Japan

Tue 21st August 2007

Arrived in Tokyo. First thing that hit me was the heat. So hot and humid. Longer train journey than expected from the airport to the city. An old man noticed we looked a bit lost and brought us to where we needed to get our train. When we were getting off a nice couple walked us to our hostel (Ace Inn). It turns out one of them spent some time in Ireland a few years previously. So far a good impressions of the Japanese people.

Had a wander around Ginza and checked out the architecture. Dior building, Apple store and some others. Had a slice of pizza.

Wed 22nd August 2007

Tokyo — Asakusa, checked out the Asahi building and walked to Sumida park, Asakusa temple and shrine. Then wandered through the indoor market.

Went to Ueno and wandered in the park then around the streets. People playing pinball. Had some delicious pineapple from a street vendor. Nice relaxing afternoon.

Took the Yurikamome Line to a place near the Telecom building called “the Emerging Science Museum”. Saw Asimo the robot and played with the exhibits. Really interesting, hands on place.

Went for Sushi in a place in the Time Square building in Shinjuku. Was nice enough. Quite expensive and formal.

Thursday 23rd August 2007

Early morning went to the fish market. Even though we went early I feel like we missed something. Interesting wandering around. Some unusual characters.

Made our way to Rapongi Hills and went to a le Corbusier exhibition which was great. They had even reconstructed actual size apartments he had designed inside the gallery.

Went to the viewing tower. Stunning views of the city.

Had a lovely dinner somewhere in Shibuya then went to a bar where we sat on the floor. Great atmosphere.

Friday 24th August 2007

Off to Nagano. Up the hills to see the snow monkeys. They aren’t shy at all. Then back down to Nagano town and a stroll around the streets.

Saturday 25th August 2007

Kyoto. Stayed at J-Hoppers hostel. Went for a drink in Skinny Bar. Met some of the others staying in our dorm and decided to all have dinner together. Cooked up some nice food and then decided to go for a drink in town. Went looking for a bar called A-Bar. Couln’t find it. Asked some people on the street if they knew where it was. They didn’t. Turns out they were “dangerous prostitutes” according to a guy on the street and we shouldn’t talk to them. They seemed harmless enough.

Went into a bar that was mushroom themed. Even the barman had his hair cut in the style of a mushroom. Was a very strange atmosphere so we left.

Nicky’s Place

Bumped into some Americans and they brought us to a bar called Niky’s place. It was run by a couple of Tibetan guys (I think). It was one of the crazyist nights out ever.

Sunday 26th August 2007

Got up with sore heads and went with the hostel friends to the Sesshu-ji Temple. It was exactly what was needed after the night before. There was a tea room where we sat with locals and other tourists and just silently poured cups of tea for each other and just had a nice relaxing time. There was a nice little garden outside. Very peaceful. After that it was up the the Fusimiinari shrine. Beautiful! Quite a long walk but worth it. Was lucky enough to get to the top of the hill just as the sun was setting.

Headed into Gion for a bite to eat and then got a few cans and sat by the canal. A busker playing Beatles songs kept us entertained. Got some more cans and lay on the grass by the river as fireworks exploded across the sky. Back to the hostel for some random Japanese TV and then bed.

Monday 27th August 2007

Got up and said goodbye to our hostel buddys and then down to the station to see one of them onto his train after a bite to eat. Went up the 1tth floor of the station to take in the view and then off to the Golden Temple. Was nice. Then went to Ryanji which is the famous Zen garden. Was great. Very busy but inspiring. Met some Vietnamese/American guys in the hostel and ended up going to a tepanyaki place on the corner near the hostel. Had a few beers with them in the common room at the hostel. Bed.

Tuesday 28th August 2007

Checked out of J-Hoppers and checked into Ryokan Kinsuikan. Was OK but not great but wanted to try out the ryokan experience. I’m sure it wasn’t the ryokan experience you’d get elsewhere but got to sleep on the floor. Walked up the river as far as the imperial palace. Went to the mall and bought a few tshirts.

Wednesday 29th August 2007

Yvonne’s birthday. Celebrated with Icecream for breakfast and then ice-cream again for lunch. Train to Osaka and checked into Shin-Osake Youth Hostel. Got the train down to Hiroshima and had a look at the dome and the museum and the remembrance hall. Was a bit emotional after taking it all in.

Met our friend Yuko in Osaka station and she took us out for some really great food. There was a curfew in the hostel so we rushed back and just made it in the door for 11.

Thursday 30th August 2007

There were loads of teenage athletes staying in the hostel as the Osaka games were on. They were going nuts, running around the place screaming and just being a pain in the arse. Didn’t get much sleep and woke up tired and annoyed. Demanded our money back and checked out. Met Yuko and went to Umeda. Yuko booked a room for us all in the Hotel Mont le Suir for the night. Went out for dinner and we all went to a club called Platinum Disco. Hung out with some chinese businessmen.

Friday 31st August 2007

Went to Nara. Was great. Deer in the streets and a huge budda statue in a temple. Beautiful place. Went back to the hotel and hung out in the spa. Have never experienced such luxury before or since. Got our stuff together and caught the train back to Tokyo. Very tired when we got back. Did some laundry in J-Hoppers which was beginning to feel like a second home. Skyped my brother Darren for a chat.

Saturday 1st September 2007

Got up late and went to a cafe and then into Shibuya and spent ages browsing in Tower records. Bought a couple of CDs and had a coffee in the attached Starbucks. Looked out the window at the famous zebra crossing. Went to Tokyu Hands. A huge shop that sells all kinds of craft things. Could spend days in there.

Went back to the hostel and had some beers with the others and then went out to Rapongi with a couple of the guys. Went to superdeluxe which was a great place and then ended up in some super sleazy noisy bars. Probably the equivalent of coppers but with way more prostitutes. Ended up finding a quiet bar and playing darts. Got a bullseye! Went to another club. Memory hazy after that.

Sunday 2nd September 2007

Woke up with a fright hearing my name over the hostel loudspeaker intercom “Garrett. You must check out now!”. Ran down to reception and apologised. I told them it was my birthday (which it was) and they told me I could have some extra time to have a little rest and get myself together. They also game me a chewing gum.

Took a taxi to the Park Hyat Hotel. Birthday treat. Had booked a bargain online a few weeks before. Stunning views from the room. Plush decor. Had lunch in the hotel and went for a swim in the hotel pool. Went out to Harajuku and wandered around. Lots to see. Went to Wired 360 Cafe for a rest and a cup of coffee. Nice vibes. Checked out a mobile phone concept store. The future was there!

Called Renata from the hotel. Ended up costing €70 for the call. Should have waited and skyped for free. Went to the NY Grill for dinner and then cocktails in the bar. Very lost in translation.

Monday 3rd September 2007

Got up and went for a swim in the hotel pool. Got breakfast. Absolute rip off. Took a taxi back to Ace Inn. Took a walk down Omote Sando and picked up a few presents for the family. Had a look in the Vitra shop. Went to see a performance in super deluxe. It was a well respected Japanese actor and his teacher in conversation after a really experimental play. Was enjoyable but I didn’t have a clue what was going on as I didn’t speak any Japanese. Went back to the hostel pretty early as we needed to pack.

Tuesday 4th September 2007

Train to the airport and the long flight home. Happy to be seeing everyone but sad to be leaving. Absolutely loved Japan.

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