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Japan November 2015 - Tokyo - Nagoya - Hiroshima - Shimonoseki - Fukuoka - Page 2

Day 5 - Thursday, 5 November 2015

Sleepy train ride

Still not 100% healthy, I was determined to go to nature anyway, but no ascent of mount anything yet.
Instead I paid a hefty fee to go to Nikko.
My intended train was full of tour groups going to ooh and aah at leaves changing color, so I had to wait an hour and take a slower train.
I thought to myself, whats an extra 45 minutes each way, and then I worked it out, 90 minutes.
The ride in each direction was about 2 hours and 15 minutes, which now that I can do maths as proven above, is 135 minutes.
Thats a long time but there would be a lot to see out the window and the soothing clickety clack of the train line.
That idea vanished as soon as I got on board, and Japanese people ensured every single blind was pulled all the way down, for the duration of the journey. The same happened on the way back. No view. Maybe I am in North Korea and theres things you cant see between Tokyo and Nikko. I will never know.
I did get to see a special boy who I think lives on the train, because he did not get off at Nikko, and was there waiting on the train when I came back later. His main activity on the train was to pull very hard on his ears which seemed visibly stretched from years of doing so, and make train noises as he walked through the carriage.
I felt safe knowing that train boy was there to guard us.

So instead of looking out the window, I fell into a stupor, slowly nodding in my seat and marvelling at all the snoring Japanese people on the completely full train with no bathroom and no vending machine.
Nikko better be good....

It was ok. I wouldnt make a day of it, but I did. I wanted to climb the mountain but thats a 2 day at least excursion sleeping on the mountain with no transport to the base of the mountain other than hitch hiking.
The town is compared to Kamakura as the Kyoto of the North, I dont think its as nice, its certainly smaller and appears a bit run down.
The temples all have separate admission fees, and most are under heavy restoration, as you shall see below. Also EVERYWHERE in Nikko is paranoid about no photos. Even standing outside a shop with my camera sent a woman crazy with yelling NO PHOTO!
My top tip for Tokyo day trip, go to Kamakura not Nikko. Maybe Hakone is good, but its currently closed still due to all the people being stoned to death by the volcano.

The train station to Nikko is near the skytree, so I took a photo. It might have been culled but due to NO PHOTO! later in the day, it stays.

This is the train I took. It loses carriages along the way, which is weird because everyone on it is going to Nikko, so as they take carriages off, more and more people squeeze into the few remaining.
It must be something to do with the size of the station I think.

I didnt actually stop for lunch, because I couldnt find anything around the temple area except ice cream and potato chips.
Back in the town I could have had whale it seems, but by then I was full of ice cream.

This is the famous bridge. You wont believe this, but theres a fee to walk across it. You pay $4, and walk from one side, to the other. I think you can walk back and forth if you want. Or you can stand here and take a photo instead. NO PHOTO!
The guy selling tickets to stand on the bridge was adamant I cant take a photo from a public street.

This is the ticket booth for the bridge walk. Nice leaves.

Apparently, a phone box. A woman charged out of the shop to tell me off for taking a photo. I was going to buy something from the bakery there. Guess not.

I felt this area was secluded enough to risk taking my camera out without getting yelled at.

This is the famous temple. Note it is a shed. They have constructed a shed over the temple whilst its being restored, but still charge admission to go in the shed.
Pay to look inside a construction site? Sign me up! There were very dusty statues inside, it took all of 3 minues to walk through with a guy following me holding a no photo sign hurrying me along.

Best view of the day, there are temples and whatever down each side, each has its own admission fee. Why you cant buy a ticket to visit them all I dont know.

A group of school kids being advised to not take any photos.

Now thats where I should have been, but alas it was not to be.

Bonus photo of very impressive mountain range. A slightly bigger mountain is just to the left and behind it, Mount Nantai which is very popular among climbers but you need a car to get to it.

The dark temple

No sooner had I returned from Nikko and it was time to head out the door again.
I headed away from the local Ueno station, to see where I ended up. Asakusa as it turns out, where the main temple in Tokyo is.
I have been here before, during the day, a couple of times I think. I get the feeling the whole shopping and tourist experience in the streets surrounding the temple has expanded 10 fold in the last few years, with a lot more closed off and covered streets.
There are a whole heap of Korean and Chinese restaurants, but the food they had on offer looked really very poor, I quickly decided no to Bi Bim Bap Japan style.
There are also a lot of nice looking sit on the floor with your shoes off restaurants in the back streets, but the lack of prices on the menu and the fact they only seat about 4 people at a time tells me they cost $1000.

I dont know why, but there were a lot of people walking around with floral tributes on sticks, maybe this happens every night here, it seemed to be pretty casual, like, good evening, hi, yes this is my elaborate gold leaf covered flowers surrounded message on a stick, nice weather today.
You can wander all around the temple at night, if you wish, and plenty of people were. This may be the best time to visit, as all the souvenir shops were closing and the tour groups were long gone.
I did however get asked if I wanted to hear about the lord, by young Japanese people, actually in broken English they told me 'we are here tonight to spread good news' I just asked Jesus? and they said YES! like I was going to join in, to which I gave them some really bad news to counter their good news.

The infamous mega Don Quixote in Asakusa, their motto is 'the palace of real cheapness', the cause for excess luggage fees for flights leaving Japan to China. They now have aquariams and live shows.

Covered shopping streets are almost empty. Many of these specialise in knives and chef supplies if I remember correctly.

During the day you cannot move here, everyone is buying a mini eifel tower saying Japan on it.

This one had me puzzled. I tried to lean and get spotted to find out what they meant or why they meant it.


I was having flashbacks to earlier today.

The temple, in its night time glory, no one around to enforce the no photos rule.

An American gentlemen with his full on tripod and huge lense on the go saw me walk past and take my photo hand held with no flash.
He exclaimed with great confidence, 'Well thats not going to work out for you son' and so I showed him my perfectly exposed shot. This had him completely baffled and angry.
My now ancient Sony RX100 is still the greatest night photo camera of all time. I dont care that its 'cheating' I just leave it on intelligent auto+ and hold the button.

I desperately wanted omurice for dinner, but couldnt find it. Hunger got the better of me so I had ramen, making sure to get the egg. As soon as I finished and left I went around the corner and there was a specialist omurice place right in front of me.

I drowmed my lack of omurice sorrows with a delicious refreshing fermented carbonated soy milk drink.

mother on 2015-11-05 said:
Our hotel was just across the road from the Kaminarimon Gate - look up and you will see the 12th floor all lit up with a modern chandelier. The gate hotel it's called surprise surprise.

David on 2015-11-05 said:
Not lying, it was actually quite weird, like the town association had decided to enforce a city wide rule.

mother on 2015-11-05 said:
Are you lying about the no photo stuff - we never had that problem when we were there. Love all the photos today, specially the bridge.

Day 5 - Friday, 6 November 2015

Suburban Tokyo

Everyone knows Tokyo is big. But people rarely go outside the Yamanote line. The Yamanote line has a radius of about 5km, it seems like a long way as it goes around in a circle, but I have in the past walked from the eastern edge to the western edge of that circle. No problem.
Tokyo extends much much further in every direction, at least 50km. No one knows whats there, cause trains going through it force the locals to pull the blinds down so you cant see out.
I was determined to find out whats there.

I changed trains 3 times to end up at a place called Koshigaya, about 20km North of the city centre, but still a long way from the edge of the city, a place without trees.
At first the station area seems similar, but most of the shops are empty. Theres a huge number of busses lined up out the front to take people further away, I decided to go on foot.
The map told me this was through a park, it was colored green on google, but it was an industrial park.
Lots of factories and parked trucks, but no people. What struck me most of all was the absolute lack of retail, no family mart, no corner lunch spots for workers, I guess they all eat at a canteen on site whilst singing the company song.
Most factories had a sea of bicycles parked out the front with a row of vending machines and not much else. The occasional open drain criss crossed my path. Generally hidden pipes were pouring metallic looking liquid into the drain.
There are no pedestrian crossings out here either, and turning trucks will not give way to you, they will just lean on the horn, I had no business wandering about their area of work and they knew it.

Eventually I hit an open drain barrier, with nowhere to cross, this marked the edge of the industrial area, the other side was a badly over grown field and then new looking identical housing for working families.
45 minutes later, I found a way across the other side.

This is how most people in Tokyo probably live. No parks anywhere, mid rise apartment, and a family mart on every other corner.
Lots of parking spots everywhere too, I guess most people are at work, presumably they all drive.

This is an actual run down suburban looking supermarket, the kind you might find in the outer suburbs of an Australian city, with some kids hanging around on a bmx smoking.

One of the open drains in the industrial area, except theres guys fishing down there. The water is very shiny! I hope they arent planning to eat anything they catch.

A rubbish bin with a bike wheel for a lid.

The local park, possibly for inter company football games, is a vast sea of dirt.

I was surprised to see rice planted here, the soil all looks badly contaminated.

Eventually I made it out of the industrial zone and into a new housing development, complete with 'lake' and giant shopping centre.
There is a huge amount of open space here which I found unusual.

Enjoy your lake.

The shopping centre was large, and actually 3 different multi storey theme zones joined together by sky bridges, including an outdoor outlet mall thing with zero people in it and many sleeping shop keepers. Just like China!
The Aeon part of the mall with 100 places to eat was doing much better, and by 12 noon it was starting to get hard to find somewhere to eat that wasnt already full.

A xmas tree made out of plastic bottles fished out of the lake.

I was amazed at this. Its a Perth based drive through coffee chain. They are inside a mall but still calling themselves Australian drive through coffee.
I googled it when I got back to my hotel, this is their first and only franchise in Japan. They generally only have stores in industrial areas in Perth, and also one in Tokyo.

Bored house wives can go to cooking classes at the mall instead of working. Once you get married in Japan, as a woman, your life is over. Accept it and get yourself to cooking class.
There was a lot of smiling and clapping going on.

My lunch was bad, and looks nothing like the picture. I was convinced to purchase due to the all you can eat salad bar.
The salad bar had various forms of cold mash potato you could serve yourself wih an ice scream scoop.
The experience was also more expensive than it had any right to be.

My lunch was somewhat rescued by all you can eat jelly!

Not much has changed

Every time I come to Tokyo, I go to Shibuya and Harajuku, everyone does. It is surprising how little has changed since my last visit whenever that was.
I remember at least one previous visit it was bucketing down with rain, not this time. Instead I cant believe how hot it is, still 20C at 8pm, by which time its been dark for 4 hours.
It actually snowed in Beijing today by comparison.
If one thing has changed, there are not as many freaks hanging around, I think they have been scared off by the hordes of tourists, but where have they gone? I refuse to believe they grew up and forgot to dress like baby zombies.
Despite the somewhat awesome weather, I didnt find it to be particularly busy, I could have got a seat at the starbucks window overlocking the crossing if I so wanted. Of course non busy is all relative, when discussing the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world.

As mentioned above.

Trucks still constantly cirlce advertising bands, products, pop stars, often followed by a protest van which is a guy with loud speakers on his roof screaming his lungs out about something.

Takeashita dori is very quiet tonight. The thing that has changed the most here is that is is now almost entirely crepe shops. At least 20.

Crepe shops on all 4 corners here.

More crepes.

One of the many disadvantages to being born a male.

I had to make sure I wasnt seeing things. I eat here in Sydney / Melbourne / Brisbane at least once a week as its the cheapest place in town that sells something passably healthy. Now they have a Tokyo store, in a very prominent location.

I stopped for a while to watch some people on the radio who I did not recognise. No one else did either, passers by stopped and quizzed each other, shrugged their shoulders and moved on.

My dinner was awesome. It is root vegetable bi bim bap fusion hybrid cheese souffle. I enjoyed every mouthful.

adriana on 2015-11-06 said:
Not happy that there seem to be more foreign chains in Japan - even Australian ones. Soon there will be no point in going anywhere.

mother on 2015-11-06 said:
Is this the trip for going to weird unnatractive places?

Day 6 - Saturday, 7 November 2015

Mosquito mountain camera failure

Enough of this not going up a mountain bullshit, I may still be sick sort of, but I am going anyway.
I made my plan the night before, selecting my mountain to be small yet challenging, not too far away and cheap to get to. This narrowed it down to Mount Oyama which is quite near Hakone to the west of Tokyo.
To get there, I had to go across town to Shinjuku, then change to the Odakyu line, which then took about an hour on an express to get to Isehara, where you then join a long line for a bus that moves very quickly to take you another 30 minutes away.
When I saw the bus line, I thought my day was pretty much over, but they just kept bringing more and more busses and I was on board in 10 minutes.
The road to the start of the mountain path is hilarious, its only one lane shared in both directions by a snaking traffic jam. Small men with orange batons and walkie talkies are permanently stationed every few metres to wave you through or into a parking bay to let traffic pass.
I would say it was an efficient system, except at least 50 people were employed to get my bus to the mountain.

Once there, it looks really very steep, and there was no way to really take a photo of it due to trees. Turns out it was really very very steep, some of the steepest steps I have ever encountered.
It being a Saturday, there were lots of people, the difference here compared to Korea is they were mostly young people, I was old, in Korea I am young... for a mountain climber.
Japanese people still like to gear up for the occasion, but I think many of them prefer the gear to the hike, as an amazing number of people were wearing shoes I am convinced had been purchased specifically for today and only today.

There is a hilarious difference between young couples, and groups of young people of the same sex.
The young couples feature a girl complaining in a high pitched squeaky voice the whole way, whilst the guy laughs at her especially if she falls over.
The groups of people of the same sex are either guys teasing the slowest of the group, or girls exercising girl power and cheering each other on.

I know I am still not 100% well after this relatively moderate length climb, as I sweated gallons for no good reason, and my legs were pretty shaky on the way down, things I would not expect to occur in a 4 hour hike.
Still I made it, and I did not stop at all.

My camera however malfunctioned of sorts. I did not realise for ages and so missed many good photos, but the screen was flashing 'no card'.
It must have rattled loose, because I never open that compartment to take it in or out, its probably not been opened in years.
Unfortunately, instead of having a black screen with a big error message, it appears to take a photo and just flash 'no card' in orange in the corner, I did not notice for at least an hour.
So there are no photos from the top, it was clouded in anyway, and I re took some photos on the way down which would have come out better on the way up when the sun was still out.

Last minute update, as I type this I turned on my tv that has no English channels at all, and a kids cartoon was on, which features no talking of any kind, just garden gnomes vomiting rainbows, for 30 minutes.

Squeezed on a bus, which amazingly cost as much as the train ride. I guess they have to pay for all the men coordinating the passing of vehicles on a one lane suicide road.

Once off the bus, you go through a linear shopping mall selling mainly spinning tops that funnels you into the cable car station.

No cable car for me though. I waved at the suckers standing in line.

Instead, steps were the order of the day. Very very steep. Eventually they became natural rock outcrops with the occasional log staked in place, which were even more dangerous.
I took photos of them but my memory card issue means I dont have them.

The leaves were a rewarding kaleidescope if thats your thing.

There are 3 temples along the way. I wonder how they get the stuff up the hill to build them, pulled it up on the cable car I suppose. But how did they build the cable car track, pylons, station?
Perhaps the cable car has always been here, since the dawn of time.

Redundant temple photo, the next one is better.

Now we jump to the moment I realised I had been taking photos that had not saved, by which time I was half way down again and the cloud had arrived. Still, colorful leaves.

Back below the cloud, the best I can do to suggest I was up high at some point. There were not a lot of clearings in the trees to take such photos, even at the summit.

These are the steepest steps I have ever climbed up (and then down again) in my life.

A twilight appeared just as I needed it to, note the glistening gold on the roof. The leaves here really were that red.

One feature of this mountain is all the potted colorful plants everywhere, they even had them at the summit.

Inside the temple was a flower display, I have seen a few the same around Japan the last few days.
If you like flowers you will like todays update.

Random photo of different colored trees. Probably still a bit early for peak autumn.

There were lots of huge spiders! On the internet I saw photos of dead snakes too, but I didnt see any myself.
Who knew Japan had snakes and spiders?

Once I got back to Shinjuku it was very dark and gloomy, and I was inexplicably exhausted.

Beneath the tracks

Its only 2 stops to Akihabara, so thats where I decided to go, on foot.
You can walk under the elevated JR line the enitre way which is actually very interesting. An artist community and market has popped up, completely making over the parking garage under the tracks and turning it into 100 or so small high end hand made goods shops.
Nothing in there was cheap. If you want a hat designed to match your beard, heres the place to go.
If you want ethically sourced hand made designer toilet paper, theres a store for that too. No Photos!
I think the market was called 2k548 Artisan. I looked around for the world famous leather banana holder that clips onto you bike seat, but couldnt find it, its the only thing I really wanted.

Cross over the road, and you will arrive at food truck heaven, theres about 50 of them and they are permanently in this location. Theres a heap of tables and chairs set up (my biggest gripe with food trucks is having to stand to eat), and public toilets etc.
Your foods of choice were similar to Adelaide food trucks, lots of mexican, gourmet burgers, hot dogs, meatballs. Just the thing to go with your artisan produced scarf and hat made from recycled fishing nets.

Soon after, I was in Akihabara, another of the most popular places with tourists, and there were millions of them here tonight.
Strangely, lots of middle aged women all dressed up looking cautiously and somewhat disapprovingly at the school girl maids, and the pornographic figurine representations of the same.
The maids seem to hae stopped trying, and are just wearing their actual school uniforms now, rather than the elaborate milk maid things I seem to recall.
Far scarier than this, is the gangs of visiting nerds from Australia (primarily), whos entire life so far has been leading to this point, its all downhill from here.
They were running around far too excited, and needed to be reminded to use their out in public voices.
One particular guy, evidently has come here in the same black kmart track pants he has been wearing for years now covered in a lifetime of stains that tell the story of his life, with most of his ass hanging out the back and most of his stomach hanging out the front. He folded most of his shame into his big bang theory bazinga t-shirt as he ran about panting from excitement.
When he stopped to look in a window he was literally vibrating on the spot and yelling for his friends to COME QUICK!
These were not young people, they were at least 30.

My hotel is probably not in the best part of town. Each night this row of signs appears on the street out the front.

Something we still dont have in Australia, somewhere proper to park your bike. Actually I may have seen one in Brisbane.
How much did the bike lane cost in Adelaide thats being ripped out again? That would have paid for one of these in the middle of Adelaide for a decade with 3 permanent staff to make sure no one steals or damages anyones bikes.

Here I am looking for an artisan made nose picker.

This old style supermarket was really very awesome, but a total fire trap.

Peak food truck. Call an emergency council meeting. We need to shut this down.

AKB48 have their own cafe and shop. They are a group of 48 girls, of which maybe 6 are permanent members, of Japans number one pop star super group.
They have become like cirque du soleil, in that no ones sure how many of them there are, and they seem to tour multiple places simultaneously.
One day we will all be in AKB48.

I was now at my destination.

As evidenced by the massive amount of neon. Still, given that its Saturday night, I found it to be quiet.

A new concept in adult products, 10 storey shop with street facing windows.

If this is your thing, this is your place. I went up and down the escalators.

But I did have my dinner in the electronics store, and I did get to have my omurice, which was cheap.

But the real highlight today, a new flavour in zero calorie pepsi, LEMON AND MINT. And it is great.
Tastes a bit like fizzy toothpaste.
I genuinely like it.

David on 2015-11-07 said:
no more than 45 minutes

adriana on 2015-11-07 said:
How long did the walk from Ueno to Akihabara take, or how far is it in Km?

adriana on 2015-11-07 said:
Nice mountain, though I would take the cable car these days. Nice trees. The flowers are chrysanthemums which are the symbolic autumn flower and so there are lots of displays of perfect examples at this time of year.

Now there is a page 3. There are 3 days per page. I cant put it all on one page it would take forever to load.


Hi Resolution Panoramas

Latest Update

Day 1 - Monday, 2 November 2015
  Mile high typing club
  Mobile mucus dispersion unit
Day 2 - Tuesday, 3 November 2015
  Still alive
  Quietly confident
Day 3 - Wednesday, 4 November 2015
  Electric cubes and gap toothed models
  Need to step up my game
Day 4 - Thursday, 5 November 2015
  Sleepy train ride
  The dark temple
Day 5 - Friday, 6 November 2015
  Suburban Tokyo
  Not much has changed
Day 6 - Saturday, 7 November 2015
  Mosquito mountain camera failure
  Beneath the tracks
Day 7 - Sunday, 8 November 2015
  Much rain
  Soup in a can
Day 8 - Monday, 9 November 2015
  Not been here before
  And still it rains
Day 9 - Tuesday, 10 November 2015
  Long day at altitude
  Bare minimum
Day 10 - Wednesday, 11 November 2015
  Osaka castle - Nagoya branch
  Also theres Oso
Day 11 - Thursday, 12 November 2015
  Monkeys castles and fighter jets
  For one no sorry
Day 12 - Friday, 13 November 2015
  Grey day on a bald mountain
  Aeon ozone dome walk
Day 13 - Saturday, 14 November 2015
  Looming rain
  Throw everything on a plate
Day 14 - Sunday, 15 November 2015
  My room is old
  Too many places to eat
Day 15 - Monday, 16 November 2015
  Not a bad view
  I found them
Day 16 - Tuesday, 17 November 2015
  Rainy bomb day
  Get wet to go somewhere dry
Day 17 - Wednesday, 18 November 2015
  Mystery fair and bad pho
Day 18 - Thursday, 19 November 2015
  Raining tourists
  I got to wander
Day 19 - Friday, 20 November 2015
  Giant phallus
  Closed at seven
Day 20 - Saturday, 21 November 2015
  Under the sea
  The busy side
Day 21 - Sunday, 22 November 2015
  Final destination
  More than Shinjuku
Day 22 - Monday, 23 November 2015
  Other people
  Sudden downpour
Day 23 - Tuesday, 24 November 2015
  Sand castle
  Red lights dimmed
Day 24 - Wednesday, 25 November 2015
  No mountain
  It got cold
Day 25 - Thursday, 26 November 2015
  The shed

Hi Resolution Panoramas