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!)

28th July 2019: Wakayama {Japan, summer 2019}

Going to Wakayama [和歌山] was a spur-of-the-moment decision, so I did not prepare for it in advance – I should have. On the one hand, it was super hot, on the other hand, most of the stuff was not covered by my JR Pass and I had not budgeted 3,000 ¥ extra on trains for it. But when I came out of the train on the 27th saw that my platform was the Wakayama platform and thought “why not?” After all, they made HYDE their Tourist Ambassador this year…

First I found my way to the castle, Wakayama-jo [和歌山城] and the adjacent park.

On one of the corners of the park I found Wakayama-ken Gogoku Jinja [和歌山県護国神社].

And then I visited the Wakayama Rekishi-kan [わかやま歴史館], Wakayma History Museum, since the ticket was included in the Castle visit.

Then I missed the train to Kimiidera [紀三井寺], so I had to wait an extra half-hour… that I would later be thankful for because… stairs. Lots of them.

There were a couple of other shrines that I wanted to visit, but it felt like 45ºC and it was just too hot to walk to them – besides the stairs left me exhausted. So I headed back to the station. I did not manage to make a seat reservation, so I had to stand the 90 minutes back to Osaka [大阪]. That was not fun. Once I was in Osaka I took a stroll in Tennoji shopping centre because I wanted a long summer-jacket, preferably in black lace. I was not lucky.

I had dinner and a shower at the hotel, and then I walked past Shinsekai [新世界] and Tsūtenkaku [通天閣] to see Shitennoji [四天王寺] at night. I was closely observed by some cats which roamed the altars and were very offended I was not bringing them any food.

Walked distance: 22995 steps, 16.4 km

23rd July 2019: Arashiyama honours its name {Japan, summer 2019}

I started off the day at Yasui-Konpira-gu [安井金比羅宮], a shrine with a huge ema-like “mound” called Kushi-zuka [久志塚] with a hole in the middle. It is thought that if you write your wish on a paper, glue it on the mound and then crawl through the hole and back, your wish comes true. In case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t go through.

Then I walked all past Gion again to return to Gion Shirakawa [祇園白川] and Tatsumi Bashi [祇園 巽橋] to see the area by light. I saw Tatsumidaimyojin [辰巳大明神], the Kanikakuni monument, Kanikakuni Ishibumi (Koma-satsu) [かにかくに碑(駒札)], and a very cool heron (or crane?) who totally owned the place.

After this little stroll, it was still early so I headed off to the reconstructed castle Fushimi-Momoyama-jo [伏見桃山城]. It was a very cool castle, but it was not open to the public (this trip was not castle-lucky, now that I think about it).

Underneath the castle, I found the Mausoleum of Emperor Kanmu Kanmu Ten’nō Kashiharanomisasagi [桓武天皇 柏原陵].

And then I walked off to the opposite part of the hill. On my way I found some of the original rocks that had conformed the Ninomaru [二ノ丸跡] of Momoyama-Jo.

I kept ascending until I reached Meiji Ten’nō Fushimi Momoyama no Misasagi [明治天皇 伏見桃山陵], Emperor Meiji’s Tomb at Fushimi Momoyama, which was… somehow very sober and somewhat humble for such an important figure in Japanese history (then again I’ve recently visited the Spanish Royal Family Pantheon so… hm… yeah. Anything is more sober than that.)

After that I was tired and hot, so I needed a break – and the best way to have a break is a train ride. I rode back to Kyoto Station and from there I headed off towards the Arashiyama area. I wandered around the Bamboo Grove Arashiyama Chikurin no Shōkei [嵐山 竹林の小径] for a while. It was packed so I kept diverting towards other areas.

I walked into Rakushisha [落柿舎], a poet’s house, where I got a shuuin.

Then I went up the road to Nison-in [二尊院].

On my way back I stopped to admire the lotus flowers, which were in full bloom.

I considered going into the Museum of Korean arts, but as it was closed, my decision was irrelevant, so I decided to head back towards the Arashiyama Koen Nakanoshima Chiku [嵐山公園 中之島地区], the Nakanoshima area of Arashiyama Park. I saw the Kadono Ooi [葛野大堰], the small damn in the river, and crossed the Togetsu-kyō Bashi [渡月橋] bridge.

There I climbed up to Ichitani-Munakata-Jinja [櫟谷宗像神社].

I decided against climbing to the Monkey Park, and I was halfway back through the bridge, when the skies opened and a huge thunderstorm hit – so indeed, Arashiyama became the mountain of storms! I waited half of it under the canopy of a shop, and after twenty minutes I braved running across the street to the Lawson to get myself a sandwich and ate it as the rain dwindled enough for the streets to be walkable again.

Once that happened, I walked to the station and took a train back to Kyoto and then to Fushimi Inari Taisha [伏見稲荷大社]. I did two sweeps – one with light and once when the sun was setting. Of course I did not climb the whole mountain, I just stayed to see the main buildings and the Senbontorii [千本鳥居] (the loooong torii line) lit.

And finally I headed off back to have some food and rest.

Walked distance: 27897 steps, 19.9 km (so glad I took my cane today!)

20th July 2019: Kawagoe revisited {Japan, summer 2019}

I went to Ikebukuro to exchange my JR Pass, and from there I went to Kawagoe [川越], a small town near Tokyo. The historical centre of Kawagoe is called Koedo [小江戸], Little Edo or Little Tokyo. I have actuallly visited Kawagoe before and I had not thought that much of it, but I wanted to give it another chance as I was going to a fan-event over there the following day, so I got myself a hotel over there and spent the afternoon / evening wandering the town.

I arrived by train at the Kawagoe Station and I headed to the touristic area. My first stop was Kawagoe Kumano Jinja [川越 熊野神社]. I thought about getting a shuuin but there were too many people and I backed off. I thought there would be fewer people the following day but I was wrong. Oh, well. Live and learn.

After that I found my way to the Black Warehouse District Kurazukuri no Machinami [蔵造りの町並] , which is an area with houses that date from the Edo period. Today they are shops, mostly tourist traps, though. I am not a big fan.

On one of the side ways you can find the Clock Tower, Toki no Kane [時の鐘], which is one of the few historical clock towers in Japan (although it was rebuilt after it burnt down in the 19th century).

And I moved on to the Kawagoe Hikawa Jinja [川越氷川神社], which has a very cool wind chime tunnel, but it was packed at the time.

Later I visited the Kawagoe Castle / Honmaru Residence [川越城 本丸御殿]. The castle is long gone, but the palace was built in the 19th century.

I walked past the Reconstructed Moat of the Castle (I have no idea why there are no pictures of it?) and Yukizukainari Jinja, which was closed off. Then I headed off to the hotel to check in, and after that, I did some walking over the less touristic / known area of town. Right behind the hotel I came across Sugahara Jinja [菅原神社].

My next stop was snooping around Myōzenji [妙善寺] and its adjacent graveyard.

Then over to Fujisengen Jinja [富士浅間神社], a nice little shrine with a historical stelae next to it, the Shishimizuka of Uranaikata [占肩の鹿見塚].

From the grounds I could see Jitsuzaiji [実在寺], which is a very modern temple.

After that I walked towards Senbahikawa Jinja [仙波氷川神社], which I’m sure is haunted by a nekomata which appeared out of nowhere.

Senbagashishiseki Kouen [仙波河岸史跡公園], an awesome and large park with a lake and a ghost-proof bridge.

The park has a small temple altar, Enmeijizoson [延命地蔵尊] to one side.

On the other side stands Senbaatago Jinja [仙波愛宕神社] and I bought some takoyaki for dinner.

Walked distance: 22797 steps / 16.3 km

26th August 2018: To the East: Niigata → Aizu-Wakamatsu → Koriyama → Tokyo {Japan, summer 2018}

As there was not much to see in Niigata [新潟], we took a scenic train to the east – Niigata is famous for being ‘countryside’, and growing rice. We saw lots of rice fields.

Our destination was Aizu-Wakamatsu [会津若松], a ‘samurai town’ famous for Tsuruga castle and the story of the Byakkotai [白虎隊], a troop of young soldiers who fought during the Boshin war. Back then the ‘Aizu warrior spirit’ was a very important thing, and 19 youths committed ritual suicide when they thought the castle had fallen. This is called the Tragedy of the Byakkotai.

On the other hand, the town’s mascot is a cartoonish phantom red cow Akabeko [赤べこ]. Because why not?

We headed out to the castle first and foremost. Tsuruga-jo [鶴ヶ城] or Aizu-Wakamatsu-jo [会津若松城]. If you google it, you might think it’s pink. So did we. We were a bit on the amusedly disappointed side (≧∇≦).

But we made-do with some awesome (and ice-cold) Aizu Coke-bottles.

Within the castle grounds we found Tsuruga-jo Inari Jinja [鶴ヶ城稲荷神社].

And Kasama Inari Jinja [笠間稲荷神社].

After the castle it was lunch time so we went to have lunch in the ‘old samurai town’ which to be honest does not feel too old. On the way we stopped by Shinmei Jinja [神明神社], which was rather on the empty side, but still nice.

We ate lunch in a place called Mitsuta-ya [満田屋] to eat miso dengaku [味噌田楽]. We had a course of skewers consisting on two konjac (one with salty and one with sweet miso), fried tofu, mochi (rice cake), sweet potato, shingorou (some kind of rice croquette) and smoked herring. All these were grilled just in front of us, which was on the one hand really cool to see, and on the other, bloody hot because hey, there was a fire burning in front of us. We were told that this was typical samurai food, because it could be prepared and eaten ‘on the go’. Who knows whether it is true, but it was fun and yummy.

Once we had eaten we had to make a run to the station so we could catch the train – as the following one was two hours later – and we made it with three whole minutes to spare despite google maps saying we were too far away. And thus we were off to Koriyama [郡山], which… we had not really heard of before this whole thing? (≧∇≦). There we took the Tourist Office by surprise when we asked what we could see even if it was already ‘late’. Map in hand, we headed off to see Asakakunitsuko Jinja [安積国造神社], which was a little on the creepy side.

Then we saw Nyoho-ji [如宝寺].

And continued to the park Hayama Koen [麓山公園], where we saw the Asaka Canal Hayama Waterfall Asaka Sosui Hayama no Hibaku [安積疏水麓山の飛瀑].

And the so-called Of the 21seikiki nenkouen Hayama no Mori [21世紀記念公園 麓山の杜], the 21st Century Memorial Park Hayama Forest.

Finally we headed back to the station area, where we checked out the Observatory in the Big-i [ビッグアイ] building.

And finally caught a shinkansen back to Tokyo, we had dinner on the go and crashed in bed when we got home.

22nd August 2018: … and I raise you two castles more {Japan, summer 2018}

From Nagoya [名古屋], I got myself to Inuyama [犬山], Aichi Prefecture, to see yet another castle. This is also one of the twelve original castles and a National Treasure of Japan. Inuyama is located about 40 minutes away from Nagoya in a line I had not even heard about, so I had a bit of a hiccup finding the station. But it was no more than a tiny stumble and I was on my way at the expected time. Inuyama is a nice little town with a traditional street leading up to the castle, called “Castle Town street”.

Before getting to the castle I came across two shrines – one was Haritsuna Jinja [針綱神社].

The other one was Sankoinari Jinja [三光稲荷神社 ], which either got you a partner or protected your pets. Inclusive for people who want a partner or not, I guess (≧∇≦).

Then I hiked up to Inuyama-jō [犬山城], the castle.

I diverted from the way to get to Inuyama Jinja [犬山神社].

And I was puzzled by something called Oibokenizu Jizoudou [老い呆け来地ず蔵堂]. But it’s okay. Apparently most people are. It seems to be some kind of love temple.

Finally I met a very relaxed kitty in Akiba Jinja [秋葉神社].

With this, I left Inuyama and headed back to Nagoya, from where I took a Tokyo-bound Shinkansen. I made a stopover at Hamamatsu [浜松] because I wanted to see… yet another castle! I found my way to Hamamatsu-jō [浜松城, Hamamatsu-jō].

Next to it there is the sculpture of Tokugawa Ieyasu Wakaki hi no Tokugawa Ieyasukō-zō [若き日の徳川家康公像]. Ieyasu build the Castle and resided in Hamamatsu and was the first shogun of Edo shogunate. The castle is a reconstruction.

Finally, there is the Ieyasu Armour Hang Pine Tree Ieyasu yoroi-kake-matsu [家康公鎧掛松] which (supposedly) is where the man hung his armour when he was home (aka the original castle).

And with that I headed off back to Tokyo [東京] and D****e’s place to get some rest.

21st August 2018: I see two castles… {Japan, summer 2018}

As I had made it to Nagoya a bit on the early side the previous day, I had some time to plan today carefully. The tentative plan was visiting Gifu and Inuyama, both castle towns. However, a third castle, Kiyosu, was also on the list, and it turned out that to get to Gifu, you go via Kiyosu. So there was a slight readjustment in Castle-visting schedule.

Thus I got myself on the train and 20 minutes later I stopped at Kiyosu [清洲]. I had seen the castle from the Shinkansen before, but I had never found the name until I was doing some pre-planning for this trip. Thus, it was a win/win situation. Everything seemed to be helping towards me seeing that castle this time.

Bonus points for Kiyosu: signs. Awesome, easy to follow signals reading “清洲城” in every crossing . Not in every second crossing. In every actual crossing so you can actually get to the place without even a map!

Anyway, the highlight of Kiyosu is the castle, Kiyosu-jō [清洲城]. It is not original by any means, but it is one of the prettiest ones I’ve seen. I like all the colourful stuff.

Then I snooped around Kiyosu Koen [清洲公園], the park where Oda Nobunaga Nōhime-zō [織田信長・濃姫像] stand, they are the bronze statues of Oda Nobunaga and his wife Nouhime.

Afterwards I returned to the station and continued onto Gifu [岐阜], where I took a while to figure out the bus system, but in the end I managed to get to the feet of the mountain where Gifu Castle is.

Before going into the park, I decided I would not go into the insect museum, and walked off to Shōhōji [正法寺], home of the Great Buddha Gifu Daibutsu [岐阜大仏].

I took the Gifu Safu Kinkazan Ropeway [ぎふ金華山ロープウェー] (Gifu Mt. Kinka Ropeway). As much as it seems that I am getting comfortable with the whole Ropeway thing, I’m not. For the record.

But there I went, up to Gifu-jō [岐阜城], the castle up the muontain.

Later I was wandering around the park for a while and of course I needed to go and see the Gifu Kōen Sanjūnotō [岐阜公園三重塔], the Three-Story Pagoda that stands on the slope of the park.

I was sort of tired, and it was very hot, so I took the bus back to the station, and the train back to Nagoya [名古屋]. When I got there I had rested a little, and I felt up to walking a bit in Nagoya – besides it just felt too early to go to the hotel. I walked by a cute little shrine, Yuzu Akiba Jinja [洲嵜秋葉神社].

I finally made it to Ōsu Kannon [大須観音],

and the adjacent shopping streets,

where I found Hakuryu [白龍], the white dragon.

I did some shopping in Mandarake and Book Off and I walked back to the hotel.

20th August 2018: Ise, the Soul of Japan {Japan, summer 2018}

Ise [伊勢] in the Mie Prefecture, is a coastal town home to the Ise Grand Shrine Ise Jingū [伊勢神宮] dedicated to Amaterasu, Sun Goddess, and said by many to represent the soul of Japan. It is also, according to the legend, the resting place of one of the three Imperial Regalia, the mirror Yata no Kagami [八咫鏡]. The Grand Shrine is actually a compound, but there are two main shrines, the Inner Shrine Naikū and the Outer Shrine Gekū

I left the hotel just in time to make it to the local station and get to Ise stfation, where I checked with the Tourism office and bought a bus pass. As much as I dislike buses in Japan, sometimes it’s the only way to get around. My first stop was the Outer Shrine: Gekū [外宮].

Then I took the bus to the Inner Shrine, which was packed with people and school trips. I crossed another Uji Bridge, Uji-bashi[宇治橋].

Then walked into the Inner Shrine: Naikū [内宮].

My general impression of the Ise Grand Shrine: it felt really severe and not too welcoming, which is different from what I usually feel in Shinto Shrines. It was full of people praying at the different shrines and sub-shrines, and families with grandparents, parents and kids. There were also a lot of children in trips. In the Great Shrine, people usually pray at what is called the third level. When I was there, a woman was shown to the second level for her to pray there, which caused some outrage around the parishioners. That amused me.

After I had seen the Grand Shrine I took the bus again to head off to the coast. On the way we passed by Azuchi-Momoyama Bunkamura, and I filed it for future reference, as it had a castle. But for the time being I was heading off to see the Meoto Iwa.

I got off the bus and first I was distracted by the ocean.

Then I walked through Ryugusha [龍宮社], a dragon Shinto shrine.

I walked around the cliff and got to Futamiokitama Jinja [二見興玉神社].

Which is home to the Married Rocks Meoto Iwa [夫婦岩], two rocks in the ocean that are joined by a sacred rope and represent a married couple.

I had now some time to do something else. I considered the Aquarium, and the Azuchi-Momoyama Bunkamura [伊勢安土桃山文化村]. I decided to give myself some more time to think by taking the bus backtracking towards the Naikū, and I had almost decided on the theme park – featuring samurai, geisha and the castle.

But then I saw the price. It was over 4,000 ¥ and I had spent 10,500 ¥ at the Oiran Experience than expected, so I was a bit off-budget. Thus I decided to just head back to the shopping and restaurant area and grab a bite to eat. (Full disclosure: I might have to go back to Ise just to check this out anyway (≧∇≦).)

I had heard about ‘Ise lobster’ Ise ebi [イセエビ] (Japanese spiny lobster, Panulirus japonicus), but in the end it turned out that I only bought a koroke. It was yummy though.

After this, being already late afternoon, I decided to head back to the station, stopping by Seki Jinja [世木神社] before I left towards Nagoya [名古屋], which would be my operational base for the next couple of days.

16th August 2017: 五山送り火 (Gozan no Okuribi) {Japan, summer 2018}

Remember when I mentioned I overdid it on the 15th? I was feeling it today. My head was bugging me and it grew worse along the morning. The weather, showery, was not really helping, even when I took my meds.

Never the less, I left the hotel in the morning, got some breakfast and walked to Kyoto’s old castle, Nijō-jō [二条城], which was literally two blocks over. This was not planned, as when I booked the hotel I looked for something reasonably-priced reasonably-close to a JR or an underground station – I really, really hate Japan buses, trains for the win.

Anyway, the castle was close, so I decided to drop by as the first time I had been around it was being renovated.

After the castle I walked towards the JR station where I had come from the previous day to stop by Shinsen-en [神泉苑], the remains of a Heian Era garden, which holds a sub-temple to To-ji.

Also I snooped into Nijo Jinja [二条神社], just because there was an indication sending me there.

Then I headed off to Kyoto JR station as there is a tourist information centre. There I wanted to ask where to watch the upcoming Gozan no Okuribi [五山送り火], which is a festivity that closes the Obon festival in Kyoto. The Obon festival honours the deaths of the deceased, which come back to the world and are sent away by the five fires started in four mountains around Kyoto. I wanted to see as many fires as possible, and I had been doing some research online. I wanted to find a good place, which in the end turned out to the rooftop of a local Aeon supermarket, the Aeon Mall Gojo.

After getting the info, I went to Higashi Honganji [東本願寺], a temple close to the station.

I wanted to go find its twin, Nishi Honganji, but I was not feeling well and I really wanted to be fine for the evening’s fires – which were after all the reason why my trip was planned like this, so I could go to see the fires. My headache was growing worse, I think part of the reason was that I was stressing that the mall might not be a good place to watch the fires and whether I could go somewhere else. Thus I got something to eat, and headed back to the hotel for a shower, a nap, and some dinner before I left for the mall.

The nap proved to be a good idea. The fires would be lit at 8 pm, so I stayed in the hotel until a little after 5 pm, when I left so I could be at the mall at 6 pm. This gave me time to relocate to another of the viewing spots if my first choice did not work.

But it did. You know you’re on the right track when you find all the locals all ready a picnic, and the Aeon was just like that. There were hotel employees pointing to the areas where we would see the fires. Out of the five fires we would see three, and part of the other two.

There are five fires in the Gozan no Okuribi [五山送り火], and they are lit from right to left. The first one is shaped 大, it is called Migi Daimonji or just Daimonji [大文字]. It is lit at 8pm. The second one is Myojo [妙法], a Buddhist prayer. Next comes the ship that is supposed to take the souls back to the underworld, called Funagata [舟形]. The fourth is the Hidari Daimonji [左大文字], another 大, and the final one is the Toriigata [鳥居形], shaped like a torii.

Everything was good. I could relax and my headache did not come back, even if we had a mini deluge that had everybody going inside for a few minutes.

When it was done and we went all back outside, we had a great sunset.

Finally everything went dark and the fires started. We saw the Migi Daimonji lit first to our right.

Then the sparks of what could have been the Myojo or the Funagata, nobody was too clear on that. Later we saw the Hidari Daimonji lit, just in front of us.

Finally, we got to see the Toriigata after changing sides of the roof.

All in all, it was a great success!! I was really glad I got to go and see it, especially the first and last fire, because it gave everything a sense of beginning and ending, even if I was quite exhausted to make it back to the station and the hotel.

15th August 2018: Hikone is small and at noon it turns into a pumpkin? Hikone → Kyoto {Japan, summer 2018}

As I had learnt the way to the castle entrance the previous day, first thing in the morning I headed off to Hikone Castle. The walk to the castle is flanked by the Irohamatsu [いろは松], which is a row of special pine trees that were planted there as their roots grow downwards but not sideways.

Hikone castle, Hikone-jō [彦根城], is one of the twelve castles that retain the original keep and one of the five to be a national treasure. The ticket included the castle, the museum, and the Gardens. I was there when they opened so the affluence of people was not to big yet.

Being one of the important ones made two things happen – one, that you have to take your shoes off, and two, that the stairs are crazy. Good thing I was not carrying my backpack – I had left it at the hotel but they told me they could only keep it till noon for whatever reason, so it was a good thing that Hikone is not as big of a town as others. The interior structure of the castle is naked wood, and it feels quite severe.

After the castle I went to the Hikone-jō Hakubutsukan [彦根城博物館], the Castle Museum, as it started drizzling. Normally the castles have the museum inside, but this one was in a nearby tower next to the main gate.

My next destination were the Genkyuen [玄宮園], a traditional garden from where you can spot the castle.

Also within castle grounds was the Kaikoku kinen-kan [開国記念館] (officially translated as Hikone City Museum of History, but it is more as “Memorial Hall”) – unfortunately pics were not allowed except for this Lego Castle.

Finally I checked out Shigakengokoku Jinja [滋賀縣護國神社] under daylight.

I walked back to the hotel through the main street, where I saw many stone statue shops displaying their work - including the city mascot, Hikonyan [ひこにゃん].

Finally, after picking up my luggage from the hotel I stopped by the Ii Naomasa Ritsuzō [井伊直政立像], the Statue / Monument to Ii Naomasa, who was the original builder of the castle.

I jumped on the Hikone Rapid Express, which was packed, and headed off to my next destination, Kyoto [京都]. As I was earlier than expected, I got a jump-start on sightseeing. This would later proof to be not too much of a good idea – originally I only wanted to do one temple so I did not put my luggage into a coin locker. Looking back, I should have.

I went to To-ji [東寺], a Buddhist temple whose pagoda had drawn my attention every time I had been in Kyoto before.

Then, as it was quite close, I decided to check out the aquarium, Kyoto Suizokukan [京都水族館].

Finally, I went to Daishōgun Shōten Machi Ichi-jō Yōkai Street [大将軍商店街 一条妖怪ストリート], a shopping area with a lot of yokai and yokai-like mascots. Unfortunately, most everything was closed due to the Obon festivities, which in the end made for an unrewarded extra effort. Here I was trying to pace myself and not doing a good job out of it.

On my way to Yokai street and back I saw Jinja Kitano-Jinja Otabisho [北野神社 御旅所],

Jizo-in [地蔵院 ],

and finally Daishogun Hachi Jinja [大将軍八神社].

Finally I backtracked to the station and headed off to the hotel for some rest. I made a mental list of things that were incredibly close to the hotel and I could do the following day.

14th August 2018: On the road… I mean railway again! Tokyo → Nagahama → Hikone {Japan, summer 2018}

One of the things I did on Saturday in Shinjuku [新宿] before the J concert was activating my JR Pass, and I had a week of travelling in store, so there I went. After getting to Shinagawa and being told that there were no seats to be reserved, I travelled to Maibara on a seat in a very-empty unreserved car (keep in mind, this was the end of the Obon festivals, and lots of people travel around these dates).

In Maibara I left the Shinkansen and jumped onto the local line that headed off to Nagahama [長浜] in Shiga Prefecture. This trip was mostly organised around my need to be in Kyoto on the 16th of August, so when I looked up things to do, Nagahama popped up for having a castle at the shore of Biwa-ko [琵琶湖], Lake Biwa, which is the largest freshwater lake in Japan.

Nagahama Tourist Office at the station provided me with a very handy map that featured a walking route to see the most important areas of the town, which I set to almost immediately.

First, of course I head to the castle, Nagahama-jō [長浜城]. Between the station and the castle there was a cage with monkeys. I did not realise that until one of them popped up staring at my lunch.

Then I walked around the surrounding park and got to the lake front. Biwa-ko is big enough to have waves.

Then I continued on the proposed route to the Nagahama Railway Square, Nagahama Tetsudo Square [長浜鉄道スクエア], and the Railway Museum.

In front of that there was the Keiunkan [慶雲館], a beautiful traditional house and garden.

Then, after deciding to modify the walking route to fit my interests, I headed out to the town centre to find Nagahama Betsuin Daitsū-ji [大通寺], the biggest temple in town (with confusing indications). To get here I passed by the central commercial streets.

Afterwards I decided to go to Hokoku Jinja [豊国神社].

And before heading to the station, the Kaiyodo Figure Museum [海洋堂フィギュアミュージアム] had really caught my attention so I decided to come in.

On my way back to the station I saw the Hideyoshi to Mitsunari deai no zō [秀吉と佐吉 出会いの像], the Statue of (Toyotomi) Hideyoshi and (Ishida), important historical figures in the area.

Finally there was the Aqua Tree before I took the train to go to my next destination, Hikone [彦根].

Hikone is twenty minutes by train using via Maibara, so I basically backtracked to Maibara and continued in the opposite direction. At Maibara our train joined another one so it became twice as long in a very interesting process.

Once I arrived in Hikone, I found my hotel and I checked in. However, having heard that sunset at Lake-ko was really beautiful, I decided to sprint for 35 minutes, and headed off to the lake, racing the sun. I managed to see a beautiful dusk indeed, even if coming back to the hotel was a bit lonely once the lights were out. I had no idea. Yet.

Then I diverted towards Hikone-jō, Hikone-jō [彦根城] to try and catch a glimpse of it at night. Everything was locked down, so this is the best I got, and that’s a lot of zoom.

Finally, just before turning in I walked by Shigakengokoku Jinja [滋賀縣護國神社] and the Mitama Matsuri it was holding.

24th July 2017: Himeji {Japan, summer 2017}

I woke up in order to be at Himeji [姫路]’s Castle Himeji-jo [姫路城] when they opened at 9am. Himeji had been on my to-do list for a long time, and now I had the chance to see it. I must learn how to convince volunteer guides to leave me alone though, as the visit would have been much better on my own. I visited the Main Keep, the East Small Keep, the Hyakken Roka (Long corridor)

Then I walked around the castle grounds for a while and snooped around Himeji Jinja [姫路神社], although I did not go much far in.

Afterwards I walked (without melting, which was a good thing) to the complex formed by Otokoyama Senhime Tenmangu [男山千姫天満宮] and Mizuo Shrine [水尾神社] and the corresponding observatory of the castle.

Next I walked back towards the castle grounds and around them because the gate of Itatehyozu Jinja [射楯兵主神社] had caught my eye from the castle.

My last stop for the day was Gokoku Shrine [護国神社].

And you know what? The rest of the day sucked because there were lots of problems. Good thing I checked that Fukuyama Castle would be closed before jumping on the train. I got my butt to Osaka [大阪]. My hotel turned out to be a love-hotel, not somewhere I actually felt safe or welcome, and my concert ticket was not such, but the proof of sale. I spent hours trying to check if it had been picked up, and finding a way to exchange hotels, and I did not sleep almost anything. Fortunately, the ticket was ultimately found, I booked another hotel for the upcoming nights and the worst thing that happened was a morning on the trains ε-(´・`) フ

23rd July 2017: Kyoto: plans long made and plans unexpectedly changed – Maiko Henshin and Gyosha Meguri {Japan, summer 2017}

It was an early and cloudy Kyoto [京都] morning when I woke up to walk to Heian Jingu [平安神宮], a shrine built in 1895 to celebrate that Kyoto had existed for 1100 years already. It was supposed to be an innocent visit, but then I came across something…

When I was snooping around the shrine shop I saw something – a stamp rally, shrine version. You had to go to five shrines in Kyoto and get their stamps in order to complete a tablet with the shrine stamps on the sides and centre of the four sacred beast of the town. It is the Kyoto Gosha Meguri ~Shi shin Sou Ou No Miyako~ [京都五社めぐり~四神四神相応の京~], and it unexpectedly trumped all my Kyoto visiting plans. This is how it looks like after the peregrination was completed:

Afterwards I walked alongside the Kamo river towards Gion [祇園], stopping to get the second stamp at Yasaka Jinja [八坂神社].

I was to meet D****e at 10.15 as she was coming from Osaka, where she was for a concert. She wanted to tag along to what I was going to do next, basically to… share the pictures with everyone. I had an appointment at 11am to do something that my sister and brother in law had ‘given’ me for my birthday. It is something I had always wanted to do, but the price had put me off – a maiko transformation photo shoot, in this case I chose a place called Maiko-Henshin Studio Shiki because B**** had recommended it.

This was a 98% great experience. 1% fell because I had a coughing fit (yeah, I’ve been neglecting to tell you about my almost-pneumonia, but remember, we’re only talking about the good things here) and the other 1% due to a communication failure with the studio upon reservation. However, that 2% is negligible and it was all in all amazing. D****e had a blast and decided that she needed to share the pictures with everyone she knew who knew me.

In this kind of experience you have a photo shoot in maiko clothes – maiko being young geisha-in-training. I honestly don’t know what got into me for wanting to do this, but the thought crept upon me until I actually asked for the money for this as a birthday present. The whole experience was booked online, and what you get is make-up (and wig), dress-up and photos, both in digital and printed-out form. The only problem that I found is that the photos are “staged”, in the way that they are the same for everyone, whether it is “your angle” or not. The main problem I found was having to take out glasses / contacts in order to do this, because I felt super-blind, which was a problem going down the stairs and choosing the kimono.

The problem was having to negotiate the extra picture I wanted, because that was not part of the pre-packaged photos, and it was apparently difficult to process that I wanted the samurai sword kind photo with the pretty maiko set-up. After the shooting, you get to go outside and play around with your phone and take selfies and stuff.

The whole thing took about two hours and afterwards I walked D****e to her station and headed off towards the third shrine of the , which I thought at the time would be the furthest-away shrine, Kamigamo Jinja [上賀茂神社], in the outskirts. There was some kind of art / craft fair there by university students, so it was very lively. Unfortunately too, a lot of it was under renovation.

After this I headed off back to the hotel to retrieve my luggage and undid my way to the station by subway. I had a while at the station, so I took a few fun pictures.

Finally I jumped on a train to backtrack to Himeji [姫路], which is south of Kyoto. I timed the visit to Maiko Henshin so D****e could come after all. I found my Himeji hotel and then went to walk around the castle. Actually, I should have been having some dinner but apparently I’m castle-distracted. I walked around the park and took a lot of pictures (and damn those fish in the pond are authentic sharks).

Note: there is a longer commentary with more details over at SemiRandom

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.

21st July 2017: Beppu – Hell day~ (in a good way) {Japan, summer 2017}

Beppu is, as I said before, known for having a lot of volcanic vents. It has decided to exploit this as a tourist resource. Beppu is still trying to open up to foreigners. It’s trying, at least partially. So cheers to the nice people.

The main attraction are the Jigoku [地獄] or hells, which are, depending on who you ask, seven, eight or nine. I visited eight of them. They are spectacular hot springs and vents which are too hot for bathing but really interesting to look at. The whole pack is called Beppu Jigoku Meguri [別府地獄めぐり]

I got myself a map, bought a ticket pack and a bus pass, and set off to the bus. Most of the jigoku are located in the Kannawa [鉄輪] District, but two of them are pretty far away, in Shibaseki [柴石] (2 km is far in the boiling summer, if the weather had been nicer, I would have walked back and forth).

I visited the Onishibozu Jigoku [鬼石坊主地獄] (Hell of the Demon-monk) which is a boiling mud puddle and a strong sulphur smell. I did not manage to get any bubble exploding, but the idea is that the bubbling mud looks like a monk’s shaved head.

Second I headed walked into the Umi Jigoku [海地獄] (Sea Hell), which is a turquoise pond of boiling water with a small shrine. It also has a smaller reddish pond to one of the sides.

After this I took a break to have a made-in-hot-spring-water pudding and have something to drink, just because I could. It was delicious.

And there was Onsen Jinja [温泉神社] (Hot Spring Shrine) to snoop around, too!

Third, I dropped by the Yama Jigoku [山地獄] (Mountain Hell), which comes off from the mountain slope and complements that it is not the most spectacular one with having a small petting zoo, where I somehow ended up feeding a capybara. Don’t ask me XD (This hell is independent, so you have to pay extra to come into it).

Fourth, I went to the Kamado Jigoku [かまど地獄] (Cooking Pot Hell) which has a big oni cook to greet you.

Fifth, I found the Oniyama Jigoku [鬼山地獄] (Devil Mountain Hell) which for some reason breeds crocodiles, and what the hell, that was scary for a second. Even if they were behind bards, the crocs would follow you under the water and snip at your shadow and some of them were enormous! Creepy! The hot-spring itself was not that impressive but basically because it was steaming too much to see any of it.

Sixth, I went to the Shiraike Jigoku [白池地獄] (White Pond Hell) where there was nobody to take my ticket. A nice old couple explained that I was to cut it myself and put it in a jar over there. We were talking a little and they asked where I was from. Then they continued on their way and I stayed petting a random cat who decided I was to scratch it right then and there. In this jigokku they also have a small aquarium with several tank of freshwater fish, among them “man-eating piranhas”…

I took the bus then to Shibaseki where the other two remaining hells were. Had the weather been more agreeable I would have walked, but I had the bus pass anyway and it was very hot. As I stepped out of the bus I came across the same couple from before. they explained that they had visited Spain before when they were younger and told me that they were from Osaka. We parted ways to go into the Chinoike Jigoku [血の池地獄] (Blood Pond Hell) which is a boiling red pond. Here I decided to take a foot bath as the area was empty and I was tired.

The final hell was Tatsumaki Jigoku [龍巻地獄] (Spout hell), a geyser you have to wait for, as it has its own timing. Here the old couple brought me a lemonade because they were adorable. And after the geyser it was over, or so I thought.

I had decided to give the aquarium a miss, because I was very tired but when I was taking pictures of the “castle” from afar I decided… I could not miss the chance, so I took the bus again towards Kifune-jo [貴船城] (which is quite new but pretty enough). Unfortunately the bus stopped right at the foot of the hill, so I had to go up and climb all the slope. I arrived just in time to pray to a snake which is supposed to bring happiness to whomever pats it.

After the castle I headed back downtown and took the train to backtrack to Kokura / Kitakyuushu [小倉 / 北九州]. While it is true that I had passed Kokura on my way from Fukuoka to Beppu, the idea was always to spend the minimum time on a train per day, but I wanted to combine Kokura with Okayama and make the following day a “castle day”.

Once in Kokura I checked in and went to see Kokura-jo [小倉城] by night.

18th July 2017: Fukuoka – swampy heat {Japan, summer 2017}

The modern Fukuoka [福岡] is a rather big city comprised of two towns – Fukuoka and Hakata. My hotel was in the Hakata area (close to Hakata station), so I could start with visiting some of the sights around there. Right down the street there was Hakata Sennen no Mon [博多千年門], which is a rather modern gate that signals the entrance to the historical site of Fukuoka.

Afterwards I snooped the back gardens of Jouten-ji [承天寺], to whose main building I would come back later (weird mapping sent me the wrong way).

I snooped around Waka Hachimangu [若八幡宮], which was not even open as this was about 8.30 in the morning, I had some coffee and I continued on my way.

My next stop was Tōchō-ji [東長寺] a Buddhist Temple with a rather short-tempered monk in charge of writing shuuin, and a huge Buddha statue made of wood around whose you can descend to ‘hell’, a corridor which first explains the different hells in Buddhist religion and then plunges into complete darkness (no pictures allowed though).

Next I was in Ryugu-ji [龍宮寺], a small temple next to Tōchō-ji.

Right on the other side of the street I walked over to Kushida Jinja [櫛田神社], dedicated to Amaterasu and Susanoo, the first gods in Shinto.

After that I walked into Gokushomachi [御供所町], an area where two or three major Buddhist Temples are located. The most important out of these (and the only one open for inspection) was Shofuku-ji [聖福寺], which is the first known Zen Buddhist temple in Japan.

Afterwards I took a stop at a conbini for some lunch a subway ride to check on the former site of Fukuoka castle Fukuoka-jo [福岡城], and the only two remaining items: the Otemon (main gate) [大手門] of the castle and Shiomi Tower [潮見櫓] and backtracked to the train.

My next stop was Suikyo Tenmangu [水鏡天満宮], in the dead centre of Fukuoka, following the Fukuoka Navi recommendation.

Afterwards, I walked a little and ended up at Kego Jinja [警固神社], a shrine which holds a ‘laughing’ kitsune statue in the grounds. It is the closest thing to a castle shrine that Fukuoka has.

My last stop in Fukuoka was Sumiyoshi Taisha [住吉神] which was colonised by VAMPS fans as it seems that HYDE favours it (the Osaka one, at least, but… don’t ask me).

On my way back I had some ice cream because hot and hungry.

Finally I took the 15:15 Kamome train to my next destination, Nagasaki [長崎]. This dragon greeted me at the station.

After checking in, I tried to go to the Peace Park, but Google sent me to a random parking lot called “Peace Park” so I decided to go to the Inasayama [稲佐山] Observatory to watch the “one million dollar view”. Fortunately or unfortunately there was a storm brewing – it broke down as I was heading towards the Nagasaki Ropeway [長崎ロープウェイ], then it calmed down, only to start up again once I was almost at the top of the mountain. So normal people watch the Nagasaki skyline, I… guessed the Nagasaki skyline through a storm cloud, because I am cool like that.

7th January 2017: Hiroshima and Oblivion Dust {Japan, winter 16/17}

I caught up the 8 am ferry and was downtown in Hiroshima [廣島] round 9.10. my first stop was the quite-impressive and down-brining A-dome. This is the building above which the atomic bomb went off, and it is very, very sobering. What impressed me the most was the bottles of water still being offered to those who had been killed by the bomb.

I strolled around the Peace Memorial park, Hiroshima Heiwa Kinen Kōen [廣島平和記念公園] for a while, but I could not stomach the museum, to be honest. So after a while I decided to be on my way. Just imagining the amount of destruction and victimisation was spine-chilling.

My next stop was the old Hiroshima castle grounds. The first thing I saw there was Hiroshima Gokoku Jinja [廣島護國神社], which was full of people doing Hatsumode (I think this was kind of a pattern all through this first week of the year. Oh, the surprise (*≧▽≦)).

After that, I continued towards the castle, Hiroshima-jo [広島城], which holds a little antique museum, and was doing a demonstration on katana-making. However, I did not get to see the blades, they were just working on the guards, which is… I mean, don’t get me wrong. Not as cool? The castle was destroyed when the bomb went off, so it has been reconstructed since then. Part of the museum was dedicated to the reconstruction of the area. On the top floor there are a resting room and an observatory.

After the castle, I decided to head off to have some food and afterwards I went to Club Quattro, which was hosting an Oblivion Dust concert. Not that I am a hardcore (or much of a) fan – as a matter of fact I had never listened to any of their songs – but the guitarist is one of the VAMPS members, K.A.Z, and I kind of wanted to check them out.

I stayed over with Ms-san (who had helped me get the ticket) and some other acquaintances to see the band come in – and we got a half-assed wave from K.A.Z – and then I stayed to buy some merchandise. Then I realised that I had a… tiny problem. I had no transport to get to my hotel after the concert \(〇_o)/ because my last bus to the airport was at 7 pm, and I had a hotel very close to that!!! Well, I could have taken a taxi, but that was mover expensive than getting another hotel and losing the reservation for the previous one. It was a stressy hour until I could get there, check in, get some food and come back, but it all turned out nicely in the end.

The concert, part of Oblivion Dust’s 20 anniversary “I Hate Rock n’ Roll Tour 2016-17”, was really fun. Even if I had not heard any of the songs before, it felt familiar, as I could relate K.A.Z’s music style to what I knew from VAMPS and the long-gone Hide with Spread Beaver to some of thee songs I was listening to. The ‘average setlist’ for the tour was the following, so it is possible that this was what I listened to:

  1. In Motion
  2. Under My Skin
  3. Radio Song
  4. Red Light Green Light
  5. Come Alive
  6. Evidence
  7. Erase
  8. Easier Then
  9. Designer Fetus
  10. Elvis
  11. Sail Away
  12. Crawl
  13. Never Ending
  14. Lolita
  15. 24 Hour Buzz ’99
  16. Death Surf
  17. Nightcrawler
  18. Sink the God

K.A.Z was quite serious and concentrated most of the concert, and he only smiled a couple of times when he was exchanging glances with Arly, who is the support drummer for both Oblivion Dust and VAMPS. Most of the time I don’t even check on Arly that much, because I’m following Hyde around with my eyes, and that is a challenge, so I think this was the first time I was ever aware of how much fun Arly has at his job.

The bass player, Rikiji, was pretty fun. Ken, the singer, has a very different style from Hyde, but I could really see some parallelisms in the way he jerked around stage and jumped up and down. At one point, the guy climbed on the stage scaffolding-like thingy, hooked his knees, let himself and sang upside-down for a while. Now, that was quite impressive.

Surprising as it might, considering that in VAMPS he has to share the spotlight with something like Hyde, K.A.Z was quite… I’m not sure how to describe it… he did not have so much of that spotlight. No much guitar twirling, not that much jumping up and down either. At one point he went all zen in the back of stage where he could barely be seen. Seriously.

After the concert I went to eat with Ms-san and one of her friends and we had a few local specialities, such as Hiroshima okonomiyaki and roasted oysters. After that we all headed back to our respective hotels.

17th July 2016: Chiba & friends {Japan, summer 2016}

In the morning I was considering Nikko but in retrospect I think that it was good that I did not do such a thing, considering.

I headed out to Chiba to check out the castle and a local shrine, unoriginally named Chiba-jo [千葉城], and Chiba Jinja(≧∇≦).

I had no trouble finding the castle once I made to an elevated road crossing, and I was soon there. To my surprise the castle visit was free, as it is also the Chiba City Folk Museum – Chiba-shi Tachi kyōdo hakubutsukan [千葉市立郷土博物館]. Inside there is a samurai and history museum, guarded by local guards and tour guides, very interested in not talking to the weird gaijin, yours truly. The first floor exhibits some pottery and archaeological artefacts, the second and third samurai and history items such as armours and weapons, and the fourth floor focuses on recent history around the world wars. The fifth is the observatory.

After the castle I walked to Myokenhongu Chiba Jinja [妙見本宮 千葉神社] which does not have a set of komainu (guardian lion-dogs). It has a whole family set and it is adorable! I was absolutely in love with the whole thing. Unfortunately I don’t think they would have let me take them.

After this I headed off to have a late lunch with a friend, because sometimes being a friend is being on trains for 2 hours for a weird late lunch, and then another hour and a half back because you’re meeting other people. In the meantime too I had time to shower and to slip onto the floor and not break anything. Go me!

Then I met some friends in Shibuya [渋谷] for dinner. Well, they had dinner, I had ice cream, cause I could d(^_^o)

16th July 2016: Nagoya express (II) {Japan, summer 2016}

The day started with free breakfast that my hotel was providing, then I checked and set off to find a Shrine in the opposite block. It must have been the invisible shrine, because I did not manage to find it at all.

Then I set off to unwalk the path I followed the previous night to retrace the shrines, successfully. Everyone was getting ready for the festival so Nagoya Jinja [那古野神社] was very busy, and it was barely 8:15 in the morning (yes, I am a Japan early riser, who would have thought? XD)

And the same happened with Gokoku Jinja [佐屋護国神社].

I got to the Nagoya-jo [名古屋城] just before the hordes of tourists and had a quiet while to stroll around and take pictures. And when I say while, I mean couple of hours, because that is how I tick XD

Nagoya’s unofficial mascot is the kinsachi [金鯱] golden tiger-headed-dolphins, castle guardians to prevent the castles from burning (and that slack a little, as most castles have burnt down some time or another throughout history).

When I was coming out I stayed for a while watching the performance and rooting for some people just because they were pretty, even if I had arrived when it has all started and I did not know which clan was “the good guys” and which “the bad guys”. So yeah…

After the castle I checked on the temples again on my way to the metro. I had wanted to check the Gojobashi bridge out but it started raining pretty hard. Buying the Nagoya Eco pass proved impossible so I ended up just going in with the Suica, which worked without a problem. My next stop was Atsuta Jingū [熱田神宮], which enshrines the Sun Goddess Amaterasu. It is a bit out of the way so I decided to wait the rain out during the ride, and the plan worked. When I arrived at the shrine, the sky had cleared. A very nice ojiisan offered to show me around in broken English and I decided to encourage the system – Japan seems to be putting in place a system of helpful people to guide you in special tourist points, in different languages. I’ll support that.

Thus I went with the ojiisan who showed me around English. Even when I tried to switch to Japanese he would not really let me. He was quite impressed for for some reason that I knew names like Tokugawa or Nobunaga. After we were done with the tour I strolled around on my own again to take some pictures and enjoy the shrine. (I’m not a fan of this whole fad of Japanese older men acting as guides…)

Then I headed back to the metro system to get back to the central area and visited the Higashi Betsuin Kaikan [東別院会館], next to Nagoya TV and a Book Off.

I also made a pause for a snack, and then headed off to the Osu Kannon [大須観音].

Walking towards it I came across the hip shopping district, and a small Shinto shrine that I think was the Kitano Jinja [北野神社], but I cannot tell for sure. Bummer, I should have gotten myself the Japanese map along with the English one to match names.

After that I was a bit on the tired side so I headed back to Nagoya station. I had some time before my train so I tried the typical local chicken wings, tebasaki [手羽先].

Then I spent my Shinkansen ride listening to music and playing with my phone and was very lucky to go into a TOKIO-commercial full Yamanote train from Tokyo station to Konagome.

And then I crashed into bed. Because I was tired.

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…