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.
First of all let me apologise in advance for any weird spelling or punctuation in this post. I’m in a Japanese Internet cafe fighting against an alien keyboard layout and a laptop that wants to type everything in hiragana…
On days like this I wonder why I want to be a journalist when it seems that any story can be blown out of all proportion. As I’m sure you’re aware all British airports were in “chaos” because of the whole security threat thing so I was naturally all worried that all my plans would be disrupted. We got picked up by the airport car three hours early to account for any delays that the news was telling us were inevitable, and I had to leave my DS and PSP at home because I couldn’t carry them on and wasn’t risking them in the hold.
So…the two-hour drive to Heathrow ends up taking about 80 minutes because within a few miles of the airport there are hardly any cars on the road. Nothing. We wait for check-in to open and that goes smoothly and then queue for about 20 minutes longer than usual to go through security since everyone is being patted down.
Now what really had me fucked off is that I couldn’t carry on any games, my camera, my laptop, books, magazines, etc, but once I was through security as long as I wasn’t flying to the United States of Paranoia (they weren’t letting people carry on anything at all) I could have gone and bought any of the items in Dixons and carried them on. I wasn’t desperate enough to buy yet another DS so I just bought a couple of books from Borders (Roy Keane’s autobiography and the complete Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy) which I breezed through a good chunk of on the way to Tokyo.
The flight got off on time and went without a hitch (MI3 and Ice Age 2 were the films; I watched most of MI3) and 12 hours later I now find myself at Narita Airport with four more hours to kill until my connecting flight to Sydney. Thankfully it has a free Internet cafe that I’m using now which also sells Pocky, successfully combining two of my favourite things in the world, so that eases the pain. Amusingly, it also has a mini cinema where, for £400 a time, you can watch such hits as “Batman Bigins” (sic). I wish I had my camera.
This is the last post you’re going to get from me that’s been written in the UK for a while, since tomorrow I start on my epic voyage to Australia. It’s hardly Jules Verne but it might as well be, since I’ll be in transit for around 27 hours and find it physically impossible to sleep on a plane. When I land in some kind of sleepless and aggressive stupor it’ll be like we’re exporting our murderers and bridge vandalisers again.
Like I did in Japan last year, I’ll be blogging occasionally and posting photos to Flickr both while I’m in Australia for a fortnight and when I’m back in Japan for a week. I will, of course, be on the lookout for crazy geek stuff like Engrish 24 since that’s what Japan is there for. I’ll be doing more historical sightseeing when I go to places like Kamakura for people who like a bit of culture as well.
In Australia I’ll be based in Sydney for most of the time but will also be spending a few days up in Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef and such. That’s assuming I haven’t been locked up for an assault on airport staff. Wish me luck and check back for updates on what I’m up to.