19th & 20th August 2019: Bye-bye for a while, Japan {Japan, summer 2019}

For my last day full day in Japan, I dropped my luggage off at Shinjuku station and met with D****e for lunch to say goodbye for now. I also got to say goodbye to Tokyo Tower [東京タワー] from Roppongi Hills [六本木ヒルズ].

Lunch was a bit sad, but the yakiniku was very yummy. After she had to come back to work I met with B**** for drinks and wandering around for a while in Shinjuku [新宿]. We mostly sat at Wendy’s, talking and drinking… whatever this is…

And then she took me to CocoCurry for goodbye-curry.

Then she came with me to Nippori station to help me carry my luggage to the train. I was so mentally exhausted that I did not even stop for a stamp at Narita Terminal 1. I had booked myself a hotel for the night at the airport because I felt that was the best thing for my mental health at that time, and I am glad I did. It was very handy and the transport to the terminal was very smooth.

I had been worried about my Fuji-climbing stick, but I had been told I could check it in. I bought a suit-cover which I sewed, and had no problems with it – I mean, I saw people checking-in kayaks, for fuck’s sake. My stick was tiny in comparison to that! The flight back was a-okay, unremarkable, mostly.

Walked distance: 19th: 11099 steps / 7.94 km. 20th: 5045 steps / 3.60 km. The displacement was a bit longer though… something around the 11000 km (≧▽≦)

The 2019 trip was a long one, full of awesome experiences that I won’t forget any time soon. I hope to gather experience from what went wrong, but not cling onto the bad feelings. I chose not to write about that, and look for the best in every day. Also, I did not really feel it, but a bunch of Japanese friends told me that my language skills had improved, so that made me happy. Now it’s time to go back to the real world and do adulty things, and start dreaming about the next adventure. また今度ね。

18th July 2016: Shopping spree (I) {Japan, summer 2016}

I started the week off with a mochi breakfast that I had received as omiyage (typical present / detail from a particular area). It was delicious!

Japanese sweet pastry on a toothpick

This day I took my first real shopping spree and I headed off for Shinjuku [新宿] and Closet Child & Pure Sound. I ended up in the Pure Sound buying quite a few things, including but not limited to VAMPS DVDs. I had made a friend at Gackt’s Birthday party and she needed to be shown to the shops, so it was the perfect school.

The entrance to Kabukicho district

We also went to Ikebukuro [池袋] for some more shopping and we had lunch at CocoCurry, where I tried the kanikoroke as I was feeling adventurous. As much as I love the chicken, this was an amazing choice!

A curry dish. The sauce is spread at the bottom, and two croquettes stand on the rice

To be honest, I was sore from my fall the previous day and I was staring to feel the tiredness of “doing all the things”, so I took it slow and I just went home after school.

10th July 2016: To the sea {Japan, summer 2016}

I was debating between Nikko and Kamakura, but when I woke up for some reason I felt more like Kamakura [鎌倉]. The day was as awesome as the previous one had been miserable and I headed off to Shinjuku to get myself an Enoshima-Kamakura pass.

Just as I had not liked the sales lady from the museum, the Odakyu sales lady was adorable. She cheered me up (≧∇≦) with her “Woah, you speaking Japanese surprised me” for me, which was quite sincere, by her eyes. After getting the pass, I headed off to the train and got ready for the trip. I was lucky because I could do both parts sitting down in preparation of what was to come. I know Kamakura/Enoshima, you walk a lot.

My first stop was Hase-dera [長谷寺], a temple I had not seen the previous time I had been there. They had a very pretty garden, and I really enjoyed the view and the buildings. It holds a standing Buddha, and they make yummy dango, which I tried.

After that I headed off towards Kotoku-in [高徳院], which holds (or does not hold, as the building was long ago destroyed) the Kamakura Daibutsu [鎌倉大仏] (Great Buddha). As impressive as Nara is, I think I like this one more, as the serenity it transmits is quite amazing. Two university students came to ask me a few questions and they were horribly nice, they wanted to know how I knew Kamakura, and what was the best / worst about service in Japan. I think I broke their stats, but they treated me to a sweet.

I really wanted to go back to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu [鶴岡八幡宮], which is a Shinto Shrine in Kamakura, a bit away from the other two, so I used my unlimited-trips-in-the-area pass and went to the corresponding station. The shrine was just as I remembered. The fun part now is hunting down the Shrine and Temple seals. While I do love the omamori, the calligraphy is more affordable and keeps better.

Finally, I decided to head off to Enoshima over one of the temples I was considering, just because I wanted to go to Enoshima. And Enoshima [江の島] delivered with the best view of Mount Fuji, Fuji-san [富士山] I’ve ever had. Repeatedly. Changing with time as sun set. And it was amazing.

In Enoshima I climbed up to the Enoshima Jinja [江の島神社], I – you guessed it – got my calligraphy, and laundered money.

Then I walked around the whole rock until I reached Enoshima Iwaya [江の島岩屋], the Enoshima caves, to visit the dragon – an invoke him with a taiko drum, that you had to hit nikkai (twice) as the girls behind me informed me. They were also very impressed with my technique. If I got something from my taiko workshop, that was how to hold the baton and hit.

There is one thing I did not confess though, and that was that I miiiiight have skipped lunch that day (must see all the things? I ate dango and ice cream! And some yakitori!) so when I came back to Komagome [駒込] I stopped at CocoCurry and had a good dinner, because I was a bit on the ravenous side. Unfortunately, however, the ride back was standing, albeit it was good that I could leave the backpack on the floor.

1st September 2015: Downpour Shibuya {Japan, summer 2015}

D****e and I headed off to Harajuku [原宿] to check out the idol shops, but I wanted a quick visit to Meiji Jingu [明治神宮] to get the calligraphy from there. I had never been able to find out where they did it, and it was good to have some Japanese-speaking person around. We were surprised to walk into some kind of religious parade I still have got to research.

Afterwards, through a downpour, we had a look at Takeshita Doori shops. When it was almost noon we headed off towards Hachiko in Shibuya [渋谷] as we had agreed to meet a friend for lunch – shabu shabu in Shibuya’s Nabezo and then headed off to Cosmo Planetarium Shibuya [コスモプラネタリウム渋谷], which is a really neat place with very comfy chairs that lean back… yep, you guessed it, I zonked out. In my defence, I shall say that… all Japanese and a talk about gravity and I was getting dizzy with the 3D screen…

After a quick visit to Tower Records for a magazine I was looking for (and in the end got a wrong one, but oh well…) we had yet more karaoke (in a huge room) and eventually headed off home to have some CocoCurry.

21st August 2015: Shibuya and Shinjuku {Japan, summer 2015}

I was to meet with D****e in Shibuya [渋谷] as she was coming directly from Haneda that day and we had arranged to meet in Tsutaya – there would be Hachiko meeting point later on, but we wanted something covered, just in case the skies opened.

As it takes a bit to get from Satte to any place downtown Tokyo, I organised myself to be out of the door with enough time to find myself a shrine to visit. Because yes, I can find shrines anywhere in Tokyo and beyond and after a while walking through skyscraper-type buildings, I turned a corner to the Konnō Hachiman-gū [金王八幡宮], which I had not been able to find the previous year due to an Internet failure. I’m still torn about going to Yasukuni Shrine, by the way, which would have been another of my options. On one hand, I would like to come back and get a calligraphy seal; on the other, it would feel like condoning the whole thing Yasukuni means and… I don’t know, I think I have to think harder about that, especially with Abe’s whole revisionist attitude. Meanwhile, this is Konnō Hachiman-gū (which was being repaired so loop-sided picture not to bother the workers), and the little Inari altar located next to it.

Once the shrine fix was achieved – come on, it was my third day already!! – I headed back to Shibuya [渋谷] to meet with D****e and as I walked back I saw something I had not noticed before, as it had been on the opposite side of the direction I was heading. However, now I could see it straight ahead.

The L’Arc~en~Ciel’s L’ArCasino billboard. Pictures happened. Maybe some inner fanbying too. Did I mention I love my new camera? Cause I do, a lot.

After a while doing experiments with the zoom, I headed off for the Tsutaya floor we were going to meet in, and barely had the time to check out the stuff before she arrived. Afterwards we headed off for the Book Off (which… is changing names?) because we could, and afterwards to the BIC Camera so she could pick up her own SIM card.

She wanted to check out a Shinjuku [新宿] kimono store to see if she found VAMPS’ bat yulata, but we were out of luck and it was already gone. And then there was karaoke, because for some reason there’s always karaoke with her in Shinjuku?

And then there was home and CocoCurry. Finally CocoCurry ♥

14th August 2014: When trains took forever {Japan, summer 2014}

It started with the train stopping for a few minutes that in the end turned out to be over an hour. Then there was an unexpected train change, and my Internet going crazy which got me lost. In the end my sightseeing morning was crushed to 10 minutes of walking around Shibuya [渋谷] and a Book Off visit.

Lunch was good as we met in the Book Off and headed for a great shabu-shabu. That was very yummy and I probably ate too much of it. But come on! There was wakame to spare and then some!! XD

Afterwards we headed off towards Shinjuku [新宿] to browse Kinokuniya Book Store to buy JLPT study material and, in my case, GACKT’s novelised version of MoonSaga, because I am weird like that. It was raining like crazy, too, so not much stuff to do outdoors, and shrines would already be closed by that time, so I was feeling rather unaccomplished.

We ended up heading off to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Tōkyō Tochō [東京都庁], to watch sunset – which did not work as it was cloudy – and the pretty lights – which were fewer than usual because some of the buildings were not as full since it was Obon and many people had head home for the holidays.

Day was finished with CocoCurry. CocoCurry is always good, although I was so intent on reading kana correctly that I ended up messing up the order XD

16th July 2012: Umi no Hi! {Japan, summer 2012}

Monday 16th was the third Monday of June, and thus Umi no Hi [海の日], The Day of the Ocean, and it started great – the sky was super clear. That means we were able to see Mount Fuji, Fuji-san [富士山]! I had not seen him since I was here, not even on my way to Osaka because it was cloudy. It is difficult to see Fuji in Summer, so I was really happy to catch him.

The summit of Mount Fuji peering up through the clouds at the end of a downhill street under construction

The morning, however, was to be spent in Yokohama [横浜]. The first stop was Chinatown, where I got to meet an old ‘friend’ of mine, whom I had been craving to see for a long time, in one of the temples. But that is its own story. (Basically: I got to see a dragon sculpture I loved).

The entrance to Chinatown - an ellaborate gate with Chinese characters, decorated in bright colours - red, blue, gold, green...

In Chinatown we visited Kwan Tai Temple [関帝廟]

An ellaborate temple with guarding dragons on top, over a flight of stairs. The colours are very bright, but the stairs are white.

And Kanteibyō / Kuan Ti Miao Temple [関帝廟 / 中華会館].

An ellaborate temple entrance, with lots of peaks and lanterns behind it

We had lunch in one of the many Chinese restaurants in the area.

Chinese food - rice, dumplings, soup, pickles

Afterwards we moved to the Port of Yokohama to see waves!! the famous skyline and the Yokohama Bay Bridge, along with lots of pretty ships which were open to visit in celebration of Umi no Hi.

Stairs that disappear into the ocean

Yokohama skyline

By 5pm, however, we were back in Tokyo because we had tickets to the theatre, more particularly GACKT’s Butai “MOON SAGA ~Yoshitsune Hiden~” at the Akasaka ACT Theater.

Being guionised by CLAMP, I expected a high body count [Spoilers from here] but I was surprised. The play is prepared as part of the whole Moon Saga project, so it does not focus in GACKT, who has surprisingly little stage time playing Yoshitsune. The play has all the elements of a CLAMP story – tragic love, honour debt, child with preternatural power, a few deaths, a character who randomly changes sides but in his heart he still belongs to the original side, main character forced to kill a friend, lots of angst… The butai tells the story of a group of fighters as they embark themselves in a war against the evil mononoke who are destroying Japan. Yoshitsune’s character himself is a half-oni or has an oni inside him, something along.

As I said, GACKT did not have much screen time, and to be completely honest, his spotlight was completely stolen by Saotome Taichi, a barely legal actor who plays Kage (Shadow), one of the good mononoke and who has a beautiful CLAMPian on-stage death.

Yoshinaga, one of the original companions, loses the love of his life, changes sides and tries to kill Yoshitsune, awakening the demon in him. GACKT flies through the stage during the fight and in the end Demon-Yoshitsune kills his old friend. The curtains fall soon after GACKT desperately cries over Yoshinaga’s body. Very sad. Very CLAMP.

The actors come back onstage, they are ovationed. The curtains fall again, the lights remain off. The curtains are drawn, and we are back to the beginning, the companions are alive and well, has it all been a dream? A foreshadow? Is this the companions’ destiny? But no, they are not companions… they are family…

Moon Saga board, showing singer and actor Gackt staring upwards, his eyes are red

[End Spoilers] It seems that when GACKT talks of the Moon Saga project, it means that you need to know all the pieces of the puzzle to understand the story. Each of the pieces seems to be part of a great jigsaw that will come together to form something absolutely amazing.

Well played, GACKT, well played. Now shut up and take my money, because this is going to be EPIC.

After the play, we had some curry at CocoCurry House.

A pork cutlet, breaded, with curry sauce and rice around it