Showing posts from October 25, 2009

Japan on a Friday: Chasing nabe pots in Kyoto

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

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

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 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

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 ...

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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 ...