Wednesday, August 25, 2004

And the rest of my japan chronicles

July 19, 2004

Get up at 6.30 bcoz taxi at 7.15. quick pack. Get there in 8 min due to lack of traffic. Wait till 7.50 for train. Board train to hakata which was 1.2 hour ride. Empty. Comfy with legs spread out. Get to hakata at 12.30 and asked a JR security guy about next train to adowara. He says 1.20 so we eat lunch. Come back and check times to see that we misses 12.43 train to adowara which would put us there at 3 something. More time to see fuji and do gondola ride. We took train that stopped at every station. Got to adowara at 5 and found out hakone was 1 hour away with the next stop even longer. So scrapped plans to go to fuji. Very sad. Atleast have some crappy pics of fuji. Called masa and told him we reach Tokyo at 6 instead of 8. we were now to meet him at 7. go to Tokyo and walked around mall. Bought some stuff. Talk about mall. Waited for masa while I looked around for more stuff. May buy some fans there later. Masa came and we went out so that we could leave out stuff at hotel. Bus ride there. Talked to miho but they can't see me because im here for too short a time.Very cool seeing Tokyo for first time. Reached hotel. Super nice for $40 each. Left for shinjeku, the entertainment light district. Grabbed mcdees and walked to subway. Took a 40 min subway to there. Were to meet mamu there. Walked around. Pretty amazed. Read about the entertainment district earlier. In the train. Lot of strip/night clubs. Nudity stuff everywhere. Also some clean shopping areas. Walked around. Got hustled by porn advertisers. Went to a Japanese style bar. Describe. Very nice. Had cold sake and apple wine sour. Left to subway and missed last subway. Walked to jr train station and took train to some place 30 mins by walk to hotel. Told masa we will see him at 5 in the morning for the fish market. Walked back. Different sight past 1.30 in the night. Got back to hotel. Probably get sleep for 2 hours atmost. Doubtful though. Not seeing fuji was dissapoiting. Shit load of traveling. Missed andi a lot. Although nice traveling with ben.

July 20, 2004

Went to bed around 3 am. Set up alarm for 4.30. heard alarm and shut off and went back to sleep. Woke up at 5 when Masa walked in the door. Forgot to lock door. Dressed up quick and left to tsukiji's fish market. Mind still half asleep. Me quiet all the way there still waking up due to 2 hours of sleep. Got there and took a map of the area to use. Walked around the area with motorized carrying things for fish zipping by. The smell of fish pretty overpowering. Amazing sights, smells. Took a lot of pictures. Saw huge fish and people buying stuff everywhere. Didn't go to any sushi or food shops to try out fresh fish. Saw cutting of live fish and fish still moving after head and fins, tail cut off. Saw this market late at night around 1.30 as well and it was still bustling but with different kind of activity. Lot of fresh freight going out with fish to take all over japan. Mamu's father also deals directly here due to hotel's restaurant business relating to fish. So walked around for 1 hour till 6.30 and head back to hotel.

I got online after reaching back to check email. I went online with my instant messengers and saw a lot of people online and immediately messagin me. Talked to family in Nigeria, doll, britta. I guess I found out when they were online last day of me being here! Waited for ben to get ready and packed. And then went down for complimentary breakfast. Had a heavy one with eggs, sausage, bacon, OJ. And then took some food up for masa because he missed his train back home last night. He hadn't eaten and ended going to a bar and drinking again! I don't think he slept much.

Checked out and bill was 4000 � which wasn't not bad. Took the bus as we just made it to the bus station. Saw ben off and then me and masa went to asakusa to a temple. The guy is nice, talked all the way. Did bulk of souvernir hunting here. Spent about 10000 � or 100 $ on stuff. Saw the temple and that was cool. A buddisht temple and it had a swastika taking off the hindu heritage. So, now I had seen a castle, lord residence, temple and the only thing left was a garden. Before heading, I had to get more catch since I ran out of cash. Went to the post office and withdrew another 8000 �. hoped this would last me through til I left. Bought a couple of more things. Things are expensive but im not cheap, so I will spend on good stuff.

Head out to the imperial gardens and palace as it was close to the Tokyo station. Took subway and walked there. Took pictures in front of this cool fountain area. And then when we went to the gate to find out that the palace and gardens were closed! Due to the reason that it was open yesterday on a national holiday. Bad luck. So we went to a very swank shopping building. For the out of sight upper class. Hehe. Using Class's terminology. This outrageously expensive. But masa shops here for living stuff. He also earns well enough to afford this on a part time job. Looked around for some stationery. Just moved around for a bit and then head back to station to catch my trains back down to kumamoto. Said good bye to masa and thanked him for spending the morning with me to show me around.

Found the platform and found the train waiting. It was a 3 hour ride down. Attempted to stay awake but I fell asleep in 5 mins. Slept for an hour and woke up. Stayed up for 30 mins. And then my eyes closed again. This time all the way to shin-osaka! I was supposed to get off at Kyoto to see the Cube which was the previous station. I woke up when a conductor woke me up to tel me im at shin-osaka. I got off and found a train heading up to Kyoto again. Took that and stayed awake for the 20 min trip this time. When arrive, I found an information booth to find out about stations. Found out that a train left at 1645. so I would have 1 hour since I got there at 1545. found my way to the cube and window shopped on the bottom floor and realized that the location of the escalators I wanted. So I took them all the way to top to take a pic looking down at al the escalatos. That was special. You could look down every escalator. And then went down to look at stuff. I ended up buying about 60$ worth of stuff. I had now spent about $200 on souvernirs. I have a decent amount of stuff to give now. I also found stationery with Japanese characters on it with custom envelopes. Thought about buying bowls or tea cups but then decided I had enough stuff. When I shop, I shop! While ben spent at most $50, it seems like I spent a lot but I thnk the stuff I got were good and lot of handicrafts.

Head back to the terminal and stopped by a JR rail pass booth where I reserved seats for my trip down and also got a map with train timetables. I got to the platform and saw that I stil had a few minutes to buy some munchies since I didn't have time for lunch. I didn't want to kill my dinner appetite because I want to eat well my last night. I bought Vit D drink, OJ blend, and jap chex mix. Had to hurry because while checking out train had come. Rushed to the train and tried to find some reserved seating. I didn't realize that I had actual set seating. I sat for the brief 20 min ride in a green car which must have been the first class seating in the shinkansen. Hehe. Hurried off train because I had only 3 mins to get to the next platform. Practically ran down the stairs and then up an escalator. Just made it on the train. Initially took a window seat and got comfortable. But then the person with the seat reserved next to me got there and then so did the conductor who asked me to move to my seat. I did and moved all my stuff. And then I found out that the front rows of the reserved seating have power outlets of laptop usage. So I am using htat now to type this. The conductor said it was fine to use the laptop in the front. The only thing that was bothering me was the cigarette smoke smell during the entire ride.

I got off at Hakata and hurried to the next platform. Got onto the train in time again and this time I was in the front of the train. The seating was a bit more comfortable and basically day dreamed through the ride. I was also pretty tired. All my train rides down were on near full capacity was a bit different from all my other train experiences. I disembarked at Kami-Kumamoto. I head to the convenience store nearby to buy some shochu and sake with some other stuff. I ate the curry joint in the vicinity of the station called Take 5. I tried the beef curry with cheese this time. I also had a tall glass of some beer (which turned out to be pretty expensive, 500 �) along with the meal. I took a taxi home for 1200 �. After finding the directions to my apartments, he dropped me right in front of the building.

When I got up to my room, I started packing after taking a long and cold shower to de-grime. It took me about an hour and half to figure out where and what to put. I had to brace the alcohol bottles with lots of clothes to ensure they didn't shatter during baggage handling at the airport. So, my souvenirs are distributed among different bags now along with my load of dirty clothes because I didn't do any laundry while I was there. Actually I got there expecting a Laundromat somewhere. But anyway, I had to be sort of innovative in packing because the conventional method wouldn't work with the souvenirs and laundry. I got done at midnight and then to go to bed to be rested enough to travel again the next morning. This was my last night in Japan. I may come back.

The past three days was the bulk of the sight seeing and also spending. I probably spent about $250-300 as a rough estimate on Monday and Tuesday. When you buy souvenirs, the amount just keeps climbing. And the food ain't cheap either. All I have to do is figure out who I give what.

July 21, 2004

I woke up before the alarm went off at 7.30. I shaved and took a quick shower before I started cleaning up. I packed everything up into the bags and then took the trash down near the main entrance. I rechecked everything to see if I had left something. I got down at 8.20 to find Chiori and her mum waiting for me at the entrance. They got me more stuff! More food actually. We made a pit stop at a local temple to show me what a typical Buddhist temple looked like. I took a few pictures around this area. They bought me luck charms, one in general and one to get rich or something. I didn't particularly care what the charm did, the rich one I mean, I just liked the way it looked. But if it helps me get rich, good for me I suppose. They asked me about my trip up to Tokyo and I told them about the failed attempts to get to Mt. Fuji and Imperial Gardens in Tokyo. She told me that she wanted to take us around to Mt. Aso and some cool places in Kumamoto but her father didn't allow her. I don't know why.

They then took me to the station around 8.50 am and we found Masao waiting for us there. He must have been wondering why we were late but didn't ask. They bought me a sandwich, peach Fanta and the Vit D drink for the trip down there. They are so nice; I just wish I had met them earlier. I would have had an active and more memorable time in Kumamoto. They were helping me with my bags to get onto the train when the doors started closing. So they had to rush out. I wish I could say good bye more leisurely. But I will send them an email thanking them for their kindness and hospitality.

I started reading Deception Point by Dan Brown on the Ariake to Hakata. It got there on time as usual. I found a ticket reservation centre and reserved seats all the way to Kansai International. I wanted a reserved seat so that I could use the laptop on the Hikari on the way to Shin-Osaka. It's a 2.5 hour ride and thought I might fill in more things in the journal while listening to music instead of wasting time day dreaming. I had an hour of stopover there. So, I went down to the shopping centre of the station. These places are dangerous because I always buy something. I bought a couple of things including a hankerchief and an alternative of Unagi-Pie (I am sure it's not spelled right but that's how its pronounced). This one was made with babies of the fish or something. It tasted good and sweet, so I decided to buy it. 12 individual packs in a box were 1050 �. I got up to the platform and waited for the train to get there. I found my seat and then plugged the laptop in. I journaled while taking occasional peeks out the window. I saw Himeji Castle from a distance. It is supposed to be the most famous of all the castles in Japans.

[Listening to: The Difficult Kind (ft. Sheryl Crow) - Sarah Mclachlan - (5:16)]

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