Our plane was due to leave at 10:30 today, so we left for the airport around 8:30-9-ish, which was maybe a bit early, but I wanted the chance to take a last look at the taxfree. Lucky that XD hubby forgot that he hadn’t bought anything to bring back to work so I took care of that as well. And some last kitkat before boarding time :3 The food during this flight (Japan Airlines) was much better than the trip from Europe. I also ate some of the bread I bought at Aeon mall, so I was never hungry at least. But I couldn’t sleep. Had maybe two hours? Tops. Spent the time reading not-that-great fanfiction and taking pictures of the Ural mountains instead.
Also, having flown literally backwards in time, we arrived at around 16:00, so. Five and a half hours practically, if not actually, to get home from Japan, not that bad right? ;) But now sleeeep…
This morning hubby had A Goal in mind, so he was up bright and early despite our late night. Yesterday he’d apparently checked out two “gaming places”, Newton Oyama and Joypolis, and he had to go back to Joypolis before leaving Japan. So, hubby caught the train in to Tôkyô and I had a nice sleep-in before venturing out into Narita city. I strolled down their Omotesando, buying a few last gifts, and then ended up at the Narita-san temple.
It really had amazingly beautiful grounds and buildnings, and when I got to the main hall there was some sort of ceremony/sermon starting at 11:00, so I stopped for that. It wasn’t anything strange in the beginning, priests in different coloured robes came in, some drums started, and then one of the priests started chanting. But oh man, what a chanting! He had a really powerful voice, and just kept going and going and going! And then after maybe 15-20 minutes, some people started to leave, but those left began passing their purses and handbags forward to be collected by another few priests. They brought them forward to the middle, where they’d lit a fire (?!) and started passing big clutches of bags through the smoke, blessing them I suppose?? And then everybody got their bags back, and with some final chanting the ceremony was over and the priests piled out.
I went back out to photograph and enjoy the temple grounds, bought some charms, and then back out to omotesando. I’d taken a photo of a map up by the station and at a certain crossing I knew I could, in a round about way, make my way to Aeon Mall, so I started out. Had to ask a traffic police for directions in a crossing and then ended up passing through the residential districts for a lot longer than anticipated, but, after a slightly illegal (?), street crossing I was finally there. I had lunch, bought, even more, gifts, some sweets and bread, some books and tea. (I got a 1000¥ discount coupon simply on account of being foreign XD). In the end I took the bus back to the station around 16:00 and then had a nap.
When hubby came back a couple hours later we bathed in the hotel onsen, and then went out for a last dinner in Japan, some kind of grill-place that was delicious but slow, so for afters we went to McDonalds XD (first and only time while in Japan, at least for me), but!! BUT LISTEN!!! THEY HAD ANKO-PAI!!! As in pie with anko-filling!!!!!! Nnnnggnnngggggghhhh, whyyyyyyy is that not a thing in the western world!?!?!?!?!!? So gooood <3 ;-; And why didn’t we go to McD earlier, this has clearly been a most awful travesty!! D: *blubber*
(Also, apparently hubby’d brought towels from the hotel, and took a midday dip in Tôkyô Bay XD)
This morning we checked out from the ryokan, but left our luggage, and then split up for the morning. I took the bus over to Asakusa, and prowled the small shopping streets around Sensoji temple. Then we met up at 13:00 by the Hozomon gate, bought lunch together from the various food vendors around before taking the subway to Harajuku together just to have those crepes one last time (they really were delicious <3) before splitting again. I went on a mad spree to buy some last omiyage to bring back to the family. Hubby hadn’t thought to buy any so far, at all, so now, on the second to last day he started panicking over it, while I’d been buying small things here and there for the entire trip. So I said I’ll handle it, since I actually find it enjoyable to shop for things, unlike him.
By 18:00 we met up by the ryokan again to pick up our luggage and then on to Ikebukuro to meet our friends one last time in Japan. We had dinner at some place trying to emulate a 1920’s yakuza atmosphere, which would have been impossible for just us as tourist to stumble upon, and our friends had to do all of the ordering since there weren’t an English menu. And it was all very tasty :3 And they even brought a late surprise birthday cake for hubby, so we got to sing him (to the glad bemusement of all the Japanese patrons) “happy birthday”.
Finally, we took a train from Nippori out towards Narita airport, and we arrived at our last hotel for the trip around midnight (yet again. Midnight is apparently our perfect check-in time, no matter how little I enjoy finding my way through dark, unknown streets, dead tired and with heavy luggage).
This morning we took the Kodama again, back to Tôkyô! (I bought locally grown figs at the train station, they were huge and the most delicious ones I’ve ever had <3). Next hotel was a small ryokan near Ueno koen, where we just stopped to shower and unload our luggage before making our way to Ueno station and then Kappabashi. I… was in a very strange, anxious and unpleasant (for everyone) mood on the way. I didn’t handle a slight change in our plans to get there very well and then every possible decision of what to possible do just felt wrong and stressful.
We got to Kappabashi eventually, with the intention of finding a sake set. In the very first store we enter hubby finds one he liked and which fulfilled all of his, a bit eccentric, ideas’ of what a sake set should look like. I thought it looked plain hideous. So I said, no, don’t buy it yet, we’ve got to check the other stores as well! (This goes very much against hubby’s philosophy of getting the first somewhat adequate/fitting thing he lays his eyes on while out shopping for something specific, to reduce the shopping time). Hubby hates browsing stores. It makes him anxious. But we set out. I try to point out prettier pieces of pottery but which fulfil his preset idea. It doesn’t go well. At all. He’s getting in a more and more unmanageable mood and I’m getting annoyed that he won’t accept any of the actually nice pottery. So. Eventually we’ve gone up and down the street, both exhausted and in pissy moods but hubby returns to the first store and buys that hideous set he first clapped his eyes on. At least it was cheap… :/
Now we just wanted to find some food, but before managing that we have a small fight/falling out. And then talked it over when we’d finally found something to eat, and both were in a better mood. After that we split up, in good spirits at least. I went to a Muji in Shinjuku and then Takeshita dori, specifically to find a new parasol, which took longer than anticipated.
Today we slept in for hubby’s sake, he’s had a bit to much excitement for his taste lately. Eventually though, we checked out from the hotel and took the Hakata shinkansen to Hiroshima. When finally there (the longest trip so far I think?) we took a tram down to the Peace Memorial park. Cause come on. Why else go out of the way down to Hiroshima?
It was beautiful and also very emotional. I started crying while reading a plaque at the A-bomb Dome. We also entered the museum but hubby had to leave quite soon; he found the atmosphere of all the tourists plowing through as if it was just an ordinary museum confusing and overwhelming. I started crying again reading about the remains of various children they’d found who’d been working in the city centre at the time of the bomb, and seeing the personal items parents had been able to identify them by, because there were hardly any bodies left.
After the museum we just strolled up the street going to the main train station, collecting ourselves and trying to find somewhere to eat. We ended up having Hiroshima style okonomiyaki, which I liked and hubby didn’t. And I forgot my parasol at the restaurant ;-; but when I remembered we were already at the station to catch our train onwards. First a Sakura back to Shin-Ôsaka and then the plan was onwards to Kakegawa. At first we panicked a bit, because there were no Kodama left running to Tôkyô, it was too late in the evening, just Nozomi. But luckily there were Kodama running to Mishima still, which meant it’d stop at Kakegawa where we’d booked our hotel for the night. We arrived close to midnight and collapsed into bed more or less.
Our second day in Kyôtô started very early (compared to the usual at least XD) since we wanted to get to Fushimi Inari shrine before the crowds. It was well worth it, being able to take some beautiful pictures undisturbed and walk up to the small mountain shrine before the midday heat wave hit. And I saw and heard ravens on the way up <3 hello Hugin and Munin! And we made excellent time compared to the last time hubby was here, 1 hour from the entrance gates to the top. We took it a bit slower on the way down, and a different route as well, conveniently ending up on a street filled with food and souvenir vendors. We bought various things for an early lunch and I bought a plushie kitsune :3
After that on via bus to Kinkakuji, which really was an amazing experience. I can really understand humans’ fascination with gold seeing that building glittering in the sunlight. Because it overlooked a lake and was generously cordoned off it was easy to get good pictures also. And there were some nice charms for luck in various things for sale there (as there are on any kind of temple ground really) so I bought a big bunch :3 but my kitsune plushie got ripped off my purse somewhere ;-; but also match-icecream <3
We continued on to Gion, the old quarters of Kyôtô afterwards (I wanted to catch a glimpse of a geisha ^///^ we didn’t). Hubby got real tired and wanted to return to the hotel in Ôsaka but I wanted to continue sight-seeing so we split up. Normally I wouldn’t really… be very comfortable with this, because hubby has a lousy sense of direction, but he could point to where the nearest subway station was and we’d made the trip between Ôsaka-Kyôtô a couple of times now so I though sure. Gotta trust in him and relax a little. So I gave him the room key card *(only hade the one) and went on my merry way in Kyôtô (apparently it is a thing to go to Gion and rent kimonos and get your hair done before strolling around..?) for a while before returning to Ôsaka, and then browsing a galleria I found for an hour or so before trying to find my way back to the hotel. I knew I was the right neighbourhood, Namba, but in the end I had to go down in the subway to check the numbered exits to be able to find my way XD And then, when I’m almost back, thinking hubby must have had a nice, calm nap by now, I see his, in Japan very distinctive, back while crossing the last road in front of the hotel! I call out to him and he turns and runs to me and hugs me tight and excluding such relief at having found me! Meanwhile I feel like a huuuge question mark.
So. Apparently, hubby has, in his cloud of sleepiness, taken a Hikari shikansen from Kyôtô, buuut… In the wrong direction. Towards Tôkyô and not Ôsaka. And the Hikari doesn’t stop all that often so he was on that train, stewing in his own, nervous sweat for 30 minutes before managing to get off. Now he tells me, he is mildly panicking, because we only hade the one key card remember, and what if I had returned to the hotel only to find it locked and empty? Sooo, to get back quickly, he took the next available train, which happened to also be the fastest, a Nozomi. Only our shinkansen passes weren’t valid on Nozomi. So to avoid the train staff checking the tickets, he locked himself for half an hour in the toilet XD crazy nervous all the while. When he got back to Kyôtô he had to switch trains and made the adrenalin-fuelled decision to take Nozomi again (he admitted to having some not very complimentary fantasies about my reactions at the time). and while this trip was shorter, he didn’t dare lock himself up again, but he daren’t sit in a seat only to rush up if he saw a ticket controller, so he stood in the compartment between the wagons and pretended to talk on his mobile, all the while “discreetly” checking around the corners now and then to see if any train staff was approaching. So at long last he’s back in Ôsaka, on the final trek to the hotel only to hear my voice calling him on the street. So he wasn’t to late back! But I find my husband a nervous wreck instead of calm and rested as I’d expected. Nothing to do but go inside and lay down for a proper nap :)
Today we had a sleep in, and then took the shinkansen to Kyôtô. We started off with Nijou castle. There we met first some middle schoolers out on a mission to practise English on tourists (they were adorable and gave us some origami after writing in their little books), and then a nice elderly couple (one of them dutch and the other brit) while sitting down for a drink and rest, and had a pleasant chat. And Nijou was very beautiful, both inside and the gardens surrounding it. There was a nightingale floor inside but, of course, photographing or filming was forbidden -.-And I got a sunburn D: horror!
Around lunch-time we went on to Nishiki dori, a long shopping street with tiny local shops, my favourite kind of street :D on that street I finally got the chance to taste hanami dango… I was. Underwhelmed :| Expectations of taste dashed yet again. But hubby found some nice sake as a gift for friends and family. Oh and I bought a gorgeous parasol! <3 (Hubby also found fake, decorative katana… Which I wouldn’t let him buy. Because they didn’t fit in our suitcases and also where. The. F*ck. Would we place those at home?! NO!! Sorry darling, but no).
Back in Ôsaka we had dinner at a yakitori-grill, now that was delicious, even if we didn’t try some of the, in western tastes, more adventurous stuff. Like “hormones” (testicles??) or cartilage or heart…
Today onwards! Earliest bus from Kawaguchiko to Mishima (the bus driver made the strangest arm gestures whenever he’d stopped or had to turn), and in Mishima we activated our Rail Passes and took the Shinkansen to Shin-Ôsaka. We’d gotten help from a station guard when trying to figure out how to get from there to our hotel, and he’d said go to Namba and take exit number 5. Only hubby didn’t get it/didn’t trust it, so we didn’t take exit number 5 (of like, 20 different available ones), but another, and finding our way to the hotel took a godawful while. But the hotel was very nice.
We went out pretty much straight away and took the subway over to Kaiyûkan, a big aquarium in the harbour. Only when we came to the entrance I saw the building next to the aquarium, and it had a huuuge banner with Naruto on it!! I got a little excited, shall we say.
But the aquarium first. And it was rather amazing, starting a the top of the building and spiralling down, with aquariums stretching several floors. But some of the enclosures were very small compared to the numbers of animal inside them (especially the penguins), so I don’t actually think any of my marine biologist friends would have liked it there.
After Kaiyûkan we went to the Naruto building. And it turned out to be just as great as I thought it would. It was a big exhibition of the entire series, and I had no idea about beforehand. (If I’d gone to Japan and missed it? It would have been devastating!) There were loads of the original artworks, and descriptive panels in both Japanese and English. And since it was rather late and the exhibition had already been going for a while the crowds were minimal! Two specially made movies with manga stills made to move, it was incredible, and very good soundtracks as well. And several life size statues, of Naruto, Kakashi, Sasuke (and someone else I think) but not of Sakura :( The only bad things were one, that you couldn’t take photos, and there were staff everywhere keeping an eye out (but I couldn’t resist and managed one photo in Sasuke’s room!!! Only to find that that exact one were available online with the promo pics, but whatever, I got an adrenaline shot anyways! XD) and two, the souvenir shop at the end weren’t that great. Not a big selection, you could only buy five things, not matter value, and if you left you had to buy a new ticket (!) to get back inside the shop again… Really? What’re you all afraid of?! But all in all a great exhibition, both in my and hubby’s mind.
And then we were both starving and entered the first restaurant we found, which happened to be western, but whatever, too hungry! I’m afraid we exasperated the servers a bit with ordering several times so close to closing time. Hubby was very hungry, and japanese servings are rather small. And also dessert!
Hubby’s birthday! :D hooray! And I didn’t have a present for him, ehehe. But he’d chosen the days plans which were a trip to Fuji-Q Highland! We took the tram and bought tickets and then tried to find our high school friend who was meeting up, which took a while, since we used different entrances and we didn’t realize this beforehand. Whoops :/
There wasn’t all that many visitors because of the weather report predicting rain, and yet! The queues for the biggest rides were still around Three. Hours. Long. THREE HOURS WAITING IN LINE FOR A 2 MINUTE RIDE?!?!?! Not okay, so not bloody fucking wELL OKAY!!! We managed one of the big ones (Dodompa, and it was glorious) and a few smaller (Tondemina was the best!), but we sure as hell didn’t get our money’s worth for the tickets. Additionally, in the late afternoon they closed the big ones because of the rain. But! We played a few games then and hubby won me an adorable plushie puppy! :D
So fun but slightly disappointing day.
Today we checked out from MyStays and took a bus from Shinjuku. We had a map showing where the bloody bus station was, and which subway exit to take, but we still ended up going the wrong way and turning in circles before we found a small neighbourhood map that we could compare to the one we had *big sigh* But we managed to catch the bus in plenty of time, cause we actually planned for not finding the station easily. So, off to Kawaguchiko!
It’s a small town at the foot of Fuji-san. The bus there took two hours and we got to see plenty of the country side on the way. And the way that nature grows is so different compared to Scandinavia! It felt like every single green growing thing were on steroids. But it was beautiful travelling between all the small mountaintops and the little communities that covered every flat stretch of land.
When we got there we were, strangely enough for not really having done anything, tired. We’d planned to take the Kachikachi ropeway up a mountainside to watch Fuji-san, buuuuut… The weather was dismal, with clouds and mist, so no. We just got checked in at the ryokan we were staying at and rested. (Oh, right! Also sex. While trying to be quiet cause the walls were extremely thin!)
In the evening we bought a few gyoza from a food truck outside and then walked for about half an hour to get to a recommended ramen shop. This was my third time eating ramen, and gave me enough evidence to say that I don’t really… like it all that much. (This feels like betraying both myself and my love for Naruto. Fandom has glorified ramen for so many years, I’ve been longing to try the real stuff. And then it doesn’t live up to my expectations ;-;). We found a supermarket, the biggest we’d seen yet, on the way home. (And that way was scary. The sidewalk was about 20 cm broad, there was zero street lights, and the cars came zooming past at high speeds, in total darkness). It’s was slightly claustrophobic to enter that store, with all the bright colours and text, so much more than I’m used to seeing, it’s was impossible to rest your eyes anywhere!
After that we took Yamanote line again to Shinjuku and went to Isetan Depato (where we bought to most enormous grapes I have ever laid eyes upon in my entire life), and then to Harajuku station and off into Yoyogi koen. It was amazing in there, so beautiful and restful <3 and we continued on to Meiji-jingu, and it feels so spectacular to walk among these old buildings, you feel so close to the past, it's amazing~
After Yoyogi we went back to Harajuku and to Takeshita dori. Of course. I would feel like I was letting down my teenaged self if we didn't XD problem was, by then we were so hungry we were kind just keeping our eyes open for a good restaurant but there was only pasta places, and sure... I like pasta, but that is not what I wanna eat while in Japan for the first time in my life! We ended up in some kind of food court, which sold mostly sweets (everyone seem to live off sugar over there) but also kara-age curry. The stall looked a bit doubtful but it was delicious. And for afters we bought confectionery crepes, (mine was matcha-flavoured ofc) and they were amazing <3
After that, Yamanote line again, on to Shibuya, hubby insisted on showing me the infamous street crossing, and we spent some time up in Starbucks (without buying anything, the line was too long, oops?) observing everyone scurrying on like little ants :D we went a little further in from the crossing and I found a Muji depato!!! It was perfect~ I love Muji <3
Later on we went back to Akihabara, it felt like we missed something last time, and it went a little better now, we found an interesting pair of depato, Radio keikan and Gamers. Hubby managed to find a Zelda figurine and I finally found some naruto merch, but very little and rather overpriced, so I only bought a key-ring. And then hubby didn't have any patience left for any more stores so he went back to the hotel and I kept on browsing, and found re-cast FairyLand pukipuki... That was... I don't now, I wasn't really expecting to find such blatantly illegal and poor quality (they really were horrible) goods in a well cared for and well visited department store :/
After that we went off to Ikebukuro and met up with our friend and took the train back to her home in the suburbs. Out there, and it's wasn't very far out, it was really cosy, with small but functional houses. And I love the blue roofs that some of the houses have, it's such a pretty colour, and it glitters in the sun :D
Her husband cooked dinner and then we just hung out and got caught up, and then we went back to the hotel, but with more plans to meet next week.
We went out to eat "breakfast" at an restaurant and then we bought a suica card for me (hubby already had a pasmo) and took a bus to Tokyo Skytree. Hubby wanted to watch the sun set from up there but we were to late. I bought a matcha iced latte and it was absolutely disgusting. I was disappointed :( and then we lost track of each other for awhile and both tried not to panic. After we finally found each other we managed to catch the last bus back to Nippori and then ate ramen for dinner and back to the hotel again. And I couldn't for the life of me get to sleep. It felt like I just tossed and turned to entire night ;-;
Aaaand then hubby couldn't take any more by about three in the afternoon and we went back to the airport. I wanted check the tax-free but hubby just wanted to go to the gate so he could lie down and sleep for a while, but we thought "it's okay, there's usually more tax-free after the security check, we'll go through so hubby can sleep some"... Only there wasn't ANY tax-free beyond security?!? Just some two shops for omiyage-sweets and some ready-made sandwiches and onigiri and beverages. So, I've been bored as hell waiting for the next plane at 20 and hubby sleeps the sleep of the exhausted.
(And the ticket machines for the trains are plain weird. It's good that they've some english instructions, because they're like nothing i've ever seen before and figuring out which ticket fare to buy is not that easy either :/)