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

Japan and Taiwan March 2012 - Page 1

Day 1 - Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Adelaide to Sydney

Time to head off to Fukushima to address the core issues.
I have practiced solving Japans nuclear crisis by the almost as complex repair to my shower, which had also breached containment. The Japanese nuclear crisis was solved somewhat faster, right now the shower situation is still in progress, and just minutes before leaving for the airport I was able to find the key component to reparing the leak (correctly sized tiles).
Replacing 8 tiles in my shower and a single length of pipe is costing more than my entire trip to Japan and Taiwan! Including flights, accommodation, food etc.

Aside from that, the Adelaide Qantas club remains the same as it is every other week when I am here, plenty of cake, hardly anyone here. Lots of flights to Sydney are delayed, but mine seems to be going on time. Of course theres always the risk Qantas will cease all operations again like they did the week leading up to my trip to China.

Unfortunately, I have to sit here for 3/4 of an hour. Luckily 2 women arrived nearby in their power suits, and spend 30 minutes complaining that they couldnt get their laptops connected to the free wifi. This involved calls to all sorts of IT support people, and then bitching about how useless they are. It seems they desperately needed to copy and paste something they needed to download so that they could then print it and pass it off as their own work.
In the end they decided that one of the young Sydney guys 'has a thing for me so I will just go in early and get him to do it, leaning over his desk should do the trick'. Then they decided to complain about having to go to work at all, and that travelling the afternoon before the meeting to stay in the four seasons was a terrible burden, because their flight wont land until 7pm and they wont get paid overtime. They spent the rest of the time working on what color background a powerpoint presentation should have for maximum impact and reading the dot points out loud to each other.

First pictures of the partially rebuilt shower, will it be completed by the time I come home or will the wall be cut out again?

If you are important enough like I am, they give you one of these, so you can wave it about like a fool in the customs line and push to the front.

Sydney airport and lounge etc.

The flight to Sydney (which I take each week) was actually entertaining. It was dusk and the pilot advised us that an air ambulance had requested a priority landing.
So we circled around at low altitude skimming in and out of glowing red clouds above Sydney.

Unfortunately there was no line to speak of at customs, so my snob priority pass was useless, I didnt get to wave it at any poor people at all.

The international terminal is very quiet at night, with only one Qantas flight departing (mine) and 3 other flights to Hong Kong, Dubai and Beijing. I find this slightly odd, I always thought a lot of flights left at this time.

The first class lounge was also quite empty, a lot of single men travelling for work looking miserable, drinking as much expensive booze as they can without getting too drunk to be denied boarding. My dinner was great but I will let the photos describe it.

Coming up next, the 10 hour flight to Tokyo, followed by a 2 hour bus or train ride (I have not decided which yet), followed by many hours before I can check in to my hotel. A test of endurance and excess food consumption.

Rather than a full meal, I elected for the pulled brisket and fresh coleslaw toasted sandwhich, this was excellent.

Dessert was toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce, also excellent.

I presume this is my plane, painted in the Melbourne grand prix livery. Despite being a huge fan of F1, I think every year I am overseas when the Australian grand prix is on. Fail.

There are currently 4 comments - click to add

chocky on 2012-03-06 said:

I see you have cleverly hidden the tiler's unconscious body behind the shower wall without leaving any surface evidence, good work.

bobule on 2012-03-06 said:


mother on 2012-03-06 said:

hello, are you there yet? Mum

David Newton on 2012-03-04 said:

ok, lets see if my comments are still working...

Day 2 - Wednesday, 7 March 2012

I made it here

My flight threatened to be horrible, but turned out to be fine. I estimate it was 75% full which would normally mean I would get a spare seat next to me.
However, the vast majority of people on board were Japanese, along with some Australian boys (Trev, Dazza, Davo, Stevo, Spud were some of the names I heard!) on their first overseas trip using up frequent flyer points gained travelling fly in fly out to mining sites in the outback.
It would seem I was set to have 2 spare seats next to me, but the loud rude drunk Australians frightened some Japanese people, so they were moved into the area at the front, where theres 3 rows between 2 bulkheads.
Hence I had 2 idiots next to me demanding beer before the plane had pushed back, and describing loudly in detail what they intended to do to Japanese schoolgirls.
Next up, the movie system didnt work, and the constant attempts to reboot it for the first 5 hours of the flight just made the personal lights all turn on and off randomly in the entire plane simultaneously, they are controlled from the tv handset thingy.
None of this however, could match the power of xanax, I went to sleep and didnt wake up until breakfast was being served an hour before landing.

Customs was more interesting than normal, the customs officer had lots of questions and spoke perfect English, he demanded to know how much money I had, how I would get to the city, would I be able to afford to eat etc. He also insisted on seeing I had a departing ticket booked and questioned the accuracy of what I had written as occupation.

Tokyo is foggy, but isnt cold, I decided on the bus rather than the train as the Yamamote line at rush hour with my bags sounded foolish. I stood out on the street waiting for the bus wearing only a t-shirt but I wasnt freezing.

The bus got me to my hotel at Shinjuku by 9am, way too early to check in, so I dropped my bags off and headed to the main Tokyo station to buy a Shinkansen ticket for Friday. My Suica RFID travel pass still had credit from 2 years ago, Australian cities still rely on single use cardboard tickets, and 'PLEASE HAVE CORRECT CHANGE' signs.
I lined up where the sign said Shinkansen, only to be told you can only buy tickets in this line for same day travel, and I have to go outside and buy. This wasnt too difficult, but I think some nearby English understanding Japanese people had a few colorful insults for me anyway.

With nothing to do for many hours, I walked, North. Eventually this got me to Akihabara, electric town, but I got pretty lost along the way.

Turns out the plane I thought was mine wasnt, so heres the one that was mine which is the same but without the fancy paint job. Yes no one cares.

Narita airport seems to be 900km from the city. In the land of the fast train it takes 90 minutes by train, or 90 minutes by bus. I took the bus.

The bus ride had left me feeling weird, but coffee fixed that. They even understood skim milk, the same starbucks didnt offer it last time I was here.

Its me! Looking a little worse for wear.

I stumbled onto some sort of new fabric street on my walk, it seemed very unpopular.

There are many small canals running through Tokyo with canal boats such as these. However many of them are now in permanent shade as they make a great place to build an elevated highway.

I enjoyed this multi storey rusted car garage. I stood for 10 minutes hoping somoeone would use it.

That big building partially obscured by a tree is a Yodabashi electronics shop. Nothing but computers, ipads, dvd's etc. Its enormous. For Adelaide people, it probably has the same amount of floor space as 4 x Myer or David Jones stores. I even bought something!

A random street in Akihabara.

My lunch, I had no idea what I had ordered. And it was a bit dissapointing, half an egg, one slice of pork and some instant noodles in an almost tasteless broth. Unfortunately I am not a fan of Japanese food generally. Stay tuned for Taiwan to see some real food!

This is what I bought from Yodabashi, comply headphone tips, you cant get them in Australia unless you import them, which makes the shipping cost more than the product. They are made of space age foam, the relatively sane people on the forums where wooden volume knobs and directional speaker wire is the norm swear by these.

Around Shinjuku

I must have got less sleep than I thought because by around 5pm local time I felt exhausted.
However that shouldnt prevent a good 3 hour walk in the evening. I did however decide to stay around the Shinjuku and Kabukicho area where my hotel is situated, in case I fell asleep whilst walking or something.

The neon does indeed seem to be less than it was pre tsunami, theres a great youtube clip of a timelapse taken continusouly before and after the tsunami. And in writing that and looking for the youtube, I just realised I am here for the 1st anniversary on Sunday.

The infamous maid trade must suffer in winter, they still stand on corners and hand out vouchers to 50 year old salarymen who might like to be fed a crepe by a 15 year old, but its probably not as easy to make a sale when they are wearing a full length coat, hat and gloves.

Too tired to type much more!

Yes, this is less neon than I remember, but still sufficient to be able to hand shoot with a camera at night at fairly low iso.

This is a movie poster, there appears to be a movie coming starring baby pandas. Perhaps 51 of them. I couldnt find details on imdb.

Redundant neon photo.

This is the Kabukicho red light district. I am a bit early to see all the yakuza boys missing their little fingers standing around hassling Japanese men. They seem to leave westerners alone (unlike the Nigerians that run Roppongi).

A line up totally consisting of young girls. Perhaps Super Junior are appearing. Actually nearby there was a giant screen on a corner playing a new release blu ray by Japanese boy band, GLAY. That is really their name, its both racist and homophobic.

This is just a random shop that sells nothing except violins. Theres many levels of violins.

My dinner, is Korean food. It was pretty small, but thats ok, I intend to eat a lot of junk food.

Beard papa! Apparently they started in Osaka, so I might go to the original store on the weekend. Freshly made giant profitteroles filled with cold custard whilst you wait.

There are currently 2 comments - click to add

bobule on 2012-03-07 said:

love the 'supersoft try me' bit on the foam tip packaging! japan is the future!

mother on 2012-03-07 said:

finally there. I'd like to know if they are still saving power in Tokyo and not lighting up all the neon advertising at night?

Day 3 - Thursday, 8 March 2012

Ginza and a garden

Its grey, cold and threatening to rain. This has a strange effect on the throngs of people. Rather than standing and waiting politely at pedestrian crossings for laneways that no cars have come down this century, they charge blindly across 10 lane highways screaming in terror. Even though everyone has an umbrella.

I decided to play subway roulette, which meant I ended up somewhere west of where I am staying near the new opera house, then popped up in Ginza which I still dont think is anything special, followed by a rather large garden back near my hotel.

It never really rained but did stay grey and cold all day, this didnt stop me from walking/standing for a solid 6 hours.

Me and my robot somewhere in the new opera house.

This is skyscraper sector. Tokyo doesnt do skyscrapers well because of a justified fear that they could collapse at any moment due to any number of reasons, but mostly earthquake.

The main street in Ginza. If you want something French or American this is the place to be. Its full of French and American people. Its also largely deserted at this time of day.

Why plant flowers when a cabbage is fine too?

This is called the Tokyo International Forum. A very impressive construction, but as far as I can tell it has zero floor space?

Outside there were a lot of vans selling great looking street food. I wanted to have something for lunch but seating was outside and a bit cold for me.

When Sony released the Z series walkman I found it strange that they used the album cover from an obscure solo album by Dream Theater vocalist James Labrie. Hes the vocalist from a band famous for having songs with 20 minute instrumental sections during which they tell James to go and have a coffee.
Anyways, I assumed the press release was just a fan boy who somehow got it on the marketing brochure without anyone noticing.
It turns out that every Z series walkman has this song on it (and its the only song on it), and that everywhere they are for sale they are plugged into docks playing this song on permanent repeat, and its a terrible song.

Ramen for lunch again, this one was better than yesterdays. However the waitress girl tried to make an ass of me by attempting to tie a bib around my neck and giving me a fork. No one else in there had a bib...and neither would I!
She then looked terrified when I added chilli flakes, chilli oil and the chilli pepper stuff in massive amounts to try and give it some flavour.
Admittedly it was a bit more flavoursome than yesterdays.

I found the park and it was a bit cold, not to worry as vending machines are happy to serve hot drinks. Having already had 2 large coffees today I decided to have something else.
This drink is ginger ans sesame flavoured. I would say it tasted slightly worse than that sounds. It was however hot.

Lake in the garden shot.

This is a large grassed area, the grass has burnt off due to snow. This is not something I have ever seen before in my life, which is probably amusing to most people who dont live in Australia.

One thing I have noticed is that all the trees are pruned back very heavily and in a very uniform fashion. Not just in this park but every tree in every street.

This here is the very first blossoming cherry tree of the season. Its a hive of activity, theres actual news updates on where to find the blossoms etc.

I pushed in front of the people with tripods to capture the magic.

Indian curry in Japan

Eating in Japan can be cheap. The cheap places dont trust their staff to handle money, instead they have a vending machine you stick money in and press buttons and you get a ticket.
This system works well, especially if theres pictures on the buttons or at least numbers you can match the pictures to.
I planned to eat in such an establishment at some point during the evening.

First I caught the train to Shibuya and wandered around for an hour or so before walking to Harajuku and wandering around. At this stage I got some money from an ATM, the smallest amount it will give me is 10,000 yen, about $120. It dispenses this with a single 10,000 yen note.
This poses a problem because none of the restaurants will take a 10,000 yen note in their machines, and they dont take credit card.
No problem I thought, I will go to the convenience store, buy a drink and get change. No. They dont want the 10,000 yen note for a 100 yen purchase either.
After much wandering, I was about to end up at mcdonalds or mos burger when I saw a place without a ticket vending machine that didnt cost a fortune, an Indian curry restaurant. There are curry restaurants everywhere but they are generally Japanese curry, either the coco chain or a competing one that uses a gorilla, these places have the ticket system.

Thats probably enough bullshit about a 10,000 yen note and vending machines.

The busy area of Shibuya.

Apparently this is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world.

A random overpass means I can rest my camera and get some blurred headlights.

One of the main streets in Harajuku.
I dont know how Japanese school girls wander around in the cold with their extremely short school uniform skirts. Harajuku is full of thousands of them.
Some Nigerian scammers were busy trying to convince groups of girls to accompany them down a dark alley for glamour photography. They were holding up cards with girls photographed in lingerie. What could possibly go wrong?

The streets are filled with trucks like these, advertising the latest j-pop debacle with blaring loud speakers.

My dinner. It was ok. The only meat curry on offer was butter chicken. Theres also enough rice for 4 people and the tandoori entree came out of the microwave I think. Theres also a squirt of ketchup.
This restaurant was full of near suicidial salarymen who cant face going home (thats my theory anyway). They seemed to know the owner but all kept to themselves reading newspapers. In the time I took to order and eat none of them had moved.

There are currently 2 comments - click to add

Rebecca on 2012-03-09 said:

I love the photo of the face masked nannas taking a photo of four blossoms on a tree. Have they not seen this before? Will not more blossoms come soon? Maybe this is their last chance to get a shot of blossoms before they succumb to bird flu.

bobule on 2012-03-08 said:

real japanese men snort the ketchup

There is now a page 2, use the navigation thing below or the index thing at the top left.


Day 1 - Tuesday, 6 March 2012
  Adelaide to Sydney
  Sydney airport and lounge etc.
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