Hello –

 

Nancy is going to Japan for spring break with her dad.

 

We’re flying into Narita, which is the airport that services Tokyo,and we’re staying there 3 nights before taking a Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto for 3 more night of sight seeing.  Finally we’ll make a short hop, 1 hour, to Osaka and stay our final night before returning from KIX, the new Osaka airport, built entirely on a man-made island in the bay.

 

PLEASE check back on this page as we’ll be updating it on our trip!

 

Travel log: 

 

11:00 pm, Friday, March 30, 2007: Final packing.  Nancy just got three movies for the flight so we can watch them on my new Dell ATG that my employer just got me (the guys at Office Depot were drooling over it!).  I have 2 batteries for the laptop, which should last about 5+ hours each (already tested them on my last trip to Camp Pendelton in California two weeks ago).

 

Nancy also has a nasty cold and possibly an ear infection.  We have some antibiotics from the doc so she should be covered.

 

As Confucius say: “Don’t forget to crick on the pictures”

 

Sunday, Arpril 1st, 2007 (Tokyo time, 14 hours ahead).  We’re in Tokyo!

 

Thmb_IMG_4064.jpg Nancy scored an upgrade to First Class on the trip from Detroit to Minneapolis (actually I got the upgrade and I gave it to her).

 

Thmb_IMG_4066.jpg Here we are in the MSP airport.

 

Thmb_IMG_4068.jpg Nancy seemed enjoy the subway travel from Narita Airport to down town Tokyo.  Here she is waiting for the ‘Nartita Express” at Airport terminal 1.

 

 

Monday, Arpril 2nd, 2007 7:30 am (Time in Michigan: 6:30 pm Sunday night):

 

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Here’s a view from our hotel room.  Tokyo’s main train station is just two stops to the right so there are a ton of train tracks (all elevated) right next to the hotel.

 

 

 

Monday April 2nd: Nancy’s comments

 

Ok, enough of Dad’s overly-generalized updates.  It’s my turn, considering this is my first time in Japan. 

 

It’s strange being so far away from home; 6,500 miles is the farthest I’ve ever been.  The flight over the pacific wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought, until Dad looked at me and said, “Only six more hours to go.”  Here I was thinking that we’d be there in two.  Guess I was a little backwards.  Dad was worried because we were next to a couple with a baby, but he was a cutie and was very well behaved.  I told him that if he was too loud, to just put on his headphones and put a movie in the laptop.  He did projectile vomit all over his grandmother, who was in the seat behind me.   The train ride was really fun, I’ve loved riding by train since my trip to Europe in 2004.  What I thought was really cool is there were these double-decker trains.  I’ve never seen anything like it! 

 

So far Japan really isn’t that much different from any big city in the states.  Besides that every sign is in kanji, and we can’t read it.  The rail lines are above ground, and far more extensive, and everything is packed so close together I’m surprised people can even breathe.

 

I’m so excited to go out and see things today.  Its’ raining a little bit, but that’s ok.  Dad ran out to get some McDonald’s for breakfast (I’m not really eating it, it’s kinda not my thing.  As Kristen says, “It’s hell, you shouldn’t eat it” or something like that =) 

 

(dad: Yeah, right! McDonald’s breakfast isn’t “her thing”.  She sure seemed to wolf it down any ways!

Nancy: I was hungry!!!!  SO SUE ME! =] )

 

Thmb_IMG_4075.jpg  Here’s a shot of our Hotel from the outside.  Looks pretty swanky and it is.  But in Tokyo, it’s considered only two-star, like a Holiday-Inn!

 

We’re headed to Hibiya Park and the Imperial Palace Gardens, then we’re going to take the train to Harajuku and Yoyogi Park, which has a shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji in it (Meiji Jingu Shrine)

 

From here on out, Dad will only add captions to the pictures.  Text is supplied by Nancy.

 

Hibiya Park - 9:00 AM Tokyo Time

Wouldn’t you think, considering this is a park, that there wouldn’t be much to say about it?  Well, I think you’re wrong, but that’s ok.  Hibiya Park overall was very pretty.  The sky was kinda dark and dreary, almost like it was going to storm, but the colors of the flowers and the green trees shockingly off-set that.  I got some really beautiful close-up pictures of the flowers.  Besides cherry blossoms, most of the flowers were similar if not the same as ones back home.

 

Just inside the park was a ceramics market.  Every single type of Japanese pottery imaginable was being sold.  It was just opening up, but it was clear that some of the vendors had planned to do their work in the tents, and had all of their equipment handy.  I had a hard time deciding not to buy anything, because I have a huge weakness for pottery.  I love it, and all of the pieces were so pretty!  But I did want to come back and get a good set of chopsticks (which I promptly forgot to do).

 

From the south end, we walked into a plaza that had a huge fountain in it.  About five minutes after we walked in, the fountain turned on, which was an impressive sight.  There were several business people sitting in the park, enjoying a break from office life. 

 

Near the north side of the park were a few houses, one with some picnic tables outside it.  Sitting on one of the picnic tables was a curled-up black cat.  I told dad to step outside the walkway and I tried to go up and pet it, and get a few pictures.  Well, it didn’t mind the pictures, but was clearly opposed to being petted.  It just gave me a dirty look and jumped off the table, flipping its bobbed tail as it went.  1-0 for the kitty, I guess.

 

Thmb_IMG_4080.jpg  This is a fountain in Hibiya Park, just 2 blocks from our hotel.

 

Thmb_IMG_4083.jpg  This is Nancy trying to play “cat-whisperer” to some local feline.  I don’t see many cats around.

 

Imperial Gardens – 9:30 AM Tokyo Time

About ½ mile outside Hibiya Park were the Imperial Gardens.  Before we actually got to the palace, there were these acre-sized plots of trees that looked almost like bonsai.  What was even more interesting were the men trimming them.  We could tell that the spent hours trimming them to perfection.

 

The palace itself was an impressive sight, even if we only saw it in profile.  There were several gates guarded by sharp-looking men in uniform.  Unfortunately, once we got around the far side of the gardens, we found out that the gardens are closed on Mondays and Fridays.  Strike one.  But we may go back, even though I think dad has had enough plants for one trip.

 

Thmb_IMG_4084.jpg  I can see why many Japanese vacation at this time of the year. The weather is not great but the flowering trees are awesome.

 

Thmb_IMG_4096.jpg Here’s Nancy at the gate to the Imperial grounds.  There are real guards posted to I guess someone still lives there. (Imperial Palace Grounds)

 

Thmb_IMG_4109.jpg  I don’t think this is a Cherry Blossom.  Maybe more like a pink dogwood, but they sure are pretty. (Imperial Palace Grounds)

 

 

Thmb_IMG_4099.jpg   Thmb_IMG_4097.jpg I like these pine trees.  They don’t get that way naturally, these guys on ladders carefully trim them. (Imperial Palace Grounds)

Thmb_IMG_4088.jpg When I shot this, I told Nancy I thought this was best picture from the trip so far.  (Imperial Palace Grounds)

 

 

Science Museum- 11:00 AM Tokyo Time

 Ok, this was a big screw-up on my part.  Originally we had planned on going to the National Museum of Modern Art inside the Imperial Gardens (the open part).  But when we got there, I thought the admissions were a bit pricey.  I had a stroll through the gift shop, which had some pretty cool stuff in it, but not overly interesting.  I decided that I would rather go to the Science Museum, thinking it would be worth it. 

Big mistake.  It was a kid’s museum, and I don’t even have to say more than that.  So I was kind of disappointed.

 

(Dad: Take the good with the bad, it’s all part of the journey.  Maybe we’ll go back to the Museum of Modern Art).

 

11:30 AM Tokyo Time

After my extreme disappointment at the Science Museum, we were on our way to Hanzomon station to ride to Harajuku and Meiji Shrine.  On the way, I took a short cut up a hill.  It looked like it was a path, or at least an outlook to the moat that surrounds the Imperial Palace.  Wow.  It was amazingly beautiful.  Once we got to the top, it was ¼ mile long path that overlooked the moat.   But on either side were full, beautiful cherry trees in prime bloom.  They looked like fluffy pink clouds caught in the branches, and fell over and into the moat.  I can’t believe we stumbled on something so pretty on accident.  Finally, some of my luck was starting to kick in!  Plus, there wasn’t a single westerner on the trail. 

 

I felt like we had stumbled upon an almost secret place for the native Tokyoians.

 

We went down another promenade that was covered in blooms, this one with people picnicking everywhere.  There were a surprising number of groups in suits and ties, obviously on a lunch outing from the office. 

 

 

Thmb_IMG_4117.jpg  Well, if we hadn’t seen the Science Museum, we would have missed this:  A walk along the top of one of those HUGE stone walls you see in the previous pictures.  The Cherry blossoms were beautiful and when the wind blew, there was a snow-storm of petals falling.  Cool.

 

 

Thmb_IMG_4118.jpg  As you can see, the whole city is decked out in blossoms.  And Tokyo is not supposed to be the best are for it, Kyoto is!

 

Thmb_IMG_4124.jpg  This was interesting.  In keeping with the general festive mood at this time of year, many office managers will take their entire staff out to the park for a traditional Japanese “Box Lunch”.   We must have seen 30+ groups in this stretch from the science museum to the subway that took us to Yoyogi Park (Meiji shrine).

 

 

 

 Takeshito-dori, Harajuku - 12:30 Tokyo Time

Harajuku itself is the teenage fashion capitol of Tokyo.  It is famous for the teenage girls who dress in outrageous attire, costumes almost, made of every color of the rainbow.  I think of them as scenesters with a history complex on crack.  It’s amazing to see.  Fashion-wise, Japanese teenagers are on a whole different level than American teenagers.  They’re far more daring and make-up obsessed than anyone I know.  Most of them may be even more make-up obsessed than me.  Maybe.  I’m not quite ready to give up that title. 

Bottom line, Takeshito-dori, the main teenager shopping street, is something that every teenager should experience.  Every single style of clothing one can imagine; prep, punk, Goth, bohemian, gangster, indie, anime and tons of other shops are packed into a space about ¼ of a mile long and 15 feet wide.  The shops are so packed with merchandise, that one is lucky to be able to walk, let alone see everything available for purchase.  There was even a costume shop with bright pink baroque dresses that looked like they’d been pulled out of the costume stash on the set of “Marie Antoinette.”

 

I was even shocked to see a Claire’s store in the middle of Takeshito-dori.  That was unexpected.  I laughed to myself about that!

 

It was awesome.  I loved every second I was there.  It was a scenester’s paradise and has my vote of favorite place so far.

 

Thmb_IMG_4129.jpg  Sometimes the Japanese-to-English translations don’t come across well.  This was an interesting store. 

 

Meiji Shrine – 2:00 Tokyo Time

Without sounding totally awestruck, I think I can say Meiji shrine was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.  I loved it.

 

In the gardens on our way in (Kristen will be happy to know) there were several casks of Bourgogne wine (fake of course)  to represent  some trade the priests used to make with someone.  I can’t remember what the sign said. 

 

Once we got into the temple proper, there was a huge torii about 12 meters high.  It was very impressive.  The temple itself was very pretty.  Mostly a sense of peace permeated the whole area.  I liked that you couldn’t hear a single car or truck on the roads around the park.  It was refreshing, and I wouldn’t have had a problem staying there for a week. 

 

Thmb_IMG_4144.jpgThmb_IMG_4155.jpg Nancy seemed to like the Temple stuff.  If she thinks Tokyo is neat (temple wises) wait till she gets to Kyoto.  The place is LOUSEY with temples.  You can‘t swing a dead cat by the tail around your head and not hit one!

 

 

Click HERE to see a movie of a monk banging a huge drum at the Meiji shrine.  Interesting:

 

 

Back at the Hotel – 6:00 Tokyo Time

When we got back, I crashed.  The jet-lag finally got to me.  And after all the walking, I’m not surprised.  It’s about midnight here as I’m typing this.  And I’m going to sleep soon.  (again =]) 

 

(Dad: Now it’s my turn to use the computer.  I’ve been up since 4:00 am adding pictures to the web page.  Enjoy.  I’ll wake Nancy up in a bit and we’ll go to the fish market (biggest one in the world).

 

 

Tuesday April 3rd  – 5:30 AM Tokyo time

 

So yeah… Dad is an absolute meanie-pants for getting me up at this ungodly hour. 

We’re going to the Fish Market.  To have sushi. FOR BREAKFAST!!!!!  YIPEEEE!!!!!!!  *jumps up and down with joy*

After that, I don’t know what.  Come back to the hotel and nap then figure out what we’re doing. 

*EDIT* We’re going to Akihabara

 

7:30 AM Tokyo Time – Fish Market

Ummm… we kinda got lost in Shinbashi station.  We won’t talk about the *ahhm* illegal things.  Let’s just say somewhere in the bowels of the subway security files there’s video of two Americans jumping a gate.  Maybe we’ll get on YouTube….

 

Anyways, the fish market defiantly made me think…

 

FISHY MURDER!!!!!!!  The poor fishies were being tortured and left half-dead on the cutting board, their little mouths opening and closing… *sniff*  I knew that I couldn’t save them, but the picture of their suffering will never leave my mind…  not to mention all of the disgusting still-living crabs, eels, octopus, squid and shrimp.  Along with dozens of other species I’d rather not identify.  I was definitely grossed out to the max.  a lot of the stuff was still moving.  Ew.  The long, eel-like things that ranged in size from a few millimeters to a few FEET were what grossed me out the most. 

 

The one cool part was all the HUGE tuna.  Some were frozen and being hacked into pieces with big axes (their heads had been mercifully chopped off), others were raw and being chopped up for immediate sale.  There were these weird cart things zooming everywhere too.  They had a motor on the front that pivoted on a single wheel.  Dad got some cool pictures and video of them.  And the size, the market was huge, and I’m not surprised it’s the biggest fish market in the world. 

 

It was an impressive sight, I won’t lie.  Just really, really, gross.  Not the fish, per say, just all the other crabs, mollusks, eels, etc.  For example, I was walking, and I looked into a bucket on display, and in it were millions of little 4-inch long eels swimming and squirming around.  I’m actually kind of sad that the auction is off-limits to the public.  That would be a sight.

 

Thmb_IMG_4182.jpgThe sushi breakfast was…. Interesting.  It started good, I ate my nigiri first, the standard… then my miso soup came, and it had two shrimp HEADS in it. 

With the eyes and everything. 

And feelers. 

Wow.

Dad took a picture. 

Double wow.

 

Anyways, I was fine with that.  It only grossed me out a little bit.  The next piece the guy gave me appeared to be cooked, which is a real plus, because usually nothing sushi-related is cooked.  I bit into it, and about 3 chews in I realized it was solid bone.  Not big ones, but little, itty-bitty tiny ones through the whole piece of fish.  Imagine trying to choke that down.  It’s 6:00 at night and I can still feel them.  But it was still good.  Good tea too.

 

Thmb_IMG_4171.jpg This is want the fish market looked like, and it went on for acre after acre.  Most of the vendors occupied a space about 20x40 feet and there were hundreds of them.  I would have to guess those spots in the market are passed on from generation to generation.  The variety was amazing and not only was it fresh, lots of it was still alive!

 

 

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My favorite was these big-ass tuna.  This one could have been #100+.  I didn’t know they got that big!

Click HERE to see a movie of a couple of guys going at one of these tuna with a giant hatchet.

 

 

Thmb_IMG_4183.jpg These are the carts Nancy was talking about.  There REALLY simple, mechanically.  There were hundreds of them buzzing around.  There was a real concern that you could get hit by one.  Click HERE to see a movie of them in action.

 

 

 

 

9:00 AM Tokyo Time – Back at the Hotel

 

Came back and had a nap.  Yippee.

 

 

12:00 PM Tokyo Time – Akihabara

 

Getting to Akihabara was pretty easy, I think that we’re getting the hang of the trains.  OH!  And dad needs to start listening to me on directions, because I’ve only been wrong ONCE on this trip… so far.  I haff a vondorous sense of direc-sion zat is perfect for vinding one’s vay through zee city.  *sorry, I went German for a minute*

 

I can see why it’s called “Electric Town.”  I couldn’t get enough of all the cool tech shops.  It’s amazing to see it all.  It’s obvious that the Japanese are on a whole different level technologically than any city in the states.  There were thousands of different kinds of cell phones, and everyone has one.  They personalize them by putting stickers and bling on them as well as gaudy and huge key chains.  They didn’t just have tons of technology; they had all the parts to make anything in the universe.  One of my favorites was the shop with all the old radios and tubes.  Some of them had to be from the late 1800’s.  The HAM radio shop was right up there too.

 

Dad also had a screw-up.  He went into this store that sold “English Computers.”  And started asking the guy questions.  I was wondering why he bothered because there was a sign right on the wall that said, “Used computers.”  I asked him about it later, and he said he didn’t even notice the sign.  Way to go papi.  I mentioned that they were all worn out on the sides, and he said, “I just thought they were well-used display models.”

Dork.

 

I also looked everywhere for a cool ipod case for my 30 gig video ipod.  But alas, I found nothing of consequence. 

 

And I’ve decided that you can’t walk 5 feet without seeing at least 5 hot guys.  I’m completely serious.  It’s hottie city in Tokyo!

I’m taking fashion tips from everyone too.  Tokyo isn’t Asia’s fashion capitol for nothing.

 

Thmb_IMG_4189.jpg  This is one of the longest escalators I’ve ever seen.   It’s on the Tokyo subway system, near Akihabara.  It really give you a feeling just how far you are underground.

 

 

 

Thmb_IMG_4209.jpg This was an antique radio store in the Akihabara.  There was a stall next to this that sold only vacuum tubes from old electronics.  Some to $500+!

Thmb_IMG_4214.jpg It was amazing that so many different small vendors could handle just ONE product.  This guy sold just “lights”.

Thmb_IMG_4223.jpg Yes, it’s exactly what it looks like.  USB enabled sushi.  2.0 no less!

 

Oh, and for Amanda-pants:  I think Fall Out Boy’s “Infinity on High” album has become my subway music.  It’s catchy.  And good train musica. 

 

On our way back from Akihabara, we stopped in the ticket office in Shimbashi station to buy tickets for the Shinkansen (bullet) train for tomorrow’s trip to Kyoto.   We should have gotten these earlier, as trains do fill up, but dad says he’s never seen that.  The line in the ticket office was really long.  We finally got to the counter and the ticket agent helped us select a departure time and then out credit card was not accepted.  Then to second (back-up) card was not accepted.  Ouch.  Dad insists he called the credit card companies before leaving the U.S. so they knew we’d be in Japan.  Finally, after a REALLY long wait, they accepted our debit card. 

 

7:30 PM Tokyo Time – Dinner at Sushi restaurant under the train tracks near our hotel.

 

This was a nice place.  It was really busy and obviously quite popular with the locals.  With good sushi, so I’m not surprised it’s popular.  They didn’t give us any of the really scary stuff we ate at breakfast.

 

 

Wednesday April  4th

 

Today we leave Tokyo for Kyoto.  Our train is set for 1:13 pm departure.

 

7:00 AM Tokyo Time – Early start.

 

Because of the time change, sleep is restless and rough.  But we’ve been getting up early, which especially for me is odd.  We were considering going to Asakusabashi, but we went to Asakusa instead.  Why might you ask?  Mainly because Asakusabashi only had a wholesale market, which sold toys and that kind of junk.  Not overly interesting in my opinion.  Asakusa had a cool temple and shopping alley that I wanted to see.  Plus, Asakusa is considered the “old town Tokyo” and has the most authentic Japanese experience.

 

But alas, rising early does have its downfalls.  We got there too early and nothing open.  There was literally no one anywhere on any of the streets.  It was complete deadsville. But we stumbled upon a Denny’s, and had a great “American” breakfast.  After breakfast, we took a walk by the river.  It was really pretty, with lots of cherry blossoms, even though the sky was overcast and it was cold.  The downside was there were too many bums!  That definantly creeped me out a little.

 

Once we got away from the river, we went down several shopping streets, but all the stores were still closed.  Obviously the Japanese aren’t early risers; which is odd because I would think otherwise. 

 

Eventually we got to the temple, which was very cool.  It was huge!  There was a massive lantern hanging in the middle of the main shrine, and for 3 acres around it are tongs of tiny little shrines.  We bought some incense, but never burned it.  I’m keeping mine for home.  I love incense. Since we came in the back way, we didn’t see the arcade leading up to it.  It would have been empty, but by time we left, it was filled with hundreds of really touristy shops leading up to Temple. Dad’s favorite was a machine that made shaped chocolate filled-cakes.  It actually was pretty cool. 

 

But this time it was 11:00, and w had to go back to the hotel to grab our bags and make our way to the train station for our train to Kyoto. When we got to our station, we needed to get on a train to take us to Tokyo station.  But, we bought wrong subway tickets, so there’s $2.75 we’ll never see again!  We got to Tokyo station really early, and just waited around for about an hour.  Waiting for the train, Dad ate a hot dog.  He thought it was pretty passé.  Our train was on time and we left Tokyo at 1:13.  The train ride was 2 hours, but we were idiots and watched a movie instead of enjoying the beautiful sunny scenery streaming by at 150 MPH.  We caught a couple of beautiful sights, but it wasn’t as country-ish as I expected. 

 

Once we got to Kyoto, we couldn’t find the shuttle bus for the Grand Prince Hotel, had to take subway.  We actually found out that the shuttle doesn’t run on weekdays, only on weekends.  I think that’s crap.  We were also shocked that our hotel was on the END OF THE LINE.  It was booniesville, and there was literally nothing out there.  Besides the convention center and the hotel, there was nothing.  The exit to our hotel (in the station) had REALLY long underground hallways, which were prettily decked out in different colored rock.  The convention center was also the place where the Kyoto accords took place. 

 

I’m going to say it again, we’re REALLY out here in the boonies with this hotel.  It’s a very, very pretty setting but definitely NOT in the city.  Even though it’s pretty, this is one of those hotels where you can tell they think a lot of themselves.  They charge for EVERYTHING, and it’s all overpriced.  They even charged by the day for internet, so that’s why we haven’t updated the site in a few days.  There are some pluses.  It’s a huge hotel room, by Japanese standards; two beds, a separate “room” for the bathroom and vanity.  And yayh!! I don’t have to sleep in the same bed as dad!!!!

 

Once we got all settled in, we decided to catch the train back down to Kyoto station.  Dad wanted to show me “the Cube”, which is a hotel/department store complex above the train station.  It’s a huge structure, all open in the inside, and so big you can’t get a single picture of the whole thing.  It’s about 5-6 stories tall, completely empty on this inside, and there are escalators going all the way up both sides.  A wild skywalk connects from one end to the other.  It’s a very impressive sight. 

 

After that we had dinner in Dad’s favorite noodle shop in “La Porta.”  That’s the mall under bus terminal next to train station.  It connects to the train station, so you can go in  between both.  I had really good udon noodles with seaweed and these crunchy things.  It was yummy….  We worked off all the calories we consumed by walking to the other end of the train station to go shopping in one of dad’s favorite shops under the south west corner of the train station.  It’s like a miniature strip mall within an underground mall, and it has a ton of cool stuff.

 

Back to the hotel to pass out.

 

Thursday April  5th – Shrine Day *GAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!*

 

Today we’ll do an excursion down the east side of town, looking at temples.  This one should take all day, ending at Kiyomizu Temple.

 

Hmm… should I say the good or bad first?  The good:

It started great.  The temples were all very beautiful

We started by walking down the “Philosophers path” which was along canal and lined with cherry trees.  It was a bright, sunny day and it was beautiful to see.  We went to two on that path, not including the one on the end, Nanzenji Temple.  That was my favorite, firstly because it sounds rather like my name, and secondly because it was an impressive temple.  There were two main complexes, both huge.  And there was also a Romanesque aqueduct!  In Japan!!!!  I couldn’t believe it.  It was a part of Biwako Canal, and we followed the canal all the way to this huge set of dams.  It was cool.

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The cherry blossoms were so pretty.

 

 

 

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Jump for joy!!! (AKA enlightenment)

 

 

 

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“Water go down the hooooooooole.”- Dad (via Chris Svinicki, via Loony Toons)

 

 

 

After that we just kept walking.  I got tired really fast.  My feet hurt, my legs hurt, and my knee was starting to hurt too.  I think that I might have developed shin splints too. We saw a lot of other cool shrines, but sadly they were mostly overshadowed by the fact that we were both tired as hell.  That and we just got shrined-out.  The one really impressive one was the giant concrete Buddha.  Now THAT was cool!!!!

 

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LOOKY!!!!!  It’s da BUDDHA!!!  And dad is becoming enlightened.  Just follow the bright orange shirt…

 

 

 

And:

To date, I also have pictures of seven different cats I have seen in Japan.  Yes, I am strange.

 

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Walking from temple to temple you see a lot of geishas.  These were the only Asian ones, actually.  Most of the others were westerners.

 

 

 

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Someone threw a yennie (yen penny) on this poor turtle!!!  Guess they have good aim…

 

 

 

 

Friday April  6th -

 

Since we didn’t finish our shrine tour, we hit Fushimi-Inari shrine first.  It’s all the way on the south side of town, but it was worth it.  It is dedicated to Inari, a Japanese goddess of the kitsune, or royal foxes.  Statues of these white foxes guard every main arch in the shrine.  Most temples have these arches called torii. A lot of them are stone, unvarnished wood, or orange and black painted wood.  Most shrines have 2-10 tops. 

This one had thousands.  Millions even.  They were all lined up about 3 inches apart all the way up the mountain.  Imagine, all these bright orange posts going on for as far as the eye can see.  That was pretty much it.  It was indescribable. 

 

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Before we even got there, we saw the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!!!!!! All four!!!! WOOT!

 

 

 

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Now THAT’S alotta Torii - Fushimi-Inari Shrine

 

 

 

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It’s broadway in the Buddhist Shrine!!!!

 

 

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Awww… such a cute picture.

 

 

After that we went to Nijo castle, which was very pretty.  The only thing to really look at was the inside, it had many paintings from as far back as the 1100’s, all in perfect condition.  My favorites were (go figure) the tigers and leopards.  There were a few hawks and cranes too.  There were mechanisms in the floors too, under the boards, that would squeak when even the slightest weight was put on them.  This kept people from sneaking into the main hall.  When a group of people walked over it, it sounded like a swarm of crickets on helium.  It made me giggle.  In some places, too, all the black paint had worn off the floors from millions of socked feet walking over them.  In some places, the wood was so smooth and polished; I would not have been more beautiful if it were varnished.  The thought of how many people for how long it would take to get that result was mind-boggling. 

                                                                                                                                                             

We came back to the hotel a little early, and I worked on the website for a while then crashed.  When I got up around 9:30, we decided to go back down to Kyoto station to have sushi at the rotational-belt place.  We still had the two day passes, and wanted to get one more go at them before they expired.  But when we got the station, it was completely dark and grated off.  It was closed!  So much for that idea.  Instead we went down to the Lawson’s Dairy (which are EVERYWHERE in Japan) to get snacks and drinks.  On the way there, we came a crossed a couple of teenage guys skating and doing jumps off a set of stairs.  They were really, REALLY bad, but I was amused.  I had Dad take my picture with them, which was cool.  I’m sure they’ll be talking about that for a long time.  =]

 

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Cripes, these guys could barely RIDE a skate board but Nancy HAD to ask them for a picture.  We CLEARLY made their night.

 

 

 

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Looks like young boys are the same everywhere.  I caught these three on the subway.

 

 

 

 

Saturday April  7th -

 

This morning we took the train to Osaka.  It was a sucky ride, we stood the whole way because there were so many people.  But, I’ve been saying it to myself the whole trip, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

 

That, and:

 

I’ve had S8er Boi by Avril Lavigne stuck in my head all day.

 

……………..

ANYWAYS!  And now for something entirely different: 

After we got to our hotel, we found out our room was not ready, so we went to a sushi place just down the street.  It was a really, really cool rotational sushi bar!  YIPPEE!!  Considering we didn’t get sushi the night before, this was very yum.  They had these touch screens, where you poked in your order, and it came on the conveyor belt on red bowls. When the bowls got close to your table, the screen beeped.  That way, you only took what was yours.  There were other “non-claimed” plates (as I deemed them) that we would gank.  I liked it because I got exactly what I wanted.  Plus it was fun to send in orders.  Then, when you were ready to pay, you pressed the red button and the waitress brought your check!  Sweet. 

 

Click here for a video of the fishy-movement on the conveyor

 

By this time our room was ready, so we got our stuff settled and decided to venture on to Osaka Castle. 

Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad idea. 

Why might you ask?  It was raining cats and dogs by time we got there.  Torrential downpours. 

Great.

I got soaked.

But regardless, Osaka castle was quite stunning, and the gilding was very impressive.  There were also some great exhibits of what was going on in the era the castle was built. There were lots of really cool swords, pikes, and guns too.  But alas, we could not take pictures.  *tear*

 

But leaving was the most interesting part.  I heard music coming from a building a little ways off, and we decided to go investigate.  Under and overhang infront of this old university-type building, a pair of guys was putting on a show for a small crowd.  They had mikes, and one was playing a guitar.  The thing that amazed me the most was that for as in-promptu of a performance as it seemed, they were really, really, amazingly good.  They had wonderful voices, which is really hard to find in guys, and could hold pure, unadultered chords that I haven’t heard anywhere.  Their songs were in Japanese, but I could tell the mood by the music.  Simply put, they were amazing.  I got tons of pictures and a few video files.  I suggest everyone listen to them, they’re something to be heard.  I was sad to leave their show, but we had to get back to the hotel.  But that one thing made Osaka worth the one-day stay.

 

For the awesome Japanese singers Chricky here

 

Clicky for the philosophical revelations of the Fajha

 

 

Dad just told me not to get trashed my last night in Japan.  My reply:  “If I planned on getting trashed, I would be doing it with a hot Japanese guy.  Do I have a hot Japanese guy?  NO!  Therefore I will not be getting ‘trashed.’”

BURN!

 

 

Sunday April  8th -

 

Today we fly home from KIX Kansai airport.  It’s a sad day, because we’re leaving.

But we’re going right from the airport to Aunt Connie’s for Easter Dinner, which should be really fun.

Happy Easter everyone, and hope you enjoyed our “Travel Log”!!!!

 

 

Overall & In Retrospect:

 

I really loved Japan.  It was one of the best experiences of my life.  What was the most surprising is it was not as different as I expected.  It was very much the same in some aspects.  But the Japanese are still on a totally different level than Americans in technology and fashion.  I also consider Japanese women lucky. They have millions of good-looking, beautiful Japanese guys to choose from.  Although there weren’t as many in Kyoto or Osaka, I saw plenty of hot boys.  I do regret not taking more pictures of people.  I love the fashion sense here.  They push limits Americans haven’t even begun to think about.  Harajuku girls are the original scenesters.  I have so many new ideas of stuff I can do… its’ awesome.  So, I should have taken more pictures of people.  Even though Kyoto was beautiful, I’m going to miss Tokyo especially.  I really liked it, it was such a raw city in the Ginza, Harajuku and Akihabara, but was reserved and beautiful in Asakusa.  I’ll miss it, and I think it will become like London for me.  I’ll look back on my experiences here with fondness, and I know I’ll probably end up coming back someday.  I think maybe we should have stayed 4 days in Tokyo, three in Kyoto and skipped Osaka altogether.  But that’s for the next trip!

 

But there’s one thing I will never get used to:  Asian-style toilets.  We’re not EVEN going there.