Monthly Archives: October 2010

Shinkansen

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Just for you, Alex.

They go up to speeds of 300km/hr, but more usually go at about 200 or so kph. They arrive on time, on average within 6 seconds of scheduled arrival time, according to wikipedia.

They are really quiet and smooth. Much smoother than anything I have experienced, Railway wise.

The scenery does not go by in a blur…..it really does not feel like you are going very fast at all.  The scenery from the bullet train is not terribly pretty – at least not on the routes we have travelled.

At the stop, the doors line up with markings on the platform, so that you line up at the right place. This is important because the trains don’t stop for very long at all.

There are smoking and non smoking carriages, and there are reserved and non reserved carriages. There is also a carriage which has no announcements – a so called silent carriage.

Like all rail in Japan, you must have your phone switched on silent, and refrain from talking on it during your ride. This is why the Japanese invented SMS.

In the shinkansen, people come up and down the aisle to sell you coffee and snacks, and there is also a canteen car. On the silent carriage, the trolley dollies are silent.

Like all Japanese  public transport, it is really easy to use. There are really good connections. It is recommended that you book.

BTW on the subject of trains, Shinjuku station, where we travelled through in Tokyo, is the busiest in the world. No wonder it felt overwhelming!!

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best meat EVAH.

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Today we were at the Hiroshima food fair – basically little stalls selling food. Lots of meat on sticks and fried goods. There was even a KFC stall (the Japanese are mad for KFC).

At one stall, there was a queue a mile long for some pork on a stick. Ian joined it, saying that if there was queue then it must be good, right.

Good – it was fricking awesome. Had something to do with the amount of FAT in it.

We didn’t eat much more than that – awesome pork is super filling.

We went to Kobe on the shinkansen – 350 km in just over an hour. We saw some sumo at the Hiroshima station ( I think there is about to be a tournament in Fukuoka soon) and I got a photo with one…..good to look comparatively svelte. On Ian’s suggestion (his drug of choice is beef) we went to a place recommended in the Ronery Pranet called Wakkukyu.

Best. Beef. Evah. Cooked in front of us on the teppan grill.

Now I have to go to bed. My tummy hurts. I think it is my gallbag.

Hiroshima happiness (plus a bit of appropriate sadness)

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2nd pitstop of Le grande tour Japan has commenced.

The shinkansen (bullet train) was cool. It was fast. And there were cute little trolley dollies selling stuff. The >800km journey took about 5 hours and that included 1 change.

Firstly, on our last day in Tokyo we took a day trip to Kamakura, a little city to the south of the capital. It is a lovely little seaside town, with lots of temples and nice little shops. We saw some beauties of temples  and a statue of the big buddha and did a shirtload of walking. We succumbed to Makodonado (McDonalds) for Lunch, mostly just to remind ourselves what filth it is.

Hiroshima makes a nice change from Tokyo; it is quite easy to get about on foot. Yesterday we went for Okonomiyaki, a type of japanese pancake, only these ones were different to the ones you get in Australia – they have a noodle base. And the place we went to was like a teppanyaki for okonomiyaki – they made them up in front of you on a hot grill. We then went wandering about and found some little gyoza presses in the 100 yen shop – will look forward to mucho gyoza when we get home.

Today, we did the A-bomb thing- went to the A bomb dome and the museums associated with it. We also saw the memorial to Sadako, the little girl who died of leukaemia about 8 years after the event. She tried to fold 1000 paper cranes in the hope that she would get better. It was all very moving.

One of the most moving things about the museum displays was the humility of it- there was no glossing over the fact that Japan showed aggression to neighbouring countries. It showed the protest telegraphs that the Mayor of Hiroshima sends to the defence secretaries of countries who continue to test nuclear weapons. They mayor continues to send the messages to this day. There was lots of powerful anti-nuclear war sentiment.

They also had testimonies from people who survived the attack, very chilling and sombre. I also remembered my Grandpoppy (now deceased) who was in the Occupation forces in Hiroshima after the war. He probably wouldn’t know the place now. In fact, if there weren’t memorials around, there would be no clue.

There were lots of Japanese Schoolkids around the Peace park. A few of them wanted photos with us; foreigners must be a little bit of a novelty to them! One of them had a worksheet from school, and they did a little exercise where they asked us where we came from (Ostorarya, not Shidanee), what food we liked (gyoza) and what our favourite Japanese word was (sumimasen – excuse me. I don’t know any swear words in japanese and am disinclined to use them in front of primary schoolers). Then they wanted a photo with us, for which we gladly obliged.

We did a bit of wandering about.

We are lucky to be in town tomorrow for the food festival of Hiroshima – we didn’t plan that, just fortuitous. Off to Kobe, the capital of Beef, Sake and Castles, tomorrow afternoon, via the shinkansen.

Tokyo – stuff learned here.

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  • Japanese tourists are japanese tourists, the same the world over. That is, happy, excited, animated and enthusiastic.
  • Tokyo is a very big, bright, dazzling and overwhelming city. We are staying in Shinjuku, in a part called Kabuki-cho, which is a red light district.
  • American tourists are also the same the world over – you can make your own assumptions
  • Cute shoes are cute but wreak havoc on ankles, feet and everything upwards of that. I wore my cute shoes yesterday for kathryn and lived to regret it. I bought a new pair today – a pair of smart mary janes that look cool, made by new balance ie the running shoe crew.
  • On the point of shoes, I always marvel at the way the Japanese ladies totter about on high heels..
  • Japanese do bloody good gardens – case in point, the Imperial Palace gardens and everything in Kamakura, where we went today to get out of the city.
  • They also do good shinto shrines. And zen buddhist shrines.
  • Things the Japanese are mad for: electronics, department stores, false eyelashes (males and females), halloween, christmas, wrapping bought goods up, cosmetics, hair dye, hello kitty and other kiddy stuff, soft serve icecream with flavours like sweet potato and green tea, surgical face masks, skin whitening cream, surgery to widen eyes (so Kath tells me)
  • Breakfast in western world: toast, cereal, eggs, bacon, pancakes. Breakfast in Japan: all of above except for cereal, bacon and pancakes, but anything else goes – Jap style stuff like miso soup, rice, kimchi. Though at our hotels breakfast buffet, fried fish and french fries were an unexpected (though not unwelcome) treat.
  • Serving sizes are small here but the food is filling
  • ummm, that’s it for the moment.
  • Oh yeah, I realised yesterday that I don’t really like miso soup.
  • Off to hiroshima tomorrow.

Brogging in Japan.

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Konichiwa!!

After 20 hours in transit yesterday – plane delayed etc, we were dropped at Shinjuku station at 0100. No money, no idea where we were going – there are no street signs or numbers here in Tokyo. Luckily, Tokyo seems quite a safe city, so I could sit and wait with my backpack while hubby went for cash (this was not a straightforward proposition – there are very few ATMs which work with foreign cards). We decided to get a cab, even though it was only about a km that we needed to go; the issue was that we had no idea which direction we were going. The cabbie was a bit crabby about taking us only that far, this irritation magnified when hubby tried to shut the cab door (cabs in Tokyo have automatic shutty doors, apparently), this got a squawk from the cabbie.

Today we went for a wander about Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya. Finding our way about was a bit of an issue so we made sure we did not go far from the railway station. We saw some outrageously dressed and coiffed youth in Harajuku, though the people could have been anywhere between 12 and 30 years old. There were lots of clothes shops there with all sorts of interesting (and controversial) clothes there, in sizes small, small and extra small. Some of the girls like the whole gothic nymphette thing. We went to the mega electronics mart, the mega book mart and generally gadded about.

I do love the convenience stores here – you can sustain yourself well from these shops; drinks, beer, chocolates, umbrellas and UFOs (unidentified fried objects) were there.

One reflection is on the tricked up dunnies they have here – they have a seat warmer, bidet and an apparatus to air dry your tushy. I hate to think what would happen if they had a blackout. The downside is that people spend a lot of time in there, with…ahem…grooming…

We went to an amazing department store food market. Ian took a sample of cooked meat, which seemed to raise the ire of the storeman (that’s 2 japanese we have made cranky). There was beautiful fish, wagyu, vegies, cakies and bread.

We were very tired in the afternoon, and went for an early dinner. We did not want to go far, but we happened upon a restaurant with pictures of beef out the front, and we thought we would give it a crack. We had shabu shabu, basically very thinly sliced wagyu, self cooked in a water bath with vegies and bean thread noodles, then dipped in ponzu. Very yarmy, very healthy and quite filling (now I know why the Japanese are so lean, they have to work for their food.) The good sign was that it was full of Japanese people.

The vast majority of the Japanese are tiny, which makes me hyper-aware of the belly pooch I have. However, I just heard about an American friend who I stayed with in the Student quarters in the Netherlands, she has a rare form of aggressive adrenal cancer which has metastasised to her lungs and liver. She is my age, with a husband and small child. I thought to myself today – life is too short to worry about belly pooch – easy to say, but I have new resolve not to be so self conscious.

Though the first thing I thought when I read about her (she sent a facebook message en masse) was that, if the same thing happened to me, I would be upset, for sure, but I think that I have packed a lot into my 31 or so years. Case in point, this holiday, in this dazzling, interesting and confusing nation.

Sayonara – must bone up on my restaurant related vocabulary.

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!

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Am on HOLIDAYS!!!!!

Murphy’s law: I had sinusitis this morning. A bit of mersyndol and prednisolone and I am now nearly right as rain.

We are off at sparrowfart tomorrow morning. We are flying Cathay pacific, hopefully it will be good.

The dog has gone to the doggy resort, she left yesterday morning. She willingly got into the car; she loves cars. Ian pined for her the whole day. She is his companion, they are good mates. Mad dogs and Englishmen.

I hope to go for lots of runs when I am away, see the sights. I will also teach Ian to run. When I get back, I will start doing some body pump classes. Somebody has recommended them to me and there are about 3 classes a day at my gym. I will give it a crack. More muscle, more metabolically active, blah-de-blah.

I will be seeing Kathryn in Tokyo – will be good to see her and I bet she misses being able to talk to people in English!

I went to see the Chitra’s closet show last night – saw the divine Miss Lilli strutting her stuff on the catwalk. Beautiful clothes, got to stalk some outfits I liked!!

Better go pack now….. Ian won’t pack till I have – all my stuff is on the bed.

Happy, happy, joy, joy

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I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel – last day of work.

Actually have been quite chilled this week – feel like I have achieved a lot to date. I even went to the psychologist today and had no major psychopathology to report! She had to press me a bit to make sure I got my hours worth.

A big shout out to Mary, the Scottish cleaning lady at work.  I love Mary. She has a charming Glasgow accent. On tuesday, I heard her singing while she was doing her work, including cleaning the dunnies. She has a good voice, too!

Gosh darn it, if you can sing while you are cleaning dunnies, you are pretty dang happy. And that kind of happiness is infectious. God bless her.

Have been a bit creaky in the back, butt and knees lately. Went for a run this morning, and the creakiness has improved. A stretch into warm muscles is good. I even did a few laps of the street to the Gnarls Barkley song.

It’s goodbye to miss Candydog early tomorrow morning – she is off to the kennels. Only 3 more days.

Oooh, and I am off to a fashion show tomorrow! A great way to start the hols!

I am sorry – I am not as funny when I am happy 🙂