About Me

maker, creative, living lightly, local, craft, minimalism, and taking joy in the small things

Saturday, 9 August 2008


I was going to write about how awesome Tokyo DisneyLand was, but right now I am annoyed about checking in to get home!

So, MONTHS ago I booked a direct flight from Narita (TKY) to Melbourne, and paid for it. Then about 4 weeks ago my travel agent contacted me and said I had to be re-routed through Sydney, with 1 hour and 20 mins to make the connection, including customs/immigration etc. Was not happy, but Qantas aren't flying direct to Melbourne anymore apparently, or at least they weren't today or yesterday. So I said fine, and just hoped that the customs thing would work.

When I came to Japan we were allowed 1 hand bag, a laptop and a small suitcase as carry on luggage. Today, when I checked in, I was told I was only allowed 1 piece, despite the people ahead of me carrying on a pram and 3 bags between 2 people. She wanted me to pay $540 to check in the mini-case, as if! So basically I just was entirely unhelpful and appeared on the verge of a nervous breakdown and she kept making more suggestions that would be cheaper. Finally it got to the stage where I had to remove my laptop from its bag, and wrap it in a towel and put it in a plastic bag and promise to put it inside my mini suitcase at the departure gate. I had to put the laptop bag into my checked suitcase (making it 28kg!).

Also, I am not allowed to wear my thongs onboard the plane. I also had to promise to change into shoes at the departure gate. Obviously, my intention is to do neither.

However, now I feel I would be pushing it too far if I buy duty free stuff here, so may just get it in Sydney... But I may also just get it here and put it in my mini case - which does have room in it, rather than put my laptop in it!

Am also worried that when I check into my domestic (Melb to Syd) that they will crack it over the amount of luggage I have. Well they can just deal with it, after all I wasn't supposed to have to make that change!

Aaahh, so annoyed with stupid Qantas.

Tokyo, how I love thee

I really love Tokyo. Really. I would LOVE to live here. I mean, I do love BIG cities, but I think Tokyo is so much fun. Anyway, enough of that.

The girls and I arrived in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon, after a 5 hour train ride (including a half hour break in the middle at Osaka). We easily found our hostel, given I had been here before, and Ange, Katie & I left Erin to sleep whilst we walked up to Senso-ji - the big Buddhist temple near here.

The temple was packed, as always, though in the heat people weren't lingering so long. After we saw the temple we went shopping! Or rather, the other 2 went shopping! We found a reused Kimono shop, where we spent serious time, and Ange spent serious money! Ange got a Kimono and a jacket, and Katie bought 2 jackets. I tried some on... of course, but didn't buy anything.

We went back to the hostel, and as usual had another shower, and then all 4 of us went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building - free view over Tokyo. When you are up there at night it really feels like Tokyo is so ginormous, as the lights stretch so far!

On Friday we did some shopping in the morning. I know it sounds like we're doing a lot of shopping this trip, but we're browsing a lot of the time, really! Or buying things for other people! I promise!

Then we went to Iron Chef Chen Kenichi's restaurant. I had made a reservation ages ago, but no one on staff spoke much English the day I called so I wasn't able to get more directions that which subway stop to get off at. This meant it took us ages to find the restaurant, and once there we were hot & sweaty - what a surprise.

Katie and I decided to live dangerously, and ordered the lunch set meal, a menu I could only read about half of. The other 2 (avoiding seafood) ordered meals, and they were fabulous! Ange says Beef with Oyster sauce is ruined forever! Anyway, Katie and I had a 6 course lunch - small courses though! We started off with sea cucumber, which has a texture that is really strange, but the taste was so good that we just kept chewing! The other courses were: beef with miso paste, spicy prawns, mushroom soup, chicken with amazing oniony sauce & chilli tofu. Katie and I agree that the beef & prawns tie for number 1!

Our waiter was really funny. He spoke some English, but it was really strange, so I swapped over to Japanese, and just translated for the others. He was really worried that things would be too spicy, or something, or that 1 soup came out before the other (Ange's before K & I) even though K & I had the set, and the others just had ordered individual dishes! Then he offered to take a pic of all 4 of us together, and insisted on doing 1 photo with each of our cameras!

Oh, K & I also had a dessert course - some kind of jelly, but the spoon even came chilled!

After that we did some book shopping - for the plane - then headed back to the hostel, to quickly change for Tokyo Disneyland! However, that will be the subject of my next post, as I am off for my next adventure now!

August 6th in Hiroshima

Ever since Faye told me about her experience in Hiroshima on August 6th, I've wanted to go there for the Peace Day ceremonies. I had thought that I would go last year, but I think that was a bit optimistic - I had only arrived in Hagi 6 days earlier! However, this year I was determined to go - and told Erin, Ange and Katie that I was doing that before they even booked their plane tickets!

We got into Hiroshima the afternoon before (5th). I had had an easy run in from Osaka, but the other 3 had gone mental criss-crossing Japan (coming via both Himeji and Miyajima) so they were tired. Hence, the evening of the 5th was a quiet one. I suppose that wasn't bad given the early morning that awaited us.

We left the hostel around 6.30am, grabbed breakfast at 7-11 and headed over to the Peace Memorial Park to try and get seats in the shade for the 8am ceremony. Luckily the unassigned seats were under marquees, though ages away from the front (as would be expected). You weren't allowed to take photographs during the ceremony, but I really think that it is unphotographable (if that is a word). It's really about the speeches, and listening to the music. What surprised me was that both the Japanese PM and the UN Secretary General were there and there was practically no security. Before the ceremony we attempted to fold paper cranes to add to the pile - but the directions were a LOT confusing. All 4 of us eventually managed it, but they certainly weren't terribly attractive.

Probably my favourite part of the ceremony was when the doves were released. They stayed in their flock as they flew overhead, and it was quite beautiful. All the speeches, except that of the Japanese PM, were provided in the opposite language (Japanese-English I mean) so it was easy to understand what was going on.

After the ceremony we went into the museum. It was insanely busy. Seriously. Luckily I had been through before, and had only recently been to Nagasaki, so I knew a lot of it, but the other 3 took a while, so they could actually read the information at each exhibit. I just waited in a/c comfort, so I was fine.

Some shopping, and lunch ensued, and then we decided to go to Hiroshima Castle. Actually Katie wanted to go early in the day, but then was tired, as were the other 2, so I was going to go by myself, but all 3 of them talked themselves into coming! It was so hot in Hirosh, and we were so sweaty by the time we got to the castle - even though we only had to walk a few blocks from the tram stop. It wasn't even humidity that was making it uncomfortable, lately it has been really hot in Japan, and the sun is strong!

The castle was totally rebuilt, given it was flattened by the A-bomb. However, in their infinite kindness, the Hiroshima City Council (or whatever it is called) decided to build it down the bottom of a mountain, so at least we didn't have to climb up just to get into the castle. The castle is refurbished, vaguely correctly, for the middle floors (2, 3 & 4). The 1st (ground) floor is just the ticket booth, and on the 5th floor there are just seats and vending machines!

In the castle we dressed Katie up as a samurai, and she almost died from overheating whilst wearing it. I think it was all polyester, so it was sweaty when she took it off, so I saw no need to put it on!

We went back to the hostel, all sweaty again, and showered before heading back to the Peace Park for the lantern floating. We got there around 6pm and made lanterns, and set them off down the river. Then we just settled in to watch them, and all the people, as it got dark. Finally we rounded off the day with a great dinner - the highlight of which was some salmon sushi for Katie and I (the other 2 don't eat seafood, their loss!)

I am so glad I went to Hirosh for August 6th. Despite the ridiculous amounts of sweating we did, it really was a great day.

The only thing that remains unanswered in my mind is about the pilot who actually dropped the A-bomb. It's not that I want to send him hate mail, rather I am interested to know how it changed his life. Given most army (etc) people return from war changed in some irreversible way, I wonder how this event changed that pilot's life. I wonder if his family knows, what his kids think (if the has kids). However, for many great reasons, his name remains unknown.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Kyoto, you lose

Well, I spent less than 24 hours in Kyoto this visit. Already it has been demoted to my fifth favourite city in Japan. (1. Tokyo, 2. Osaka, 3. Hirosh, 4. Fukuoka, 5. Kyoto)

The blonde brigade (Geoff's name for them) and I played in the Kyoto station, and Erin coped with her fear of heights to go up and down the vertigo inducing escalators with us. Of course, her reward was a choice between the two 11 storey shopping malls attached to Kyoto Station. Once again, Angela got a bit 'spendy' but as she rightly points out, she has been waiting for this trip for a long time, and doesn't know when she will come back, so who cares if she buys a few souvenirs???

We went to our hostel, which was K's House Kyoto, the nicest one we will stay in the whole trip! I stayed just one night (Sunday night) and the other 3 are staying for a 2nd night.

Anyway, we went to the hamburg/ice cream restaurant that the boys & I ate at in Spring vacation. In Spring the boys and I shared 2 ice creams between the 3 of us, but we decided to have 1 each... maybe because we would never be able to agree on just 3 I guess! After ice cream we of course had to go and do karaoke! We managed to put it on a setting that gave us a score after each song, and Katie & I topped the list doing Ashlee Simpson! We got 92 (out of 100 we hope). Karaoke was also a good time for the girls to try some sake. Don't think any of them really liked it, but Erin said after a few sips it was drinkable!

Sunday, 3 August 2008


Angela was meant to come to Japan in the spring break with the boys, and had desperately wanted to go to Nara. When her knee surgery/blood clot meant she couldn't come, the boys and I nixed Nara from our itinerary. However, I am glad that we went this time! We only really spent a day there - the Lonely Planet recommends 2 but given that most of Nara's sites are outside ones and that it is so hot we really just picked the highlights.

At our hostel we had a palace! We had an 8-bed futon room for the 4 of us, so we were really able to spread out! It was a little out of the centre of town, but so was the other option, so we just had to take buses in and out for sightseeing and dinner. We spent most of our full day in Nara at the park. we started out by eating our breakfast along way away from the overly friendly deer! There were little carts from which you buy biscuits to feed the deer, but as soon as someone had purchased the plastic wrapped biscuits the deer would attempt to eat the biscuits plastic and all, and then the person's clothes, and bag! The other 3 girls all petted the deer and ended up with smelly hands, so I just looked at them!

In the park there are a lot of little temples and shrines. We stopped to look at the outside of most, but only went into Todaiji - which is where the big buddha is housed. The buddha is about 20m high, and there are a few other mega statues in the building as well. There is a piece of wood, like an oversized tree stump that has a hole the size of the buddha's nostril cut through it. You are meant to wiggle through and then get good luck! Of course, little kids were doing it left, right and centre, but Angela saw an adult manage it!

The temple I think is one of the largest wooden structures in Japan, if not the world, and it is amazing how long it has been standing - given most sites in Japan are concrete refurbishments following WWII bombing or earthquake damage!

In Nara I managed to introduce the girls to some more Japanese food - Omrice which is an omelette wrapped around fried rice and Umeshu, a plum wine! Also, for dinner on the 2nd night in Nara we found an Italian restaurant and I had pizza with capers, anchovies and OLIVES! I love olives... I think I have already mentioned it many times, but the first thing I eat back in Australia will be olives! And I'm not fussy, I will eat any and ALL types of olives! Hint, hint!

Nara was much bigger and more industrial/urban than I had expected, though the park does take up a large proportion of the downtown/central area. However, when you get off the train it does just feel like most cities in Japan.

First Stop: Osaka

Katie and I took a bus/train from Hagi - sneakily rode the Nozomi caerd despite the fact that Katie, with her JHR pass, wis not supposed to ride those super fast trains for free - the JR pass can only use the slow and medium speed bullet trains - not that they are very slow! We ended up at the hostel shortly after 4pm and met Erin and Ange who had arrived much earlier!

We decided to head off to Spa World. It is an 8 floor building at the top of which there is a 'family' swimming area - meaning that swimsuits are required! There are a couple of waterslides, a couple of rooftop spas and a big swimming pool - actually it's more like a ring of a pool - there are all kinds of toys/equipment to play with in the middle. It was really nice being outside in the rooftop spa whilst day turned to night. After we got out of the pool we weren't allowed to go into the locker room wet - they expected everyone to strip off in the elevator lobby (women on the 4th floor, men on the 6th) and then walk over to the lockers. Even the Japanese girls who got told to do it at the same time as us looked a little surprised! Katie, Ange and I got dressed there, but Erin was a hussy and walked through the locker room half naked!

Whilst in Osaka we also went to the castle, which has been immaculately restored on the outside, and then inside it is all airconditioned, and the exhibits are museum quality! Outside of the castle, so people could cool down, you could sit under a small marquee and have mist spray on you - so nice in the 35 degree weather! We also went up to the top of the Umeda Sky Building, which has an amazing view of Osaka/Kobe - no idea where one city ends and the next begins! The building has got such reflective glass windows that if you stand in the right place it looks as though there are 3 floating observatory decks! Getting up to the deck is pretty fun - there is a glass lift most of the way, and then the final 5 floors are ascended via a glass escalator that goes diagonally up between the 2 towers!

We also went to Amerika-mura - or as Katie likes to call it 'America World'. It's basically a Japanese interpretation of teen America, filled with crazy Japanese fashion! Out there was also the Rock n Roll museum - a shop with some pretty amazing rock memorabilia.

We managed to try some osaka style okonomiyaki, and we will have the hiroshima style once we are in Hiroshima.

The Osaka heat/humidity was a bit of a shock to Ange and Erin - Katie had already spent 3 days in Hagi by this stage so was vaguely acclimatised. But I think that they are dealing with it quite well! Of course, I told them how hot it would be, and how humid, but I guess they thought I was exaggerating! Although, I don't think you can truly understand a Japanese summer until you have lived through it, and as this is my 2nd I am dealing with it quite well!