Showing posts from November 1, 2009

Japan on a Friday: Sayonara to sushi and all that

After 3 amazing weeks of work and play in this country, it's time to leave. There's just too much more to see. A society with a fascination with the minutiae of life is one you will never cease discovering. Like the charred log that plays ambient sounds that I only read about in my guidebook, but didn't quite make it to that area - Akhihabira, electronic geek central.

I got together with some BF Club of Japan folks for a Hokkaido-style meal just before I left. It was also the occasion to hand over my Princess Pink tikit to the new owner, Ray-san - a great deal for her considering the strong state of the yen against the tanking dollar.

Adam Clark rode his Pocket Rocket all the way from Yokohama (1 hour) and Taniguchi-san and his wife KimLee trained it 1 hour from Seitama, north of Tokyo.

The meal, at a local Gotojuki station restaurant called Raku, was a delicious and curious combination of potatoes, fish and salad - like Tokyo meets Idaho - Hokkaidaho?

Taniguchi-san (below, …

Japan on a Friday: Himeji-Jo and back to Tokyo!

Today - the last day of my 7 day rail pass. I'm 500+ miles from Tokyo but the Shinkansen will get me back Tokyo in just over 3 hours. Figure the math!

I keft Fukuoka stopping by Hiroshima to retrieve my wallet, as explained in the previous post. Because I had just a few yen I could not buy the many Kyushu treats I fell in love with overnight. Like the handmade ramen to go, and a wonderful sweet called Caramel Manchu by these folks. Akaifusen. When I go anywere in Japan asking for it, including in Tokyo, they say 'only in Kyushu'. Drat! But there's something nice about exclusive regional foods. You can zip around on the Shinkansen knowing that gifts you bring will be doubly appreciated.

Then onto to Himeji, home of Japan's most visited castle, Himeji-jo. I did not have time to tour this monolithic wedding-cake, but there is something about simply riding your bike past such a famous spot and rubbernecking like everyone else.

For my architect friend I made a specia…

Japan on a Friday: Monument hopping and wallet dropping

Myajima - one of the most Kodak'd moments in Japan.

I know when it's time to wind down a trip. I start making mistakes.

Today I left my wallet beside one of the computers at the hostel in Hiroshima. I was so pleased with myself at a) wringing the last possible bit of mileage out of my 7-day railpass by jumping on a train to Kyushu, Japan's most western province and home of the Ramen Stadium, and b) an assured arrival at the Khaosan Hostel by the rather early check in deadline of 8.30pm, and c) availing myself to a bowl of the famous Fukuoka ramen.

Then I discovered my goof, just as I was trying to buy some local looking goodies at Hakarta Station, aka Fukuoka - the farthest point you can reach by Shinkansen on the JR Rail Pass.

But I've learned that when the s**** hits the fan, you take things one step at a time. I got to the hostel. Explained my plight. First called the Hiroshima Hostel. Yes, they found my wallet, and by the way, since we have your wallet, you have our …

Japan on a Friday: An Obamajority in Hiroshima

Obamajority - that's what the mayor of Hiroshima wrote of his denizens in a peace letter addressed to all nations that still insist on stockpiling nuclear weapons. I souvenired several copies of this letter, stamped with an official Hiroshima Peace Museum logo, to gift to my most vocal peace and Obama-lovin' friends.

Obama is yet to visit the Hiroshima Peace Park, according to
A-bomb survivors and witnesses like Mito Kosei. Affected by radiation when still in his mother's womb, he outgrew a sickly childhood and now roams the park as a volunteer guide, offering free and informative backstory to the official materals displayed in the museum.

"[Aussie Prime Minister] Rudd was the only PM to visit the Peace Park BEFORE he was elected to office, Obama has not," he said.

"I think it not easy for him. 60% of Americans still believe dropping the bomb was a good thing. That makes it harder for Obama to visit."

He showed me a picture of the museum's models of …

Japan on a Friday: Hiroshima via Nagoya

More Nagoya shots

I've just gotten back after some bad bachelorette behavior, that is, hunting down and scarfing a 10pm okonomiyaki. This is a specialty 'pancake' of Hiroshima fried in front of you on a big flat griddle. In fact, there's an entire 6th floor of a garish neon-lit building called GAIA PACHINKO right opposite the station, dedicated to this glorified Japanese bubble'n'squeak (google that term if you aren't from the British Commonwealth).

The okonomiyaki stall I chose at random was called 'HOPE'. Because the place is frequented by tourists, the young owner said he thought an English sounding word would float them to the top of the passing selection panel. He asked if Australians ate koala sashimi. I suggested that since all the stands were offering practically the same thing for the same price, he could try advertising kangaroo to distinguish himself in a less obtuse fashion. But what would I know? They do a roaring trade at lunchtime.