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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Shinjuku Goya National Garden

My plan for today was to get up early and leave to see Mt. Fuji...but I was very tired and slept until 9:30. So after making my way from Tacikawa to Shinjuku station my deiections went sour and I couldn't find where I needed to go. So I got a guidebook at the station and found something that was probably just as good. This is about the time of year when the cherry blossoms start to bloom here in Japan, so it is a really good time to visit gardens and parks. This is the National Garden in Shinjuku. I took a lot of pictures, so enjoy the sights!

This is Shinjuku, dubbed the city that never sleeps as it is always busy. It was much dirtier than the other cities I have been to...Can't really say much else about it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Been lots of places, seen a lot of things

So the past week I have been really busy and didn't always have net access. Here's a bunch of pics!

Various food stuffs:


Various pictures from Tachikawa, Tokyo, Nagoya, Akihabara and Shibuya:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

18.3.2009 :: Tokyo :: Day 4

I scrapped the idea of going to Fuji-san today and went to Tokyo instead. The station there is absolutely crazy! Instead of walking around Tokyo I hopped a top side train and headed to Shibuya, more specifically a street called Takeshita Dori. It's a place to get unique items and clothing. I saw a jacket I will buy the next time I am in Tokyo.

I saw some interesting characters there today but didn't take any pictures. The only thing I have to show for today is a green bagel and a better working knowledge of the Tokyo station, which is a chore in itself.

Tokyo kicked my butt today...


Be sure to check out my new travel blog about Japan, Tokyo, Kyoto, food, wine and Japanese culture!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

17.3.2009 :: Kyoto :: Day 3

Today I returned to Kyoto and I was successful at navigating the rail system so I was off to see the sights. Tonight there was a change in plans, Ryoko doesn't have to go to Tokyo, instead she might go this weekend for her work. So I will be returning to Nagoya instead of going to a ryoken (a traditional Japanese inn) for the night.

I only regret that I still did not make it to the downtown market. I really wanted to see that while I was here but there is a big fish market in Tokyo that might be better anyway (but I think it is just a fish market).

I think I have lost about 5+ pounds since I got here because my pants are way too big!

I don't think I have mentioned my thoughts on Japan yet, mostly because I wanted to wait a few days to get a better impression of the country. My verdict so far? I love it. I love the food, the people, the bullet train, the cities...just everything about it. There is a language barrier there but that will fall with time.

Mt. Inariyama Shrine:

This was the only real sight seeing I did today because it took me so long to go through it. I went to the Mt. Inariyama shrine and it took me forever to go through! I thought it would be a simple little self guided walk though tour...nope! I got lost on the paths because most of them had signs that were washed out and unreadable once you started up the mountain. Regardless, it was a very cool place, except some parts were creepy with cawing crows and all the family shrines and things. I could sware there were parts that smelled of death, similar to that smell at a funeral...only stronger. I went up and down so many different paths that my legs were rubber by the time I was done. Maybe it was from my lack of food the past few days. Still very cool though.

The cars:

I spotted a Mitsubishi Galant VR-4

The people:

I noticed today that the spoken Japanese language is very melodic, that is, it almost sounds like music at times; especially when spoken by a woman.

Everyone is very kind and polite. Men, women, young, old and everyone in between. I try to be as curtious as possible but still sometimes feel like a big, loud, rude American :D
Oh, some of them smoke like chimneys, and they are allowed to do it in a lot of places, unlike america where it seems to be being banned just about everywhere. It's annoying but tolerable. Also, a lot of the business guys wear trench coats, so it looks like an FBI convention everywhere you go. :)

The Food:

While I was at Kyoto station I had to pick up a few more of those bean filled buns. They make a great quick breakfast with a cup of coffee.

For lunch I went to one of those carousel sushi places. The sushi was good but not superb...but it was less expensive than back home (137¥ per plate. Hehehe, I ate 8 plates; OINK! :D

I ended the day with none other than a Starbucks cappuccino and watching the people and cars pass by for a good while. Ahh, it is so hard to get a good cup of coffee here. That's something I will definitely have to have import from home or kick the habit.

Tonight I volunteered to make my spicy thai chicken, assuming I can find all the ingredients. Believe it or not, sireiacha sauce is hard to find here. You have to go to an 'imported' food shop to get it. I'll also make some udon soba (a Japanese noodle) soup.

For dinner I cooked, but it was only ok. I did however have my forst real shopping in a Japanese grocery store. Heheh, it was like the asian grocers back home only a lot bigger and with better stuff. I made spicy pork and udon soupe. The soupe was great!

Happy Birthday Troy!!!

Be sure to check out my other travel blog for more article son Japan and Kyoto:

Monday, March 16, 2009

16.3.2009 :: Kyoto :: Day 2

This is the first day that I am on my own. I felt ill prepared to navigate this country, but there is no better way to learn than to jump in with both feet! After my day yesterday we returned to Ryoko's flat and I crashed after having dinner. Not really from jet lag,because surprisingly I have had NONE whatsoever. Today I am heading to Kyoto and am learning to navigate everything on my own.

The bullet train:

In one word: amazing.When another train would pass the shockwave of air would slightly jolt the cabin and it made a sound like: Foom! shishishishishishishi foom! That has to be the coolest sound ever!

About an hour from Nagoya, I chose this as my first destination because of the abundance of temples and other cultural aspects to explore, and because it was relatively simple to navigate to. But once I got there the subway station was a nightmare to figure out. None of the subway ticket machines were in English. So I was stuck there for a few hours trying to figure out which button got a ticket for wat train and finally just got some buns and found a waiting room to sit down in asI hadn't really eaten anything all day. Ryoko doesn't really eat breakfast and the kitchen is really small so the cooking capability is limited. After I was rejuvenated by mighty morphin' bean bun power, I reread myguide book and was remotivated to explore the city.

This time I skipped the subway and headed for the Kyoto Tower. It is a large tower similar to Space Needed in Seattle. The views were great, you could almost see all the way to Osaka!

I had a mugwort bun filled with bean paste. It was pretty good but would have been even better with some coffee. I miss that food shop Iwas at yesterday! Mm, I have another regular bun filled with the same bean stuff. I ate half of it when I got home and it is much better than the mugwort bun.
For dinner Ihad raw liver, octopus balls, tempura pork and Japanese pumpkin in a sauce. A fermented vegetable sauce that was sweet and sour was used fr the temputa and a thicker version was used for te octopus balls.
Check out my other blog about world travel in Japan and Kyoto:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

15.3.2009 :: Nagoya :: Day 1

My friend took me around Nagoya today exploring the city and showing me how to navigate the buses and trains at Nagoya station.

The food:
Today I had the best octopus and squid ever. You can taste the ocean it was so fresh. That is something you just do not get with seafood in the midwest. My meal was a medium sized bowl of Japanese short grain rice(prepared similar to sushi rice with a little sugar so it is sicky)and topped with fresh salmon, squid and octopus and a small serving ofa pickeled Japanese radish. I put some wasabi-soy sauce on it and it was even better. So what did this cost? Around 600 yen, or around 6bucks US. Eat your heart out, McDonalds!

The people:
I am amazed at the varied styles that people wear. It doesn't seem tomatter how someone dresses, that's very cool! It makes me feel like Ineed to change what I am wearing. I'll grab some pics sometime if I can.

The cars:
I spotted my first GT-R R34 and a GC8 chassis Impreza STi!

The city:
I had my first ride in a subway today! And then another and anotherand another and another and so on... So you can say I am pretty used to the subways of Nagoya by now.
The city is great, although Ryoko says there is not much to do here. It is very clean and not as overcrowded as I thought it might be.

Bicycles are left on the street, without being chained up! I asked Ryoko about it and she said there wasn't really a problem with them being stolen. I told her that was pretty amazing and she stated most Japanese people have good morals.

The port:
We also visited the port are of Nagoya today. It was intersting to see the harbor and shops that were there there. We went to something Ryoko called a 'gotcha gotcha' (spelling??). Which was a large store that had toys in bubble gum machines. They varied from anime figurines toThomas the tank engne toys.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The adventure begins

My journey has begun, I landed in Japan at 6:10 local Nagoya time. Like so many good stories this one began with the end, because getting here was a journey in itself. Everything was working well for this trip except one aspect...I needed a JR (Japan Rail) pass to ride the trains for the two weeks I am here. The problem? It can only be purchased outside of Japan and there was not a distributor for this pass in KC. But there was one in Detroit and I just happened to have a flight with a 3 hour layover in just that spot. To make it even better, the travel agent/distributor was only 27.3 miles from the airport. So on Friday I had checked airport taxi services and found one that offered a round trip to the town of Novi for $105. That sounds like a lot but I had contacted the travel agent an they wanted $350 to have someone at the airport to give it to me and they wouldn't let a local currier deliver it. My flight from KC to Detroit went fine. I hopped the taxi service I had found on the net and he took me to the travel agency, I got my dumb voucher, and returned back to the airport with just enough time to go through security (again) and Google at the 747-400 double awesome!

The Flight from Detroit was ok, the food was fair with the only notable stuffs being shrimp served with dinner, the movies SUCKED, and every one around me slept until the last two hours when a gal from the Philippines named Angie talked to me. Thank you!! I was starting to go nuts watching "The Secret Life of Bees" for the fifth time...I didn't even get out my headphones on for that masterpiece.

I am exploring Nagoya today, more to come about first my night and first full day later.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The best Japanese lessons ever

Ok, so today I realized how much my Japanese SUCKS. Thank goodness for YouTube!! You gotta check out at least one from this first playlist...the guy says he is a 'drunk' language teacher (the lessons are better than the 'culture' episodes). This isn't safe for kiddos:

Oh, and here are some others:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

One week to go!

One more week to go before I leave for Japan and I am very excited! It has been a very busy week. I got my International Drivers Permit, a new camera (a Canon Digital ELPH SD790 IS), some 16 gig SD cards, some NEW SOCKS and a few other odds and ends. I also got my phone unlocked so I can use a Japanese SIM card in it and work off of their local networks. Hehe, that also means I can switch carriers here in the US and not have to buy a new phone :D

I think I may be packing way too many electronic gadgets. I already have my camera bag stuffed to capacity and my carry-on bag is getting full too. My goal was to pack light because I am going to be traveling on a train a lot of the time. I guess I can leave what I am not needing that day...but what will I need? Who knows, it's Japan! Anyone have anti-Godzilla spray? I like being prepared ya know.

In Japanese culture it is customary to bring a gift to the house you are visiting. So I was trying to think of anything a-la Kansas City that I could give. I have some ideas but would like any's not like I can pack a BBQ sandwich ;)

It's going to be a long week waiting for Friday to get here!