Saturday, 28 February 2009

Osaka

Well originally I wasn't too up for going to Osaka. I'd read a bit about it and it didn't seem like there was much there (apart from the possibility of a day trip to Nara but we could do that from Kyoto) but Tommy was quite up for it and wanted to see the sky building so we ended up going.

It turned out to be a quality few days and was just real fun. First day we went to the aquarium and I saw sloths and penguins which I blooody LOVE. Then we ended up going to that random kitchen bar thing which I will dedicate a whole post to as it was off its tits!

To be honest I hardly saw Osaka we only head to the center once where I somehow lost Tommy for an entire afternoon on a escalator in the subway.

The thing that made it though were the people. The hostel was probably the best ow we'd been too and there were just a real good bunch staying there. Hopefully meet up with some of them in Australia maybe.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Nara


One of the reasons we came to Osaka was the fact it is real easy to do a day trip to Nara from there. I had got talking to a few people in the hostel on the first night and they had mentioned that Nara University offer free guided tours round Nara by students and volunteers. Considering we were only going to spend a day there and the guide would be free, it was defiantly something we had to do.

One of the many Australians we have met on our adventures, Wilson, was interested in coming along so he booked the guide and me him and Tommy jumped on the train to Nara and met our guide, whose name I can't remember (or pronounce), outside the station.

It was possibly one if the best things I've done while I've been here. The whole thing took about 5 hours and we did a complete loop around Nara, going to all the main sights. We went to see the Todaiji Temple, which was just huge and housed and absoutly massive 50 meter tall Buddha.Very impressive. As well as the Kasuga Taisha which is one of Naras many shrines and strolled through the parks and gardens feeding and being licked by the 1000s of wild deer that live in Nara.

Being able to talk to our guide about Japan in general and answer all the questions we had from our experiences so far there was also a real highlight of the day. She also told us where was good for food and then came and had lunch with us. This was good as I could then learn more about Japanese table manners and chopstick etiquette as I'm pretty sure I am offending someone on a regular basis at the moment. I also found out that the V sign Japanese girls make when they have their picture taken, which I always thought meant Peace, doesn't actually mean anything at all. It just seems to substitute a smile on occasions (?!)

Nara was a beautiful place and it didnt disapoint. It was how I hoped Kyoto would be, far less built up and full of awesome Japanese temples and forests. Nara was something special and the whole day made even more better by our free guide.

A few pictures to enjoy:






Thursday, 26 February 2009

The Izakaya


Right so the evening began when at about 7 we headed to the reception to grab some food for the night. When we get down stairs we are greeted by a film crew filming this massive banquet the hostel seems to have put on for the cameras. So we grab a few plates and start talking to some of the other guests. It's was real nice and the food was possibly the nicest we have had the whole time we have been here.

So anyway from nowhere this old drunk Japanese guy appears and starts trying to get people together to take to his Izakaya. This guy could speak no English at all apart from being able to count to 7 which he did as much a he could. I wasn't really too sure what the hell as going on but the main selling point for me was that he was going to pay. So far we haven't been out properly in Japan yet so thought this would be a good opportunity to see what the locals get up to. The receptionists at the hostel kept telling me he was 'safe' to go with which I guess meant he wasn't going to mug or sexual assault any of us so I thought it was a decent enough opportunity to see a bit more of japan.

So myself Tommy and 4 Australians headed out with this guys to a bar. Now when I first signed up to this I was under the impression it was going to be a small local bar where this guy was going to get us all a few drinks. However upon arrival it soon became clear that a had not been taken to a bar at all by instead some sort of tiny kitchen that almost could double up as cafe. Now a little bit concerned I entered. Sitting down were several old Japanese men, pushing sixty. They looked like complete rude dudes in cardigans shades and funky trousers. They looked like they had been plucked from a film was brilliant.

So I apprehensively sat down next to them and from there the night began. Spending my first night out with Japanese pensioners wasn't really what I had planned when i first got here but it was a free night out so it had to be done I guess. The beers were flowing and some more free food was being put on and we tried to talk to each other the best a could. It just mad. This dude starts trying to whip the worst magic tricks I have ever seen like making a cocktail stick vibrate WTF! I tried to seem impressed. The night took a turn for the better/worse when the Australians dropped the 'S Bomb' or Sake, the staple drink of any Japanese night out. Every time we finished one the owner would give us another. I'm not the biggest drinker in the world so at this point felt so ill but it was all worth it. We eventually got kicked out at the very respectful time of 11 and we all staggered off home. In the morning I was greeted by a preposterous hangover. Not good at all!!

We go back again the next day just to see what's going on but this time bring Wilson with us. It ended up pretty much the same as the night before although I avoided the sake a much as possibly. His wife cooked up a whole host of Japanese food and kept a steady stream of Asahi up. It was all good fun till we decided to make a move back to the hostel at 10. We said our goodbyes and said we wouldn't be back again as we were going to Yokohama the next day. However once we tell him this things get a bit intense as he starts crying and repeatedly hugging me, Tommy and Wilson just saying thank you, thank you, thank you over and over again. At this point nothing really made much sense and just excepted it but it was far to intense for my liking and we left safe in the knowledge we would never experience something like that again.

Here is a little video of the first night. Enjoy.


26/02/09

Miyajima

Miyajima is said to be one of the most beautiful places in Japan. I went on a wet and miserable day and thought it was absoutly stunning. Miyajima is a small island a 40 minute train ride and short ferry journey away from Hiroshima. It really was awesome so will just put up some pictures rather than type a load of stuff. One thing I will say is all the Deer that roam freely are cool but well weird at the same time, they look so lost! The island was just so peaceful a millon miles away from Tokyo.


















26/02/09

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Hiroshima

Hiroshima was pretty special and not what I expected at all. As a city it was so nice obviously due to the fact it had all been rebuilt in the last 50 years after that Atomic bomb thing was dropped on them here. It made me think maybe every city should be bombed periodically just to get rid of the rubbish, wipe the slate clean as they say. Or maybe not as several million would die.

All jokes aside Hiroshima was great. I was there for 3 days which was too long really as I managed to do everything in the first day as there is not a huge amount of things to do there. This just meant I got to take the other days at a far more leisurely pace as so far all the days had been proper nakering.

First port of call was the Hiroshima A Bomb dome. This was a building that was located almost directly under the bomb when it exploded 600 meters above the ground. This for some reason meant it wasn't affected by the blast just the intense heat which melted all the metal work. It basically now stands as a sort of memorial as a way of remembering what happened that day. One problem with this on our visit was that every 3 years they check the buildings state and do any repairs to try keep it how it is and visit just happened to fall during this time. This meant when we were there the dome was covered in scaffolding. So to me the dome just looked like a half mad building which really spoilt the symbolism of the A bomb damaged building and just made it look like a building site. Was a real shame.

Straight from here I also had a look round the memorial gardens. A big clearing which has a flame burning in the middle of it which won't be put out till all the nuclear weapons in the world have been destroyed. It was far to cold and wet to spend to much time in the gardens unfortunately so just headed straight for the Peace Memorial Museum.

The Peace Memorial Museum was brilliant it only cost ¥50 which is like 35p. Crazy cheap. As it was raining we got a good 3 hours of fun out of it as well as didn't want to go outside. It's traced the story of Hiroshima from why it happened through to what happened on the actually day and on to the after affects of the bomb years later. I just couldn't get my head round how something like that actually happened and what the people went through on that day. For example most of the peoples skin just fell off from the heat and was just hanging from their finger tips. Just unbelievable.

I liked Hiroshima loads maybe one of my favourite places so far. The city was so new and felt like A European city. Although that's not the reason I liked it. It was just the huge amount of seriously important history surrounding the place made it very special.

24/02/09

Friday, 20 February 2009

Kyoto

Going from one extreme to another we left the futuristic madness of Tokyo and headed west to Kyoto. There just seemed to be endless amounts of temples, palaces and pagodas in Kyoto to the point where it would take a good week to fit them all in. We were going to have a pretty busy few days there as we wanted to fit in as much as we could.

First thing we did was to head over to Kyoto`s imperial palace. I decided as the weather wasn't too bad we may as well walk there. From our hostel it was a pretty long way but thought it would be a good way to see a lot of the city at a pretty decent pace. Well after the 45 minute walk on arrival we found out that you needed a permit to enter from the"Imperial household agency of Kyoto" and at the time had no idea where it was so scrapped our plans to go there after wasting about an hour finding the place. After a quick check of the map we saw the Manga museum for fairly near by so headed there to hopefully learn a bit more about the Japanese wonder that is Manga.


The Manga museum was pretty decent really although I would have described it as more of a library than a museum as while there were several rooms detailing a bit of history regarding Manga it was mainly just full of bookshelves of Manga which people could come and read as they wish. There was a small English section in the library so I looked through a few of the tittles and found Battle Royale vol.15. I`d seen the film so I thought I'd give the Manga version a read. I managed to read the whole thing in about half an hour and while I probably wouldn't have been able to work out what was going on if I hadn't see the film by the end of it I had got well into it and really enjoyed it. I`ve always been fairly interested in Manga so it was good to finally get the chance to sit down and read some properly but I don`t think I will be making a habit of it.


After about a hour or so at the Manga museum we grabbed a bit to eat and headed off to see Nijo Castle. Luckily you didn't need a permit to get in just 600 yen. The castle was nice although you we rent aloud to take photos inside which is always rubbish and also like most places in Japan you weren't allowed to wear shoes inside and I had to wear these stupid one size fits all slippers which turn me into a total spaz so either lose one or stumble every other step. Despite that thought the tour was awesome and you got a real sense of the grandness of the whole place. The castle had some pretty big gardens attached to it. It was a pretty cold and miserable day while we were there but were still nice to walk around.


While in Kyoto we also made our way to the Kinkakuji Pavilion. This was an amazing golden pavilion at the very top of Kyoto surrounded by awesome gardens. This has probably been my favorite sights out of all the things I've seen here it was quality and it just didn't look real. It Took about 2 hours to work there though which was a right mission considering I could have just got the bus but the pavilion looked so good it was totally worth the ridiculous walk.

We were staying in the Gion area which is quite an old skool district where it isn't uncommon to see geisha walking around. We thought one evening we would go see a geisha show at Gion corner. It's cost ¥3000 and was a total waste of money. Was far to short only like 40 minutes and showed a traditional Japanese ceremony, some Japanese comedy and dancing and music which was nice by for the money was definitely not worth it. Got my photo with some geisha though, although I think I look a bit scared to be with them though.

On the last day before me headed off to Hiroshima we managed to acquire a permit to go round the Kyoto imperial palace. Unfortunately we could only get a Japanese speaking tour so had no idea what was going on. The place was alright. I thought as you needed a permit it would be pretty sweet but no, it was good but you'd think if you had to apply for entry it would be unreal. Best bit about it was when Tommy on the outside breached the perimeter fence setting of an alarm and a voice to come on over a loud speaker saying something in Japanese over and over. I LOL'ed.

Looking back Kyoto was great. Was a bit disappointed how built up it was but the temples were surprisingly peaceful which meant you didn't really feel like you were in the city which did make up for I guess. Definitely pleased I went though.

20/02/09

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Tsukiji Fish Market

Today was our last day in Tokyo, well last day of visit number one as will be coming back here again for a few days before we fly out to Bangkok.

Today we got up mentally early to journey to the Tsukiji fish Market. It all kicks off there at 3am when the first catches come back but I could not be doing with that so got up at 6 and eventually managed to rock up to the Market at 7.30ish. It was well worth the early start as it was just mental. There were bits of fish (alive and dead) all over the place, some I recognized and some I didn't. There were also hundreds of little stalls as far as the eye could see all preparing fish. There were also these little carts wizzing all over the place transferring the freshly prepared fish to the delivery vans to eventually take it out into the city. The place was so busy and obviously reeked of fish.

One of the main attractions of going to the Market is the fact you can sample the worlds freshest sushi for breakfast which obviously has only been out of the water a few hours. While at this point I was starting to realize I'm not really the worlds biggest fan of sushi thought it was an opportunity not to be missed. So once had been round the Market made our way to the sushi restraunts to see what as on offer. After finding a place and queuing nearly 45 minutes to get in we decided it really wasn't worth it and gave up. However once we left we went round the corner and found another place we could literally just walk straight into, so we did. I had a set meal of 7 piece of various dead fishs which I enjoyed in various ways as in some I did and some I didn't. But overall I'm pleased we did it as it was something pretty special.










19/02/09

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

A Cold Day In Tokyo

Well for some reason the temperature last night in Tokyo dropped several degrees and has not picked up since. Me and the cold aren't really the best of friends so have been
Moaning most of today about how cold it is.


In other news I finally found out what that mystery drink was. Turns out that it is a nicotine based energy drink. So thankfully if I had drunk it all I wouldn't have died.

The Sushi night last night was quality, got to try my hand a making sushi as well as trying some stuff I hadn't hadn't tried before. They had a mix of authentic style Japanese Sushi as well as some with more westernised ingredients like tuna mayo for example which was real cool.

Today was far better in terms of not getting lost. Followed my lonely planet guide to the letter and made it to the Imperial Palace East Garden again which was real nice and just generally strolled around in the very peaceful surroundings. One of the best things about it was it was free, which was a bonus. While we were there a group of 4 very young Japanese kids came up to us and practiced their English on us. They were quite good considering how young they were but I could only really make out what they were saying a I could see the question sheet they were speaking from.

After that we got on the metro and head over to the neighbourhood of Ginza, where a lot of the expensive designer shops and things like that are, to go have a look round the Sony building. I popped into Hermes to see if they had this aftershave I like just to 'ave a sniff and somehow ended up on the Hermes museum tour. It was all very interesting (kinda) buy that was also free so can't complain.

From here we popped back on the train to The neighbourhood of Akasaka & Roppongi for some lunch as well as to shoot up Tokyo tower a 300 foot structure quite like he Eiffel tower which a great 360' degree view of the city. I really wanted to go to the Roppongi Hills area after that but my poor feet ached and I felt KO'd so we headed home.

I am now just in my room and should be off for some karaoke tonight with some Australians and an English couple we got talking to at last nights sushi night which should be interesting.

x

A Very Long Day In Tokyo



Well I've managed to pick up some wifi from somewhere so I am currently on my bed on the phone. Tommy has fallen asleep so think I will update this place while I can.

Today was exhausting and I must have walked about 10 miles and journeyed all the way from the north east of Tokyo where we are staying to the south west and a few other places along the way.

I have never felt so lost in my life as I do at the mo in Tokyo. This is due firstly to the language barrier as very few people and signs are in English which just generally makes things difficult. Also due to the unfortunate fact that I was born without the ability to ever learn how to read a map and therefore never be able to work out where I am, where I'm heading and where I want to go. While I am finding this very annoying, as so far haven't really seen anything I wanted t, I have covered a large amount of this place as I keep getting lost trying to work out where I am. One of the only things I did master today was the metro/underground here so I can now get around no problemo.



One place I did manage to find was the Imperial palace east garden, unfortunatly we found out when we got there that it is closed on Mondays so will be returning their tomorrow I am guessing.



Tonight the Hostel is putting on a Sushi party which should be good as, as of yet have not had the chance to meet any of the other travellers as have either been sleeping are walking around the streets of Tokyo.



Well thats about it really so far so good and with each hour I seem to be getting more used to this place and finding it easy to relax abd enjoy it, I guess its just a bit of culture shock wearing off.

-- Post From An iPhone --

Monday, 16 February 2009

Day 1 - Tokyo

Well the flight was mint went well quick and just watched the Dark Knight amongst other things.

Got on the train for a 70 minute train ride to the district we are staying in, however as to be expected got on the wrong train, the right line, but the wrong train. So ended up going past our stop throwing us right out and then having to work out how to get back. Luckily found someone who spoke perfect English and pointed us in the right direction and explained that we had got on the Express train that only stops at the main stops and not the little ones which we wanted. We eventually got on the right line and found our Hostel no probs.

First impressions of Hostel are gooood.

Strangest observation so far is the surgical masks that quite a large number of people wear here. I guess they know something I don't.

Small problem earlier when trying to purchase a drink, I think instead I brought cough medicine. I had a few sips but thought it would be best to save it till I spoke to someone at the hostel to tell me what it was I was actually drinking. As of yet I have still not found out.

Part from that not a lot to report at the mo as still pretty tripped out. Although a Japanese man did ask me what he must do as he had lost his wallet and didn't know where do go. While I did try help him the best I could, I couldn't help thinking I was possibly the worst person he could have asked being the only westerner, other than Tommy obviously, on the whole platform.

x

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Japan



I have arrived in Japan. This place is so crazy and right now it all feels like a dream. This place is going to blow my mind, I can tell.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Boarding





Well thought I would try a post with my phone see how well it worked to kill some time while I wait.

I am now in gate 35 about to get on my plane. It's all very weird at the mo. Saying bye to the parents wasn't as bad as I thought it would be but was still strange to think I wasn't going to be seeing them for a year.

My nose is proper blocked at the mo which isn't going to get any better 18,000 feet up.

Part from that not really much to say. Although I am quite thirsty. Oh and I feel like a giant amonsgt these Japanese here.

xx

Sunday, 8 February 2009

What's this all about?


Well it should be pretty obvious really but I thought I would explain how I would be using this blog and what you can expect to see here....

Well I am going traveling, for a year or so on the 14th of Feb so won't be seeing friends and family for a very long time! So I have set this up as a way of you being able to see what I am getting up to. I will post new things when I get the chance like photos and videos as well write about all the things I get up to. 

Doing this as well means rather than bombard you with loads of e-mail and things you can just come on here when you actually want to or are wondering what I am getting up to. Works well for me as well as I will have a permanent record of what I have been doing which I can read a few years down the line rather than a load of e-mails that would just eventually get lost in cyberspace.

Anyway, keep coming back every now and again if you want and let me know what you are up to as well. I'm keeping my phone while I am away and there's also that facebook shit.

peace out xxx