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.
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.
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.
Most of my internet access has been in the brief, fleeting moments while waiting for the group to gather for the day's activities so it's somewhat nice to be able to have some time to actually write something that doesn't end with the equivalent "okaygottagobye!".
My feet were doing (slightly) better today thanks to some loosening of shoes and no longer having any skin to lose from them although my left foot has shown some signs of trying to copy my right - not best pleased. Nikko today was awesome and showed me something that I hadn't seen before in a temple; it was sprawling, ornate and yet quiet and reserved at the same time. I also started getting fancier with my camera, having found out yesterday that I had somehow fixed the camera on aperture priority somewhere in transit which was slightly embarrassing but I've been storing up some shots for panoramas and also tried a long exposure today of the bridge for some floaty water effect.
Leaving Tokyo is definitely a good thing as having been here for the past three to four days has let me become a bit jaded to it which is not what I had expected. I've been using a lot more of the language than I did last time (much to the amazement of one of the hotel clerks when I said good morning to him, to his credit, it was 4am so maybe that's how he always looks) so I've crested the hill that is ordering food and not looking like a complete twit. I'm torn between whether I'm getting used to the language or just using what is most likely to be said next and going from there. Thankfully a lot of the Japanese people I've met seem happy to ask me questions in English and for me to answer in Japanese, at least then everyone knows what is being said.
Tokyo itself is impossible to encapsulate in a single sentence or paragraph, there is no easy way of saying "City of the Future" or "Bustling metropolis" and capturing the spirit of it, even if both are true and I've only been in the city just over 150 hours total. You can be wandering down the street and hear a melody you recognise with words you don't while nearly being hit by the plethora of bicycle riders and being barraged with neon advertising high above you. Eclectic doesn't even begin to sum it up. It is a city I love though, there is no congestion to speak of, the transport is first rate and there truly is everything you can think of to do or to buy (both probably available from the local convenience store). I'll be glad to come back to Tokyo, but just as London isn't England, Tokyo isn't Japan and there are hot springs and all sorts of other goodies awaiting.
The big temptation for this time of year I would imagine is just snapping roll after roll (meabytes of megabytes?) of cherry blossom pictures. It's not that they're ugly, but there is the risk of beginning slightly pink-blind by it all. So for now, I'm trying to snap photos that contain more than just pink. Apart from that one of the branches, that's just purty.
I made a monumentally bad choice when it came to shoes this time around as I either didn't break these shoes in correctly or they are in fact shoes crafted by the devil himself because my left leg has some traumatic blisters on it. One on either side of the heel that means one blister plaster isn't large enough to cover both. By now most of the skin that would have protected them has gone and they are red and angry which has spread to the rest of my leg which is slightly disturbing. I've taken to paddig my shoe with a bit of grey foam cribbed from my camera bag to protect them but I get the feeling that at some point in the holiday I may have to plump for new shoes or end up crippled. It's odd how things like that can prey on your mind, especially as my jet lag still hasn't fully dissipated yet (dammit) and fevered dreams of my leg dropping off from these blisters are not uncommon.
Bit of a revisit of some locations yesterday. Senso-ji has moved its construction from the outer gate to the main building which is now ensconced in scaffolding. The good weather and cherry blossoms makes it an almost entirely different place to visit than my first time when it was raining and I had just stepped off the flight. Hama-rikyu we managed to visit the tea house which was a brilliant experience and good cake. The Sumida river taxi was packed which meant we had to go into the underbelly and a miss a lot of the view unfortunately. I came back to the hotel at Meiji-jingu now being in some pain from the evil shoes and napped for a spell. I'd also managed to catch the sun on my head a bit which is odd for April!