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Japan and Taiwan March 2012 - Tokyo - Osaka - Kyoto - Taipei - Keelung - Page 2

Day 4 - Friday, 9 March 2012

Bullet train to Osaka

First of all, it rained all day, across all of Japan, with the cloud never really lifting above the tops of tall buildings.
This made my bullet train ride somewhat boring, as I couldnt see much out the window.

Before getting to the bullet train I had to get across Tokyo, no problem, I have taken the rapid line train which usually takes 10 minutes a few times.
Today it took an hour. The train mostly stayed stopped. The information board said service delayed - door inspection. Really? Then later it changed to service suspended until further notice, all whilst I am on the train. Would we be rescued by men in helmets on ladders?
As it turns out, no such luck, the train continued on to Tokyo station at walking pace, stopping many times in between. Also there were so many people crammed onto it that if I had of been stabbed I wouldnt have been able to fall over to die. Strangely I enjoyed this adventure.
I still made it to the Shinkanzen station with plenty of time to spare, I did find it quite confusing to have to scan out of the metro and into the Shinkanezen simultaneously, a guard helped me.

Next up, the Nozomi Super Express. Slightly dissapointing. I think the Chinese and Taiwanese trains are faster. Also despite this being the land of the vending machine, the only machine on the entire train had bottles of water and plain iced tea (one flavour).
There was no dining car, there was no food cart. Everybody bought enough food with them for a 12 hour trip even though its only 2.5 hours.

All of Japan looks the same, the same poor looking low rise city as far as the eye can see forever, with occasional light industry or a car factory.
I could sort of make out some hills or mountains in the distance but they were largely obscure by cloud.

Getting out of Shin-Osaka station was also an adventure, my SUICA card doesnt work in Osaka despite wikipedia saying its 100% interchangeable with ICOCA. It took me some time to find where I could buy the ICOCA card. Every card funding machine in Tokyo can issue a SUICA but in Osaka you must go to the JR information desk to buy one...this seems wrong but its what the guard told me.

When I found this info desk there was a woman busy screaming at the one girl on the counter and she had at least 10 different train tickets lined up on the counter whilst pointing at them furiously. Meanwhile a guard apologised to me every 5 seconds for her behaviour. It was a comedic scene I was enjoying greatly!
The guard got so embarassed at me having to wait and witness this that he asked me what I wanted (I think, he might have actually told me he is a gay astronaught for all I know!). He then climbed over the counter, gave me an ICOCA card and when I handed him the money he gave me change out of his own wallet as he couldnt get to the register.
The rest of the journey on the subway was uneventful, finding my hotel was a bit of a challenge in the rain but its fantastically located and luxurious.

Large block of text is large.

As I set out for the day, a film crew had set up the hotel car park to make a movie starring a slightly riced up mini van.

My train, Nozomi 700 series. I couldnt get to the front or back to take a better photo.

The view out the window, somewhere between Yokohama and Nagoya.

Nagoya view.

Somewhere between Nagoya and Kyoto.

The inside of the train. The guy next to me spent the entire 2.5 hours getting angry that he couldnt connect to the wifi. He was going slightly insane. I hardly sat in my seat instead choosing to press my face against a larger window between carriages.
This confused the conductors who assumed I was a stow away and kept demanding to see my ticket. They were apologetic each time I produced a valid ticket.

The ancient capital of Kyoto...

My mother is staying in this same hotel soon, so she will demand pictures. Here they are.

Bathroom has customary full length window so you can pull up a chair and watch what everyone gets up to in the bathroom. This is a common feature in asian hotel rooms.

The street outside my hotel is mainly porn shops, maid bars and soaplands. However its just one street back from the famous canal in the next picture and 2 laneways from the main shinshabashi covered shopping street (also shown below).

Generally photographed at night, I am sure I will do that later.

The covered shopping street. Actually now its a grid of covered streets, if it keeps raining like it has been I will spend the next week here.

I was cold and wet, so ramen seemed like a good idea. Unlike my last 2 bowls, this one had heaps of pork, at least 6 slices, and it had been marinated in some sort of sticky sauce that made it more flavoursome. Also the soup was nearly pure collagen. I am now at least 23% pig.
It was interesting watching the guy make it, he put some thick sauces in the bottom of the bowl before adding the soup broth and noodles. He also spilt massive amounts of everything on the floor whilst yelling excitedly the whole time.


It almost stopped raining, almost. Not enough to warrant venturing away from covered pedestrian mall area.
The Shinsaibashi thing is very long with mostly shops selling lingerie. Its not really your top level shops like cartier and louis vutton, they tend to be one street over, in the rain, with no customers. Instead theres lots of pachinko places, karaoke lounges and cheaper shops selling nothing I want.
There are however people, and I like to go where theres people, in case something ridiculous might happen.
Tonights ridiculous incident was in the guitar shop. A group of tough guys with slightly longer hair than the normal military style, clip on ear rings and ridiculous clothing were trying out various expensive guitars. Only problem is they were universally terrible. No problem, the photo is more important. Time to comb each others hair into a delicately arranged mess and strike a pose.
Unforunately this occured after the shop owner told me no photos!


Me with the Neon.

This is the Dotonbori restaurant street. At least 100 places to eat along here. Too bad I wasnt hungry yet.

This is a hotel. One of those hotels where you can either rest (pay by hour) or stay. My choice of themed room would be the space station room, it has padded ceilings.

hmmm, maybe another time I will be brave enough for a return visit to a cat cuddling cafe

Guitar shop was pretty impressive.

They even had Mayones guitars on the rack, I thought they were made to order.

My dinner, keen for it not to be ramen I spotted a pizza place with a wood oven and tabasco sauce on the table. It was decent, real buffalo boconcini etc.

bobule on 2012-03-09 said:
making me hungry!!
you should have bought an epic guitar..

David Newton on 2012-03-09 said:
Yes I have a coat, but I hate wearing it. Might have to tonight due to rain and 0 degrees.

mother on 2012-03-09 said:
take a photo of the hotel foyer and the outside for us please.
We have just had our last meal before HOng Kong tomorrow. Roast pork! Did you take a coat with you?

Day 5 - Saturday, 10 March 2012


As the title says, today I went to Kyoto. When I woke up the sun was actually shining so I thought I better make the most of it.
Kyoto is a 20 minute train ride from Osaka, its also the most popular tourist destination in Japan. I liked it, the city is very nice surrounded by hills with a mix of old, faux old, and shiny new.

Since I took a lot of photos, I will type crap next to them rather than here.

Arriving at Kyoto station, at first I was dissapointed. I had read about how awesome the new station was, but it looks pretty crappy from here.

However once you get into the building alongside the station which is actually a shopping mall, its quite impressive, not Chinese impressive though.

Its actually an Isetan department store, you can go up the outside of it onto the roof, 10 floors up.

Which of course gives you a great view, enjoy my crooked horizon. Also for some reason they put tinted glass on the barriers.

I found a way to get out onto the helicopter landing pad. No helicopters came whilst I was there.

The nearby Kyoto tower must be really struggling for visitors since they built the equally high station next to it, obscuring its view.

The outside of the station. Thats probably enough train station photos.

The city of Kyoto is basically a giant theme park for shrines and temples. You cant go more then a few hundred metres without coming to another one.
I dont really know which are old and which are new recreations of old. I think this one is new since you dont have to pay to get in.

Faux shrine is setting up for a concert for the tsunami anniversary.

This is one of the gates to the imperial palace gardens. Apparently this is the reserve palace for the emperor in case Tokyo gets destroyed again.

Which means you cant see the palace at all, unless you are invited. You cant get a glimpse through a gate, over a wall, nothing. That would cheapen it for the invited people who get to witness the magical powers of the Japanese royal family. They can fly and transform into cuddly toys and/or flying robots.

Over the road from the fenced off hidden imperial palace is a faux shrine. This one has many wedding halls around it and you can pay to have your photos taken etc.

This is a real castle...Nijo castle. No photos allowed inside cause it has 500 year old fabric paintings. You have to take your shoes off and put ridiculous slippers on that no one (especially me) could get to stay on their feet.

You are allowed to take photos of the garden area.

From this lookout you can see most of the single level castle. Also look closely and you can see a blimp flying above.

There are all kinds of blossoms blossoming here. And people taking photos of them excitedly.

Todays ramen came with bonus special fried rice. Ordering was more difficult than normal, despite pointing at main picture on the card handed to me, the girl came back 10 minutes later with the card at which I pointed again. She told me something about it, so I literally told her to bring anything thats hot. Not that she understood, but she did nod and smile.
In the end I got what I ordered.


This evening I went for...wait for it, a really long walk.
I set off looking for America town, but I must have missed it. After more than an hour I ended up in the Umeda / Osaka station region, which is very modern and upmarket.
This is actually 2 very large stations joined together with multiple department stores, underground eating areas etc.
Go one street back and like everywhere in Japan its karaoke lounges, porn shops, love motels and strangely, pet shops. I think a lot of girls get a puppy or a kitten in exchange for spending an hour with their boyfriend in a hotel room with mirrored everything.

Pretty sure I walked at least 20km today, not as much as my estimated 30km on my second day in Tokyo, but none the less I am exhausted. My feet however are going strong! On previous trips they would have been bloody pulps by now, not sure whats different....same shoes, same socks, same feet.

No one cares about my feet im sure. Onto the photos!

Whens the last time you saw a line down the street for Krispy Kreme?

I am still constantly amazed at ths size of Yodobashi and Bic Camera stores. They really are full of just mobile phones, cameras, computer games, tv's etc. Theres an entire floor dedicated to headphones and earbuds.
Remember when the only headphones you could get in any store were those sony ones with the orange foam bits?

hmmm, a ferris wheel....

On the top of a 10 storey building...

Challenge accepted.
Standing up in the carriage like a boss.
I was kind of hoping the earthquake would happen now. I cant think of a better way to be killed than plummeting from the top of a ferris wheel from the top of a building.


More view

Last view

I managed to get badly lost in all these covered alleyways. They are not a grid pattern at all.

The JR Osaka station is very impressive. In case you didnt notice, I like train stations.

My dinner, Osakas signature dish, Okonomiyaki. Its a kind of cabbage pancake with different stuff in and on it.
The most common kind has sweet barbecue sauce and noodles in it too. I elected for the healthier version with radish shoots and potato.

David Newton on 2012-03-10 said:
Hello mother. I think you are drunk when you type some of these comments. The random capitalization etc. This last one isnt so bad but the previous one I couldnt even make enough sense out of to correct! In the middle of it you seem to have pasted part of an email to someone else!

Anyways, it wasnt particularly cold in Kyoto, probably the warmest day since I have been here.

mother on 2012-03-10 said:
In HOng Kong. Room is tiny but ok! We are in the middle of the slums in a street full of nuts and bolts and scrap metal shops. Caught the bus from the airport but missed the stop by two stops, so took a while to find the hotel. Have been to langham Plaza for dinner and a walk around tonight. Will explore tomorrow. You should have gone to Kyomizu dera or Kinkakuji in Kyoto. WAS it very cold. EVery time I have been to Nijo castle it has been freezing.

Day 6 - Sunday, 11 March 2012


I awoke to bright sunshine, despite the forecast of rain. I thought I had better make the most of it and head to the other nearby city of Kobe.
Like most of Japan, Kobe suffered a major earthquake in its past. In Kobe's case, it was relatively recently in 1995, killing 6,500 people. Upon researching that stat I found out this was in fact the worst earthquake in Japan since 1923, which I find surprising as I thought every 10 years or so on average they had some sort of earthquake taking out 100,000 people.

Getting there is easy, and cheaper than getting to Kyoto despite being about the same distance.
My brief internet research before leaving told me that theres a cable / rope car to Mount Rokko. Sounds good to me.

I like to document every kind of transport I use. Today I went on a suburban bus from the Rokko station on the Hanyu line to the Mount Rokko cable car station.

The cable car itself is a staircase. Its also very old. Much like the trams that go to the peak in Hong Kong. At the top of this mountain is the oldest golf course in all of Japan, the cable car was built to ferry rich white people up to it.

Like all such things, you can never capture the slope with a photo.
My research suggested its not possible to walk up here unless you walk up the twisty road and risk being hit by tour busses. Which sounds more fun than it probably is.

There was no driver or conductor on this, the ride takes a good 15 minutes.

The view from top allows you to take in not only Kobe as seen here but Osaka on the other side. The bright sunshine of the morning was replaced by hazy cloud the moment I got to the top.

More view.

Still more view. It was -2 degrees up here and quite windy at times. Still I was excited because I like mountains.
Also, picture number 100!

Snow! The last of the snow. I could see some more substantial bits but couldnt really photograph them. Every patch I saw I decided to turn into yellow snow.

There were a lot of secret large houses up here, behind big gates and driveways, hard to photograph, but all of them seemed strangely abandoned. There are also big places like this, which have falling down advertisements for their restaurants and clubs etc. I never saw another person.

There is no English signage, the maps lacked a YOU ARE HERE pointer, and many map signs were so badly weathered you couldnt read them. So I decided just to try my luck, knowing I might have to double back. At times I thought I might be on someones driveway, and sometimes the path was covered in so much debris and leaf matter it was hard to tell if it was the path.
However I eventually looped back and took this photo to celebrate, I look very wind swept.

Bonus view.

Back at the cable car station, a few people have attached locks to things just like they do in Korea.

Downtown Kobe is all shiny and new looking, probably rebuilt since the earthquake.

The entire city is on a slope into the enormous harbour at the bottom of the hill. Theres also an airport built on a man made island much like the Osaka airport. Looking at a map the Kobe airport seems to be closer to Osaka than the Kansai airport.

More covered arcades. This one had cafe land coming off of it, which was actually really good. The food in all these cafes looked great and it was a bit rustic, no Yoshinoya or Sukiya to be seen, just what appeared to be indepedently run shops. There were 10 places I might have liked to have lunch.

I decided on pyramid curry, mainly because of the egyptian theme that made no sense at all, plus I could see what the guy was cooking and what other people were eating.
Also they had a sign claiming to serve a genuine Kobe beef steak with your curry. This turned out to be true. The meal was fantastic, its much bigger than it seems in the photo with a fairly sizeable steak cut into 4 pieces.
The guy did his best to ask in Japanese English if I wanted it spicy, I told him very spicy and made lots of hand movements. He got really excited by this. To his credit he actually made it spciy! Very delicious. I congratulated him on a fine meal, he seemed genuinely thrilled at the compliment, following me half way down the alley way thanking me, bowing profusely.
Great food and service for about $8, similar price to the coco chain that gives you a watery mess with no meat in it.

Den Den Town

The Osaka version of Tokyos Akihabara is called Den Den Town. As well as the shops selling new electronics, they have the usual porn stores, maid cafes and karaoke lounges.
However, they also have a huge number of stores selling second hand stuff, which is new to me in Japan. Especially interesting to all your people nerdier than me will be the old second hand console games shops. I took some photos.
A lot of shops selling weird old computer and phone parts were shut by the time I got there, so I might have to go again tomorrow.
Despite that there were an awful lot of uber nerds hanging around with high pants and extra large glasses. It seems to be the universal style, if you are excited by a graphing calculator, no matter where you come from you will look like Bill Gates.

The other thing are the 1990s era Hondas with air brushed manga homages, I couldnt quite capture a photo of one. Some had tentacles and small girls.

The main street in Den Den Town, this is where most of the shops selling second hand computer and electronics are, mostly shut. Go one street back on either side and the newer youth oriented shops were open.

Some of these game consoles were never released in Australia, also I might not be old enough to have appreciated them!

The Sega Saturn for example, never came to oz.

At some point, the cool colors were a kind of brown and cream.

This is one of the most amazing stores I have ever been in. All they sell is headphones, parts for headphones, headphone amps, cables etc. Like most Japanese stores they let you try them all, even in ear monitors (can you get ear aids?). They even have a sizeable second hand section. I was tempted by some Beyers but would be worried they would get smashed in my suitcase.

This is the outside of the hot new mall in Osaka, Namba Parks.

Redundant photo. It was damn freezing now, many locals were running from door to door of outside areas.

I however saw there was a roof garden, and headed for the roof, had the whole place to myself.

Time for a long exposure, I tried to stand in the frame and be a ghost but instead I am invisible.

After my big lunch I didnt really want any dinner, so I decided to have half a small beef bowl from Yoshinoya. Its cheap and hot, and beefy.

mother on 2012-03-12 said:
hello, nice photos today, some look very familiar. Where has the comments link gone?

There is now a page 3, use the navigation thing below or the index thing at the top left.


Latest Update

Day 1 - Tuesday, 6 March 2012
  Adelaide to Sydney
  Sydney airport
Day 2 - Wednesday, 7 March 2012
  I made it here
  Around Shinjuku
Day 3 - Thursday, 8 March 2012
  Ginza and a garden
  Indian curry in Japan
Day 4 - Friday, 9 March 2012
  Bullet train to Osaka
Day 5 - Saturday, 10 March 2012
Day 6 - Sunday, 11 March 2012
  Den Den Town
Day 7 - Monday, 12 March 2012
  Kaiyukan Aquarium
  Umeda Sky Building
Day 8 - Tuesday, 13 March 2012
  Osaka Castle
  Last night in Japan
Day 9 - Wednesday, 14 March 2012
  Travel day
  Food capital of the world
Day 10 - Thursday, 15 March 2012
  National palace museum
Day 11 - Friday, 16 March 2012
  Climbing the elephants back
  Shilin night market
Day 12 - Saturday, 17 March 2012
Day 13 - Sunday, 18 March 2012
  American diner
Day 14 - Monday, 19 March 2012
  Yangmingshan national park
  Just one photo?
Day 15 - Tuesday, 20 March 2012
  Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall
  Yay, a ferris wheel!
Day 16 - Wednesday, 21 March 2012
  Leaving Taipei
  Hong Kong airport