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The Treasures of the World

The Japanese Adventure

JAPAN | Thursday, 13 November 2014 | Views [463]

[Excuse spelling mistakes]

12/11/14 - London

Weather: Overcast
Temperature: 12
Distance: 9012.2 km [to Haneda]

Moshi Moshi! This year I set myself a task - every year, aim to go to a location I have never been and today is my new adventure - I'm heading off to Japan! What's the reason you ask?! The main reason to attend is for a friend’s wedding. People say it's far to travel for a wedding; or oh you must be a good friend. How long you going for? – three weeks! That’s a long time for a wedding but I’m going to taking advantage the opportunity of being invited. Not every day or in a life time you'll be able to be part of or even experience another cultures wedding! Plus, to learn the history of Japan; or see the beautiful colours of Autumn; or see some of the wildlife; or seeing the night hour lit up by neon lights; climb some mountains/volcanoes! Oh and see all those Anime/Manga fanatics!

You hear that Japan is like a different world, like no other but that is the case for every country. The Japanese have a crazy life style and sometimes seen and described as robots - arriving at work before your boss and leave after he leaves; meaning working extra long hours and getting no appreciation for it!

My friend is called Essy; I met her in China. We both participated in an internship for a month in Beijing back in 2011 (I think). Essy and I pretty much clicked from the beginning. The main thing that always amazed me about Essy was her mind and the amount of languages she knew. She could speak about 6-7 languages (more than likely its more) fluently; chop and change between the languages and make it look so easy, as easy as smiling. I can't even remember the last time I saw her; must be a couple of years now. So you know how excited I am to see her again.

I was well chuffed when Essy invited me to be part of her wedding, and since that invite I have been doing the countdown. However, even though the countdown started from last year; I didn't book my flight until August and only booked my hotels within the last couple of weeks, followed by a lot of planning - what sights to see; what route to follow, etc.

I had decided to spend three fabulous weeks in Japan. In those three weeks I am pretty much seeing the majority of Japan [I'd like to think]. I always said that if I went to Japan or China I want to go in autumn and spring. Simply for the autumn leaves picture - the colours are shades of red, orange, browns and purple against a beautiful blue sky. That's the kind of photo I want to take.

Towards the end of October, I started to feel like something was missing, that I should experience this trip with someone. Anyone! I've travelled by myself before but this time felt different, very different. Everywhere else I have gone I have met people there (eventually) and we built up a relationship and so forth. This time it was just me! Just me and big old Japan and plenty of excitement! 

I would have no one to turn around to share my findings too or even my excitement.  To share my tour, the obstacles I could've would've over come. Someone to see what I see and me to see what they see. So I put up a status - "I wish I had someone to come Japan with me!", so my cousin responded. Now, I’m no longer by myself but for the first week I will be travelling around Japan with Leah. This will be Leah's furthest and biggest trip to date; she’s never done nothing like this before! And I think it's totally amazing we can share it together. For the longest time we have been saying we need to plan a trip, and the trip has come; and it shall be great!

Leah is only staying for a week, so it's a pretty tight schedule but I'm sure we'll manage!

This is the plan...

Week one:

Kawasaki & Yokohama; Kamakura & Hakone-Yumoto; Hiroshima; Miyajima; Osaka; Nara & Kyoto and finish off with Tokyo.

We are looking/planning to walking some mountains, see many temples, geishas, do some Karaoke, and drink some Sake.

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So, today I am travelling from Heathrow, UK to Haneda, Japan. It is a direct flight taking a little as 11 hours; for some reason I thought it was 16 and thought I would be landing about 9am but I'm arriving about 7:30am (Leah isn't travelling with me, she has left from Manchester and will be arriving about mid-day).

Once Leah arrives we will be heading to our first stop (Kawasaki & Yokohama) then off to our hotel. We/I booked many of our/my hotels and Ryoken’s through booking.com. Ryoken is a Japanese style accommodation - Futon; sit on your knees and eat; Shoes off at the door; walls made from paper. I've even booked a capsule for the third week. They look ever so bizarre, and thought I’ll give it a try.

As much as people say Japan is expensive, I reckon it depends where you look and go. Most of the accommodation for the two of us, average about 24£ pp/pn (some including breakfast), so for the week it’s costing less than 120£ each. When travelling around I recommend you get a JR pass - look around because I got mine cheaper from what I originally saw by £50. The JR pass is short for the Japanese Rail Pass; this pass is only available for foreigners and can only be bought outside of Japan. Leah bought a 7 day pass; I think it was about £150! It sounds a lot but if you are looking to travel the long distances it would save you a whole heap of dosh!

I was originally thinking to hire a car as I thought it would be easier but Essy kept insisting to get the pass, so glad that she did. To put it into perspective, if you are looking to travel to Kyoto from Tokyo a single is about £80+; so a return would cost about £160. Already with the pass you are saving. You get unlimited travel throughout Japan on JR trains, some local transport, and the Shinkansen (bullet trains). The pass cannot be used on some routes as the rails are privatised or other companies owning the train - So check your route, so you don't have to pay for that journey. Download the HyperDia App, it is free for the first 30 days and it gives you the route and prices of your travel. It's very useful. I was going to buy my JR pass from STA travel it was about £380 for 21 days - with some searching I purchased it from a Japanese company called H.I.S Europe ViaJapan Holidays I ended up paying £321. So be careful when you buy from the bigger companies aimed to pull in travellers.

When you buy it you will be given an exchange form which you will hand to a desk when you reach there. Look for an information booth or a booth saying JR pass exchange, from there they will give you your pass.

I think its fab! It will be a good investment and save you loads!

To prepare for this trip I thought it would be easier to travel backpacker style. I bought a 65 litre Karrimor backpack; so glad I didn't buy bigger! I even went on the basis of what other backpackers had suggested. For a full three weeks that bag which only weighs 10kg will be my life.

You'll actually be amazed-in, what it can hold - I have two pairs of footwear; 2 dresses; about 6 bottoms and about 7-8 tops - to name a few. But I also have a hand luggage which has my camera - the camera which I hope will take fab-tab-u-listic photos! My laptop, hard drive and some spare clothes (in case my luggage decides to go missing).

I did try to learn some Japanese, so I could speak some while I was out there to make an effort. As I know I'll be covering some places where English isn't spoken and it would be a nice effort. But that failed; the words started to merge together but maybe by hearing the talk that would help and I'll be coming back saying more than Konichiwa!

I saw such a pretty sunset on the plane, I tried to capture the moment but the photo wouldn't do it any justice whatsoever; plus my camera was above my head in the locker. The colours I saw can only been seen this high up in the sky [I'm sure of it!]. It was almost like a rainbow spread across the sky line; with reds, yellows, oranges, greens, sky blue shading off to a dark blue/indigo colour. These colours were in the middle. Under that was rose coloured blanket of cloud; and every so often the wing of the plane will rip through the clouds leaving pink dancing clouds. And above, was the night sky preparing to go sleep.

Since we are travelling ahead of time (+9 hours) it was weird seeing a sunset at 3pm GMT. Then I realised that Leah is still in France and it’s still daylight - the little things that amaze me which cannot be comprehended.

On flight entertainment has a pretty good selection - I watch the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. That film is just awesome! I wanted to see it in cinema but missed it. I cannot remember the last time I was so gripped to a movie. Then I watch 22 Jump Street; I got bored of that and went sleep.

The food was a choice of cheesy pasta or a Japanese style curry. I thought I'd try the Japanese curry. Umm... well it’s no curry I know. It had a sweet after taste but nothing special. Thought I'd have more traditional food on the plane. Like if you go to the West Indies you get a West Indian meal... Emirates I had the rice with the nuts and seeds; on my China flight I had a donkey burger [not saying that’s traditional but it's different to home]. You get my drift. Maybe because I'm travelling with BA; I wonder what's for breakfast!?

While I was sleeping I must have went into a deep sleep and had a weird dream of people asking why do I want to travel and my response was “Do you question the colours of the rainbow or of autumn? Do question why it shows particular colours? Or how well do the colours work together?" 

Not really sure what that is supposed to mean... but my interpretation is this (yours maybe different I'll be keen to know what you think)

"To learn about ones culture and lifestyles is to educate oneself of others; to understand and break barriers, could bring oneself closer to others. Is that not why you travel? Whether it is to see animals from a different continent or go looking for tribes in Africa, South America and Australia?! And/or even hunt natural phenomenon! After all we are all people of all different shades, like the leaves on a tree; but we are still people and the leaves are still leaves! We would be better, if we worked together rather than deny what we are not."

"Live your life, as life is not your limit! Time limits you. Life and time does not care what you haven't done, the only person it will affect is you!"

Then I had the urge to write.

Japan is over 5500 miles away (from the UK) and now I have only covered 3300 miles with over 3 hours left to go, flying over the Aldan Plateau. I was doing some research about Japan and there are some pretty amazing facts.

Just a few to state:-

  • Japan has 109 volcanoes, 108 volcanoes being active. This makes Japan the most volcanic island in the world; as well as having 10th of the worlds volcanoes.
  • Japan is based on the Earths plates; Everyday Japan has an Earthquake. You may not even feel most of them but they are usually tremors.
  • Japan consists of 1600 islands.
  • Many islands down south have a subtropical climate. Ideal for snorkelling along the reef; surfing or just chilling on the white sandy beaches. Whereas, the north will have snow.
  • Japan is twice the size of the UK!
  • About 90% of the Japanese live within the West – Tokyo – Yokohama - Making it the densest place in the world.
  • If Mount Fuji was ever to wake up, it would wipe out 90% of Japan.
  • 3% of Japan is water.

 


13/11/14 - Haneda

Weather: Sunny
Temp: 20
Distance: 8.7Km [To Kawasaki]

I arrived early about 7:15am. By the time I cleared security and collected my bags, it already 8 o'clock. I went to the exchange booth to get my JR pass. You can choose the date when you want to start it, which I think is good. But I said start today because we are making a big journey today; if however, we were staying in Tokyo then I have started it for the next day. Now it was a long 5 hour wait for Leah. Luckily there is free WiFi in the airport, so I was catching up with people and Facebook'ing. I thought I should go to the hotel and look for it as it was only an hour away; but there was no point because if I got caught up Leah would've been waiting.

So Leah's flight was delayed by an hour, meaning her plane didn't land until after one. By the time she came out it was already after two. The day had gone in a blink on an eye; only because I threw myself over the trolley and fell asleep. It wasn’t comfy at all but defo helped the time pass. When she came out we decided to head straight to our hotel.

It was a 2 star hotel based in Kawasaki - called 'Hotel Sky Court, Kawasaki' rate was 7,600 yen for a twin room. The hotel was about 10 minutes away from Kawasaki station once we found it. (I would suggest that either before you leave or when you have WiFi to route map your destination from the station to your hotel; because many people don't speak English or are too shy to speak).

We went up to the floor and the corridor looked like doors were just slapped on the wall. Unlike other hotels where you have a cove or some sort denture/definition in the wall this had nothing but bricks. It reminded me off a type of door from a Harry Potter movie.

The beds were slightly bigger than a normal single bed. We even had a balcony and a kitchen. The bathroom had a bath with shower and a fancy western toilet. I say fancy because as soon as you sit on it it starts running water - they say this to hide unpleasant/embarrassing noises. It has a control on the side which numerous amounts of functions.

That night we didn't do much, went for a walk around the local area. We walked down a shopping district as well as a little red light district. The shops didn't seem like big shops more like market stool kind of shops. Their 'red light district' reminded me of Soho in London; it had that kind of feel to it. There were loads of guys trying to get guys to come in these (lets say) shops. I looked into one of them; there was a corridor with loads of door and girls dressed in silk bedroom kiminos and underwear underneath. I say girls because they looked like school kids; even in the adverts they looked about 15.

Now if you're a Manga fan you'd understand where I'm coming from when saying this, particularly in the location we were staying. In Manga's/Anime's you always see the girls with short school skirts and knee length sock, white shirt with a tie and a v-neck jumper; they look exactly like those! And they sound the same as the female characters, with high pitch voices and turning their heads to the side when talking, ha-ha!

If you ever watched Bleach, you notice that they are always seemed to be walking around at night to go get a drink and they go to vending machine on the street?! Well that is real too! I was so amazed I said to my cousin "I didn't think this was real, but they actually have them!" She just looked at me blankly.

Another bit that reminded me of Bleach - When Ichigo finds Rukia and Rukia is lying against a light. They have those ball type lights; the lights are on but the surrounding area is still dark! We were walking down one road and it was really dark but it had these types of lights (where it is just enough to light a spot), and I go to my cousin 'Feels like a Menos Grandes or a hollow is going to appear!' - Again I got that blank look!

Anyway, we found a 7/11 shop (7/11 is a good place to buy cheap food). The food is made regularly and fresh. I had seeded rice with noodles and beef in a sauce - which was 368 yen. I also got some dumplings - 260 yen and a pork bun -110 yen. A whole meal for 738 yen (£5.10, $7.75 USD). They have a variety of different foods. The food is stored in the fridge but you can ask them to heat it for you, which is a bonus if your accommodation doesn't have a microwave!

 

14/11/14 - Kawasaki

Weather: Sunny
Temp: 20
Distance: 108km [to Numazu]

We slept for 13 hours! Slept right through the alarm - We wanted to get an early start because today was the Mt. Fuji hike; but it didn't happen. Reason being - we woke up and checked out late. By the time we got on the trains it was about 11-11:30. We got on the Shinkansen (bullet) to Shin-Fuji station thinking it was the same as Fuji station, but they are quite away from one another so had to go back to go forward to the right stop. But saw plenty picturesque views of Mt. Fuji. Eventually, we arrived at Numazu station about 13:30.

The hotel was about 10 minutes walk from the station. We stayed at a 4* called River Side Hotel; It looked out onto the river and a spectacular view of the rolling mountains. On entry it had a beautiful selection of flowers in a big vase, sitting centre to the grand stair case to the reception. On either side of the stairs had escalators; In the middle of the stairs hanging from the ceiling was a grand chandelier, the crystal leaving dancing prisms on the floor. I couldn't stop saying wow!

We had booked a double room; when we got to the reception the lady asked 'if we would prefer a twin?' we replied 'yes please' and she upgraded us with no extra charge! The view from our room was just lovely. We were based between two bridges, and meandering river calming moving along; and in the far distance of the city there were never ending mountains, continuously rolling until it was a faint outline in the distance.

By the time we dropped our bags and was readying to set off, it was already 2:30pm. Anyways, we made an attempt to one of the National parks ... But by the time we got to the changing station it was already late. We asked a lady in the information centre 'how could we get to the national park?!’ the route she gave we wouldn't have arrived until after six; so I just said let’s leave it and go and look around Numazu instead. So we started our journey back, but instead of taking the Shinkansen we took the local route (and I'm glad that we did!). The route went along the coast! It was the perfect time to get on the train because the sun was setting. The sky was clear and the air was cooling and the shade of sky blue began to fade with colours of reds, oranges, lilacs, yellows and navy as the night sky crept in.

Back from Numazu station we took a walk along Ayumi Bridge. The bridge was so quiet, just soft mumbles of people speaking, the squeaks of the bikes as they rode by; the breeze carrying the salty scent of the water. The bridge was lit up very nicely; it wasn't over powering. The light reminds me of an atmosphere for couples; as they took a stole, hand in hand across the Tuscan lit bridge.

At the end of the bridge it brought us out to Hachiman shrine. The shrine had a totally different atmosphere and mood from the bridge. The shrine was in darkness with minimal to no lighting. It had this airy feeling as if walking in the woods by yourself! The feeling where you know you have to leave leaving you on edge. After the shrine we thought we'd take a walk to the docks because the view is meant to be amazing.

Well, we walked and walked and walked! And there was no sign of water. When we were at the station it said it was 2km away. We walked further than that. So we turned around and headed back the way we came; back to the bridge. But instead of crossing the bridge we went down a path that went along the river. The plan was to walk along the river and it should take us to the docks. So we are walking and talking as you do; mainly catch up talk and that.

Now this path was dark; local runners and walkers carried little torches so others can see them. We didn't! So every now and an again we would see a bobbing white light before we saw the person. Every two meters or so there was a light lamp; again not like a light that is bright but just a light that gives you enough to see and doesn’t hurt your eyes.

While walking I could see a moving white light moving in the water. Now I thought this can be people walking on water – Is it really people practising magic and thinking they are Dynamo!? But it was bobbing up or down but moving like a boat, streaming along the water. However, it's wasn't a power boat (as there was no sound) it was people practising rowing in the dark. I don't know how they could see what they were doing, but looking out into the water was like staring down a black hole. There was no sound of water moving or the wind brushing past your hair, it was just silence. If I was in London and I was walking along the Thames and I couldn't hear nothing; I wouldn't feel comfortable but here I felt quite relaxed, as if it was a normal thing I was doing.

We walked about 2km and still no docks, so we thought we must have taken the wrong route, again! We turned around and headed back. Now the cold air had seeped into the little gaps around our clothing. The wind felt as if it were dancing its icy fingers upon my skin, giving me chills and tickling the skin giving me goose bumps. The warmth from my pockets no longer kept my fingers toasty and warm but my fingers felt like the ice that teased my skin; warmth which should have felt like a radiator melting the cold away, but now they were embraced by Jack Frost.

As we reached our starting point we noticed a sign on the floor (something we didn't see before). Informing people what direction are the sightseeing spots are and how far they were from this point. Well…! It worked out we were only 0.5km away from the docks. So we said we'll go early before we have to check out.

Before heading back to the hotel we went searching for a 7/11; and we found it! It was way back near Numazu station; so we bought a munch and demolished it in the hotel while watching a movie and getting warm again.


15/11/2014 - Numazu

Weather: Sunny
Temp: 18
Distance: 606.7km [to Okayama] => 129.5km [to Higashi-Hiroshima]

Didn't sleep to well last night because Leah was fidgety and was saying she was hot. It has been awhile since I've had to share a room and I'm SO not use to sharing; so every movement even the slightest had me awake. I don’t know how I'd manage if I had to do dorm sharing - 8 people in a room - Oh boy! I checked for the time of sunrise, it said about 6:30. So I thought in the morning I'd wake up about 6:15 to watch the sunrise from the bedroom window. Didn't make it down to the docks, like we were supposed to (guess it was wishful thinking!); should've taken the stroll by myself, but no matter I got some nice shots.

The sunrise was nice; the sun rose directly opposite our room. The mountains from the left to right had a glow of pink-orange colour. The mist which blanketed the mountains was slowly rising leaving a white halo at the tips. As the sun continued to rise the colours of nature began its morning song. The trees which was dark from darkness now shone with shades of greens, oranges, yellows and reds. The river which was a like a black obis now became green in colour and mirrored the trees, bridges, sky, sun and mountains.  A beautiful sight filled with warmth and happiness.

Today is also the day we head to Hiroshima! Today's journey is to take about 5 hours travelling on 3 different Shinkansen's. Now they say that the Shinkansen is very punctual! This time the trains were experiencing up to an hour’s worth of delays - how about that? Not very punctual aye?! Well those delays were due to a power failure, so I guess that’s a valid reason to be late.

The planned out -

JR train to...

Along to way we decided last minute to visit Okayama; I had read somewhere that if going to Hiroshima you much stop at Okayama. So we did, not sure what it had for us but we done it.

16/11/2014 – Higashi-Hiroshima

Weather: Sunny
Temp: 10
Distance: 31.8km [Hiroshima] => 21.8km [Miyajima-guchi] =>6Km [Miyajima] => 27km [to Hiroshima]

17/11/2014 – Hiroshima

Weather: Scattered Showers
Temp: 12
Distance: 345.4 Km [to Osaka]

18/11/2014 – Osaka

Weather: overcast
temp: 14
Distance: 39.7km [to Kashiba, Nara]

19/11/2014 - Kashiba

Weather:
Temp:
Distance: 593.5km [to Asakusa, Tokyo]

20/11/2014 – Asakusa

Weather:
Temp:
Distance: 21.5km [to Haneda International Airport] => 34.1km [to Tokiwadai]

21/11/2014 – Tokiwadai, Tokyo

Weather:
Temp:
Distance: 16 km [Meguro]

 

 22/11/14 – Tokiwadai, Tokyo

Weather: sunny/overcast
Temp: 17
Distance: 10.2 km [Yoyogi] => 9.6Km [to Tokyo]


Today I planned to do Tokyo. I had aimed to leave early morning but tired from the wedding I went for late morning.

I wanted to go Meji shrine, Yoyogi Park, Takeshita Dori, Imperial Palace, Shibuya, Tokyo Skytree, Government Building, and Tokyo tower.

It sounds a lot and believe me it was! Most of it I want to do at night time to see the skyline. So one of the towers would have been good but by 6pm my feet were so sore I was struggling to walk.

My first stop was Meji Shrine; I didn't realise Yoyogi Park is actually the surrounding of shrine. The shrine itself is free and Yoyogi park is 500¥.

Before entering this monk looking person came up to me. (I was in my own world listening to music). He puts a gold card in my hand and says this is for you, it will bring you peace. So I said thank you and began to walk. Then he put beads in my hand and said 'this would bring you and your husband peace!' (I'm single, but ok). Again as I'm about to walk away he asked me to right my name in his book and where I was from then he goes '¥10,000'. I looked at him and said what. So he showed me that people 'gave' 20,000 and 10000¥. I go sorry I only have small change and gave him back the stuff. He then goes ok 5000¥. I'm like no. The guy wouldn't move and there was loads of people around. Anyway I went into my pocket hoping to not pull out notes or the bloody 500¥. And I pulled out the 500¥ and a few 100¥. He started to look in my hand and I gave him a few 100s and went to walk off but he stood there looking into his hand. [I’m sure they are not meant to beg] anyway I gave him about 700¥ and he took back the beads and gave me a gold card.

 

23/11/14 – Tokiwadai
Weather: Sunny
Temp: 16
Distance: 9.5km [to Shinjuku] => 141km [to Shosenkyo Gorge] => 28.2km [to Manns winery] => 4.1km [Budonooka wineries and Tenju Onsen] => 104km [to Shinjuku] => 9.5km [to Tokiwadai]

Today I am going to gorge. It's an early start; have to be up at 5:30 to get the 6:15 train to arrive at Shinjuku for 6:45.  This trip I found on Japan guides website (I think). I had asked to join from about a week before coming out but because hotels pre-authorised my card I couldn't pay for it; so I asked if I could pay cash on the day and they said no. Anyway, Friday just gone the emailed me saying some people cancelled and if I still wanted to come?! (They got rid of my space) I said yes but I can only pay cash; finally they agreed to the cash payment.

We left at 7; first stop was at a service station about 8:15. Mount Fuji was in view! The sky was bright blue; the top was covered in thick thick snow, bright white with the rise Suns glow bouncing off it. We reached out destination about 9:30 and headed to the top of mount ... By cable cart. The view was immense! Endless rolling hills with a multitude of colours; Ranging from greens, yellows, reds, bronzes, oranges and browns. The colours rolling along with the mountains, creating a mesmerising painting in my mind.

As we reached the top the land was covered in a mist; as the sun rises it's rays caresses everything with its touch leaving a light steamy mist causing the temperature to rise and finally releases its pent up energy. As the mist rises the sky becomes a pale blue; the mountains now showing in different shades of blue. Mt Fuji in sight but blinded by a thin soft sheet of floating water. The snow topped mountain no longer thick and heavy with snow. It is as if it has woken up and taken of its blanket from a comfy night’s sleep.

Those who love nature and landscapes, this is ideal for you. It is perfect weather and atmosphere to totally lose yourself here. Become calm and let your mind relax! I was brought up in a city and have always lived in a city but I'm not a city girl at all. I would give up the city any day to be surrounded by this. Take photos all day long; think about what I want to do and what's my next trip be. I reckon after this trip I want to go Canada and Alaska. I would love to go for a year to experience all the seasons and compare their autumn to this one. See if it's as magical, as mesmerising.

We left the top and headed back to the cable cart to take us down to the bottom. Our 4km walk but felt like a hike began (11:15), we followed alongside the river. The river changing pace rapidly; it will be fast like Londoners at rush hour. Push and barging everything in its way not caring who are what is in its path. Fitting into the smallest gap; twisting and turning like a gymnast. Then it would be slow and calm, carefree just going with the flow. Wrapping itself around fallen trees, rocks and boulders. As gaps form it creates mini waterfalls.

As we walked further, we came across a beautiful waterfall; it had just the right amount of light for it to create a rainbow at the base of the waterfall. The sound wasn't thundering but just like a huge rapid. The water spraying us as the wind carried some of bouncing water making the air refreshing.

Walking along the gorge I noticed that money was being wedged into the cracks of the mountain. If it wasn't wedged it was stuck on; no idea what the meaning of it is but I need to find a Japanese person to tell me.

The endless colours of autumn, the meandering river and the glistening sunlight all work so well. The sun breaking through the thick trees highlighting the leafs, enriching it's colour, feeling the warmth of colours and on your skin. Looking down the river you see the light dancing over the ripples of the wave. Every now and again the light sparkles will merge and dance like a couple. It was like this all the way to the end.

We stopped for lunch about half down. The group kind of broke off into two groups for lunch. One group sat at the hut and ate there and the second group climbed down and ate on the rocks near the river; I was with that group. It was so nice. Big boulders surround autumn trees and the sound of gushing water with the soft tweets from the birds.

We had finished the walk about 13:30 and was off to a winery. We arrive at the winery about 14:15 - Endless tasting of wines; I'm not a wine drinker but some of the wines was so tasty. So were so sweet it was like drinking pop. There was this apple flavoured wine; it had a different texture, it was like syrup but not as gloopy. I had a sip and went "nom nom nom! Yes! More please!" Debating whether to buy or not. Each keg barrel had about 3-4 bottles of wine on it before hitting the bar (where the nicer ones are!). So that first barrel I tried three wines including the apple; had a few glasses from that. The next barrel had 4 bottles; out of that four only one no two were nice. One was a blueberry and the other was a peach. The blueberry wasn't bitter but wasn't too sweet. It was light on the taste buds; it tickled as it wash over not over doing it. The peach reminded me archers; this was thick, thick like apple but not a sweet. It was softer; the taste was subtle. The White and red wine that was there was just horrid; they got fully rejected. I had to chase the drink with the apple wine.

It's bar time! The first one I go to is a red. They said the ones on the bar are meant to be nicer and more expensive. Well... I took a sniff... It smelt fruity. Tasted it tasted like a merlot; I thought oh this isn’t too bad but then it went to the back of the throat. It was dry, very dry and had a bitter after taste. They went straight down the sink.

Next was another red called "Muscat Bailey" that was lovely I had a few shots of that. Followed by an ice wine; oh my that was good! I kept sipping it and saying 'oh oh oh' (writing about it makes my mouth water!) I was on a role; I was becoming a wine drinker! So I thought lets true a rose wine; bad idea that ruined my taste buds. So I washed it away with the red and ice (c'est magnifique!)

 After about 20 minutes I started feel a little tipsy (but you can see why right?! I got wine happy!) They gave us these cups - it looked like it could hold about two shots. I think I had about 10 wines and went back for more on the tasty ones.

The rest of the group continues drinking. They even bought snacks from the shop, opened them and started eating them like it was a tea party (lol) until we got told we are not allowed to eat in the shop. But one of the guys bough peach sandwich biscuit cracker things. I didn't think I'd like it but they were so good. The image I can give is... Imagine how an Oreo biscuit is it was like that. Two plain biscuits (one top and bottom) then the middle was like a peach spread mmmmmm. (I don't like peach but I liked those!)

Then off to the second one. The second one also had an Onsen; but me being boring and being told so I chose to watch the sunset for an hour.

The landscape wasn't as picturesque as would have thought, it being out in the mountains and country side in all. But you know those old stories you would hear about smog sitting over London and New York in the Olden days - well sitting on the hill looking over the city/ town it was like that. It seemed to a visible layer of smog (if it is smog that is). I thought if it wasn't smog then could it steam from hot springs?! It was like clouds of smoke rising from the ground in thin swirls, reaching out to the atmosphere. You could see it in a few spots - then all of them would merge into one layer that acted like a divider.

As the sun began to set, the town became let visible. It was like a blanket was placed over it and told the town to sleep. The sky became a brilliant orange and red; the clouds darkened with the colour of night. The mountains glowed with a soft lilac-pink colour. The temperature began to drop and I could see me breathing. The lower the sun got the more red the sky became; the town below started to glow orange as the Tuscan lights had come on. The smoke clouds still swirling and dancing from the town.

The journey back to Tokyo took forever; today was a holiday so they didn't expect traffic because if a holiday falls on a Sunday, the Monday became holiday too; so traffic was meant to be for tomorrow. We left the Onsen/winery at 5 we got back to Tokyo at 9 and we were expected about 7-7:30.

 

24/11/14 - Tokiwadai
Weather: Sunny
Temp: 15
Distance: 0km

Happy Birthday Granddad!

Today is my day I do nothing. I was meant to go to Nikko with Essy and the girls but by the time I read the message I wouldn't have made it. Also with the addition of not being able to withdraw money kind of added to me not wanting to socialise.

So I lounged, washed and dried some clothes - it wasn't that expensive. To wash it was ¥200 + ¥100 for soap powder that took about an hour; to dry I put in ¥300 for 45 minutes and ¥100 to make the clothes smell nice but that didn't work.

I thought well if I get everything sorted I'll go into Tokyo and look for stuff I still hadn't gone too.  But I washed my hair and plaited it; while doing that I watched some Bleach. It has been years since I watched Bleach. I think when I was in Spain I was up to date on it and they weren't showing it no more - so I thought let me try it! And it said it was completed!! I went back to where I finished and got roped in for several hours. So gripped I went through episodes of not even touching my hair. I think once I finish Bleach I need to find a new manga to watch.

This was pretty much my day.

 

25/11/14 - Tokiwadai
Weather: Rain
Temp: 14
Distance: 526.9 [to Kyoto]

What a weekend! I had so many problems trying to get an ATM that would accept my card. Apparently, British bank cards don't work in Japan. It wouldn't let me put my pin in; I would just give me a receipt saying invalid card. I went to three different banks and the same issue. So was on the phone to the bank all weekend. Then I asked a British guy, who works in Japan 'if he have problems with his UK bank cards?!’ he said 'yes he can only use them in one place'! Guess what that place is called! If you said 7/11 then you're correct. So 7/11 won't only be your best friend for food but also for cash withdrawals. Eventually I was able to withdraw using a 7/11 near my hotel.

Today I've decided to head to Kyoto. I missed going last week because Leah wanted to see Tokyo more so we dropped Kyoto and went straight to Tokyo. Kyoto is such an amazing city. There is SO much to see! You defo need two days to appreciate it properly. My intention was to get the 6:30 train and arrive in Kyoto by 9/9:30. That didn't happen; my body didn't want to move. I watched time pass me by and kept pushing the time back. I eventually left Tokyo at 8:30 and arrived at 11:00. I kind of got lost around the station. I couldn't find the exit I wanted.

Last night I wrote up all the places to see and where to visit. It suggested seeing the east first then head to the west. Just as well because on arrival in Kyoto a family asked me 'what is there to see in Kyoto? We heard it was beautiful!' I replied 'well I have a map/ list if you wanted to use that as a guide?!' 'Is it in English? Are the places walkable?' ‘Yes! I'm going to walk it but you can get the subway to the destinations!' 'Who are you with? You came by yourself?' 'Yes, I am travelling myself!' 'Aren't you a brave girl?' *erm no not really but * 'thanks'

they took a picture of my maps and lists and went on their way. Wonder if they saw everything?!

Well let’s just say mine didn't go to plan at all. My aim is to see the 1000 torii gate and I couldn't leave Kyoto without seeing that!

I walked from the station and headed east. It was meant to take an hour to get where I wanted to go but I got distracted and ended up turning up over an hour later. When reading about places to go; they give you bus numbers and trains to catch to get there. I'm so glad I didn't do that. Along the way I came across some shrines and temples I would've seen. I ended up seeing temples that wasn't on my list.

I was trying to get to the golden pavilion; I was there, at the location but couldn't find it for the life of me. I ended up finding other temples. Looking rather confused, I wasn't sure if I should walk back or carry on going forward. I went with forward because I couldn't even see the building in the skyline.

I walked around the Geisha district and I didn't see not one Geisha. I guess I had to hang about for night to fall and pay the ¥3000 to have a meal and show.

I looked at the clock and realised it was 3pm and I hadn't even reached the temples and shrines I wanted to see in the east side. So I decided to get towards the 1000 Torii gates. It's free to get in and walk up the mountain. To do the complete route it's meant to take 2-3 hours. The sun was already setting by the time I got there. I think it took me an hour to get half way (and that's as far as I would go!). I was out of breath and my calves were tightening; I don't know why since it weren't big steps.

I made it half way; from the half way point you can take in the view of Kyoto city below. A city buried between mountains. It's amazing there can be a forest two stops away from the city centre.

So on the way back down, I'm taking my time because the steps were slippery and it was dark. I was naturally taking two of my steps per step. Then I could hear a noise; it was only a granny skipping down the steps. I was like WTH how can you be skipping and I'm walking like a kid. Slapped on some rock music synced my steps to the drum beats; back straight; I was now marching down those steps. I thought I'd catch up with grandma but she was long gone!

Night had fallen and I was still making my down. The Torii gates had an extra orange glow to them as the lanterns lit them up. I think my mind started to play games on me - probably watching too many movies or something. I'm sure I kept seeing a figure walking along side me in the forest. It weren't my shadow because the way the light fell I had no shadow. But every time I turned around there was no one there. No one in front, behind or either sides; no sound except the beats of my music. I was alone to the gates, forest, the shrines and my mind. While walking I thought this could make a good thriller. As you looked it front the gates looked like they got smaller and disappeared into darkness and the same if you looked behind. Every now and again you passed a creepy looking spider; it's home swaying in the wind, looking like silver glitter had been sprinkled on it from rain and lights.

I was snapped out of my spooked mind frame by a girl who wanted to know how far left to go. It was about 15-20 minutes to the halfway point. She said forget that and turned around. All the way down we chatted and to the station and to Kyoto station. Only then did we exchange names and email addresses. Her name is Charlotte (English name) and she is from Taiwan and is in Japan for a week. She came with friends but they had gone to Universal and she decided to do a culture/nature day.

When we eventually arrived in Kyoto, I saw one of the girls from the wedding - Eva. Of all the places to meet - she was on her way to Nara.

I arrived back in Tokyo about 8:30; just in time to the girls for Miriam's birthday. We... Well they were going to the Kill Bill restaurant 'Gon Patchy'. One of the girl was meant to message me to tell me the time, meeting point or even how to get there - she didn't. Then Essy had also asked if I wanted to go. But communication with Essy can only happen if I'm in Wi-Fi. But again she didn't send me directions how to get there. I had messages Essy once I was back in Tokyo (as it was easier to message her than the other girl) thinking she would immediately respond so I could go ahead and meet them. I waited half an hour and got nothing. I tried to Google it but it was just people's blogs and didn't even sound sure where it was. So instead I jumped on a train and went looking for Tokyo tower - well the only thing is I found a tower which looked like the Eiffel Tower but it weren't Tokyo tower. The clouds were so think and heavy with rain that the point of tower was lost in the clouds. It's orange glow could been seen for miles - that's the only reason I found it I wanted to know what that orange light was.

It was getting late and I was soaking wet so I thought I'd head home. I got to Ikebukuro station and thought 'oh I want to walk home. It's meant to be a straight line and take about an hour!' Oh man I went in a straight line but in the wrong direction (-.-). I started off on the right road but there was a divide and I guess I took the wrong one.

Anyway, I ended up down some back roads. The roads were dark with only spot lights - again just enough to light up an area. It was only me and my shadow but even that at times seemed to disappear. In the end it was just me walking to some beats of music. Now and again I would hear the squeaks of a push bike. Turn around and it was an old man at least a block away.

It's chucking it down and my camera was around my neck; the heat from body was making it build up condensation - so it went in my bag. Somehow, I found myself back on a main road and just continued walking and I came across a station. I had walked one stop down from Ikebukuro station. I thought s*%t. So I jumped back on the train and went back to the station and thought f*#k it lets just get the train.

By my hotel there are two stations but the staff suggest going to Tokiwadai rather than Naka-bashi. I think I was looking to get lost tonight!  From the station I can see my hotel and vice versa. Yet trying to get to the hotel took me about another 45 minutes. For this train you have to pay for (not included in your JR. pass!) so at the booth it said ¥150 which I paid. When I got to the station it said I need to pay extra. Erm... Why?!  The conductor was telling me something but I had no clue what he was talking about. But he continued and I kept saying to him I don't understand and how much extra do you want me to pay. In the end he let me just walk out.

I came out onto a high street which I thought if I took the next left and followed it it would take me to the bridge by the hotel! Nope there wasn't any left turn - so I turned back; crossed the level crossing and took a left hoping it will be a straight road that would take me to the bridge! Wrong again - I ended up walking around back roads passing the odd shrine or two. Eventually, I found the highway and right in front of me was the hotel... Now I had to cross the highway and bingo I found the bridge. Of all nights I decide to go exploring it had to be the wettest one. Thank goodness for waterproof 😃

 

26/11/14 - Nagano
Weather: Rain
Temp: 9

I think I've lost my time keeping. I set my alarm for 7:30 - but you know when you're having such a good dream and ringing enters your dream and in your dream you're looking for that noise?! Well that's what was happening to me. I put it on snooze; well that's what I thought! Didn't wake up until 9 which is the time I wanted to leave (-.-). Guess sometimes you just have to listen to your body!

It took me a good two hours to pack and get ready and leave. Thank goodness I don't need to repack this backpack again I'm running out of space; not sure how because I haven't bought anything. Talking about that I haven't got any souvenirs yet - don't know what to get. No point doing chop sticks because I did that when I went China and I don't think anyone used them. I'm going to get Chanice some chocolate pancakes. OMG they are nice but they fill me after one sandwich! Leah had discovered them - she bought quite a bit to take back to the UK. Basically they are two chocolate pancakes sandwiched together with a chocolate mousse kind of thing. Not sure if it's like a Butter Icing rather than moose. Was thinking with the pictures I've taken to make them into magnets and give to everyone; that way it's unique to them. Will have to have a good think - since I don't have a case I can't take much - not even wine (>.<).

Anyway, I'm heading to Nagano. Nagano has a few shrines, temples and parks but as well as that I am going to see the snow monkeys. Only thing is there won't be any snow for another few weeks. These monkeys are wild and are known to bathe in the natural hot springs which are up on the mountains.

From Tokyo it takes about 2 hours to get to Nagano. I didn't catch the Shinkansen from Tokyo I picked it up from Omiya - it is still 76mins away.

When I arrive, I'll be staying in a Ryokan - it is a Japanese style room. Paper walls, futon & little table where you kneel. I can't wait; I will be able to tick that off my list of things to do in Japan then next will be a capsule.

I will leave my bag, in the bag store if the room is not ready then venture out into the rain and see the local area.

---

After getting lost, I arrived at the Ryokan - Jizokan Matsuya Ryokan - ¥6480. When booking I thought it's a bit more than the others but hey it's a Japanese style hotel I don't mind.

I got there and thought wow. On entry there were a row of slippers on a step; to the left and right was shoe cupboards to put your shoes. I was greeted by a cheerful old man, who spoke to me in Japanese. Weirdly enough, what he was saying to me I was getting an understanding - maybe I have picked up a bit since being here. He took me through what felt like a maze of hallways. Thinking to myself how am I going to find my way out.

Then we reached my door; you had to take off those slippers for the bedroom. The bedroom was set for daytime - it had a little table, with chairs with no legs and cushion on them. The table had a China teapot, a small cup with not handle, a pot of tree green tea leaves, a biscuit and a flask filled with hot water.

I sat here for a while, trying to cool my body from the walk. My calves felt like they were on fire as if they were about to get a cramp. Google maps took me to some back street hence why I got lost. The Ryokan is literally on the stretch of shops leading up to Zenoji temple.

By the window there were ledges; with off white paper panel sliding windows and an actual glass window behind. I just sat there; legs stretched out and let the breeze tickle my back.  After a while I thought I'd try the little table and no legged chairs and have some green tea. Oh man that green tea just tasted so nice! It even smelt fresh. I opened the biscuit and it was a wafer biscuit, just enough sweetness for lifeless taste buds.

The Wi-Fi can only be used in the lobby. So I sat in the lobby and caught up with some people then went for a walk around Zenoji temple. Before I knew it night had fallen, I was walking through a grave yard with broken head stones. Little statues are clothed as if preparing them for the cold (no idea why they clothe them).

Checking out the shrines of the main temple, I came across a shrine which had a man and a raccoon. Instantly I thought of the story Pom Poko - it's about how the raccoons learnt how to transform to fit into the human world. The story of this shrine quite closely knits in. When I first saw Pom Poko I thought what a weird film but after reading the info about that shrine and the story behind it, it has kind of given me a clearer understanding of that movie. It's another one of Ghibli's films. So wish I went to his museum!

I went looking for a 7/11; I wasn't too hungry so I just got a pork bun and some fries, but the fries weren't nice so I didn't eat them.

When I came in from my walk the lady said "have you seen the spa area?" "No..." So she took me to it and I was like waaah "It's a natural hot spring we have pumping through!” I'm thinking no way I am so going to try this!

I sat downstairs with them in the lobby to use the Wi-Fi before heading upstairs to my room. I sat to have some green tea, only it didn't taste or smell like green tea it tasted like jasmine.

I think you're meant to go in naked but I wasn't! I put on my cosy, had a shower down by the Onsen to wash off the oils etc. climbed into it, not thinking it would be hot and jumped out and went in slowly. It's not too hot that it burns you. But because the windows wasn't steamed up or anything I thought it would be luke warm. But oh man did it feel nice. As I got in; I went to the deep end and sat there. All the water gashed over the sides, my hair moving with the flow of water. My body had dancing clouds of steam rising into the air to join the steam from the Onsen.

You know when your body is in water it floats; well in this water it didn't my body felt heavy. I wonder if it's the minerals.

I sat there for about 30-45mins. Within that time my fingers and toes looked like prunes. My face was red hot like a fresh ripe tomato. My pores were now open; dirt and grime being released be prepared for spots on the morning.

It must have been about 7:30; I started looking through my pictures and I felt tired; body weak and all tingly as if I had been soaking in some Epsom salts.  Turned down the lights played some music and woke up at 2:30.

I was having some weird dreams though. I remember waking up thinking what on earth is all that about. It's so weird I couldn't remember it if I tired.

 

27/11/14 - Nagano
Weather: sunny blue skies
Temp: 13
Distance: 220.4km [Nagano - Fukuoka (Kanawaza)]

IT'S SNOW MONKEY TIME! Today I'm travelling to Yudanaka - it takes about 45 minutes using the limited express train from Nagano. Using the limited express you have to pay ¥100 seat fee and the train ticket is ¥1160 one way - then once you arrive you have to get a bus to Kanbayashi Spa.  From there it's about 20 min walk through the forest.

Finally! I woke up before the alarm clock and was ready to set off early. I think that's partly due to me falling asleep before 8.

As I was checking out; the granny was talking to me. I think she was granddad’s other half. She was talking away in Japanese then she disappeared briefly. When she return, she gifted me with an Orange. I said thank you and placed it in my bag. It reminded me of when I was China and I stayed with a Chinese family for the day and the gifted me with a pomegranate. The only thing is I'm allergic to Oranges so I accepted it.
When I was putting on my shoes, she continued to talk to me and then her daughter came and she told me to come back in April as there is a festival which takes place and it's really beautiful and gets busy. Granny's hand rose to my head and I bent automatically because I knew she was going for my hair. She started playing with it saying it's beautiful. And then she asked 'did you do it yourself?' Before the lady could translate I had responded with a yes. Both of us looked at each other puzzled.

In case you’re wondering my hair is not in any crazy style - it's just in some canerows (French plait).

I left my bags behind and headed down to the station about 8:30. The people in the tourist centre said there wasn't any buses that went towards the monkey park. This meant I had to get the train. I ended up getting the limited express train - which only took 45 minutes (¥1160 + ¥100 for seat reservation) for the first part and then from there had to get the bus which was ¥310. I'm sure this trip I've done so much hiking it's unreal. From where the bus dropped you off you still have about 2km hike up a hill/mountain which only takes about 30mins at a leisurely pace.

The whole way up the mountain, you can feel a heat; it's the hot spring water flowing down the gullies. As the water runs past, the steam from the gullies stretches up and out wanting to hug and embrace you with its warmth.

I reached the entrance to the forest. There was a beware sign - beware for bears and snakes. Wait! Hold up - no one mentioned snakes nor bears only monkeys. The climb at first is quite steep, so get your glutes, calves and quads on the ready!

You do need a strong pair of footwear and that has grip. I went in trainers and it was muddy and slippery. If going when there's snow you'll need snow boots or those grips that hook onto the bottom of your shoes.

I reached the first climb and I was surrounded by long skinny trees. The canoe was thick in some areas where it wouldn't let the sun break through. The weather changed from how it was in Nagano. It became overcast and think low cloud cover, just resting on top of the mountains.

After a couple twists and turns, white fluff started to fall. I was thinking no way this can't be snow. It's too early! But it wasn't falling like rain; it was snow but only a short spell.

Walking through the forest I started to think of the bear and snakes. What would I do? Looking out onto never ending forest seeing no way out except the way I came. I thought of Princess Mononoke... And how she lived with the animals and could that be me. Lol yes, my mind does wonder. But travelling through Japan I have noticed some similarities with Ghibli's stories.

1.8km later I reached the base of the park. I had entered Hell's Valley. On view - rocks line the shore and the river all the way up. There was a shooting gazer - constantly blowing out steam and spraying me with fine droplets of water.

I go to walk on the bridge and monkey starts walking towards me - I'm thinking oh s*%t this is an awesome picture. But my camera wasn't set on auto it still has the settings from when I was taking the water shots - Dammit! An excellent picture wasted. The monkey wanted to come of the bridge by me but because I was in the way it was looking for other ways to get past - but I was trying to take a picture. But whatever direct it went I went! He was avoiding my camera. I said fine you win - I'll go climb a further set of stairs to get to the top and I'll see you again. I reached the top and the same monkey went running up a tree and went on top of a building. I looked up and it must have been he's parent. When they saw each other it was as if they said 'hello' and the other monkey went straight to cleaning it.

To get into the park it's ¥500 - the monkey's are wild! They just built a pool that the hot spring water can fall into. This is the only place in the world where monkeys bathe in hot springs [so they say]. These macaques have a short to no tail and small ears - this is because they have adapted to the cold weather and by having a long tail and/or big ears makes them lose heat quicker.

There were monkey's everywhere! You can walk past them with no issues; they'd just watch you but if you went to take a picture they would turn their back to you (lol). One monkey I was trying to capture it and he kept turning his back to me but then he'd look over his shoulder to see if I was there! But of course I'd be ready for when he did.

There were many baby monkeys, so I'm guess there would be another mating season soon. Female can have one baby every 180 days. Some look like a few weeks to a month old and others looked the equivalent of a toddler.

I got to the spring and there was quite a lot of people. There was one monkey in the pool. I was trying to capture it but still at this time I hadn't changed back my settings and was getting frustrated; thinking why is my camera taking so long to respond. Even with his doing a long shutter the light bulb in my head still didn't click. So I missed that shot on many occasions. However, I got many outside of the pool. There was a baby who was scared of the water or something but it laid on the rocks, half its body in the water and it was doing the swimming motion as if it was practising how to swim. Bless it and it's mum was just looking at it.

I think the amount of people was starting to agitate them. At one point they were running around screaming. A few monkey's came running towards me but I had my back to them this American girl leaped on to me and grabbed my arm. I just looked at her so - confused. She goes 'sorry! I didn't know what else to do they just ran towards me!' ‘No worries!' Turned back around and continued to study them. Once the group left the monkeys seemed to have calmed down. I sat on a rock and just watched them groom each other and eat the ticks. Some faces were redder than others but so was their fur. The monkeys with red faces seemed to have more of a grey to white fur; whereas the monkey's with the brown faces and a slightly darker fur. I tried to see if their faces was because of how hot they were but I read that they don't lose heat when coming out of the spring - like humans would when coming out of a hot bath/shower. The temp of the spring is 42 degrees - the colder the temperature they go looking for warmer water.

Eventually, I pulled myself away from those in the pool and went down the slope. There seemed to be more babies. And on the ramp there was 2 babies play fighting - it even looked like they were smiling and laughing while they were playing. Once they realised there was people watching they stopped playing and went under the wooden slope to play. Further down there was more babies but this time it was about 4-5 playing.

When you was a kid, did you ever do a pile up? And the smallest was always as the bottom?! This was the case; this little monkey was at the bottom and stretching out his hand as if to tag hands with someone to help him. When the other got off him, he went running towards them and threw himself and they went tumbling and rolling like a ball.

I started to head back to the bus stop. I managed to get the bus I wanted but I didn't actually notice the trains stop running for about an hour. It was like the whole town went on lunch - no buses no trains any people. All of Sudden it had become Ghost town. This meant I had to wait an hour until the next train. So this threw me back an hour. I want to be back in Nagano by 1-1:30; so I could head to Fukuoka ASAP - as it takes about 7 hours to get to. Well as usual that wasn't the case - my trip started at 16:11 and would arrive in Fukuoka 20:19. There is no Shinkansen that goes to Fukuoka from Nagano - so my whole trip is by local trains. Which I don't mind allows me to see the countryside before it gets dark.

Okay, so I have another Anime comparison. I'm hoping some may have seen Spirited Away; those that have will know what I'm on about. I'm sitting on the train and night time has fallen. The train is soaring through the darkness like a bat; nothing but trees and water. Well, that scene where Sen (Chihiro) gets Noface out of the bath house and they go on the train to The witch's sister house; That's how I feel right know - like I am on that train. Even though the train was filled with spirits well this one might as well be the same. There is no sound - only the train motor and the drivers voice calling out the stops. People are emotionless and still like sleeping statues.

 

28/11/14 - Kanazawa
Weather: Sunny blue skies
temp: 8
Distance: 1039km [to Nagasaki]

OMG what a night! I was lost! As you can probably guess I didn't make it to Fukuoka - well not the intended Fukuoka. I thought when I looked at the distance it was short. There are two stations called Fukuoka and HyperDia took me to the one near Kanazawa! Once I realised I phone my hotel and told them I won't be making it as I'm lost and far away from the location and there is no way I'll be reaching there tonight. I had asked the train man after my first stop if I was going in the right direction because it didn't feel right. He just told me to go to platform one.

So I'm sitting on the train, then suddenly the light bulb switches on *ping* ' why is it taking 4 hours by local train but by Shinkansen it's almost six?! To get to Fukuoka' I put on Google maps hoping it would be able to pick up my location offline and see where I was. Then it was as if I hit a wall! I was still near Nagano; I had headed down then up and across was as if I'd been moving but stuck in time.

On the train there was this little old man who was coming off at a stop. He stood at the door and was trying to say something. It was as if he was talking in tongues as he was trying to find the right words. Then he got it and shouted 'Bon Voyage' with a big smile and a wave. I replied with a thank you and a wave and bowed and disappeared into the darkness. He made me feel warm and somewhat comforted and calm for that moment.

I wasn't near any fast trains I was in the middle of nowhere. It was 9pm and the local trains was stopping for the night and all I could think was s*%t. I stayed on the train to Kanazawa - knowing it was a bigger city to the previous stops I may be able to find a hotel for the night. When you're lost, the last thing you want is having to deal with a language barrier. I asked the inspector for a hotel he pointed me into the direction. I went to the crown plaza - knowing it's expensive. I asked if I could speak to someone who speaks English. I told the lady my situation and she pointed me to a Toyoko-Inn and a Route-inn. First stop Toyoko-Inn! They had no rooms but the lady rang the Route-inn to see if there was any rooms. There was!!! And she reserved it for me - God how thankful was I?! Got to the hotel which was right behind the Toyoko-Inn.

Explained the situation that I was lost; I have no idea where I am and blah blah blah. Now I'm not sure if the guy felt sorry for me or what. But they told me it was a single room in a smoking room for ¥6500. I had to take it - no choice; just glad that today is payday! He gave me a spa ticket to the Onsen to use throughout the night; also, a breakfast ticket. Then when I get to my room it's not a single it's a double room with a beautiful night view of Kanazawa.

I asked him if there was Wi-Fi I could use - he goes "we have a room prepared for you and have provided Internet for you to help you plan your route!" I thought aww how sweet; yet he didn't give me the Wi-Fi key - I found it in the lift.

After venting a bit to mum and my cousin; I decided to go to the Onsen on the top floor (22:00). And WOW! It had massage chairs; 360 view of the city. Separate spa rooms (male & female) - I walked into the ladies and there was a girl stark naked! I guess you are meant to go naked on the Onsen (>.<). Thank goodness she was drying off so I had the Onsen to myself; I went with my trunks. I got to the door and I'm looking at it. I tried pulling it - it won't open; tried pushing it - won't open. Took a step back to see if there was a button or something but nothing. Then the girl says in Japanese 'slide it!' - Oh it's a slide door... Thanks.

It was a big Onsen; bigger than the night before. This one had a temperature gauge; it was 41 degrees in the water. One degree less than the monkey’s - Its said they usual bathe in water 42 degrees plus. Yet the Onsen at the Ryokan felt hotter. I sat in the water and looked out over the city. The room had that soft light to set a calm mood. It had a little room which had trees and some plants. The relaxing sound of the water mixed with the smells of oils in the air. I moved over to the glass window; and stared out to the city that moved below me. The streaming lights of the car's head and tail lights flying up the road. The moving shadows of people under the street lights. I dazed and let my mind relax and calm - I was there for about half hour. As I was leaving a girl came in and she seemed shocked to see me. But I was even more shocked that when I turned around she was starks [naked] - I don’t know how she got her clothes off so quick but I hadn't even got my top on yet. Maybe I just move that slow - ha-ha.

This morning I woke up on time - whoop! Right I believe I'm heading in the right direction now. I woke up at 6; went for breakfast about 7:15 - left the hotel 7:45 - at the station by 7:50 - on the train to Osaka at 8:05. Even this train journey is over two hours long. I don't believe I didn't even notice it sooner; but it doesn't matter anyway it's all part of the adventure right?!

For breakfast I had a big meal! I had 3 blocks of egg, 2 slices of bacon, bowl of rice, 2 pieces of Salmon, bread with butter and Jam, oh and chips, washed down with two glasses of water.

First train - Thunderbirds are go! Yep it's a super speed train call the thunderbird. This train was going to get me into Shin-Osaka. The train journey didn't seem that bad. Spent most of the time writing and listening to music. I think after this journey I'm going to need new music all together - don't know how many times I've listened to the same songs now.

The thunderbird doesn't seem to run as smoothly as the Shinkansen. Plus my ears kept popping so it then had me thinking if the Shinkansen was pressure controlled because of the speed it travels at.

Once at Shin-Osaka I thought I had 30mins to spare; so I thought I'd see if I can go to the toilet... It seems like every woman wanted to use the toilet. I just left it and got something to eat. Somewhere in that time I had lost 15 minutes; I had to run and make sure I was on the right platform, standing in the right line for the right class. The platform was packed! I thought s*+t I'm not going to have a seat to put my luggage. But luckily this was its leaving station and the cleaners were taking their time cleaning. Again these 2.5 hours went quick - I done more writing, listened to music, read some Japanese and then fell asleep. My head bobbing up and down like a nodding dog. This train I was getting to Hakata. Then from Hakata it was another 2 hours to Nagasaki.

This train wasn't a Shinkansen not a Thunderbird it was a limited express train that looked and felt like a Shinkansen but with leather seats. I had an empty seat beside be pretty much the whole journey; buy people would look at the seat and prefer to stand. I don't think I smell or anything - well not as bad as that guys foot. OMG the whole journey the train didn't have a smell. I think he got on at Hiroshima and instantly took off his shoes. That smell of weird smelling cheese - it was like that. It wasn't one of those smells that would easily subside - it was one of those smells that sits in your nostril hairs for a long while.

On the limited express I fell asleep - I had this guy next to me who also fell asleep; I opened an eye to check location and I could just see his head bopping up and down at the same time to mine. Swaying side to side and up and down - might as well start a new dance and call it 'the sleepy dance!' - Yay or nay?!

When I eventually woke up the guy had gone but I woke up to see the sea to my left and to the right was levels of grass fields which looked like rice fields. There was Palm trees along the coast line, dark yellow sand and the soft waves hitting the shore. The shoreline came in and out of view as the train rotated along the tracks like a slow roller coaster. It rocked and twisted from side to side; keep its grip of life to the tracks.

It was about 15:30 and I was expected to arrive at 15:45. But I was eager to see what new adventure I had and almost got myself lost again. I was so eager I didn't even check the stations name. I just got up and got off the train. I looked around and thought this is a bit quiet for a big city! Looked up and it weren't my stop! Thankfully there were still people coming off the train so I managed to get back on. According to Google Maps I was still a long way away.

My hotel is about 10mins walk away from the station. But no one mentioned a 15% inclined hill! Oh boy my calves felt the burn. I could feel the beads of sweat sliding down my back, nose, forehead and lip. The weather wasn't cold like it was in Tokyo and Kyoto; the weather was very mild. It was nice. Even the air tasted and felt different; you could feel the rain in the air as it threatened the blue skies. The wind was howling like a storm was about to take place; but not even the wind was cold.

Made it to the top of the hill - panting and sweating as if I just ran a 100m race - My fitness levels have seriously dropped. The hotels here I've noticed it takes payment first thing. But I had no cash on me because I used it for last night’s hotel. So I asked if I can pay in the morning or when I get back because I can only get cash from a 7/11. But down this way it doesn't seem like there are as many 7/11's - it's more Lawson’s. So they said ok and drew a map showing me where the nearest 7/11 was.

Went up to my room and it was nice. I think I had a double room or a very large single. This one didn't have an Onsen unlike the last two - I think I was getting use to extra luxury *smirks*. I dropped my things off and headed out - right across the road was the A-bomb museum and peace hall. I went in both but the museum hit me hard. I was thinking of this gets to me I wonder how I would've reacted to Hiroshima's museum. To get in was on ¥200 and for a guide ¥154. I got in just before 4:30 - that wasn't enough time. 5:30 came and I wasn't half way round. It's not that it's big; it's taking in the information. Look through the pictures, wondering what that feel was. Doing your daily routine and before you know it you're either dead or your life has changed forever.

There was a picture that was taken of a guard and his ladder. The shadow of His body and the ladder was burnt on to a wall. That was all that was left of him - a shadow! An imprint; edged into a photography forever.

A mother and her baby lay amongst rumble, with their skin burnt only showing their bones and some tissue.

Nagasaki was attacked on the 9th August 11:02am; just three days after Hiroshima. How much devastation does one want to cause?! Being dragged into a war you know nothing about; saying bye to your loved ones who is going to fight thinking you'll see them again.

The A-bomb was being tested in desserts on California (I think that's what it said) and tested in Guantanamo. When scientist agreed it was ready the president said it will be tested on Japan without notice. Nagasaki wasn't originally on the list to be attacked. And it almost wasn't.
The weather was bad and the American bomber couldn't see a break in the clouds and was ready to turn back and it was running out of fuel; but then there was an opening in the clouds and it was dropped.

The bomb contained 6kg of petroleum and was surrounded by explosives to help detonate the petroleum. It turns out that only 1kg was effective. And that 1kg affected everyone within a 4km radius. Now imagine if the whole amount of petroleum was used. Would there even be a Japan?!

A father who went looking for his daughter after the bombing - She worked in machinery - that day she heard the alert about the attack and stayed home with her grandparents where they died instantly. All her father found was a tin lunch box with rice what had been burnt and a small tin with her name and classroom number on it. I couldn't even bear the thought of a parent knowing their child may have died but the only thing you have of there is a tin. Your whole family lost at a blink of an eye.

There were a number of survivors. Two guys in particular - one was ... He was in the blast and was knocked unconscious; when he came about he found a number of people around him. He had been burnt on his back and spent 3 years to heal. Many times he would ask for to be killed as he was in so much pain but also because he faced such discrimination. Even though he was healing the skin formed keloids; but this isn't the normal keloids you would get and it will fall off or be fixed by surgery. Because of the radiation - even if plastic surgery existed the keloid would just reform. He had applied for many jobs and even if he passed the medical on paper he wasn't allowed to progress no further.   He then joined the UN and tells his story to try and gain peace. I ran out of time to hear his full story. But feeling so alone; what if it had happened to you? Which wasn't self inflicted and though people know they still wouldn't want to associate themselves with you.

Some people may just brush it off and say it happened. But did those ever think of the aftermath; what the damage would be. How it could affect others? How karma could come back?

People are still suffering from the effect where it's physically or mentally, they are suffering.  Yes, it was an American bomber who did it but the UK was a part of it. Wherever America goes the UK is always behind. War is just to show power. It creates divisions yet every country wants peace. Where is the logic - fight to gain peace? No, that doesn’t work! Even now there are wars and it still involving the same countries. It's those countries that need to understand others and not for their personal needs.

As Katsuji Yoshida says "The basis of peace is to understand the pain of others!" Which is true I think?

I was talking to a guy in the museum who was telling about the bomb. It was him who told me about the petroleum. And about the antennas on the bomb, they were designed by the Japanese to estimate how far away the ground was. Now could this be used against them? Meaning was they asked to create it not knowing what it was for? Or they knew what it was for but not expecting it to be used against them!?

The guy asked me what I thought of Hiroshima compared to Nagasaki. I said I can't answer that - I can't compare the two and I didn't go in the museum- I wish I did though. The thing is Hiroshima was on the target list and it hit target. Nagasaki wasn't on the list - but it was thought it was hit because of its port. Both places were hit; thousands of innocent lives were lost. Both cities that would never be the same again!

He asked me how long I am in Japan and why I am here. So I answered - 3 weeks came for a wedding and trying to learn about Japan. I said to him I knew of the A-bomb but I didn't know the extent of it. It feels like the truth was hidden or curbed to what needed to know - and the extent wasn't a need to know.

 

29/11/14 - Nagasaki
Weather: Sunny blue skies
Temp: 16
Distance: 74.9km [to Sasebo] 110.1km [to Karatsu]
Hotel: St Paul's
Star: 2

Today the skies we clear and the weather was warm. I didn't even need my jacket. But I walked with it and was hot.

Today I wanted to see the one legged Torii gate and some of the bigger shrines and Glover Garden. Tourist directions are not straight forward if you don't know Japanese.  I was looking for the Torii gate; the arrow pointed up the slope. I walked up the slope and it was a dead end; I had walked into a university. Maybe it was just me reading the sign wrong but I saw a few people walk up there and ended up walking back down. But there is a side road you have to go up. At the top of the steps was a shrine and a huge tree, well trees.

These trees had been struck by the A-bomb. It was thought that both trees had died from the blast but after several years the trees started to grow. Now only 10 meters high they have built a thick green canopy.

I also found the one legged Torii gate. The reason why it is called this - is because half the gate had broken away from the blast. Everything around gate was destroyed and only half the gate remained.

Then I ventured to find the two temples that is a must see. Well unless you know the kanji then you'll end up walking into every other temple like I did. Some you have to pay for and others you don't. I went into a few that really wasn't even worth paying for. One the leaflet was all in Japanese, two I didn't know what I was looking at or what the history of the temple was for. Three - I walked up some stairs there was a temple and that was it. Don't get me wrong I don't mind paying - providing I understand what the money is going to.

Time was ticking on and I still hadn't reached Glover garden - the one place I wanted to see. I was going to head to there but realised the time and thought no I better go. I had to go back to the hotel and get my bags.

Now the plan today was to go to Imari, Arita, and Sasebo. I thought my next hotel was in Imari but it wasn't. It was in Karatsu. Due to time I thought I'd cut out Imari and Arita and head straight to Sasebo. If I time it right I could possibly watch the sunset at the port - which I did but didn't see the full sunset because I had to catch my train to Karatsu. The sunset is almost 30-40 minutes later than Tokyo.

On the way to Sasebo I had a change at Saga. I was waiting for my train. In the mean time I was getting a hot chocolate from the vending machines and this group of school girls also wanted to use the vending machine. They started talking to me; so we chatted and giggled and then after they asked for a picture - group selfie time! They got on their train and I'm still standing there. There was this train at the bottom of the track... I noticed people getting on it. I looked at the time and it was 18:15 my train was at 18:18. Oh man it was my train - a platform had never felt so long. As soon as I got on the train the door closed *phew* that was close*.

From Saga the journey to Karatsu is just over an hour. Then the hotel is about 10mins from the station. However, the hotel is not in a well lit up location like the other hotels. Karatsu is every quiet - almost ghost town like. I was in the area of the hotel and Google maps was saying I was right there. But I was looking for some kind of sign. Eventually I found it. It wasn't lit up at all and it was down some dark roads - thinking about it I should have taken a picture. The best way to describe it - the hotel is behind you - the logo is shielded by a car parked on the drive. I only noticed the hotel because of its shape (looked at a picture). So your back is facing the entrance. You look to the left it is darkness; you turn to the right it is darkness, you look forward and it is darkness. That type of darkness where it's endless. You can't see what's at the end. Even if there is light the darkness haunts the ring of light; so the light only brightens that spot but this road didn't even have a light.

I checked in - the lady goes “you have booked a single room but we have no more single rooms. Is it okay if we give you a twin at the same price?!" For that brief moment I thought she was going to tell me I had no reservation. I said that in my reply followed by a 'yes that's fine!'

I sat! Swallowed my food and then went for a walk towards the castle and the beach. I headed to the castle first but I saw the steps and thought, no way in hell am I climbing those right now!  Looked around the corner as there was arrows to walk along the stone wall promenade; I saw nothing but darkness and thought 'Oh hell no! This is so horror movie s**t!' So I walked back along the main road and headed down near a Ryokan and the beach was just behind. I could see that the beach had yellow soft sand. The sea was gentle as soft waves tickled the shore. Bring a nice relaxing sound to it. I saw a dark spot but was well lit all round - I could see for a good few meters on both side of me and the island in front. I looked up and I could see a blue blanket of diamonds. The sky was so clear. I could see some constellations. Totally struck

 

30/11/13 - Karatsu
Weather: Heavy Rain
Temp: 16
Distance: 158.6km [to Kumamoto]
Hotel: Asuka
Star: 2

Oh man is it wet today! The morning before morning it was nice and blue and clear. By the time I came back from breakfast it was raining but not heavy. The weather forecast was showers - but this wasn't a shower. I walked outside and it was raining lightly; I thought 'yeah if it stays like this I can get to the castle and back no problem!' But the time I reached the top of the road, the heavens opened. Big big rain drops splashed - my waterproofs didn't proof me of water (let's say that).

I put these proofs on because when it rained in Tokyo and Kyoto I didn't get wet at all. But this, this was different. It felt like I had been thrown into the sea without taking my clothes off. My clothes stuck to me like suction pads.  While walking, many times I underestimated the depth of a puddle. I'll put my foot down and my trainer sucked in water like a dehydrated sponge.  Now my socks and trainers were wet - they began to make that slosh sound when I walked. With pressure on the inner soles I would feel the water be forced out and just as soon as my foot raise the water got re-absorbed.

The rain began to lighten and now I was by West Beach. As soon as I pulled out my camera - BAM! The heavens reopened; now I have nothing to block the rain. It was coming down thick and fast. I was thinking to turn back but thought I'm already wet and I came this way to see the castle, there's no point right?!  Plus Karatsu Castle is meant to have 1 of 3 best views in Japan. Well I doubt that would apply today!

I walked along the stone promenade and a mini forest. Then I climbed a mammoth amount of steps, to reach the tower of the castle. Just be reaching there is a tree - it was planted 100's of years ago. It's a wisteria tree - it blooms over 50,000 flowers in late April to May time. If anyone has seen pictures of wisteria trees in Japan I bet this is one of the locations. I bet it would be beautiful in the spring.

In the castle has a museum about the history of the castle and surround area - which is great but everything is in Japanese including the leaflet. The top floor has 360 degree view of city and sea.

Today's plans are kind of non-existent. I was planning to go to Mt. Aso and the surround area but while checking the route. The volcano I found that on the news it has been erupting for the last 4 days - first time in 22 years. So I guess I'll just head to my hotel and just chill as I suppose it'll be raining there too. I do have loads of pictures to go through so I may do that.

I feel so cold and wet; I could feel the coldness and dampness onto my skin. I think when I reach the hotel I would have to make use of their huge baths. They are so deep like it will cover your whole body just by sitting in it. But it's like they went for depth rather than length like we do. And have some green tea to warm me up - I had a hot chocolate and that is like it done nothing. My hands were still numb and my body didn't get hot like it usually does. (>.<)

I arrived at Kumamoto station then had to get a tram to the hotel it was only 10 minutes by team and then I just crossed over and there was the hotel.  Got the key to my room; dropped the bags went out and got a big fat munch. This consisted of bento box with rice noodles and pork in that yummy hoi sin kind of sauce, along with some dumplings and a stick of chicken popcorn.

Got back in and cranked the AC to 28 stripped of the wet clothes put some Bleach on and chilled. I think the toilet was broken or there was a ghost using it. It was constantly running. Then it would just do a flush and go quiet. This happened every half hour and then it completely stopped. I went to go in the bathroom then in flushed again. Like seriously it's broken - it has to be!

They even had an Onsen! I was so excited I felt like I could do with one; maybe my new addiction besides the hot chocolate. - I went up to it as I thought it would be better than a bath but it was locked. So I said I'll try again later - later never came. I got the itis and I had gained a food baby. After each episode of bleach I said I'll go and check but the next turned to the next and the next so forth. I was starting to fall asleep - I climbed into bed flicked off the lights and watched one more episode of Bleach and I was out just like the light!

 

1/12/14 - Kumamoto
Weather: Scattered showers
Temp: 14
Distance: 296.4km [to Miyazaki]

I woke up nice and early; and went and got some breakfast. On the menu today I had - rice, mackerel, sausages, eggs with water and apple juice.

It was meant to rain today but thankfully it didn't. Today I thought I'd check Kumamoto castle and possibly one of the gardens - Suizen-Ji Park. But don't want to leave too late as I still have a long journey to Miyazaki.

From where I was staying I thought I was far away from the castle but I wasn't. Its walk able - I'd say it's about 15-20 minute walk. You can get a tram and it's about 3 stops from the hotel. The trams are a standard flat rate of ¥150 or you can get a day pass for ¥500.

I got to Kumamoto castle - the route I took a historic route. Entered through Hohoate Gomon -> stone carries with one's neck -> Honmaru Goten Underground Passage -> Shokun-no-ma -> Tenshukaku Tower and Gingko Trees -> Kumamoto Castle Wells.

Background information:
Hohoate Gomon - is the main gate of Kato Kiyomasa's Kumamoto Castle. The centre of the Honmaru part of the castle looks like a human face and the gate resembles a soldier's facial armour. This is why the gate is called the Hohoate (face armour) Gate.

Stone carried with One's Neck - it is said that during the construction of the castle, a young labourer carried a 1800kg stone around his neck. His name was Goro; his father was killed in a duel. Goro wanted to seek revenge and kill the guy who killed his father but his plan foiled and Goro was killed.

Honmaru Goten Underground Passage - is 400 years old and has been recently restored. Honmaru Goten is built above an underground passage; it is called the Kuragari-Tsuro as it is dark even in the day.

Shokun-no-ma - the Chinese legendary lady Shokun's scroll is on display in the Shokun-no-ma room. It is the most extravagant room in the Honmaru Goten guest hall.

Tenshukaku Tower and the Ginkgo Trees - Lord Kiyomasa had these Ginkgo trees planted in the grounds of his castle. Ginkgo trees bear seeds that are edible and the trees were used as food storage in case of shortages. On his deathbed Kiyomasa forewarned his people that there would be an upheaval when the trees grew as tall as the Tenshukaku Tower. This might have been his prediction of the Seinan War (1877).

Kumamoto Castle Wells - during the 7 year war (1592-1598); Kiyomasa and his troops were forced to drink dirty water. Later he dug 120 wells around the castle grounds, 17 of which remain intact today!
You know when things happen it happens for a reason. Well I almost got myself lost again but managed to recover early enough to save myself.

I thought I got on the train to Miyazaki and thought wait I'm meant to be seeing water not more buildings. Quickly opened Google maps and oppsie I've put myself in the wrong train. This time, there's no one to blame but myself. I got off about four stops away; lucky for me as I got off the train there was train heading back in the opposite direction. However, I missed the limited express train to Miyazaki so I jumped on a local as the next train was an hour’s wait. I have no idea how long this train journey will be but I can't think it would be much difference from limited express train.

I met a lady calling Ming (the morning child) she is 71 and don't look a day over 50. Can you believe she is still working! Not only one job but two! She's saving to go to Peru for three months for the second time. She has 3 children and 8 grandchildren- it's amazing what you can do with a bit of polite conversation. She had studied in Canada and learnt English there. She was happy that she was able to speak some English with me as she's not able to practice. She wasn't born in Japan, she was born in Korea.

She was comparing cultures - Japanese to English and American; saying how strangers will talk to one another and be friendly and that the Japanese are shy. I told her the first time I got on a train over here; I didn't even want to speak to break the silence. And bless her; she apologised and said its Japanese culture. I replied 'I don't mind it being culture it was just a shock'. She spoke about how her children differ from one another and how they have brought up their children - which was quite interesting.

2/12/14 - Miyazaki
Weather: sunny
Temp: 8
Distance: 414.8km [to Hakata]

I think I just a nerdgasim! I just spent two hours in a science/space museum and I'm sure I could spend the whole day there. I wanted to go to the planetarium but it was closed today even though it advertises that starts on Tuesday's. I had to check it was Tuesday. Three weeks on and I still have no clue what day is what.

Anyway, I watch plenty documentaries about the different satellites - there wasn't no English version but you kind of get the gist of it. Understood how the GPS works; how Google gets information for Google Earth and how the images are collected. It showed you how to work out atmospheric pressure at the present time using a big water pipe. You could even make a bubble around you but that machine were working :-(.

And they had full scale of the rockets, space shuttles and satellites. I even went in one - when I was young I wanted to be an astronaut *big smile*. But OMG people had to be small. If I sat all the model did my knee would be in my throat, and my butt couldn't fit in the groove lol slight too big. The lady kept telling me to go lower! So I put my legs in the air so my bum could fit. It is bloody hard to move around when's there gravity... I had problems getting in and out. I asked her how I get in. I didn't want to break anything - so I did this weird slide thing. I put one leg in, had my hands on the floor to stabilise me then slid in the second leg. Now the mission was to get into position without falling out of the shuttle; I done it! Even all the switches were movable like a really shuttle. Now it was to get out. I looked at the lady and asked how to get out. She looked at me with wide eyes and a blank look - I though ok let's try it this way... Thank goodness for my flexibility- I was able to curl in a ball; rotate and climb out. I wish I thought of that way to climb in.

I went up to the second floor - it had little puzzle type games to show how to generate electricity and how electricity and provide energy. It consisted of spinning a wheel; pumping pressure and throttling/thrusting. The ones that required too much energy I didn't do.

It had several areas showing how communication works I.e. the telephone. I don't know if you remember the games frustration or operation - where if you hit the sides a buzzer goes off. Well you can challenge the robot! The robot was sooooooo cool! I tried to challenge it three times but it finished before I even got over the first block. And the buzzer was going off so much I started to laugh at myself. I started to play on the other stuff even the space station simulator - too cool!

Then I realised I had been in there for 2 hours! I had seen people come and go out and I was still there (-.-). As I was leaving I saw they sold space food- yes food dehydrated and bread in a tin. So I bought a pudding to share for my brothers. They're like me, so I'm sure they'll be as excited as I am. And they had some magic sand and make your own bouncy ball - I got one of each for them; I just have to decide who to give what too.

I went to the park next to the space centre and it had turtles in it, well terrapins. Now I don't know who said they move slow but they can move quick on land and water. At the sight of my shadow they dived into the water; not even a splash!

Now 12pm I decided to head to Aoshima. It's an island connected to the mainland by a bridge. It's known for its beaches, waves, Palm trees and subtropical climate but today felt like winter; if that's their version of subtropical they can keep it. Aoshima is only 1.5km in circumference and you can walk the whole island in 30 minutes. It is also known for its rocks which they call 'the Giants washboard'. They say that rocks look like a Giants hand runs its fingers through the rocks and a made a washboard. Also, on the island is a shrine and a Torii gate, but no one knows how or where the shrine originates from. Many people visit the shrine especially those who want to get married, or are newlyweds or expecting a baby tend visit as it's meant bring good luck.

I kept bumping to this old couple and every time we passed the lady would wave and smile. I went back to the station and there they were. I thought they were waiting for the train but they were waiting for the hotel to pick them up. The lady was talking to me in Japanese; but I told her I didn't understand but her husband acted as translator and also added some questions of his own. We were there for about 15 minutes talking - mainly about me and where I've been and how long have I been here and so forth.

I told them I need to check the train times as it was now three. I saw on the timetable it was 15:15 - I thought yes not long to wait! Oh man it was only 15:15 for the opposite direction; I didn't check that bit. I had to wait a further 30 minutes until the train arrived eventually.

While waiting I came across some kids - I say kids but they were late teens 19-22. They were wearing those badges I had seen before - I think it was Tokyo. They got talking with me - there was 6 in the group and 3 had approached me. From start (Aoshima) to finish (Miyazaki) we were all talking. They are missionaries - Mormons. This group are all from America; the three I was talking too were from Texas, Utah and Nevada. They volunteer as missionaries for two years. They go around talking about their religion and how it makes them happy and how it could make others happy if they joined their church - but they are not preaching and not telling others to join - hmmmm! I was conversational but I was cock blocking their preaching. They said they even go out on the street and talk to people about it then they go to people's houses.

I found it interesting that they volunteer but they don't have a choice in their location - and every 6 weeks (on a Tuesday) they get a call telling them whether they are changing location or staying where they are. If they are moving they have to be at their new location by the Thursday. I was with them when they got 'the call'! They say to one another 'I got the call have you got the call?!' I look at them blankly and say 'the call?!' For some reason I could only think of the scene with Whoopie Goldberg in sister act - when the nuns as ask her ' when did she get the call'. I wanted to reply to them and say 'what God just called you?' But thought better not! The call was from their Church's head office (wherever that is) but they will be staying in Miyazaki for a further 6 weeks.

They have been in Japan for about 9-11 months already and only been to two other places within Fukuoka. They said there's not much to see in some parts it's just buildings and hot springs. So I asked if they had been in an Onsen and they replied 'no - as missionaries we are not allowed to do it. It's against our religion!' - Erm ok. Naturally curious I asked why and he said ' I don't know we just aren’t allowed' - hmmm I see.

Miyazaki came and we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Now my mission begins - try and get to Hakata. My original plan failed again but I don't mind. I did intend to take a scenic route to Hakata by passing through Oita, Beppu then Hakata. But I liked my day it was chilled and relaxing and freezing!

 

3/12/14 - Hakata
Weather: Rain
Temp: 5
Distance: 1174.9 km [to Tōkyō]

Today is going to be a long day. I aimed to get the 7am train to Shin-Osaka then to get the 10:18 to Tōkyō.
I arrived in Tōkyō about 13:10; I am going to stay by Essy tonight as the hotel prices went sky high and the capsules were only for men. I am to meet Essy after work, which is around 4. In the meantime and between time I hope to see Sensoji temple, this time around. From Tōkyō I went to Ueno as that was where Essy works and it's not too far from the temple and everywhere else we would be going. Before I started trotting around, I was on a mission to find a big locker; because there is no way I'm going to do all that walking with my 11kg bag and my suitcase - which I think has damaged my arm.

The other day I think I was holding it weird and the case lost balance and since then I've been feeling a strain on it; whether it's bending or straightening it.

From Uneo station it was meant to be 30-40 min walk to Sensoji temple. But I always wanted to see Uneo Park and zoo. I didn't think I was there for that long but the time flew. Uneo Park has a few shrines and temples which are nice. You can also find so museums - if I had more time I would have gone in. The queues were massive. Anyway I stumbled upon the zoo; now I had the choice to either go look for Sensoji temple or go to the zoo..? The zoo was in my list too... Argh hell lets go to the zoo and chill. Well I must say it is a quiet zoo - big but quiet. I didn't find it that expensive about ¥600.

First to see were the pandas; well if I could see any. In one box... It was empty; there was a crowd of people with cameras and phones out taking pictures. I stretched my neck like a giraffe to see what they were seeing; but it was just the panda lying on its back eating leaves. I couldn't even get a picture. It was like the panda knew that people were watching, so it placed itself in a position where it couldn't be captured.  Then there was a noise... 'Ah ah Oooh...' It was Japanese people excited at the sight of the second panda but it was right down the back. It was pacing along the wall - up and down, up and down. I wondered if the one in the other room was a female and this one was a male. Walking away I got stopped by a lady and man asked if I wanted a stamp - I said sure why not?!  She pulled out a bag and goes what does this look like? I looked at her blankly and said s**t! Her and the guy started laughing. ‘You are correct! Smell it!' ‘You want me to smell the pandas s**t? Are you for real?!' ‘Yes it has no smell [she smelt it!]' 'Um okay...' I braced myself for the stench to hit me. But there wasn't a smell, it smelt green and leafy. Then she said smell this (it was bamboo)! Ok so panda s**t smells like bamboo and it's the colour of bamboo too. She seemed rather excited - I thought next she was going to tell me to touch it; that's where I was ready to draw the line. So I smelt panda poo... Never thought I'd do that.

The zoo wasn't very busy to start off with then it was like school finished and the zoo was a hang out spot.

I must say majority of the animals looked very healthy and well kept. The tiger, bear and lion's fur were shiny and full of colour. Only one bear looked sad; it looked healthy but it was pacing up and down in one spot. It's head was down and it rocked from side to side.

I love monkeys/gorillas their expressions are just priceless. Animal in general are smart and they make it known if they want their picture taken or not. There was one monkey, can't remember the type - but it sat there real miserable as everyone watched it. Every now and again it would look up with puppy dog eyes and look from side to side. Then when everyone left and I put my camera down, it started looking at its hands and picking it's nose and eating it. I stood there laughing and saying “ew”. It looked at me puts finger in its nose again looked at it (nothing must have been there), picked it again and then ate it; must have tasted good, because it was 'finger licking good!' [Lol].

I went by the Gorillas; there was this one Gorilla who had his back to everyone. It was quite happily eating his leaves. There were a few people trying to take a picture of him but because he won't turn around they left. Every so often he would look over his shoulder to see who's there. When it was just me he looked over more. He had big brown content eyes; but he seemed fed up. If you want a good picture you have to have patience right?! Well slowly he was turning around and I captured one expression and the caption should be 'umph I don't know why they insist on taking pictures. Can't they leave me alone to eat in peace?!' I look at the picture and laugh.

Then there was another gorilla in the middle. He weren't chewing on leaves he was chewing on sticks and stripping them.

4/12/14 - Tōkyō
Weather: Sun
Temp: 10
Distance: 24.1km [to Haneda] 9012.2 km [to London]

Good morning! It's the last morning I wake up in Japan. The experience has been unreal, amazing and simply awesome! I have learnt a lot I think about Japan and the people.

Last night I stayed with Essy and Masa. Essy made 'Japanese Tortilla' I can't remember its formal name but to me it looked like a giant omelette with cabbage, red ginger and spring onion in. They use flour, baking powder, eggs and water and mix it all together and then mix it with the ingredients.

We stay up talking up until about 1 this morning. Talking anything and everything. Essy never ceases to amaze me and the things she can do. I found out last night that she could play piano. Not only read music but play by ear. She played her wedding song (twilight's wedding song) by memory along with pirates of the Caribbean, Elephant man and some Disney ones. Yet she isn't at any piano grade. When I look at Essy, the things she has achieved is like things I wanted to do - speak many languages and play piano. The funny thing is I know languages but they are not past beginners and I use to play piano. Not read music but listen and play. It's strange.

This morning I was aiming to leave Essy's about 7 so I'll get to the airport by 8. I left at 7 I was at the train station by 7:10 but didn't get on a train until 7:30. Every single train was full; full to the point where people were holding on the top for cart stop them falling out. Last night Essy told me to walk all the way up to the top of platform because it will be emptier. It's like everybody in that area heard what she said because the first 3 trains was packed, no way I could fit on even without my bag. So I moved down about half way for the next train and I managed to get on. The next stop everyone got off... I was only on until the end of the line which is 2 stops and a total of 6 minutes. However it took me a good 20mins to get there.

It weren't too bad getting to the airport from then on. Every train came pretty much immediately. Checked in bag and I'm ready to get on the plane.

Bought some sweets in Duty free, which look yummy whether they are or not I have no idea. I thought the lady at the check-in desk said to me gate 109 - I started to head in that direction. Along the way I got something to eat; I was starving Marvin!

Started walking saw I didn't have far to go. Something told me check the board - so I did. My gate was 146... Where on this earth did I get 109?!  That was the other side of the airport. As I'm rushing to the gate I see shops I want to go in but I was out of time. It's time to fly.

The plane food was actually better and tastier than it was coming out. I really enjoyed it! It was - a roll, a cold fish rice salad with a prawn; fried chicken in the Japanese sauce I love, sticky rice with seeds on top and the desert was a chocolate cake. And I washed it down with a brandy and coke!

I woke up to the most random thing yet beautiful. When we left Tōkyō the sun had already risen. I have been following the map on the plane and could see we were catching the night, and we caught the night. It was dark - I feel like I am returning from the future now. When I woke up there was a full moon embedded in sunset colours. The sky was red, orange, yellow, green, blues and the moon sat in the middle of the spectrum. As time went on the sky had a red strip and then darkness was eminent the only thing lighting up the sky was the moon.

Now some time has passed and I'm looking across the plane; where I am sitting its night but the opposite side the sun is rising. Mother Nature putting on a show! The same vibrant colours as before but it's mainly reds, yellows and oranges and a pale blue sky above and lush cotton wool type clouds at the bottom. I'll see if I can capture both sides.

Not sure this a breakfast or a dinner but it wasn't as nice as the one earlier. The choice was either ginger pork or creamy pasta. I went for the creamy pasta; and it definitely was creamy and cheesy with an almond slice type cake.

Our flight route was up and over Russia, down over Norway and into England.

 

Total Mileage:
24,370.3 Km / 15,143m [including flights]
6345.9km / 3943.2m

Tags: asia, blog, japan, journal, on the road, travel, travel story, traveling, travelling, trekking

 

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