Sunday, May 31, 2009

Imperial Palace(皇居) & Shibuya(渋谷区) Tokyo

17th May 2009, our last full day in Tokyo, and we spend it with my primary school friend from Yokohama. My dad was dead tired by then and decided to spend the day resting at the hostel. We meet up with my friend at around 10:30am after breakfast at Tokyo Station, and made our way to the Imperial Palace. You can't really go inside the palace, but you can walk around it. The weather was misty and windy, and it was really nice walking along the palace ground with it's beautiful grass, trees and flowers. But best of all, was the vast space you experience, and inside Tokyo city itself too!

For lunch, we made our way to Shibuya's Mark City (if I am not mistaken) for a Sushi meal. With my friend there, we finally managed to enter a typical Japanese restaurant to experience what eating in one was like. The verdict? Very noisy! Everyone is greeted by the whole restaurant staff loudly when you enter, or leave, or order, or pay! You could hardly hold a decent conversation inside! But it was fun, and the Sushi was huge! And cost only around Y$1500 (S$22.50), which I thought was very cheap considering we were eating in a restaurant, and the Sushi was really fresh!

Lastly, we end our day together at the world's famous and most busy Starbuck! We couldn't find a seat, and so had to drink our drinks standing. After almost a week of traveling, feeling tired and exhausted, I tell you Starbuck has never tasted so good before in my life! In fact, writing this entry is making me crave for a coffee right now!

And thus ends our journey in Japan as we head back home the next day :)

Sanja Matsuri Festival (三社祭) Asakusa

16th May 2009, a quiet Saturday at Ueno district where we were staying, just a few minutes walk from Asakusa where the famous Senso-ji Shrine is located. We started walking from towards Asakusa at 8:30am or so, and as we walk, more and more merry men seems to pass us by, wearing only a japanese overcoat, and their underwear! From a distance, we could hear the sounds of flute, and drums. It was a special day, the day of the Sanja Matsuri Festival, the welcoming of Spring. The people were preparing for it. Outside the shops and stalls, a lantern was hung with flowers as shown in the photo here. Old Japanese man were busy preparing the "mobile-shrine" as we walked pass them along the alley. And as we approach Senso-ji Shrine, the famous lantern at the Kaminarimon(雷門) was just about to be raised to half, apparently to allow the "mobile-shrine" to pass through! What a sight!.

We managed to explore the temples of Asakusa before the festival was in full swing around 10am. The processions started with different groups of "mobile-shrine" carrier making their way towards the main temple, chanting as they go along, encourage by the crowds as they walk pass. The loudest claps and encouragement were given to the "mobile-shrine" carried by the children. The procession carried on all the day long, and the ground of the temple was transfered into a huge "pasar-malam" atmosphere as stall lines the way offering traditional Japanese snacks.

The merry men, once they completed the procession, would gather along the many restaurants and have a good beer. Visitors to the festival were seen eating along the food stall. We had a few yakitori as well, each costing Y$500(S$7.50) per stick! But we didn't have any chicken, as the word "Tori" means, we had grilled scallops, clams, and my favourite, grilled pork with leek! Yummy! There was also grilled/smoke fish on a stick which was really really nice!

All in all, it was an eventful day, and I felt totally blessed to have witness a genuine Japanese Festival in action. I think it's a great way to experience a culture when you coincide your trips with a local festival :)

Take the train to Asakusa Station, and just follow the crowd. We walked there as we were staying at Ueno area :)

Yakitori 焼き鳥 やきとり


15th May 2009, we visited Disneysea! The theme park is open from 10am - 10pm, and if you are above 60 year's old, the admission ticket is Y$5100. Normal adult ticket cost Y$5800 (S$87) The price includes all the rides in the park, plus the parades, performances, and if weather permits, a firework display at the end of the night.

I like Disneysea more the Disneyland, because of it very Mediterranean feel, as well as the Venice atmosphere with water surround it. It's a very romantic place to be, especially when the sunsets and the street lights are up. Fake as it all is, I could be as close as I ever get to the Mediterranean! Or even Venice!

But be warned. Almost everything inside the park is expensive. And the queues to the rides are horribly long! It may look empty from the outside to draw you in, but once you walk in, it's endless lines of people queue up for a 10 minutes thrill ride! Use the Freepass to cut the queue if you manage to figure out how (I'm too lazy to explain it here). Or, split up and take the Single Rider line.

Here's my favorite photo taken in Disneysea (in full resolution of course). This shot is by my hubby as well, I'm obviously too busy having fun :P The tower behind is the Tower Of Terror, and I somehow made myself go in and took the ride there. It's a ride I thought I'll never take, a vertical drop from maybe 4 storeys high? I'm ok with roller coaster, but I absolutely have never taken a Tower of Horror Ride before. But as you know, Disneyland's ride are really for babies, and I was so bored that I went in and took this one :P Basically, they put in you an elevator, take you up four storeys, show you the nice view as the elevator door opens, and then drop you like a sack of potatoes :) They even stop half way, pull you up again to the 3rd floor, and again drop you down. I was screaming my head off with my eyes shut at the first fall as it can get pretty disoriented. But at the second fall, you're already immune to it and can keep your eyes open as you watch other people scream around you :P

Take the JR Yamanote Line to Tokyo Station. From Tokyo Station, take the JR Musashino Line for 15 minutes to JR Maihama Station. You will need to change to the Disney Monorail to get to Disneysea. They charge an extortion price of Y$250 (S$3.75) per trip to get there, and another Y$250 to get back! I thought it was rather tasteless of them. They should have just include it in the admission tickets.

Tokyo Disneysea Official Site
More on the Tower of Terror
Tower of Terror

Temples in Nikko

The first temple you will encounter if you following the World Heritage Site bus route, is the Rinnō-ji (輪王寺). The vividly red temple, surrounded by light green trees, makes a great photo shot.

The next temple you will encounter, is Toshugo Shrine(東照宮). The elaborated temple structures are really a sight to awed upon. Note also you will encounter 3 interesting animals at the Toshugo Shrine ground. The first is a sacred horse, a gift by the New Zealand government. The horse is housed in a hut where the "Three Monkeys" are found. Photo as shown below. And lastly, the figure of the Sleeping Cat, as show in the photo here. You will need to pay extra to enter the Sleeping Cat, but don't bother going in. You can see the cat at the entrance. You only pay to climb endless number of stairs that leads to a tomb.

I got myself an omikuji (おみくじ) while at Nikko because the packaging was just too nice! An omikuji is a kind of fortune telling paper. You put Y$100 (S$1.50) into a box, and randomly pick a fortune paper. If you don't like your fortune, you can tie it up on the trees. If you like it, you keep it with you. I never read my omikuji. But I keep one with me all the time :) My first omikuji was from a Dog Spirit somewhere in a small shrine in Hokkaido. Now, I have one of Three Monkeys! Haha.

A good site on Nikko
Omikuji おみくじ

Nikko (日光市) Tochigi Prefecture

14th May 2009, we took another train out for a day trip, this time to Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture, about 140km north of Tokyo. Nikko is a World Heritage Site, and they weren't kidding when they say you haven't seen the splendor of Japan until you've visited the temples of Nikko! I totally agree with it, and I think everyone who visits Japan should make a trip to Nikko!

How to get to Nikko? By train of course! But this time, via Tobu Rail's World Heritage Pass. You can reserve the tickets online via their website, but you need to collect the tickets at Asakusa Station. The 2-days pass cost Y$3600 each (S$54), but we only went for one day. If you plan to use the pass, I would highly suggest you spend a night there in one of their onsen ryokan. But be warned, the food there isn't that great.

From Asakusa, it's 1.5 hour to Nikko direct. The first train leaves Asakusa Station at 8:20am on weekdays. Here's me sleeping on the train :) It's a lovely ride. And as you get closer to Nikko, the scenery really opens up. You can see mountains covered in snow caps as you approached Nikko. You will need to take a 15minutes bus ride from Nikko Station to the World Heritage Site, but it's covered by your pass, so it's free.

Before we start, here are some tips you might want to note when visiting Nikko.
1. Wear slip on shoes, or learn to put on your shoes quickly. Nikko is filled with temples, and in order to see the beautiful treasures of the temple, you will need to remove your shoes before going into the temple.
2. Bring food. There aren't much food stall at the world heritage site. We found ourselves walking on empty till 3pm! And even though we manage to have lunch at Nikko town, the food wasn't to our liking :( So be safe, bring food along for your day trip.
3. Bring warm clothes. As the sun sets, around 4pm - 5pm, the chill winds starts to blow, and you better find cover!

More photo on Nikko in the next blog entry :)

Nikko 日光市

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hakone Shrine

Upon reaching Moto Hakone-Ko, we made our way towards Hakone Shrine by following the Torii gates along the main road of the small town. That's me and my dad in the photo :)

Our walk up Hakone Shrine was a long, and uphill one. My dad gave up after seeing the stairs in the photo here :) We left him there as made our way up. The path to Hakone Shrine actually led us to the mid-level of the whole shrine. By going up the stairs, we ended up at the shrine shown at the bottom of the photo here. There were also stairs leading down! And when we made our way down, the stairs actually lead to Lake Ashi! And there we found the beautiful torii gate we saw from the Cedar Avenue! We can actually walk out towards it! So here's a the last of our photo of Hakone, another full resolution shot that made it to my favorite photo list :)

Hakone-Machi and Moto Hakone-Ko

13th May 2009, we continue our journey in Hakone by taking a pirate cruise ship from Togendai to the small town of Hakone Machi. Here's a favorite shot of the cruise ship taken by my hubby in full resolution. The cruise took 30 minutes and the sights along the way was stunning. We saw a couple of torii gates in Lake Ashi itself.

When we reached Hakone Machi, we got a bit disoriented as to which direction to head. We were planning to walk to Moto Hakone-Ko, a 30 minutes walk going past an ancient cedar tree avenue. The cedar trees took some time to find, but the walk through it was well worth it! The trees were really tall, and flowers grow all around them. It was like we were in a middle of a Hayao Miyazaki movie!

In the middle of the cedar avenue walk, my hubby took this shot of a torii gate of Hakone Shrine. It's another one of my favorite photo, and I've also uploaded it in full resolution :)

Hayao Miyazaki 宮崎 駿

Kiritani Hakoneso (箱根温泉旅館) Hakone

This is the ryokan we stayed in while we were in Hakone. As you can see, it's in the middle of nowhere. The photo below is the view of the garden from our room. The ryokan cost us S$200 per person per night, and I was really disappointed with it for the following reason:

1. They gave us a room without checking our reservation slip, thus resulting in us getting the wrong room.
2. Although it was suppose to be a ryokan, no one serve us tea in our room when we arrive, and no meals where serve in the room at all.
3. A carpark is visible from the inside of the onsen, which isn't a good thing since you are totally naked in an onsen. Sure the shade of the trees helped, but it kinda killed the serenity of the onsen.
4. The onsen for women only opens from 3pm - 9pm, which is pretty discriminating considering the guy's onsen open from 3pm - 9pm, and 7am - 10am.
5. The food did not wow me, and was rather little compared to other onsen I've been to.

Here's a photo of our dinner served in a private dining room. Please click photo to view in detail each item served. The only item I really like is the roast beef with miso paste. The beef look tough, but was totally soft and nice when you bite into it. The rest of the item was just ok. But since I was starving by the time they serve us dinner at 6pm, I finish everything that was served :) We finished our meal by 7pm, and went back to the room. As the weather was windy and cold, we were all asleep by 7:30pm! We slept with our windows open, and the wind kept howling all night long. At around 2am, I woke up to find a full moon staring down at me from my tatami bed! Very beautiful.

Breakfast the next morning was served at 8am, and my favorite dish was the grilled fish. I like it so much that I even bought a pack of it from Narita Airport when I was coming back to Sg. One pack of the fish cost me Y$700! (S$10.50) We checked out around 9:30am and continued our journey in Hakone.

Tatami 畳

Owakudani (大涌谷) Hakone

Also known as the Great Boiling Valley as it is a volcanic valley with active sulphur vents and hot springs. To get there, you need to take the cable car from Sounzan. Photo here shows how you get there, hanging on a cable car, and below it, hot burning sulphur of the boiling valley! Fun! You can smell your destination even before you arrive! And it's not a pretty smell either!

It was our lucky day, as the cable car broke through the hill top, a splendid view not only awaits us of the great boiling valley below, but also before us, the magnificent sight of Fuji-san. Here's another of my favorite shot in full resolution. This was my second trip to Hakone, but my first viewing of Mount Fuji. The last trip was too misty. And although we made the same journey the next day, Fuji-san was not visible due to heavy clouds in the area. So I considered myself lucky to catch a glimpse of Fuji-san. The sight of it was really beautiful, and lasted only an hour or two before it was covered up by clouds again. Needless to say, we took lots and lots of photos. But this one is my favorite of the lot :)

We reached Owakudani before lunch, and as usual, we needed to hike up the trail to get close to the boiling sulfuric hot springs. In the photos you see here, those smokes aren't mist! They are steam coming out of the ground! And on top of the trail, there's a guy there boiling eggs in the hot spring, and selling it to the tourist! The eggs are all black in colour, and cost Y$500 (S$7.50) for 5 eggs! But they're suppose to prolong your life as the saying goes, so we had a few. Plus, after the climb up in the chilling wind, the hot eggs are really good!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hakone (箱根町) Kanagawa Prefecture

12th May 2009, we made our way by train to Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture, about 100 kilometers south-west from Tokyo. Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, which means you can view Mount Fuji from here. It is also famous for it's hot spring. We will be spending 2 days 1 night at Hakone, staying in a traditional ryokan with it's own onsen.

But first, how to get there. You can purchase a Hakone Freepass from Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center at Shinjuku Station. The return ticket cost Y$5000 each (S$75) for a 2-days pass. 3-days pass are also available. From Shinjuku, it's 1 hour to Odawara, where you will need to change to the Odakyu Line to Hakone-Yumoto (15 minutes). From Hakone-Yumoto you take a train to Gora (40 minutes) uphill, and from Gora you're free to explore as you wish. Note that the freepass give you unlimited access to all the train rides in the Hakone area. This includes ropeway, cable cars, buses, and even cruise ships.

Our destination for that day was Owakudani (大涌谷), which is also known as Great Boiling Valley. Will write more about it tomorrow. Stay tune.

Mount Fuji 富士山,
Ryokan 旅館
Onsen 温泉

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Amanawa Shimei Jinja Shrine (甘縄神明宮) Kamakura

Last but not least, we visited the oldest shrine in Kamakura, the Amanawa Shimei Jinja Shrine (甘縄神明宮) . It's not really a tourist attraction there. In fact there was no one there when we visit it. If it was not for our guide, we would never have known this shrine's existence, which I thought would have been a great lost. In fact, if you were to google "amanawa shinmei", you would only get one page of result!

The Shinto shrine was build in 710. Can you imagine what life was like in 710? To stand in the presence of something so ancient (almost 1200 years old!), and surrounded by the forest, is really quite an amazing and spiritual feeling.

And with that last shrine, ends our exploration of Kamakura, as we headed back to Tokyo for our next adventure.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hasedera Temple (長谷寺) Kamakura

Hasedera Temple (長谷寺) is my favorite temple in Kamakura. It is mainly for worship place for the 11-headed Kannon (Goddess of Mercy). But what I like best about it is a special place for lost children.

As you enter the temple and make your way up towards the main shrine, there is a little garden filled with miniature statues of monks and Jizo, the guardian of children. Each miniature statue to your right represents an unborn child from abortion, or stillborn. The parent will come here and place a statue here as a memorial to the child. It is a sad, yet peaceful sight to see the tribute to unborn children.

Here too is where I took one of my favorite shots of my trip in Japan. Most of the photos you've seen so far are not taken by me. But this one is, and I absolutely love this photo and have uploaded it here in full resolution.

Goddess of Mercy

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Daibutsu (大仏) Kamakura

At Hase, we visited the Kōtoku-in Temple(高徳院) where the Daibutsu is. The temple is about 500m walk from the Hase Station of the Enoden Line. By paying just Y$20 (S$0.30), you can even go inside the Daibutsu and touch it from the inside. It's believe that luck will come to you if you touch it, so Y$20 is a small price to pay for luck! Plus you get to touch a National Treasure!

The Daibutsu used to have a house over it's head, but this was washed away by a tsunami in 1498. The sea is just 1km away from it, so you can imagine what it was like! The statue was also originally covered in gold leaves. Around the garden of Daibutsu, you can still see the stone pillar foundation of where the temple once stood. The stones now serves as seats for visitors there.

Last but not least, here's a photo showing the Daibutsu of Kamakura, vs the Tian Tan Buddha (天壇大佛) in Hong Kong. The Daibutsu has three distinct features, the hand in meditation, the eyes close with a calm smile, and an arch shoulder showing at ease. It is an inviting feature to its worshiper that radiates calm and peace. The Tian Tan Buddha(天壇大佛) in Hong Kong has one hand up, and one hand on it's leg. I'm told that the the hand that signals 'stop' means "Don't be afraid", and the open palm on the leg means "I am here, and I will accompany you". And that this is meant to tell us that we should not be afraid of death or the journey before us. But the definition in wikipedia states that "His right hand is raised, representing the removal of affliction. His left hand rests on his lap in a gesture of giving dhana." I'll leave the meaning up to your interpretation.

Tian Tan Buddha (天壇大佛)Hong Kong

Monday, May 25, 2009

Temples in Kamakura

Kamakura is basically big on Buddhism. We visited lots of temple while we were there. Each temple are around 500m away from each other, so we did a fair lot of walking, not to mention a lot of uphill climbs as some of the tombs we visited were in caves along the slope of the hill. It was almost a deja-vu moment of hiking in Taroko Gorge Taiwan. But thankfully, it was not a 10km hike in 4 hours!

The Zen Buddhism temples we visited includes Kencho-Ji Temple (建長寺), Jochi-Ji Temple (金宝山浄智寺), Tokei-Ji Temple (松岡山東慶寺), and Engaku-Ji Temple (瑞鹿山円覚興聖禅寺). Most of the temples have it's own bell, some which are so old that they are considered Japan's National Treasures.

Kosoku-ji Temple (光則寺) is one temple you may want to visit in March or April when the flowers are in full bloom. It is more like a flower garden then a temple, and even though when we visit, most of the flowers were no longer in season, it was still nice to walk around the garden. Some of the trees there are more then 100 years old and still blooms every year!

After exploring the temples, we took a train back to Kamakura for lunch before heading to Hase, west of Kamakura via the Enoden Train.

National Treasures of Japan

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu Shrine (鶴岡八幡宮) Kamakura

Our journey at Kamakura started at this torii entrace gate towards Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu Shrine. Two Korean guardian dogs stand guard, one with it's mouth mouth as if it's pronouncing the letter あ (a) which is the first letter of the hiragana; and the other with it's mouth close as if pronouncing the letter ん(n) which is the last letter of the hiragana. It symbolize that at one end is the beginning, and the other is the ending, and we now exist in between these two. You can read more about it here.

Needless to say, the walk up towards the shrine is uphill, and the shrine looked magnificent sitting on the slope of a small hill. Bottom right of the photo shows a sacred ground where humans are not permitted to enter. It is believed that here is where the gods will land when they visit our realm.

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-Gu Shrine 鶴岡八幡宮
Hiragana 平仮名

Kamakura (鎌倉市) Kanagawa Prefecture

11th May 2009, we took a train out to Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture, about 50 kilometres south-south-west of Tokyo. Kamakura is famous for the gigantic bronze buddha Daibutsu 大佛, and also known as an ancient city of Samurai or Shogunate where the famous Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is located. But we slowly realize that they are so much more to Kamakura then we expected. You can expect there will be multiple blog entry on Kamakura :)

But first, how to get to Kamakura. You can purchase a Enoshima-Kamakura Freepass from Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center at Shinjuku Station. The return ticket cost Y$1430 each (S$21.45). From Shinjuku, it's 1 hour to Fujisawa, where you will need to change to the Enoden train (shown here in photo) 30 minutes to Kamakura. Enoden train is a really charming train that runs thru the little town towards Kamakura. The first train leaves Shinjuku around 7:30am, and a day trip is sufficient to see everything in Kamakura if you can walk really really fast and climb stairs like nobody's business :)

If you are interested to know more details of Kamakura then what you read in the guide book, I highly that you contact the Kamakura Welcome Guide Association to get a free guide that will take you around Kamakura. The association is made up of 30+ retired volunteers, who provide free guided tour of Kamakura. You need to contact them at least 3 days before you arrive in Kamakura, and tours are available in Chinese, English, French, Italian, Korean, Portuguese or Spanish. You will have to pay for the guide's transportation and lunch. You will also need to factor in your own entrance fee to shrine which sums up to about Y$1000 (S$15) per person. The photo here shows our guide Mr Hiroshi Matsuura (Age 66), reading a fortune paper with my dad (Age 74).

Daibutsu 大佛
Shogun 将軍
Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū 鶴岡八幡宮
Kamakura Welcome Guide Association

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Meiji Shrine (明治神宮) Tokyo

10th May 2009, we visited the Meiji Shrine at Harajuku area. It's a nice walk in from the main road, with shaded tress and wide pebbled pathway. You're greated by a gigantic torii gates which mark the transition from the sacred to the profane. Torii gates are found all over Japan where a shrine exist. I will show you more photos of different torii gates along the way.

Before reaching the main shrine, there is a display of sake offering outside the shrine. Sake is used for purification in Shinto rituals. Each year, sake supplier will donate buckets of sake to the shrine, and these here show the empty container of the sake containers donated. They also have a row of wine barrels there which was not there 4 years ago when I last visit.

In each shrine, it's a popular to get your fortune read, buy a charm, or write your wishes to the gods. For fortune read, it will cost you Y$100, and if you don't like the fortune given to you, you can tie it up and let the wind blows it away :) If you are the proactive type, you can spend Y$500 to write your wishes in one of these wooden blocks, and tie it up for the Gods to read, and wait for your wishes to come true :) But what I like best about Meiji Shrine, are the gigantic trees surrounding it that give it a certain spiritual feel to the place.

If it's your first time to Meiji Shrine, and especially on a weekend, you would think you're extremely lucky if you manage to catch a wedding ceremony taking place there. But the truth is, a few weeding ceremony are held there each weekend, and it is a common sight there. But still, to capture that moment in a photography is still very special.

From Shinjuku Station, take the JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku Station (Y$130). Exit via Omote-Sando Exit and the extrance to the shrine should be on your right.

Meiji Shrine
Torii Gates 鳥居
Sake 酒
Shinto 神道

Tsukiji Fish Market (築地市場) Tokyo

One of the very first place we visited was the Tsukiji Fish Market. We reached there around 8am Tokyo time, and needless to say, did not manage to watch the famous Tuna Auction which usually ends by 6:30am. But we weren't there for the auction, we were there more for the food! In fact, I think we never even made it into the main market area. We were quite content being happily lost at the outer food market :)

Tsukiji is a wonderful place to kick start your exploration in Japan. You get the market atmosphere that gets you excited, sights of stalls after stalls of vendors selling everything from souvenirs (T-shirts/magnets/postcards/magnets etc), to fresh food (fish/vegetables/meat etc), to cook food (bento sets/ramen/tempura/sashimi/sushi etc), to kitchen ware (wok/chopsticks/sushi ingredients etc).

One of the experience of being in Tsukiji, is to queue up outside a hole-in-a-wall sushi shop to eat fresh sushi. You can find the shops in one of the alley closer to the fish market. You can't miss it as there will be countless people queue outside each shops (it's a whole roll of hole-in-a-wall shops there). They are call hole-in-a-wall because each shop is really really small, seating maybe just 12 people each time. The menu's are placed outside, and like a Singapore Yong-Tauhu shop, you make a queue first to place your order, and then go to another queue to wait for available place to seat inside the shop. Photo here shows one of the shop we visited. I ordered set #R as I love minced tuna, salmon roe, and tuna (Y$1200); and my dad and hubby had the set #P which contains sea urchin (ウニ), salmon, and tuna (Y$1400) which I totally hate. The sets are served with hot rice, pickles, miso soup, and tea. Total cost for 3 person for a meal here Y$4000 (S$60).

From Shinjuku Station, take the Oedo Subway Line to Tsukijishijo Station. The one way trip takes 20 minutes, and cost Y$260. Market is above the station. Once you come up to street level, turn right and walk towards the crowd.

Tsukiji Fish Market
Sea Urchin ウニ
Sashimi 刺身

Friday, May 22, 2009


Hi all. I'm back from my trip to Japan and ready to document down the highlights of the trip here on this blog. For a start, I'm told that I'm a shade darker now. As I post more of my adventure in Japan, you'll begin to understand how I got so tanned in Japan. I'm also a lot poorer now as Japan is really a very expensive place to visit, with an average meal per person costing around S$15. But guess what! My spirit is lighter. My body feels healthier from all the walking and hiking. And I hope to go back again in another 4 years time :)

To start of the blog on Travel - Japan, I thought I'll start with all the interesting characters I met along my trip. The very first interesting character was Irie Yosuke whom we met in Akihabara. A Japanese flute player who was trying to sell his solo CD titled "Phenomenon of the Earth". He was a wonderful player, but his CD, which was selling at S$30 for 8 songs, was a bit on the high side for me. Still, if I came across the CD again, I think I'll like to buy it. You can watch a sample of his performance at the reference link below (but the clip does him no justice as he played better then is shown).

The next person we met was Mr Hiroshi Matsuura from the Kamakura Welcome Guide Association. He was our free tour guide at Kamakura, and took us walking around the town from 10am till 5pm non-stop (except for 1 hour for lunch). I've given him an idea of what we wanted to see there, but he was kind enough to show us a lot more then what we were expecting. And with his explanation, we were able to appreciate Kamakura a lot better then if we had explore it on our own. Thank you Mr Matsuura! You're a wonderful guide! Photo here shows Mr Matsuura with my husband and my dad.

At an unlikely place high up in the mountains of Hakone (at Owakudani大涌谷 to be precise), I saw these two adorable Hello Kitty! Hello Kitty is everywhere in Japan!

And last but not least, I was able to met up with a primary school friend of mine whom I have not seen in 20 years! Here's a photo of us taken at the Imperial Palace Ground. Thank you for coming all the way from Yokohama to bring us around! Let's meet up again when we're 52 over a bowl of porridge!

Stay tune as I share with you more details of my trip :)

Irie Yosuke YouTube Clip
Kamakura Welcome Guide Association
Hello Kitty