Random Thoughts

Japan has an umbrella culture. Nearly every shop, restaurant, hotel or bar has a rack for your umbrella or a machine that wraps it so it doesn’t drip in the shop.

Cycling is big. Watch your back or you’ll get mown down by a cyclist; probably one riding one handed and carrying an umbrella in the other.

Japanese society may be polite and formal, but that doesn’t apply to crowds walking down the street. When I’ve paused to let little old ladies past I’ve been shoved more than once. And barged reguarly. In fact having just been in a crowd I’d say English ones are politer.

Beer vending machines… on street corners!!

Ladies really wear kiminos out shopping. And not always the older ones like I thought at first.

Bars and restaurants often have decorated cloths or banners hanging in front of their doors. So you can’t really see inside to see what it’s like without really nosing.

Mobile phones seem chunkier than ours, nearly all flip style and muck more plasticy looking – often in bright colours. I think they have a lot moe functions than ours though. Having a dangly charm or fluffy or something attached seem to be the thing – even for be-suited businessmen.

Lots and lots of t-shurts with English writing in them; most of which makes sense.

No fat Japanese! A very occasional chubby one, but this is a LONG way from Florida.

If there is a view or monument the Japanese will take a picture of their friends or family standing in front of it… usually with the subject doing a “V for victory” sign for some reason.

Downs and ups

Last night I was a little down, the town was dead, I couldn’t find a bar or restaurant that a) looked open b) looked as though it wasn’t regulars only and c) didn’t have a queue waiting to get into it. So I bought beer, food and snacks at a mini mart and read my book in my room.

This morning started with a crossed leg Japanese breakfast and the festival… WOW!

I’ll write more about that later, but it’s DAMN IMPRESSIVE.

Takayama Train

It’s a travelling day again today, so as l write this l’m sitting en a train heading cp into the hills, past small towns and farm land. The train is full so I’m expecting the town to be packed.

This morning before getting the train I dumped my pack in a locker and took a bus to Nijo Castle.

One of the two palaces in the grounds is rather impressive. The design seems to be to have all the rooms in the middle with sliding painted screens joining them. then a corridor/walkway round the outside of all of them. The floor of the walkway is a “nightingale floor” specially made to squeak and chirp when it’s walked on so no one could sneak up on a rooms occupants. Outside of the walkway it’s all word and paper sliding screens. Very nice for summe but it must be very cold in winter, and lighting a fire inside would be very silly. It is does seem that nearly all of the historic buildings I’ve seen have burnt down at some time in the past. As I’m now expecting, the gadens were beautiful; but it was lacking in battlements and turrets for proper castle-dom. 😉

This train ride MUST MUST MUST be done again in November when the leaves have turned. The mountains are covered in forests and even now you can see there are different types of trees and different greens. In autumn it would be jaw droppingly stunning.

Kyoto day 2

Well I started off by trying to go to the Imperial Palace – but you can only get in with a permit – and today the office was closed…. so no permit – no imperial Palace tour.

So instead in the morning I went shopping, all sorts of interesting craft shops and electrical shops and of course – this is Kyoto – various shrines scattered amoungst them. Bought some japanese CDs after a brief listen on the listening post and a fractured exchange of words with the shop assistant.

In the afternoon I decided to do another walk from my guide book as the last one had been good. Got on a tiny (one carriage) train and headed out to Arashiyama. The train chugs away, past tiny little stations and some of the way on the road. The destination station has goldfish ponds in the waiting area …. and at the end of platform one a place to sit and give yourself a footbath while you wait for your train.

Off the train and into Tenryu-ji… now if you’re talking gardens that place has one! I want it! (In the absence of my uploads you’ll have to Google Image it). Then a walk off through progressivly more rural areas with a rainbow in the sky. After a long walk past various temples up to a final Tori and the Ayu Chaya Hiranoya resturant and tea house. A very very nice lady in a kimono served me green tea at a traditional crosslegged table. the place is gorgeous. Unasked she gave me a post card of their establishment, so prepared I was able to swop one of Nottingham. then when I paid my bill she gave me another present of some of their beautifully presented house chopsticks (again pre-planning! I was able to reply with some Nottingham leather bookmarks!). Seriously that was wonderful.. miles out in the sticks with thatched roof buildings and sitting cross legged looking out as it gets dark and drinking green tea… magic.

Back to the city by the same train and a supper from a Japanese fast food outlet – takoyaki or octopus dumplings, although I think mine had more prawn than octopus.

There is a LOT of Kyoto that I haven’t “done” (although I think that for the moment I’m “templed out”) so if you’re coming folks – give yourself longer.

Tomorrow morning before my train I may do the sightseeing bus – just to check out what I’ve missed.

Kyoto at Night

Just a quick filler, last night I went for a night time wander. Started off in the park of a shrine which was illuminated with laterns and had traditional music being played on the traditional Japanese version of a bandstand.

The a wander round some of the small roads where the upmarket eat and drink, a narrow road that is supposedly full of hostess bars (lots of heavily made up Japanese women in evening type dresses scurrying about). A VERY pretty bit with some incredibly posh resturants and tea houses. Then finally back down a busy street where I saw a Geshia walking down the street with a business man. The real thing, there were plenty of kimonoes all evening but this was the real deal – face beautifully (but starkly) made up.

Probably the Imperial Palace and shopping today.

Kyoto Day 1

Started of the day with a wander up the road to see Higashi Hongan-Ji, the equivalent of the Vatican for one branch of Buddhism. it’s the home of the biggest wooden structure in the world is;  just a shame it’s undergoing renovations and is enclosed by a steel sheel. Then a couple of blocks up the road to Nishi Hongan-Ji the older branch that the Higashi mod branched off from (splitters!). And in the temple gift shop I got Vanessa’s fan.

Buddhist Shire

Then via the Post Office to the train station and two stops to Fushimi-inari-taisha. That’s the place that was in “Memoires of a Geshia” with the long tunnels of Tori (the orange arches). It is much much much much bigger that I realised, the paths go all over the mountain through the woods and there must be thousands of different individual shires to the fox gods.


Lake amoung the tori

And when you get up the mountain the view across the city is fantastic.

Kyoto City Scape

It’s damn hard work though getting up there, and there were hardly any people about other than at the little shops along the path selling candles and other offerings for the shrines. I came back down a diffent path – emrged in a residential street and just kept going downhill thinking I’d find the train station again when i stumbled upon Tofuku-ji which has a cracker of a Zen garden and some rather impressive buildings. Once I’d bought a ticket into the place I found out where the hell I was and I realised I’d come down the mountain to the next train stop along the line.

Impressive Buildings

Zen Garden

I popped back to Fushimi-inari-taisha to buy some fox spirit charms and then got the train back to Kyoto station which is a pretty impressive modern building in it’s own right, and from the 11th floor roof garden you get some good views.

Kyoto Station Building

By then my feet were utterly knackered so I came back here to the hostel via the mini-mart to get some dinner, oh and some pocky sticks. When I’ve recovered I will probably head out and do the night time walk in my guide book.

An Irish Bar… In Kyoto… Oh come on!

Yes – OK i admit it I spent the evening in an Irish bar. There was a reason, my guide book suggested it as a bar that was frequented by foreigners and Japanese and I did have a conversation (in English although my few words helped) with the bar maid and a japanese guy who works for an American bank who was getting drunker and drunker.

 Result!… that’s what I wanted nightlife to be like.

Wandered back on the other side of the river which (I think) is the old red light district. Nothing much to see but a lot of groups of japanese guys standing outside of resturants doing the “well I don’t want Chinese, you chose last time” type of discussion.

Still no sign of the other three guys that I’m sharing the room with. I may go and crash soon and see who is there in the morning.

BTW – I know we’re a bit short of pictures – I’ll try and get some on line soon.

Trains and more trains

Woo hoo I’ve had conversations! Met an Italain guy and a Russian girl at the ticket office at Otsuki who are also travelling to Koto. They are both students in London at the Nottingham Trent “London branch”. There is also an Australian family who just spent 2 nights in Fujiyoshida and visited the lakes and rode the cable car. So I may have been harsh on the place.

Then on the train to Hachioji I sat next to a nice Japanese young lady who started a conversation with me. Made me smile and her English was good enough to get through a lot.

Now on yet another commuter like train on the way to get my first bullet train (Shinkansen Hikari).

Shinkansen have masses of leg room, my knees barely get half way to the seat in front! And I’ve got a window seat – Comfy.

BTW Ness … tell Sockgirl that socks are in here.


There is another post to go before this that’s on the PDA, I’ll post that when I find some WiFi access.

This is just a quick one to say I’m in Kyoto, found the hostel OK it’s a cramped dorm room (4 bunk beds) but all very clean and well maintained. All I’ve done is put some washing in their machine, showeredand changed.

Off out for a wander round the night life soon.


I think it must be Thursday.

Breakfast in the hotel, and bless them, they brought me a western breakfast, well at least I didn’t get the same bowls and dishes as the locals on other tables.

The Japanese seem to treat breakfast as just another meal so I got a tiny bowl of cornflakes, two bread rolls, some kind of soup and an omlette and salad.

After a walk around in the rain I did find a little shrine but had no chance of even catching a glimpse of Mount Fuji 🙁 And nothing changed my impression of the town so as of now I’m back on the little train on the start of the trip to Kyoto.