Posts from April 2009

Wrap up

2009-04-12 18:05:14 2009-04-12 19:55:12 2009-04-12 19:59:59 2009-04-12 20:03:23 2009-04-12 21:20:29 2009-04-13 10:14:54

The missing Kyoto photos are retrieved! All things told there weren't that many good photos on the iffy card, mostly blurry geisha photos (geisha ghosts?) and some lamentably blurry night shots - one of the great problems of my D50 screen and chimping is that slightly blurry photos tend to be missed and only visible upon more detailed examination.

I have been awake since 0330 local time which is annoying as I was asleep 2300 local time and up for lord knows how long before that, jet lag is a real pain and I don't remember ever suffering from it to this extent beforehand. Anyways, some thoughts on travelling around Japan:

  • Get used to train stations: where to look for times and what to look for (rapid, limited rapid express etc.); always note which exit you use and entrance you want, they may not be one in the same and orientation is easier if you've done the route before; get familiar with the ticket machines as you'll either be ticketing, SUICA'ing or PASMO'ing and they all involve adjustment machines at some point
  • Improve your train sleeping: this is a necessity if you are jetlagged or have a full schedule as you'll be able to hit the town at night and still have energy for the important parts during the day, even an half an hours nap can improve things; just make sure you're the last stop or have people around you who can wake you up if you get overzealous with the napping
  • Learn your landmarks: if you're like me and can't read Japanese fluently then navigation can be tricky so instead of recognising stores / pubs, go for colours or tall buildings or quirky objects outside, there are plenty of all three kicking about and makes exploring a hell of a lot simpler
  • Be prepared to be scrutinised: if you're European or American then you will naturally stand out in most areas of Japan, Tokyo not so much but other areas you will be glanced at more often than not, a friendly smile and a nod is usually all it takes to make everyone feel at ease; there will also be a natural radius around you on trains and local transport, you can mitigate this by plonking yourself in between two current passengers but otherwise there is a general reluctance to sit next to you if it can be at all helped.
  • Don't expect high technology everywhere: Tokyo is privileged in its use of wireless internet, modern transport methods and so forth but other areas of Japan can be just as rural and disconnected as your home country - downloading TV to your mobile phone is a nicety, not provided as standard
  • Get good shoes: or tough feet (general life advice but especially relevant)

I know have a plethora of bits of paper (receipts, ticket stubs, reservation tickets, leaflets etc.) and photos to organise. Last count for photos was just a hair under 700 and unlike my last trip there are very few duplicates and the overall quality of the photos has surprised even me - helped of course by the stellar weather that held for all but a single day. One thing I do regret is not taking my lens hood for my 18-200, with the 18-55 there's little need for one but looking through some of the photos there was definitely a need for one (and me holding the lens cap in conspicuous positions was not a good interim solution) - here was me thinking lens hoods were just for camera pimping.

Other random thoughts include my choice of clothing - definitely took too many warmer tops although I was expecting the weather to be 6-8 degrees less than it was, unseasonable warmth indeed. No matter how much you cram into a backpack, it can always hold more with judicious application of body weight and zip moulding. Do not trust hotel bedside clocks - their alarms oscillate between weedy and useless to sonic sleep destroyers. Hotel wake up calls are surprisingly sinister at 6am.

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Final thoughts

My train to Narita airport leaves in just over three quarters of an hour and I've just filled myself with an assortment of breakfast foods (and some not breakfast foods, seriously - hamburgers?) so some random bits and bobs as they come to me:


  • Shinjuku station on a Saturday - bleh
  • Shinjuku station on a Saturday night while squiffy and trying to get from east to west - bleh
  • My bag is the densest thing in the universe, its gravitational field has already claimed my sanity
  • Akihabara - noisy
  • DVDs - expensive
  • CDs - my addiction

Now for 1.5 hours on a train, 12 hours on a plane, 2 hours in an airport, 1.5 hours on a plane and 40 minutes on a train (and 15 minutes in a taxi most likely). Homeward bound.

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I was rolling down Odeo with my...

2009-04-15 14:06:19 2009-04-15 16:03:59 2009-04-16 10:13:42 2009-04-16 10:38:55 2009-04-16 13:32:27 2009-04-16 21:36:26

Back in Tokyo! Where people have actually heard of the internet rather than having to walk 20+ minutes to the nearest 'net cafe or in Hakone where people just scratched their heads and shrugged their shoulders.

Had some good times in Kyoto, day tripped out to Osaka and then bullet trained it to Hakone which was deep in the mountains but the weather held thankfully. Now back in Tokyo where I've already done some shopping and aiming to do more tomorrow. The hotel is awesome but I've just seen a sign that limits me to 20 minutes on this PC so better skidaddle. A few photos for you. More tomorrow likely.

Not long before I'm back to normality now!

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In Kyoto

2009-04-08 13:31:23 2009-04-08 13:47:03 2009-04-08 14:14:43 2009-04-08 15:01:50 2009-04-09 12:40:16 2009-04-09 14:10:43 2009-04-09 15:10:22 2009-04-09 15:41:41 2009-04-09 22:03:47 2009-04-10 09:18:58 2009-04-10 10:26:43 2009-04-10 11:22:50 2009-04-10 11:49:17 2009-04-10 13:43:25 2009-04-11 16:07:55 2009-04-11 16:17:47 2009-04-11 16:32:10 2009-04-11 16:59:36 2009-04-11 20:22:42 2009-04-11 20:26:40 2009-04-11 20:29:48

So I'm sitting in an internet cafe in Kyoto and this is perhaps the first chance I've had to upload photos or use the internet in a decent form. All the computers so far have been non-existent or so antiquated as to be unusable. But that is an aside! Takayama, Matsumoto and Kanazawa all down and now in Kyoto for the second day, much train sleeping and photo taking has been had. Takayama was a great little town with sake tasting and little handycraft stalls aplenty. Kanazawa was this hugely bustling city with busy traffic and all that nonsense, but did end up under the cherry blossoms at night drinking sake and having a merry old time.

Travelled to Kyoto yesterday and went to the Miyako Odori - the Spring Geisha Dances. Words cannot describe how brilliant they were, such grace and beauty in motion. Was difficult to see them as anything other than art except if you caught a fleeting moment of them doing something pedestrian like turning a page or shifting their seat. Certainly an unforgettable experience, especially as they didn't allow photos in there - not that they would have done them justice.

Today visited the temple of 1001 kanon which was another brilliant visit, very holy and utterly unique and again, no photos allowed. I was just on the way to the Kyoto International Manga Museum when I spotted this place.

I'm going to forgo uploading my latest set as my camera has just thrown a hissy fit with the card which has me worried so my blurry geisha walk photos will have to wait.

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Up in the mountains

Currently typing on antiquated computer so no photos of Matsumoto or Takeyama for now. Slept on the train to Matsumoto which was odd as I slept fine the night previous; the castle was brilliant to see and move about in but some serious stairs (60 degree angles) to climb to get around. Not much else to do in the town but did end up having caramelised grasshoppers for tea (as well as other bits and pieces); went drinking afterwards in a tiny, awesomely decorated bar called "Elbow Room" - only a couple others went so much merriment was had.

Woke up late today  (lots of beer will do that) and travelled to Takeyama by bus - such brilliant views of the mountain with snow and tunnels and all sorts to see. Takeyama is definitely of a slower pace, already had one bath and now waiting for dinner in the traditional ryokan. Think I caught the sun in Matsumoto so factor 20 today. 

Please excuse any double m's or lack of spaces, working with tiny keys and trying not to hit the "type stuff in Japanese" button.  There is also the lack of a visible backspace button. It also seems I can't escape IE6 however many miles away - it follows me everywhere.

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