Below is a write-up, plus my best photos. I've directly linked the best ones and put a link to the others. Feel free to skip ahead to the pictures -- in particular, check out the ones of Kamakura, because they're incredible. Also cut for sheer length.
I met them at Narita Airport on Wednesday and we went back to their hotel, through Ueno station. They told us how clean it was and kuroe and I were kind of stunned. Seriously, Ueno is a dump! Is it really that bad back in Britain...?
Sadly, I was kind of grumpy, because I'd got some bad financial news, but I forced myself to cheer up. My mum had brought some treats from Britain, including McCoys steak-flavour crisps and instant couscous. Isn't it strange what you miss? These are all basics from my student days, actually. I always used to have a pack of McCoys with my pint at the Union. A pint of cider and black, naturally. :)
They bought parsnips for kuroe.
After that, I had a day at work, then the next day we headed off to Yokohama.
First of all, we went up the Landmark Tower. It's famous for having the fastest elevator in Japan at 750 metres per minute. Although I'd been to Yokohama a couple of times, I'd never been up it. The first time, it was too grey and cloudy and we figured we'd never see anything and the second time it was only to see Dream Live 4th. This day, however, was beautiful and clear. We could see the whole of Tokyo stretched out before us, all grey and silver. We saw the harbours and the boats and the Yokohama Bay Bridge. We saw this factory with seats outside that spelled out 'LOVE' for whatever reason. Yokohama is charming from the sky.
We also took my brother to the Pokemon Centre, which he loved. He's crazy about the Pokemans, it turns out. I used to be into it, but I don't really care for all these new-fangled New Generation Pokemon. I can't say them all anymore!
Yokohama Bay area.
In Chinatown ("Chuukagai"), we had a large meal and tried to explain that Japanese Chinese food is different from British Chinese food. We all ordered our own dishes which might have been a mistake since there were six of us and the dishes very large. Additionally, I'd also added my own typical Japanese-Chinese dishes - gyouza, harumaki and shumai. Gyouza is apparently known as dim sum, according to my brother, which surprises me because most Chinese people I know call it something like "jauzu" with what seems like -- to my untrained ears -- to be a rising tone followed by a flat tone. Apologies for not romanising it Pinyin-style -- I don't know how. Anyway, harumaki is spring roll and no idea of the English translation of the last one.
The funny thing about Chinatown is that it's all about the pandas. Everywhere you go, you'll see cheap panda merchandise. Panda hats, panda costumes, panda robots, panda phone charms, panda nikuman ([pork] meat buns)... It's full of pandas!
We also went to the temple dedicated to a Chinese warrior that now relates to business sense and money. Here's hoping!
Detail from that temple.
After that, we took them to Minato Mirai station, which is a triumph of dystopic future design. Err... I kid, I kid.
A huge black monolith forms the centrepiece and on it, written in white neon lighting, is a quotation entirely in German. It's pretty cool. You descend past it on an escalator that covers several floors.
After that, we went to the bay area. I always think of that old song, "Blue Light Yokohama". We waited with my mother (she doesn't like heights) while the others went on the Cosmo Clock 21, which is the famous big wheel.
Landmark Tower from the bay, at night.
I think it was this night that, walking home to our apartment, kuroe and I saw a strange feline creature walking across the telephone wires on all fours like a tightrope act. It went from one house to another in just this manner. It had an extra long tail and its body was about the same size and shape as a cat's, except slightly longer. I'm very sure it wasn't a cat though.
The next day, we went to Takaosan. I've been up this mountain so many times now and it still amazes. It's just a really beautiful place and I completely recommend it in autumn. That also happens to be climbing season and all the shops are open too. kuroe and I climbed it in late winter once and we got icecream and hot cocoa from a vending machine because that's all there was.
Anyway, my parents aren't such great climbers anymore, so we went up by chairlift. At the top, we saw the temple dedicated to the Tengu.
One of the Tengu.
We also managed to get the famous grape vineger icecream, which was a partial success. My parents liked it, although I'm not too sure about my brother and his girlfriend.
View from the top.
On a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji from the top. Not today, however, although I love the way the mountains look. Fujisan should be where all that cloud at the back is.
To go down, we chose a wetter route, which follows the path of the river down. You can tread on rocks to stop your feet getting wet, if you like.
The next photo is of one of my favourite temples, right by Biwa Waterfalls. It looks gorgeous when it's just getting dark and it's just enough to light the lanterns.
The temple at Biwa Falls.
After that, we headed back to Shinjuku and took everyone round the station. This kind of surprised us, that just looking at a big, shiny area of Tokyo would be so popular, but it's what everyone wanted to do! Managed about a half-circuit of the station (we didn't go to 2-chome or Kabukicho!) and ended up in an izakaya with just my parents. My brother and his girlfriend decided to wander off for more pretty lights.
Next, was Kamakura. We decided to go this Sunday because there was the annual ritual featuring horseback archery.
As for the riders themselves, I'll let the pictures speak because I honestly believe they're stunning. It's incredible to be able to see something like this today.
After that, we took part in an outdoor tea ceremony held in the forest surrounding the historical temple. Again, absolutely incredible.
We wandered around looking for somewhere to eat and discovered that Gyu-kaku opened at four. We all had yakiniku and my brother was amazed at our ability to barbecue indoors. After that, he and his girlfriend dashed back to Tokyo and we dragged my parents to the famous Zeniarai shrine.
Since it was dark, there was hardly anyone there. We went up a suburban alleyway and saw a small torii arch against the way. When we got further in, we could see there was a light underneath it and it lead downwards. In a enclosed area, surrounded on all sides by trees, there was a secret shrine.
We went, lit by lantern light and the moon, across the temple courtyard to the washing facilities that are a feature of Zeniarai. You take a basket and put your money in it. Next, you take a wooden ladle and pour holy water over it. When it's dry, you put it back in your wallet and you'll be lucky with money.
Nearby, there was a temple dedicated to Inari-san, God of merchants. He's actually a fox and you can see lots of Inari fox statues at his shrines. For this one, we climbed many steps under a line of torii arches until we got to a small, moonlit temple filled with fox statues.
Yesterday, I went to the famed Hakone. I'd heard a lot about it and I guess I thought it seemed a little too touristy, even though I still wanted to go there.
We got a Free Pass which meant we could go there and back, plus use all other transportation in Hakone for a fixed fee. We started by taking the bus about forty minutes up winding mountain roads until we got to the lake, where there is supposed to be a great view of Fujisan.
Great view of Mount Fuji.
Towering above the red torii arch should be Mount Fuji. Unfortunately, it wasn't there today.
Running parallel to the lake is a path surrounded on both sides by pine trees. After travelling down it, we went to an old Edo checkpoint and had coffee with a nice view of the lake. We also saw some birds of prey, although I'm not sure what type they were.
Next, we ate corn on the cob, served by a street vendor who was really putting up with a lot from the weather! The journey on the ship was the highlight of my trip! We left, shrouded in fog, with the mist rolling off the wooded hills towards us. It was so beautiful and I wish my camera could have captured it better.
After that, we took the ropeway to Owakidani, which is a huge sulphurous pit where they cook the famous Hakone black eggs. You can buy six for five hundred yen and each one adds seven years to your life. They cook them in the sulphur valley.
Today, my parents are coming to visit my apartment...
And what everyone's really been waiting for... another post from Koyasu-sama.
4th September 2007 (Tues) // The ban's been lifted.
Well, it's been announced in Weekly Shounen Jump that the role of Neuro in Majn Tantei Nougami Neuro has been decided. Congratulations to me, thanks to me, YAY ME *clapclapclap* (^^)／▽☆▽＼(^^)
Nah, it was pretty close though. My performance [in the CD dramas] was fairly recent though... I really apologise to all the fans out there for not telling you about my new role immediately. (>_<)
The recording has already begun and I have the feeling it'll be a fantastic piece of work. And so it looks like I've got one serious work and if I can get a second, peaceful days might come to me. I'll do my best! And so, do your best for me please, God! (●^ー^●)