22 Jul Konichiwa to Japan
1) First few days in Tokyo
– Arrived safely, was around 35 degrees heat, got to shinjuku station ok on NEX train direct from Tokyo Narita airport. Walked around with heavy backpack for an hour with a small screenshot of location of hotel. It was actually only supposed to be15 minutes away, but took an hour going around in circles trying to find hotel. Asked other hotels for directions but no-one speaks english so no hope.
– Finally arrived at hotel, greeted warmly by the receptionist, however could speak bare minimun english. Said to me, there is a communal big bath between these certain hours, which i thought was a bit strange but just agreed as i needed to lie down after drenching in sweat to find this place. To my delight, i walked into the room and all i could do was laugh to myself. A small bed with a small dressing table, no toilet or bathroom. (Thats what the receptionist was talking about). After walking around the floorplate, i found a toilet and a washroom, in which the washroom has a dispenser for not just water but green tea.
– Communal bath – I put on the slippers and the thin gown (which made me look like i was wearing a karate kid gown) and headed down to the basement level for the communal bath. This was interesting, as you get fully butt naked in the dressing room and then head into the bathing area. There were around 10 shower heads, with a small plastic square stool to sit on. Following the lead of other Japanese men, i washed myself down then sat inside a massive bathtub (kind of like a Jacuzzi but without the bubbles). You just sit there for 5-10mins and relax, then wash yourself down again.
2) Gaming/anime – walking along the streets of Tokyo, there are many gaming/arcades. One arcade shop could take up 8 floors of gaming. Just walking through watching not just young kids but adults playing hardcore games, impressive to say the least at the speed and accuracy of the gamers. It’s not just cartoon games either, they have games such as ‘hit the drums to the beats’ and a ‘dj game with 20 buttons’. Now these require a great hand-eye and speed coordination. The Japanese men all love their cartoons too and you see them reading it everywhere and anywhere.
3) Cameras, cameras and more cameras – roaming the streets of Tokyo and the department stores, clearly there is a passion for cameras, The first shop i went into two entire floors were dedicated to different cameras, accessories, memory cards and most importanly HUMUNGOUS LENSES!!!
4) Sleeper Capsule – the best naps you will ever have in your life.
6) Anjan and UK Oyster – so our best mate Anjan was joinìng us for 10 days, We told him that he should bring his London Oyster card with him as they use the same system here. We didn’t actually think he would fall for it, so he arrived excited to use his oyster card when we went into the station. We walked with him to the information desk so he could activate it and get it topped up an how he goes about using it. Arriving at the counter, he busts out his oyster card to the guy who doesn’t really speak any english. He was confused as hell to say the least and you’ve got anjan asking him where abouts he needs to go to add money onto the card. Me and veron, standing behind him were just pissing ourselves with laughter, then anjan turns round and realises that we have completely fooled him.
7) Shinkansen (Bullet Train) – The trains fly at a speed of 300km/h, just unbelievable, you cut down your train times massively using this service and yet they have plans to build a new train that goes 500km/h. If anyone knows fast transport, its the Japanese, comfortable and spacious.
8) Toilets – if anyone knows cleanliness it’s the Japanese… the god damn toilets have a control panel? Like what the hell? Impressive to say the least. Noise canceller, heated seat, auto flush, heated spray and automatic deodoriser. It’s like you’ve travelled in a movie in a time machine.
1) Sumo Wrestling – we were set on wanting to see a Sumo Match, so we took a last minute Nozomi Shinkansen train (fast ass train) to Nagoya. We had got reception to phone in advance if there were any tickets available and they said that we can’t reserve any and just have to ride the luck of getting some. We was a bit adament as the train ride was going to cost us £65 each way but took the plunge anyway as we were determined to see naked fat men in skimpy clothes. Luckily we found an aussie dude on the train who was also going to the wrestling and knew exactly where to go. We asked him how he exactly knew how to make it there and the reason was that him and his whole family had been there two days before because they arrived two days earlier and got their dates muddled up. That set them back a far bit, an extra 20,000JPY x 5 people (£800) so it didn’t feel as much of a hit in our pockets compared to this guy. So we arrived and the cheap tickets were all sold out, so we had to pay for a box. We had come all this way so just had to pay for it no matter the cost. The lady at the counter actually gave us two boxes because she said its japanese style box and we wont fit. Now i don’t know about you, but when i think of a “box seat” i think of luxurious seats with lots of space. Now this is Japan… a Box is literally a Box! A square with the area size of 1m by 2m. No wonder why we needed two between 3 of us. We also met some american dude sitting next to us in his own box and offered us a beer and then bought us all a sumo souvenir. Sumo was one of the best experiences in Japan.
1) World Beer Bar – We headed off on a train with an american dude we met at the sleeper capsule. At this beer bar there were hundreds of beers to choose from on the menu and we really was wondering how do we go about picking a random beer. So we decided the best way would be to open the menu on a random page and spin a coin and watch to see where it lands and thats what we would order. So Anjan flicked his coin and what does he land on..? A Sri Lanken Beer (Now if you don’t know my friend here, i have been teasing him for the past 9 years about looking sri lanken, so you can imagine the explosion of my banter). So veron flicked and got a Romanians beer and then i got an Austrian Beer. Now once they arrives, we poured them out and tasted them all. My one tasted a bit strong and then i decided to read the bottle. So everyone elses beer was around 4-8% and just my luck, my beer was the strongest one on the entire menu at 14%. Man this was some strong ass beer.
2) One of worlds “Top Ten” Rollercoaster – so according to one of the guide books, this rollercoaster, names ‘Vanish’, is one of the top ten rollercoasters in the world. We bought our ticket and queued up for the ride. It’s supposed to plunge through some water and head underground and pp out elsewhere. Sounds exciting right..? Thats what we thought too.. But.. the BIG BUT.. the ride ended up being the biggest dissapointment in the world. It goes at a slow pace and when they say ‘Vanish’ they really mean dissapear through a 3 second tunnel through a small pool of water. This ride should be in the list of ‘top ten waste of space baby carriages in the world’. Nevertheless we still can say we had a ride on it.
1) 2-day Trek to the summit.
2) Foggy/Cloudy on the first leg
3) roughly 5 hour hike up from the 5th station to the 7th Station where we rested at 5pm to 10pm, felt like 30 degrees plus and high humidity for climb
4) woken up at 10pm to trek for another 5 hours to the summit for sunrise at 3am
5) the final few hours of the hike were freezing cold, clothes were definitely not warm enough
6) 100 metres away from summit when sun beautifully burst through the clouds. Could feel the altitude and breathing became more slowly.
7) Snow caps around the summit area and crater
8) 4-5 hour climb trek back down to th 5th station. Note that climbing up a mountain is 10 times easier than climbing down. Who would have thought that would have been the case..??
9) Onsen Overlooking Mt.Fuji – Hot Natural spring bath to soak up and relax our muscles
1) A-Bomb Area – This is the area which was hit by an american atomic bomb which basically wiped out the whole area of Hiroshima and had to be rebuilt. Supposedly it was the first ever atomic bomb used in warfare and was used by the US Army in retaliation to the Pearl Harbour attacks by the Japanese.
2) Baseball Game – Wondering around the town, we saw floods of people dressed in red baseball shirts and knew that this is what we must go and do now we are here. We asked some random dude about where to get tickets, so he kindly walked us to the stadium and found out where we queue to try get tickets then left us to it. We were intendng to buy home crowd ticket (everyone being dressed in red) and we were looking to buy some red shirts and red baseball caps after purchasing our tickets. So we were lucky enough to buy a pair of tickets for the game. Veron headed off to the w.c. and i started browsing around the products and thought let me go take a look at where we are sitting… and what do i realise?? That our tickets on the map showed “away fans” section in which the team was in all blue. Thank god i noticed this before we went ahead and bought our bright red shirts as we would have stood out in the crowd like muppets.
3) Dinner with Japanese dude – Okonomiyaki (Noodle/egg/seafood pancake)… so the dude who took us to buy tickets, we invited him out for dinner with us. He took us to a local place to try the delicasy of the area… Okonomiyaki. This pancake made with noodles, seafood and covered over by an omelette was delicious! We then had a few beers with the dude and headed off.
1) Takoyaki Food – Squid balls coated in cheese. We asked some random Japanese girls to take us to a good local restaurant to get these famous squid balls. The name of the place was TakoTako and served up these lovely balls. They tasted pretty good but i think you can only enjoy about 1 or 2 max, so thank god we only ordered a small portion.
2) Universal Studios Osaka – Japan has its own universal studios, so we decided to check it out. I think there were probably only about 20 tourists out of the tens of thousands of people in the park, so it was interesting to say the least.
1) Sake Museum – We spotted on the map that there was Sake museums in Kobe, so during our high speed train rides we knew we had to take a detour to one of these. We got there just before closing time and the lady at the train station phoned them in advance to let the brewery know we were coming. When we arrived they had lined up 5 different types of sake shots for us to try, starting with a fresh unflavoured direct from production sake, which was 18-20% alcohol content. We then continued to have the other few shots and then headed back onto the train a bit buzzin. Not bad for a quick stop before continueing on.
1) Kyoto Station – You can head up to the rooftop of the station and get some fantastic views of Kyoto. At first we were a bit skeptical as who has a rooftop on a train station, but my god were we impressed. Stunning views of the city. And the steps up to the top were lit up with moving images created by individual LED’s on the steps, simply amazing.
2) Bamboo Forest / Hike up mountain / Kimono outfits – we walked through the famous Bamboo forest and then hiked up some mountain through some famous gates. I have a feeling we didn’t go the right way and somehow ended up in some random area. However, lucky for us, Veron, who loves to ask questions walked into a Bridal shop and they had Kimono outfits. The few lady’s who owned the shop were kind enough to dress us up in Kimono outfits. To show our appreciation for this, we stopped off and bought some flowers. This definately made the old lady’s day.
3) Game of Spoons with Koreans – In our hostel room, we met these two lovely Koreans (a brother and sister travelling together) and we became friends with them. They even cooked us a Korean dinner one night which was so unexpected and delicious. We then all played a card game of spoons and another two cool Koreans who were in our hostel joined us plus we rounded up the others around us, so our game expanded. The loser of each round had to have a shot of Sake, so we didn’t get to sleep until about 5a.m. when the two koreans had to catch their flight home. We als had a game of pick up sticks until they left and Veron beat the guy at Chess, which i think the guy was pretty dissapointed about.
4) Gyasha Hunting – Real Gyasha’s are very hard to spot so we were just hoping for the best that on the off chance we would see one. The receptionist at our hostel said that at around 11pm in a certain area about 25 minutes away from us that at 11pm we may get lucky and see one walking home. So we hopped on a train, arriving at 10.40ish and just starting walking round and round, up and down the streets of a Gyasha known area. After about 45 minutes, what do we see.. A GYASHA!!! What are the chances. Veron even asked for a photo, but she said something back in Japanese and then bowed at us, as i dont think they let you take photos of them. We even made it back in time for the last train, call that lucky or what!
1) Japan Brewery Beer Festival – Just our luck, there was a Beer festival just starting in Sapparo where the 4 big brewerys in Japan set up beer tents along this long park stretch. So of course we was going to attend. We started off at the first one and worked our way across one by one with the aim to have a keg of beer at each one between us. (1. Suntory Beer, 2. Asahi Beer,
3. Kirin Beer, 4. Sapparo Beer). So after obtaining our 2nd keg in the 2nd tent, our foreigness exploded out of control. Everyone thought our friend Anjan was Neymar, the brasilian striker. Now they didn’t just think he was a lookalike, they actually thought it was him. Everyone and anyone was queueing up to take photos with him, it was actually insane, he was living the life of a celeb for a day. We even had a guy who we thought was like Mr Miyagi who actualy bought us a keg of beer, which meant we now had two kegs on our table for the three of us. After about an hour or Anjan / Neymar contantly having photo’s, he actually turned to me and said Rik, i actually can’t take this, i need a break to just have my beer, so he dissapeared for a bit. Now as we just moved from a few tables, we chilled with some japanese girls. Now as mentioned earlier about me taking the micky out of verons beer belly (or shall i say ‘Biiru Bara’ in Japanese), I was convincing everyone to call him that, which caught on pretty quickly. Now I’m sitting there, on the left of me I have Neymar’s name being shouted out and on the right of me i have a groups of people shouting out ‘Biiru Bara’ and me in the middle pissing myself laughing. This day could not get any better. We moved onto the third tent and as the option higher than a keg looked more cooler we oredered that.. im afraid to say we didn’t make the last tent as we was blaring R&B music from my boombox speaker and the party just stayed at our table with Japanese people stopping to dance with us. This was a once in a lifetime fame sportlight for our Birthday Boy Neymar.
1. Video Of Neymar B’day https://www.dropbox.com/s/egtwnkl0qpxaobu/20140722_195755.mp4
2. Video of Biiru Bara https://www.dropbox.com/s/fd8o5rpsjzfdpnh/20140722_195850.mp4
2) Lavender Garden Train Journey – we took a lovely, chilled out train ride for about 5 hours going through Lavender fields. We met some more South Koreans and had some lavender wine and ice cream with them.
Our Japense Phrasebook
A) Konichiwa = Hello
B) Arigatou = Thank You
C) Hai = Yes
D) Lie = No
E) Genki Desk ka = How are you?
F) Genki Desk = I’m fine
G) Biiru Bara = Beer Belly
H) Anata wa, totemo utsukushi = You are very beautiful
I) Watashi was, anata ga, skidesk = I Like you
Japan has been one of the best countries I have ever visited. Amazing people, amazing food, hygiene is just completely spotless, like anyone who has OCD(i.e. Neshi) would be put to shame by this country. Quote we found in Japan which sums it up was “Better City, Better Life”, totally agreed!