Tuesday, August 30, 2005

weird quick update...

yesterday i decided to visit sights close by, ie, walking distance from the hostel. i went to the forbiden city, jingshan park and beihai park and that took the entire day. since everything is pretty far appart, so i must have walked around 15km easily! by the end i was dragging myself down the street and was really tired of being surrounded by people. see, tokyo has a population of 30 million and it was really easy to handle. but beijing had 10 million more people, and it makes a *huge* difference with everything.

i got to the hostel, thank god, and sat down, and didn't want to move. people joined my table and in the end we were having this lively conversation about everything. it was great! then i had to go eat, and went to this cute and old restaurant down the street from here. eating alone in china is really a shame, because the portions are so big.. anyhow, i ordered the chili beef and it came covered with chili peppers, like i've never seen. the waiter decided to watch me eat because he didn't think that i could eat it! i sure showed him. i ended up not eating alone though: 2 cockroaches (small ones) joined my table. it was ok when they were far away but one started to head for my plate, which wasn't too cool. so i started gesturing at it but it wuodn't move. i started hitting it with a napkin and it took many times before it slowly walked away. i guess roaches here just don't care about people.

then it was back to the hostel, where the conversation was still going on strong. we decided to go out to a club, so we grabbed a cab and ended up at a fancy club that was playing bad techno. everything was expensive but it was an experience. back at the hostel at 3am, we decided to go eat and found a dumpling place down the street that was willing to cook, so we sat outside in the street and ate yummy food until 4am.

today i'm going to the temple of heaven ("walking distance") with a nice guy from france i met yesterday. should be great! and then, it's one more duck dinner. because, why not!

Monday, August 29, 2005

hello beijing!

as soon as we landed in beijing i knew where i was. there's no mistaking that china is china, so unlike japan, there is no way that i can tell myself that this could be anywhere else in the world.

beijing is the most poluted city i have ever seen. there is a huge brown cloud that hangs over the city and blocks the sights. the streets are dirty (but not as bad as i thought it would be) and there's a smell to beijing... the dust and polution makes you very thirsty.

and only beijing would welcome visitors at the airport with wonderful western toilets, toilet paper-less.

the youth hostel was hard to find, and finding a taxi was even harder, but i'm really happy about my choice. the place is beautiful and wonderful and there's tons of great people here. i think that i couldn't have made a better choice. and i'm sharing my room with only 3 other people! wonderful.

tonight i went to tiamen square, watched the lowering of the flag and the place light up. i think that i really prefer beijing at night, it just seems more beautiful and people in the streets here are doing their things, like playing cards in the middle of the street.

beijing is not as bad as i imagined. but i am certain that getting around will be difficult. and people do really target you and try to sell you stuff. hello! hello! i just stoped looking at them. it seems to be working.

anyhow, i am very tired and will now go to bed. i do not have any plans for tomorrow so we will see what happens!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

one more from japan!

what better way to kill some time than to use the free yahoo interne cafe at narita aiport. nothing is free in japan, so this is weird! i am overlooking the runway as well, so this is quite lovely.

this has to be the most confusing airport ever. i have never seen so many counters for one airline and there are no directions as to where to go. you can't just pick one! it has to be the right one.

at the check-in counter i met this really nice girl from quebec and she told me that she felt really safe in china, so that was reassuring. she lives in korea, too bad she wasn't going to beijing! ha!

so, i'll sign off from japan officially. my flight has started boarding.

i will miss: the trains, the cleanliness, the easiness, the friendly people.
i will not miss: no garbage cans.



ha! there was an announcement just now for a china airline flight 666... i'm glad that's not my flight!

sayonara japan!

today was my last day in tokyo. tonight is my last night here. it's 1am and i have to wake up at 4am, to catch the 5 am train, to catch the 6am train, top get to the airport.

today was spent at shinjuku (time #3) at a not so good festival. most of the time there was spent sitting in togogi park and then walking around shopping, i swear, coming back to tokyo, i would do things differently. i would show up with a half empty suitcase and shop till drop.

tonight was spent cooking food (insane amounts) and hanging out with everyone. it was a great evening. it was a wonderful evening.

i am pretty sad leaving japan. i'm really nervous going to china.

my flight is at 10 in the morning. the youth hostel where i will be staying has internet, so i will do my best to send a"i got here in one piece" email.

i'm so tired. i need to go to bed. but japan, i will miss you. when i enter a third world country tomorrow, i will really miss you. deeply.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

awa odori good times!

tonight i went down to koenji station to check out the awa odori (dance of the fool) festival. i found out about this festival by browsing through pictures of my contacts in flickr and i really liked what i saw, so i decided to go. this is the 49th awa odori celebration in tokyo, which makes you wonder why it would get excluded from the guidebooks.

i arrived at koenji station about 5 minutes before the start of the festival - clearly a bad idea. there were tons of people and security would not let us get off the train platform for well over 10 minutes. then, down some steps, pushing, pulling, waiting some more. insanity! but i managed to make it out of there and made my way to the street to check out the dancing. the crowd was pretty big so it was hard to really see much and take pictures... good thing i am tall with long arms!

after a while i decided to start walking to find a better spot. instead i found that koenji is a wonderful area, with cute shops, cafe and the likes. as well, there were some street food vendors and so i decided to indulge a little. i also had a couple beers, to do like the locals. it's great that in japan beer gardens do not exists. the entire place is a beer garden basically...!

my dinner, part 1
bbq squid! this was about the size of my hand. very yummy, but hard to eat! and only Y100!

my dinner, part 2
yakitori! (chicken on a stick, basically.) Y230, and yummy!

i walked around all night, checking out different spots, listening to the music and chanting, as well as obviously watching the dancing and the japanese people around me. usually japanese people are pretty reserve but it seems that all inhibitions went out of the window tonight. people were dancing, screaming, signing and all together really getting into it. when new dance groups would walk by, everyone would fan them and when drummers came by, all the ladies would flirt.

the entire evening was wonderful. i had great food and saw a great facet of tokyo and japanese life in general. i think that tonight was a perfect conclusion to my month-long trip here in japan, and will leave me with wonderful memories. i am really happy that stuck to my guns and checked out this festival. truly, deeply.

japan, i will miss you.

electric avenue

what would a trip to japan be if one didn't visit one of the famous electric avenues of tokyo. so, yesterday i decided that i would go down to hakihabara and check it out. it is supposed to be the biggest one in japan, so this had to be good!

it was weird though, because getting out of the station i noticed right away just how old the place looked. i mean, i have been to old places in japan. but this was tall buildings that were starting to show their age. even all of the stores had this old feel to it, it was bizarre. i had not experienced that before in japan.

when i thought of an electric town, i thought of computers, cameras and the likes. but in reality it means that, plus light bulbs, computer chips, wires, music, much more, and lots of japanese porn and anime. most stores are spread out over all of the floors of the building, while others form these corridors that go from one street to the other through buildings at street level. it can make shopping a little hard because there is just so much of everything, in all directions. and everyone offers different prices, so you have to shop around.

overall i was not too impressed with hakihabara, although i did enjoy the few design stores and household store they had. the river was also a nice contrast with the crazyness of the area.

maybe this place would have been better had i been shopping for something, because things are way cheaper here in japan. for example, the canon camera i was interested in was $800 in canada, but would cost $550 here. it's a big difference! so deals are to be had.

Friday, August 26, 2005

merci ben!

(et oui, j'ai finalement reussi a sauver la photo et la mettre sur mon site! par contre, les accents sur un mac, ca, je n'y suis pas encore arrivee...)

in nagano i met this really nice guy from paris named benjamin. the day i was heading out to kyoto, he took a picture of me with my big bags and everything. and was kind enough to email it to me. how nice! stuff like that makes me happy :)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

rain, rain, go away!

it has rained all day, nearly non-stop. it's the kind of rain which renders an umbrella completely useless and guarantees if you step outside the house that you will get drenched. it's the kind of weather where if you don't need to go out, don't.

it seems that over the past two weeks it has started to rain a lot in tokyo. it is the rain season and typhoon season, so it is understandable. but it's bad for a tourist like myself! yesterday there were rumors of a typhoon coming in today and so all day I believed that what was falling down was due to a typhoon. it's heavy rain, the kind the flooded the backyard here and would cause landslides and take out bridges back in vancouver.

but i was wrong. it was just heavy rain. but right now, that's a typhoon. it is raining like i have never seen it fall. the wind is not so bad here which is really lucky, because it's falling down like metal sheets. i have even never heard anything fall so hard. it's pretty neat to experience! completely intense.

i really hope though that it dies down tomorrow, so that i can get out of the house!

japanese toilets

aside from plain old western toilets, japan has three different kinds of toilets that i've had the pleasure to experience. these will be the best toilets of my trip, most probably until singapore. most toilets here have toilet paper, even the ones in train stations. but it is worth to carry some with you just in case. lastly, you can also flush toilet paper in all toilets here, which is wonderful. toilet luxuries like this will most probably end monday.

1. japanese style.

this is a really nice one, but i have yet to see a dirty one or a very bad one (aside from the ones on mt-fuji). these are the style available mostly everywhere, except in really fancy or touristic places. basically you squat facing the front (flush handle side) and it's usually pretty easy to not make a mess. it's great because you don't have to touch anything, so this makes these toilets generally more hygienic.

2. western toilet with sink

this is the type of toilet you usually find in people's home and in affordable hotels. they're really practical! when you flush, water comes out of the facet automatically so that you can wash your hands. Unfortunately, most places have no soap there and nothing to dry your hands. as well, the water will run as long as it takes for the toilet to fill, so it does end up wasting a lot of water.

3. japanese take on the western/european toilet

the toilet that assaulted me!

these toilets, and fancier versions, can be found in high-end hotels and some restaurants. usually the toilet room will come equipped with soap to dessinfect the seat and a hand dryer. the toilet is plugged to the wall and has a special arm on the right-hand side (fancier ones can even come with a remote). you can heat your seat (very lovely) and play music to drown the sound. once you are done your business, you can choose different jets to get cleaned (they aim at number 2, all of them, it seems) and add "deodorant" if you wish. some also have a drier built in. surprisingly, using the jet isn't messy at all. it's just very surprising when you don't expect the strength or the aim!

gourmet intruder

during the night, about an hour after falling asleep, i was woken up by weird sounds. walls being so thin and windows being open, i wasn't really sure if the sounds were coming from inside or outside. it sounded like something was constantly going through a plastic bag, which i assumed was the plastic bag outside. but after a while i realized that the sound was coming from inside the house. there was something inside the house. i started to panic, because i didn't know if it was someone, or something, that was inside the house, in the kitchen, not even 5 feet from me. from my bed.

i opened the light but couldn't see anything. clearly it was an animal, but i couldn't see what it was or where it was. and i didn't know if it was a dangerous one or not. my nerves were all shot and i was panicking, out of confusion, lack of sleep and plainly being scared. i made some sounds and threw chopstick that were on hand (yeah, good way to arm oneself!) and heard it go away. i looked around and realized that whatever it was, had come inside, jumped on the table, then the shelves and made its way to the food. more specifically, the food i bought yesterday. it had grabbed my bread and thrown it on the floor, along with other things in the way. the bread had been dragged to the patio door but the thing couldn't get it to go through the opening, so it was stuck between inside and outside. with a big hole in the bag. and my bread munched on.

i moved everything back to the table and locked the door. my first reaction was to wonder who the hell left the door opened. but then i clearly remembered the door being closed when i went to bed... i wouldn't have left it open to avoid being eaten by mosquitoes (i had 39 new bites on my ankles yesterday, i don't need more). so whatever came in, opened the door to get in. and that, my friend, is really freaky.

after i closed the doors and windows, i could still hear it trying to get back in, at the door. i just sat there crying, because emotions were way too high.

the next morning, i told kate about what happened. the only logical thing that i could think of was that it was a cat, since it jumped on the shelves and everything. but kate suggested the raccoon-dog, a mythical animal which i had heard off but kinda dismissed as being a mythical being. see, most temples have statues of raccoon-dogs, as a sort of protector of the temple. i never really thought that they were real...


but i checked out the animal (http://www.answers.com/topic/raccoon-dog-1?method=8) and it really does look like a dog. it doesn't seem like that thing could open a door, fit through a small opening, grab some food and head back out. so, i have no idea what ate my bread.

the bag was ripped, as if with a knife. and most of the bread was munched on. i don't care what ate it. i just don't want it in the house.

something ate my bread!

when mike woke up, he started looking for his bread that kate brought back for him from ontario. but it was nowhere to be found. so he ate the slices of my bread that were untouched. but we realized that it also made out with his bread. what a weird animal. only eats bread.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

not fun!

tonight i got to shower with a cockroach.

i stepped into the shower and it freaked out, so i saw it right away. worth and i tried to hit it with water and have it go down the drain but no such luck. these buggers are fast! so it just stayed there, somewhere. i showered quickly, constantly looking to see if it would come out but it didn't.

i wanted to shave my legs tonight but i guess that i'll do that tomorrow morning! ha!

it's too bad because we were on a good run. i hadn't seen any big ones for about a week i think...

lovely kamakura

mike and i spent the day in kamakura, which is located under an hour away from tokyo. it is also conveniently accessible from a regular city JR train that leaves from ikebukuro, the big station that i go through everyday to get to the house here.

we wanted to leave early but made it out slightly later than expected, due to us bein g tired. it really seems that i can't catch up with my constant going to bed late. and so i think that tomorrow will be a day spent quietly here at the house.

we started our tour of temples with the kencho-ji temple, which was quite nice, free but a little simple. we did grab some great shots though of lotus buds and seed buds. right behind the temple we found a road that went deeper into the forest, to what looked like could be another temple so we decided to go for it. we saw an amazing bamboo forest with the biggest bamboo stalks that i had ever seen. we then started walking up the stairs towards the temple, which turned out lead to the top of the mountain. was passed multi-coloured salamander, gigantic spiders, wasps and butterflies. the temple at the top of the stairs, hansobo, was very plain with nothing much to see except for cool statues of warriors with eagle beaks and wings. more stairs lead to the real summit, and the view up there was fantastic! you could see the entire city all the way to the ocean. spectacular. and then i realized... we're walking all the way to the ocean! that's far away!

next was the zen jochi-ji temple (Y150). i still do not understand what made it a "zen" temple but it was quite different than other temples that i've visited, with a great garden path around the temple, two cemetery, bamboo groves and caves and holes carved in the rock walls containing different images of buddha. it was really refreshing to see something so different and the caves and enclaves were really neat to look at. there seemed to be a path right through one of the rock walls but we couldn't see where it was going or what was in there.

from jochi-ji, we hopped on the daibutsu hiking course, a 2.2 km long trail that links both temples through the woods over the mountains. it was a good hike, and i really enjoyed being one of the only person there. just like at hansobo, it was great to feel like i was somewhere that only a handful of tourist visits.

getting off the trail and finding the daibutsu (big buddha) was not so easy. signs were pretty vague and so we logically decided to follow a bus that had "daibutsu" written on it. obviously, we assumed that this was the bus' destination but apparently busses in kamakura work opposite to common logic and the name was of where the bus was coming from. we ended up well over 1km away from the temple before asking around and realizing we had to go back to where we came from.

the daibutsu (Y200) was really great. all out of copper, it's impressive and beautiful! it's so big, it is really imposing. the statue has survived typhoons, earthquakes, wars and fires without being damaged. it has to be one of the very few things in japan that is the original. one cool thing is that the entire statue is empty inside, so for an extra Y20 you can climb inside the buddha. we couldn't do it because that option closes at 4:30pm and we arrived there about 15 minutes too late. i gather that it must be pretty dark in there and boring, but how cool would it be to be able to say "i've been inside buddha"??? i took tons of pictures from bunch of different angles. of course!

after the daibutsu we headed out to yuigahama beach. apparently there's a lot of surfing here in kamakura, so i was really hopping to find a local surf shop and buy a t-shirt for david. but of course, this being japan, surf shops are not really local. they sell american brands, not cool stuff with their name on it. they had shirts with a local dry suit brand, but that was it. and at one place, shirts were all about Y7000. how crazy is that! i would never pay that much for a t-shirt!

anyhow, the beach was dirty and unappealing. it wasn't a beautiful beach as we are used to back in canada or the states. and beach culture is different here, there are hardly any shops and restaurants along the beach, so you don't get this atmosphere you get elsewhere. but the sea was packed with surfers everywhere, all waiting for a wave. the waves were of good size but they kept breaking wrong so nobody was really able to catch a wave and ride it long. we managed to find a place that was selling beer so we watched people surf while drinking a surprisingly good-sized beer for japan [in japan, drinks are usually small and glasses and cups are never full].

then it was back to here, to run away from horribly menacing grey skies over the sea.


the highlight of my day was the blueberry ice cream we ate right after the first temple. yummy! i don't think i've ever had blueberry ice cream before.


at kencho-ji i ran into a lady from calagary who has been here for 2 months on missionary work. she seemed really nice and agreed with me that temples in japan are simply incredible. but then, she said something really odd. she said that the temples here are empty ~ they need to be filled with god's love. how ethno and religious centric!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


i have uploaded more pictures on flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/97551727@N00/sets/693440/) and so please do check it out. the pictures of the mt-fuji hike are now up there, and i am currently working on the post - which will include pictures.

i really wanted to be able to include pictures in my posts but it seems that i am always behind in my uploading of pictures and it's simply not feasible that i would upload and post on a same day. it's too bad though because blogs with pictures are always more fun to look at than the ones without! ha!

by the way, in flickr you can click to view the japan set as a slideshow, which is really cool! i guess it's only a good idea if you have a good internet connection but if you do, do try it. you will get to see the pictures individually on a black background. much better! it does make the pictures look a lot more professional too...
kate came home today, which is great! she left for ontario just a couple days before i arrived in japan so i had just missed her. it was good to finally see her, especially since it had been over two years since i had last seen her.

she brought back a lot of things with her - bread, chocolate, sauces, cheese, magazines, beauty products, etc. everyone here was so excited! it was really cute watching them go through everything. like kids at christmas!


today i finally managed to get out of town. after about an hour of struggling to get out of bed. i was/am so tired! it's just crazy.

by 9am i was out of the house, on my way to catch the train bound to nikko from asakusa train station. i got to take the "metro" (one of the major transit companies) for the first time and it felt a lot more "local" than the fancy JR yamanote line. it was good though, to see the underground system.

on the train i slept the entire way. when i would wake up i'd look outside and it was beautiful. but i was too tired to keep my eyes open. i finally got to nikko at around 1:30pm - the trip took longer than i first expected. we arrived in nikko and it was raining pretty hard. but heck, what can you do! i grabbed by umbrella and started walking.

the walk to the main temple center is a ok walk down a store-lined street, a little old but has some cute stuff. and the city is surrounded by mountains, so it is cooler and the view is beautiful. it takes about 20 minutes to get to the first sight, the red shin-kyo bridge. legend has it that two snakes formed a bridge there to help a buddhist priest cross the river. then it's off to the world heritage temples and shrines, all under one ticket at Y1000, which is pretty good.

the first temple, the first stop, the rinno-ji temple, is not a show stopper. although, the 3 great buddha on display inside are very impressive. and it's wonderful to see them from underneath their lotus pedestal, up-close and personal. but the tosho-gue complex is incredible. breathtaking. simply amazing. it is the most beautiful, ornate temple i have seen so far. ever. it is really something else! tons of buildings, crazy carvings, gold and everything. it is excessive but in a good way. lastly, futurasan-jinja temple was a disappointment. i did not pay for the extra section of the temple, but after tosho-gue it looked extremely plain. and by then, rain was falling really hard!

i was truly happy to have decided to come all the way down there to see the temples, ie, tosho-gue and everything. but the rain was a little disappointing, even if it did stop for a little while. the rain made everything very dark and i am pretty sure that most of my pictures will not be a good representation of the temple. with the flash everything turns out funny, without (and without a tripod) it turns out blurry. there's no winning there! but hopefully i will have a couple good shots.

i headed back to the station at 4-ish and was on a train bound for tokyo by 5. and again, i slept the entire way! i think that i was a lot more tired than i felt and knew.

tomorrow i am off with mike to kamakura - a city by the sea much closer than nikko - to check out the famous big buddha. it should be a lot of fun!

Monday, August 22, 2005

i know that i said that i was going to update the ol' blog 2 days ago. i said that i would post about hiking fuji and post pictures of the hike... obviously, like with anything in life, things get in the way and doing what you said you would gets harder.

yesterday i planned on sticking around the house and relaxing and recuperating from my very long "day". i wanted to relax and post pictures and more updates. but the two laptops went off with their respective owners and so i was left internet-less. so mike and i made killer caribbean flavoured shrimps and i went off to harajuku to check out the famous "harajuku girls" fashion. see, sunday is the day with the biggest turnout of girls who gather on the harajuku bridge, dressed up in crazy outfits, ranging from shepherds to goth and drag. it's really wild! everyone goes there either to see or to be seen, and the girls love being taken in picture. i spent about an hour walking around, asking if i could take their pictures with bad japanese and killer sign language. i think i got some great shots - and would have uploaded pictures had the computer which allows me to do this returned home.

anyhow, i also took the opportunity to drop by an atm while down there. there are many things that are surprisingly hard to find in japan, and an international atm is one of them. there are only city banks and post offices that will let you do those transactions. the first one are far in between, the second are not open outside of business hours. other hard to find items here are:
- t-shirts with anything written in japanese
- souvenirs that are not something that can be purchased back home, kimono, fans or ceramics
- postcards
- garbage cans

then i headed back towards my "home station", ozumi-gakuen to meet up with mike and head out to an engagement party he kindly invited me to. i was thus introduced to the full on "nova culture" - nova is the biggest english school in japan and this was a gathering of teachers. it was great to meet people and it was funny because everyone would ask me if i was new here, where i was teaching and the likes. the party was in a park, and it was a great evening. i got to do like everyone else here and drink in public, ie, walk into stores while drinking a beer and walking down the street. and i met a really nice girl from scotland - katy - who is really interested in meeting me in a month to travel with me in southeast asia. it would be great!

the party let out at around 2 am, which means that we had missed the train (a long time ago). in japan, if you miss your train, then you are not going home. there are no night busses and taxis are ridiculously expensive. a ride back home can easily run into the five didgits in yen (hundreds in canadian). so we crashed at mike and worth's friend's house. japan is a culture of futons, and for a good reason! it was really great. i got to play asshole (tout d'cul, pour les francophones!) for the first time since elementary school. it was priceless.

today i had planned to go to nikko but i woke up late from the late night and drinking and so decided that it would be better to simply do it tomorrow. as well, a typhoon was rumored to be moving in tokyo today. aside from high winds, this seems very unlikely as the skies are clear as ever.

tomorrow will mark my last week left in tokyo ~ japan as i will be flying out to china on monday the 29th. i still have many things left to do here so it will be a busy week! but very high on my priority list is uploading as many pictures as possible as to not carry over that task into china.

it will be weird to leave japan. i have grown to be very fund of the place. i think that it's a really thing to do here...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

hiking mt-fuji: a crazy idea

so i've returned home today after hiking mt fuji, tokyo's highest mountain and volcano. i am really tired as i haven't slept in over 34 hours as the hike was done during the night.

hiking fuji was a crazy idea and i'm not too sure how i feel about it right now. i will post a full description of the ordeal/adventure most likely tomorrow, along with some pictures.

but, i simply wanted to say that i made it safe and am back, with a great walking stick and a good sunburn!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

tokyo sea life museum - bah

so today i left the house and headed out for tokyo bay. it was wonderful to get to see tokyo beside the water. it was also my first time here that i saw the ocean with no islands blocking the view. just water! it's really beautiful down there.

my plan today was to go to tokyo's aquarium, sea life. i was expecting a lot more from the museum and was left disappointed. the aquarium is not very big, and has bunch of little tanks. the big tanks contain gigantic tuna fishes. and they have penguins. nothing else! i was done in an hour, so it was an expensive hour. i tried taking pictures of the fishes but nothing would really come out good because well, they keep moving! and without a flash, and not being able to figure out how to change the ISO on the camera... no luck.

but i did take heaps of pictures on the ferry/cruise back to tokyo mainland. it was really great to be on a boat for an hour and see the city from a different angle. and the weather was perfect on the boat with the wind! that was the highlight of my day for sure. money well spent.

tonight i thought that i'd stop by ikebukuro on the way home and eat dinner there. it's one of many electric avenues/neighborhood/train station here in tokyo, and it's where i have to transfer to catch the train that goes to justin's. well, down there it's all tall building and all the restaurants are on the 2nd floor and up, so i didn't feel like trying to figure out where to eat and decided to stop by the grocery store and cook myself dinner. i made some dish out of wilted spinach, red and yellow peppers, tomatoes and sushi-grade unknown fish. it was really good! get some vitamins in!

i'm pretty happy today because mike, justin's roommate, decided that he'd hike fiji with me tomorrow. it's great that i won't be doing the hike alone, and figuring transportation and etc alone. it should be lots of fun, and of course, i'll probably end up taking too many pictures!

all you can eat buffet

yesterday i got eaten alive by mosquitoes - again. except this time, they ignored my ankles and decided to hit my back instead. i now have 10 bites on my back. they itch like crazy! and it's very lovely of course!

it's insane how much mosquitoes there are here. and deet does nothing to them, so i'm really happy they they don't carry any illnesses. it seems that everyone gets bitten as well. you see women's ankles and quite often they're covered in old or new bites. some people even scratch themselves enough to leave nail marks and bleed... not a pretty sight.


japan is really weird on the bug side of things.

there are no flies. not even close to garbage. i may have seen 2 since i've been here.

but everything else, there are a lot of. mosquitoes, dragonfly, cicadas, wasps, cockroaches, you name it.

and everything that exists here is gigantic. enormous. scary. butterflies that look like small birds. wasps that are 2 inches in length. weird hairry things with wings that stings. it makes me feel like i'm in one of those bad horror movies, like attack of the killer bee or something. reminds me of those movies i saw as a kid where the bugs were bigger than the humans...

and everywhere you go. cicadas sing. but not like back home or in quebec. here they sing louder, longer. it gets irritating. it kinds ruins the tranquility of a park or of the country. and their tune is different. it's really hard to describe because it's hard to comprehend. but with so many of them, the sound is intense. and for some reason, they're pretty dumb as well and will fly right at your head. perhaps that's why i've seen hundreds of them dead on the ground...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

pictures, always more pictures!

hiroshima's a-dome with river and modern city.

i have posted more pictures today, of nagano, nara, osaka and hiroshima. somehow, i skipped kyoto and miyajima. but it's all that i have left to do. uploading pictures takes a lot of time and isn't a whole lot of fun, although i really like knowing that my pictures are up there and that you can see them. burning my pictures was not such and easy task as well today, as it included burning stuff on the computer to free up space to download pictures and so forth... but on the upside i have 2 empty memory cards and i am ready to take on japan again.

i am planning on doing bayside tokyo tomorrow (well, i guess technically, i mean today). i am not sure if i want to do the entire bayside/man-made island or do it in two parts and keep my energy for mighty fiji-san (that's how they respectfully refer to the volcano here). i guess that it will all depend on how i feel tomorrow morning. but regardless, i will be visiting the aquarium. i didn't plan on doing museums or the likes but the aquarium looks very nice, so i think that it might be worth the splurge. as well, to get back to the mainland i will take the ferry instead of the train. it will set me back Y800 but will give me a 55 minute cruise of the harbour, which is pretty neat!

by the way i slept very well last night, i was able to fall asleep very quickly and was not disturbed by any crawlers. although while i was updating my pictures, a baby one crawled up on the pillow behind my back. the sneaky little bugger is now dead. but he didn't phase me! ha!

nara: a shinto shrine attendant at work, assembling lanterns for that night's lantern festival.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

scarry pants

there's a lot of things that i am afraid of or that i deeply dislike.

- heights
- being alone
- going to the dentist
- getting my hair cut
- cockroaches
- anything that bites/stings in japan - because they're huge

tonight i'm set up on justin's floor, on a japanese futon bed - they're quite comfy and very nice!. but what i'm not liking about this is the idea that i am now lying down at the same level as the cockroaches. last night i slept in mike's bed since he was not at home, and a saw a cockroach on his bedside table, right besside my head. but i told myself, "you're off the floor, it has no reason to go to the bed, and it won't jump onto the bed". and it still took me hours to fall asleep. but now, there's no reasoning this one out. to cockroach i saw tonight could very well decide to walk over to my bed. i've been told they do explore people. i'm not liking this at all!!!

i guess that i need to learn to ignore them. i will be seeing a lot of them over the next 6 months. and i have been good. i walk around barefoot. i still go places regardless, walk around and ignore them. i'm much better than i was when i was living wioth them in montreal. but the idea that one could crawl on me, regardless of how unprobable the possibility... creeps me out.


first, some people might be worried about the earthquake, since it was a big one. apparently, it ranked a good 7.1 on the scale, but that was at the epicenter which was not close to where i am here in tokyo. what i felt may have been more of a 4-ish, but nothing close to the strenght and destruction of a 7! so i'm all good, in one piece. nothing even fell off the walls in the house.

second, today i did nothing really, and it was nice. it was good to relax and get back some energy to get going again. i got to chat online with david for many hours and it was really nice to talk to him... and at 9 i met up with justin at a bar around the station and we had drinks and food. it was really nice to get to spend time with him, and to sample some japanese food.

earlier on i tried finding and internet cafe to burn my pictures from my memory cards onto a cd but there was nothing around. so i went to the photo shop here and they can only put 200 pictures on one cd, so i would have needed well over 8 cd to cover everything i have. at Y525 wach, that's really not worth it! the thing is that i have no more room on both of my cards and i would really hate to do a daytrip around tokyo without my camera. it woud be a shame!!! so i really need to get that sorted out asap. also, i've just learned that they've shortened the hiking season on mt fiji so i will have to do the hike either friday or this weekend if i want to have access to facilities and obtain my branded walking stick.

see, japan is obsessed with stamps and seals that show where you have been. so train stations, temples and museum might have a stamp section, so that you can stamp your book as a proof that you've been here. this has been great for my journal - it is filled with numerous stamps for different things around japan. it's a great souvenir! while usually free though, for mt fiji, it is not. you have to buy a plain wooden stick (Y1000) and at each station you walk up to, pay about Y300 to Y500 for a brand onto your stick. so with many stations along the way, it adds up. and with having to ship the stick home, it will really add up! but it will be such a good souvenir.

but i don't know if i have enough energy to hike fiji right now... it's a really steep hike, and it takes 6 hours just to reach the top. the volcano, japan's tallest, is 3776 m tall, which means that you can easily get altitude sickness. then, at the top, it's really cold! and then you have to walk back down... people here like to do the hike at night, so that they can watch the sun rise. pretty hardcore. but it's one of those things you have to do in japan!!!

so anyhow, i guess that tomorrow will be spent trying to burn pictures onto a cd rather than actually going somewhere or doing something... then i'll be all set for great places like fiji, nikko, kamakura and yokohama!

Monday, August 15, 2005

oh boy!

i was chatting with victor on msn when the whole house started to shake. my first reaction was that it was a train going by, since where i'm staying is right besside the train tract. but no train noises. this was an earthquake! and what an earthquake! the whole place was shaking, but it was all unlike i had imagined that it would be in my mind. it lasted well over a minute, and it left like being on a boat in the waves... it wasn't a left to right shaking kinda thing, it was really an all over feeling. i got up and stood under a doorway, in case it got worst, laughing. it was pretty cool i think! my first real earthquake. but thank god that it wasn't a big one! that would have been scary.


it rained really hard this morning again, and at around 10 it looked like it was going to clear out and be a nice day. but now, it's noon and the sky is very dark. it's so dark outside that it feels like it's around sunset, not middle of the day!

regardless on the fact that i have an umbrella, sightseeing in the rain isn't a lot of fun. although the sights would be quiet! but i'd still prefer to stay dry, so i have to try to find places to go now where everything will be inside! i guess that this is perfect museum weather! that's probably where i'll head out today.

it's gonna pour.

and hopefully the bad weather will pass and i'll be able to go see some sights outside of tokyo soon!

back in tokyo

being back in tokyo is pretty weird. this whole not moving thing now gets getting used to, no matter how much i was looking forward to it. there's still a few daytrips that i'd like to take so that will keep me busy... but not as busy, that's for sure.

today i did lundry, which was most needed because my clothes were really stinky. it's insane how much you sweat here, especially with a daypack on. i also uploaded tons of pictures, and that took up a good part of the afternoon. i wanted to go to the fireworks tonight but during the afternoon it started to rain, and i got this feeling that it would keep raining and that they would be cancelled.

so i went to seibu at ikebukuro station. it's the second biggest department store in japan - the biggest one is located accross the street from it but i figured that starting with the smaller one was a good idea. and it was, because it's the biggest department store i have ever seen. the floors are super long, and there are 12 floors (and some basements, but i didn't look into that). it took me about 4 hours to do the entire place, and i wasn't shopping. people walk around there with maps to help them get where they need to go... the place is that huge. and there's so many boutiques, all of the top designers and lesser known ones. there's about 5 floors dedicated only to women's clothing. that's insane! and christine, i have to say that this store would be your shoe heaven - they really have everything and everything is so cool and trendy! but in a very high fashion / japanese kinda way. and i saw the most beautiful kimonos ever, but they were all about Y35000, which is a lot of money. i even saw a small clay pot for sale for the small price of Y3000000 (yes, million).

but really they have everything there, and it was great to get to explore every floor. i really enjoyed everything haviong to do with home decor, small appliances, the book store and the music store. it would be really easy to spend a full day here. i also had dinner at seibu, it was more expensive than what i've been paying but i felt like eating something good! it was actually more expensive than my wonderful tempura dinner in kyoto, but what the hell!

while getting back home on the train it was pooring real hard, and there was tunder and lightning that seemed to surround the entire train. it was really intense! but also really cool. i was dry and i had an umbrella, so this was a good storm to be in!

then tonight we watched pirated movies: starsky & hutch and mr & mrs smith. and now, the exorcist in on... i'll be going to bed real soon though, it's pretty late... but there's these 2 cockroaches in the house, and i can't see them anymore. in a way, that's worst because you don't know where they'll popup from. and you can't wear shows in the house, not on the tanamis... ah! tropical countries, old houses! so fun. i much prefer the lizard we had last night!


what a sight to see. you get off the tram and you walk into the peace parc, and the first thing you see is the a-dome, the last building left standing after the atomic bomb was dropped a few meters away from that building. where i was standing was just a few meters from the target of the bomb. simply insane.

looking at the building, reading stories, looking at monuments, you really gets chills that go right through your entire body. the events were horrible. the effects were catastrophic. it's hard to wrap your head around it and comprehend what really took place. you see the building. you see the river. you see the bridge. you see pictures of how the city was before. how it was after. nothing was left standing, practically. and then you see today, a beautiful big city, a beautiful green parc and fishes living ion the water...

you complain about the heat, and then you learn that when the bomb was dropped, the explosion caused the temperature to rise to 40'000 degrees, 1 thousand times worst than the current weather. how can you possibly comprehend that kind of heat? you see melted roof tiles, but that kind of heat, that's numbers that you can't register.

in the museum there are really detailed descriptions of what happened, and why. although there are many theories about that, and no one really knows for sure... but what's for sure is that they keep showing you images of before and after. they really try to convince you that a and h bombs are evil and should be eliminated, which of course is true. but at points it really feels like they repeat themselves and like they're trying too hard... wax sculptures of people with burned clothing and melting skin. pictures of the burns on people's skin. a finger of a kid that fell off, and his mother kept to show his dad... how he was so thirsty that he sucked the puss coming from his fingers. that kind of thing.

the kind of thing that you don't really want to see, read, hear. i guess that you need to see those things to really understand what happened. but it's just too much. especially with the crowd around you.... and what a crowd it is. you can't even move there's so many people.

overall though seeing this place was good. it's a moment in history that should never happen again and being there really makes you re-evaluate a lot of things.

like just how lucky we are.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

overall, a great day!

today started early with tons of japanese girls waking up early and not
being quiet at all. after all, i did have people in my room last night, 2
japanese girls that were also not quiet and didn't seem to want to go to
bed. ah!

so i got on the island at around 9 am and started the day with breakfast on
the beach (low tide = beach aroun the center of town) but it got cut off by
a deer who jumped over and was trying to grab my food and eat my clothing. i
swear, those damn things are pests and people should really stop feeding
them. they run after you and try to eat your clothing. they rip your paper
bags right out of your hands. they go through garbage, eat rope, anything
really that they can get their teeth on. and they make the whole damn place
smell like a zoo. i'm tired of deers, deer poo, deer piss, and having to
watch out for deers. i'm glad that i won't be seeing them again!

anyhow, after breakfast i hiked up to daisho-in temple. i have to say that
this was the best temple that i have visited so far. great view, free, tons
of things to see, beautiful. they are a tibeatan-ish branch, so it was
really different and wonderful. i attended mass, rotated tons of prayer
weels and exactly 1000 beads, checked out the sand mandala and the numerous
sites and thousands of buddhas. this place was magical and i'm really happy
that i saw it.

afterwards i rented a bike to make my way to some secluded beaches along the
coast. the bikes you rent in japan are not made for tall people, so it's
really hard to pedal properly on what seems to be a kids bike. but the
breeze was nice! unfortunately roight after the crowded beach the road went
straight up all the way to the top of the island it seems, so i had to
abandon my dreams of deserted beaches and accept the fact that there's no
way i could pedal there. so i went to the crowded beach, in the fartest
corner i could see. it was alright but the water really stunk like algea...
even though it was cold. it was refreshing though, so that was nice. but you
couldn't really swim or anything... anyhow, i'll have vietnam and thailand
and malaisia and australia and fiji for beaches, so it doesn't really

i managed to eat on the island and had the local dish for dinner (i forget
the name now, starts with a "o" and it was alright, although a little hard
to eat. basically the it's like a big layered dish. it starts with a
pancake, then they put on shredded lettuce and some beef. when that's ready,
they place noodles on it and a cooked egg. then, add some brown sauce (kinda
like a in-between teriaki and bbq...) and tons of green stuff (like finily
chopped parsley, but it isn't), i got to discover that i'm not good with
chopsticks: it's really hard to cut anything with those things!

then i just sat outside and people watched. fought some deers. watched the
sunset. took pictures. listened to a british family fight over taking
pictures. took pictures for japanese people and with japanese people.
listened in horror at the conversation some marines stationed near here were
having (like, hello! you'er rigt besside a place you've destroyed. show some
respect!) and saw other americans oddly dressed for japan (one was wearing a
bikini top in town, a big nono, the other had enormous fake breast hanging
out of her skimpy tight pink dress...). and then, i met a really nice girl
from new mexico (my 3rd person from there in 2 days) who works in nagoya but
unfortunately she's staying in hiroshima, and not at the dump here with me!

i keep looking west towards hiroshima and i keep telling myself, this is
where it happened. this place got destroyed, and where i'm standing got to
watch... it's verry surreal. tomorrow i am going to horoshima, i will see
the a-dome (the only building left standing after he bomb dropped), the
peace museum, the memorials... it will be really emotional. to think. people
were living and suddenly, the sun fell on their heads. the bomb exploded
above them in the sky. and all that was left of some people was ther shadow
burned into the ground. i will stand there. on radioactive ground. and see
how life was reborn... it will be an incredible experience. hard, but
something that one has to see.

never again hiroshima!

and then, it's back to tokyo!!!

(posted via hotmail - in case something weirds happens, this is why!)

Friday, August 12, 2005

i'll sleep with one eye opened tonight...

oh my!

i was really looking forward to comming to this small island off the coast of hiroshima. and yes, miyajima is beautiful. but...

the hostel where i'm staying is actually not on the island (something not mentionned in my guide) but on the side where you catch the ferry. so no cute island life for me. second, the place is a DUMP, it is extreamly dirty and not at all pleasant. the place is gross, and the guy who runs it has tons of crap accumulated in every corner everwhere. it looks like nothing in the common areas has been cleaned in ages and the bunk beds, crammed in a tiny room, seem to be right out of 1970. everything is old, gross... the kind of place that feels like it's the birthplace of cockroaches. yum! as well, there's hardly anyone staying here. seeing the place, i can understand why. this should not be a yuoth hostel! this should not have been recommended by the guidebook regardless of the fact that it's the only cheap place around. that's what really gets to me too: everuthing around for cheap is fully booked until the next 2 weeks, so it's not like i can go elsewhere.

(honestly, this is how i expected to find my accomodation to be if paying under 5$ for a cheap room somewhere in south east asia...)

the only good thing i guess is the cheap internet, which i was supposed to ask the guy before using but he fell asleep watching baseball...

this side of the ferry also has no restaurants really opened past 5. it's like a lunch only place. thank god for my good friend 7/11, it really came in handy again. see, japan is littered with these 24h corner stores but great for me they all carry real food. so, usually it's where i get breakfast and lunch, to keep things cheap but still good. tonight i had sliced beef in some brown sauce over rice... not bad.

so tomorrow i will do my best to spend as much time as humanly possible on the island, far away from here. there's beautiful temples and one of japan's top 3 views. i'll try hitting a quiet beach though, so i'll have to rent a bike to get there, past the crowded serviced beaches. hopefully it will no disapoint.

so this is the story of my trip in japan so far. only stayed in youth hostels and hardly met anyone, because they either waren't friendly or they were smart enough not to stay here. arg

i can't wait to see hiroshima on sunday, and then take the train back to tokyo. i can't wait to be with people i know. somewhere i know. where i can do nothing and where i know the cockroaches come from this being a tropical country and not from a dirty house. can't wait!!!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

only the strong survive...

it's 10 pm and it's 31 degrees outside. somehow, it feels really nice. so, i guess that it gives you an idea as to how hot japan really is!

well, hello from osaka. it's a huge city that's a lot like tokyo, so i really do like it. but... the freaking subway system is much harder here and has been quite frustrating. asside from that, osaka is really nice, has a great breeze and seemed cooler than everywhere else i've been lately.

i didn't do much today because 1. i'm still very tired and 2. the transit system and my sense of orientation were kinda off for me today. i visited osaka-jo, *the* sight of osaka. it's a castle, and it's huge. compared to tokyo's imperial palace, this place rocks (you can even go inside the castle, never mind the island). compared to kyoto's tojo-ji (or something, i'm not sure of the name right now), it's much bigger (a different ball game) but it lacks the charm that the one in kyoto has. kyoto's is the original building, you can walk inside and see the rooms as they were. the osaka-jo is a huge museum, where there's nothing left of the original asside from the outside. regardless, it was still cool, and the view from the 8th floor was awsome.

i wanted to drop by the african fair at the ethnology museum but they close at 4:30 (like every other worthy sites, dammit) and so i would have never made it on time. what i did do tonight though was attend the "short shorts film festival" that's going on right now. i was expecting a festival like as back home, but really it was a 30 seater room in a basement. it felt like a school movie show, except with incredibly comfortable seats. we were 3 in attendance. i guess the festival isn't a big hit! but i can kinda understand with the movies they were showing... not so great. but, it was really nice to be actually doing something as opposed to visiting somewhere.

tomorrow i am off to hiroshima. i'll try to spend 2 nights at the youth hostel on the island besside that city and hopefully i can lay on the beach and do nothing. swimming would be so nice right now!!!

talking about that, the hostel where i'm staying is located inside the parc that was built for the 1970 expo. we occupy a floor in one of the stadiums, so our floor is curved and everything. pretty weird! but also really neet. the view from our room is the swimming pool. during the day, there's bunch of people doing sports around here: baseball, running, speed walking, skateboarding, breakdancing, you name it. and at night, it seems to change into a band practice hall: people are playing guitar, flute, drums, clarinet, etc. it's such a lively spot! it's really great.

what's not great though is how i've been feeling lately. i'm really enjoying seeing all the sights and being here on vacation. but i've reallised that i don't like traveling alone - at all. i've never liked being alone: it's what i hate and fear the most. so it's normal that i'm not liking being alone here. but it's really getting to me... i really feel like i can't do this. of course i can, because i've been doing it, but what i mean is that it's keeping me from really enjoying myself and really enjoying this vacation. i'm afraid that it will only get harder with china being next, and i'm not sure what to do. i really want to go home! and i really want to see all of the beautiful places i've planned on visiting. i'm afraid that either way i won't be happy... i don't know what to do and i just want to cry!

i thought this was supposed to be fun!


i've said before that it was my dream to do this vacation. (ie, see personal description). what i meant is that it's my dream to see all of those places. it isn't part of my dream to do it alone, to not enjoy myself... but it's really a dream come tru to be here, doing this. it's killing me that it's not as great as it could be...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

i'm spent!

today walking everyday day four hours on hand, in the heat, really got to me. all i wanted to do was sleep! or at least, do nothing. i didn't want to see temples, smell deers, stay outside... i wanted to lie down and do nothing. i spent my day mostly going from parc bench to parc bench in between some sights... it was really hard. i really hope that i'll feel better tomorrow, or at least, soon! because i'm still on the road until the 14th.

traveling isn't as easy as it seems, apparently!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

do, a dear, a female dear

that song was stuck in my head all day!!!

i've never seen so many deers in my life. male, female, babies, walking around, following tourirsts and eating anything they can find, such as my friend's map of nara.

nara has a lot of incredible sights to offer, such as a gigantic buddha. it was so big! it's one of the biggest in the world and the biggest in japan, but i wasn't expecting such grandeur. it's hard to describe, really, but the thing just took my breath away. the entire temple was spectacular as well... too bad that i forget the name of it right now. at the end of the round around the temple, you could buy a tile for the renovation of the roof for 1000Y (about $10) so myself and 3 other guys from the hotel where i was staying in kyoto buoght one together. we wrote our name, our origin and the date. really cool! it's a great thing to do i think, a great way to spend some yen!

after we just kept walking, and eventually stopped at a noudle place in a really cure area near a temple. conversation got heated around the palestine/israeli conflict, and anyone who knows me knows that 1. i'm no longer allowed to talk about this issue and 2. the thing was not a good conversation to have. but regardless, i think we both came out good, altghough ultimately not sold on the other's position...

then, the light festival started around the parc/temple complex in nara. it was so incredible! candles everywhere lighting the temples and pathways. it was really magical, and i'm happy that i got to see it (and that i can see it again tomorrow night).

i'm staying at the youth hostel here and it's really huge, filled with young (very young) asians that are not very quiet... the place feels like a bad university dorm and is pretty depressive compared to the wonderful place where i was staying in kyoto.

but... i got to take a shower japanese style: ie, everyone naked, together, sitting on buckets trying to rince off soap the best we can. glad i won't be doing that often, not out of discomfotr but out of the fact that it's not too easy to rince yourself and so forth...

nara is a great city for sights but it's not at all what i expected. i was thinking that that it would be more like nagano, small and quaint and yet with great urban flare. but this is a huge city, it just so happens that the sights are close to the train station... but visiting this city could have been done out of kyoto instead of living here. but new cities are always good to try out!!!

Monday, August 08, 2005

when it rains, it pours!

i've spent 1 hour in a phone booth today, trying to keep myself dry and hoping that the torrid rain would die down and that i could continue my tour of kyoto's famous sights (aka, temples). little japanese ladies were laughing with me. what can you do! when it rains, the world stops and waits.

the rain is hard, strong, and falls diagonally, rendering the use of an umbrella completely useless. of course, had i had an umbrella with me, i would have kept going regardless. but genius as i am, i left it in my room. lesson learned i will never leave the hotel again without it. days start beautifully here and end up in rain... i should have known better.

the downside is that i am completely drenched regardless. and i was unable to see many sights that are quinsistential kyoto, such as the golden temple, the silver temple, zen gardens... i think that at this rate i would need another 3 days here just to cover the basics.

the upside - i walked in the famous bamboo forest, stood in the biggest wooden building in the world, visited the temple which hold the biggest bell in japan (it takes 17 monks to get it to ring, but funnily enough, it wasn't there though...), saw the tallest pagoda in japan, walked the banks of a beautiful river and watched children play in the river, attended a elementary school party and saw a priceless slice of japanese life (john and i were the only non-locals there) and so on and so forth.

kyoto has many beautiful sights but it is a very big city - it takes a long time to get to each one, and what's in between isn't incredibly striking. although, some areas around the sights are incredible. but it was really worth the stop and i am really disappointed that i didn't get to see more. we'll see though, maybe i'll do a pit-stop here on my way back to tokyo to try to view a couple of the sights that i've missed.

yesterday i spent the day biking around kyoto with john, a teacher from new york. and today, i walked the temples with a man from belgium, although i never caught his name. it's really nice to spend time with others, and i was surprised that i found two person who enjoyed temples as much as i do.

tomorrow i am leaving for nara, a small town 45 minutes away from there. i will probably stay there 2 nights, then head out to osaka for 1 night. for some reason osaka doesn't really appeal to me, but i should check it out regardless. then, it's off to hiroshima and it's surroundings. i'll have seen a lot, but clearly not enough!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

yesterday in nagano was incredible. i simply adore that city. i walked around the small streets and spent time at so many temples and shrines. i even got to visit a great zen garden behind a temple thanks to a friendly local.

that night, we were only 3 at the hotel/temple, and luck will have it, we all spoke french. benjamin, from paris and aiko from geneva were great company. so, we went out for dinner together and strolled the streets, checking out the street festival and the jazz festival (which by the way was great, but we only stayed for 1.5 songs due to the carefew). it was really nice to spend an evening with people!!! i think that night was the perfect conclusion to such a great stay in nagano.

unfortunately, the next morning (today) i was still too tired to make it to the temple for the 5.30 am mass and benediction. oh well! i still got a last stroll around the main temple at 7 am, and it was incredibly peaceful.

i ha to catch my train to nagoya and then to kyoto today, so i missed a great religious festival in nagano tonight. the bullet train was incredibly fast today - it's the kind of thing where taking a picture isn't even worth it. i saw great luxurious forests, rice fields, bamboo forests, rivers... it's wonderful.

i arrived in kyoto at 3-ish, and headed to the hotel, which was full... but i manages to find room in one close by, although i had to convince them that i had no issue sharing the dorm room with guys. i didn't want to walk some more with my big bag!!!

the room is actually pretty cute, and we're only 5 in there. we have a private bathroom/toilet as well, which is great. the downfall is that they didn't have room for monday night, so i'll have to either shop around for another hotel or leave early for nara and spend more time there. it is a small town, maybe i'd like it more!!!

tonight i ate pasta, extreamly al-dante but damn, it was si good! and it was dirt cheap as well. i also explored the roof garden of the train station. located on the 12th floor, the view of kyoto and the mountains is incredible. and the building was so striking! i took tons of pictures.

so tomorrow i will be hitting bunch of sights, and hopefully my blisters on and under my feet will not bother me too much!

i am no certain if i'll pay again for interne access, so this may be my last update for a little while, at least until i reach nara.

peace! (aka, no more bomb!!! this city was saved the nuclear bomb because it contained too much history, apparently...)

hiroshima - 60th anniversary today

i'm pretty happy that i didn't plan on being in hiroshima for today, because crowds would have been insane and hotels would have been full. but it's really something else to think that 60 years ago today, a bomb dropped on this beautiful, incredible country and destroyed so much. i think that it's really important that we all think about that, and realise how lucky we are. if you'd like more info, please visit greenpeace. there should be links with regards to actions that can be taken and so forth.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

nagano nagano!

today was a day of good and bad. and all was bad until i got here, pretty much.

the bad:
- i did lundry last night and for some reason it wasn't dry this morning. so i couldn't pack until some stuff dried off... which meant that i also had to catch my train later than planned. my stuff is still went, in a plastic bag as i'm writing this. and, to top it all, apparently hand-washing here doesn't get rid of the bad odours. so i'll have clothing that feel clean but smell dirty!
- i got onto the wrong train. i really don't understand how, still. and the guy on the train was trying to ask me where i was going and where i was getting off, which i had no idea because i didn't know where this train was going!
- i've had many moments where i felt like crying, giving up. all for no reason, but i just felt really vulnerable today.
- remaining bad: i feel really lonely! after staying with justin and having people around, i got used to it and now i'm feeling lonely. i guess that on top of being constantly moving for the first time, this will be the real first time alone, for a long time.

the good:

nagano (the olympic city) is the most beautiful place i have ever seen. surrounded by mountains, the temple are simply amazing, and the complex around the main temple it's insanely big. it's really hard to describe but it's the kind of place that takes you back and makes you feel like you're seeing something greater than yourself. i cannot believe that today i've stood over the ground of a temple (zenko-ji) 1300 years old and which contains the first image of buddha to be brought into japan. yes, that's right. it's that old. i still can't wrap my head around that.

the city center of nagano is also very cute, with nice little shops, restaurants and bars. it's quite a good city actually. but, many of the shops close early! like at 4! crazy.

tonight i'm staying in a temple, right besside the zenko-ji temple complex. actually, the entire street where i am is temple after temple. my tanami room is huge, especially compared with the hotel where i was first staying. honestly, i think my room is about the size of justin's house's first floor. incredible. and i think i might be the only one staying there, although i think i saw a tourist heading that way as i was leaving. so we'd be two. just crazy. but they're pretty strict around the temple in order to preserve 1. the buddhist atmosphere and 2. their old tanami floors. no shoes (of course) but also no bag! i have to leave everything downstairs and bring the stuff i need in a paper bag upstairs. but it's such a great opportunity to stay in a temple! and the place is over 100 years old... so i'm not going to argue!

so there's still a little bit of time before lights out at the temple at 9:30. i will be getting lots of beauty rest tonight! but apparently zenko-ji has an amazing prayer service at 5:30 am so i might try to make it and check it out.

this place is so beautiful, i'm really considering staying another day to take in the sights. if not, i'd have to leave early tomorrow morning to get to kyoto on time to find an hotel room. getting there takes about 4 hours from here, so that takes a big chunck out of the day! so i'll look at things over and might stay another night at the temple. but for that, i need to find a bank that accepts an international debit card! it's really hard out here to find anything. thank god for the post office!


if some of you are wondering why i'm paying for internet and why i'm not outside checking out the city right now, it is because i had to get my pictures from my memory cards onto cds so that i could take more pictures. but this place has really slow computers! the damn thing is taking for ever... it's been over an hour and my 3rd and last cd hasn't even started yet...

if there's weird characters somewhere in my text, that might be because my keyboard keeps switching over to japanese... so who knows!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Originally uploaded by David et Magalie.

i've actually managed to upload some of the few pictures that i could get onto justin's computer, so, check it out! they're all from ueno, but it's the best i can do!



today i will grab my bags and head out to nagano, my first stop in my japan travels by train. obviously i'll have to spend part of the day looking for a internet cafe or photography store to try and unload my pictures... but it should be fine.

this will be my first day really traveling, being always on the move. changing hotels and city very often. i really hope that i will like it, and i'm a little nervous... i've never done this before, and so i'm not sure what to expect. but if i do not like it, it will be a bad sign for the rest of the trip!!! but i doubt that will happen. it was just really nice being able to stay in one place and chill. no i'm really taking a leap and it's making me antsy. i have no idea what i'm doing! or what i'm getting myself into. thankfully, japan is an easy country! these will be the best train rides of my entire trip (read: clean, safe, fast, comfortable, non-scary washrooms).

so here i go. this is it. for real this time.
yesterday was spent around harajuku, the area most known for fashion boutiques and japanese kids in crazy outfits. unfortunately, they mostly come out on sundays but some were around, so i got to grab a few pictures. there's bunch of different groups and styles, but it's always over the top. it's really great to see, especially since their faces and eyes are all sweet looking but they dress up to look like they aren't.

the shopping downh there is completely insane. not only are all the big designer stores there, there's also hundreds of stores that carry "cool" clothing for those who play dress-up, and for the rest of younger japanese people who love to dress funky or skater-like. i was actually pretty surprised to find these stores to sell items at about the same price as in canada. so after all, japan perhaps isn't more expensive for everything...

a good part of the day was also spent in meiji-jingu parc and beautiful shinto shrine. the whole place was simply beautiful, and much larger than you'd expect from downtown tokyo. it was also nore fresh in the woods, which was a gerat bonus. a korean traveler approached me in the parc and we visited most of it toghether. i didn't have enough time at the shrine but it was nice to have someone to talk to.

today i went to chichibu, a spot by tokyo's mountains that doesn't nake it into the guidebooks. as per justin's suggestion, i went there and what was supposed to take 1h one way ended up being 2h each way. but the ride there was beautiful: mistly (smogy?) tall verdoyant mountains, cute villages, rivers... but chichibu itself, which apparently contains around 30 plus temples, was not so great. there was no map of the town to be found and so i had to walk around in vain, trying to find treasures in an industrial city that wasn't so pretty and had no signs whatsoever in english. it was frustrating, i regretted going there because i couldn't find anything worth the trip. it was also the first time where the language barrier really hit me. the first time i was on my own, without the usual translated signs. i finally did find a beautiful temple, the chichibu one but it didn't "save" the day. then i had to decide to which park i'd do to: by the river or by the train station. i tried finding the road to the river but couldn't, so i headed to the other parc with waterfalls instead and thought i could dip my feet in there. but the thing was fake, and filled with algea. i decided to go home.

i tried transfering my pictures from my camera onto justin's computer but with the damn thing being full, i couldn't get more than a few picture to upload. it was a tad frustrating since paying for the transfer will end up costing me 525Y per disk (about $6) and so, in all with the copies i want and the memory card i have, that's 6 disks. that's a lot of cash, especially when i should have been able to get it for free... i'll have to find a place today to empty my cards, because i'm running out of space! typically me, taking too many pictures!

Monday, August 01, 2005

imperial palace, imperial smalace

yesterday morning i woke up again at 5 am (well, 5:30) so i spent a good chunck of the morning sending emails and lounging around. see, nothing opens in tokyo until 10 anyhow, so there's not much point to leave the house before that. well, you can go places, but things will be closed. i read my guidebook and was looking for some other cool spot to hit and because it's really warm and was sunny yesterday, i thought that the imperial palace and it's big parc would be a great place to go. i could see the sights and lounge in the shade. so, that's where i went.

took the metro to tokyo station, which is the financial distric. it's really beautiful down there: wide streets, amazing building mixed with old achitecture, parcs... so i headed out to the imperial palace. the place is surrounded by very vast space and it looks like it should be filled with cars but it's not a parking lot, just empty space. i walked around and finally caught a glimpse of the palace, snapped a couple pictures and continued walking around, trying to get past the amazing walls and onto the island to get a better view of the palace and tour the grounds.

well, there's no freaking way into this island. my guidebook said that the palace was only open twice a year, i took that to mean palace, not whole island. i walked in vain and it was a frustrating waste of time. if ever in tokyo and not there on one of the 2 days, skip the place entirely and buy a postcard. it is really too bad though.

so after i walked around, trying to find a good spot perhaps that would save the day. but nothing. i guess a financial district will do that to you!!!

it's weird because while going to the palace, i was thinking how easy it would be to live here, and how i understood why so many people would come here and stay. and then, the whole deal with the palace really disapointed me. i had had 2 great days so far and now was a so-so one. i guess it's bound to happen often! but it was still disapointing.

so i headed back to where i'm staying and explored the area. there's a lot of stuff down there, and it's pretty nice. but it is more expensive than where i was staying at the hotel. so, i ordered some curry and headed home, where i was there alone with a fiesty roach for 3 hours. the evening was spent reading, listening to music and chatting... i was pretty tired yesterday from the lack of sleep and doing nothing but relaxing was wonderful.

i mentioned earlier that the financial district had wide streets. everywhere else that i've been, the streets are pretty small, from a regular 2 lane to a one lane which is more like a pedestrian street with the occasional car. smaller areas like here or around my hotel had a lot of those cute one-laners, and it brings such a great atmosphere to the place.l makes it intimate, quiet. lovely.

living here in a real house also teaches you a lot about living in japan. everything is so close together that you can hear everything, although people are really quiet so it's not a problem. but you hear sounds that seem so close (like someone walking in their house, moving things, taking a shower) and appear to be coming from within your home, but it's not. it throws you off at points because you don't know where things are coming from. but it's really great.