The big catch up…

Right well recently I did some fine, fine sightseeing around Tokyo and Hiroshima, so heres the big catchup (hidden by use of cuts because its frankly going to be a long ramble).

Saturday 25th
So we started by hopping a train to Tokyo in the morning, this was by the way the train equivilent to getting to London from the edge of the UK for about 20 quid each if I recall correctly, with a booked seat, the ticket bought on that morning and the train on time. So far so good… We’ve a list of things to do and will in in Tokyo until Monday morning.

Once we hit Tokyo we started on our list of sightseeing things (warning: sadness alert, most of the stuff in Tokyo was stuff I was interested in and thus was quite boring), starting with a trip to the fine Ohkubo Gobanten in Shinjuku (since we were there anyway). This was our first adventure in reading maps covered in symbols we couldn’t really grok, but it turned out okay in the end, although it was scary to see a chain of coffee shops with such custom they could literally have a shop on each side of the road from each other in line-of-sight. Once there I splurged some dollar[1] on some tasty slate and shell Go stones, and admired the rather nice boards and shogi stuff they had.

After doing that and loading up my bag with a big solid weight which would ensure that no customs/security agent in the world wasn’t going to search me[2] we headed back to the train station, where we continued to nip up and down the same line we’d been on (and we pretty much went up and down that line the whole time we were in Tokyo).

Next up on Saturday was the awesomely big building of the Nihon Kiin to catch the fine Go museum, which although small featured some neat old stuff (bowls, boards and stones all several hundred years old, various busts of important members of House Honinbo, especially the little dude with the tash (Honinbo Shusai).

That done we headed to the hotel to check in and dump the heavy bags which were largely stashed in some lockers at trainstations, had a bit of a relax at the hotel, got confused by the lighting (the lights in the room only switch on when you stuff the key fob in a special hole) and then headed out to Akihabara.

Geek Mecca (Akihabara) is a small but potent district of Shinjuku containing stacks and stacks of fine electronics, anime, porn and software emporiums, often mixed together. This started with having our photo taken by the cat-girl advertising something because Mish was taking a picture of her, although I wasn’t sure if this was her being miffed at the Gaijin taking pictures of her or just something she did to everyone.

Anyway we went strolling about, ignoring the offers of cheap mobile phones because we didn’t really need one, before tracking down something we’d been sent to obtain for Maggot in an awesome shop that had whole floors devoted to computer games, manga, anime, music from anime, various scary looking dating/tenticle computer games, small models of stuff from manga/anime and on the top floor (to the acompliment of the awesome of Dragon Force no less) a huge medly of cool second hand goods. It was infact teh win!

After that we went looking for the famous cos-players cafe where the Waiters dressed as Anime characters (okay, its cool, but it was Mish’s idea before anyone pounces on me) but couldn’t find it, so went for Italian instead.

Sunday 26th
Sunday was filled with more relaxed sight-seeing. We kicked off with an early morning visit to the Tokyo Sword Museum where we accompanied a bunch of Academics who were wandering about peering at some rather tasty old blades (seriously, some of these things were made in the 1400’s and had clearly been used). Which was fairly cool, and I think like the fineness of the Nihon-Kiin the previous day may have persuaded Mish my interests weren’t totally dull :)

After a good look around that (not so big, not so long) we headed over to Harajuku to go shopping in the big medly of crazy shops (I love the way shops there are piled atop each other, in second and third floors, basements, and seem to bare little relation to those around them) before wandering through the nice park at Harajuku and taking piccies of the (almost)Goth girls (think inspired by too much Vicorian English costume and happy to pose for cameras instead of inviting you to shove them up your arse).

The outfits were most impressive, the park most most fine (no really, huge torii gates like 30ft tall and all sorts). Anyway pictures coming soon, need to get film developed.

After that (we did the temple briefly there and the gardens a little longer) we headed to Akahara to find a big shrine. That was pretty cool, because it was in traditional odd style just surrounded by massive gleeming buildings, seems Akahara is some sort of financial district as there were loads of shiny insurance buildings and all sorts all piled around this old temple. We toured around that looking at the various nice things (lots of monkeys in that one) before strolling over to a smaller one because we had time to kill. The smaller temple/shrine was a rather fine foxy one, with loads and loads of foxes all over the place in little nooks and crannies, again a really fine atmosphere, you could forget you were surrounded by huge buildings.

Anyway we then did the other thing you can do in Akabara, which was enoy awesome Tempuru (think deepfriend sea-things/other-things atop noodles or rice) at a little quiet place with great survice and the nicest cup of tea I’ve had in a long time. Fiiiine.

Monday 27th
Monday was a rather full day. We hopped on a bullet train and headed all the way across Japan to Hiroshima, taking about 4 hours to do the whole thing, there was some peril buying tickets to get there (because over the weekend the train company’s systems were being shit about accepting forign credit cards for some reason) and we eventually payed in most of our cash reserves to get there (hotels and getting back thankfully worked on credit).

Once there we dumped most of our stuff in a train locker and hopped on a tram. Hiroshima’s a really weird place, totally unlike Tokyo in atmosphere and gives off the impression of being a little relaxed sea-side town, while still being huge.

As we arrived at the peace park a fine hippy dude on the otherside of the river sat down with a guitar and announced he was singing songs of love and peace before starting, and he was rather good, not busking, just playing music outside for fun, there was also a giant pink tourist boat driving along the river and blowing bubbles out the back… really odd.

We started by visiting the Atom Bomb dome, which was rather imposing and carried a very powerful atmosphere (rather a weak description but it’ll have to do), after we’d looked at it a little old lady appeared who could speak a few English phrases, she offered to pray for us to purify our blood (for reasons unclear, either from being near the Abomb dome, in Hiroshima, just because she was nice like that or possibly because she mistook us for Americans or something). It was odd, standing there on a warm path in the sun by the river, Abomb dome before me, songs of the hippy floating over the river, most peaceful.

After that we strolled through the peace park, many memorials and statues to those who perished (lots of Japanese, some Koreans and a few POWs) are there and all with a slightly different atmosphere. We saw a museum-type thing about it, which included an underground room with a small fountain in the middle (as many died begging for a drink) where the walls were a 360 degree photo (huge too, like 10 foot tall) of all that remained from the point of view of the Abomb dome. There were perhaps a dozen buildings left, which were the concrete ones, everything else was just not there. It was an image and impression we saw again later but it was very imposing because the city was just not there at all, just rubble.

The museum we found after that was what took the rest of the day really, a huge number of exhibits and photos about the city on that day, lots of really moving accounts of various people who either died later or survived, clothing that had been worn by children hit by the blast, accurate scale models showing the before and after of the blast, reinforcing just how flat everything was.

It was really exhausting viewing all that and had a very powerful impression, not something I’m sure I’d want to do again just because there was so much misery there but something I’m glad I saw.

To recover from that we went and lurked in a small restaurant (something easy to find in Japan) and had a nice dinner before going to check into the hotel and recover.

Tuesday 28th
Tuesday we visited a small (well not that small) island off the coast of Hiroshima famous for its floating torii gates (where pilgrims once had to swim through to get to the island because they had to go through a gate, but the whole island was sacred so they couldn’t walk up the beach to one, or thats the impression I got), this meant riding a boat across. On Monday this wouldn’t have been an issue but Tuesday the weather turned cold and wet (at least in the morning) making it a bumpy and damp (but dramatic) crossing.

The island we found was also infested with deer who were used to stealing food from Humans and so were totally unafraid of them, reasonably cute when not swarming, and it gave me the theory that Anime eye-drawing style came from looking at Deer.

Anyway we had a good poke about there, saw the gates floating, saw the japanese equivilent of Fu-dogs (whose name I can’t recall) everywhere, and also lots of little museums showing all sorts of things, but in this case lots showing displays of these little dolls that people here assemble for Girls day (which form a mini-emporers court, most odd, but somehow fine once you know what its about).

We also saw the most odd temple yet. It was a branch of buddism which still used sanscrit for everything, and the place was covered in a mixture of fine Buddha statues, kali and shiva, the seven lucky gods of Japan (a shinto thing) and all sorts of mixed stuff (including Tanuki priest statues, win! :)), most scenic.

The afternoon was spent then bumbling about the island, looking at all the various temples and shrines in that little corner of the island (apparently they do week long hiking tours to cover it all). There was a cool unfinished hall to commemorate a lot of dead people, and they’d left it alone when the original maker and designer died, consecrating it to him as well as its original goal, so its been standing with no walls for a few hundred years and you can see the most lovely views from inside through it, either of the sea of this densely wooded island.

Anyway we finished up there (and I bought a cute Tanuki for my desk at work) and caught the boat back to the tram station, then the tram back across town. We did a brief drop in at Book Nook (a various but mostly English language book shop) just to see what it was like (cool) before heading for some famous Hiroshima-yaki (like Okinowa-yaki with more egg), it was basically a pancake on the top, then lots of cooked veg, then bacon, other toppings then noodles then a fried egg on the bottom. Most most fiiine I thought. It was a really weird building, lots of little tiny restaurants who just serve this stuff all crammed in next to each other on the second flood, and big plastic drapes seperating the stairs from just a corridor of these places (cyberpunk players take note, you’ll probably visit this place ;)).

Wednesday 29th
We started Wednesday with a breakfast of Hiroshima-yaki at the train station (nom!) followed by a nice relaxing and very scenic train home (thats about all we did), warm as it had been in Hiroshima it was snowing when we were crossing the mountains, which lead to some really dramatic scenary of snow-capped mountains, fields and shrines, lots of rivers and valleys, the whole country is really quite pretty and the trains make lovely methods of seeing it.

Weirdly when we got back to Mish’s little town the sakura (cherry blossom) was out in full force… which was really unexpected since the rest of the mountains were freezing and snowey, and Hiroshima was usually warmer but hadn’t had any real blossom yet… odd, yet fine and scenic.

Then we just loitered, I exposed Mish to Team America and we watched the awesome-odd-cool of Spirited Away.

Thursday 30th
Thursday was a morning of sight-seeing really, we hopped in a car with Kat (a friend of Mish’s) and her mother (who was visiting) and burned rubber (Kat’s car has the power of awesome, being a low, fast thing and it really went) and to the sounds of Jpop visited the a fine nearby castle. It was cool looking around something like that, lots of floors, cool pillars, nice displays of antique bits and bobs (mostly firearms, since the place was built after their introduction) and all sorts. Although the stair-cases were really, really narrow (really really really narrow!) as a defensive measure. But at least we were given slippers that fit (many buildings you have to take your boots off for, however mostly they give you little slipper things that just don’t fit, meaning you have to walk really carefully to avoid them falling off the ends of your toes where their balanced, this place at least had some heavily worn in for bigger feet).

After that we had a dinner of Chinese food and watched as blizzard decended around us to give us scenary while we drove home.

Friday 31th, Saturday 1st
Well lots to tell here, but its not really that dramatic, lots of trains back to Tokyo (as Mish documented elsewhere) and finally a really long flight.

Not bad, I started Saturday by breakfasting in Tokyo, then had dinner in Paris before sleeping in my own bed in England. definitely quite cool in a way (but knackering).

[1] Dollar: A term of referring to currently from an old roleplaying game I was in, doesn’t actually necessitate it being dollars, instead just imagine someone shouting “I’ve only got one dollar!” as an excuse for not paying for anything. Said person does physically now possess one laminated dollar-bill because their character was so legendary.

[2] Search me: p.s. I got searched at every airport along the way, both ways on this trip. On the way out it was mainly because I had a harmonica in my bag and this apparently looked really suspicious on the X-ray machines, that and the tiny bits of metal on my combats managed to set off the Manchester scanning equipment (although my boots and glasses didn’t). On the way back it was because the Go stones look like a solid brick of matter on the X-ray devices so they were really interested in what that was at the bottom of my bag. Especially the French.

Anyway that should do for now, really more to type but as you can tell from the steadily decreasing amount of detail my brains turned to cheese, questions welcome, glad to be back :)

2 thoughts on “The big catch up…

  1. moradrel

    Other than the no-brainer comment of “Sounds like a fun week”, a few thoughts sprang to mind:

    Photograph-friendly goth doll girls: These’ll be some of the fabled Elegant Gothic Lolitas (Lolitae?) that has told me about. Sounds like porn, but is actually a form of cross-cultural cosplay. Very odd.

    DragonForce! It would come as no surprise to learn that these hard-rockin’ amigos were, as the saying goes, big in Japan. I actually heard some of them on Radio 1, of all places, the other week — there was about two minutes of a track (up to the first synthesiser solo, and probably only about one tenth of the way through the song) before chickening out, and/or having to go to the next show. I later heard something that I was sure was more of them, but it turned out to be a completely different band, of similar style and theme. Maybe epic fantasy-inspired electro-metal is having a comeback (but was it every really away?). ;)

    Fox Temple of Foxness, with foxes! Hurrah!

    1. mostlyfoo

      Indeed those would be the fabled elegant gothic lolita types, very strange people, although they had some right nifty outfits on them (the lass with gloves to give her typical disney hands (slightly large, white gloved, thumb and three fingers) was really weird).

      As for the temple it was indeed well nifty, and I have a present for you from Mish from there (which surprisingly isn’t entirely fox related), and I hear you’ll be down at t’weekend (I won’t really be about much I’m afraid, I’ll be here and there with a Go tournament, but I should see you in the pub at some point I’m sure).

      As for DragonForce… well they rock, picked up another of their albums the other day, it features the band doing over-the-top air guitar poses on the back cover (the previous one I got (latest) featured one of them wearing an Atari tshirt on the back, clearly they have class and style).


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