Thursday, December 20, 2007

Back in Tokyo

Just got back to Tokyo (as a matter of fact to the same hostel that Carl and I were originally staying in) from my little trip around Western Japan (and Nagoya). Lots of fun that turned pretty much into a big food tour. Got to sample ('gorge ourselves on' might be a better description) the special cuisine of most of the places we went to. But I'm sure if I just post pictures of food this post would be pretty boring so I've done my best not to.

Anyway first destination was Kobe - where we had a yummy teppanyaki meal courtesy of Sakura before wandering around the city a bit. Had coffee/cake at an Isetan cafe (I think it was Isetan) before heading to China Town for some 肉まん (niku-man; meat bun things)... Unfortunately the place we wanted to go had this ridiculously long queue coming out of it and nobody could be bothered to wait so we didn't end up having any.

Izumi and Aki @ 神戸元町 (Kobe moto-machi; China Town in Kobe)

After that we got ourselves into this:

Possibly the biggest line (if you can call it a line) I've ever seen. Definitely the biggest one I've been in. Spent about 2 hours in there being slowly herded along.

This is what happened to the crowd when we got to where everyone was going

And this is what everyone was lining up to see: ルミネリエ (Ruminerie; some made up word that is possibly meant to be Luminaria if it was in English). It was originally started as a memorial thing for the 1995 Kobe Earthquake and apparently this year is the last year it will be run (but apparently they say that every single year too haha)

Me and Izumi at ルミネリエ (Luminerie)

Next day was Kyoto, where Sakura's friend Hiraga-san kindly drove us all over the place in search of good food - which we did find and eat until evening. No photos of the food so I'll skip over the details. After all the eating we ended up at karaoke where we (well, at least I) drank too much...

Aki showing off her ability to see the world cross-eyed @ Karaoke in Kyoto

Sakura being photo-shy as usual @ Karaoke in Kyoto

After we finished up there, we had some ramen and then headed to a まんが喫茶店 (manga-kissaten; manga cafe which is basically Japan's equivalent of internet cafes except as the name suggests you can also read manga there). I left at about 3am but the rest stayed there until the first train (5.30am-ish)...

Not unexpectedly, the next day which was meant to be spent in Osaka, kind of turned into just an afternoon by the time everyone was feeling like doing anything. Luckily the only thing we really wanted to do there was eat たこ焼き (takoyaki; octopus balls) so that wasn't such a bad thing in the end...

The next day after everyone had had a proper rest we all headed to Nagoya.

Izumi, Akie and myself advertising the 7-Eleven near Izumi's place in Nagoya with our yogurt drinks

Izumi took us around to eat all sorts of different things Nagoya is known for: we started with 味噌カツ (miso-katsu; miso-sauce pork cutlets of various sorts), before eventually finding a place that served あんかけスパゲッティ (ankake-supagetti; bean sauce spaghetti) before dinner. Which consisted of, amongst other things, this:

手羽先 (tebasaki - that means chicken wings for those who can't work it out from the photo; Nagoya is quite well known for them. And yes, they were good)

Unfortunately Sakura got kind of sick that night and wasn't really in a state to go out the following day. Aki, Izumi and I ended up having lunch at Izumi's brother's restaurant (which was an Italian restaurant), followed by a nice wander around なごや城 (nagoya-jo; Nagoya Castle).

Sakura joined us in the evening to have dinner where we went to have another Nagoya specialty: ひつまぶし (hitsumabushi). It's basically eel on rice + tea (which you pour over the rice) and some other assorted things (seaweed, wasabi etc) you eat it with. And its sort of a mix and match dish whereby you eat the eel + rice in portions and each time change the flavour by adding different things... Hmm not the best description but it probably doesn't make all that much sense unless you were there anyway haha.

Just before we all ate our ひつまぶし (Hitsumabushi) - another Nagoya specialty.

After dinner we went to have a look at the obligatory tourist attraction: Nagoya's TV Tower which is sort of a mini-Tokyo tower/Eiffel tower thing (although apparently it was the first of its kind built in Japan so Tokyo tower is really the copy)...

テレビ塔 (Terebi-tou; TV Tower) @ Nagoya. That green line shooting out of Izumi's head was this huge laser that came from about 2km away and hit the top of the tower. Still can't work out why it was there but it was pretty cool nonetheless.

All in all a lot of fun (and good food) over the last few days.

And for Akie, Izumi and Sakura: I hope you all enjoyed yourselves as much as I did. Cheers for hanging out (and putting up with me) for the last few days. I'll miss you all next year. See you all (together) back in Melbourne!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Photo Update

Managed to get hold of a card reader so I can upload some pics finally. Just came back from Nagasaki yesterday and now I'm in Kyoto just having a bit of a rest.

On to the photos:

An amusing sign Carl and I found on the way up Mt Misen in Miyajima (the Japanese which says basically the same thing is almost as funny as the English too haha)

The view we were rewarded with for making it to the top of Mt Misen

Too many Melbournians in J-Hoppers Hiroshima

紅葉 (Koyo - autumn leaves) at 東福寺 (Tofuku-ji shrine)

Alex, Aki and Dave at 清水寺 (Kiyomizu-dera - a world heritage temple) at night. Apologies for the blurriness but using super high ISO was the only way to get anything to come out at all...

The weirdest お好み焼き (Okonomiyaki - Japanese pancake) I have ever eaten. At a place called 'Mr Young Men'. It was French style, which apparently consists of a lot of mayonaise and 明太子 (mentaiko - fish eggs) and asparagus, complete with a French flag. Unfortunately I do not have a photo of the American style one ordered by Carl/Dave which was equally weird.

Carl and I in Nara in front of 東大寺大仏殿 (Todai-ji daibutu-den: the giant buddha hall) . Apparently the largest wooden structure on the planet.

Carl throwing a かわらけ投げ (Kawarake-nage) at 神護持 (Jingo-ji). If thrown properly, the thing is meant to sail down to the bottom of the valley and take all your bad karma with it. If thrown the way Carl and I did, it collides into various things including trees and rocks and breaks violently into many pieces - however, it goes further and is more fun.

チャンポン (Chanpon) which is a 長崎 (Nagasaki) speciality. Don't really know how to describe it buts it's sort of a Chinese-style ramen soup noodle dish. Incidentally, for some reason this is also the only photo of Sakura I have from my Nagasaki trip.

めがね橋 (Megane-bashi) - 'spectacle bridge' - in 長崎 (Nagasaki). You can probably work out why.

From tomorrow I'm doing another tour of the 関西 (Kansai) region with Aki, Izumi and Sakura so hopefully will have more interesting photos soon. Oh, and the Atomic Bomb Memorial Museum in Nagasaki is sooo much better than the one in Hiroshima. Well, better in the sense of being more detailed. Not a good place for those with weak stomachs.

That's it for now - take care all.

Monday, December 10, 2007

京都 (Kyoto)

Can't post pictures from this computer unfortunately but thought I'd write something quickly before I head out for the day.

Been staying in Kyoto since Thursday and will be checking out tomorrow morning (heading to Nagasaki). Can't really remember exactly what we've been doing each day but the main interesting stuff includes:

- 清水寺 (Kiyomizu-dera) at night. They had a special night illumination thing on this year which we went along to with Dave, Simon, Alex and Aki
- All you can drink karaoke (all night) somewhere near 四条 (shi-jou) with all of the above
- Walking to 東福寺 (Tofuku-ji - temple with lots of pretty autumn leaves) and 伏見稲荷大社 (Fushimi-inari-taisha - shrine with thousands of gates up the mountain) and getting really lost. But on the upside we found this really rich area of Kyoto with some nice houses/cars haha.
- たこ焼き (Takoyaki - octopus balls) and Japanese style crepes in 大阪 (Osaka). They were so good they were quite possibly the highlight of Carl's trip to Japan lol.
- Trip to 奈良 (Nara) with a trip to a random 温泉 (onsen - hotspring bath thing) plus a detour through 大阪 (Osaka) on the way home for more たこ焼き(takoyaki - octopus balls)

Anyway, hopefully I will find a computer that lets me post photos sometime soon.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

ランダム (Random)

No photos in this post. I'm too lazy to work out how to post them from this computer haha. But I think I had one of the most random days of my life yesterday. Anyway let me start from the start and just give you guys a bit of an update.

Carl and I are in Hiroshima right now - we left Tokyo on Tuesday. In the morning Carl and I thought we'd go to Miyajima (small island near Hiroshima famous for its little floating shrine/gate thingy). We walked all the way to the train station (approx 30 minutes) from the hostel only for me to realise that I had forgotten to bring my JR pass (which lets me ride the JR trains)... After heading back to the hostel on a tram (yes they have trams in Hiroshima) to get it I managed to catch the wrong tram to get back to the station. So to cut a long story short, in the end we only got on a train at something like 12.30pm. So much for morning departure...

Once we got there though it was really nice - the tide was out making the floating gate look more like it was sitting in a pile of mud, but that meant that there were hardly any tourists. You really need to see the place to understand how much the crowds of tourists ruin it. Our purpose wasn't really to see the shrine/gate though. We went there so we could hike up the mountain (Mt Misen). It was only a 2.2km walk to the peak but it was basically all uphill so it was harder than expected. It took about an hour but it was definitely worth the effort (not to mention the much needed exercise). To top it off we managed to climb onto some massive boulder rock thing at the very top (that we probably weren't meant to) but the view from up there was quite spectacular. Hmm next time I'll upload a photo of that...

Anyway to start with the more random stuff, when we got home Carl and I were sitting in our room trying to sort out what we were going to do for dinner when Bernard (my other cousin) suddenly walks by the door and waves. We'd met up in Tokyo because we actually took the same flight into Japan, but since about Friday we thought we were all going our separate ways and didn't really discuss our plans. But turns out he and his friends had come all the way to Hiroshima (from a completely different direction), booked exactly the same hostel and in fact had the room right next to ours.

Then downstairs in the lounge, Andy (friend travelling with Bernard) met this Japanese girl (Azusa) who'd been on exchange to China so she could speak Mandarin. The four of us ended up going to dinner together to 牛角 (gyu-kaku which is a chain yaki-niku restaurant), which was rather weird since despite having 3 languages to use (Chinese, English and Japanese) there was always at least one person who had no idea what was being said at all. And speaking of languages, I made a rather stupid translation mistake when I was reading the menu by thinking that the price referred to the price per person, rather than the price of the dish. So we ordered a lot less than we should have and ended up feeling hungry enough to have to go to the convenience store after for more food haha.

Then, when we got back to the hostel, I open the lounge door only to find Dave Lee and Simon (two friends from highschool) sitting in there. Turns out they'd decided to come to Hiroshima and book the same hostel too.

So between Bernard and his friends, Dave his bro and Simon, and Carl and I, there was 9 people from Melbourne in the lounge. About a beer and a half later, two more people stick their heads in the door. And guess where they were from... Yep, more Melbournians. Both from Melbourne Uni too. So I think we not only set a record for the most Aussies in the lounge at one time, but also set the record for most Melbournians. I suppose to be fair though, there are not a lot of hostels in Hiroshima so the chance of this happening probably isn't as crazy as it seems but it's all still feeling extremely random.

Anyway I'm still trying to get over this hangover from last night (yeah I definitely need to stop drinking so much) so I should probably leave it there. Till next time, take care all.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Not much time to write stuff so here's a photo.