Apropos of nothing in particular, just some photos I took on a recent walking tour, making the most of a clear day and that gorgeous low autumn sun. All taken on an iPhone 6.
Tomorrow is our last full day in Japan before we head home on Thursday morning, and it’s going to be spent with some lazing around and last bit of shopping thanks to a blister the size of my head (yes, that big) that’s appeared on my little toe. Quite nasty really.
Over the last couple of days we rinsed our JR Passes by taking the Shinkansen to Kyoto and Nikko where a great deal of temples and shrines are found. I took photos of most of them and the toll taken on my feet by the sheer amount of walking will probably turn out to be catastrophic. We ended it by taking a taxi up to Kegon Falls (an expensive choice, but I wasn’t paying so I don’t care) which was really beautiful.
Being a gamer, one of the main attractions of coming to Japan is the shopping. I did a bit in Australia (the most interesting being EzyDVD’s limited Serenity tin) but they’re generally in a similar boat to us when it comes to the things I’m interested in – only $1,000 for a PS3! – which makes saving money for Akihabara an obvious choice. This is what I picked up, technology-wise:
- 30GB iPod – Yep, I went to the dark side and bought a 5G iPod. I just use iTunes and podcasts enough now to justify it, and I love watching Consolevania and The 1UP Show on my MP3 player.
- Cooking Mama (DS) – Haven’t played it yet since my DS is still in the UK, but I bought it on the strength of a couple of recommendations from people who liked Ouendan.
- Every Extend Extra (PSP) – It hasn’t clicked with me like Lumines, but it’s an interesting little puzzler. I’ll persevere with it before I draw any conclusions.
- Goku Makaimura (PSP) – Ultimate Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins to most of you. Just mind-bendingly, masochistically hard. I’m inclined to say that it falls on the wrong side of the line between frustrating and challenging, but again I’ll wait until I’ve been able to put in some real playtime before I condemn it.
- Jump Superstars (DS) – Again, haven’t played it. Supposedly it’s a very good Smash Bros clone with Shonen Jump characters (DBZ, Naruto, etc).
- Street Fighter Zero 3: Double Upper (PSP) – I don’t think I need to go into how much I like this game and this is a great version, but the PSP has undoubtably the WORST D-PAD IN THE WORLD. I need to find one of those mods.
- Tekken: Dark Resurrection (PSP) – Great-looking for a PSP title and a decent game, but it’s still Tekken. Probably the most fun I’ve had with the series since Tekken 2 which really isn’t too hard, but it’s supposed to be a compliment here.
- Viewtiful Joe (GC) – A classic that I’ve been meaning to pick up since I got my Cube going through component. It only cost me like a fiver anyway. Henshin-a-go-go, baby!
I’m not counting the litres of Grape Fanta and a new discovery, Melon Cream Soda Fanta, in the purchases because then this would turn into some kind of epic love poem. In another game-related story, I went into an arcade in Shibuya and played Virtua Fighter 5 which, if I’m honest, really didn’t blow me away. I do enjoy the series but this wasn’t a big leap by any stretch of the imagination, and rather than looking like a graphical showpiece it looked kind of artificial. I suppose I need to wait to try the PS3 version before I complain too vociferously.
This really will be it until I get home. Can’t wait for it now.
I knew I was in trouble when we stepped out of the airport in Japan and it was over 30 degrees…at night. So far Tokyo has been very grey (torrential rain on the first morning, but other than that dry), but still in the low thirties with high humidity. Not comfortable but hey, it’s Tokyo.
I haven’t been online in a while because getting on in Australia was a pain and it took me a few days to realise that we have free (I think) broadband in our hotel room here, but now all my photos should be up, even if I haven’t been able to annotate them all yet. Except this one, for obvious reasons. The rest of them will have to wait until I get home on Thursday.
In Japan we’ve been to most of the main districts in Tokyo, the highlight probably being the serendipitous visit to Harajuku at the same time as the Super Yosakoi festival. We also went to Kamakura and saw the big temples, all the while being captured by an old Japanese man who spends his days practicing English by collaring random westerners and showing them round. His opening line is “I am not suspicious,” which pretty much sums up the caliber of conversation.
Tomorrow we’re taking the Shinkansen to Kyoto (tip: if you’re planning on using the train when in Japan buy the Japan Rail Pass; it pays for itself with one bullet train trip) and then in the last couple of days we’re planning on hitting Nikko and the Imperial Palace before heading home on Thursday.
Just got back from a day on the Great Barrier Reef which was absolutely amazing. We took the bus to the boat early this morning and spent 90 minutes or so on the choppiest (smooth my arse) catamaran in existence. It docked with a pontoon in the outer reef (Agincourt if I remember correctly) and from there we could do pretty much what we wanted.
We took a helicopter ride around the general area and saw the reef extending as far as the eye could see, and also managed to spot a massive tiger shark in the water below. Absolutely breathtaking views.
Then my brother and I went scuba-diving on the reef. We’re not qualified divers or anything so we had to have some training and go down with an instructor, but that was just brilliant. It’s quite a strange experience until you get used to it, what with the breathing through the mouth and having to relieve pressure every few metres and was actually quite claustrophobic at first (it didn’t help that my always-dodgy ears were giving me grief with the pressure), but once I got adjusted it was definitely an experience that I want to try again. I’m actually thinking of getting qualified so that I can solo dive.
It was during this time that I found out the amazing news that if you vomit whilst wearing a scuba mask it gets ejected out the sides and all the fish will come and eat it. Unfortunately I couldn’t test the theory, but it made me laugh all the same.
Anyway, pipe dreams that are likely to remain unfulfilled aside, down in the reef we got to see the clownfish in the anenomes, giants clams which terrified Barney, and then sit in the middle of a minor feeding frenzy when the instructor let some fish food go. It didn’t seem as azure and clear as I expected, but then again it did on video when I watched it back later, so maybe it was just murky through my mask.
Just to top it all off, the boat stopped halfway through the return journey and the captain pointed out that there was a humpback whale on our port side. I couldn’t get any photos because we just saw it popping up for air a couple of times but still, it made 90 minutes on a boat more bearable and was, I think, my first sighting of a whale outside Sea World.
Right, so I’ve been in Australia for a few days now. I’ve managed to find an Internet cafe in Sydney where I could upload some photos onto Flickr, and while I haven’t been able to annotate them or anything you can take a look at Bondi Beach, the Sydney skyline, and various parts of the Blue Mountains. This one (that’s my brother) is a favourite shot of mine so far:
They have wild kangaroos here and everything.
Right now I’m up in the north in Cairns, where I’ll be staying for the next two days and visiting the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest which should make for plenty of nice photos. I’m using a paid terminal with an emasculated Internet at the moment (it wouldn’t even let me on my homepage due to the use of the ‘F’ word) so it might have to wait until I get back to Sydney, but either way enjoy what there is.
This is basically what happened post Shinjuku, which is the last time that I updated when we were out there.
On the night after we went to Shinjuku we went into Roppongi which is one of the big districts for nightlife, and then visited a bar called Gas Panic. We got there at about 10pm and ended up leaving when it closed at 5am when it was light outside and people were actually starting to go to work. The language barrier wasn’t an issue since it was so loud, and I ended up getting some face/crotch action on the bar with a cute Japanese girl. Jan had a similar experience and got slightly aggressive at the end of the night when he found himself with us instead of a girl, screaming with laughter at himself outside a Yoshinoya restaurant while Eynon and Jude got their second post-drinking food fix, after already buying a kebab from a street vendor outside the club.
Unsurprisingly the best part of the next morning was pretty much a write-off, with us not getting out until the early afternoon. After that we went to Harajuku which is famous for the cosplay fraternity, especially on a Sunday. Also in Harajuku was our first brush with traditional Japanese culture when we visited the Meiji Shrine which consists of a really nice Shinto shrine in some absolutely beautiful surroundings. Heading back into Harajuku, we looked around the shopping area (it’s very much a fashion area, in keeping with the cosplay influence) and grabbed something to eat at a Japanese restaurant before calling it a night.
The Monday was the day we were booked into the Ghibli Museum which was conveniently on the same line that our nearest train station was. We took the train to Mitaka and instead of taking the shuttle bus to the museum from the station we just walked the kilometre which probably ended up losing half our body weight in sweat because it was about 30 degrees and still as humid. It didn’t really get any cooler until we left Japan, either.
The museum was very nice but didn’t allow photography inside the building. We got to see a Ghibli short film which will never be shown outside the museum (I don’t know the name but it was about a small puppy who gets lost) and explore the exhibits before hitting the souvenir shop. I was very good to my wallet and only bought the £10 souvenir book, but Eynon went a bit more wild. He managed to get himself under control and stop before the temptation to buy a £200 Spirited Away cel got too great. A lot of the museum was lost on us without being able to read, but I enjoyed it and it was worth the £5 to get in.
We got back to the hotel from the museum in the mid-afternoon and hung around for a bit before braving the heat again to see Shibuya by night. I was actually disappointed with the famous crossing because it’s smaller than I imagined, but at night the district is very pretty and has some great shops. One of them was about three floors underground but was huge and absolutely full of manga, games, and toys. It made me laugh how you’d have a case of Transformers, a case of Gundam, a case of Dragonball, and then a case of rope bondage figures in the middle as if there was nothing unusual about them. We went up into the Starbucks overlooking the crossing where photography isn’t allowed, but we followed the example of the Lost In Translation film crew and got covert pictures out of the window when the waitress wasn’t looking.
Tuesday was just a chance to head back to Akihabara to pick up more stuff. I’ve lost track of what I bought when but I think this is when I got Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan on the DS which is fantastic. It’s a rhythm-action game that’s probably never going to come out outside Japan but seems to be picking up a big cult following, and both me and Eynon ended up getting it and annoying the others with the endless repetition of infectious J-rock songs at full volume. I also got a few more DS games – Electroplankton, Touch! Kirby (Kirby Canvas Curse outside Japan), and Meteos.
On Wednesday we took the Shinkansen to Kyoto which was damn expensive (£150 for a return ticket) but got us the 500-odd kilometres from Tokyo to Kyoto in a little over two hours and, well, it was the bullet train. Considering our trains can barely do 70mph without derailing, this one was an amazingly smooth and comfortable ride for the speed of the thing. A short walk from the station we found the Higashi Honganji Temple which is one of the biggest wooden buildings in the world but is currently undergoing a big restoration (to be completed in 2011). A short subway ride away was the “must see” of Kyoto, Nijo Castle. Some of it was absolutely beautiful and I’d imagine that if you visited when the trees were blossoming it would look unbelievable.
Eynon was adamant that we should visit Kiyomizudera, the Pure Water Temple, so we went to a subway station somewhere nearby. It turned out it wasn’t as nearby as we thought but there were a ton of temples and shrines in the backstreets so we walked it, eventually getting there through a sea of cheap souvenir shops. It was in the hills outside Kyoto and the view back at the city was spectacular, as were views of other temples in the hills. Then we had the choice of subway, taxi, or walking back into central Kyoto and someone had the bright idea of walking it – bearing in mind that it was stupidly hot and this photo illustrates how far it is back to the centre of the city (where the Kyoto Tower is), I think I lost the other half of my body weight.
Back in the city we found a big electronics store that, not being in Tokyo, obviously wasn’t as packed as the ones in the capital. That meant that not only did they have iPod nanos (I abstained in the end) but they also had the Advent Children Pieces, which were utterly sold out in Tokyo, for £120. Eynon and Jude grabbed them both and it looks like Eynon’s has already sold in the shop for £400. I grabbed Street Fighter III: Third Strike on PS2 as well as a sale copy of the PS2 Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution for ¥1,000 (£5). Eynon also got a Panasonic Q for an absolute bargain price.
The last two days were spent just doing any other things that needed doing before the end of the holiday. I can’t remember exactly but I remember hitting Akihabara one last time and going back to Harajuku, and when I saw that I could get there on the JR Line for less than a fiver I was tempted to pay a visit to Yokosuka but was able to bring my Shenmue fanboyism under control before I did. Maybe next year…
And that was it. The morning we left it was raining torrentially, but I still would have stayed if I could. Now I’m completely fed up with typing so you probably won’t hear from me for a few days – I’m off to play Katamari Damacy.