A Travellerspoint blog

Japan Part II

You can't make me leave!!!

sunny 25 °C

hello again, how's it going?

well, how could I forget to mention my obvious snow whiteness again (see 1st blog), have you seen the picture of bambi? bless it, my singing is going to help a lot of animals in Asia, I just know it... there was also a shockingly bad zoo that I ran out of with my eyes closed, no amount of singing would have helped those poor beasts. I think though if I had of mentioned them or indeed anything else in my last blog you'd all have been asleep or late getting to bed... I expect this episode is going to be much the same, as a lot of you will know, once I start to waffle I find it hard to shut up...

so, on my blog goes and Japan just gets better, I truly love the place, it's so different to anywhere I've ever been before. Anne says I've fitted in really easily and with my love of the food, Hiro has been enjoying more sashimi and sushi at home than usual. Its funny, everytime I go into the supermarket downstairs they have the same song on, I don't know if it's just on a loop or something and I'm not even sure if what I'm hearing is right but it sounds like a really cheerful song, the chorus is... "la la la la lucifer, la la la la lucifer, lucifer, lucifer, la la la la lucifer" and you can only hear it round the fruit and veg bit which may I add is very expensive, the fruit anyway. Saw a teenie weenie box of blueberries the other day going for about 7 quid!!
I got biten by an ant in Nara which left me with the biggest itchiest nastiest angryest looking red splodge on my leg I've ever seen. The lovely people at Yougendo gave me a cure called 'King Kong' it smells a bit like vics vaporub but by eck it works. After the initial stinging feeling and icyness the redness goes down along with the swelling, twice daily with that and I had no problems. Going to buy some before I leave Japan as I expect the mozzy's are going to eat me alive in other countries.

The zoo I went to was in Wakayama, once I left the castle I went down the hill and saw a pool with a big net over it and birds inside being fed by some men. It wasn't very big but it was clean enough and the food looked ok although I think having so many birds in such a small space including swans, pelicans and different ducks shouldn't be allowed. Then I came across the bear, poor bear, he was fairly small and black and totally depressed, he wasn't in with the birds, he had his own enclosure but still... Its the only photo I took in the zoo cos of the happy bear painted on the wall in the background and this wee depressed bear lying infront of it, looking back at the photo now, it looks like the painted bear is going to fall into the pool of water and looks rather worried about it. Unfortunately it only got worse. There wasn't an entry fee to get into the zoo but if there had of been I wonder if the conditions would have been better. I watched an american beaver, (I knew it was american cos it was wearing a baseball cap and a wife beater t shirt although it also said it on the sign) drag the same bit of wood round the wee pond it was in twice before I moved on and passed 4 deer on a bit of sand no bigger than a postage stamp and a single penguin hiding inside his house, then the pigs. On one side were 2 pink pigs with so much skin damage it was heartbreaking, they didn't have any mud to wallow in at all, don't the people who run the place know they have to wallow to protect their sensitive skin? on the other side was a parrot in a cage made of cement and bars pacing from side to side, that was enough for me and I got out of there as quickly as possible

right then, enough of that horrible stuff, lets get back to Tokyo, fish markets, hard rock, more karaoke, shopping torchure in Ginza, wonka bars and getting lost again... The day after I arrived back was Annie's birthday, 25 again... We booked a baby sitter who was called Miduri (although I've probably spelled it wrong) she's lovely so the 3 of us went out to the Hard Rock Cafe for music and the best Hard Rock food I've ever had, none of that weird raw chilli power salad that I had in Lisbon for me this time!! it was lush, we then went on to Karaoke which was brilliant. Hiro was fab!! we were all fab but he really gets into it and Anne did the best rendition of Wuthering Heights I've ever heard. Hiro also ordered an array of drinks of which I have no idea what they were but tasted good so what they hey hehe. After 2 hours in there and a phone call from reception telling us to get out Hiro went home to relieve the babysitter bless him and me and Anne carried on into the night... We went to a couple of the bars we'd been in the time before, one of which was up a big set of stairs, how I managed them last time I'll never know as I can't even remember them!! anyway we also went to an 80's bar and 'bopped like a robot from 1984' and met a K1 Fighter. After leaving there we went for noodles, it's like the japanese equivelant of getting a kebab, shame the camera battery had run out as there was a sumo wrestler in there in his sumo jammies probabaly having his 8th meal of the day - cool
Some people in Japan are really friendly and chat in english when they can and some people dont like to even come near me. A lovely girl who was working in a resturant I went to in Oji helped me with the menu as I couldn't read it at all then sat and asked me loads of questions, I wanted to eat my salmon and she wanted to go to my country. I also sat and chatted to a gentleman on the train to Osaka who also wants to go to my country and knew sooo much about the UK, he got off at Tennoji (the station I loved to get to cos then I knew where I was...) but spoke to me the whole way from Nara which was about 30 mins. He said he was 75 in 5 years time and planned to go to europe having never left Japan ever in his life. He was self teaching english and had a wee book of cuttings about famous places in Japan but in english and a sort of translator computer, his english was brilliant. We went over the pronunciation of a few things and he very happily got off the train for his sushi and beer giving me a wave from the platform. I'm not sure if the words we went over were cos thats how he felt sitting next to me or not come to think of it, I hope not... he wanted to know how to say anxious & anxiety... on the subways some people will do anything to avoid sitting next to me. Anne says it's cos I'm an unknown quantity and they can't predict what I'm going to do which they find stressful so move to an empty seat away from me or just stand, I don't take it personally, it's quite amusing really.
Shoes, the shoes here are amazing, you know the spider heels I have and the red and white spotty ones with the mushroom hanging off the front? well much like them, it's like a show for 'Irregular Choice' the only problem is, I dont have the right kind of feet and I don't have the right body for the clothes either which I suppose is a blessing for my bank account... Did I tell you about the way some women walk here? they walk with their toes pointed in, it's a regular thing, I don't know why though, it looks very odd, perhaps it's got something to do with the shoes, maybe they don't really fit anyone...
The day after Anne's birthday Anne, christina and I went out to MacDonalds for a hangover burger, I had nuggets then we went to a shopping mall called LaLaPort. I wondered if LaLa was the most popular of the teletubbies and thats why he/she got all the endorsements cos I couldn't see tinky winky, dipsy or po anywhere. The shopping mall is massive, they have a cinema in there and a floor with resturants for any kind of food you could ever want. I wanted to go and see the film Goemon one day but it's like 13 quid for a ticket so I'll just wait till it's on DVD or alternatively forget about it till I re-read this... They even have a shop with english pic and mix athough the chocaholic shop has a distinct lack of chocolate in it but a massive supply of plastic cake keyrings... Downstairs they have a cafe for dogs, yes dogs, they have a wee shop next door selling dogs and you can even hire a dog for the weekend if you want, not from there but it can be done. Most of the dogs here are small and yappy as the apartments here are fairly small, if you see anyone with a big dog like a lab or retriever you have to assume they either have a big flat or they've just borrowed it to make themselves look good. Japan is such a convenient place, there's something for everyone here. I want a rice making machine, Anne & Hiro's one sings twinkle twinkle little star when you swtich it on and another tune when it's finished. My next flat will have one, mark my words!! I also kind of prefer eating with chopsticks now too, it's just so simple and you can hold your book with the other hand or wave at people or even just rest it on the table beside you. Anyway the sign outside the cafe that I was talking about before says 'smoking yes' 'dogs yes' they even have a doggie menu, it's class. On the way into the building I noticed a sign that said 'dogs on the floor NO, dogs in your arms NO, dogs in a bag NO, dogs in a buggy YES' a buggy?? like a pram, you see them everywhere, it's great, I've never seen so many spoiled and pampered pooches in my puff. I tried to go back to LaLaPort the other day on my own and got so lost I had to get 2 trains home, Hiro and Anne can't beleive I walked so far, neither can I really but you dont notice when you're just wandering about. I found a wicked park and gardens and sat reading my book in the sun while munching the biggest apple I've ever seen in my life, it was like the size of a melon and I struggled to bite into it without it breaking my nose, the only thing wrong with it really was that it was 3 quid, 3 quid I tell you, it wasn't even that crispy. Anne says it must have been a luxury apple, luxury my arse, even posh spice would have drawn the line at 3 quid me thinks, mind you, it would have done her 3 meals.. note to self, take a calculator with you when shopping for apples.... They had a cool water feature in the park that I found which sprung into life after 4pm which made little kids scream with delight, there's a picture of it on here with a reflection of me in it. I then went through the park and came across the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art which was very interesting. They wouldn't let me take pictures of anything apart from the big metal baby and a chair which was part of the show, not just a random chair, it had 2 tubes coming away from it, and was called the Ear with Chair... yeah... ok.... I got one of the elephant though when no one was looking, it was fab, made out of a truck or something. The big baby was mental, it moved it's eyes like one of those dolls that when you lent it backwards it closed it's freaky eyes and this one even talked as well in a sort of angry I'm going to crush you with my big feet robotic sort of way, it had an aura of wanting to take over the world about it, I wondered if it came alive at night... My favorite paintings in there were one of a man hugging an elephant seal, a huge painting I think was inspired by the yellow submarine cos the no where man was on it and the end DVD which I could have watched all day. It was a rush of colours and soft music with the face of a girl with long blonde hair, she sometimes looked like she was drowning and the colours used made me think it was about life and death... deep huh? I really enjoyed it. Some of the 'art' was just pants, is a room full of empty boxes and a few TV's flashing on and off really considered to be art or a load of bathroom tiles with permanent marker dots on them? The deer made of balls of glass were impressive though and a painting of a girls face which was fabulous, I wish I could have snuck some more photos but I didn't fancy being flung out of the gallery... I may have missed the room full of small bits of wood... I also went to another art collection in Roppongi Hills which was attached to the observation deck of the Tokyo Tower 52 floors up, I have to say it was fantastic!! one of the pieces was a room full of big disco balls, the light reflecting off them was like fire flies, I loved it. They also had a dvd and at first I thought it was a bit mad and strob like but the more I watched the more I realised it was the film 'The Amityville horror' just chopped up a bit, distorted and in black and white, good though, before I realised what it was it made me think of fear and loathing which I suppose it what is was about. They also had this weird looking thing called 'bunny got snookered' it was about women and their place in society etc, I didn't really understand it but it made me laugh. It was an office chair with some stuffed tights hanging off it, yep, that was it. Some of the pieces were by the same people as the muesum of art I went to before, like strip lighting and TV's flashing on and off, this time though they were flat screen plasma's instead of old ones, probably cos I was in a posh area... The tower itself was wicked although yet again I picked a rainy day to go up it so I saw much the same as I did in Yokohama... clouds and rain.
I found my way back to LaLaPort on a day when I had remembered to take my map of Tokyo with me and bought a bar of Wonka chocolate, yes, they actually exist, I couldn't beleive it, it's a 'Whipple Scrumptious Caramel Delight' it even comes in a tin so you can put your pencils in it for school after you've eaten the chocolate, I hope it's as good as I want it to be and pray it's got a golden ticket inside. In celebration of this, Anne and I went out for dinner to a stick place down a street I had no idea exisited, well why should I really... it's a vibrant wee street right next to where she lives. In the resturant almost everything you order comes on a stick and is cooked on a big grill, it's called Yakitori, Yaki being BBQ and tori being chicken... I think thats right. Anne is so good at reading japanese, she ordered all these lovely things for us with no problem at all, I had no idea what was coming but I trusted her not to order any kind of live octopus, which is available in some places although knowing what yakitori now means it was unlikely we were going to get octopus cleverly disguised at chicken, no intestines either.... I know she's been here for 6 years but it's like hieroglyphics to me, we had mushroom, asparagus with bacon, chicken, chicken with leek, minced chicken, chicken wings, pickled cabbage (not on a stick) and a bowl of cucumber with a red miso dip which was soooo tasty (also not on a stick). They have a picture of a chicken in there and you can basically point to the bit you want if you get stuck, not sure what the dot next to it's bum hole is all about though... maybe it's for egg? We then went to the smallest bar in Tokyo, standing room only more cos they don't have any seats than anything else, it was packed out though, it can't have been much bigger than maybe 2 x 4 metres?. We had a bottle of champagne. A woman, or should I say a mad woman, came along and sat outside to talk to a big bucket of terrapins, which in itself is a bit mad I suppose, they were just there at the side of the road, when we arrived there was a man feeding them bits of fish bodies. I went over and asked her if they'd like some of my champagne to which she cackled very loud and rocked back and forth on her seat.... The loo in the bar was the dreaded local loo for local people... I near fell backwards trying to balance on the elevated tiles while concentrating on weeing without hitting my clean troosers, I just managed to grab the metal bar infront of me before doing another 'rocky' move like I did many moons ago in the west linton bowling club roof while putting clips on the cables (mind that Dad?) anyway, I didn't make a mess, so proud of myself which I'm sure you all are too. On the way home we stopped off at the Family Mart for a bottle of hangover cure which tastes a bit like day old hubba bubba that you've left on the window sill after chewing if for ages to see if the flavour would come back, come on now, we've all done that... mixed with red bull, does the trick though. We also got some green tea flavoured rice sweetie things that tasted good but felt like testicles, apparently... it's called Moshi, you can get it in all different shapes, colours, sizes and flavours, hot or cold, they don't all feel the same though if you get what I mean. Some say that old people sometimes choke to death eating it cos it's so sticky but I haven't heard of any cases of that while I've been here.
It's really cool you're all enjoying my ramblings even if sometimes it's in no order and there's not much real information about where I am, I'm enjoying writing it all down, thanks for reading!!
I'm getting good at hurdling by the way, Anne and Hiro have a baby gate over the entrance to the kitchen so the munchkin can't get in, it's pretty high and difficult to get over for me, imagine how it is for Annie... I don't run at it though so I don't think there's any chance of me entering the olympics...
LeeAnne, one of my pens has died already so you can imagine the size of my journal, think yourself lucky I'm not putting it all in here!! now where was I... Went out with Anne to Roppongi Hills on my last saturday night in Japan, almost fell over on a moving floor, bought more Wonka bars and was attacked by a small dog.... The dinner in Roppongi Hills was very posh, we had a fantastic meal in a place called Xen, it was gorgeous, the music was brilliant too all motown and funky, nothing like a bit of stevie wonder when you're munching into sashimi, we then went to another bar that had a jazz band on and got into the cosmopolitans then headed to a smaller bar called heartlands where lots of westerners hang out, was weird, I found myself staring at them lol, they all look the same... then we went to karaoke, it was class. The place was called LoveNet, we hired a room called Kiss, it was all love hearts and cushions. You can hire a room with a pool init if you want, all rooms are themed and different sizes, we sang our little hearts out (I even have video, which won't be posted) then went to denny's for chips and home again, great night!! the next day Anne went to work for a bit so Hiro and Christina took me to a new near by sushi place, it was lush!! When you walk into resturants all the staff shout welcome at you, I love it!! I may have mentioned that before... I'm going back this week for their 600 yen lunch special. Talking about fish, I went to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market. It was massive, I got up at 5am especially. They have soooo many fish and octopus and shellfish in there and men driving about on things that I can only describe as oil drums with a wooden flatbed thing on the back. I expect they have a scooter engine in them, whatever they are, they go fast and as tourists aren't really meant to be in there you have to be careful not to get run over, chucked in a bucket of ice and sold to the highest bidder, I hear we taste like spam... Anyway there were loads of tourists in there snapping away with their cameras just like me. As I said, it was amazing, I got a few photos and walked about in awe at everyone working so hard chopping and lugging and shouting and smoking over the dead fish, I don't even know what some of them were. I went by some prawns and one jumped up trying to escape from the overcrowded box it was in, the man at the stall caught me laughing and picked it up and offered it to me, having no where to put it except perhaps on my shoulder as a wee pet I smiled and said no ta, feel guilty now as I could have saved it's life. My soup yesterday had 2 prawn heads floating in it just as a reminder of the life I could have saved. I also saw the eye of a big fish twitching and loads of big fat yellow fin tuna, how they get them in the tins I'll never know.... They need a lot of ice in the fish market as you can imagine, I didn't really think about it till I saw how they got it. At the side of one of the entrances there's a bloke sat watching the TV and waiting for men to come up to him with trays on the back of the motorised oil drums. He has massive cubes of ice which he puts on a conveyor belt which then get dropped into a massive crusher and the crushed ice then shoots out and into the waiting trays, it's great, would be very handy for cocktail night!! I left there and went for a sushi breakfast, it was about 7am by this point and I was hungry. You can go in the expensive places just outside the market but the cheaper ones are just as good. The one I went into had a few people in, one customer took about a million photos of a guy making nigiri then an American Family came in, bless them I don't think they were really up for the sushi, the husband was and he tried his best to get his moaning wife to eat some. His daughter tried but bless her she ran outside holding her mouth like she was going to be sick apparently this was cos of the seaweed, they left shortly after that...
We were supposed to be going to a hot spring bath place but couldn't go as the thought of being kicked out would have been embarassing for all. Tattoos again... you have to be completly starkers you see and they think of people with tattoos as being a bit dodgy, liking pain, yakuza and all that, shame but I can do it in another country... Boooo Went back to the electrical mecca and got a storage device for my photos and a cable for my camera, sooo cheap. Some of the stuff in there is just wicked like I said before, you could spend a fortune in there!!
We had a massive storm in my last week, thunder and lightening that would have scared the biggest and scariest dogs, I thought the windows were going to cave in, Anne said she's never heard anything like it!! Oh, I'll tell you about the dog attack, talking about dogs again, well, I was sat by the water minding my own business munching on corn chips and listening to Kings of Leon when all of a sudden a woman comes running up to me half screaming with her arms out, I pulled my ear phones out only to see a minature version of lassie practically jumping into my lap, I know that reads like I pulled the earphones out of my eyes but you know what I mean. At first I thought Billy had fallen down a mine shaft but no, the dog was just after my lightly salted but highly addictive crisps. The woman was very apologetic and went off down the road with the dog on a lead and a smaller fluffy dog in a pram... phew That was the same day I nearly fell over. I was walking home and got to the tunnel with the moving floor in it. Having no problems with it before I didn't think to take extra care or anything but I'm sure it was faster than it had been in the morning... I got on ok but as I sauntered along I looked to my right and for some reason tripped over my foot which made the bag I was carrying smack off my legs into the wall of the moving floor which made me give off a wee yelp which I'm sure everyone heard as I grabbed the moving bannister and righted myself before complete humiliation occurred. I laughed all the way home, still makes me smile writing it down now.
Ginza is a great place, they have expensive clothes shops, cheaper shops, tons of food shops and lots of arcades, I decided to go there and torchure myself by trying on clothes I knew wouldn't fit as I need a pair of linen kecks as the arse has nearly fallen out of the ones I have with me, typical, I've had them for about 4 years and now they give up on me 1 month in...so I went into H&M to try them for size. Not bad but didn't buy anything, even tried on a pair of shit catchers (you may know them as hareem pants) I did it for a laugh and laugh I did!! respect to anyone that can get away with them!! Think I'm just going to wait and get something in Thailand if I really need them.
You know people that stand on the pavement and try to give you leaflets advertising stuff? well here they give you packets of tissues with the leaflet inside, ingenious, I have many packets now, 3 for the same store as I went up and down the street last week not knowing where I was going and instead of ignoring the bloke, I kept taking the tissues... great idea though eh?
There's been 23 earthquakes since I've been here but I've only felt one, it was 4.9 on the wobble board... cool, the mirror moved and everything. I didn't really notice to be honest, I felt a bit strange but I thought that was just me... Anne said Ooo earthquake so I got up from the sofa and walked over to her (faking stumbling sideways of course) to see the mirror moving, it was pretty mad. We looked it up and discovered there had actually been 22 other ones this month including one that very morning lol!! Anne told me a scary story about Tokyo and earthquakes but I'm not going to tell you, it's too scary.

Well, I guess my time in Japan is all but over now, I've just got in with Anne after the most amazing meal ever!! followed by some serious karaoke. The resturant was teppanyaki which is food cooked on a hot plate as in metal, not a china one. We had lotus root, asparagus, mushrooms, sesame tofu which was utterly amazing, duck, chicken, and beef that melted in the mouth, Okonomiyaki which is like a big cabbage pancake mixed with shrimp and pork and topped off with seaweed and bonito flakes (dried fish) and an array of desserts like orange jelly, salted ice-cream which was weird but nice and the best baked blueberry cheesecake in the whole world, it was ace!!! Japan has been fabulous, I love the place and everything it has to offer. It's fun, beautiful, steeped in history, clean, organised, has 80,000 resturants in Tokyo alone and above all, Anne and Hiro have been fantastic. They've managed to put me up/put up with me for almost a whole month, I bet they'll be glad to get their house back to themselves when I leave hehe Thanks to them I've had an amazing time and will definately come back another day :) I'm going to miss wee furniture moving Christina Mai and her demanding mentalist ways, she truely is a baby that knows what she wants, she's ace and totally gorgeous, I love her to bits. She's changed so much in the month I've been here and I can't wait to see her, Anne and Hiro again next year whether in Japan or bonny Scotland. Thank you so much for everything xx
Anne bought me some 'Hello Kitty' going away gifts which are brilliant!! I love them!! I have a new sparkly charm, I was eyeing it up before without her knowledge and Anne's gone and bought me it, you see great minds think alike. she also gave me a cloth to dab my glowing brow (girls don't sweat) and a compact with comb to make sure I don't have a hair out of place when travelling (or to enable me to squeeze the odd plook or two on my travels when I've run out of books to read...) Thanks again Annie, love you loads xxxx

next stop Singapore......

Posted by blondesock 04:06 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Japan part I

Memoirs of a GiGi...

sunny 28 °C

I hope you have time, it's a long one.....

Well, what can I say about Japan. I was thinking of all the words I could use to describe it like innovative, crazy, noisy etc but could only find one word that really said it all.... that word is.... Supercalifragalisticexpialidoious, even if my spelling of it is something quite atrocious... it's such an amazing place, I totally love it!! The food is soooo good, I could eat sushi and rice and miso and everything else everyday for the rest of my life and not complain, it just so good. I've eaten so many types of raw fish but my fav so far is grilled eel, it's lush!! I know it's not raw, tuna would be my fav there, I'm not too keen on wee squid legs as they're a bit crunchy in a gristly kind of way... sorry LeeAnne, you must be boking by now but I'll try anything and have so far not wanted to spit anything out apart from some of the contents of my bento box on the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Kyoto... why anything would disguise itself as a bit of plum when it's plainly not plum, I don't know... and the spongey stuff?? what was that?? I put this pale piece of square thing in my mouth and instead of biting through it I just squeezed juice into my mouth, it's was minging, more like the sponge post office people use instead of licking stamps than any kind of food. Thank the lord I bought an ongiri!! the saviour of my train ride. It's basically a triangle of rice with something inside of it which is then all wrapped in seaweed. The blue ones are tuna, the green seaweed and the pinkish ones are salmon. The red one is a pickled sour wrinkly plum which isn't too nice and I haven't tried the other colours for fear of having to run behind a building to get rid of it. Anyway, back to my story, it should really be in some kind of order, I'll try not to stray too much....

When I got on the virgin atlantic plane in London I was pleased to find it wasn't a full flight and that I had the 2 seats at the side of the plane all to myself and therefore 2 of everything (apart from dinner right enough) and anyway, they forgot about my gluten free meal and offered me fruit... hello like?? it was just like the flight back from Italy when I got 2 bowls of fruit and a bowl of water, I'm a girl with a food intolerance, not a feckin monkey, so I accepted the fruit (an apple and an orange cos that'll keep me going for 11 hours...) and made him give me a plain sort of meal and made him take the bread off it or I was going to chuck at him, I must send virgin an email about that, maybe I'll get upgraded later.... Anyway, food over, 4 or 5 films later including slum dog millionaire, burn after reading and and the curious case of benjamin button and it was time for breakfast. By this time I'd eaten all my home bought snacks wishing I'd remembered to make the naan bread sandwich at my mums and crossed my fingers for something good for breakfast. It was ok but not right for me at all and I should really have stopped myself from eating the granola and strawberry yoghurt but I was hank marvin by this point, shortly after and half an hour before the flight was to land I had some gluten related complaint from my tummy and made sure the end of the flight wasn't too pleasant for the next person into the loos after me... got off the plane and had my finger prints and my photo taken at immigration not cos of the incident on the plane I hasten to add, it happens to everyone... (imagine that at the Gib/Spain border) then quizzed at customs about my occupation which I'd put down as traveller... the box just wasn't big enough for 'redundant bank fodder'. I finally got through and sorted out my ticket for the friendly limo bus service and swapped my JR Pass voucher for a real pass and off I went to the TCAT terminal in Tokyo to meet Anne. If you ever go to Japan which I highly reccommend you do, get a Japanese Rail Pass, it pays for itself in no time at all. If I hadn't have gotten it I would have paid about 3 times the amount in train fares instead of the 203 quid I did pay, well worth it. Went to the local supermarket with anne once she'd picked me up and looked around trying to recognise something, it's weird when everything is written in japanese... got some snacks and went home, I had a little nap then we went out for Yakinoku, it's Korean food that you cook yourself over hot coals which lie inside a hole in your table, was lush. I had cows tongue which was lovely, I wasn't too sure at first due to my Mum sometimes having a cows tongue in our fridge at home when I was a kid then rolling it and boiling it so it could be sliced and put in sandwiches but it was actually rather nice. The beef was the best though, amazing. On my second day I went to the gym, yes, on holiday I went to the gym. I haven't been since but it was a good effort. I've decided, even though it's very girlie, that I'm going to log my weight upon arrival into a country and exit just to see, bit of an experiment... I started in Japan at a whopping 65 kilos!! thanks to putting on 5 kilos in scotland. Well thats what happens when you sit around and eat, doing hardly any excercise and eating man sized portions at my Mums, she said if I can't find food on my travels I can live off my arse... nice. Anyway, I'm down to 62 kilos already thank the lord and think my new fit flops are doing what they're supposed to as well with thir wobble technology... In the gym you can't walk in with the same shoes you're going to work out in, they have to be taken off at reception and left in a wee locker, then you go down to the other locker and put your other stuff in there. Unfortunately I couldn't use all the facilities like the hot tub or the pool cos I have a tattoo, it's very frowned upon. Anne was once turfed out cos someone complained about her tat but the guy that turfed her is gone now so she's snuck back in hhehe weird though eh? I'm going to try and not do 'then we did this and then we did that and then I was like OMG' and all that stuff, I'm just going to try and tell you about my experience of Japan so far and some of the things I've seen and done so thats the order of things right out the window... Right then, lets go back into my mind and unravel my trip so far... I've been lost (and found again) been on about a million trains, have thrown ninja stars, fought the crowds to get over the road in Shibuya and sang drunken karaoke. I'm not very good at directions, even living in spain for 12 years and going to malaga airport about 7 times in the beginning and still going home the wrong way wondering why the sea was still on my right when it should have been on my left.. I'm a bit of a pro now but at the start, I was getting on all the wrong trains and ending up in some strange places... I went to Shibuya and ended up in Ushigome-Kagurazaka, nothing to see there, wandered about a bit and when I finally found the subway station again I just went home and thought I'll plan better and try and go again the next day. You know the photos you see of Japan and it's a massive crossing with millions of people trying to cross at the same time? well I haven't been there, only joking, that's exactly where I was trying to get to and did get to the day after, it's amazing. They have their own version of Grey Friars Bobby, he's called Hachiko, at the station, a monument to a wee dog that hung about waiting on his master long after he'd died bless him. Anyway Shibuya is crazy, I've never felt so ordinary or boring in my entire life, the fashion is mad, the boys all look like they're in a shock waves advert and most of the girls look like they're on a hen night and everyone had to go as St Trinians. Short skirts, high heels and thigh length socks are the look. They also have these wee shoe things that you put on your feet like those wee gym sock things but these are fashionable and have lacey bits on or just a sparkly strip to put round your ankle or ones to make your flip flops look cool, the have whole shops dedicated to these wee sock things, I am now the proud owner of 4 pairs, as yet unworn.... We saw a Harajuku girl (girls that dress like dolls) in the park one sunday but she wasn't japanese and it just looked daft. The japanese ones however look amazing, just like little dolls. I wonder if my neice will ever dress like that...? I decided to go to a couple of mueums, the only ones I could find with my amazing map reading skills were the salt and tobacco muesum which was actually pretty good. Did you know when the olympics were in japan they advertised it on ciggie packets? I'll add photos or I will have added photos so you can see for yourself. I also went to the muesum of electricty. It was all in japanese but it was nice and cool in there, tres hot outside... I had a little card made with a laser that had my profile on it and my name in japanese. Now, not knowing what my japanese name is, I just picked characters that looked like GiGi, it turns out it means Moona Moona LOL!! if you've ever done the japanese name thing on Facebook, it's pants, don't beleive it and then get it tattooed on your chest, you have been warned. I obviously haven't done that but I know someone who did...
I met up with Anne that night and 2 of her work collegues for a quiet drink and some food. This ended up with us falling out of a rock bar at 5am to my horror in broad day light!! what a fab night!! we started in a spanish bar then headed to a wee japanese type tapas bar for wicked food then to an english pub called 'what the dickens' and thats where we lost Anne's work mates, Rob and Rod. We got in a taxi and went to Roppongi which is just like any strip on the costa with all the bars wanting you to go in offering cheap drinks and dodgy R&B music. We headed straight for kakaoke. What a laugh, we did everything from Blondie to Amy Winehouse and Abba to Metallica, it was hilarious, from there it starts to get a little hazy, went to a few more bars, bumped into some american lads who were really good fun and even helped us along with our cab fare home bless them. It's not cheap in Japan at all, I've already gone over my monthly budget and still have 2 weeks to go. Fingers crossed SE Asia will be as cheap as they say it is.... it doesn't help of course that I got lost coming back from Yokahama and missed the last train or rather got on the wrong train and when I got off to go back the other way there were no more trains so I hoped in a taxi not knowing where I was and paid 15000 yen for the privilage which is about 110 quid... ah well, these things happen. I don't know why the trains and subways stop at about 11 or 12 pm but they do, they also have the sound of birds tweeting while you wait for your train, I wonder if thats cos some people may never get above ground very often.... With a population of about 30million, you'd think they'd run all day and night... even the street vending machines go to sleep. While in the karaoke place, which is great by the way, you rent a room by the hour and order drink over the phone like room service so theres non of this waiting for your turn, writing what you want to sing on a bit of paper, oh no, you just punch the codes into your own private machine and sing till your hearts content!! I lost my wallet, well I left it in the toilets doh!! went down to reception and asked if anyone had handed it in and low and behold they had!! contents and all, I couldn't beleive it. People here just don't steal things, the west truely do have a lot to learn from the people of Japan about manners and all sorts. Oh just by the way, in one of the bars which was called propaganda the Michael Jackson song 'thriller' came on. I went drunkenly round the bar tapping anyone that would entertain me on the shoulder and got them to join me in the zombie dance. Apparently my sister Julie knows the whole dance, I'm glad she didn't teach me that before I left Scotland... Black Russians are evil drinks hhehehe The day after the day of the hangover we all went to Yoyogi park which is great, people doing all sorts of dancing and martials arts and hoola hooping and just lounging about. They have a group of rockers there with mahooosive quiffs jive dancing and we even saw some men playing the bag pipes, it would have brought a tear to a glass eye I tell you.. sniff.. as it was Golden Week the streets around harajuku were packed, it was a nightmare with the buggy so we sacked it and went to a wee tapas like place in Shibuya for food which was really good. Again you have to leave your shoes in a wee box by the door. I'm getting much more used to all that now. As I don't own any Manolo's I don't think my shoes will ever get stolen...
The beach was fun although again being golden week everyone was there, thats like 20 million people. The sort of island is built on reclaimed land and the sand brought in from the sahara. You can't swim in the water and from the looks of it you wouldn't want to so me and Christina built sand castles... I had my picture taken there in front of the statue of liberty, yes you read right, it's very bizzare then we walked round a shopping centre that was made to look like the arcade in Milan, it's so nearly the same too. I've been to gorgeous gardens and buddist and shinto temples which are just beautiful, saw and big budda and petted tame deer that live in the gardens of the temple. I told my tour guide that I eat deer then she told me it was a sacred animal so I kept my mouth shut after that... I saw a 300 year old pine tree that was sprawled all over the place and had to be kept up by a kind of wooden frame much like an old person with a stick I suppose, the fact that it was raining when walking through the gardens only made it more atmospheric and although it was in the middle of sky scrapers, it was really peaceful. I walked up Fujimi Hill, it took me ages and the altitude was almost too much for me, it was at least 10ft high hehe After that it was onto the tokyo cruise, we went up the river and under a lot of very low bridges. Apparently if the tide is high and the boat cant get under the bridge they have to get sumo wrestlers onto the boat to weigh it down so the boat can pass under the bridge. That's not strickly true but I'd like to think that's how they do it as they do weigh the boat down in times like that. Thankfully the Tokyo cruise was nothing like the Thames Barrier cruise which will forever be etched on my mind as one of the most boring things ever, sorry parents but you know it's true. We got off the boat at Akakusa just opposite the giant golden jobby sat on top of a building looking golden and jobby like, check the photo (if I've managed to get them on) I think you'll agree that thats what it looks like and thats what Anne called it so thats what it shall be known as, next to it is a building that looks like a glass of beer, these crazy architects. We walked down a street that reminded me of the market place in Marrakech all the way down to the Asakusa Kannon Temple Senso-Ji which was unfortnately under a load of scaffolding and will be for another 2 years!! never the less I got a few shots of the out buildings, warded off evil spirits at the insense cauldron, blessed myself in the spouting dragon waters and made a wish (albeit a cheap wish as I didn't have much in the way of coinage) at the Temple door. This was the place of my first visit to a real Japanese toilet. It looks a bit like a urinal that's fallen over, you have to face a certain way as you squat, it's not easy I tell you, how all these women aim right I'll never know, wish I'd bought that sheewee now!! Japanese loos are just unbeleivable, you can go from the hole in the floor fallen down urinal to one that plays a tune when you sit down on it's heated seat so noone can hear wht you're up to, wash and blow dry all your bits when you're finished and get up and it'll flush itself!! never seen anything like it. Even in the scabbiest looking pub, open the toilet door and you almost get a glow from it, it's truly mental. I thought sitting on a heated loo seat would feel a bit like someone had spent some time in there before me but it's a different kind of heat, I've since tried another local toilet and wee'd all over the bottom of my trousers... nice, glad I had a change near by!! Anne bought me a charm at the temple for good luck in love, we all know I need that!! the little material packet the gold charm comes in has a swastica on it which is apparently the religious symbol bt incase of offense, it's inside my bag and not hanging on the front of it with my other little charms. We went to a place called Sapporo for some food, Hiro had cooked intestines which looked just like Mr Hanky from south park and his family on a day out to the sewage pool so I declined trying it. I know I said I'd try anything but I drew the line there, I'm sure it was very nice though... Anne went back to work the next day so Hiro, Christina and I took the oppertunity to go for sushi, anne doesn't like it you see. We had 4 trays of it hehe Grilled eel, salmon, tuna, squid legs, mackeral, fresh seaweed, octupus and california rolls, it was amazing!! some of them had a bit too much wasabi in them for my liking which burned my nose and made my eyes water but still tasted amazing, so fresh. Hiro took me to an electrical shop which was like all the Dixons in the world all in one building. I wanted a spare battery (that word just reminds me of karaoke now 'battery' metallica fans will know what I mean) anyway one of them and another memory card incase I don't have a chance to upload photos for a while when I leave japan. The guy in the shop laughed when I showed him my camera, said it was sooo old it wouldn't recognise a 4G card and so I had to buy a 1G or 2G, it's only 3 years old!! the shop was full f cameras, robots, toys, TV's everything you can possibly imagine and so cheap too. I saved over 50 quid on the things I bought.
I've so far been to Tokyo obviously, Yokahama where it rained all day and I got soaked and went up to the 69th floor of the landmark building to see a bunch of clouds... ah well. On my week away on my own on the bullet train to Oji where I stayed in the best guesthouse ever, www.yougendo.com you have to go there if you go to the Kansai region. The bullet train is great, you stand at the platform and when it arrives a pack of pink ladies get on the train and turn all the seats round so they're facing the way you're going, change all the head towel things on the back of the chairs and generally give it a clean out, it takes about 15 minutes then you get on and relax. the leg room is great, I had my case infront of me and still had room for my legs, pressed the button to put the seat back and dozed off. Nara was great, that's where the deer and the giant budda live, I did a tour of all the temples with a canadian family, they were very tall and their son was incredibly handsome but not very chatty. The shinto temple was fabulous and of course the giant budda. The four of us then went for some sushi together then I said goodbye and discovered the rest of Nara... Osaka was where I struggled to get out of the train station it was soooo big, I didnt get the most out of Kyoto I think you'd have to stay there for a coupel of days cos it's so spread about and I was pretty sick of walking by then, Uenoshi was the ninja place, I got to to throw ninja stars infront of the whole crowd which was very embarassing as I was pants at it and I also went to Hiroshima. Hiroshima was, as you can imagine, not a happy place. I went to see the A Bomb Dome, the memorial gardens and the musuem which is full of pictures of burned people and bits of stuff that used to belong to people that were killed there, it was horrible. As my dad says, everyone should be made to go there to see what they did, it was just horrific, what a waste of human life, inncocent human life at that and to do it twice too, those sorts of weapons should not exist. I wanted to go to the floating shrine at Mirajima but the tide was too low and no more boats were going out, I was gutted. I also went to a place called Wakayama, more cos it sounded good than anything else as it's not in my Japan book, I had no idea what I'd find there. Well, they had a gorgeous castle and gardens. The inside of the castle was a bit like a 70's high school but they had some interesting stuff in there. I was stared at by some elderly people quite a lot, it's the only place that I really got stared at, I suppose for being foreign, I just smiled and carried on. Tried to find the Big Whale exibition and when I finally did, it was closed!! ah well. In the middle of my week in Kansai I decided to have a day off cos I was feeling a bit rough with the cold (not swine flu) and fed up with trains and walking so I got my book and sat down by the river. People passed by with their dogs while I listened to the birds chirping and the gentle sway of the wee yellow flowers, it was lovely. Then a very small sausage like dog came over to me and had a big poo right infront of me, what a lovely day... Even though I'm gluten intolerant I decided cos I wasn't feeling very well that I'd have to try something from the local bakery. If I'm going to fall off the waggon and be naughty, I might as well do it properly so I bought a danish cinnamon whirl, a chocolate twisted thing and a jam donut. Now, jam donuts are a particular favourite of mine so you can imagine my disappointment when I bit into it to find that it was in actual fact not a jam donut at all!! a donut that has azuki beans inside it has no right calling itself a jam donut. shocking.
I left my guesthouse, said cheerio to the cats Cathy and JiJi and also to the staff there who had been amazing and set off for Kyoto which I said before I didn't really take advantage of. I had earlier left my rucksack/suitcase thing in a locker in the station, it was a struggle to get all 65 litres of it in as of course the only locker left that was big enough was at the top... almost trapping my hand inside I managed to get it closed. Thinking I should take a photo of it's location then thinking nah, I'll find it I wandered off into Kyoto. When I got back I realised just how massive the station actually was. No idea where my luggage was. I asked at information and the man who's face may have cracked if he smiled gave me poor directions but good enough to jog my memory and I finally found the lockers phew!! 4 mins to spare before my train left to go back to Tokyo...
I'm going to publish this on the site now before I add anymore... to be continued...

Posted by blondesock 12:18 Archived in Japan Comments (4)

The beginning

Leaving... on a jet plane...

sunny 17 °C
View Scotland and a bit of Englandshire too on blondesock's travel map.

Well hello there, are you sitting comfortably? then I'll begin.... I'm not the best writer in the world and some of it may not even make sense, my parents often said I talked in riddles so good luck and enjoy....

on the 6th March, I was standing at the boarding gate in Malaga brushing tears away from my cheek till the people behind me said this...

"Oh Agnes, we went to that wee tapas place again last night", "did you Mary?" "Aye, Octopus salad Agnes, Octopus", "Really Mary? wiz it ony good?" "Aye Mary, is wiznae bad like..."

Made me giggle and I was off. Bonny Scotland here I come. Edinburgh Customs pulled me over when I was coming through with my bags. I'd had my cello wrapped up in that plastic stuff for extra protection and had to set it free so I could carry it so I got out my trusty swiss army blade and cut my finger open with it before releasing Gino (yes my cello has a name, he's italian so why not... 'caio' ala eddy izzard) anyway, I was last through so they pulled me cos I had loads of luggage and asked me if I had any guns, knives or drugs, hello? as if I was going to say Oh God yes, I forgot I wasn't allowed to bring them in.. I confessed to 9 cartons of ciggies which I had previously that day smuggled over the boarder in a onner, then she x-rayed everything. When Gino the cello went through she turns to me and says, "have you got packets of cigarettes in your cello case?" yes I said, golden virginia, great for packing and she let me go.

Scotlands a great place, so much to do and see, I'd forgotten how much I missed it. Just a bit cold though.

I counted up the number of animals I ate while in Scotland and it came to 13!! I had Cow, Pig, Lamb, Sheep, Deer, Wood Pigeon, Pheasant, Chicken, Duck, Salmon, Trout, Tuna and prawns all in 6 or 7 weeks, some of it shot my Dad, not the prawns though.... the trout however was caught and home smoked by my lovely God Father and it was lush!!

anyway, the weather was surprisingly amazing while I was there after the snow melted although having lived in the sun for so long, as soon as I see it I think it's going to be hot and it soooo isn't in Scotland, it's more of a light in the sky thats sometimes bright... It was warm a few days though, sat out on a step in Thankerton in a tee shirt, never thought I'd see the day then again at my mums, my sister Lorna even got a bit burnt that day.
According to facebook if I were a princess I'd be Snow White. This has been confirmed at my Mums due to the little birds tying to get through the window while I'm singing, yes, it's all true I watched them many times. Whether or not they wanted to get through to peck my eyes out I'm not sure as I never opened it but lets just say it's cos of the snow white thing..

I do have photos from these 7 weeks but they're in my wee note book thing which refused to work at my mums so you'll just have to imagine the animals at the zoo and wee Rory's face on top of the zoo slide, the reflections on the loch in Aberfoyle, the blanket of snow drops in Dawyk Park, the scathing sleety rain at the Grey Mares Tail and Lorna's amazing cake from my almost last night....

I packed a lot in while I was in the homelands including ceremonial tattie planting with my Dad, cocktail drinking at 3 in the afternoon, training with mum and her puppy, partying in Glasgow, rolling boiled eggs down a hill in Linlithgow on easter sunday, the bowling club dance where I brought the average age down by quite a bit, concorde, the grand national, the best sunday roast I've ever had, yes that's you Carl and of course a fabulous shepherds pie made with real shepherds so I'm told... I even had time to sort and book my plan of action and buy all the stuff I will and might need on the way. I met up with old friends, one of which I don't think I'd seen for about 13 years which was great and I was given the most amazing pair of red 7 inch heeled shoes by a woman with great taste but which I didn't pack for my trip. Granny wanted to borrow them but I was afraid I'd never get them back.

Leaving Scotland wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be, after all I'm only going on holiday and having lived away for 12 years me and my family are used to airports. My matching parents took me to the airport, mum and brian accidentally in red and dad and joyce accidentally in white. Got on the plane and headed to heathrow. Enjoyed a lovely evening in the Sheraton hotel that night then went to the airport in the morning and boarded for Narita....

Anyhoo, I bet some of you never thought this travel plan of mine was ever going to happen, I myself had my doubts every now and then, after all, I've been going on about it for nearly 2 years LOL!! and a lots happened in those 2 years as well. I'm so glad I'm doing it though, it's the chance of a life time, I have no idea what the the next 11 months will hold but what I do know is that I'll never forget it. Unless I get a knock on the head and that memory loss thing that I can't spell beginning with 'A'... but what are the chances of that?

Next installment will be from and about Japan. I'm there now and it's amazing but will have to work out how to get my photos on here before I waffle on about heated loo seats, getting lost, eating eels and listening to bagpipes in the park and to be honest, I think the above is enough for you all to start with hehehe

missing you all love Gxxx

P.S. please ignore the map thing, it's pants, doesn't even know where Edinburgh is... so I gave up. Can't delete it though, will work on that hehe

Posted by blondesock 21:16 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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