacle. I wish I could have taken some pictures inside, but its forbidden. Found a descent picture like I would have liked to take online though.

But oh boy am I unbelieveably tired right now. Since I receieved an extra day here in Kyoto, I thought I might use my extra time to do something that takes a little bit of extra time. So in Kyoto, they have this thing going where there are kanji written, or rather, carved into the moutainsides of the moutains surrounding the city. And on a special festival on the 16th of this month (I'll already be back in Tokyo) they set them aflame. Cool.

Well the most famous of these characters is very simple. The kanji for big or great 'dai.' Check out more information on good ol Wikipedia. This kanji rests on the side of Daimonji-yama, or Mount Daimonji, which actually litterally translates to, Big Character Mountain, which is exactly what it is, a mountain with the character big on it. The mountain itself is only 466 m tall, so its doeable to get up to the top in under 2 hours. Its also said that it has the best view of Kyoto city. I had some free time, so I climbed up to the top.

Oh boy was it hot out. I think I singed my neck a little bit more red today, but whatever. The climb up the mountain was extremely tiring, but I've gotta say, its really nice to get out of the city and imerse yourself into nature. I got some really cool shots from within the mountain side. It almost felt like I went back to being a boyscout for a day. It took me about an hour, hour and a half to get up to the top...


Hands down the best view of Kyoto. Waaay off in the distance, I could see the tall Kyoto Tower I had gone up in a couple days before... looked pretty small. Course I was 4.6 times higher than Kyoto Tower. The only downfall was that it was kinda hazy out, so it was difficult getting some good shots from the vantage point. Actually, there were 2 observation points. 1 which was almost to the top that actually had a small sctructure and everything, which I believe is directly above the 'dai' character. The other point, the top, is about 10 minutes or so further, but all there is, is a small sign tucked away on a tree saying 'Mt Daimonji, 466 m' and a few benches at the observation spot. The scenery was still to die for, wow.

It was at this point that I had taken my shirt off though, as it was completely soaked in sweat. Sorry for the image there, but it was really rediculously hot out!!! After resting at the top for 30 min to an hour, I thought I might continue on down the trail that lead off to the opposite side, rathr than retrace my steps. Well I asked an elderly gentleman who had also just reached the top how long it takes to get down going the opposite path. Long story short he lead me down the mountain, which was a really good thing, cause the opposite path split off I dont know how many times, oy vey.

And after that, he eventually became almost my 'tourguide' showing me around Nyakuoji Shrine, Nanzenji Shrine, this aqueduct from Bizen lake, Chionin Temple, Yasaka Shrine, Maruya Park, Kodaiji Temple, and the streets of Gion. Only thing was, we walked to all of them. I am unblieveably tired. He did treat me to Kakigori, or basically the Japanese version of a snow cone.

Very interesting gentleman though. 75 years old and climbs that mounain once every 3 days. Unbelieable. But hey, he made a good tour guide. Walking through Gion in particular was very interesting though. Gion is kind of like, the surviving old traditional part of Kyoto, buildings wise. And apparently if you're lucky, you can catch a shot of a Geisha walking through the streets. Very interesting place.

Well after that I headed back to Kyoto station, and came to that free Internet place where I am now, writing this blog. Its just about time I head back to the station and get on a train for Osaka though. I'm supposed to meet my friend at a McDonalds a little before 11. Then, free lodging!! Woo!! The best a poor student traveler like myself could hope for!!

But I gotta say, all in all, I've really fallen in love with Kyoto. What a beautiful city this is. I hope sometime I can come back in a different season, or catch a festival or something. I'd really like to visit in the winter sometime if I ever get the chance.

Thanks Kyoto, its been great

Friday, August 10, 2007

Kyoto again!

Well today was a very, very busy day. Since I’d already been around Kyoto the day prior, I had a better idea as to what I was doing, so I could move more efficiently. And I managed to do just that.

First off was Kiyomizu Temple, and this place was just amazing. When I got to the bus stop for the temple, I noticed another pagoda I’d seen the other day off in the distance was close by, so I decided to go check that out as well. So I kind of took a slightly off trail route to the mail temple, which made the shops on the way less tacky, and I got my hands on some pretty cool souveneirs.

When I finally made it to the temple though, wow. I’m really glad I came to Kyoto, cause temples and shrines were all starting to look the same to me. Now I’ve finally seen some really cool stuff, and my passion for them has been relit so to say. Very amazing architecture, and a beautiful panoramic view of the city up there, wow. You pay to go inside to the main temple grounds, and its more than worth it. Although I think I liked it in particular because I’d seen it in anime and such before, so it was something that I could relate to. The overhanging balcony is my favorite. Very, very cool. Very, very beautiful.

After Kiyomizu I headed over to the silver version of Kinkakuji, aptly named, Ginkankuji. Gin means silver, where as Kin means gold by the way. So with the very famous golden shrine being gold, and rightly so since its name is just that, you would think its counterpart would be silver. You would think wrong. It was… well quite honestly, the golden one wouldn’t be all that cool if it weren’t gold either. That’s alright of course, since the heritage and history behind it makes it cool by default, but even still, not as spectacular a structure as everyone seems to make it appear.

The garden and other such grounds around Ginkakuji however, were very beautiful. Seems the converted temple is tucked away into a bamboo forest, and theres lots of vegetation and such. Very pretty place.

By this time, I’m about dying of heat and going through water like… air? Drinking lots and lots. Actually interestingly enough, my volume of bought bottled water seems to be increasing each day. And I’m not just talking how much, I mean how big of a bottle. I started out with buying 5 or so 500 ml bottles on the first day in Nagoya, and when I got to Kyoto I discovered portable liter bottles. Today, I bought a 2 liter, and drank the whole thing from the bottle. Yes, it was VERY hot today. Take a look at my irremovable white T-shirt on flickr.

From Ginkakuji I moved on to the castle here in Kyoto, Nijo Castle. Not quite as cool as Nagoya’s, but impressive none the less. By this time I was dying of the heat tho, and this place was fairly wide open. So most of my experience there was getting a good shot of something, and then quickly scurrying back into the shadows. I was having quite a battle with wanting to sight see, and wanting to get inside immediately.

You were able to, however, go inside the castle and see all the beautiful (restored/reproduced) paintings and such, which was very cool, but pictures were very very strictly prohibited. They even had people standing watch on almost every turn in the place, crazy. So since it was unbelievably hot out, I walked through there very slowly, taking my time.

After that I shot down to Touji, which is the tallest wooden structure in all of Japan. Didn’t feel like going onto the grounds for some reason. All I really wanted was a good shot of the pagoda, which I was able to get descent enough of from outside. It was just cool to get fairly close to it.

However it was just prior to this, still at the castle that my plans for where I would be sleeping tonight hit a bit of a… wall. My plans to stay in Osaka fell through, but I was luckily able to stay at the Youth Hostel here again for 1 more night. I was kind of surprised they still had a room, but I’m really glad everything worked out.

For dinner I ate at a really cheap, lots of food, delicious ramen place underneath Kyoto station. Ramen, Gyoza (pot-stickers), and Chahan (fried rice) all for 820 yen! Plus all you can eat kimchi! I really stuffed myself. But it was probably the best meal I’ve had all trip as far as volume is combined. Kana says I’ve lost weight, which apparently I already had before I even came on this trip!

Anyways, I’m having a good time over here. I might check up a few more things in Kyoto tomorrow before I head on to Osaka

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Best Japan Has to Offer - Kyoto

Theres 2 computers in this lounge area here at the Youth Hostel, and they run 100 yen (approx $1) for 15 minutes. Upon further inspection on this timing machine for the computer, I notice all it does is cut the power from the monitor. So if I had my own power cord, I could just bypass the whole system all together. I don't have my own, so I just tried plugging the lan cable into my laptop and... whala, internet. I thinks me will upload lots and lots of pictures... now.

So anyways, Kyoto, this place is amazing. Definitely lives up to being the culture capital of Japan. Wow.

I ended up spending most of the entire day with those couple guys I met last night, which was really nice after being all by myself yesterday. At the same time, I also now know full well the advantages from traveling by yourself: Ultimate Freedom. Ya don't have to worry about what anyone else wants to do, rather only what you wanna do, cause theres only you. However it gets kinda lonely when you're looking at some of the marvels of the world and all you can do is say, 'oohh' to yourself. But hey, I'm getting a mix of both forms of travel this time around it seems.

Anyways, Vivek, one of my newly made friends who's around my age, wanted to go see the Fushimi Inari shrine, which is on the southeast side of Kyoto. 2nd stop by train, so we got there pretty quick. I haven't seen the movie, but apparently this shrine appears in "Memoirs of a Geisha" which is why the reason Vivek wanted to go see it. For those of you unfamiliar with the shrine or the movie, let me try and give a brief explanation of this shrine, or rather, grand shrine. Have you ever seen those big red gates usually found at the entrance to shrine grounds? Multiply by 10,000's, line em up and stretch them out for a couple miles. Literally a tunnel of those red gates, or torii. Just, wow. They wind around and up into the mountain side and just go on and on. You could spend several hours up there if you really wanted to, just amazing. We were there for a couple, but didn't have time to do the entire path since its so unbelievably long.

After that we headed back to Kyoto station, got some lunch and hopped on a bus and headed northwest for Kinkakuji Temple, the most popular tourist spot in Kyoto. The kanji for the name of this place mean 'gold' 'palace/pavilion' 'temple' and the place really does live up to it's kanji's meaning. A golden pavilion. Breathtaking. It sits right on a pond, so the reflection just amplifies its beauty. Funny thing though, after walking through an unbelievable never ending trail of red torii gates at the previous Grand Shrine, this place seemed somewhat... small. But very cool never the less.

After Kinkakuji, we tried to make it to the adjacent Ryoanji Temple that apparently has a very cool Zen Garden, but we ran out of time, and ran out of energy. It was supposedly 34C out today! For you non-metric folks, thats over 93F!!! Tomorrow its supposed to be even hotter, at a scorching 36C (97F)!!! Oy vey. At least I'm glad I'm able to get an unlimited bus pass for 500 yen and just stay in a cool bus in between things. Anyways, a bummer we couldn't make it to Ryoanji, but theres still tomorra. We then got on a bus and headed back to Kyoto station to get my luggage, and so Vivek could go on to Osaka. He's coming back tomorrow, so we may meet up then, who knows.

We split up at the station, and then I headed towards Kyoto Tower for one of my favorite activities, sightseeing from the sky. I pretty much did just what I had done in Nagoya 2 days prior, went up prior to sundown to get some good lit shots of the city, and then waited till it got dark to take some cool pictures of the sunset and then of the night scenery, or yakei, my personal favorite. And also similar to Nagoya, I was up there for 2 or 3 hours, getting my money's worth out of the 740 yen ticket to get up there of course.

Around 9'ish I decided I should probably head back to the hostel, seeing as though the place locks its doors at 10:30. Hopped on the 5, and had a very nice conversation with a lady from Kyoto here the whole way back to the hostel here. I gotta tell ya, it feels really good to be able to have a nice conversation with a local in the native language. It really makes me feel like I've come along way with my Japanese. My little experience with her went like most go however, its become rather amusing of late though.

1. I'm asked if I need help, or I ask for help, Japanese comes out of my mouth
2. After a short amount of conversation, compliments on my Japanese, espc my accent
3. Questions: Why do you like Japan? How long have you studied Japanese? Why do you speak Japanese so well?
4. "I'm very happy you like Japan!"
5. Japan/American language, culture, food, etc comparisons

Throw in a little bit of variation, but thats usually how things go. Which I'm totally fine with, cause thats just what I like to talk about. So I had a pleasant little ride back to the hostel.

After I got back, I took a nice cool shower I'd been looking forward too all day, followed by a nice soak in the bath which my soar muscles love me to death for. Then I got somethin to eat from the convenience store across the street, got out my laptop, borrow the lan line here, and started intenet'in it up. Blog and pictures uploaded and up to date. Tomorrow is very early, and I am very tired though, so I think I'll be on my way to bed.

More to come!

Check out my Flickr site for all my photos! Click on "View as slideshow" on the upper right hand side to see my most recent photos, or just click on each individual set on the right hand side!

Kyoto, Here We Come

Ok, I was able to find a free internet place here in Kyoto, but I really need to get to my sightseeing as there is a LOT to do here, so i'll try and keep this breif

Yesterdays Nagoya part 2.... didnt really turn out as well as I'd hoped. I was on the internet most of the morning catching up on a lot of things, which is fine cause the train was only supposed to take 40 min to get from Nagoya to Kyoto via the bullet train. However, that is if you pay the full price for the express bullet train, money, which i dont want to pay. So i instead needed to leave almost immediately after i got to the station in order to make it to Kyoto on time for check in by 7:30. Long story short, my Nagoya touring got debunked, and I spent most of the day traveling or not doing much at all, since when i got to Kyoto, it was already dark. Oh well, these things happen. Today's a new day and I'm lookin forward to it

I actually made friends with another guy my age and an elderly gentlemen, and it seems like we're going to be doing some traveling together. Gotta say I really appreciate being able to share my experiences verbally with someone. The other day in Nagoya by myself was really alot lot of fun... its just that i kept my mouth shut for most of the day, gets a lil lonley, especially when you're taking in this very cool scenery, and you have no one but yourself to say 'oh, wow' to, haha

Unfortunately, I still couldn't get any pictures uploaded, hopefully i'll have more luck some time later, more than likely i'll have ample time in Osaka at my friends, since i'm sure i'll be borrowing his internet.

Well I need to get going, Temples and Shrines dont stay open as long as other attractions!

Kyoto, Here We Come!!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Internet!!!

Internet... Found
Blogs... Uploaded
Pictures... Time Permitting
Money... Good, theres still some left in my account
Train... Alright, I know how to get to Kyoto this evening
Weather... 34C!?! That's 93F!!! I'm staying indoors as best I can today
Twins... Won, Lost, and... delayed by power outage?

I gotta get going, seems i could only get a few pictures uploaded :(
Heres to a better internet in Kyoto

The Day After a Grand Trek - "Ouch"

Fell asleep with the lights on again, or rather, fell asleep before I got a chance to go turn em off. Yup, I’m soar. Feel a lot better than when I got here last night, but whew I’m beat. I’m just about ready to take a whole day off and do nothing.

But alas! I’m in Nagoya and it’s time to make a lil bit more of this place. Today I’m thinking about going to a few museums here in Nagoya, and maybe hit up the port again to catch some of the stuff I didn’t get to yesterday. Some of this might be dependant on my funding, but we’ll see how things go. I think today is a holiday, so the unlimited pass would only cost me 600 today, and I think I can use that fairly well. Honestly speaking I think its healthier to use the subways and get out of the heat as best I can.

Well, I think I’m gonna head over to the JR station, store my luggage, get my ticket for Kyoto, and head off for day 2 of sight-seeing. I really hope I can find the internet around here somewhere. No luck last night, despite 5 or so unsecured wireless networks tempting me all night with their barely visible weak signals. Grr…

Day 3 without the internet, I don’t know how much longer I can go on…

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Nagoya Owned

Well, Day 1 is over, and I rocked Nagoya’s face off. As I mentioned before, I hadn’t really looked into anything of what there is to do over here, but luckily the front desk at the Youth Hostel gave me a really nice map of Nagoya, and there are a ton of flyers available here for all the local attractions. But this map is just amazing. Its got a main big map, and then 3 sub maps that zoom in on particular areas. Plus it shows where some of the main attractions are on each sub map. I pretty much used that exclusively and planned my trip around it. Who needs a tour guide or previous research? Just wing it the day of!!

So anyways, heres a general summary of my ‘on the fly’ itinerary from today:

After getting to Nagoya station, and my encounter with Japanese band guy and his song, I headed for the Youth Hostel to have them store my bags for while. It was super hot and kinda far, so I stopped at a Starbucks midway to cool off and re-energize. After I got to the Youth Hostel, paid for my room, and received map and pamphlet; I looked them over and headed out.

First off I thought I would walk east to Shirakawa Park is to maybe check out the Nagoya City Science Museum. However I swear that place is for kids, and there may not be much English, so idk if it would be all that worth it for me to go there.

After walking through the deafening Cicada filled park, I headed South to the Osu Kannon Temple. Pretty cool place, but honestly I gotta say, after being in Japan for a year, temples and Shrines are starting to all look the same >_<

From there I wandered off East into a big shopping street area, but… didn’t really end up buying anything.

Southeast of there was a subway station. Nagoya is actually the 4th largest city in Japan, so they’ve got a pretty good subway system. Not nearly as good as Tokyo (you can tell by the trains and the non-touch card ticket gates) but it’s pretty convenient. So I figured I’d be using it quite a bit today, and that the 740 yen unlimited pass was pretty cheap and worth it. Got my pass, and headed north for the ‘main’ of the day: Nagoya Castle.

Nagoya Castle is something else. Wow. This castle was built by Tokugawa Ieyasu, which prolly doesn’t mean much to you, but he was the victorious shogun after the 100 year warring period Japan went through way back when. The Tokugawa Dynasty then went on for a few hundred years or so. But this castle is a practical culmination of the best of the best castle building technology from ancient Japan. It is THE castle from all of the history of Japan.

But I gotta say they did a very good job to mention how it was burned down on May 14th, 1945 as a result of bombing raids on Nagoya. But hey, what do you expect, I’d be pissed if one of the greatest cultural icon’s of my country got destroyed. Boy did they ever mention it in every single explanation though, whew.

Well the castle was restored and open to the public in 1959, and the entire inside was basically transformed into a museum to the castle. This baby is 7 stories tall! And on the 7th floor, there’s an observation deck which has a pretty good view of Nagoya.

However… this castle and the castle grounds close… at 4:30!

Eeehhh!?!? O_o

By the time I made it to the castle it was around 4:15, so however terribly unfortunate it was, I had to hurry through the thing. Of course they don’t close at 4:30 on the dot, I think they try to get everyone out by around 5. So I did hurry through, but took enough time to be satisfied with all the places I went to (sure wish they would’ve told me it closed at 4:30 earlier!). I kinda relied on the pictures I took of everything to be ½ of the experience.

After leaving the castle, I then headed southeast to go check out Gokoku, Nagono, and Toshogu Shrines. Yea… they were alright. Yea… they’re really all starting to look the same… However the main Toshogu shrine is in Nikko, where I went to on my birthday last October, so it was cool to go to one of the smaller ones in another city.

Then I headed south to Marunouchi Station! The interesting significance of this is that there actually is a Marunouchi Subway Line in Tokyo. There isn’t a Marunouchi line here in Nagoya, but there is a station… It was funny, so I took a picture, got on the train and headed east for Nagoya’s version of Tokyo Tower: TV Tower.

TV Tower is… a TV Tower. It was actually designed by the same guy, Tachu Naito from Waseda, who designed Tokyo Tower in Tokyo, and the Sapporo TV Tower in Hokkaido. So now I’ve been to all 3 of his towers, but only gone up the one in Nagoya. On a side note, supposedly they’re building another Tokyo Tower on the northeast part of Tokyo around Asakusa or something. Leave it to Tokyo to have the necessity for that.

After having walked around for… forever, I thought it would be a nice break to chill up in the 100 m observation deck, and catch the sunset. This observation deck was pretty cool. It was more like, a lounge, complete with leather couches and, chairs and tables. A very classy place to relax for a couple hours.

Unfortunately it was kind of cloudy where the sun was setting, so I didn’t get the greatest shot of the sunset, but it was pretty cool. After it got dark I snapped a bunch of shots of Nagoya’s night cityscape. I got some good shots of the JR Towers at Nagoya station, Nagoya Castle, and the park that runs north and south under the tower. Thanks to my wicked 12x zoom, I was also able to zoom in all the way down to Nagoya Port, and get a cool shot of the amusement park down there, which is just the direction I was headed after I was done with the tower.

Here’s where I got the good use out of my unlimited pass. It took about 20 minutes to get down to the port, but buy this time it was 9 ‘o clock and most everything was closed. A bummer, but it was nice to walk around the port area, especially since it was the coolest (temperature wise) place I’d been to all day. It was over 31 C today, which is in the 90’s for you metric folks. Yes, very hot

After that I got a bite to eat and headed back to the Youth Hostel. Got back around 10:40 (they lock the front doors at 11, so I had to be back by then). Grabbed my luggage, grabbed my key, headed to my room, took off my clothes and got into a COLD shower. Boy did that ever feel good, whew. I brought some febreeze with me so I could wear some clothes for a couple days but… I don’t think febreeze is gonna help. I was sweating all day, yuck. I’m sure I’m getting a bit of a tan too. Definitely gonna be soar in the morning. Holy cow did I walk a lot.

Google map for my Nagoya Trek here.

Well, I’m gonna get some sleep. Oh by the way, my room is Japanese style. Pretty cool ^_^

Made It... Now What?

Well I made it! Didn’t get a whole lot of sleep on the bus, being 6’ 3” in Japan doesn’t help. But I did get some sleep, so I should be able to make it through the day. The bus trip was alright, there was this really weird guy sitting in front of me who was making noises all night though. Not snoring, but like, weird groans or saying things like, ‘ow ow ow’ or ‘mom’ and stuff. Plus he like rammed the back of his seat into my knees without asking, thanks a lot. He also had his feet propped up against the mini-wall in front of him as he was the first seat behind the stairs. Oh yea, I was on the 2nd floor of the bus, heh. Pretty interesting trip tho. I was finally able to get some sleep after getting the window seat that someone left open after they got off at an earlier stop… then we got to Nagoya… I wanted to sleep longer!!

I did however make a random acquaintance with the guy who was sitting behind me though. After we go to Nagoya, I kind of mentioned to him in Japanese, “Ahh, and I finally fell asleep.” Much to his surprise of Japanese coming out of my mouth, “Ah! You can speak Japanese??” Man I love those moments.Long story short, we went to McDonalds for breakfast and chatted a bit. Turns out he’s got a band called “Blind Recollection” and he let me listen to a new song they’re working on. It’s all in English, and he of course said his English is terrible so it sounds weird, but it was really just fine. A little bit of grammar mistakes, but actually it was a really cool song. I therefore received a copy of it, woo! He couldn’t think of a good title for it, so I helped him out. Came up with the title “Chaos Without You” …It had interesting lyrics, but hey, it was cool. It’s gonna be on a compilation CD that gets released country-wide later on, so this is all hush-hush you see. Can’t be spreading out his hit song before it gets released, haha.

Well on my way to the Youth Hostel I stopped at a Starbucks and that’s where I am now. My phone died so I’m borrowing their electricity, which shouldn’t be a problem since I spent 5 bux on a raspberry slushy! Hopefully once I get to the Youth Hostel I can use the internet. You see, there was one thing I just didn’t quite get around to getting done before leaving for Nagoya

Finding out whats interesting to do over here…

…Yea, could lead me to a couple problems there… Guide book! Where’s a guide book!! But for the time being it feels really good to relax in this starbucks. It’s officially post rainy season full blown summer over here now, so it’s pretty hot, and I’m gonna be doing a lot of walking outside. Now I’ve cooled off and refueled with some nice cold sugar. Shall we?

Oh by the way, turns out my friend who I’m supposed to meet up with in Osaka… in respects of time and money, he can’t make it, haha. But in replace of that, he said I can stay at his place in Ichigaya (which just happens to be the same city where my girlfriend lives, so that’s convenient). So that’ll work out great, cause I needed a place to stay after I get back from this trip, otherwise I’d be homeless. Thanks Tom! (he’s Japanese, it’s actually Tomu) I’ll be glad to take advantage of your hospitalities!

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Bus! Run!!

Aahhh!! I’m late for the bus! Run!!!

…It left?

Noooooooooooo!!!! What do I do now!?!?

Theres still busses left? So I can still get to Nagoya??? Ok, I’ll head to the Green Window ticket office area…

Ok so heres the deal, I don’t know why this always happens to me. Maybe its cause I’m not used to how much time it takes to get around Tokyo sometimes. Actually I bet its that I always forget that it takes 10 minutes to walk from Azalea to the station, grr. Anyways, I missed my bus!... but of course I worked something out ^_^

So there are still busses left, it’s just gonna cost me. Fortunately the guy at the window refunded the 3000 yen for the bus I missed, and then I just bought a new ticket for 6500 yen… yes, expensive, but… sigh… I missed my bus T_T But at least I’m gonna make it to Nagoya. Not so great a start, but a start none the less!!

Have Time, Will Travel

Yes, I am well aware of the fact that I have... well completely neglected this blog all semester. Classes are done, finals finished, and I don't head home until the 23rd. So since I've got some time on my hands in Japan, I figured I might as well head off on a trip. We'll get back to covering other events this past year, but for the time being, an indepth perspective on my trip...

Well, I finished cleaning my room and its prolly better than it was when I moved in, haha. It smells good too. And with this, my time at Azalea is over. Another chapter in my life complete. I’ll be back for some closing moments to get my luggage after my interlude “Condensed Tour of Japan” which starts tonight at 10:20 from Tokyo Station, on an overnight highway bus bound for Nagoya. Kinda sad to think that my time here is coming to an end, but I’ve had my time, it’s been fun, I’m ready to go home. We’re trying to focus on the good things to go back to you see.

But yes, for the time being, I am traveling! Finally getting out to Kansai and other parts of Japan like I’d been dying to do all year. I went up North to Hokkaido over spring break, and now I’m heading west towards central Japan. Tonight I get on a bus headed for Nagoya, which is kinda inbetween Tokyo and Kyoto. I’ll have to show you my route on google maps. I get to Nagoya tomorrow morning around 7:30, stay there for a day and a half, and then head for Kyoto. I’ll then be in Kyoto for a few days, after which I’ll head to Osaka and stay at a friends for a few days. A friend of mine is supposed to meet me in Osaka on the 23th, and then I’ll just tag along with him as he stays at friends places and such. We may even go to Hiroshima, or at least that’s the plan.

I’m lookin forward to this. It should be a lot of fun. I’m just… tired from cleaning packing up a years worth of stuff. It’s gonna cost me a fortune. Anyone wanna donate to the “Get Kris home” charity fund?