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。

13th August 2019: Steamy steamy Tokyo {Japan, summer 2019}

Following recommendations from some Japanese acquaintances, I headed off to the Shinagawa [品川区] area to visit Hebikubo Jinja / Kamishinmeitenso Jinja [蛇窪神社 / 上神明天祖神社], a pretty shrine where I got a pretty shuuin (aaaand discovered another stamp rally).

Among rain, sun and drizzle it was exhaustingly hot. I continued on to find Kimyozan Yogyokuin Nyorai [帰命山養玉院如来寺], a temple with amazing guardians.

And then I found an obviously very dangerous and aggressive tiny pond, I mean, look at those meshes (yes, I know that it’s probably for children safety, but I shall still make jokes about it). It was the Hara no Suijin-ike [原の水神池].

Checking how to come back I came across Ōmori Shell Mound Ruins Garden, Ōmori Kaidzuka Iseki Teien [大森貝塚遺跡庭園] and the Statue of Ōmori Shell Mound, Ōmori Kaikyo no Ishibumi [大森貝墟の碑]. The Ōmori Shell Mound was apparently the first archaeological excavation in Japan. They dig out a seaside village from the Jomon period (14,000 to 300 BC).

Opposite I found Naritasan Ennoji [成田山圓能寺].

And before I left I noticed the ground decoration on the pavement – life evolution and… telephone greetings. Because Japan, I guess…

Then I looked at Tokyo Tower [東京タワー] from Roppongi [六本木], as I checked the Don Quijote for Tokyo Coke bottles, without success.

I also came across tiny Asahi Jinja [朝日神社].

Then dinner was supermarket sushi, which was very, very yummy.

Walked distance: 14009 steps / 10.0 km

7th August 2019: Dragons & kappa {Japan, summer 2019}

It is by now a tradition to go Ueno [上野] and the National Museum of Nature and Science, Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan [国立科学博物館] to see the summer exhibition this time it was about kyouryuu [恐竜博], “fear dragons” aka dinosaurs – this year the exhibition was called 恐竜博 2019 THE DINOSAUR EXPO 2019. So it was a must-go for me (^o^)/

And then of course I wandered a little around the evolutionary wards of the museum, because of course I did.

I came out and I turned right instead of left, so I walked right into Kaisan-do (Ryo-daishi) [開山堂 (両大師)] (which on google maps appears as Rinnoji. Note to self: explore the area beyond next time over.

Then I crossed above all the railways leading in and out Ueno station.

I continued on until I got to Sogenji [曹源寺] also known as the temple of the kappa, Kappa-dera [かっぱ寺]. There is a legend related to a raincoat maker who was helped by a kappa when he wanted to build a drainage system in the area. There are a lot of kappa in the temple.

They also populate the nearby area, Kappabashihon [かっぱ橋本].

After that, I backtracked back to Ueno and from there I took a train to Ikebukuro [池袋] to do some window shopping. Then I looked at Tokyo Tower [東京タワー] from Roppongi [六本木] before D****e and I had dinner and called it a day.

Walked distance: 13384 steps / 9.57 km

3rd August 2019: Higashiyama Sky Tower and ELL {Japan, summer 2019}

In the morning I headed out of the Nagoya centre and to Higashiyama Sky Tower [東山スカイタワー]. This was a bit far out and I had slept in – did I mention tiredness catching up? I also considered the zoo/aquarium but in the end I decided against it.

A collage of the Higashiyama Sky tower, a rectanglar building with a cilindrical core, mostly built in glass and metal. The smaller pictures show the view of the park, and the earthquake damper

I had an amazing lunch set in the shopping mall underneath / connected to Nagoya Station on my way back.

Lunch set: cold soba, white rice, breaded prawns, pickles, and green tea

Then I headed out for Electric Lady Land because my second KAMIJO concert of this trip was held there. Bought goods, waited around, enjoyed the concert. ELL is a small venue and we were not many people there for the concert – it was strange that there were so much people in Tokyo to fill up the Blitz, but not enough in Nagoya to fill ELL. It was a more humble concert, with a smaller screen for the projections, but it was fun none the less. I was able to stand close to the stage, but I chose the wrong side – I stood left while KAMIJO donned right. I shall learn from that. The set list was the same, which gave me the chance to appreciate the new songs even better. Glad I got to attend both concerts, never mind how different and similar at the same time they were.

Notice reading ell. Fits all. Japan Tour 19 Persona Grata. Kamijo. Open 18:30, Start 19:00

Walked distance: 16231 steps / 11.6 km. We don’t trust this measure either as it counts the furutsuke as walking (≧▽≦).

30th July 2019: Journey to the East (1): Sakaiminato → Okayama {Japan, summer 2019}

Early in the morning, around 9am, I set off to the Yumeminato Tower in the park of the same name. I had a plan of things to watch and walk around that unfortunately fell through due to, again, a perceived temperature of over 42 ºC and bright sun. But the Yumeminato Tower [夢みなとタワー] could not be skipped as it is part of my still ongoing Tower Stamp Rally. Aside from the customary observatory, the Tower featured an exhibition of “nearby lands’ customs”, with typical attires from Korea, China and so on…

At the feet of the tower is the Sakaiminato Fish Center [境港さかなセンター].

And both buildings are encased in Yumeminato Koen [夢みなと公園], a huge – and shadowless – park.

When I arrived at the Takematsucho station, my train had just left, so I snooped around Takematsu Jinja [高松神社] next to it.

Having to wait forty minutes, I decided to walk over to the following station, where I visited Amariko Jinja [餘子神社].

Then I just sat down to wait and have a drink till the train came. Once back in the centre of Sakaiminato, I realised that even if it was a Tuesday, the Museum of Sea and Life was closed. That did not stop me from hanging around Osakana Road [おさかなロード], the Fish Road, which follows the same ideas as Mizuki Shigeru Road – it has little sculptures here and there. Only these are not yokai, but fish.

Oh, and I found this shark on the way ʅ(・ω・。)ʃ??

And speaking of fish, I had a great fish-fry snack in Mizuki Shigeru Road as I did an extra sweep to make sure I was not missing any yokai. I chose this place because the owners seemed nice, and they were.

After that I claimed my certificate at the Tourist Centre next to the station Sakaiminato-eki [境港駅], and that’s why it reads July 30th and not July 29th (≧▽≦).

Then I took the train back to Yonago and from there to Okayama (Okayama Prefecture). This took around three hours, and I was in Okayama [岡山] around 6 or 7 pm. I dropped my things off at the hotel and headed off for dinner. I ended up ordering a salmon set in a Takashiyama building, and although the staff was not the nicest, the food was delicious!

Right after dinner I walked to the castle, Okayama-jo [岡山城], hoping it would be lit, and it was. They were also rehearsing some summer light show, with music and stuff.

Then I went back to the hotel – unfortunately I had a smoking room, so I had to spray everything with freshener so I could breathe. But I slept rather well afterwards. I had started to feel the tiredness.

Walked distance: 22899 steps / 16.3 km. Most under the sun (soooo sunburnt!)

31st August 2018: Tokyo Tower Reprise and off to Roppongi {Japan, summer 2018}

I went to Minato [港] because Tokyo Tower [東京タワー ] is there, and I love Tokyo Tower. My first stop, however, was Shiba Koen [芝公園], to visit a certain tree. However, the park was under construction! Who the hell closes a park for construction?! (O_O)!

They have reopened the upper observatory in Tokyo Tower so of course I had to come back. It was imperative for my mental health. When I arrived I found out that they were running a “haunted house” on the basement and I decided to give it a go.

The story was of a cursed samurai who has killed 332 people and you’re supposed to be number 333. I had been wanting to try one of those for a while but in the end I did not enjoy it that much – the not seeing down the corridors was too stressful. Maybe with someone else it would have been more fun.

Afterwards I got my ticket for Tokyo Tower [東京タワー ] and the “VIP = Very impressive panorama” from the second observatory. I don’t understand why Tokyo Tower makes me so happy, but it does so more power to it. Oh oh oh and I had awesome(ly expensive) ice cream on the tower!

Afterwards I walked towards Roppongi [六本木], making a stop at the Don Quijote, a macro store that has nothing useful but lots of fun little stuff, with half a mind to buy a traditional red eyeliner or coloured contact lenses. But in the end I was strong and did not waste money (yet (≧∇≦) ).

I continued to the gardens Mori Teien [毛利庭園], and I was a tiny bit disappointed that the pond had been emptied!

And I saw that the TV Asahi [テレビ朝日] building was open for visitors, so I went to snoop into that, because of course I did.

Later I met with D****e and M*****san for a shabu-shabu dinner which was out of this world.

18th August 2018: Plan Switching. Kyoto → Osaka → Nara {Japan, summer 2018}

On this day I was supposed to hike up a mountain – mount Takao to be precise. But you know what? When I woke up that morning I just did not feel up to it, so I decided to change my plans. In the end when you’re on the JR Pass you can get from Kyoto to Osaka for free. For a change, I actually got to Osaka instead of Shin-Osaka which was convenient. Then I grabbed the underground to get to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan [海遊館], which is actually the largest aquarium in the world.

I had been there before, but the previous time I did not get to see the whale sharks as they were ‘quarantined’. How can anyone block a tank which is in the middle of the whole damn thing, I have no idea, but they did. This time I broke even and had a blast. Unfortunately the Aquarium was packed because this was a Saturday morning, and for some reason my back was hurting a lot. I had dropped my luggage off at a coin locker because I thought it would be better. However at some points I could not really walk straight. The weight of the camera bag was too much and I had to sit down. Found a nice place to watch the sharks from, though.

After the Aquarium I went to Kuchu Teien [空中庭園], observatory in the Umeda Sky Building [梅田スカイビル] to have a look at the skyline and to get the stamp for the Japan Towers rally. I got the greatest omg-gaijin face of the trip here (and truth be told, had I known that the stamp was actually held at the reception desk and not the actual observatory, I might have skipped this). In this case the building is an attraction itself. It consists on two towers joined by some passageways and a circular platform at the top, with see-through escalators.

Next the plan was going to Dotombori, stroll down there, and eat some takoyaki before heading off to Nara where I had my hotel for the night. When I got to the station and jumped on the Osaka Loop line, it turned out that I actually was in the train that continues on to Nara… and it was air conditioned and I had a seat…

I found it a sign and decided to just go with the flow and get to Nara [奈良] on that train. Upon arriving there I checked into the hotel and I decided to go to Nara koen [奈良公園], the main Nara park, and see if I could feed a sacred shika [鹿] deer or two. This was close to 5 pm by now so all the temples would be closing anyway. I did feed the deer some shika senbei [鹿煎餅] (deer crackers), and one of the does bit me. Not even the hand that was feeding her, she actually tried to snack on my tummy. Sheesh.

As I was coming back down I had a pretty sunset over Kōfuku-ji [興福寺].

1st (and 2nd) August 2017: Running out of time! {Japan, summer 2017}

This was my last day and I had to make the most of it! First I went to Shibakoen [芝公園] and Tokyo Tower [東京タワー], because that always keeps the sadness at bay. I went up the tower and I finally gave in and bought the stamp rally booklet. I should have done it before. The Tower was being visited by a primary school class. Ho boy.

Then I went to Iidabashi [飯田橋] using the Shibakoen subway station. The day before I had hired a private lesson to have a teacher explain Japanese conditionals to me. That was very productive. Finally I was off to Shinjuku [新宿] for yakitori and karaoke with B**** and D****e to say goodbye for now.

Finally, I half-packed because I apparently forgot half of my stuff atover there, and went to bed. At 2:02 in the morning there was the only noticeable quake of the trip, quite a big one. In the morning, I headed off to Narita Airport, checked-in my luggage, and once again, it was time to go back to reality.

22nd July 2017: Kokura → Okayama – castle day {Japan, summer 2017}

I started the day in Kytakyuushu [北九州], heading out to Kokura-jo [小倉城] again, this time by light.

After the castle I went to Yasaka Jinja [八坂神社], next to the castle.

Then I backtracked to the station to head to Okayama [岡山]. Unfortunately the train I wanted to take was full, so I had to wait for an hour and take a slower train. In hindsight (when everything is clearer) I should have stopped at Fukuyama to see that castle, but I was worried I would not have time to see Okayama castle. On the way I was talking to the nice ojii-san who was going to Nara to pick up the car his wife had bought in yahoo auction.

Upon arrival in Okayama and failure to find appropriate coin lockers I headed out to Okayama-jo [岡山城].

As I was good for time I bought a combined ticket for the castle and Korakuen [岡後楽園] a huge Japanese garden which hosts a couple of small shrines – Jizo-do [地蔵堂] and Jigen-do [慈眼堂].

Afterwards I backtracked towards the train station and took a train towards Kyoto [京都], where I climbed up Kyoto Tower [京都タワー], because I had not been up even if I had been to Kyoto before.

Afterwards, I just wanted to get some sleep, so I went to the hotel, had dinner and collapsed in bed.

20th July 2017: Dazaifu – not ready for thorough tourism {Japan, summer 2017}

Dazaifu [大宰府] was the neuralgic centre of the island of Kyushu between the 7th and the 12th century. Today is sort to Fukuoka what Nikko is to Tokyo. Nowadays it is mostly known for its temples and shrines. It has a central core close to the station where you get around quite easily and a few things off the way which… are an adventure to get to.

I started the day visiting Dazaifu Tenmangu [大宰府天満宮], which was crawling with tourists to the point that it was hard to walk at times. It is a big shrine with a huge bridge over a pond in the shape of 心.

Afterwards I got myself a bottle of water and climbed up to Tenkai Inari Jinja [天開稲荷神社] which would have been really, really awesome and creepy if I had been alone, but alas, there were a bunch of other tourists along. It was quite of a climb up so the number was fewer, which made it less crowded though.

After climbing down I wandered around and passed a tiny shrine on the bank of Aizome River [藍染川] the place of a rebirth of a woman named Umetsubo. There is also a small shrine and a “historical site.”

After this I reached Kōmyōzen-ji [光明禅寺], a Zen temple with a great garden, but no pictures were allowed, and you could not really walk through the gardens. However, it was much, much emptier and nicer.

It was now when I decided to head out to the Kanzeon-ji [観世音寺]…

… and Kaidan-in [戒壇院], along with the so called Bonsho Bell.

In order to get here the map sent me through rather bad roads, and it got scary for a second when a car was coming. Furthermore, the signposts were all messed up, making it hard to follow them and the map. But in the end I made it and even if I did not enter the museum, I felt accomplished.

On the other side of the road you could climb up to Hiyoshi Jinja [日吉神社], a tiny and quiet shrine on top of a hill that I really liked – I thought the kami would be bored so I dropped them a prayer too.

After all this I still had a few things left, but I was very tired and there was a storm brewing, so I backtracked to Fukuoka, where I had slept, gathered my luggage and was ready to take a train to my next destination when I unexpectedly met with a VAMPS fan friend, the same one D****e and I ran into at Kumamoto castle! Small world! We had ramen – Hataka ramen, of course – together and then I took the train towards my next destination, on the other side of Kyushu: Beppu.

Beppu [別府] is a small town on the side of a volcano known for its hot springs because it’s on the slope of a volcano named Tsurumi-dake [鶴見岳]. It has almost 3000 volcanic spring vents and it is a bloody amazing place!

I checked into the hotel and almost immediately walked out because the hotel was right next to Beppu Tower [別府タワー]. However I got distracted by Matogahama Koen [的ケ浜公園] and the beach and the breakwaters.

Finally I climbed up to the tower and looked around the city. I was a little disappointed because I was expecting to see some of the vents or at least a spark coming for the volcano, but it did not happen.

Afterwards I walked down to the hotel and spent an hour in the public bath that they had, which was really, really good for relaxing. And then I collapsed in bed and got some sleep because there was a big day the following day!

(I have to say here that I have decided to omit here most of the ‘blergh’ part of this trip in order to keep only the nice memories, thus the upcoming posts are a bit edited. So I’m not telling you about the unfriendly people I met in the way and that made me feel a bit sad. Just the friendly ones because they rock! )

17th July 2017: The power of nature {Japan, summer 2017}

In the morning, D****e and I left the hotel to tour Kumamoto [熊本] a bit more. We headed off to Fujisaki Hachimangu [藤崎八旛宮], a shrine dedicated to a bunch of historical figures, among them Emperor Ojin.

After that, we walked in the sun towards the castle, and we missed our entrance to the nice shade, so we were in the scorching sun for a little longer than intended. In the castle park we headed off to Kato Jinja [加藤神社].

As we walked around the park, and from Kato Jinja itself we could see part of Kumamoto-jo [熊本城], but we could only see one of the towers, as the main building is still under reconstruction. The destruction of the turrets and walls gave us a chill, thinking of that quake and how strong it must have been. I have decided that I must come back to Kumamoto some day to see this castle once it is reconstructed.

As we were coming down we met a friend and arranged to meet with her later to emulate HYDE’s pictures at the station, but first we dropped by Kumamoto Inari Jinja [熊本城稲荷神社].

We had a shabushabu lunch and then headed off to the station meet with C. and to take our pictures with Kumamon (and a nice old couple who… wanted pictures with the gaijin for some reason).

After that I took the Shinkansen to Hataka station in the city of Fukuoka [福岡], where I arrived around 6pm. This kick-started my pattern for the following days: travel to a new city in the late afternoon / early evening, check in a hotel close to the station, see monuments by night, sleep, see the important stuff during the morning.

I checked into the hotel, changed clothes and headed off to see Fukuoka Tower [福岡タワー] and Momochi Seaside Park Seaside Momomichi Kaihin Koen [シーサイドももち海浜公園]. The latter is a small beach park which holds some restaurants, cafes and one of the famous Fukuoka wedding venues (the Marizon).

I entered the Tower and was waiting for a while to climb up, but it was worth it, as I got to watch sunset. I really like the whole tower-climbing thing. Finally I backtracked towards the hotel, stopping to take pictures of the lit tower on my way back.

1st January 2017: Hatsumode {Japan, winter 16/17}

Hatsumode [初詣] is the Japanese custom of visiting a shrine or temple within the first three days of the year. Some people – like we did – actually wait the New Year to roll in the temple grounds. After the 108 (fast!) gongs that signal the entrance of the New Year, you are allowed into the shrine grounds to say the first prayer of the year in Hie Jinja [日枝神社].

After the prayer you can buy good luck charms, arrows which are ammunition for the kami to protect you (or something alike), enjoy some sacred sake, get your shuin, and once you’re outside, buy food and drinks. In my case I got some fresh takoyaki and ate them alone because apparently they’re stinky 。゚( ゚^∀^゚)゚。

Then we headed off home, and I got up at 8 am to have 12 grapes with Spanish TV as it has been my custom all my life. Then I went back to bed.

In the evening I headed off to Minato [港] to see Tokyo Tower [東京タワー]. Zojo-ji [増上寺] and Shiba Kōen [芝公園] were packed with Hatsumode parishioners and I had never seen such a line to go up Tokyo Tower. Thus I did not climb up, but I did take pictures of all the illumination around.

Afterwards I met with D****e and K***n. to go to Yokohama [横浜], to have dinner in Yokohama Chinatown, as Chinese people have their own New Year, they would be open to business as usual. It was my first time in Chinatown at night, too, so it was interesting seeing places like Kanteibyō / Kuan Ti Miao Temple [関帝廟 / 中華会館] in a new light.

On our way back we tried to see Shiodome [汐留]’s Winter Illuminations but they were off. We’re not completely sure of why…

30th July 2016: 。・゜・(ノД`)・゜・。 Last day {Japan, summer 2016}

I had set up my alarm at an insane time in the morning because I needed to take the trash out before 8am (between 7 and 8?! Seriously, Japan?). But in the end it was good – you see my contract said that I had to clean the apartment, wash and dry the sheets and vacuum the floors. Which was okay, until the fluffy cover sheet took an hour and a half to about 95% dry. Oh, and I packed. 23.1kg of suitcase (^◇^;).

Anyway, the previous day I had been unable to get the Gakucchi clearfile from the UFO catchers, but I still wanted to try again. As I had to be back at the apartment by 4pm to give the keys back and pass the inspection, I headed off to the nearest Taito station, the one in Ueno. Unfortunately, they did not even have the GACKT machines. So I decided to brace myself and go to Akihabara [秋葉原] to try to find an arcade. The first three – the Sega ones – were not successful at all. I was about to give up and go home very sad when I was finally victorious! I found the clearfiles in the Taito Station. The staff-San I approaches was not very helpful at first – probably my Japanese was not the most articulate at that point either – but when she realised what I was trying to tell her she got me the clearfiles (I had an order, aside from the one I wanted for myself) and placed the plush I wanted on the machine for me to try. Of course I was not successful but I have the clearfile and that makes me happy.

As I had a bit of time, I headed off to Yoyogi Kōen [代々木公園] and Meiji Jingu [明治神宮], as I wanted some omiyage. In the end, I offered an ema, and got some silly stuff. I also located the Like an Edison shop, but I stopped myself from going in because SUITCASE WEIGHT issues. I blame the Hyde is Dead photobook (; ̄ェ ̄). I got back and bought some suahi from the street stand down my block, ate, sneaked out the rest of the trash, and sat down to wait for the inspection. At this point I was feeling kind of sad. Okay, without the ‘kind of’.

But the inspection / cleaner guy was adorable and he was pretty early so I could do stuff in the evening that would keep me going. I went to Tokyo station so they kept my luggage and then I headed to Tokyo Tower [東京タワー]. I got up to the main observatory, and had been considering walking up, but I did not trust myself without seeing the stairs first. So I climbed up on the lift and took pictures and enjoyed myself. I also wrote a postcard to myself to get the special post stamp… yes I’m lame like that, but I had a message for my future self (・◇・)/~~~

I walked down, because I figured out that I could so that more easily and I enjoyed it immensely. Then I stayed for a bit in the Zojo-ji [増上寺] matsuri in Shiba Koen [芝公園] , retrieved my luggage and headed towards the airport.

On my way I got to say goodbye to the Rainbow Bridge [レインボーブリッジ] on the way. It might be worth mentioning at this point that I could not complete the check in, and that I has only registered until Frankfurt… whoops.

Fortunately, after a bit of haggling with the lady organising the check-in queue I managed to get through to talk to an actual assistant who could get me my final boarding pass. I found myself some karaage dinner before moving on.

24th July 2016: I can Osaka (ish), Haido can’t Japanese {Japan, summer 2016}

Before going to the concert I headed over to Shitennoji to pay a visit to the complex. Before that I had a great view of the Tsutenkaku Tower [通天閣].

A wide shot of Osaka, showing the Tsutenkaku TV tower on the right

Shitennoji [四天王寺] was as cool as I remembered it, but I did not find the place to get my seals, which I guess just means that I’ll have to come back. Damn it (^_~)

Collage. A torii gate. A temple building with a pagoda. A temple with a pond in front of it. An hexagonal pagoda

I headed off towards Namba Hatch again, as there was a second VAMPS concert happening, and I tried to find a coinlocker in the Namba station area, basically at the end of the world, and on my way back I got the wrong turn. That is why you get to see a whale sculpture.

Sculpture of a grey whale breaching the floor

I found myself a friendly katsu place and this time I really enjoyed my meal – I would have gotten takoyaki but I did not think it would have lasted enough.

Lunch. A tray of different deep-fried goodies

The concert had a similar set list to the one the day before, but it was different enough to make the experience different. Also, it was weird to have seats and not be in the arena – I had a seated ticket for the second floor –, though I can’t say it was a bad experience – I might have to consider it from now on. One of the funniest points of the concert though was that Hyde was having a bad Japanese day, and he kept tripping over his own words for some reason. After the concert was over I headed back to the hotel and there was gyoza from 7/11 for dinner because I was ravenous. And I slept like the dead.

Picture of the venue and the projected countdown on the stage curtains

15th July 2016: Nagoya express (I) {Japan, summer 2016}

I spent the best part of the morning studying. I later has a quick lunch with T. who was going back to Spain soon, and departing for Osaka. I strolled down the rain to the Benten temple in Ueno and then headed off to class.

In the evening, I rushed to Tokyo station to catch the Hikari Shinkansen to Nagoya, a city I had never visited before. As there was a huge festival the prices for sleeping over Saturday to Sunday were crazy but what I organised worked well. When I arrived I walked by some pretty fun buildings, namely the Oasis 21.

Then I visited Nagoya TV Tower or Nagoya Terebi To [名古屋テレビ塔], which claims to be the first tourist tower in Japan. The Tower was running some special on fish as far as I understood and you could watch the scenery and little koi carps. The tower has been designed ‘Lovers Paradise’ so there were lots of young couples. The Tower yielded to some cool sights of the city skyline, including Nagoya Castle, Nagoya-jo [名古屋城] and Hisaya Odori Koen [久屋大通公園], where the Tower and Oasis 21 stand.

After the tower I took the train to check in my hotel and then took a stroll down the area. I wanted to get to the castle, hoping that I’d be able to see it up close at night, but no such luck and I found myself staring at a blank wall. But on my way back I found my way to Aichi Shrine and Nagoya & Toshugu Shrine (back to back) before going back to the hotel, taking a shower and zonking out (( _ _ ))..zzzZZ. But not before tracing a careful plan ( ̄Д ̄)ノ Even if we know plans rarely come together…

26th August 2015: Kobe – the calm before the storm {Japan, summer 2015}

Before setting off to Kobe, there was one stop in Kyoto I had to make: Kyoto [京都]’s Seimei Jinja [晴明神社] which enshrines the soul of Abe no Seimei, reportedly the most powerful onmyōji Japan has had. He lived in the mid Heian Kyo as was the main actor in the union of the Shinto church and the state. He has been widely used in fiction as his figure seems to be half historical – half fictional anyway (Note to self: you’re still missing the Osaka Seimei Jinja). The shrine is built where he lived in Kyoto, quite close to the Imperial Palace itself. I am quite happy I got to go there alone, because the level of fanbying I achieved in that place might be embarrassing ^^”

After taking pictures to my heart’s content – getting the shrine’s seal, an omamori, and getting a free sticker because I was a foreigner, I went back to the station and took a Shinkansen to Kobe [神戸]. Kobe is one of the most important ports in Japan, and in 1995 was hit by a major earthquake which displaced areas of the city up to 6m to the sides. It is quite a new town, and it was very calm for what was about to happen. The next day, the most important yakuza gang in the country, based in Kobe, was about to split into different syndicates.

I wandered Kobe for a while, saw the clock flower and the eternal flame to commemorate the deaths from the quake and eventually made my way back to the harbour and Meriken Park. A part of it has been left as a memorial, never to forget the destruction caused – the Memorial in Meriken Park [メリケンパーク]. The Meriken Park Earthquake Memorial is eerie somehow.

After seeing the memorial, I could already scout the Kobe Port Tower. I got a combined ticket to see the Tower and the adjoined museum – Maritime Museum and Kawasaki Museum. From the Tower I got quite a good view of the whole city and the harbour. It is quite humbling to think about that nature did to the city, and what could happen again any time. No pictures allowed in the Maritime Museum though, so I just bring you some pictures from the top of the tower.

After Kobe Tower, I made a stop in Sannomiya Jinja [三宮神社].

Then I headed off to have a look at the local Chinatown and the local shopping street/gallery – Motomachi Shopping street [神戸元町商店街].

Chinatown had mostly food stalls, and I was not hungry – and I have already tried Kobe beef and know that I can’t afford the real good stuff, so after wandering around for a bit, I decided to head off to Ikuta Jinja [生田神社], the most important shrine in downtown Kobe, and quite in the lovey-dovey date couply future prayer. Not for me, but very very beautiful shrine.

And then I headed to check in the hotel and start a bit of a train nightmare that I won’t write about in hopes to forget eventually. Thus tomorrow we shall start with the arrival in Sendai.

20th August 2015: Still life, moving life {Japan, summer 2015}

As predicted, the 20th dawned rainy and not too inviting, so I headed off to Ueno Park to visit one of the many museums there. I heard that the collection of the Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan [国立科学博物館], Tokyo’s National Museum of Nature and Science had been renewed and I wanted to have a look. In the end, not much had changed, but I still had a fairly good time, because I am a geek like that. There were about three million primary school classes there, though, and a few high school ones, which was a bit annoying – and loud – but nothing too bad.

Some of the wards mix science with mythology and culture, for example the earthquake science area has an ukiyo-e of the god Suzano keeping Namazu, the giant catfish which causes earthquakes, still. As much as the bio area is cool, I think my favourite part of this museum is the fossils collection – which is scattered in different wards in what I assume has some logic but I am yet to find it. I am particularly taken by the Dunkleosteous glass panel, and of course (insert everyone who knows me going ‘duh’ here) the Megalodon teeth.

But kinda a lot of things are cool. Like dinosaur fossils. Which make you giggle when you’ve recently watched Jurassic World. There is a plesiosaur (which, by the way, is not a dinosaur). What is a dinosaur is, of course, the T-rex (#TeamTRex) – completely irrelevant information: it is a cast of Scotty, the largest T-Rex ever found.

After finishing in Ueno and getting into the wrong station – of course, that must happen at least once when I am in Japan, I headed off to Tokyo Skytree [東京スカイツリー] in Sumida [墨田] just because I could.

I did not want to climb it up, but there was something there that had been on my to-see list, Sumida Suizokukan [すみだ水族館], Sumida Aquarium. Apparently there is a tacit agreement among Japanese aquariums so each one has a super cool thing that only they’ve got. So they are like pokemon, you gotta see them all if you wanna catch all the cool things. In this case I was aiming for the giant isopods. But of course, I never say no to sharks, even with annoying kids screwing up the pictures.

And then there was sushi, and that was goooood.

… Maybe I should have titled this post “fish in every form”?

19th August 2015: Kickstart in Minato (not Ueno for a change) {Japan, summer 2015}

After I don’t want to think about how many hours of travelling, a quite narrow connection and too many superhero films on the plane, I landed at Narita and got my suitcase. No problem through customs though I was quite surprised when the guy tried Spanish with me. That took a bit to register.

I had ordered my SIM card online, to pick up at the post office at Narita Airport, and then I had my first run-in with Japanese maps. Ah, the lovely Japanese maps. You gotta love them. Once located where the hell I was and which of the corridors I had to wlak, picking up the SIM was easy and efficient.

After that, I got my JR pass and my NEX ticket at the Narita JR office, recharged the Suica and and I set off towards Tokyo. During the NEX trip I took the time to exchange SIMs and get my internet connection up and running so I did not get too lost around. My original plan had been runnign to the Natural History Museum in Ueno, but the weather was nice and there was rain announced for the next day, so I changed plans on the fly.

I left my suitcase in Tokyo Station because I was not sure that it would fit in the coin lockers and there is a manned storage there. Fortunately, it did fit, and I set off towards Minato [港] to say hi to Tokyo Tower [東京タワー], Zojo-ji [増上寺], Shiba Koen [芝公園]. Just because I could.

I really like this view of Zojo-ji and Tokyo Tower.

The altar in Zojo-ji (sneaky pic):

Ema tablets and Mizuko belonging to Zojo-ji:

Small Buddhist altar in Shiba Koen, Nyoirinkanzeon [如意輪観世音].

Kumano Jinja [熊野神社]:

Shiba Koen view, along with a certain tree I really like:

The cicadas’ singing was deafening, but welcoming, and I spent the morning and early afternoon in Shiba Koen and the lower / free levels of Tokyo Tower, also getting used to my new camera – which I love, by the way. Afterwards I headed off to pick up my luggage and… well no, that’s not true.

As it was getting hot and I still had an hour to kill, I dropped by Akihabara [秋葉原]. It is not my favourite part of town but it was quite close to where I was and there is a nice Book Off, where my first shopping of the trip took place. I love the new ‘maxisingles’ section, makes everything so convenient.

Then I did head off to pick up my luggage – and had a bit of trouble locating my coin locker because Japanese stations have levels. Urgh. Afterwards I did head towards Satte in Saitama, as would be staying with a friend there. Then there was some food, and one of those flavours that I always associate with Japan – the strange veggies / fruits juice they have at the GUSTO drink bar. And then bed because excitement can only compete against jumping over half the world for so long and there was stuff to do the next day. Mainly fossils.

22nd August 2014: Re-discovering Zojo-ji {Japan, summer 2014}

After spending the morning with D****e waiting for her suicase to be picked up, we headed off downtown Tokyo. We would separate for a few hours and then meet up to go visit a Japanese friend.

I decided to spend my time revisiting the Zojo-ji [増上寺] and Tokyo Tower [東京タワー] area, because the last time I had passed by I had glimpsed a part of Shiba Koen [芝公園] park that I had not seen before and that seemed open. It actually was, and I got access to the back of the temple. The graveyard was closed down, so I only snooped over the fence.

After this I met with D****e again to go to our Japanese friend’s house, and she made us curry! Actual Japanese homemade curry!

Oh yeah, and we watched VAMPS videos and she gave us a lot of food-presents!

18th August 2014: In Osaka, we stand on the right {Japan, summer 2014}

Armed with my JR pass I headed off to Kansai via Shinkansen. I would be staying in a Kyoto hotel for a couple of days, but my first stop was Osaka [大阪]. Hereby, by the way, I need to remind myself that next time I have to do Kobe. And get a hotel close to Fushimi Inari so I can bloody make it to the top for a change.

Arriving in Osaka, once again, I felt an overwhelming sensation of being home, and that was once again the feeling I got upon remembering that I was to stay on the right on the escalator (in Tokyo, you keep to the left). My visit was carefully planned, even considering transportation times and queues. Yes, it was not the most… travel efficient one if you look at a map, but had to be done like that in order to work, time wise.

My first stop was at the Sumiyoshi Taisha [住吉大社] compound. Sumiyoshi Taisha is one of the oldest Shinto Shrines in existence, so of course I had to go there this time over.

After the shrine I headed off to downtown Osaka to visit the Ōsaka Rekishi Hakubutsukan [大阪歴史博物館], the Osaka Museum of History which features exhibitions depicting the evolution of the city from ancient times to the occupation period and the start of Western influence.

Although this was close to Osaka-jo [大阪城] (Osaka Castle), after I was done I headed back to the train station and backtracked half the way I had previously advanced in order to go to Shinsekai [新世界], the New World. there was something else I had pending here, and that was going up the Tsutenkaku [通天閣] Tower to get a view of the city and, of course, to visit Billy Ken, the God of Things as They Ought to Be, and his sidekicks.

After that I headed back to Osaka Castle area to be up when the sun set, and thus be able to see it lit up, which I had not managed the previous time I had been there either.

Finally I took the Shinkansen to Kyoto and checked in my hotel for the night.