Quiet week, doing a bit of reorganising at my storage facility, and taking it easy in general.
Boring week, glasses checks, dental appointment, and avoiding the oppressive, all-obliterating heat.
A week of general round the house stuff, and catching up with folks. Saw a play in Brisbane – Die Hard, The Movie, The Play – which was pretty amazing, and wonderfully meta.
Attended an Xmas party for a game development studio, which had a very high (non refundable) bar tab, ad only around half the number of attendees originally predicted. A lot of top shelf drinks and cocktails were consumed.
Most of the week spent working on processing photos from Japan, and getting my glasses frames in for repair.
A week of decompressing, and trying to sort out some bad glasses I had made before I went away. Also, some work on modifying my workstation’s cooling.
Processing the 2000+ images I shot n Japan continues, and once they’re all done, I’ll have some more extensive travel diaries ready to go.
An admin week, unwinding from Japan. Lots of time spent processing photos, while Noosa burns with fires on the other side of the river, and the next suburb is evacuated.
Everywhere, the smell of smoke, even in a closed up house running airconditioning.
Japan Trip week 3!
Monday we travelled from Himejo to Tokyo, with a stop for lunch with a view of Mt Fuji. I ordered what I thought was miss-spelled ramen, to receive a bowl of cold noodle soup, with slices of apple, and ice cubes in it. Weird.
We wandered around Ginza that night, but the weather closed in a bit again.
Next day, we had all day to kill before catching the train to the airport, so we went for a wander to a large park, again in the rain, but on the way back a completely accidental spot down the road – the Nakagin Capsule Tower. I’ve read about it so many times, but forgot to make t an itinerary pilgrimage item. Absolutely the best bookend or a trip so filled with amazing sights.
That evening, we headed to the airport, and chilled in the Qantas lounge – where the loudest voices were Baby Boomers from Noosa talking about their property development, and rental yields. *facepalm* really was a good preparation for the culture shock of getting back to see how insane everything in Australia is, where we kill a 50 year old tree, to protect a 5 year old pavement.
I had a few days in Noosa, before heading back down to Brisbane for the weekend, to see the new Australian horror comedy Two Heads Creek, which was brilliant, and The Sisters of Mercy play live, which was not brilliant.
Japan part 2!
Monday was a trip to the Osamu Tezuka museum in Takarazuka, a suburb of Osaka (I think). It was an easy trip, and upon exiting the train station, we were accosted, in the nicest possible way, by an old lady who seemed to be dressed entirely in the same type of patterned fabric. She was very keen to know who we were and why we were there, and proceeded to tell us that she had been a singer, piano player, and (some stringed instrument, possibly Shamisen) player, for the Takarazuka Review – the old theatre that has been the standout cultural thing for the suburb.
Tezuka himself, used to work with them in his youth.
Anyway, we were given a guided tour all the way to the museum, which included an offer to buy us lunch, all the while with a running commentary, that had occasional English words, but was mostly Japanese.
We may have met someone incredibly famous, it’s hard to know.
The museum was interesting, though not a gallery of his work by any stretch – basically there was no original art on display. Instead, it’s an interactive museum to the man, his life story, and his work. It makes me appreciate how amazing the opportunity was to be involved with the touring exhibition in 2007, where we actually had the original pages of all his major works there to experience in person.
Tuesday, we travelled to Kyoto, arriving in the afternoon to check into out air b&b apartment (after a 20 minute wait at the station for an English language taxi), and then a walk amongst the narrow streets on the side of the river, which as night fell, has dozens of micro-bats flying over it. We ended up in a tiny little second-story bar, whose stairs were st steep, you had to duck your head and lean forward to avoid hitting the lintel. There I tried another fantastic Japanese whiskey, and we chatted to the general manager of a travel agency’s office in Guam – apparently a super-popular tourist destination fo the Japanese.
I tried to describe my love of how overgrown so much of Japan is, the fences covered in vines, weeds sprouting from pavements – it’s hard to describe without sounding like “ you don’t maintain things”, but it feels like there’s a deeper force at work – I get the feeling the Japanese would rather let a fence be overgrown, fall over, and then be replaced, to begin the process again, so that I the meantime, they have a beautiful, wild, overgrown fence. In Australia, we’d poison all the vines, to save a few bucks on maintenance or replacement of the fence.
Wednesday, we did the Philosophers’ Walk – a route along a canal in the hills at e edge of Kyoto city, including visiting an amazing temple, where everything was overgrown with moss. We had Korean for dinner that night, and called it an early one, both being footsore from the long day’s walk.
Thursday was supposed to be a quiet day, instead we ended up walking to the top of the Fushimi-Inari temple complex – so many stairs. Ended the day exhausted, and went out to try the great tradition of ordering McDonalds in a foreign country. The only Australian common burger was the Big Mac, which I’ve never eaten, however they were sold out. Sold out? Seriously? What’s there to sell out of?
We went to Mossburger instead – a Japanese fast food chain. Honestly, it was a lot worse than McDonalds.
Friday, a trip to Arashiyama bamboo grove, the one you’ve seen a zillion times on the internet. It’s a great example of expectation – a tranquil deserted place with majestic nature, and reality – wall to wall tourists snapping selfies.
Had dinner in a little Udon noodle place, before shooting some night photos.
Saturday was travel to Himeji, taking a Shinkansen from Kyoto station, to Himeji station, with a short walk to the hotel. First night we photographed the outside of the castle, and ate amazing burgers at a place called Johnson’s Burgers.
Sunday, the big event for Himeji Taiyo Park – a mad and wonderful gift from a philanthropist, who built a theme park with recreations of some of the world’s most wondrous cultural artefacts, for an assisted living and intellectually disabled care facility next door. After the full day, we spent a bit of time walking the streets of Himeji, stopping in at different food joints, and drinking beers.
I’m finally here. A life-long ambition is finally realised, and it has been a revelation.
Monday we flew in to Tokyo – an easy 9 hour flight. Monday night, a Japanese take on Italian food, with an Australian red wine.
Tuesday things began properly, being picked up at the hotel at 9am, and taken on a private tour of some of Japan’s finest Bonsai artists and their nurseries. A lot of what I saw, I’m not sure how much I can talk about, or show in photos – apparently there is a real problem of bonsai being stolen to order from nurseries, as a result of photos appearing online.
Suffice to say, what I saw was mind-blowing.
Dinner Tuesday night, was Pizza – hilarious, and quite tasty. It was an American-themed pizza and burger 0lace, with Halloween decorations everywhere.
Wednesday, we had a loooong trip to Unazukionsen- unfortunately the Shinkansen was out on a section of track, due to the recent typhoon, so we had to use two different local trains to get between our Shinkansen legs, one of which was only a single carriage.
5 trains total – a long day, but also amazingly interesting. At the end, we arrived at Unazukionsen after dark, walking through the town to our hotel. We went out for Ramen at a local place, and tried the local beer. We did some wandering around the town, photographing buildings, and saw a wild tanuki, as well as micro bats.
Thursday, was the tourist train from Unazukionsen, up through the Kurobe Gorge – Japan’s deepest gorge, and home to a network of hydro-electric power stations. The train is a little open sided thing, more like an amusement park ride, and after an hour and a half travelling through some of the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever seen, we reached the end of the line, had lunch at the restaurant, then a couple of hours walk out and back along the line.
We saw a snake.
Thursday night, was dinner at a great little place with a human-sized tanuki statue outside. I had the best deep fried chicken I’ve ever eaten. Dinner was followed by more late night photography.
Friday, I shot a few more images at Unazukionsen, before we headed for Takayama – one local train from Unazukionsen to Toyama, then another to Takayama. We lad a late lunch at an American-themed burger place, then went and did some shopping at the local Uniqlo, bought some snacks, and had an early night.
Saturday (my birthday), we finally saw the scale of tourism in Japan, with massive crowds at Takayama old town – it’s a beautiful place, but very busy. Busy for 3 blocks at least, leave that critical set of streets, and there’s very few people about. Our run of good lunch with weather ran out, as rain set in, bucketing down. Thankfully I had my waterproof travel hat, and all-covering poncho, so we were able to make the best of things, and enjoy our day nonetheless.
Saturday night was Ramen, featuring Hida beef, then on to Japanese whiskey-tasting at a local bar, before roaming the streets for some long exposure photography.
Sunday, a trip to Hida-no-sato (hida folk village), a recreation of various historic farming houses (most the actual buildings moved there and rebuilt). A nice easy morning, before catching a local train through the mountains to Nagoya, then the Shinkansen through Kyoto to Osaka, then a subway line to the hotel at Dotonburi.
Sunday night was spent wandering around, half in a daze, at the Bladerunner-esque madness of the place. A lot of takoyaki was eaten.
So a Colossal Typhoon is bearing down on Japan, two days before I’m due to arrive. Timing, I have it.
I picked up my glasses – they were badly made, with a lens that wasn’t ground properly, and caused a part of the frame to snap trying figure out the alignment. When I get back, stern words will be had with the manager of the practice.
But all of this pales in comparison to Typhoon Hagibis. :(