saying sayonara to Japan and g’day to Van

Hi! You’ll have to bear with me on this post as I am still recovering and a little fragile. It has been another crazy day and by my new timezone it’s only around 2.30pm and I have been up for 27 hours. I tried to have a little nap but even though I am exhausted and my hands are sore from wheeling around my luggage I just couldnt. I think this is what they call …ya know what I even forget what its called! Hahahahaha. Brain frazzle.
Anyway, you know what I mean.

So this morning I checked out of my hotel early and headed to the local subway.
I passed this shop on the way.

And thats the subway train. I had trouble getting a ticket because the machines were all in japanese. After much looking and thinking I just pressed a button, got a ticket to who knows where, and took it to the counter. The man then said something to me in japanese and I said Kyoto station. He said a few other things in Japanese and then gave me some money back and sent me to the platform.
I got to the main station and then got another ticket for Kyoto back to Tokyo and was sent to another platform.

And more waiting with my luggage!

I look a little tired there already! Imagine how I look now! Hahaha.
And on the train again. Here are some more passing shots – I got a window seat this time!
They seem to have these huge nets in the middle of residential areas.. I have no idea what they are.

If you get the chance to go to Japan in the cherry blossom season you must go! I cant explain to you how beautiful it is to see the pinks against the city and country backdrops. Infact, I’d like to go again and explore some other islands and less populated areas – get to the real centre of the country.

There are a heap more photos in my flickr set.

Once I got to Tokyo station it was time to get on another train to the airport.

Once I was there I got my big suitcase from storage, checked in at the boarding gate and did a little bit more shopping. I was starving and I knew that I wouldnt want to eat much on the plane, so I decided to make my last meal in Japan a special one. I was game again and I tried this dish – ramen noodles with spicy bean sprouts.

And yes, I even used chopsticks (kinda badly haha).

It was actually really nice, and I ate a whole lot of it! Yay for my last meal in Japan being traditional and a hit!

Then after another wander I went to the gate to wait to get on the plane. I took the opportunity to listen to all of the voices around me, picking up bits of stories here and there but mainly focusing on the accents. When you’re in a foreign country you seem to be drawn to familiar faces – and I found myself searching for an Aussie accent or passport. I didnt have much luck! I sat there and thought about how surreal this whole thing still is. There I was, in Japan, about to get on a plane to Vancouver. Wow!!

And before I knew it I was on the plane! I watched a couple of movies (It’s complicated and Mister Magoriums Wonder Imporium), listened to music and tried to rest. Hours later we landed and I walked off the plane and into Vancouver Airport. It’s a really nice airport! They have a fountain and some jellyfish and totem poles and everything! I went through customs and immigration and was granted a 2 year working holiday visa – officially! YAY!
So then I had to find my way to another train and got off at the nearest stop to my hotel. I looked out the window and smiled at the view. I was planning to get a taxi to my hotel from the station but ended up walking about 8 blocks with my 2 big suitcases and 2 bags. No wonder my arms were sore!!! But it was worth it for the views.
Welcome to Vancouver!!

And this is my view from the hotel.

Pretty cool eh?!! Eh! Hehehe.
Now to look through all the brochures I’ve got and my new map and work out my plans for tomorrow!


Late night craziness in Kyoto

Good morning, my friends!! I had a lazy, slightly crazy night last night and before I run off to breakfast I wanted to tell you about it. I was so worn out after my big day of walking that I decided to get room service and watch a bit of Japanese tv.
There wasnt much choice on the menu, and as usual with room service the fees were slightly up. I decided to stick with something I knew after the lunch episode so this is what I ordered!

Now I know it wasnt too Japanese but boy let me tell you how delicious it was! I ate them all. Yep, every one. I even ate most of the ‘spicy avocado salad’ too. Japanese tv is interesting to watch! I couldnt understand what they were saying but there seems to be so many game shows that I didnt know about! I had heard that they were big over here though. The only english language tv station was BBC news – and after an hr of that you get pretty sick of it. So I turned the tv off and decided to go to bed early. After an hr of trying to sleep my mind was racing over today, yesterday and all the things I’d done and had planned to do. I couldnt sleep, so I decided to get up and try on the complimentary ‘dressing gown’ and slippers they provide you with. And yes, then I took some photos. Here is one of me trying to do a karate chop. Yep, I’m a dork. It’s not news to me! haha.

So after some playing around I went back to bed and got a good sleep. I’m in for a crazy day today. After checking out of the hotel I have a few trains to catch and then I’ll get to the airport and pick up my suitcase and then get on the plane to Vancouver. You can expect a big post once I get there! Hopefully everything goes well but I know one thing – and thats that it’ll be an adventure! And what an adventure it has been so far!!

Wandering down the cherry blossom streets

Hello!! WOW what a day! I think I walked atleast 20 kms today – and boy are my feet sore. Where to begin?! I guess at the beginning! Oh by the way anyone interested in seeing more photos than the ones I put on my blog, can go here to my flickr There just isnt enough space to put them all on here!
So this morning I went down to breakfast and chose the ‘bread’ and ‘fruit yoghurt’. This is what came..

I do like my pastries! I think maybe tomorrow I’ll get the buffet as it will be my last day here! So after stocking up on that I grabbed a map from the hotel desk and headed off. I was determined to walk myself and not get a taxi… and let me tell you by the end of the day I was barely hobbling along. But I did it!

There are some really beautiful streets in Kyoto. You’ll be walking along and then there is a stream and lots of pretty trees.

I asked several people to take photos of me today. Here is one of them!

So my intention as you may remember was to go to a shrine and to find the philosophers walk. I can proudly say that I accomplished both of these things and much more!!
I felt pretty safe walking around – infact I have done so the whole time I’ve been in Japan. Even though at times I’ll look around and notice that I’m the only foreigner in the crowd it hasnt phased me too much. I’ve seen some beautiful things.

All this walking and I was only about 10 mins from my hotel. So much to see!!

Ok eventually I found a sign that said Nozonji Shrine, I was on the right track! I wandered down the road a little bit and came across this path that everyone seemed to be following – I thought at first it may have been the philosophers path but I was wrong. It was still pretty though!

So I followed the flow of traffic, jumping on the pebbles and we headed down to a waterway.

When we came out at the top I saw a sign for Kyoto Zoo! That wasnt even in my plans – nowhere in my mind at all but I found myself being drawn in. It cost me 600 yen, which is I think about $10 and it was an adventure!

Seeing Zebra and Elephants and Giraffes against the cherry blossoms was a real unexpected sight. Now, I’m not a big fan of animals in captivity and some of the cages were quite small but it was interesting to see how it differed from Melbourne Zoo.

I got to see a badger! And an Andean Condor – I couldnt believe how HUGE they were!! After some more wandering around I got this photo.

As I was walking along I realised that I have hardly said anything since being here – apart from ‘Arigato Gozaimasu’ but it didnt feel strange. I often find myself wandering along without speaking, lost in another world. Here are a few posters or strange things I have seen on the streets.

And look Uncle John, they grow your grass on the stairs here! hehehe.

My goodness! Thats a big post already and I’m far from done about my day.
Stay tuned for part two 🙂

The rest of the day

Where else do you go that you can make three blog posts about one day?! Gotta love travel and adventures!! Hope you’re still with me, peoples! Ok, so where were we? Thats right, I was at the platform. They have a thing with cleanliness in Japan – as soon as the train pulled up and the passengers departed a team of brightly dressed women boarded to clean. You can see them there in pink – and the guy in the blue with the white helmet was I think the leader? Or maybe he had another job – there was one of him for every cabin. I watched them work through the window and it was like magic. They had a special brush to brush the seats down, a cloth to clean the armrests and then they would clear the bins and just make sure it looked tidy. I appreciated the effort when I went to my (very clean) seat.
Unfortunately I had an aisle seat, so it wasnt as easy to take photos or look out but I did my best. I got the payload shot too that I was hoping to take and forgot about but then I saw it (more on that later).
Here are some random railway window shots.

We passed all types of terrain – at one point I think I saw an ocean or maybe it was a huge lake, mountains, cities, fields, everything. Are you ready for the money shot?

We passed a few mountains and I wondered… but when I saw this peak I knew without a doubt. Hello, Mt Fuji! I am so glad that it was sunny and I got to see the icon!
I just tried to relax and listened to my ipod and the 2 and a half hour train journey seemed to go quite quickly! As soon as we got off the train I headed for the taxi queue… after a few moments of feeling lost looking at all the screens to find the exit! Haha. On the way I was tempted by the bakery shop, so I picked these up for lunch.
Yeah, just like me to stop for cake. hehehe. I had no idea what these were – they cost me about $4 for both I think. This whole money conversion rate isnt too precise with me! Anyway, the triangle one tasted like a cinnamon donut but it had custard in it! YUM! And the round one had a different custard in it and it was sweet too. I thought they were nice. Now – I know I’m not doing too well on the whole ‘different foods’ thing, but hold on until you hear about my dinner!

After checking in to the hotel I decided to go for a wander around Kyoto. I went out into the street, thinking I’d go find some shops! I wanted to go left but as soon as I got there I noticed a huge amount of noise coming from the other way. At first I thought there was a fight or something as a mans voice was booming loudly. I followed the croud, crossed the road and then came across something I certainly didnt expect to see.

This was Kyoto town hall, and the banners said something special was happening today. Boy, was I lucky!!

It seemed to be some kind of dance competition or exhibition! There were many, many different teams dressed very uniquely – almost harajuku!

They were reeeeeally getting into it – so energetic and passionate!! I stayed to watch 3 teams before heading to the shops. I couldnt believe the crowds!! I think I was the only one there who wasnt Asian. Speaking of, several times people have thought I was! I have had to tell a few locals that I dont speak Japanese as they had been expecting me to answer them. I know a few phrases but thats it – all I have been game enough to say is ‘Arigato Gozaimasu’. My brother will love that story, he is always going on about how I look Asian even though there is none in the family.

Did someone say shopping?

I bought a few little souvenirs for friends and myself but Mum will be glad to hear that I didnt even really look at clothes. Maybe tomorrow? Hahaha.
I went back out to grab dinner and after walking past a few shops I ended up down an alleyway, where I was enticed upstairs to a Russian/Japanese restaurant. I ordered cherry juice (for a bit of Japan), Borsch (for a bit of Russia) and Naan bread (lets add some india too!). It was actually really nice!!

Ok, now that you are all caught up on the news I’m going to work out my plans for tomorrow. Shrines, cherry blossoms… we shall see!
Good night!

Konnichiwa from Kyoto

I thought I’d continue with the Japanese influenced titles as – well – I am IN Japan after all! Yes, I made it to Kyoto! Hahaha. And you doubted me? Yeah, I knew you didnt.

Ok so let me continue where I left off this morning, it’s been another eventful day! Hard to believe I have technically only been in Japan for 24 hours!! I have a gazillion photos, but I will post the best on here.
So I went down to breakfast and dived into the buffet. Check out how white the egg shells are! I think they paint them – the Japanese are quite keen on perfection.

Now, perhaps I am not as adventurous as some in trying new foods – but the sausage tasted like bacon and the bacon tasted like… I dont know. The bread was a little sugarey too but hey, the croissants were awesome! Cant complain when its free! This is the view from my seat.

I was just dying to get out an explore, so when my stomach was full out I went into the street.

I wandered up and down, taking photos and taking in the sights. It was around 9am, so not many shops were open and there werent that many people around. I stumbled across this beautiful hanami sight.

I asked a nice man to take this photo for me.

I stayed there, watching the blossoms for a little while and then I headed back to the street. Here came my first connection of the day. A very handsome and well dressed young european looking man walked up to me and complimented me on my outfit. Turns out his name was Janis and he was from Amsterdam. He asked me several questions about my life. He told me he was just headed home from a night out and couldnt believe I had just woken up! Then after a bit of a chat he kissed me on both cheeks and we said goodbye. I had to stop and sit down a bit further to write in my journal about that encounter – thats the type of thing that usually happens to Kristy! Hahaha.

So after I recovered I kept walking and took a few more photos.

I wanted to go to roppongi hills and see the viewing tower but upon getting there I noticed it didnt open until 10am. Bugger! I did see the tokyo tower from the foyer though..

So I headed back to my hotel to check out and organise the train to Kyoto.. and on the way I was approached by another man. This one was a lot older, and he was Japanese. He basically invited me to a cherry blossom appreciation party he said he and his friends were having in the park. It was to be at 1pm though, and I had to get the train so I missed it. I dont know that I would have gone along if I’d been there anyway as you know I am travelling by myself (he didnt know that). So dont worry Mum I was safe!

I saw this cake on the way back to the hotel. Read the sign if you can – it was pretty cute. I think if you click on the photo you can view a bigger version.

After checking out I got another taxi to the station. This one charged me an extra 1000 yen to the one last night, so I didnt give him a tip. They have these shopping buses over here – very kawaii!

The subways and rail systems in Japan are very confusing. I got there and felt lost in the swarm of humanity again. I took this photo to show you what it’s like.

After asking a few people for help I found where I needed to be and got a ticket on the shinkansen bullet train headed to Kyoto. Then I waited on the platform and wrote in my journal!

Phew! I’ll post about the rest of my day tomorrow! Time to go get some dinner.

ohayo gozaimasu from tokyo

Hello! I am safe and yes, I’ve arrived in Tokyo. Ohayo Gozaimasu (that means good morning!). What an adventure it has been so far! Just getting to my hotel was pretty crazy. My first flight in the morning was to Brisbane, where I caught a connecting flight to Tokyo. When I was walking down the aisle to get on the plane I thought to myself ‘I am going to Japan!’ and I was happy. This was the view of the sunrise from the windows of the plane – so pretty!

So, we landed and what I hadnt remembered was that Brisbane airport has two terminals – one for domestic and one for international – so I had to rush around to try and find out how to get there to make my connecting flight. I eventually found a bus and by the time I got through immigration and looked at the flight board it said my plane was boarding in 20 minutes. Yeah, we cut that one a bit fine! While I was waiting I went and got some money changed over into smaller amounts (they were more helpful than melbourne airport) and then took this photo before I boarded.

This was my view for the next 8 hours.

And this was the tiny, tiny screen where I watched three movies – Whip it, The Blind Side and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. The Blind Side was the best of the three, I almost cried several times.
Whilst flying I decided that I’m not a fan of long haul flights – I dont know how anyone can sit on a plane for longer than I did, I couldnt sleep and after a sleepless night before I was worn out.

When we finally arrived at Narita Airport we were ushered into a small train, which then took us to the main airport. We waited at immigration for around an hour, before collecting my bags and going out through customs! Next I had to find the luggage storage to keep my huge suitcase at the airport for the 4 days I’d be travelling. I asked three people for help and even though they didnt speak much english they all did their best to send me in the right direction. The Japanese are so polite and helpful! After more confusion and asking one more person I found myself on the right level and checking my bag in. Hopefully I can find it when I want my bag back! hahaha.

Ok so then I had to find the japanese JTB rail window, where I had been told I could convert the rail pass I had bought before I left. After asking someone I found the window, and the queue that was waiting just like me. Half an hour or so later I was served and promptly handed my new japan rail pass (something I’ll need today for my trip to Kyoto!).

I followed where I had been told to go and ended up on one of many, many platforms. Everything was written in japanese, so I wasnt too sure if I was in the right spot but I thought I was. You may have heard Japan is big on these things.

I just wanted some water and it took me a while to find it – right next to this interestingly named drink.

Pocari Sweat? Who is he and why do people drink that? Hehehe.
I took some headache tablets and tried to will myself to feel better. At this stage I just wanted to curl up in a ball – I needed sleep, I had a headache, I was hungry, my bags were annoying me and I felt a little overwhelmed to say the least.

Then a train pulled up and I checked with the man beside me if this was mine, he said it was – so I hopped on and found my seat. A lovely japanese lady hopped out of the row so I could put my bags in first (I had the window seat) and then in the process of trying not to hit her with my bags getting them infront of my seat I smashed my head on the bar above the window that I hadnt noticed. I couldnt help but laugh.

It was dark outside, so I couldnt see too much of Japan passing by – my eyes were closed half the time so that was ok by me. I kept thinking about how when the train stopped at Tokyo main station I had to find my way onto three more trains and three other lines before I’d get to my hotel. The time was quarter past 8pm and I was thinking of other options. I made a choice to try to get a taxi from the station, as I thought it might be easier and quicker. I didnt care if it’d be expensive I just wanted to get to my hotel. I looked at the huge signs detailing every different line in the station, desperately trying to find an exit. Swarms of people walked around me and I felt lost in an endless sea. Still, I pushed myself and followed the way I thought I was meant to be going. The tunnels went left and right and winded around for ages. After help from another lady I found my way out into the open. I could breathe.

This was my first real look at Tokyo and I liked what I saw. I crossed the road and headed in the direction of a line of what I thought were taxis. I stepped onto the road and the man in the first car opened his window. “I want to go here” I said, and handed him the paper I had so thoughtfully written down with the address of my hotel. He entered a few numbers in his JPS and got out to put my bags in the boot. Then I hopped in and he drove off. He said nothing, as we drove around the streets and I stared in awe at the lights and trees and skyscrapers.

Then he asked me “where you from?” I told him Australia.
“How many time?”
“How many times have I been here? This is my first time.”
“First time? Ok. I tell you places.”

As we drove along he pointed out The Imperial Palace, Ginza provence, Tokyo Tower, The Parliament Building (which looks a little like our shrine of rememberence), The Canadian Embassy (funny that!) and then we arrived at my hoteI. I tell you what – when I saw the sign it was like a beacon of hope to me. I was so happy! I thanked the taxi man, gave him a tip and then checked myself in. I went to bed right away and slept well.
My room is tiny! But it has all that I need! I will be checking out the breakfast buffet soon – on the menu is dried seaweed, fermented soybeans, japanese pickles and grilled fish. I think I’ll stick to eggs, bacon and bread. Then I might go for a wander along the streets before checking out and heading to the train.

I am feeling better after my sleep, and looking forward to some more exploring!

come sit by me

Whenever I see a seat like this in a park it just makes me smile. I like to sit myself down and watch the world go by. You never know who or what is going to walk past you. Sometimes you’ll see a bird, sometimes a young couple out enjoying the sunshine. Nature and life can be beautiful – but now and then you have to look a little bit harder to see it.

This will be my last blog post from Australia! It’s been a long time coming and I am finally on my way. My flight leaves in 22 hours, so today will be spent running around with last minute things (and soaking up the last day with my mum). I’m hoping to blog from Japan (internet connections willing) very soon!! As I’ll be travelling around the country for the next week I might not be able to reply as much as usual, but I will definitely get back to you when I can. I’m taking my laptop away with me so you can expect to be kept up to date with all the usual things along the way.

Thanks so much for your company!
Now, grab a seat and hold on tight! The adventure has only just begun…

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