More Trips

China4 April 18

Japan7 October 17

Taiwan4 March 17

Japan6 October 16

Europe May 16

Japan5 November 15

Korea2 March 15

Even More Trips

HongJapWan March 2014
Sichuan March 2013
Tokyo3 October 2012
China2 August 2012
Japwan March 2012
China November 2011
Korea September 2011
Taiwan March 2011
London3 June 2010
Japan May 2010
London2 February 2010
London September 2009
SE Asia December 2005

Visiting 9 cities in Japan - Oct and Nov 2016 - Page 3

Day 7 - Saturday, 22 October 2016

Huge hotel room

Now I am in Toyama, and have the biggest hotel room I have ever had in Japan. Just think of all the activities I can do in here! Its going to be awesome.

The journey from Nagano to Toyama takes about an hour by bullet train, inside a tunnel, with periodic views of smoke haze and factories.
The smoke haze is caused by idiot farmers, just like in Australia, insisting on burning rubbish in their fields. It is terrible and I dont know how they are allowed to do it still. Farmer idiocy is about a 3000% negative offset for all the hybrid cars and solar cells in the world.

My hotel in Toyama, which is a Daiwa Roynet, is a bit of a walk away from the central station, past the reconstructed castle, and near a semi abandoned Nagano style shopping street.
The station and castle area seem to have a bit more life about them, I hope this is the case! Although I am only here 2 nights and already have a full day activity planned for tomorrow that requires me to get up at 5am.

Now I might do some aerobics, pilates and lawn bowling in my huge hotel room.

This photo taken for work purposes, shows the full recycling station inside a Starbucks which everyone uses correctly, different plastic tubes for different cup types to be recycled.
Different holes for paper, food, plastic.
In Australia we just have one hole for everything. Thats enough talk about Australian holes for now.

Child safety fence has been erected around this fish pond.

The largest sea of bicycles I ever saw. Its early, so these people have all left for the weekend.

Last photo in Nagano is a bunch of school kids loudly protesting about something, this will be the theme for today.

Here is a shot I managed to snap from the train one of the few moments it was not in a tunnel. Nice smoke.

Some non farm related smoke to add to farmer smoke. Actually out the other window here is the sea of Japan. I never saw it from Japan before, but I did see it from Korea.

A small garden is being erected out the front of the Toyama station.

Toyama also has some old rickety trams.

The open sewers here seem to have very clean running water.

Here is the outside of my hotel, read the name, I also wrote it above, stop complaining I dont say what the hotel is.

Behind my hotel is this impressive looking curtain shop. I like to take the photo with people in it to add interest and to make them feel awkward.

The old covered shopping street is long, and mostly abandoned. There are a couple of nice department stores, and this pop up market, which is about the only part with any people.

It was hard to stay in the market due to the deafening noise from the street of idiots yelling at the top of their lungs through loud speakers.
I went out to investigate. The orange shirt guys are guarding the guy in the white shirt who is speed bowing at traffic whilst other people scream out distorted messages.

Then another speaker truck turned up and they had a screaming match in the street. This shit is the scourge of Japan. There were at least 10 other trucks going around.
This isnt a once a year thing, it happens in every city every time I am in Japan.

Apparently according to a map on the street corner, this is a famous preserved shopping street. Except the shops all closed down.

I headed out to a field and met this father and daughter who agreed to pose for me.

I found a nice bakery for a late lunch. They had a seating area. The sandwiches and bread rolls looked nice...except all they had left was tuna and egg and variations of the two mixed with cream. So I ended up with these two small plain looking things. At least it was cheap.

This is my huge hotel room. I am taking ballroom dancing lessons from the tv right now.

It even has a full size bath. I am laying in it now listening to political speakers / protestors circle the hotel with their loudspeaker trucks.

Places to eat

Toyama has lots of places to eat. I identified 3 places I want to eat at and I am only here 2 nights. Such a terrible dilemma.
I would still rate the city as quiet, but its a lot less quiet than Nagano.
There are people. Some of those people seem to be out enjoying themselves rather than on their way home.
There are bright lights. Basically two areas of bright lights, the station area with most of the hotels, and the red light district near my hotel.
The red light district was turned off until about 8pm, when suddenly they turned the lights on, and what looked like abandoned streets turned into guys with bad hair in dodgy suits standing in the middle of the road trying to look tough but actually looking like 12 year olds.

The station area, and the station itself, actually has lots of restaurants, stores, food halls, all the things you might expect in Japan.

Now I am back in my hotel room enjoying the huge amount of space I have to dance along to the AKB48 extravaganza.
Actually on the tv is a 30 minute advertisement, where a camera crew sneak into a clothing store change room where girls are not fitting into pants they are trying on.
Music starts and the girl looks shocked. Then 2 anorexic Japanese girls dressed as Hawaiian hula dancers come hula'ing into the change rooms and the camera crew produce a revolutionary new device which is like a seat mounted on a spring.
The girl too fat for her pants then sits on this seat and hulas on it for 3 minutes.
She then re tries on the pants, and they now fit! IT ONLY TAKES 3 MINUTES!

Let there be lights.

I read this place was good on the internet, so I went. It was good.
I chose the okonomyaki which the menu claimed was their top seller. It was good. It had various kinds of seafood and pork in a mountain yam pancake. It is quite small which is fine by me.
The clientele were very much into the baseball on the tv. When one player struck out a guy stood up and yelled at the tv for a while until his wife calmed him down.

One of the main streets. It has tram lines. This picture is weird, it looks like I got down close to the road to take it, but I didnt. Strange. I have pondered this for long enough already.

Frightened by the abundance of shops, lights and people, I retreated down some dark alleyways.

This store hired me to do their art work.

A completely different main street. I also went to the far side of the station. There was nothing there!

Under the station they have 3 food halls like this. They shut at 8pm though!

The path under the station to the far side of nothingness either is under construction or has a modern art installtion. I am not sure which.

Bonus neon is over the road from my hotel, it suddently sprang to life on my way home from the convenience store where I bought a selection of salted plums and anchovy mix.

There are currently 2 comments - click to add

Mother on 2016-10-22 said:

Okonomiyaki yum.

jenny on 2016-10-22 said:

and the attractions of Toyama are? Do we need to go there?

Day 8 - Sunday, 23 October 2016

Volcanic gas panic

Today I climbed one of Japans 3 sacred mountains located on the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.
The alpine route goes from Toyama, across, above and under the alps, back to Nagano where I was. Let me explain.
You take a train, then a cable car, then a bus, then an electric bus under a mountain (which I climbed instead, and went back to Toyama), then a cable car, then a cog railway, then a train.
So I took it to a place called Murodo, and got off, this involved a 70 minute ride on a slow train from Toyama up into the mountains, I took the first train, which meant waking up at 5AM.
I sure do wake up early a lot to do things in Japan. 5AM in Toyama streets was quite busy on Sunday morning with people coming home, the train however was not, a good sign!.
I was at the cable car station for the first car up, I had read about having to wait a long time to get on this, and Sunday is the busy day, so I was pleased with this.
At the top, I was in line for the bus, which left in 20 minutes....just enought time for the next cable car to arrive full of tour groups who all got to push in. These were exclusively Japanese tour groups, I know my mother will ask.
Anyway, they squeezed me onto the bus, which is then about a 45 minute ride along an amazing mountain road that climbs forever around constant twists and turns.
I dont know how they get the bus up here? I had to take a cable car, and the other side is a huge tunnel under a mountain that only electric busses can go on due to fumes.

Anyway, the bus stops at about 2000 metres in altitude, so only 1000 to go to the summit of Mount Tate!

The bus station is massive, and there are multiple hotels, restaurants and various lodges all over the plateu with an amazing view, and theres hot springs down the valley and volcanic gas blowing about. This is a big problem!
It seems in recent years the gas has caused most of the lodges to close. There are signs everywhere warning people. I suffered no ill effects, I also didnt get eaten by a bear.

Like seemingly all my days in the mountains, I went the wrong way! But was rewarded for doing so, my course was much more interesting, I came down the main path and a lot of that was actually concreted, although the last hour that way is also scrambling over rocks.
I think my climb took me over 2 other summits, it was hard to see most of the time, and then after about 3 hours I was on top Mount Tate. I saw no one until I got to the summit, there were about 5 people up there, and I passed a lot of people on the way down on the main route.

Then I just had to repeat the bus / cable car / train journey back home.

If you do the whole Alpine route back to Nagano, I believe its a very rushed 9 hour journey with very little time to do anything other than line up for the next leg of the journey.
However there is a very impressive dam on the far side of the mountain I climbed which I did not get to see. The entire route was originally built to allow this dam to be constructed, all the material was hauled up on cable cars.

I rate this attraction a solid 10 out of 10!

WARNING: there are a lot of photos below, get your scrolling fingers ready.

My first mode of transport was a rickety old slow train that wound its way up the mountain. Still it stopped at every tiny station with no one at it. Most of those stations were a shed that was in the process of falling over.

I was excited to get onto the first cable car.

This is the cable car, I think I am calling it the wrong thing. Its a cable drawn tram built on a slope. Not really shown is that it pulls a number of freight carriages below it, as its original design was to haul dam constructing materials up the mountain.

I helped the driver.

I helped him by spotting the end of the tunnel.

We were now in the fog already. However it did not rain all day.

The alpine route is famous in spring for the snow walls, which are sometimes 15 metres high as depicted in this exciting diorama. It being Autumn now, there is currently no snow. There was just a bit of ice as you shall see.

Perhaps today is the day to be eaten by a bear!

I treated myself to a filling breakfast of pocky. Remember I got up at 5am, got the train at 6 after walking a couple of kilometres to the station. Its a long day!

The bus operator has done a Chinese observation deck trick. Because the view out the window is so often fog and cloud, they filmed a clear day, and play that back on the tv in sync with where we are.
We even stopped to look at a waterfall across a valley, except all there was to see was whiteness, so we looked at the screen.

The bus station at the top lets out into a mini shopping mall.

I was off and racing, first I walked around this volcano crater.

Then I looked at one of the lodges that can still operate. Most have closed down due to volcanic gas panic.

There are outdoor natural hot baths down there, but you are not allowed to use them anymore.

Optical illusion, thats looking down at cloud, but theres also steam and gas coming out of the ground.

I chose to ignore all the warnings and push on!

The view started to become excellent.

Another look down into hell valley. They really call it that. But they call all volcanic valleys across Japan hell valley.

Instead of staying in lodges in the valley, you can pitch a tent. No thanks. But I thought this was the start of the main path to the summit of Mount Tate.
It wasnt, it was an alternate longer more difficult path. The tents are just pitched here because its an area safe from gas.
If you want to go up the main path, it goes right from the bus station.

Next I crossed a small clear stream. I wore my proper boots today. And camo pants so I can hide from bears.

I was enjoying the view!

Looking downwards at hell valley and some abandoned lodges.

Every now and then the fog would clear for a few seconds.

This was the hardest part of the climb. I wasnt sure if I was on an actual path here, I found it again at the top of the next ridge.
The path is generally painted rocks, but when its a rock slide, I guess the painted rocks slide away.

After climbing up the rock slide, it was time for a snack, my Korean favourite Calorie Mate! I was excited to keep going.

The path can be seen here on the left. I was relieved when I re found the path, going back down to go back up again would have been annoying.

But I still had a long way to go. Thats not even the summit!

The views were amazing. I keep repeating myself here. Shut up and scroll.

At the bus station theres a whole display on these critically endangered birds. I saw them in the wild. They feel nice to kick. I think they are flightless.
I will call you, delicious mountain chicken, goes great with calorie mate and pocari sweat.

The far side of a ridge near one of the summits has a mini glacier thing going on. It was cold now! I had my jacket off until this point, but ice crystals were forming on my face in the wind here.

I had the first of three summits all to myself. It had no view though.

I was fairly certain this was the way to the main summit! It was an excellent but cold scramble.

And this is what I was looking for, the gateway to the summit shrine. You used to have to pay 500 yen to go to the shrine on the summit, but I guess with the lodges closing down and the volcanic gas panic, theres a lot less climbers. The payment counter was boarded up.

3003 metres, which 9852 feet. To get to here took about 3 hours, only one hour of that would be high intensity, the other 2 were medium intensity climbing....according to my heart rate monitor.

The shrine, in a rare moment of no fog.

Me with some ice crystals on my face. I wiped frozen snot from my nose.

Me again, what a view of whiteness....

Me and the shrine.

Now I realised I had gone an alternate way, as there were other people coming up the main route.

A bit below the summit theres a shelter cut into the cliff. I still dont know how they construct these things. Helicopter?

This is the path to the summit shrine, the light gives it an end of the world aura.

Thats actually looking downwards. It was a fun first half of the descent.

But then it turns into a concrete path. The rest of the way was quite pedestrian. Glad I came up the other way by accident.

Looking behind me still had some great views, no bears to be seen though.

Last one of view.

Murodo bus station, you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.
Now just 3 hours of transport back to the hotel.

Famous food and plenty of parking

Toyama has more places to park than any other city I have seen in my life. Most of the city is dedicated to parking. Not multi storey parking buildings, just a patch of concrete exposed to the elements where you can pay to park a car.
Entire sections of main roads have no shops or offices, just parking concrete, with machines to pay, bollards to prevent escape without paying, and tyre shredding devices installed.
I have heard about people complaining that big cities have no where to park, and its very inconvenient compared to whatever place they come from, but how convenient does that become when it becomes all parking? Quite unbecoming I would imagine.

Aside from many empty parking areas, Toyama has 2 favourite foods, negro ramen, and creme brulee crepes. I decided to have both.

Negro ramen is easy to find, theres a number of stores in the city making the Toyama style version of ramen with a dark soup base, hence the negro name.
I couldnt really discern a different taste, even though I went to the all Japan ramen champion for 5 years in a row. It was nice enough, fairly small serve which is fine with me. That would leave room for the crepe.

I had eyed off a shop selling these crepes near my hotel. The creme brulee crepe takes the standard Harajuku style crepe, filled with custard, and then they take a blow torch and burn the top like a portugese tart. Only problem was the store was closed. It is only open during the day. This seems wrong.
Hopefully I can try and find the same thing in Kanazawa, where I am going tomorrow, it is part of Toyama prefecture, despite not being Toyama city. Which is confusing I realise.

Just a random small restaurant street I found near my hotel. They did not have a negro ramen shop here though.

The covered shopping street is no busier at night.

Nice statue. You might think this was the red light district. No. It is the front window of a department store.

I walked past the Toyama recent re-creation of a castle.

1/8 shutter speed hand held night, multi frame noise reduction, high iso, nice clouds.

My ramen.

The place is genuinely quite famous, I read about it on multiple websites. The good thing about these Japanese cities having no people is you can eat at these places without having to line up for an hour.

One of thousands of parking areas.

The closed crepe shop. I took a photo of the picture in case I dont find one somewhere else.
There is a store in Tokyo that is now doing this which was recently in the New York Times describing it as the worlds biggest food trend of the week. Long sentence was long, but not as long as the line. The line to the Tokyo one was 100 metres long, I saw pictures.

There are currently 2 comments - click to add

Jenny on 2016-10-23 said:

Am I the only reader of your blogs or the only fool who comments? Pity they have so many signs in English these days, takes half the fun away. How are you getting to Kanazawa - bus?

adriana on 2016-10-23 said:

great photos today. Go much higher and you will have been as high as me. You still haven't quite made it to above any vegetation yet.

How long did the whole walk take?

Day 9 - Monday, 24 October 2016

Castles gardens and tourists

Kanazawa has the same population as Toyama, and yet it seems 10 times bigger.
It is sometimes referred to as little Kyoto, as a result, there are tourists everywhere.
The train ride was all of 30 minutes, and there was actually a view to enjoy for at least half the journey, a first for Japan!
The weather is also fantastic, I am wearing my shorts with pride. I originally wanted to spend 4 days here instead of 2, Toyama was added on because I could not get any accommodation in Kanazawa over the weekend. I think its where everyone in Nagano and Toyama went.

There are also westerners everywhere. Kyoto levels of white people. All flocking to the castles and gardens. I decided to do the same as I was too early to check into my hotel.
Somehow I took a lot of pictures this morning, oh well. Prepare for scrolling. Pro tip - page down is faster if you just want to skip to the end and tell me you looked / read my nonsense.

I got up early and did my washing. It was not fully dried. It was then transported damp in my suitcase, and is now drying in my huge hotel room in Kanazawa.

As I said, the weather was fantastic. Heres a main street in Toyama whilst I paced about waiting for my washing to catch fire or shrink down to doll size. It looks like theres been a zombie apocolypse.

Toyama is really proud of being compact. Every bus and tram says COMPACT CITY on the side. A strange thing to brag about. Like bragging about your superior quality of potassium.

I am no marriage expert, but I believe in Australia if you describe a wedding as being beige, its an insult.

I found a bonus Toyama temple whilst waiting for a coffee shop to open (8am is the earliest any open, on a work day!) and also waiting for my washing still.

I think its brand new, parts of it are under construction. So compact.

Some of the streets are nice with trees and colored man hole covers and birds making a strange mechanical noise.

Before getting on my bullet train I had a small sandwich with buttered lightly toasted bread. Not bad. Could do without the mystery creams.

View from the bullet train!

Kanazawa station is very impressive. The city has 3 centres, this isnt even one of them, yet its still very busy and colorful around the station. The traditional gate is made of recycled plastic.

This is my hotel. ANA Holiday Inn Sky Plaza. It looks old and tired from the outside. Its the biggest hotel in the city by a considerable margin, and obviously due to its name, popular with foreigners. But its also cheap.

And what a fantastic view from my room!

More view.

Over the road from my hotel is a huge market. With people! Pay attention Nagano and Toyama, people in covered shopping streets!
There is a whole grid of them including food markets, and its packed out at lunch time on a Monday. My photo is from a less busy corner.
There were even restaurants with long lines of people wanting to line up for their lunch.

Due to the excellent weather, I pushed on to the castle ruins and replacement castle.

The grounds had nice formal gardens to appreciate, for free.

This is all the castle there is to see, you have to pay to go in, I didnt. Its not the actual castle, that was destroyed to prevent samurais from taking over again.
This is the storage shed for the demolished castle. Presumably where they kept ladders and gardening equipment to keep the samurai master pleased.

Now I went over the road to the main attraction of this city, the Kenrokuen gardens. This guy is taking it seriously.

Where as these old men are sweeping mud for some reason. Its 310 yen to get in to see mud sweepers.

It was nice enough I suppose. But I dont think it warrants the amount of tourist hysteria it gets. I have seen nicer free gardens on the side of the road in other places.

Nice lake, I have done well to hide the thousands of tourists. Again they all seem to be Japanese tour groups. Westerners generally are showing themselves around. I saw no Chinese at all, unless I cant recognise them and their tourmaster was barking at them on the loud speaker in Japanese.
I presume when every sentence the tour herder is screaming ends in arigato gozaimasu they are screaming at Japanese people. But I could be wrong.

Japanese people like to play dress up to come to the garden. I took this sneaky creep shot.

Then I took an even more disturbing photo.

Theres a few streams and trees, but really its nowhere near the spectacle of the Suzhou gardens in China.

Outside there is a row of ice cream shops.

This is a high school memorial museum. What? I dont know either. To the right is the castle remains.

I dont know whats been going on here, or is about to happen, but they need about 1000 portable toilets. Japanese metamucil speed eating championships.

One of 3 city centres. The whole place looks very nice.

And my hotel room not only has views, its huge.

Last photo for now. Kind of wish I had more time in Kanazawa. Glad I went to the gardens and castle today as to me its not worth a full day of my time.
I have other plans for my day depending! Rain is forecast.

Its a real city

As my unimaginative title suggest, Kanazawa is a real city, even on a Monday night. Its Monday isnt it? Yeah, Monday.
My route first went to the old geisha area. This is where shops selling ice cream are paying minimum wage to aspiring actresses to dress up and dart across the street pretending to be geishas.
No master is parading his real live in sex slave for tourists to snap photos of.
According to the internet, theres lots of very exclusive restaurants in this area, which no westerner would ever be allowed to enter. I kept sliding open their stupid paper doors and asking if they sold omurice. It gets cold here, use something other than paper.

After geisha district, I headed back to one of the main areas of town. In addition to department stores this one had a long outdoor (no roof) upscale shopping mall, the likes of which I have not really seen in Japan before. Full sized multi storey western shops. I was there at 8pm so they were all in the process of shutting.

There were also alleyways you can barely walk down hidden in backstreets with sheds erected either side housing really smokey bars. I saw lots of young Americans wandering around here trying to penetrate the Japanese defences designed to keep them out.

Somehow I also found myself back near the castle, the walls of which appear enourmous once lit up at night, I did not appreciate just how big they are during the day.
However nearby outdoors in a park, there was a very formal exclusive event going on, with old women giving speeches and getting polite claps from a mini auditorium full of people. I wandered right up to the back of the stage and peered at the audience in front of me over an old ladys shoulder who was illuminated by spotlights.
Unfortunately I was not invited to give a speech.

Heading into the geisha district.

I didnt actually see anyone, but there was drumming coming from inside the wooden houses. No doubt the poor toeless geishas putting on a show for their slavemaster before they bathe him.
Go read about what they do to their toes.
You read toeless as topless didnt you?

Genghis Khan was last here in the 1700's with Marco Polo. Together they collected tuna from the Tsujiki fish market and took it back to Cleopatra.

Castle walls. 3 levels of them.

It is also possible to do leaf appreciation hypervenilation at night.

I am now taking photos in toilets. No sleeping!

In the backstreets I found audio man. Inside theres an old guy with piles and piles of cd's and tapes. I do not know if its actually possible to get inside.

Tiny bar alley, one of many. Fire hazard.

I crossed a few bridges, this one looks back towards the city centre, so I nearly got hit by a bus taking the photo.

Like I said, a real city.

How I feel.

Moar curry, moooaaar. This time its mainly vegetable curry with avocado and coleslaw. Those things are a great mix.

There are currently 2 comments - click to add

adriana on 2016-10-24 said:

interesting choice for dinner. Never seen that before.

mother on 2016-10-24 said:

Yay people!

Now there is a page 4, click the thing.


Day 1 - Sunday, 16 October 2016
  Magpie attack!
  Landing gets you half way there
Day 2 - Monday, 17 October 2016
  Splashing about in tunnels
  Green motorbike birth place
Day 3 - Tuesday, 18 October 2016
  I saw it!
  Used and Organic
Day 4 - Wednesday, 19 October 2016
  Public convenience
Day 5 - Thursday, 20 October 2016
  Not too early for color
  Still just a station
Day 6 - Friday, 21 October 2016
  It happened again
  City in decline
Day 7 - Saturday, 22 October 2016
  Huge hotel room
  Places to eat
Day 8 - Sunday, 23 October 2016
  Volcanic gas panic
  Famous food and plenty of parking
Day 9 - Monday, 24 October 2016
  Castles gardens and tourists
  Its a real city
Day 10 - Tuesday, 25 October 2016
  Racing the rain that never was
  NO PHOTO Bigot
Day 11 - Wednesday, 26 October 2016
  Slow train to big city
  They actually finished one
Day 12 - Thursday, 27 October 2016
  Canyon mountain
  Repeat visits
Day 13 - Friday, 28 October 2016
  New airport day
  Wheely good time
Day 14 - Saturday, 29 October 2016
  No smog yes people
  So happy to give information please sit
Day 15 - Sunday, 30 October 2016
  Terrible sign failure
  Pre halloween
Day 16 - Monday, 31 October 2016
  Baseball legend
Day 17 - Tuesday, 1 November 2016
  Dam it
  Flipping my own food
Day 18 - Wednesday, 2 November 2016
  Fight for your right for a view
  Running with the buses
Day 19 - Thursday, 3 November 2016
  Dull hysteria
  The final freeze
Day 20 - Friday, 4 November 2016
  Under the sea
  Nights of the warming lights
Day 21 - Saturday, 5 November 2016
  White flag
Day 22 - Sunday, 6 November 2016
  Lets try that again
  Damp pants
Day 23 - Monday, 7 November 2016
  Last stop
  Tourists outnumber locals
Day 24 - Tuesday, 8 November 2016
  So shiny
Day 25 - Wednesday, 9 November 2016
  Now they are rubbish
  Button security
Day 26 - Thursday, 10 November 2016
  For the sake of completeness