14th July 2016: Liar, liar, pants on fire (and Komagome II) {Japan, summer 2016}

The weather report had been announcing clouds all day. It lied. A lot. Seriously, both the JMA and whatever data an iPhone uses, they were way out of the way. See, I used these reports to plan an outdoors day visiting some parks, temples and shrines close to my area. This meant walking for a couple of hours, but there I went.

The first problem was that the weather decided that clouds were overrated. I did not think much of it at first, but it would be relevant later. The second was that GoogleMaps decided to join forces with the weather report and troll me.

But let’s start form the beginning, and the beginning was the Kyu Furukawa Teien [旧古河庭園], a garden apparently famous for their rose festivals. No roses in July, but a very neat Japanese garden. I’ve never been much of an English Garden fan unless there are flowers, so I did not pay much attention to that part.

After the gardens I headed off towards the Oji [王子] area, checking out Hiratsuka Jinja, Takinogawa Park and Nanasha Shrine until I made it to the park called Asukayama Koen [飛鳥山公園], where for the first time this year I heard the cicadas singing like crazy. It’s officially summer in Japan, bugs dixit! It’s not a matter of the heat, the rain, or anything like that. In the end, the cicadas mark the time.

The park holds a few museums and In one of the corners Oji Jinja [王子神社] can be found. If Google agrees that it even exists. But alas, success in the end.

After an odyssey to find the Shrine and once again fight Google regarding yes, the Oji Inari Jinja [王子稲荷神社] exists, I managed to find the latter. Close to one of the crossroads I had been to before. Twice. Thanks, Google (-_-;)

Then I decided to head off to where my academy is, Iidabashi [飯田橋]. My destination there was Zenkoku-ji [善國寺], which was surrounded for some reason by no less than four Spanish restaurants. I am not brave enough to try those but there was a nikuman shop that did catch my attention. I also made a short stop at the local Book Off in order to check it out and get OFF THE SUN for a few minutes. At this point I had just realise that I had been indeed walking around in the sun for three and a half hours and I was… Burnt. Quite so. Damn it.

But it did not end there. Nooo, why would it end there? Then it RAINED 雨雨雨. When I had to do my laundry and get it dry, of course, because the next day I was over to Nagoya and wanted to make sure I had clothes to wear. And I studied because I had an exam the next day, and the previous one had been disastrous.

11th July 2016: Komagome (I) {Japan, summer 2016}

So since apparently Komagome [駒込] existed before I was aware of it and rented a room there (yeah, who knew (o_o)? People built things here!)

One of the things that were indeed built were the gardens Rikugien [六義園], which for some reason cannot be accessible using the main gate. Don’t ask me (≧∇≦)

The park has a central pond around an island, and… Well, a lot of plants everywhere. In spring it has to be either awesome or an allergic persons’s worst nightmare. In the pond there were koi and turtles.

I had intended to go somewhere else after the gardens, but I realise that I had forgotten my shirt home and I had to come back to get it, else I would freeze in class. So I undid the way and stopped by the local Myogi Jinja [妙義神社].

And as it was Monday, then I went to school. The dynamics had changed a big from the previous week, and it was better. Once again I would have to see the test to evaluate the results. The truth is that I came back home that evening to study more than I had the previous week. \(^o^)/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6th July 2016: The first incursion {Japan, summer 2016}

As I had to study in the evenings, I tried to get used to early starts. I invited T**y over to Komagome so he could see the local shrine as opposed to the main shrines I was sending him to. Komagome Jinja is a small shrine that we’ll pay more attention in the future – because I was not carrying my camera that day.

I took T**y to Shibuya [渋谷] today as he wanted to take pictures of the crossing. Then we had a look at Tsutaya and had something to drink on the new seventh floor.

After that, we headed off to Tower Records, Tokyu Hands, Mandarake and generally some Shibuya backstreets. Throughout the morning I got myself Kanjani8’s newly released single, and a couple more CDs from Book Off.

After that I headed off to school only to find that the teachers did not like my handwriting in Japanese. Tough luck, this is how it ended up being.

Upon coming back I decided that I needed to do some exploration around the neighbourhood, but for now I would content myself with some takoyaki, which was awfully yummy (future reference: Sunkus takoyaki > Family Mart takoyaki). Then there was studying and organising the room (finally!)

July 2nd, 2016: Starting off with the right (bruised) foot {Japan, summer 2016}

I have to admit that even if we took off late this was the smoothest flight from Europe that I’ve had to Japan. We left Frankfurt with about an hour’s delay and arrived about 40 minutes late. However, best landing ever. The plane was cold, but I am not going to complain considering the time that the heat made me sick. I prefer huddling up in the blanket. I kind of slept for a few hours, which was good, but I really don’t like when they just tell you to put your window down because it’s bedtime. Oh well.

This trip, I have been showing some of Tokyo to T**y, so a lot of the ‘we’ that skip refer to him and me.

The first day was a bit of a bit of everything one, and even a week later I’ve got bruises from hurling the suitcase up and down the stairs. After lunch with B**** in Shibuya [渋谷] (to get my Internet from her, too), I headed off to Shinjuku to get my keys. This time I was staying for a month and I could not impose for that long on any of my friends so I decided to rent a small apartment via an agency named “Sakura house” which rents places to foreigners for a long or short stay in Japan, starting at one month. As my stay was 28 days, it made sense to use their services.

Sakura House is located in Shinjuku [新宿] and that is why I headed there. The procedure was completely in English, and not difficult, but long, as it included all the specific info for an apartment rental. It is not as quick as checking into a hotel.

The whole process involves reserving a room online and paying a deposit, then signing a contract and paying at least the first month at the place. Afterwards they give you your keys, give you specific instructions and then you’re off on your merry way.

I was staying in an area called Komagome [駒込], 15 minutes away from Ueno and 20 away from school. Right downtown, and what I spent in location I would save on transport, or so I hoped.

After signing and getting my keys, I took T**y to his hotel and we got horribly lost on the process. In the end it all had a happy ending thanks a nice car park guard and after checking him in, we headed off for sushi and karaoke with B**** (^_^v)♪.

After that, I braved the Yamanote on my own to get to Komagome, and was lucky to get my station exit right, so I could arrive home in good time to have a shower and get some sleep because the next day I had to wake up early.