Saturday, June 29, 2013

Japan Trip 2: Video Roundup

In which I toss everything I shot video of in one post and state the obvious.

From Day 2, we have a panoramic shot of Osaka shot from the top of the Floating/Sky Garden Observatory:

Here comes Day 3 where we wander through the Inner Courtyard, Todaiji Temple in Nara and the Outer Courtyard of Horyuji Temple in Horyuji:

Day 4 found some armour in Himeji Castle:

On Day 5, I go street wandering, and find a small garden pond:

The 6th Day sees all sorts of stuff: The Silver Pavilion Grounds, the Heian Shrine and a couple of it's garden ponds, and a shot from the patio of Kiyomizudera Temple. Oh, and someone else playing Border Break on a live video feed:

Jumping ahead to Day 9, we have some maintenance being done on the outer walls of the Imperial Palace, the inner bailey entrance to the Eastern Garden of the Imperial Palace, and the pond within the garden itself:

aaaaaannnnnnddd we finish up on Day 11 with some kind folks making really good candy:

That's that folks. Back to my random posting habits. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Day 11: Annnnnnnd, We're Homeward Bound.

Have to check out by 10 AM, but don't fly out until 5PM so I leave my gear in an automated baggage locker and kick around Tokyo Station where I grab a quick McBreakfast at a McDonalds where they seem to have taken the whole McCafe thing to an extreme by painting the place up like a beatnik cafe and outfitting the staff in french berets and skirts:
One thing about Japan is that grocery stores are largely built into department stores on their basement floors:
and are less series of aisles and more like an old school farmers market with distinct booths and variations in terms of what's available. At one booth they were making some excellent candy by hand. It was pretty interesting to watch them create an orange flavoured candy by combining 6 triangular "orange slices" into a roll about the thickness of my thigh, and then work that roll down into individual pieces the thickness of my pinky finger:
I have video of the process I'll likely post later.

I'm now off the Narita where I grab some Ramen for lunch:

For our finale, let's note a few things that make Narita a superior experience to Pearson again. Firstly, when you get there before you even get in there's an exterior mall where you can buy everything from clothes, to books, to electronics if you're inclined to stuff a TV in as your baggage allowance:
then, once you clear customs... well, remember the vacant hallway I showed at Pearson? Well, compare your left and right views walking out here:

At this point you're probably going: why would I want to shop at an airport? Well, you may have forgotten something but, more importantly, even window shopping is something to do that's not just: "sit in your chair and wait pleb". It makes for a much more interesting way to blow two hours. Not only that, but there's actual food here that's priced about the same as everywhere else which is a vast improvement over Pearson's: "ha, ha, we've got you trapped!" bs.

With that said: I shall do an epilogue eventually.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Day 10: Around Tokyo Part 2

Gonna start out my last full day here by touring the Edo Tokyo Museum which, as you might guess, is dedicated to the history of Edo/Tokyo.
Worth the visit, it's full of full scale reproductions, objects, and diorama's of historical Kyoto as it works it's way though the towns origins to the almost present day. Finish up there about noon and stop off for lunch.
After finishing up there, I remember a prediction from my last visit and pop by Harajuku to see how the gentrification is going and find sections of the street either under reconstruction or in the final stages of being rebuilt as fresh storefront buildings. It will be interesting to see what stores move in in a few years.
Moving on, I head north to Asakusa and visit the Tokyo SkyTree: a new broadcast tower to replace Tokyo Tower for the digital age. It's your typical CN Tower-like attraction if the CN Tower had a huge mall underneath it. One thing about Japan: they don't waste space and pretty much every attraction like this also serves as part of a larger complex so there are other things to do there even after boredom sets in with the SkyTree itself.
It's my last day here, so I divert back south to Tokyo Station and grab some Tonkatsu again because it's damned good, unlike those M&M wafers restaurants serve up here:
and then I spend the rest of the night kicking around Akihibara where the AKB48 are plastered on posters all over the place and Maid Cafe's have expanded to include Business Woman, Cat Girl, and School Girl variants.

Tomorrow's Forecast: Sunny, chance of planes.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Day 9: Around Tokyo

Gonna spend my last couple days kicking around Tokyo starting off with a trip to the Tsukiji Fish Market. This is where a majority of the fish that is consumed in Tokyo and area is sold each day and where the daily auction of fresh Tuna catch occurs. Didn't get up at 5 AM to witness that, a bit early for me, but even at 8 AM the market is still pretty lively as stores and restaurants move to make their last purchases. Something to remember if you're touring: you're in the way. This is an active wholesale market, so there will be people rushing from booth to booth and produce carts making their way through the aisles so you need to stay aware of where you're positioning yourself so as to not get in the way of regular traffic.

Be kinda silly to goto a fish market in Japan and not do sushi, so it's time for brunch:

Next up: the gardens surrounding the Imperial Palace. The Palace itself is not open to tours, but the East Garden is a free park open to the public the vast majority of the time:
and it makes for a pleasant walk.

I'm looking for a book, so I jump over to Shibuya for a bit, touring the shopping district and visiting Shibuya Crossing:
before making my way back downtown where I'm able to see the restored exterior of Tokyo Station which was being worked on the last time I visited:

At this point, it's getting late in the day so I grab dinner:
up in Shinjuku (where I learn about table charges: eat elsewhere if you don't want to pay 300-500 yen just for a seat), and then tour the nightlife district there in Kabukichō:
A solid mass of neon, bars, and exotic establishments - at one point a finely dressed man offers to help me find certain services - it's worth touring for the ambiance alone.

Tomorrow's forecast: Overcast, chance of history and electronics.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Day 8: Matsumoto or Third Try's the Charm

Today I'm off to Matsumoto; another former castle town this time placed inland on an open plain nestled between the Japanese Northern Alps and Northern Mountain Ranges so pretty much anyway you look you're surrounded by mountains. We're here primarily to take another shot at seeing a castle keep proper but, being 3 hours out from Tokyo by train I'm going to kick off with lunch:
before moving onwards towards the castle.

En-route I stop by the Timepiece Museum where there are some absolutely beautiful grandfather clocks on display amongst other things:
After wandering through the collection, I proceed on to Matsumoto Castle: which was built towards the end of the wars of unification and just as the Matchlock Rifle began to make it's presence known. Constructed with a 50 meter wide moat to place attackers on land just outside the effective range at the time and with rifle slits and sliding slot windows for shooting from, it was amongst the first castles to take the Rifle into consideration just in time for the wars to end. As such, it would never see battle and is one of the last original (although repaired and maintained), undamaged examples of wood and clay wall construction left in the country.

Also, the first castle where I'm able to see the inner keep largely as it was and it's a wonderful piece of interior woodcraft.

I spend a couple hours there chatting with a friendly tour guide before proceeding to the Kaichi School Museum:
The first attempt at creating a "western style" school after the end of Shogunate rule and the removal of the class system that went with it, it's an odd mix of Western and Japanese design yet entirely functional. It's also cool inside despite a total lack of air conditioning and this is likely because of the reflective quality of the plaster white walls. Well worth the visit.

It's another 3 hour trip to get home, so dinner tonight is pork ramen and, because it must be tried, what passes for poutine.
Ramen: good. Poutine: bad.

Tomorrow's forecast: sunny, chance of fish and wandering.

PS: best distracted driving poster ever.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Day 7: Laundry and Travel Day

Not much happened today. Checked out of my hotel and dropped by the coin laundry in Gion to clean everything up. 1000 Yen to wash and dry everything, but when you consider room rate at the hotel was 500 yen/shirt, welllllll. Speaking of which, these are superwasher/dryer combos that have their own soap as well. Also in the laundry, though I don't try it, is a shoe washer/dryer.
Done in an hour, I grab some lunch:
which I think I undercooked on occasion by not fully realizing until too late I needed to break the meat down into smaller bits so the pan would cook it through.

I stop by Bic Camera on my way out of town where I rage at the fact that Japan gets all the best video games after catching trailers for Freedom Wars and Earth Defense Force 4:

Some wiki'ing says EDF 4 is coming eventually but come on! The 3 people who own 360's in Japan get to squash giant ants with mecha before I do?

This world is flawed as fuck.

First world problems out of the way, time to hop a shinkasen to Tokyo where I check into my hotel and then pop out for a quick burger:
and call it a night.

Tomorrow's forecast: sunny, chance of being in the clouds.

PS: every bathroom should have a baby locker. Get on that people!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Day 6: Eastern Kyoto

It's my final full day in Kyoto before moving back to Tokyo as my hub for the remainder of my days here so we're off to hit up the eastern shrines and temples I missed the last time I was here.
Starting off the day, I'm heading off to the sister temple to the Golden Pavilion: Ginkakuji, The Temple of the Silver Pavilion. Ordered constructed by the grandson of the Shogun who built the Golden Pavilion, the intent was to build his own retirement villa and plate it with silver but this was not completed before he passed. The grounds and buildings themselves are still quite beautiful, and the landscape garden stands out for it's raised graded rock/sand garden.
From here, I head south to the Heian Shrine and Shinen Garden where I tour the grounds:
before stopping for lunch:
Moving on, I go to Kiyomizudera; a large temple on stilts off a cliff face where there's a grand view of Kyoto from the veranda:
before finishing up my temple rounds at Sanjusangendo Hall: home to 1001 statues of the thousand-handed Kannon:
This building is huge but I'm sadly unable to grab a shot of it before the battery goes on my camera again.

Quick jaunt back to the hotel room and an hour charge on the battery, I kick off to tour the covered mall to finish off the evening by grabbing dinner:
before touring some shops and eventually ending up at one of the local arcades which are still thriving and getting new games ranging from touch screen rhythm games, an online Fantasy Game from Square that makes use of Magic style cards, a networked GUNDAM simulator, an updated version of the game I played last time I was there: Border Break Union, and some sort of photobooth thing that seems to attract girls by the dozen:
Makes me wish someone would bring this stuff over: Border Break alone would eat all my loonies.

Forecast for Tomorrow: Sunny and spun dry.