My long write-up on Japan! (Hence the delay :p)
Kel: Have a safe trip. Don't do a porn movie, it won't sell.
D: If you act porn, it'll sell. It'll be on at Yang Tze where the uncles don't bring their spectacles.
Sito sent me off..
8 Sep 2007, Saturday
Woke the guys up upon arrival at Kangetsu Ryokan. They went clubbing in Roppongi the previous night - without me =(
We went to Yasukuni Jinja and its museum. Found the whole history very confusing but you couldn't miss the bias; it was actually amusing after a while. Got Sito a 必勝巻き from the souvenir shop - work hard for JLPT! (mf has to work hard for it too)
Dinner was a grill affair at Shibuya - yummy!
9 Sep 2007, Sunday
Miki's wedding ceremony in Kulturheim Chapel in Sophie University! Couldn't understand the Japanese sermon! :p
After photos in the courtyard, a coach brought us to Intercontinental Tokyo Bay for the reception, essentially Japanese but with other influences such as yum seng led by BH! :p
The cake was real, ok... Couple had the first bite.. We had it at the end of the 10-course meal, yummy :)
The couple sat in front of everyone and we went forward to take pictures with them most of the time; they went around the tables for photos towards the end..
Instead of throwing her actual bouquet, a ribbon was tied to a small bouquet that was then wrapped around with several unconnected ribbons. The single girls were called out by name to pick a ribbon and at the count of three to tug at her ribbon - so fun!
I got a ribbon for souvenir :p
The couple changed into traditional costumes - lovely!
Miki had someone from the hotel to do her dressing - she even discreetly passed her a handkerchief when she cried!
We did some catching up at the hotel bar. Miki changed into a cheongsam - so pretty! =)
It was early so we dropped the wedding favours at the ryokan before going for supper nearby. Oh, the wedding favours were unlike the usual chocolate etc in Singapore - I brought back three Kansai ceramic bowls, potpourri and candies! So before I even started my trip proper, my bag was full and I was ready to come home :p
10 Sep 2007, Monday
Sped off to Osaka on Shinkansen from Shinagawa early in the morning. Didn't have time to do much research and ended up confused trying to find my way to my ryokan =(
Shinkansen brought me to Shin-Osaka where I changed to the loop line to get to Imamiya where I took another train to get to Namba where I changed to the subway to get to my ryokan one stop away from Namba..
So I got to Kaneyoshi Ryokan hot and tired but found the auntie there very friendly! And guess what, there was a flask of cold tea in my very spacious room! What a good choice =)
After resting in the room for quite a while, I left for Nippombashi to check out some electronics. Quite a let-down though - I didn't want TVs! But in the end I found myself in a big electronics store and got the DS lite and the Japanese software! =)
But Osaka was really for shopping man...Shinsaibashi, which kind of led me to Ebisubashi etc, and they all looked similar :p
It was also a biking city
Watched TV for the rest of the night. There was a show featuring a few - no other word - fat girls. One of the stories was captioned "104kg girl confesses to a 55kg boy".. What the?!
11 Sep 2007, Tuesday
Walked to JR Namba to take the train to Nara. Ryokan said that the Kintetsu line would be faster and more convenient than JR but I had the JR pass :p And time - mwahahahaha!
On the way to Nara, found 道明寺 - I miss 流星花园!
There was a nice information booth at the Nara JR station where I took a map and a suggested walking map.
At the beginning of the walk, I found deer!
They were just walking freely among their two-legged friends - as proven above.. That deer behind me walked out to the square and another deer promptly followed :p
Went to 春日大社 where there were plenty of stone lanterns.. The garden was where I first noticed the 鹿せんべい - a few deer were standing next to a stall, seemingly waiting for something. Then a family approached the counter to buy ice cream - and the deer walked out to loiter! The family bought some 鹿せんべい and the deer just went mad! It was fun just to watch :)
On the way to 東大寺, I passed by 若草山 where tens and hundreds of deer gathered! I was very tired and so took a seat at the bench next to some deer. They left me alone and went elsewhere to graze.. I was reading when I realised a deer had silently walked up to me on the right. It squatted, and PEED!
Ok, it just finished peeing :p
On the way to 二月堂, saw the first sign of autumn =)
Finally got to the main temple 大仏殿 - huge!!!
At some point, I realised that I didn't have lunch... Decided to cut short the walk - two more temples to go - and head for lunch!
But on the way, while concentrating on the map, I felt something cold on my hand and looked down.. Eeks! A deer just licked me!!
And that wasn't the end - another deer walking just in front of me decided to poo as it walked.. I could see the pellets of poo coming out and the anus shrinking after that! What a way to whet my appetite..
So I left Nara after lunch. Took a local train and found reversible seats!
See the green handle? Just pull that and you could change the seat to face the direct of travel..
As it was still early, I decided to check out Namba Walk and found it to be a long underground shopping mall that led all the way to my ryokan! Yoohoo! :)
But it started to rain.. Unwilling to succumb to the weather, I attacked Dotonburi with an umbrella! Ended up with yummy takoyaki, and a photo with the funny chef!
12 Sep 2007, Wednesday
Acting cute in the first train of the day :p
It's Universal Studio day!!
Charlie Brown and Snoopy guarded the gate
Later I walked out of the gate to find Cookie Monster - I thought they changed the guards but of course, I walked out a different gate *.*
The roller coaster caught my attention and it turned out to be the best I'd ever had!
Next was movie time with Shrek! Didn't understand the Japanese but it was great fun! That is, if you don't mind getting Donkey's saliva all over you :p
ET was a cute one.. I was on a bike, and as I flew over the moon and saw the familiar shadow, oh I felt a rush of emotions! Could have cried... Oh mf, oh mf..
Spiderman was the best ride; it was so real!
Oh, both ET and Spiderman had "single rider" so I didn't have to join in the long queue - yeah!
Universal was very Halloween already...
For you, Sito!
Back to the future was - I can't remember :p - but I remember Jurassic Park was a bit wet and that only the last part - the plunge - was exciting..
Still, think Universal Studio was so much fun! More so than Disney actually..
Oh, my lunch break, did stupid poses again
Ended my day with light games with Snoopy and friends..
I love this art lesson
(I'm not sitting there cos I don't need a psychiatrist.. I don't, I really don't.. Told you I don't!)
On the way back, I realised that I had seen dozens of girls with super cool hairstyle. I realised that I MUST take photos of them! So when I saw a target, I rehearsed the lines in my head:
Then I went up to her.. and asked her in English *.*
Deciding I could do better, I went up to this guy outside one of those 無料案内 shops, and said in Japanese:
Bouncer: えっ、何... 男の店だ... *and some stuff I didn't understand*
mf: そうそう... 女の子は入りませんでしょう？
Bouncer: ... ですね... *変な女*
Bouncer: 外.. はい *resigned to this strange 外人*
Naughty mf :p
Then I ventured into a shop outside my ryokan - they had nice dresses. But it was one strange shop that opened from 5pm to 3 am. Or perhaps it wasn't so strange considering that it was along the street with so many 無料案内 shops! I tried one (dress), very nice! Could dance! But the boob part was a bit strange.. And it cost 28,000 yen.. Sighs..
I think the ryokan auntie liked me.. So I talked to her about the 無料案内. She said that it was common in this area, for men to go have drinks with pretty girls.. Oooh..
Ventured into a pachinko shop too, couldn't understand the guy's instructions so I didn't play
Oh oh, you know, big things always seemed to happen while I was in Japan. In 2005, JPII died. Now, the Japanese PM quit! I was having trouble following the news but somehow gathered the gist of it after watching three channels..
13 Sep 2007, Thursday
I left the ryokan in the morning with my luggage. As I dragged it to the station, I realised that one wheel was wobbly =(
Locked my stuff in a locker in Osaka station before making my way to Himeji.
IT WAS VERY VERY VERY HOT!
So hot I almost missed the whole boulevard of interesting statues from the train station to Himeji.. And Himeji was beautiful!!!
I was rather taken with the residence of Princess Sen.. So relaxed, no stress =)
To be honest, I had thought Himeji was a temple or shrine cos of the -ji.. Turned out to be a castle - Himeji-jo to be exact!
Bought meself Mister Donut on the way back to Osaka :)
Took a normal train to Kyoto - bad choice of timing, had to squeeze with the working crowd with my big bags and I had to stand for an hour.. So tired by the time I got to Station Ryokan Seiki..
14 Sep 2007, Friday
I watched a lot of TV during the trip and this day, I was quite amused..
Have you heard of 晋ちゃん饅頭? :p Apparently it got really popular once he announced his resignation! :p There were some cute shots on the TV but I wasn't quick enough to capture them. But I managed to take some pictures of a spoof of Koizumi and Abe!
So this first day in Kyoto, I joined an English tour led by an old Japanese man.. Introducing, Johnnie Hillwalker!
Johnnie gave an interesting off-the-common-trail tour and he himself was quite a character! The outfit he was in, the way he looked (mostly) at the ground when speaking, his gentle manner and cute little accent..
We started from the Higashi Honganji where Johnnie told us that the Japanese could have two religions: Shinto for wealth and Buddhism for the after-life! Not bad ah, that would cover both material and spiritual health :p
Then we walked by a few home industries.
Buddhism beads, Japanese fans, tofu shop opposite the fans, lanterns
Visited a shrine next, 文子天満宮 where we learnt that cows in a shrine meant that the shrine was for brains.. Johnnie frequented this shrine cos "he needed brains" :p On the other hand, foxes are for wealth.
(See Johnny's name?)
Then more home industries.. Tatami x2, candy, pottery
We tried some candy in the shop. Johnnie's tour included inari sush, complimentary candy...
...and a playing card
Yes! Nintendo started out as a playing card company in Kyoto. The family still stays there, I heard..
Johnnie also showed us around the residential area. We stopped in front of an elementary school - the last in the neighbourhood due to dwindling birth rates. This school would be closed in five years too..
Anyway, we went on to another Buddhist temple, supposedly on "older Buddhism" and hence more decorated. Buddhist temples are usually not open to the public. But the highlight there was the graveyard.. It didn't bury bodies, just the urns of ashes. Families can place the ashes in temples or in their homes where they would get Buddhist monks - Buddhism for paradise ma - to pray during the anniversary of the most recently deceased person.
Lovely old streets
Also passed by an old geisha area.. We then went on to a new building to listen to stories on geishas, how they were trained etc.. But I found the building interesting; it housed a gallery, some community/volunteer centre and an eldercare centre - all built on a site of an elementary school that closed down! Closed school, built eldercare.. Ok, my occupational hazard *.*
You know those big things that resemble lanterns outside shrines? Those are actually donated sake - with the sake taken out for storage until some rituals..
We ended the 5-hour tour near Kiyomizudera so I walked to Kiyomizudera!
The first thing I came to was Zuigu-Do Temple, built to be like the womb of Zuigo-Bosatsu, a motherly buddhist saint who would grant any wish. The instruction outside said that you would walk to total darkness (really?) and when the Zuigu-Stone appeared before you (while in total darkness?), you would make a wish and turn the stone.
How does it work? Well, I tried to find out :p And really, it was total darkness!!!! And then the stone really just appeared in front of me!
It was supposed to give the feeling of being reborn or something, when you see light after a period of absolute darkness. Oooh...
On the way to the main shrine, I passed by a love shrine :) Some school kids tried to walk with their eyes closed from one stone to the other, cheered by their friends. Very fun to watch :)
Tired and warm, I went by a hut that was selling cold tofu... Get me a seat! Waitress didn't take a very nice shot of me and my cold tofu so I tried to do it myself. Then two guys at the next table offered to take for me :)
Then we started talking! Takashi-san and Ken-san were from Yokohama and in the area for a karate championship! Wow... Ken was better in English but Taksahi's Japanese amazed us both - he taught us this: 袖ふり合うも、他生の縁, meaning "even a chance acquaintance is preordained", as given by my fantastic electronic dictionary :)
Since it was fate, we left Kiyomizudera for sushi together!! :p Chatted quite a bit.. Takashi didn't look 46 but he was! And his kids were only a couple of years younger than me; his daughter reminded me of Kel's D.. Ken didn't look 49 either and he had two sons around my age too! Amazing, must be the two decades of karate..
They were surprised that I was travelling alone. Actually, many were when they heard that I was travelling alone. Cannot meh? :p (Oops, Meh-chan popped up her head :p)
We had very yummy sushi - not kidding! The tuna belly was goooood.... They asked me to contact them again and they would bring us to Tsukiji for sushi. Sito, they would like you to go too! :)
We also had quite a bit of beer, especially Takashi.. After a while, we found him repeating himself :p
By then they had to go for a team meeting so I sent them to Kyoto station and bade goodbye there... また来年、築地の寿司へ! =)
It was early so I went shopping for dictionaries, got one each for Na and myself! :)
15 Sep 2007, Saturday
Made a smart choice to buy a bus pass. Took buses everywhere!
First stop: Sanjusangendo!
I was so in awe when I stepped into a hall of 1,000 standing statues of Kannon surrounding one giant seated one. Often, I find big numbers meaningless, e.g. 1,000,000,000 (unless prefixed with $ :p) But when it comes to this, 1,000 is mind-boggling enough!!!
No photos allowed but I took photos of the outside of the hall
Ok, just three instead of 33 :p
Next stop: Gion! (Then Chionin)
Due to a lack of intel, I ended up in night-life haven in bright daylight... So I walked over to Chionin Temple where I found some peace and shade in the 御影堂 hall... Sat there for a while..
Third stop: Ginkaku-ji!
I was puzzled to find many people taking photos of a rundown pagoda. Took me a while to look around and realise that that being the only pagoda around must be the Ginkaku that gave the place its name (though Ginkaku has a formal name)
While I was rather disappointed, I discovered that there were more things to see than a pagoda - the whole place was a mega zen garden. Too bad it was so crowded..
Street leading to Ginkaku-ji was full of shops, and the Philosopher's Walk was just at the end of the street. I walked a tiny bit and found a cute scene of teddies fishing for thie lunch! I wonder who taught them.. =)
Took the bus to the palace but there wasn't much to see except that a few groups of youngsters were playing baseball in the garden grounds. Reminded me of that movie "Touch"
Took the bus again to Shijo - the main street in Kyoto. Being very smart, I alighted at the bustling section of Shijo. And being very smart, I decided to walk to Gion from Shijo..
Mistake!! It was a loooong street with shopping no one could finish browsing in a lifetime!
Was so hungry I wandered into some alley along Shijo to search for food. Cute stuff outside a restaurant
CY, for you!
But I didn't want to spend too much on food when I was alone, so I left the alley and continued on my way.. Then I found that the restaurants in that alley actually offered riverside dining - so nice :)
Soon, I found myself approaching Gion as the shopping malls gave way to lower buildings. But wait, found something cute :p
Bought an okonomiyaki and wandered into 花見小路 - a very pretty street with old houses.. But my food was getting cold so I headed for the bus stop. On the way there, I met a girl with a very nice hairdo so I snapped a shot of her :) (see later...)
Was waiting for the traffic light when a car went by with two dolled-up women inside - they could be geisha or geisha apprentices!! Missed a great kodak moment =(
Sat at the small square and ate my okonomiyaki =) Then went window shopping.. Found two girls in a shop with nice hairstyles!!
This completes my search for nice hairstyles cos I didn't have much chance after this..
Digression: These days, I have been trying to bun my hair up the way some girls do. Will experiment more. So motivated by these girls! ありがとう! =)
16 Sep 2007, Sunday
Time to leave for Tokyo by Shinkansen.. Didn't manage to do it for the Tokyo-Osaka journey but this time, tada!!
Had a hard time finding Suzuki Ryokan cos I came out of the wrong exit. A kind Japanese man saved me money by calling the ryokan for me and even brought me there! So grateful...
Didn't stay in Kangetsu cos Suzuki was in Nippori, more convenient for me to go to Narita..
Unfortunately, this ryokan was quite old.. And I didn't have my own bathroom... In fact, the basin, the toilet and the bathroom were in three places!!
And the wardrobe was one of a kind..
But it was comfortable.. I watched TV for quite while before I dragged myself out, thinking I should at least explore a bit :p Found the place to be some textile centre.. Chanced upon a shop selling dresses, and I bought a red dress for dancing! :)
17 Sep 2007, Monday
Last day in Japan, sighs.. But it was one of the highlights of the trip!
Miki came to the ryokan with yukata! Wore a slip before putting on the yukata - complicated steps that I shall not attempt to describe here.. Weren't too confident with it but along came two obaasans to help us! And boy, they were good! Tightened me so much with a few tugs here and there...
So there we were! :)
Kawaii desho? :)
Went to Asakusa to get my usual omikuji - a bad one =( So I tied it up and away..
It was a very hot day and Miki bought Japanese strawberry ice.. A tourist asked us to pose for a picture :p And when we were standing by Kaminarimon to finish the ice, so many people came forward to take our photos! We felt like celebrities, heh heh :p
We had soba lunch around the area before taking a cruise ferry to Hamarikyu, passing by the shit-like Asahi building!
Also passed by the other side of Tsukiji fish market before we finally got to the park and found a nice teahouse..
Had a good chat with Miki =) Hope we didn't disturb the cat outside..
We went back to Nippori and tried to find our way to a nearby graveyard - but got tired so we sat in a neighbourhood park to chat instead :p When it was about time, we went back to the ryokan to change. I changed out; Miki continued to wear her yukata for dinner - kawaii!!
Thanks, Miki, for the yukata idea. It was so much fun! =)
Moment of truth... How much have I spent?!
Upfront: $612 for transport
Brought along (and spent): 95,000 yen or $1,325
Burnt plastic: $1,640
Hmm, less than I feared :p