Tuesday 29 April 2014

In the LAND OF THE RISING SUN. Tokyo and Osaka

Mt Fuji
26th of November, 2013. Tokyo, Japan

The flight from New Zealand wasn´t that bad, only 10 hours. Had a nice Japanese lady next to me on the plane who taught me a few words of Japanese and recommended how I should spent my 10 -12 days in Japan. She talked me out of going to Nagano, I really didn´t have enough time to do it. 

Got a bus to Kasay station where my CS host lived. Nick, Nikhal from India, IT engineer, very generous and full of tips about Tokyo and Japan. It was interesting to hear his clear sighted vision about the Japanese and life in Japan as a foreigner. Unfortunately, next day he had to go on a business trip to Kobe so I stayed by myself in his flat for two days. He helped me plan my route in the country: Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Tokyo...As much as I wanted to go to Nagano..and many other places, I had to be realistic, 12 days were clearly not enough.
So in Tokyo I made a round of: Asakusa, Fish market in Tsukiji, Ginza, Imperial palace and eastern gardens, Shibuya and Shinjuku. Written down sounds so easy and quick to do...but these areas are huge...and I kept getting lost..I like getting lost anyways, the only problem is that didn´t have enough time to afford to get lost constantly...Still roamed the streets on foot as much as I could, asking people for directions.

First geishas or maikos I see live

Senso Ji temple

Never asked why they do that...
No reason behind this photo other than I liked the letters :)
Backpackers already know this, but the average traveller should be open to it as well: the awesomeness of Japanese street food. And it is not as expensive as we all think. Tokyo locals are natural foodies and proud of this, so they'll be happy to tell where you may be able to find the best ramen, oden (fish cake stew), yakitori (japanese kebab), okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) and more. And this doesn't just go for food; use common sense and when in doubt, do as the locals do. 
And right after this lovely food paragraph, I need to post some lovely photos :) (I can´t resist)
Even in Japan:  modern version of a hole in the ground style toilets
Without a doubt the best looking public toilet in 2,5 years round the world
The subway...Always full and expensive! But I was impressed how people wait in orderly line for the trains. And if it is full, they calmly wait for the next one.
So organized...Inevitably brought an image in my head of the chaos in metro of Barcelona during rush hour :)) 
A buddist temple near Tsukiji Fish market
Random wedding at the temple

Ginza area
Ginza area
Near the Imperial palace
Imperial palace East garden
Imperial Palace Eastern gardens
"Shibuya Scramble" intersection
Shibuya crossing. Red light.

And green! It´s like Times Square of Tokyo, except is way busier
From Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, free Observation desk at 33rd floor
I found a Spanish restaurant, much more expensive than the normal Japanese food.
And again....
I know it is getting a bit weird with those photos of toilets but this is a real high tech toy. Just remembered the toilets (or lack of such) in China and that was enough to make me stay for an extra minute and play with the buttons :)  Heated toilet seats and a noise making button (disguise any unpleasant sounds in you cubicle) are my favourite!
I didn't get to see the cherry blossoms but the autumn is just as beautiful in Japan
Mount Fuji from the bus
Mount Fuji is Japan's highest mountain (3776m) and a perfectly shaped volcano, worshipped as a sacred mountain. It is one of Japan's greatest prides. I was told that every respected themselves Japanese has to climb the peak at least once in their lives.
Japan is in the grip of Fuji Fever. Ever since this iconic symbol was named a World Heritage Site, there is no escaping the mountain: Fuji art, Fuji snacks, Fuji towels, Fuji socks, Fuji character goods -- Fuji is everywhere. And people are setting out to climb the peak like never before, 30% of them are foreigners. I would have done it too...if I had more time and if it wasn't out of season.

A glimpse of Mt Fuji behind the trucks

Loved these little bottles available at every convenience store, still not sure what they were
It was quite nice that my country was finally well known here, they all knew Bulgaria. Usually when I say I am from Bulgaria, I have to keep expanding the area...Eastern Europe and if that is not good enough, I just say Europe. But here in Japan, everybody knew it, 2 reasons for that. Number 1. Bulgarian yogurt, which dominates 60% of Japanese yogurt market. Everywhere around the world I meet Japanese they always sing a song from a famous TV commercial of Bulgarian yogurt. Number 2. Kotooshu - Bulgarian Sumo wrestler who happened to be the first European to ever win the Emperor's cup. 
Here is the Bulgarian yogurt, tasted almost like the one we have...but almost :)
Japanese Stop Sign
I love the traffic signs in Japan

I didn´t want to leave Japan without sleeping in a cubicle. So my stay in Osaka had only one goal - to experience the capsule hotel. I've never ben a fan of big cities and here I am, in Japan biggest city. But since I was pretty close (less than an hour away, in Nara) and getting back to Tokyo from Osaka is relatively cheap and easy, I decided to give it a day!
The only photo I took in Osaka, don´t even remember where it was
The other capsule type - much harder to get in...
It is not as easy to find a capsule hotel for females, they usually serve only male guests. Mine (Capsule Hotel Asahi in Osaka) had a female floor. Not ideal for couples cause everything is separated, even different floors. Open concept bath room & coffin style bed. I think one night is enough for the experience. It is weird that you can't have both a TV and a plug in your capsule, always have to choose one or another. I went for TV option. Everything is provided - from toothbrushes to pijamas..There is an onsen as well but only for men!

I went to bed quite late and other girls were already in their capsules sleeping.  I turned the TV on and of course it had to be a porno channel. It took me a while to figure out how to turn the volume down or change the channel so all the dorm was awoken by the groaning and screaming coming from my capsule, considering that only curtains divide you from the others. I was quite ashamed but it wasn´t my fault! Japanese and their porno... and millions tiny buttons on something as simple as remote control! 
Female dorm. My capsule is the bottom lit one
The comic room in the capsule hotel
Female bathroom. Felt a bit weird sitting on a chair with a mirror in front of you and having a shower! But there is no other way!
Jacuzzi and sauna
In my cubicle XF-427. They even give you pyjamas (only one size)

The bus - pretty comfy and neat but almost no English
Got to Tokyo pretty late and met up with Julian, an Australian guy living in Tokyo who took me to a nice well known Ramen restaurant in Shinjuku to warm up a bit. By the time I got back to Tokyo I definitely had a cold for first time in years. He patiently listened to all my complaints, I was literally freezing my ass off in Japan since the only pair of jeans I had in my backpack was completely torn and full of holes and letting the cold air in! Quite comical actually! After spending more that a year in the tropics and not even wearing shoes at all...Japan was killing me! But I survived 2,5 years only with that pair of jeans and refused to buy a new one, I was 2 flights away from home!
With my Indian host Nikhal in Tokyo
Last photo at the airport. Off to another interesting country - Israel!
Regrets: Didn´t go to an onsen (Japanese hot spings), didn´t go to Nagano and Jigokudani National park to be naked with the monkeys :))

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