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Showing posts from October 25, 2009

Japan on a Friday: Chasing nabe pots in Kyoto

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Despite big plans to maximize my spendy 7 day Japan rail pass and hop all over the country, the allure of Kyoto was too great. I opted for the hostel-recommended walking instead.

First, breakfast. Feeling sure I could better the hostel 680 yen offering, I traipsed around the block looking for a Japanese breakfast. It does not exist except in the form of extremely expensive coffee and some basic white toast. I returned to the hostel and sheepishly took my place among the other gai-jins scarfing the unlimited eggs, sausage, toast, jelly, coffee tea, salad , cheese, cereal, yoghurt... no wonder Ks Hostel won an award.

What was meant to be a half day tour ended up a day and night half of a tour, because I was held hostage by soaring temples and shops selling all kinds of Japanese souvenirs.


The mochi shops were making a killing. People love to crunch and chew things and mochi satisfies the latter - it's like a stressball for your jawbone. I ate more than was decent of the free samp…

Japan on a Friday: Kyoto, Temple Central

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Well, not yet, but soon. My 6 dorm-mates at K's Hostel are sound asleep and I don't want to rummage in my stuff for the third time to get out my SD card reader.

Today started out in a most inauspicious fashion. I left the Bickel's idyllic semi rural retreat in Kakegawa and caught the bus across the road to the train station - 20 mins away. I got off at what I thought was the station, but it turned out to be the hospital - two stops too soon. note to self: when you arrive in the dark, things may look different in the cold light of day.

Now, this is when I started to realize that Japan is hopelessly difficult when you don't speak the language. The only words I seem to remember reliably are "takai" = expensive, and "yasui" = cheap. I spent a good 20 mins gesticulating with locals, poring through my Lonely Planet Japanese Phrasebook that devotes whole chapters to pick up lines and getting drunk. Eventually they "got" that I needed to get to t…

Japan on a Friday: One Perfect Day in Kakegawa, Shizuoka

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Shizuoka Prefecture is renowned for green tea, grown in topiary-neat rows like this.


Today was a perfect sightseeing day on a Friday.


I took the Shinkansen bullet train from somewhere near Tokyo ($US50!) where, despite speeds of 207 km/h passengers still find time to fall asleep - I think it's the hi-carb rice crackers.

I landed at Tom and Sumiyo Bickel's rustic house in Kakegawa, midway between Tokyo and Kyoto. They run a language school called Oregon House of Kakegawa (in Japanese, contact them at oregonhouse@amail.plala.or.jp) named after Kakegawa's sister city Eugene, Oregon where they spent 10 years as stewards of the city's cultural exchange farm.

Last night they hosted a very Eugene-style potluck dinner with a number of their friends and students so they could "meet the Chinese-Australian on the folding bicycle." Pot Luck in Japanese translates more or less to "mochiyori" or "bring something over". It's not a custom, but it led …

Japan on a Friday: Moleskine Detour Show, MOMA Design Store, Tokyo

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Watch my illicit little movie

It's a traveling exhibition of individualized Moleskine notebooks by artsy types that you can fondle and admire - with white gloves.

I've used a Moleskine for years - my favorite ones are the simple notebooks that come in packs of three and fit into the tightest jeans pocket. Guess what - they still tell you phone numbers and addresses even after your cellphone dies.

The most memorable one - on fast glance because unbeknownst to me, you weren't supposed to photograph anything - was designer Julia Lohmann's glass (or was it crystal?) studded Moleskine. It gave me all kinds of ideas of what to do with the draw full of found objects I can't quite bring myself to trash ...

More at http://www.galfromdownunder.com/japan

I'll be wringing the most out of my $US330 (!!!) Japan Rail Pass from Oct 29-Nov 4, using internet cafes rather than lugging my precious MacBook Pro, so stand by ...