A Travellerspoint blog

December 2011

Sapporo

Where the cold gets colder

snow

So as my train heads ever northward it gets colder, it will be three trains to Sapporo. Tokyo - Shin-Aomori then I go underground, underneath the straight of water to Hakodate, then last train to Sapporo. I managed to miss my first train by like 5 minutes, I'd like to blame it on the rail system like I could at home but well I'm in Japan and that argument does'nt hold weight so I had to wait an hour and get all my new tickets. The underground tunnel is 100m under earth and another 140m of water on top of that at its max depth.
This is the station at Shin-Aomori, if its cold here its going to be hella cold in Sapporo! The lane way picture is my hostel, Time Peace Hostel. It is a very chilled out small hostel with the staff living in house and always has some kind of chilled music playing downstairs, which is toilets,bathroom etc and the chill out area is a lounge with a bar. Its cosy and I swing from enjoying it to feeling like I'm living in someone else's house. Most of the time there is no English speakers and I seem to be doing some things wrong which they make allowances for but I feel bad, but I have learnt that giving expressed apologies can just further confuse the situation.
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My bed is by the top right window.

So I got a bit lost from the directions of turn left at the vending machine....there are vending machines EVERYWHERE! If your curious here's what they look like IMG_6354.jpgIMG_6285.jpg
So I went out to explore and got hungry and found a store which also uses vending machine style to pay for food, no till necessary! So you go to this machine and put in the yen for what you want and choose it, a ticket pops out then you hand the ticket to the person and they give you your meal, simple.
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I'm loving the snow and my hiking boots that I got for tropical weather are really holding out, warm and no wet socks but they still gave me hella blisters I'm still having to deal with on my first day. When I walk around the city I have some great moments of that looks really beautiful which do not translate to camera. It was snowing hard when I woke this morning, snow is pretty mesmerizing to watch, much like a campfire. Here is a video so you know what I mean...

Had I realised that in Japan no one wears bright colours I may of thought twice on a bright red jacket, I'm like the cherry on the top of a huge chocolate cupcake when i walk around. They seem to be quite fashionable thruout Japan and the style is not to unlike that of Melbourne in winter. There is a strange ubundance of short skirts here, not that I'm complaining but I thought that when i got to a sub zero part of Japan that would end but no there are girls with high thigh shorts when it is snowing and I have like 30 layers on, crazy.

I had a bad day a bit yesterday, sometime traveling alone does'nt feel so good but I feel better today. I guess it is normal and it is still early in the travels so I will persist on. I have a feeling that Niseko is going to be fun and am actually a little excited to try snowboarding, I hope everything works out...snowboarding in Japan can't be to bad a place to spend new years.

Oh! I had my first stack today on the ice going ass over tit on the street! It is not a good idea to suddenly change direction and speed, duly noted haha. A quik dust off with swearing and off I shuffle not looking at who saw and might be laughing lol.

I found a shop today that my 13year old self would of loved (I must not be that mature as I loved it now also!), it was filled with air pellet pistols. I took pictures as i need a real pistol license to have them in Australia..so in order to get an air pistol why not just get a real gun then if I have the license, nevermind me I'm just bitter :p There was also a huge collection of butterfly knives and pro slingshots and well pretty much any other banned cool thing from your childhood. I took some pics of the pistols etc IMG_6394.jpgIMG_6393.jpgIMG_6391.jpgIMG_6389.jpg the pamphlet had machine guns to like the Sopmod M4, Steyr HC, sniper rifles, even a SPAS12 Shotgun!

For dinner I got to do what I've wanted to do since being here is eat some Ramen, I had thought it was an originally Japanese dish but it is actually Chinese which the Japanese have taking a liking to, anyhow I find a place called Ramen Alley and it is about two shoulder lengths wide with small ramen shops on either side. I finally chose one and had the confusing all of ordering, well I'm glad I had my raincoat on because it was raining ramen when i was eating it..there must be some kind of a trick to it haha. On the whole it was nice for a cold nights meal, though it burned me (chef did warn me saying "atsui, atsui!") a little. Its a fair serving too for about $9-$10 AUD. The strange thing and in someways quite annoying for me is that no one eats or drinks on the run, it is frowned upon for some reason which is why there are hardly any bins on the street. I mean you can go to a 7 eleven equivalent and there may not be any bins to put rubbish in, you must have a seat or something to eat generally.

Here is an assortment of random pictures of Sapporo I have taken. I also got some more photos of Shinjuku that I lost, I will be posting them into the "Culture Shock" blog.
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OK, so if you got through all them then good work :) See you on the slopes for New Years!

Oh! I just arrived in Niseko,the Guesthouse looks amazing! Here are some quick pics for what's to come. Every window I go past has an amazing view, the worries I had of it not being next to skiing could not be more from the truth...I'm smack bang in the middle. The Guesthouse was built by the father here and the family has only just opened their house this December for guests.IMG_6575.jpgIMG_6592.jpg270_IMG_6590.jpgIMG_6587.jpgIMG_6586.jpg

S.

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 23:41 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Sayonara Tokyo

Off to the cold north I go..

OK so for my last day in Tokyo I had to make sure that I visited the Tokyo tower. I don't know why but it would just not be right. Here is a picture...
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So to get the the first level is 150 metres, then if you want to you can go an extra 100 metres to the top observatory for more yen. So I couldn't go to half way and stop there, somehow I think this is how they plan it... devious! Well anyhow these are some pics of the views...
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So with the last thing done I'm heading for Sapporo in Hokkaido, I say good bye to my Kiwi mates wondering what mess they will get themselves into, here is a pic of what I last saw of them (They have matching bamboo and wooden thongs on aswell, after showing this to a Japanese person I found he head bands say "number one guy" or something like that...I'm sure this would only encourage them.
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Earlier that day I visited the Meiji Shrine and got some pictures, I could'nt take pictures of the place where you say your prays to the dieties as that is where they live which is understandable. I don't want the gods sending me as paparazzi! When the Japanese left the area of the shrine and even the park for that matter they would bow respectfully to the gods as they left, I was inclined to do so also but I think it would defeat the purpose of respect if it is something that I do not truly have belief in.
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The park I mentioned is Yeyogi Park, perhaps one of Yogi bears relative lives here, I'm not surwe. Anyhow it has these amazing gateways into the park which are quite impressive, with a beautiful back drop of a wide path and tree canopy kind of holding their arms over the path. The first day I went down this pathway was amazing as the sun was dappling through and the sun spots on the ground were magical. You see that's the things with the parks and the gardens in japan, in the pi tures you may seen the normal Japanese looking tree or plant but its the way that it looks in real life with the sun playing on its leaves and a shower of leaves crossing your view or a small bird delicately jumping through its branches. The gardens are to be experienced not photographed.
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Mount Fuji!.IMG_6267.jpg

Sooo Sayonara Tokyo you've been a gentle giant for my first O/S destination :) large_IMG_6265.jpg

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 19:53 Archived in Japan Comments (2)

AKIHABARA

The Tech Mecca!!

semi-overcast 4 °C

AKIHABARA
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So I decided to go to Akihabara the gadget mecca of the world! All bright eyed with the possibilities of the wonders I would see I set off on trying to navigate my way through the subway system, which I'm now getting the hang of (They have a kind of myki system here like in Melbourne, Australia also which helps me a lot), I've wanted to take pictures on the train but I think it would be frowned upon and have not yet built the courage to quickly snap one. Here are some pics so you can get a feel of what I'm seeing in Akihabara..
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The truck in the bottom left they have all throughout the more busy parts of Tokyo which play the music of the advertised popstar, its real loud too, but everything is in these areas. Shops play their own jingles outside their stores, hawkers yell out their wares from the shop fronts, anime dressed girls try to get you into their bar/cafe for a drink, that's one on the balcony (She hearts me, naww).

Well what I thought was going to be an easy find and just the hard part of choosing between the many choices turned out to be a bit of a pipe dream. I mean..Akihabara would be great ..if you were Japanese, living in Japan. I guess your getting the jist of this by now...everything is in Japanese software, out of all of Akihabara I only have 1 choice of what I want and its a kids Disney version for gawds sake!...sigh. I have tried since to see if I can order from the U.S. and get delivered here but can't from the place I usually order from, I will most likely get the Disney net book :( it may work as some kind of theft deterent maybe.

The Hostel is good, it has just got an influx of American/Aussies for Christmas it seems. I've got two kiwis, a Spaniard and an American in the room. The kiwis are piss pots and are breaking all the rules and being unruly which is amusing and annoying at the same time, but they're OK blokes. Oh I got the Shibuya crossing photos off the camera, here they are..
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You will notice the no smoking sign on one, in japan there is designated areas to smoke, no one smokes in the street as they walk that I have seen. Here are some pics from things I saw on trip there and back walking around..
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FamilyMart is where I survived on pre made sandwiches (no crusts for some reason) in Shinjuku and well a lot anywhere in Tokyo. This is one of the main four chains or so of conveniance stores here. Top left was just an alley I came across getting from A 2 B. The next two are of a police station round the corner from my Shinjuku capsule hotel, they are not fancy by and means, they are all like this. To the right of that is the wanted board out the front. The next two are of the temple just 2 minutes down from where I am now at the Hostel, the blueish tower is the Tokyo Sky Tree which is not opened yet till may next year but I liked the contrast of new and old.

OK that's it for now so a few pics to keep ya updated as the xoom and camera are now getting along again, oh I also lost a heap of really good photos of all my Shinjuku travels and where I was etc so pretty upset with that and deciding whether to go and do it again or not.

Ciao for now
Steve.

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 22:56 Archived in Japan Tagged akihabara Comments (0)

Assassination FOILED!!

Invited to meet the Emperor for his birthday

sunny 7 °C

Though cunningly disguised, I might of stopped a national tragedy in spotting these two suspicious police, assassination attempt on Japan's Emperor from Britain with Padington bear FOILED!
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So yesterday was the Emperor's birthday, only 5 days in the country and the Emperor wants to meet me! Well it seems that the rest of the country was invited too when I got there but that's OK, I'm for the people and they can share my one on one time.
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Crowd goes wild when Emperor announced and Imperial Guard
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It seems that alot of what the police do here is public relations, being great guides and generally not doing much but are very helpful. It seems that everything is really kept in check and people here just stick to the rules as such. To show you my point, there is not many if any other places where a policeman ordering big crowds where to go would have a symbol like this on his elevated command post...
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The crowds were for the Emperor's birthday when the Imperial Palace gates are open to the public. This happens only twice a year so I'm lucky to be here at the right time. There were also some CIA looking Japanese I had not seen before which seemed not to have any of the PR skills the police had well except for the grumpy old police man below (I think he saw me taking his picture ha). The guys below were in the crowd with everyone so subject to my camera ha, but I'm glad the CIA one did'nt seem to notice, see if you can see the difference between the police and the CIA looking guys...
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The walk to and from the Imperial palace was quite nice here are some pictures of the things on the way..
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Posted by CrackerjackHobo 21:52 Archived in Japan Tagged japan emperor imperial_palace Comments (0)

Culture Shock

Title says it all..

Ok, so everything was going really well, Flight was smooth, customs fine, luggage, train. Then i get to Shinjuku Station, Im like it`s fine i have a print out i hastily did before my last trip to Brisbane. SO it`s in Japanese and i have no idea which side my little route line leaves the station, noone speaks english (given in a different country ha) and strangely enough everything is written in Japanese. This is what greets me! large_IMG_6060.jpgIMG_6058.jpg270_IMG_6056.jpg
Anyhow so I decide that hailing a cab and seeing if he can read my shitty map and get me to where ive got to be, luckily he could. So we drive for a little bit and the place is becoming more and more bright with neon signage and a buzz of people here are some pics to see what I was getting into... 270_IMG_6102.jpgIMG_6098.jpg270_IMG_6085.jpgIMG_6078.jpg and the taxi drops you off IMG_6075.jpg
It was a strange sensation of not being worried but knowing you really should be, it was like a kind of numb calm..I`d liken to the calm before dying. So im dropped off and he just points to a side alley and lets me off, i wonder around aimlessly trying very hard to match up the geometry of my map to my surroundings (it did`nt work). Thank god for a random brit seeing me confused and he pointed me literally right in front of me and said up the elevator, if it was not for him I seriously would not of found it. See if you can spot it... 270_IMG_6076.jpg Yup in there amongst all that neon IMG_6082.jpg

Ok, well after checking in (Fella spoke english, made things easier), I decided to go and get something to eat from the in house resturaunt but as I entered I realise everyone is in a Komono. I order a meal but am not sure what it is but am certain it has chicken. I head back and I change into the komono not wanting to stand out, like that is going to trick them ha! I eat the meal which turns out better than I had thought, I`m thinking I`m doing ok with first time out of the country but this crumbles that night where it hits me hard where I am and how I failed at being able to do anything when i came out of the station and got there by just luck really, the realisation im in a different country knowing only two words of the native tongue and definitley not able to read any.. it was not a good night!

Here is some pics of the capsule
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Well it seems places don`t look as daunting in the day as they do at night and I`d say for the busiest area of Tokyo this could be more so than most! And over the last three days I have become more familiar with the way things are laid out and done. I have rode the train system, bathed in the public baths, walked the parks, seen the shrines and other assorted sites. The capsules themselves are not bad once your used to the routine, the 10am checkout can be anoying as everyday you have to check out then check back in at 2pm. I only realised the last day that I could of been leaving bags in my locker .. gah! Another thing I learned on the last day was how to change channels (the band knob) up until then it was just porn as a default lol. I'm glad to be leaving shinjuku though, as exciting as it is, without knowing the language, its a bit full on. Plus I got hassled on my way into the the hotel last night by an English speaking guy which I made the mistake of him wanting to chat but he just wanted me into a bar which I'm sure as soon as I get in I lose all my money or some scam.

I visited Shibuya crossing also the other night. It is supposed to be the busiest intersection in the world I'm told, so where else would I bump into the only person I know in Japan?!?! The guy I sat next to on the plane and had a brief conversation with comes up and taps me on the shoulder in the intersection, uncanny! I have a lot of photos of everything but my gear is not talking to each other :(

Now I'm in Taito, eastern Tokyo. It is amazing how much can change from just going across the city. Its a much more relaxed pace here and the shops and layout seems to make more sense. There is from what I saw almost endless permanent market style lanes/corridors full of all kinds of things (I found Katanas! Also tracked down the sword museam but was closed till start of Jan, I was gutted) Japanese. The hostel seems clean and it has free wifi that works for me!! I'm finding it quite strange being around non Japanese as I seemed to of quickly climatised to the quiet laid back atmosphere of Japanese business men, now I have boystrous traveller.

So tomorrow will involve Akihabara (Tech/Gadget mecca), Asahi Breweries, Tokyo national museu. Lets hope I can get a cheap net book withe English software :)

Here are some new pics of Shinjuku, Tokyo
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Posted by CrackerjackHobo 00:30 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo shinjuku capsule capsules Comments (2)

1 Sleep!

: /

Ok so it's 1 sleep till take off! It seems that I have gotten used to town living in Hervey Bay as coming to Brisbane even feels like a fast pace of life so im dreading what im going to feel like when I hit Tokyo.

I'm feeling really anxious at the moment and strangely lethargic... I dont know if they are related. I'm also having a lot of technical problems with the Xoom and what its capable of so im definitely going to have to get something in Japan (I hope it's cheaper than here).

Anyhow, I said i'd show you what im taking with me so I did a Video (will post a pic also). The sound is kinda low so you will need loud speakers or headphones and its ok to hear.

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I actually managed to fit everything in pretty easily with some room to boot!

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 22:03 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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