How many Torii Gates …

Today we were definitely going to get our fill of shrines and gates with a visit to the Fushimi Inari Taisha.

Fushimi Inari Taisha is a mountainside Shinto shrine dating back to 711 AD with a path leading up to Mt. Inari passing through 10000+ Torii Gates.

It took a short train ride of a couple of stops from Kyoto on the Nara Line to Inari Station. We knew we were at the right stop as the packed train emptied out and crossed the road to the shrine. Our Aussie friends were a couple of trains behind but didn’t take long to catch up on the path. The number of people at the shrine and on the path was enormous but the crowd thinned the higher the path went up the mountain.

The larger Shrine buildings were at the bottom of the mountain but the became smaller the higher you went up with lots of spots with multiple shrines. The Torii Gates were non stop pretty much all the way up and down. They were placed by businesses and farmers to pray for success. There are now 10000 all painted in vermilion red. Bradley even managed to find a monkey. We spent a couple of hours checking out the shrines and gates, making it to the summit then back down to the Main Shrine and street food alley that took you back into town. We sampled many different types of food, some of which I am not sure what it was but was tasty.

It was back on the Nara Line from Inari to Kyoto. The rest of the group headed off to Arashiyama to check out the bamboo forest. I headed off for a walk to the Kyoto Railway Museum. It was an amazing museum with steam trains ranging from the first ones used on the Japanese rail system then onto electric trains and even shinkansens. It is a big complex with crews maintaining and restoring trains as well. There was even an impressive working train set with many of the trains used now and in the past. They run a lottery to be able to drive a shinkansen driving simulator and I was lucky enough to win a drive.

Not much to it with brake off and throttle on and maintain speeds depending on where you are. Well I didn’t crash into anything so must have been OK. The others had made it back from the bamboo forest and were waiting for me at Kyoto Tower Starbucks. The museum closed at 530pm and even with 2.5 hours I didn’t get to see everything. While waiting for me, Bradley managed to find a massage salon just around the corner in the Daiwa Roynet Hotel that was reasonably priced. We all went for a massage with a full body massage for 60 minutes only costing Y3210. It certainly made a difference.

As Bradley and Rachael hadn’t been up in the Kyoto Tower, Jenny and Justin went up with them. I sat downstairs and had a Frappaccino. We were going to have pasta at a restaurant on the way back to the apartment but since they only took cash and we had exhausted our cash supply for the massages, we headed to 7/11 for some takeaway meals. What is it with the lack of credit card use in Japan. Back to the apartment to give the microwave a workout then off to bed.

Tomorrow we head to Osaka and Universal Studios. Record day for steps with 20954, 16.7km and 84 floors. That massage was definitely needed.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019 | Leave a comment

Bullet Time again…

We managed to get out of apartment on time this morning after packing up and cleaning up. It was a short walk over to the Peace Park Museum to grab the free Loop Bus which took us on a scenic tour of the City before dropping us off at the Shinkansen Terminal. We were a little early but it wasn’t long before we were on the Sakura 546 bound for Shin-Kobe. This trip is 178 km and topping out at 301kph takes a little over an hour. We then changed trains onto the Hikari 470 to Kyoto Station. This trip is just under half an hour.

One change from our trip the other day was there was snow on the ground. After arriving in Kyoto, it took some time to find the way out of the station with signs going in all directions. We eventually found an exit out but it put us on the wrong side of the station. It just meant some more walking to get to our accommodation with a 750 metre walk with our baggage. Lucky the hill over the railway lines was at the start.

Our accommodation was very Japanese with the paper doors inside and bamboo floor coverings and all beds were futons. We were even sitting on the floor but we are here to experience the Japanese culture.

There was still daylight left so it was a chance to explore around our neighbourhood to some of the shrines and temples. Bradley and Rachael were broken and stayed behind while Justin joined Jenny and I on our wander. The temples and shrines had all closed for the day but the Kyoto Tower was still open.

The Kyoto Tower is in the centre of town near the Railway Station and commands views of the city from 100 metres up. It cost Y700 to go up but the tourist binoculars are free to use. You even get a free photo of your visit. It was amazing the number of temples and shrines you could see. They seemed to be on about every third block.

It was back to the accommodation to pick up the other two kids and we headed out to find a restaurant for tea. There was a reasonable one in a back street not far away next to a kimono hire shop, Ebisu Ramen restaurant. We had followed some girls in kimonos. It seems to be a thing in Kyoto with kimono hire shops all over.

Only 8496 steps today – a quiet day.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019 | Leave a comment

A Step Back in Time …

No visit to Hiroshima is complete without learning about what happened here in August 1945. You understand that something needed to be done to end World War 2 however the massive loss of lives in an instant and for months after with the dropping of the atomic bombs should be a reminder to all that it should never happen again.

We spent the morning in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It presents a lot of information on the development and subsequent dropping of the bombs as well as life in Hiroshima before and after the bombs. Even though it is from a Japanese perspective it presents a message to the world that the nuclear solution is not a sustainable solution to the continuation of human life on this planet.

There are a number of memorials in Peace Park including Memorial Cenotaph, Peace Flame, Peace Bells, Memorial Tower to Mobilised Students, Childrens Peace Monument and of course the iconic A-Bomb Dome (one of the few buildings that remained standing near the hypocenter). The hypocenter was located around 240 metres from where it was planned to drop the bomb and a memorial can be found in one of the streets indicating its location.

On the way to Hiroshima Castle the kids wanted to stop in the Pokemon Centre and assist the Japanese economy while I found a convenient seat nearby and had a nap fitting in with the others seated waiting for their families.

We missed the last entry into the castle building which was OK as we would check out Himeji Castle later in the week. One of our exchange students, Sento and his wife Hana, met up with us in the castle grounds. It was good to catch up with Sento. We wandered around the City some more before heading to a restaurant for a Japanese seafood feast. Shippoumaru was a good choice even if the staff didn’t speak English. Even Sento had issues as apparently there are different Japanese dialects depending on where you come from.

We farewelled Sento and Hana, heading back to the apartment after another big day with 12893 steps.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019 | Leave a comment

Island Hopping …

One of the most photographed Torii Gates in Japan is located near Hiroshima on Miyajima Island, called the Itsukushima Floating Torii Gate. Todays adventure would take us to the island. The trick with the Gate is to be their at high tide and then wait for low tide. At high tide it looks to be floating in the sea and at low tide you can walk up to it. High tide today was 12:34pm which was very convenient for us.

With our apartment right next to Peace Park there are no trains nearby so it was a 2.5 km walk along Heiwa Odori to the Nishi-Hiroshima station on the Sanyo Main Line through to Miyajimaguchi. During our walk we came across the Hiroshimashi Fire Department Nishi Fire Department. There was a language issue but they directed us to their visitor lobby for a look and of course we got photos of the trucks.

After the train there was a short 10 minute ferry ride over to Miyajima Island where they went as close as they could to the Torii Gate without being beached. There was a lot of people here. I guess this is a weekend trip for the locals and tourists alike. Although today there appeared to be some sort of oyster festival on. The first thing we saw were deer. At first I thought they were tethered but no they were wild and everywhere. You are not supposed to feed them but that didn’t seem to stop the locals and in fact the deer would come up behind and start chewing into your bag if they could smell food.

We followed the crowd around to the point overlooking the Itsukushima Floating Torii Gate and grabbed our photos at high tide. We then visited the Toyokuni Shrine and 5 Story Pagoda before heading back down into town to sample the various street foods. This place reminds me of a Japanese Hahndorf.

The rest of the group arrived on the Island and we started to tour the town before heading up the gondola which was called Myajima Ropeway (but I couldn’t see much rope only steel cables) to the Shishi-iwa Observation Deck with views back to Hiroshima. What we didnt realise was there was a walk up to Mount Misen which had an Observatory and many Temples. Oh well, something to visit next time.

It was back down to the Itsukushima Floating Torii Gate. This time the tide was right out and you could walk right up to it with hundreds of our closest friends. The tide here must have dropped around 2 metres.

The sun was starting to set and with some photos of the Gate against the setting sun it was back on the ferry and then the train with the masses back towards Hiroshima.

We had been recommended to visit the Okonomiyaki restaurants in town. The best one was in a 7 story building with many small family run restaurants on each floor. Each could hold around 10 to 15 people and are very popular. Eventually we found one that could hold us all and spoke a little English. It was Okonomimura Syo-Chan.

The food is prepared before you on the hot plate and is a sort of Japanese pancake although eggs are used in place of batter. It has vegetables, pork, egg, squid, prawns and noodles and is very filling. Washed down with a few of the local beers and it was a good meal.

Grabbed a geocache down on the ground floor near the entrance, before farewelling the rest of the group who walked north while we walked south back to our apartment.

A big day of walking with 18845 steps for the day.

Posted in Family Life, Geocaching, Holidays, Japan 2019 | Leave a comment

Its Bullet Time …

Today is a travel day. We will be doing 925 kilometres from Tokyo to Hiroshima but rather than fly, we will experience what low level flying is all about on the Bullet Trains or Shinkansen as they call them.

Our first bullet train was at 12:03 so there was a bit of time in the morning to pack and clean up the apartment. It was then time to haul our bags into Tokyo. We took the local train from Minoridai to Yabashira. There was a little delay at the ticket machine while Jenny mucked around with coins or whatever, so the group was split with Bradley getting on the train that was at the platform and the rest of us on the next one. It was then onto the Musashino Line to Nishi-Funabashi, staying on the same train on the Keiyo Line to Tokyo, however we are not sure what train we were getting on as the electronic board seemed to be 1/2 an hour behind. We managed seats all the way into Tokyo and then it was the wander through the Station to the Shinkansen terminal.

We were a little unsure how the system worked but we found where our car was (or so we thought). Looking at the train parked up, we determined our seats and where the luggage would be behind the rear row of seats, then the train moved off. That wasn’t our train. Our train moved into place and the cleaners went to work for 10 minutes. The cleaners then moved all the seats so that they were facing the wrong direction to what we thought. It was then off to the other door. The doors were open and we moved onto Hikari 471 bound for Shin-Kobe. Our baggage took all the room behind the rear seats and our seats were in the same row from window to window. The configuration was 3 and 2 seats.

Our journey was a little over 3 hours topping out at 280kph. The train was 16 cars which must slow it down a bit. At Shin-Kobe we changed trains which involved getting off, staying on the same platform and waiting for the next train to arrive. We went from the 16 car Hikari to the 8 car Sakura 561. This trip took a little over an hour and topped out at 298kph. Not having those extra 8 cars must make a difference as they were both the same model train – the N700.

The Hiroshima Station was very modern and after a short walk, we were outside and decided that 3.3km with the bags was not on so it was onto a “24” Bus (Y180) through town to Peace Park. Our apartment through Air BnB was only 100 metres from Peace Park. It was a 2 bedroom with a kitchen / eating area with separate toilet and bathroom. There was even a balcony with views to the A-Bomb Dome. A Lawsons Supermarket on the corner and a restaurant and bakery at the entrance. All very convenient. We ended up grabbing pre-cooked meals from the supermarket and called it a night.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019 | Leave a comment

Hello Tokyo …

There wasn’t a lot of movement in the apartment this morning, particularly the kids. Jenny and I pottered around taking it easy. It gave Jenny a chance to do a load of washing turning our Japanese apartment into a Chinese laundry. The kids eventually surfaced around lunchtime.

It was a beautiful day with the clouds gone and up around 17C. We decided to head into the centre of Tokyo and check it out. We walked up to Shin-Yahashira taking the Musashino & Keiyo Lines to Tokyo. This was the first time we had ventured out of Tokyo Station into the real world and what a surprise.

The outside of the Tokyo was amazing with its restored building, the Square and surrounding gardens. We wandered through the streets checking out the various artworks and sculptures before heading down to the Imperial Palace Gardens.

Even though the original Imperial Palace is long gone due to fire and war, the walls, moats, gates and bridges are interesting artifacts of a bygone era. Access into the Palace grounds is restricted similar to Government House in Adelaide as it is still the residence of the current Imperial Family. The most picturesque bridge we spotted was the Nijibashi Bridge.

Bradley found reference to a light show at the Caretta Shiodome, about 2 km walk from the Palace. The walk took us through Hibiya Park where there were some blossoms starting to bloom. We may see a lot more in a couple of weeks time.

We arrived a little early for the light show so found a restaurant for a meal. The light show was based on Disney films with lights timed with music. It wasn’t too bad. There was a viewing are of the city up on the 46th floor which was great but Rachael wasn’t too keen on the lift ride up which was glass sided with views on the way up as well.

That was enough for today so we headed back to Shimbashi Station to get the Yamanote Line to Tokyo then the Musashino Line back to Shin-Yahashira. The last train was a bit packed so was very warm. We had seats though so it wasnt too bad. We decided the fresh air of the walk back to the apartment was needed..

Tomorrow we grab our first bullet train ride.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019 | Leave a comment

Sumo or sort of …

The plan today was to get up early and head into Tokyo to see the Sumo training as there are no tournaments at the moment. The last one was a week ago and the next one is not for a couple of weeks. Training is every morning from 7:30am to 10:00am near Hamacho Park in Tokyo.

We woke reasonably early but never planned to get their at the start of the training (first mistake). We headed out of the apartment at 7:35am which should have got us into Tokyo around an hour later.

Took the local train on the Shin Keisei Line from Minoridai to Yabashira. There wasn’t too many people on this one and we could have got a seat if we wanted but were only going one stop.

Next was the Musashino Line to Nishi-Funabashi. This train was packed like sardines. Luckily it was only 4 stops but those stops managed to jam even more people in. There was only just breathing space and you didn’t need to hold on, you were not going anywhere.

At Nishi-Funabashi, we got off and grabbed a couple of minutes of air before getting onto a new line for us, the Chuosobu Line to Ichikawa. This one was even more crowded if that is possible and even though it was supposed to be a 10 minute journey, it ended up longer due to delays up the line.

At Ichikawa off for some more air. We had layered up for the cold but was finding that it was getting very hot in the trains with all the body heat so the fresh air in the Stations was very welcome.

It was then onto the Sobu Main Line to Bakurocho, our final stop. This was a 15 minute ride again in a crowded train. From here it was a kilometre walk to the Sumo Training which wouldn’t have been an issue if it wasn’t raining. The rain was persistent but we arrived at the Arashio Stable after a 10 minute walk. The place was in darkness with a couple of sumo wrestlers coming and going from the showers and sauna. It was just 9:00am but it appears that they had finished early.

We waited around for 5 minutes then headed down to the end of the street to Hamacho Park for a look around checking out the Temple nearby. We headed back to the stable hoping the Sumo would be starting up again but no luck. Eventually one came out as said it was all over for the day. Moral of the story – get here early if you want to see the Sumo Training.

It was still raining and we started towards Akihabara Station to book our Bullet Train tickets for Friday. There were a few stops on the way to check out some shops and try and guess what is in products as there is very little English on packaging.

It was good to get some relief from the rain. In the ticket office, the bloke really wasn’t interested in us and said “no English” but his offsider was more than helpful. It ended up the train we had hoped to get was full so we were booked onto a later train at lunch time and given our experience this morning with packed trains, that is probably a good idea as we will have out luggage with us. Tickets in hand it was time to explore the Akihabara Station. There was a large electronic department store taking in 6 floors, Yodobashi Camera Store. It was like an Aladdin’s Cave, and we probably spent too much.

There was a 3 kilometre walk to our next Japanese adventure, ear cleaning and massage. Apparently this is a thing in Japan so why not give it a go. It was still raining and after a few minutes walking, it was back to Akihabara Station and catch the Tsukuba Express (a subway train about 4 levels underground) to Asakusa Station. It was a short walk to the Asakusa View Hotel, a swanky hotel that we looked very out of place, however this was where we had been booked into by Yutaro. To even look more out of place, we sat down with some lunches in one of the planter boxes out the front.

We headed upstairs to find the place for the ear cleaning but it took 3 businesses before we found the right one. Not a lot of English spoken here. Jenny and Rachael went first followed by Bradley and Justin then I was last. The procedure involved lying back on a barber style chair, covered in aprons, towels including the eyes (obviously don’t want you to see what is going on). They then used a variety of tools to clean out the ears, finishing off with a massage of the ears. I knew something was up as mine was going a little bit different. They started bring out clippers and razors. Off went some of my mono-brow, then the ear hair. A lot of laughter ensued including the staff.

It was interesting and another thing off the list but I am not sure it was even on the list. It certainly hasn’t helped Jenny and her hearing as she still doesn’t seem to understand any of us.

We were meeting up with Yutaro again in another part of Tokyo so back on the trains. It was another kilometre walk to Ueno Station from the Asakusa View Hotel then onto the Yamanote Line to Shinjuku Station. This area is very busy and looks to be the nightlife spot with plenty of young people, neon lights and noise. Bradley wanted to give their version of slot machines in Vegas Vegas where they use ball bearings instead of cash to get around the gambling laws. Without knowing how it worked, he soon donated it all to the cause.

We wandered around checking out the sights and sounds before meeting up with Yutaro on Godzilla Street with its own Godzilla hanging off a rooftop. Yutaro took us on a little tour of the area away from the glitz where there are little alleyways with small BBQ restaurants that hold around 10 people maximum. We stopped off in one (Anbei) to sample Sake’s from around the country. Real sake comes in long necks and the glasses are placed on saucers then filled to overflowing. They cant serve sake on its own so a small meal was prepared. We were booked into another restaurant for 6:30pm so it was time to move on.

Back into Godzilla Street and up a lift into a 6th floor restaurant which you could just squeeze past the fridges to get into. The entrance opened up into Oedo Ayatori which was a Japanese BBQ restaurants with a couple of chef’s on rotating BBQ’s that cooked your food and hand it to you on a 4 foot spoon / ladle. Our chef was Mon and he could have doubled as a sumo wrestler. We settled in for a 9 course banquet with a endless glass. Looks like we are in for a good night.

The meal was great as well as the atmosphere. I would recommend this place to anyone provided you can find it. A few hours later and we were getting a little tired but the night was not over yet. The west had the small alleyways with the restaurants but on the east was the little alleyways with one room bars. There are 300 of them in one block and they are literally one room. You can fit a maximum of 10 people at a squeeze. Yutaro took us to one of his favourites, Shinjuku Golden Street Hanazono Gotando “Bar Time”, or at least I think it is what it is called. It is run by a singer, Deshico, and with the 2 people that were already in there, we soon filled up the bar.

There is a cover charge of Y700 which includes a snack then you buy drinks after that. Because you have the bar to yourselves, he gets you to choose the music and video list. A couple of others joined the mix so it felt just like a train but unfortunately they smoked and there is no law against it. Our clothes now reek. It was getting around midnight so time to farewell Yutaro and head home. It had been another night to remember on our Japanese experience.

The trains are thinning out a bit now but are still packed. The first train was on the Yamanote Line but in a new direction to Nishi-Nippori Station, we then transferred onto the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line to Ayase which then went onto the Joban Line without changing trains to Matsudo. It was then onto our local train on the Shin Keisei line to our station, Minoridai.

Another big day, in bed by 1:30am and having walked 18897 steps.

Tomorrow will be a bit of a rest day to recuperate as I am sure we have broken the “Party Hard” kids.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019 | Leave a comment

Lets Go Mario Carting …

I am not sure where else you can go in the world, dress up in onesies, strap into a GoKart and go play in the traffic of one of the largest Metropolis’s in the world but that is what we are doing today in Tokyo.

We have a 3 hour tour of Tokyo with a difference. It is called MariCAR Shinagawa (one of 6 shops they have in Tokyo). It is loosely based on Mario Carts but had to change their name after a run in with Nintendo over copyright issues. You still get to dress up as Mario characters or even Disney ones as well.

We all had a bit of a sleep in after yesterday at Disney but hit the trains around 10:30am after some walking and training we arrived at the MariCAR Shinagawa about half an hour early. We are getting good at this train system now. This mornings trains were the Musashino Line to Nishi-Funabashi, staying on the same train on the Keiyo Line to Tokyo. It is then a walk through the rabbit warren of Tokyo Station to the Yamanote Line to Shinagawa.

Some more paperwork, pay some insurance and we were soon dressed up and ready to rumble.

I was “Mr Potato Head”, Jenny was “Nemo”, Bradley was “Sully”, Racheal was “Stitch” and Justin was the “Italian Plumber from Mario Carts”. The carts were a 50cc machine dressed up to look like Mario Carts but they still had some get up and go. We managed to top out at 70kph which is not bad for the streets of Tokyo.

After a little warm up around Shinagawa, it was time to tackle the Rainbow Bridge with real traffic including big trucks. Only managed 50kph up the bridge but maxed out at 70kph off the bridge. Not sure what speed Bradley was doing but managed to overtake us on the bridge which gave the group a warning. One more warning and the tour is cancelled.

A short stop at Odaiba to check out the Statue of Liberty. Yes Tokyo has its own Statue of Liberty but not as large as New York. There is a good view of the Rainbow Bridge and across to Tokyo proper. There were many Japanese who wanted their photos with the strange dressed up foreigners and we were happy to oblige.

It was back over the Rainbow Bridge with plenty of waves and photos along the way from bystanders both on foot and in cars. The tour then took us around the Tokyo Tower, along Tokyo’s version of Rodeo Drive then onto Shibuya crossing for a couple of drivethroughs.

It was getting cold but I had enough layers to keep me warm but Justin and Bradley without the extra padding were finding it cold. After 3 and a bit hours our tour was over. We would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to see Tokyo a little differently.

The crew at MariCAR recommended the Ramen Row under the Shinagawa Station for a meal. We chose Legendary Star Donburiya Shinagawa which was good meal and good value.

It was time to be sardines again but as we got on in Tokyo, we jagged seats and acted like Japanese and slept for most of the ride to our Station. It was time to do some more vending machine bingo where you try and guess what is in the can and buy one to see if it is right. Today’s can was some sort of melon drink but never picked that.

Trains home were the Yamanote Line to Tokyo, scramble through the Tokyo Station to the Keiyo Line to Nishi-Funabashi , staying on the same train, Musashino Line to Shin-Yahashira.

Before we got home there was time to check out some stores including a Y100 store (a bit like our $1 stores) which have lots of little stuff, the 7/11 for more stuff and then the local Tairaya Supermarket for more serious groceries but again we are very much in the dark until you open and sample it. Rather than take the local train, we walked back to the apartment taking in some of the back streets to see some traditional Japanese homes as well as community gardens. There was even a surfboard repair business in someones back shed.

Tomorrow, provided everyone is up early enough we will go check out the Sumo training.

Still a lot of walking today with 13000 steps but everything is starting to get conditioned.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019 | Leave a comment

Its Mickey Time …

It wasn’t too hard getting everyone out the door on time but with the carrot of “Disney” seemed to help. After last nights walk with the suitcases from the closest JR Station, it was decided to catch a local train to that station. The local line is the Shin Keisei traveling from our local station, Minoridai through to Yabashira. The fare was Y150 (A$1.90) to go one station which is about 1 km but it saved 20 minutes of walking. I think we will get a bit in today.

Onto the JR train at Shin-Yahashira and we were on our way to Disney. The train was a little full but not sardines and we got a chance to see where we traveled last night in the dark. On arrival at Maihama, the crowds were starting to get bigger and today was supposedly a quiet day with around 32000 in the Disney Parks. We still got a 900 metre walk in from the train station to the DisneySea entrance. Walking along the roadway, you could have thought you were in California with the palm trees and the monorail and very US style Disney Hotels.

On entering into the main courtyard we were wondering whether we had stumbled into Universal Studios as they have a large rotating Earth in the middle. From here you pass through an enclosed entry mall with shops lining each side then it expands into a large Mediterranean Sea with a volcano and Da Vinci’s Castle on the volcano slopes. The stand out attraction at this point is the “Tower of Terror” although we never ventured on it today.

The rides were similar to the US Disney except that all instructions and speaking was in Japanese. It was just like going to the opera I expect but I have never been to the opera. There is also a lot of bowing and waving and smiling. It seems to be the happiest place on earth.

It must be the healthiest place on earth as there seemed to be a distinct lack of the signature face masks you see everywhere around here. Something on those facemasks. I would suggest that wearing them would be ineffective as the sides are not sealed so air is going to take the path of least resistance and come in bringing the germs. The only thing the masks will stop is if someone directly coughed on your face and not sure that that would happen much.

We spent the day going from ride to performance to ride. The rides were not extreme as others we have been on such as 6 Flags in the US. They weren’t even a problem with me as supposedly I have a heart condition 😉

We were certainly the minority with us and a few other Westerners in the Park. It was a good day but it got very cold around 2:30pm even though the sun was still shining. It is easy to forget that it is winter over here.

The wind this afternoon had an effect on the big presentations with the “Happiest Celebration on the Sea” being modified and the “Fantasmic” being cancelled. It was then a mass migration out of the Park with closing time at 7pm.

We were now going to experience what sardines experience in their can. It was still peak hour on the transit system so the trains were coming into Maihama full then we were jammed in as well. We had 8 stops to our station, Shin-Yahashira and around half an hour. From Maihama it is the Keiyo Line which changes to the Musashino Line at Nishi-Funabashi. It is a very quiet time with those sitting mostly asleep and everyone standing on their phones.

One more short train ride on the local Shin Keisei line and we were back at our station, Minoridai. I had managed to break the kids as they were tired, hungry and grumpy. They wanted to find a restaurant for tea but I knew that once we got back to the apartment there was no going out again. Luckily there is a Hello Mart on the short walk so into there and grab some quick items for tea. We met up with the Filipino teacher Jenny befriended last night. Yamie has now met the whole family. Shopping is interesting here with everything in Japanese but a lot of things have photos on them.

Everyone was up for a sleep-in tomorrow so sumo will be postponed for a day.

My steps for the day are 18000, no wonder the feet, legs and back are screaming a little.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019 | Leave a comment

Time to experience some Tokyo …

We all got together around 8:30am in our twin room but as we were a little late for the complementary breakfast, it was across the road to experience a Japanese 7/11. And what an experience. Firstly, a lot of the stuff is all in Japanese so it is very hard to work out what it is and even looking at it doesn’t help all that much. After a lot of “check this out” and “surely no-one eats this” we selected some stuff that we could sort of call breakfast and headed back to the room. I even got an iced coffee but it doesn’t compare to FUIC.

The next step was to get back to the airport to exchange our orders for JR Rail Passes. Thought the hotel shuttle would work but it stops at 6:00am and doesn’t start up again until 10:30pm. Luckily there was a train station just up the road. After some assistance on getting tickets we were soon on the Keikyu Line from Otorii Station to the International Terminal again and in possession of the JR Rail Passes.

Our next adventure was to get from the airport to Shibuya to meet up with Yutaro (we billeted him 15 years ago for 6 weeks). The first train was actually the Tokyo Monorail from the International Terminal through to Hamamatsucho Station. From here we took a train on the Yamanote Line which took us to Shibuya Station.

All this time we are still dragging our large suitcases around. Nearby the station there was luggage storage for Y600 for each bag. I had Y3000 cash in my pocket and whoosh there it went. We are finding that Japan is more a cash society than a card one. It took us little bit of going around in circles before we found Building 109 which looked different to what was on the map.

Yutaro was waiting to meet us back at Shibuya Crossing next to the Hachiko statue. Hachiko was a dog that waited every day for its owner to return but was unaware that the owner had died. The story was made into a movie with Richard Gere.

Everyone split up looking for Yutaro but must all walked past him but I had no problem spotting him even after 15 years. We headed off to lunch with Yutaro who took us to an all you can eat and drink restaurant in the sub basement of a building nearby. The restaurant was On-yasai where you received trays of different meats and “cooked” them in two different bowls of soup that are kept warming in the middle of the table (Y3900 each). We also chose the all you can drink 2 hour package for Y1500 each. We certainly filled up on meats and also managed to drink them out of Sake. We were buzzing for the rest of the afternoon.

Yutaro’s wife Chisa and their two children also joined us for lunch and we went to explore around the area which included the Disney Store (there was a queue to buy Disney tickets here – must be to get you trained for Disney lines) and then Cosme which caters for older kids with cash. Something else there was a lot of around here were large vinyl sided trucks with blaring speakers which were effectively mobile billboards so the place was certainly not quiet.

It was then time to visit one of the other popular streets around here. It was a short train ride on the Yamanote Line from Shibuya to Harajuku and were soon at Takeshita Street. I am sure there is something lost in translation. It was absolutely packed with Japanese and tourist alike. We ended up taking some photos at the top of the street then headed off for some piece and quiet next door in the Yoyogi Park.

This park was originally the Emperors residence and the forest is entirely man planted but it looks more like it is natural forest. There are a number of shrines and gates in the park. One is a wall of Sake Barrels as the Emperor was fond of Sake. There was another wall, this time of wine barrels as the Emperor was fond of wine. I am starting to see a trend here.

The main Shinto Shrine is Meiji Jing? Honden where you can wash your hands and drink the holy water, meet with monks and have prayers given.

It was getting dark and we still had an hour or so to get to our accommodation, so we grabbed our luggage, farewelled Yutaro and headed out on the Yamanote Line to Tokyo then on the Keiyo Line to Nishi-Funabashi Station then remaining on the same train but onto another line, Musashino Line, finally getting to our nearest JR Station, Shin-Yahashira Station.

From here it was a kilometre walk to our apartment at Minoridai. In hindsight, with the suitcases we should have taken the local train for Y150 each which would have put us 150 metres from our apartment. I guess we will take the train when we leave on Friday.

The apartment is a two bedroom with a kitchen, bathroom and a lounge which we managed to turn into 3 bedroom apartment with 3 small double beds. There are 2 supermarkets nearby as well as a 7/11. The police station is just up at the next corner with the local train next to the 7/11. The street is a little busy out the front but we are sleeping well. We are more than happy with the digs.

I managed 14000 steps for today and the feet are a little sore.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019 | Leave a comment