Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category


Weeks 60 & 61: Pecha Kucha

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Seeing as I put the effort into selecting 20 photos to present at Pecha Kucha in Muenster I might as well share them with anyone reading my blog – I’m looking at you Nan! It wasn’t easy to select only 20 photos from the past 61 weeks of travel. A quick count says I’ve taken just over 11,000 since the start of 2010 alone, and I don’t want to admit how many I’ve taken in total over this trip. Let’s just assume it was many more than 20. So below are what I think are some of the best photos I’ve taken this trip, though some of them were chosen more for the story than the artistic side of things.

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Week 52: Statistics

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A year into the trip I’ll share some statistics about what we’ve been spending our money on. Brett, the nerd that he is, has kept track of every yen, somani, kroner, hryvnia and lei that we’ve spent. Not only that but he’s broken down our spending into various categories – accommodation, transport, food, sightseeing, visas, communication and misc. It seems like a lot of work but actually the data he’s put together is really interesting. When we were feeling a little low on cash it was good to know how long we could sustain our lifestyle given the reserves we had left. Besides, it’s just good to know where the money goes. I’ll give a quick summary of costs in this post – I know it’s not for everyone, but if you’re interested read on…

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Week 52: Highlights

   Posted by: Rhona Tags: , ,

Seeing as we’ve been on the road for a year, I feel it’s time to write about some of the highlights. Some of these were written about when they happened, but some are little things that didn’t necessarily register as worthy of a mention at the time. In no particular order:

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Already i’ve failed to keep up to date on my postings, not even a month in to our big trip and i’m already late! I have an excuse though, i’ve been without my laptop for the past half week or so because Brett and I headed off to do the Tanzawa traverse near Mt Fuji. It was a 2 day hike which involved altogether to many ups and downs for my liking. The trail builders seemed to do their best (bless their hearts) to get us to the top of every mountain they possibly could, not even bypassing the totally bypassable nameless bumps to save our legs for the ones worth summiting. So my blogging has suffered as much as my calves (and knees and quads).

We then spent the last few days in the Fuji 5 lakes area, staying at our favourite guesthouse in Fuji Yoshida and one night at the Kawaguchiko youth hostel. Described in the Lonely Planet as “somewhat regimented” it still sounded doable, but then we didn’t expect to be blasted awake at 6:45am with very loud classical music. Once they’d established that everyone (all 5 or so guests) were awake and out of bed they turned it off, but for a while there it was deafening. Odd. Thankfully we were still on hiking time so had had plenty of sleep. At the mountain hut the night before I asked what time breakfast was and must have looked somewhat stunned when the man told me 5am. He gently added that it was “from” 5am. We were up anyway. 

Apart from that our time in Tokyo has been rather mundane, picking up visas (Brett, China), getting new passports (me, Australian, Mrs Voegele reporting for duty), catching up with people and stopping in at our favourite eateries. To Die For Chocolate Cake from the place in Nippori near where I used to live, endless skewers at Piss Alley and some nostalgic drinks in the Golden Gai. It’ll certainly be hard to say goodbye to Tokyo and Japan when we get on the ferry for South Korea.

Tonight I presented at the 61st Pecha Kucha night in Tokyo, a great night of creative presenters from all sorts of different fields. In the slideshow/gallery are the 20 photos I presented as well as a few from the past week. I haven’t taken many though so it’s slim pickings for weekly photos. Hopefully more when we get to Korea.

We spent a few more nights in Osaka including one at a capsule hotel so Brett could experience the uniquely Japanese experience of sleeping in a 1m x 1m x 2m box. We put our shoes in a shoe locker, squished our big bags into the not so big lockers and went to our respective areas (men and women had separate lockers, bathrooms, lounge areas and sleeping capsules). In fact most capsule hotels don’t take women so it took a little searching to find one that would let me stay.

On our last full day in Osaka we went to Nara to check out some of the many ancient temples in what is considered Japan’s first true capital. In 710 the powers that be decided that the Shinto influenced practice of moving the capital after the death of every emperor was no longer necessary as Buddhism had taught them that death was simply a step in the never ending cycle of reincarnation. Or something like that. The capital only lasted in Nara for 75 years but it was a period that is still considered important in laying the foundations of modern Japanese society. We checked out some of the 8 UNESCO world heritage sites in the area namely: Todaiji, Kofukuji, Kasuga shrine  and Gangoji. Todaiji houses the enormous bronze Buddha (the largest in Japan and one of the largest bronze statues in the world) in the world’s largest wooden building and is by far Nara’s most famous attraction. Kofukuji was moved to Nara in 710 and its pagoda is the second tallest in Japan. Kasuga shrine used to be rebuilt every 20 years due to Shinto ideals of purity and is now famous for its lantern festival. Gangoji was relatively unspectacular but had tiles on the roof that are a mind boggling 1420 years old!

That evening we popped in to Kyoto for dinner – our favourite sushi train and sundae for dessert combination. At the sushi train any special order comes out on a separate track on your own private shinkansen! Hours of entertainment! And the sundae place… ooooh the sundae place… if I were to tell you there were a place where the menu gave you almost 200 choices of delicious ice cream sundaes you would surely think I was joking. I’m not, such a place exists. They also have an 18,000yen (about US$200) mega sundae which must be ordered 3 days in advance.

After tearing ourselves away from the joys of Kyoto (we went back for Shabu-shabu/sukiyaki and one last sundae another night) and Osaka we headed to Lake Biwa, just north of Kyoto. My accommodation searching had yielded nothing and with Kyoto just 10 min south we didn’t have much hope for finding a place to stay but the visitor information in Otsu proved its worth and found us a place for all three nights. Not only that but the place seemed almost empty and we saw very few foreigners the whole time we were in the area. A little weird seeing how packed to the gills Kyoto was but then again I’ve been in Japan 2.5 years and never been to Lake Biwa even though I visited Kyoto too many times to count.

Our first afternoon at Lake Biwa we headed up Mt Hiei, a Buddhist mountain with what was once the most powerful temples in Japan. At the height of its glory Enrakuji had around 3,000 buildings and thousands of warrior monks. Then in 1571 Oda Nobunaga, busy uniting the country, saw the temple as a threat and burnt the lot, monks and all. I wonder if the phrase “all’s fair in love and war” negates the bad karma that would have created?

On the way home we picked up snacks for the next day’s hike and discovered that the 7-11 in Ishiyama was the place to be on a Friday night if you’re too young to get into bars (or wanted to pick up girls who are too young to get into bars). The hike was an all day event which started with the most incredible ascent past, through and around 8 spectacular waterfalls. At one stage the book commented that a river crossing looked impossible but that it was, in fact, what you had to do. Both Brett and I will attest to the fact that it was impossible to do without getting your shoes wet and the combination of slippery rocks, steep drops and strong current made it quite an adventure. At the top of the mountain we were looking forward to a bowl of noodles and a sugary drink at the cable car station. By the time we got to the top of the mountain I was also looking forward to a quick trip down. Unfortunately the cable car no longer existed and so we walked out, making it back to the train station not long before dark. Ramen never tasted so good.

At the moment we’re in Kanazawa and spent today wandering the streets in the rain. We also visited the city’s most famous attraction, the garden Kenroku-en. It’s listed in the top 3 gardens of Japan and was certainly worthy of the title, even in the rain. We didn’t have good weather and the rain is bringing down what remains of the delicate cherry blossoms though already you can see where the irises are going to come out along the streams. I’m reminded of how Japanese gardens are designed and planted so that there’s always something in bloom: as the cherry blossoms fade the irises bloom and so it goes on.

As I do my final read-over and edit before I post I’ll tell you about our dinner that we just got back from. It was a small Showa period (1926-1989) themed restaurant down on the main road. Apart from the cheap prices what struck us when we arrived was the all you can eat cabbage. That’s something I’ve never had before! We stuffed ourselves on homestyle Japanese food for the grand total of $10 each. Nice.

Tomorrow we’re headed back to Tokyo for a few days and then to the Fuji area before catching a ferry to Kita Kyushu and another ferry from Shimonoseki to Busan in South Korea. Long term plans change as often as we talk about them – ranging from WWOOFing in Kazakhstan to learning Spanish in South America or maybe studying massage in Thailand. Who knows?

See this week’s photos in the gallery or watch the slideshow above.