Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Kyoto to Osaka - the end of Japan..

Well, we hung out for a few days in Kyoto, checking out the many temples and catching the odd glimps of a Giesha or Meiko... also got to do a bit of shopping. The weather in Kyoto wasn't that great, so when we had to check out on the last morning we decided that instead of staying in Kyoto for the day we would head on over to Osaka and see what was happening over there.

Osaka was a concrete nightmare! There were some nice places but on the whole i was very shocked at how so many buildings could fit into and onto the flat places. Alot of the buildings are old and don't exactly look that good. Then right smack in the middle of a built up area is a temple. It's fairly crazy.

Both Rob and i were actually a bit sick of Japan and it's weather by this point. We'd seen some great things and had some great days, but i'm the first to admit we are both warm weather people and therefore the cold and the rain wasn't welcomed with open arms.

Japan is definitely one of those places to go and visit - certainly makes you think about a whole load of things that we do that we consider normal. For example we are currently banning smoking inside buildings in the UK - yet here in japan they are trying to get people to stop smoking on the streets so everyone heads inside restaurants and bars to smoke - some places don't have a none smoking section to eat! To us that just seems strange!

Anyway - enjoy the last few photos of Japan, as we move onto warmer climates in south asia and bask in the sun for what seems the first time in forever (exactly 30 days from Caribbean!)....

One of the many Kyoto temples...

Everyone wants a dragon fountain...


Down in the streets...

of Gion, you find lovely old japanese houses and the occasional Geisha.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Toyko to Lake Kawaguchi to Hiroshima to Koyoto...

We got up early on Monday and sorted out repacking all the bags (one at a time in our tiny room!) before heading out to Shinjuku Station to get the bus to Lake Kawaguchi - a bargain at 1700 yen. It took about two hours and after an hour we noticed when the bus stopped it was actually snowing outside.. By the time we got to Lake Kawaguchi it had been snowing for a good few hours and therefore our chances of getting to see a volcanoe that is some 3000m plus were very slim, especially as it was looking misty on the other side of the road. Undeterred we went down to the lake in the snow (with umbrellas!) and although the photo's didn't come out too good - the view was stunning. Mountians raised up behind the lake all covered in trees covered in snow - very pretty.

After returning to the room (japanese style - make your own bed from stuff in the cupboards and d.i.y. tea ceramony - see photos) we stupidly turned on the heat to warm the room up abit. i think after about 10 minutes we were both asleep - and we woke around 9.30 feeling very hungry (and warm)! I think the whole area (Fuji Five Lake District) is a bit 'come and visit in the summer' as there really wasn't anywhere open to get dinner. We finally settled on a feast from 7 Eleven, which definately compared favorably to most of the meals we've eaten so far, even in the restaurants!!!

We woke up this morning to more grey skies. No sign of that big mountain anywhere - so we gave up on the idea and headed to the station to get a bus ticket south to meet the bullet train we planned on taking to Hiroshima. The bus journey was about two hours and after we got to the other side of the mountains range we could see that it had actually only snowed on the side we were on. Dry roads, no snow on roofs etc. Better than that we could see Mount Fuji - well the bottom of it anyway, the top was in clouds. Luckily after another 20 minutes the skies went blue, the clouds moved and there was Mount Fuji!! Clearly the highlight of the trip so far! It only lasted for a few minutes before it clouded over again but that made all the effort of getting to the Five Lake District totally worth it.

Anyway - four hours and two Shinkansen (super fast bullet trains) later we arrived in Hiroshima. Home of the A-bomb attack August 6th 1945 (yes, rob dragged me to a museum to educate me) and one of the three beautiful sights of Japan - the Torii in the sea on the island of Miya-Jima. The ryokan we stayed at was very nice - small room but the woman who ran it was very sweet and it was in a prime location. It was about here a theme started to appear. We go specially to stay in a nice ryokan to see mount Fuji and it snows so we can't really see anything.... and when we looking for dinner on that first night it seems that Tuesday is the night to close your restaurant. I waved away the feeling that we were mildly cursed but it crept back the next day...

So up early and the sky was grey but it didn't matter too much - the sun was breaking through occasionally and it was much better than snow. It was MUCH warmer down this end of Japan too so that helped. Anyway off to Miya-Jima; a comination of funny trams (imported from Germany - used) and a ten minute ferry and we were there. The first thing we see out of the ferry terminal? A deer. A real one. Now, whilst i had read about the tame deer upon the island, i hadn't quite prepared myself for them being outside the station and walking along the pavements with the people, i.e. us. I think i giggled for a good 25 minutes after arrival.

After a good old look at the five story pagoda and the torii in the sea we set off for my personal highlight of the island (apart from the deer) - the scarey 1.7 km cable car up to the top of Mount Misen... ooooo. Hum. well, as we approached we keep seeing signs and then less and less people. Yes, the stupid cable car was under construction. When till? Feb 17 - 22. When we there? Feb 22. So no cable car - definitely a theme. Anyway - throwing caution, and possibly sense, to the wind (and slight drizzle) we decided that we would walk up the silly mountain. The trail was (from the bottom) 2.6km. That's not far. Except that it appeared to be (and was in the end) 2.6km of steps up. No real break inbetween. Time was taken to reflect on how we are so young, and yet so unfit. But - far be it from a little mountain to beat us, especially as it was our first 'trek' of the trip. So we kept going to the top - even when the drizzle turned to rain and we were getting a bit wet.

The next morning we packed up our stuff and headed for the a-bomb dome. This is one of only very few buildings to have survived the A-bomb. There's the obvious shape of the building and then one of the main bits is still there and on top is the metal frame of the dome that was on top of the building (hence A-Bomb Dome). Of course, becuase we were visiting they were doing some sort of sounding test on the building and therefore it was covered in scaffolding so you couldn't really see it that well. The theme continues. After there we walked throught the peace park and to the Peace Park Memorial Museum.

And from there to pick up our bags and head back to the station to catch our next shinkansen to Kyoto - home of old wooden houses and Giesha's and Gion, where the whole Giesha thing kicked off....

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Well, we made it safely to Japan. After a hearty breakfast (see below), we had the energy to jump up after the seatbelt sign went off and secure two fabulous seats with leg room (see below - note the very sexy Virgin socks we both donned for the flight!) nearer the front of the plane. Good job too as both of us were orginally touching knees with the seat in front and i - of course - was behind a seat-putter-backer.

Anyway - Japan is.... different. A great place to come if you love a big city - real real easy to navigate around - even if you've had zero sleep in the last 24 hours. After thinking we were staying way out of everything because we are paying less, the hostel is actually located very nicely in the area of Asakusa. Walking distance to a fairly impressive temple with some massive lanterns. Right next to the subway station and all that good stuff.

Found some nice toilets and thought i'd be a real tourist and take a photo - needless to say, i ran along to the end and used the disabled toilet like any normal person would.

So the first day we skipped off to the center-ish and hit the tourist place to find out how to make the most of our 9 days here. After many trips back and forth we finally decided - booked some accommodation and made plans to stay in Tokyo for one more night - which means leaving tomorrow. For the mountains, or more specifically one mountain - Mount Fuji. After getting everything sorted we headed out for the Imperial Palace to see that - though you can't really get in that far, just sort of see bits and pieces. From here we walked about a bit, saw some fountains, more touristy things etc etc.

Today we headed out late and went to Shibuya, which is one of the most bizaar things i have ever seen. Young girls dress up in weird clothes and just sit there while people take photos of them. Not for money or anything. For fun. It's just plain odd. Anyway - see this photo below - which isn't really a true depiction of the situation as the one in the middle is clearly a forty year old guy in a frilly dress. Funny though! We were also treated to some thrilling dancing of the rock and roll kind by a bunch of crazy old guys dressed up just like John Travolta was for the film Grease. With pointy shoes. And they couldn't actually dance. Not in time with the music that was being played to us anyway - i'm sure they were right in time with that crazy music playing in their heads. :)

We then headed off on a nice walk upto a temple thing with nice wooden gate things called - no sorry i can't find it in the book. All very nice and foresty and miles away from what we encountered next - which was the crazy buying world of Shinjuku where it seems on a Sunday everyone who lives in Toyko comes out to walk about. Crazy town.

For dinner we settled on dinner that you cook yourself (for those of you in England, kind of like the Charbar in Port Solent - but more poncy), lovely bits of Japanese steak, much better than the soggy noodles in some sort of fishy water soup thing we had the other day!

So tomorrow we leave our little room - very very little, one of you has to be on the bunk bed for the other to move about - having said that, it's nice and cosy and warm, and of course the big seller - cheap! We are venturing down to the Five Lake District. By bus. Tomorrow at 12.10pm. Wish us luck and i will update when i have more photos and we stay at another place with free internet.

Chrissie-out. x

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Tomorrow's the day!

Well in 24 hours we will be aboard that beautiful silver bird of death on it's merry way to Japan. A lovely 12 hour flight is in store... made only slightly easier by the fact i've packed my travel scrabble and it's a good airline carrier.

Today i have spent the entire day packing and my bag is now so light and minimalistic it could go on display at Ikea. I've even had to pad it out a bit knowing if there's any obviosuly space i'll be overwhelmed by an urge to fill it with crap. Probably japanese crap as we are going there first!

Yesterday we finally booked our place to stay in Tokyo. But the itinary is fairly open after that if anyone has any ideas - you know the email address.

Next update will be from Japan! :)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Pride of Portsmouth...

The Spinnaker Tower, known to locals as the 'millenium tower', but it was finished in Dec 05 so missed the deadline slightly for the actual millenium. Close though.

We went up the other day with the lovely British winter weather, clear blue skies and damn cold.


From the top..

Spinnaker Tower

HMS Warrior & HMS Victory...

Victory's in the background, Warrior is the one you can see easily!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Me & the Wolff...

...about to go skating.

This is a big silver bean.

I'm not sure why it's there.

How cool is....

...skating outside? With a bunch of skyscrapers in the background? Well cool.

Strange acoustic arrangment...

...and the funny building with the gap in it.

Navy Pier by night

Our hotel...

That rectangle of purple lights in the centre of the photo is our hotel lobby.

Driving into the city at night...

Lake Shore Drive, in no way is this photo supposed to reflect the driving ability of Jen Wolff.

The one true thing....

I will miss from the US...... 10 cent chicken wing night.

View from hotel window

Not bad for $50!