japanesedream_72: (tired)
As always, please make sure you’ve read the previous entry first before starting this one.

Prepare yourself for the very definition of harrowing! )

That’s all, folks!

Thanks for reading. ^_^
japanesedream_72: (loli)
If you haven't read about the previous portion of the day, please do so before moving on to this part. There, you will also find links to the first 2 days' entries.

I left you on the way from Harajuku to Ebisu, didn't I?

Moving closer to the goal...just one divine place... )

You definitely want to read what comes next!!
japanesedream_72: (Default)
You have read about Day 1 & Day 2 already, right? If not, please see those entries first, before continuing on to this one. Or you‘ll be as lost as I felt in Ueno looking at that Metro map on Day 1! XD

Quick note before I get to the first part of this VERY big day:

My camera takes crappy night photos. They usually come out really dark, so I try to lighten them, either with my camera’s editing functions, or my PhotoStudio software. But my PC monitor runs a little on the dark side, I think. So if things seem grainy or bright or strange-looking on your flat-screen LCD’s or laptops, that’s why. It looks just fine to me.

Okay, on to business...

A journey of 1,000 miles begins...now! )

To be continued!!
japanesedream_72: (toshiya)
My fellow J-rock lovers will have already noted that the title of this post alludes to a Moi dix Mois song. And, of course, that band will be the focus of an upcoming entry! But it is also a very fitting title for this post, given the events of the day...er, night. You’ll see what I mean.

Anyway, please make sure you’ve read about Day 1 before moving on to this entry.

Ready? )

Next up, Day 3!!
japanesedream_72: (geisha)
This will be a report of my usual standard, long & winding, often rambling, with many, many details, some interesting, some not (though hopefully more interesting than not). Those of you with whom I am friends on Facebook know that the odyssey began at least a month before my departure, with my eager countdown of daily Moi dix Mois clips, & - behind the scenes - many on-line searches & frantic e-mails to more knowledgeable & well-traveled friends, planning & questioning, researching & gathering, making sure I had as much information as I could, to get me where I was going as easily as possible, since I would not have the help & guidance of my native/local Japanese friend as often as I had on my earlier trip.

I'll cut to the chase - as much as I can, anyway - since I know that's where you'd all like me to start.

And so it begins... )

Stay tuned for Day 2!
japanesedream_72: (Default)
For those who didn't see it on Facebook, I'm back. :)

Took an extra day, 'cuz of the stupid blizzard, & I got stuck in the train station overnight (on this side of the world, of course, not the clean, efficient, heavenly Japanese side XP), but I did it.

Gotta see if the post office is open today, 'cuz I need to mail back my Japanese phone. Then I have to dig myself out of Snow Hell.

Stories & photos to come, when I'm a bit more rested & my brain's together.
japanesedream_72: (mana)
holiday bonsai

Fun times at my mom’s this weekend! Lots of family, yummy things to eat, movie-watching, & goodies! Tomorrow (Tues.), I’m off & running (make that, flying), but before I go...

Happy B-days to Dir en grey’s Die; my nephew, Anthony, & his brother, Church; & my pal, Ashley, from work!

As for me, Tim Curry said it best in “I’m Going Home”, from The Rocky Horror Picture Show:

On the day I went away
Goodbye...was all I had to say
Now I...I want to come again
and stay
Oh my...
Smile & that will mean I may

The gods have smiled on me, giving me this chance...to see a friend again, to see an influence again, & to see a land again that I might - that I hope to - one day call home.

I hope all of you are smiled upon, too. May your holidays bring you everything you deserve (& that’s a lot!!). From the bottom of my heart, I wish you peace, warmth, wonder, fun, happiness, & love.

さようなら!! (Bye!!)


Oct. 23rd, 2007 08:24 am
japanesedream_72: (kozi by haley)
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

This was a sign I saw outside the Cosplay event at Tokyo Dome City (Day 8).

Just a little post to wrap things up as far as my travelogue, & thank everybody for reading my uber-detailed accounts of the awesomeness that is Japan as I experienced it.

While I’m at it, I’ll throw a few final things your way, & correct 1 or 2 tiny mistakes I made in earlier posts.

Firstly, this is the website for that band we saw in Shibuya (Day 1): http://www.thecrater.jp/. (YouTubers can also see a snippet of footage, from what looks very much like the session we watched that night, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OT0C4wmnl2Q.) Do check them out.

Next, I’ve been spelling a lot of foods incorrectly: onigiri, Ramune, monja (also known as monja-yaki), & okonomi-yaki. There are probably others. Here’s a good page on which to find better explanations (& photos) of a number of the things I had - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Japanese_dishes. They even mention the Yakult drink I got from Terai-san my last morning at the ryokan (Day 9).

From the “please paint a big DUH on my forehead” file - I did see more Gackt than just that poster in the train station (Day 8). I was thinking in terms of his solo stuff when I said there wasn’t a hint of him around. However, he was quite locatable in his role as former vocalist for Malice Mizer. I picked up a couple of CD’s that he sang on when I went splurging at Tower (Day 1), & there were a few DVD’s floating about from that era, as well. (Got one of those, too.)

Remember how I said I didn’t want to end up like Bridget Fonda? Here’s the photo she’s referring to in that scene from JACKIE BROWN.

Which brings me to...last but not least...bishi!

This is Riku from Phantasmagoria. It was his picture on the wall in the maid cafe (Day 5). And just in case you’re curious, here is the rest of the band. I took all these shots from the DVD’s I bought, then threw in the wording with PhotoStudio.

The posters I got at the Moi dix Mois show (Day 6). The one on the left, I bought for myself & [livejournal.com profile] charaxinae. The one on the right (the cover shot from their latest CD) I got as a freebie. Thanks, Mana-sama!

And this is the one Han’ya I managed to bring back with me (thanks to Dir en grey - & if you want to know what they look like, go here).

Got any questions? Want to see some more photos? Do drop me a comment & let me know.

Must dash for now, to get ready for work. For those who don’t already know, I’ve lined up a temporary job with my old boss, who has a special project he needs help on. Maybe I can put a little of the money I make toward my next trip! ^_^

The End

Oct. 10th, 2007 01:18 pm
japanesedream_72: (Default)
Now that you've seen my Kyoto & last-day-in-Tokyo pics (& if you haven't, I strongly recommend you scroll down to my previous entries), I can tell you about the long, strange trip that marked my return to the States.

Before going to Japan, I’d learned how to say, “It has been a very enjoyable stay,” &, “I hope I can come back sometime”. So when I checked out of the ryokan, I was fully prepared, in that small way, to thank everybody for their hospitality. Used these phrases, to what I believe was Terai-san’s delight. She even noted my decent Japanese to another female worker. These people work very hard. They scrub down the rooms every day, do laundry, iron yukata, give you rice crackers, & hot water in your thermos for tea. There are always fresh linens, bath towels, even daily toothbrush/toothpaste sets! Seriously, they clean like there’s no tomorrow.

Terai-san gave me a Hi-C candy vitamin thing. She talked to me a bit, asked if my friend were coming for me (I said she wouldn’t be, that day, but that she would call), & made sure I was okay ‘cuz it was cold & I wasn’t yet wearing my wrap (all my sweaters were packed). She gave me a little bottle of some milky-juicy stuff to drink. Not sure what it was, but it tasted pretty nice, & was made by Yakult (the co. that owns the Swallows, the team that beat the Tigers at our game). She bid me “sayonara”. What a sweetie.

Talked to [livejournal.com profile] styxonline, but the phone (it was a rented cell) kept clapping out on me (I have no idea why; it was fully charged), so one of my fellow ryokan guests, an American from Indiana, was kind enough to let me borrow his. I saw him later on the bus to Shibuya. He & the girl he was with double-checked with me to make sure they were at the right bus stop - they’d accidentally waited for a minute at the drop-off stop, which was on the other side of the street. I told them it was okay - I’d done the exact same thing earlier in the week (I think it was the day I went to Mt. Fuji).

[livejournal.com profile] styxonline told me there were 2 ways to get back to Narita Airport: the limousine bus, on which we’d ridden after my arrival, & the Narita Express, a very nice train that runs out of Tokyo Station. First, however, she recommended I go Shibuya or possibly Harajuku, to treat myself to a final taste of local life, one last immersion into this place that I’d so loved, & preferably one last meal. Airplane food leaves much to be desired.

Unfortunately, so does my sense of direction.

I asked the lady to whom Terai-san had noted my decent Japanese if she would let me keep my bag there (it was long past check-out by that point, but they were all nice enough to let me hang out there, as it was raining quite heavily & I didn’t really know what to do with myself, being without my companion) while I went to get something to eat. She was fine with that, & asked me about the flight. We hit a snag during this part of the conversation (language barrier again), & I apologised, saying I didn’t speak much Japanese. She said that was okay, she didn’t speak much English, so we were the same. Cute, huh? ^_^

My Japan Rail pass had officially run out (they only issue it for 7 days, so my first & last days in the country didn’t count), & I couldn’t find the dang ticket counter at Shibuya Station, so I couldn’t get to Harajuku. Even after going there every day, I still got lost in the place. I could find everything else - reserve tickets, Suica card machines, you name it - but not the ticket purchasing counter. It’s tucked away in a corner. I got there eventually. Just not at this point in the story.

Discouraged, I wimped out at even attempting to order anything at a restaurant. Couldn’t read the menus, & wasn’t confident in my language skills (I may have done okay for a tourist, but I really know very little in the grand scheme of things, which is why I would love to go into in-depth language study). So I just walked around Shibuya for a while, taking it all in one final time. Probably should’ve saved myself the bus fare, & gone to the konbeni.

I suppose things tend to work out the way they are supposed to, though, don’t they? Went back to the ryokan & figured I’d just take the limousine bus, not risking the train. So I asked, in a cruddy amalgamation of 2 different languages, about how to get back. The girl at the desk (the coughing guy’s daughter; I know this ‘cuz I heard her address him as “Tou-san” earlier in the week) said the bus might not be such a good idea with all my luggage, & that a taxi would be easy to get & likely better, given the weather. So I asked politely if she could get me a taxi. While I was waiting, I talked to the coughing guy for a bit. He asked me some questions, like where I was going home to, & said his daughter (must be another one, not the one in the ryokan) had lived for 2 years in NY, I think it was. Now she’s in San Diego. “Where it’s always nice & sunny.” ^_^ I’m pretty sure he said my Japanese was fairly good. Can’t remember if he asked if I’d visited or lived in the country before, but I thought he did. Think he was just a bit surprised that, as I confirmed when he asked, I’d learned some Japanese (language) in America. Then he asked how long I’d stayed at the ryokan. I told him 8 days. He gave me a set of chopsticks with holders! Not just a pair, but a set! “A present,” he said. How nice!!

Made up for a pretty sucky rest of the day.

Got the taxi to the swank hotel where the limousine bus picks people up. Went to get a ticket for it, & the hotel people said there was a bus, but there was no seating available. They said (in English) my best bet would be to take the train to Shinagawa Station (it’s one of the stops before Tokyo), & catch the Narita Express there. Had to go all the way down (like, 3 floors through the hotel, using elevators & escalators) & across the walkway, back to Shibuya Station, lugging one big wheeled case & carrying a shoulder bag packed with mostly CD’s & DVD’s. GAH!!

Made sure I’d gotten the location of Shibuya Station’s ticket counter from the hotel people. Found it after a lot of schlepping around, & got a ticket. For some reason, both the hotel people & the guy at the ticket counter, when I said I wanted the Narita Express, asked, “Today?”

No, I’m just hauling around 2 big bags for the hell of it. I’ll go to the airport tomorrow. DUH. (Is there a word for “Duh” in Japanese?)

Had a heck of a time getting my big bag onto the luggage storage shelf once I did reach the Narita Express, & then I accidentally sat in the wrong seat. When I moved to the right one, there was a very helpful young man who spoke good English, who put my shoulder bag (with the rolled up Moi dix Mois posters sticking out of it) into the overhead compartment. Took it out for me again, too, when we reached Narita.

Slept most of the way to the airport. Narita’s a bit confusing, but I eventually made it to the waiting area for my flight. Bought dinner (sushi & inari-zushi, plus an onegiri with lots of seaweed wrapping on it & a spiced vegetable mix inside) & a little charm (Hello Kitty dressed as a Geisha, playing the shamisen!) at the duty-free shop. Had my last chat with [livejournal.com profile] styxonline.

Talked later to a Chicago gentleman who’d been going to Japan for the last 5 years. Hope I can do that. I will, of course, need to advance my language & especially my reading skills, before I can live there. But I’ll visit again, for sure.

Tried to doze a little on the plane, think I succeeded a couple of times. Watched a period film on tv, about a Kyoto tofu shop. Was given otsumami - a mix of dried, salted nuts & soybeans - & orange juice. Wracked my brain trying to figure out how to fill out those Customs declaration forms (think I annoyed the stewardess with all my questions about them). Thought for sure I’d have to pay mountains of duty when I got back to the US.

The lady in the seat next to me, a very nice Philippine woman, I think she was (she’d mentioned taking the flight back from Tokyo as a connecting flight from the Philippines), left the seat next to me to join her friend, who was next to a vacant seat. Once again, they must’ve been last-minute ticket purchases, like the episode where the Simpsons went to Japan. I would see her again later when we landed, & we chatted in the seemingly endless line waiting to go through Customs.

Became increasingly frightened of the possibility of being detained by Customs agents. Of course, it was my own dang fault for buying so much music & video! Tried to be honest & declare everything I’d gotten (which took THREE of their forms, & I still forgot 1 or 2 small items). But as long as I got to keep what I’d purchased, I didn’t mind paying to bring it all in.

Not sure what the meal was that we were served. Something with rice & possibly zucchini, as well as what may have been eggs or tofu. Plus a salad, a couple pieces of soft flatbread, & a dessert square made from apples, nuts, & seeds.

Made some notes about music, anime/manga, Japanese birds, stuff to e-mail [livejournal.com profile] styxonline. Wondered what kind of mail I’d get when I got back. Thought it might be bills. (It was.) Also made a list of all the foods I could recall having had whilst in Japan:

Chou, teriyaki burger, bento, Nikuman, chawan-mushi, tako-yaki, okanomi-yaki, mon-jya, mochi (part of the mon-jya), soba, udon, gyoza, tempura, those bean drinks that tasted like milkshakes, chai latte, health food, junk food (choco-goodies from the konbeni), Ramane, apple tea, carrot juice, lotus root (tempura & salad), various types sushi (incl. inari-zushi), onegiri, tonkatsu, mikan juice, Calpis (it’s sort of a milky drink), puddings, jellies, bean dessert (wish I could remember more names of things), parfait, cake (including that tofu cheesecake), that older (more classic) variety of orange juice at the tonkatsu shop, rice crakers, yakitori, ramen, rice (both plain & with goodies in), miso soup, green tea, potato salad, prawn (part of the tempura), & red tuna (part of the sushi) - those last 2 I’d actually been leery of trying when I first went over, but I gave it a shot, & they were fine.

Kept getting tired, then not feeling tired. Should’ve walked more, but didn’t feel up to it. Tried to stretch out a little, being there was no one sitting beside me, but it’s difficult to do. Those seats are just crammed in there.

What did I buy in Akihabara, the woman in Aoyama Cemetery asked. I didn’t get into the maid thing, just said I’d gotten lots of goodies. Threw out the word “anime” (hey, it’s Geek Central!), & she said, “Oh, otaku!” I was, like, “Hai!” Thought fondly back to all the wonderful things I had seen & done, as well as the people I’d connected with: the cemetery couple, the folks at the ryokan, Mana Maid, the Cosplay Bishettes, Pikachu Boy, Tower Girl. And, of course, my new-found friend, [livejournal.com profile] styxonline.

Had some kind of sandwich for a snack. Could have been chicken or turkey. It was a little dry, but okay. Came with fruit - sort of giant purple grapes, seeded. I thought they were plums at first, but they were smaller & tasted different. Thought I might’ve had something like them once before. Slept some more afterward.

Continental breakfast was served at 3 in the afternoon. A danish with butter, a croissant with strawberry jam, orange juice, green tea, & fruit - orange, pineapple, & kiwi. I was still worried about Customs; hoped they’d just ask me to pay & not want to check stuff. Didn’t think they should have any qualms about me buying CD’s. I think my J-rock addiction has put Tower in good financial standing for quite some time!

The flight back took only about 10 hours, as opposed to the 14 it took going over. The airport was a nightmare, but I talked to some nice people, most of whom I’ve already mentioned. There was also a guy from Pennsylvania (who looked a bit like Bobby McFerrin with dreadlocks), who I think was a photographer, that I got chatting with. He’d been in a couple places, I mostly remember him mentioning Myanmar. We talked about the inefficiency of the American air transit system - airports, primarily (esp. as compared to other countries), & bad airline food. Told him I was nervous about Customs, & why. He was hoping he wouldn’t be one of the random people stopped. He joked that he didn’t think he would be; he had an “innocent face”.

We both got lucky - especially me! Managed to slide through Customs. Nobody could believe how much stuff I bought! The first checker said, “Did some shopping on your trip, huh?”, & I was like, “Yep, they have good stuff.” After a moment, he said, “Welcome to America,” with a smile, & waved me on. The lady at the next checkpoint was surprised I was traveling alone & had spent so much money (it wasn’t really that much money - I had quite a bit left over from what I’d brought - I think it was just that I’d spent so much at places like Tower), but said I’d caught her “in a good mood”, so I got away with, like, $300 above the duty. You could have knocked me over with a feather!

I was prepared to pay for it, though, if I’d had to.

Bob, my driver, hugged me when he met me at the airport. Had a lovely chat again on the way home; told him all about my adventures. He helped me with my bags when we got to my house, & as it was dark, he waited for me to get in & put the lights on before he left. I gave him a bit more than the bill, told him to keep the change. He was a total doll. Hugged him again before we parted.

Went into the house, called one of my relatives, who’d left me a message just a few hours before I got back, then called my mom. Then I passed out & slept for 12 hours.

Back to reality. :P

Walked down to CVS the following day to get more double-sided tape. Of all the stuff I had to do, I wanted to hang up those posters. My living room turned into a disaster area as I unpacked, but I’ve gotten the majority of it taken care of. Tucked the suitcases out of the way, did the laundry, watched all the DVD’s (am slowly getting in my first listens to the CD’s, but am debating whether or not I should make back-up copies - after having that track on the second L’Arc BEST OF get messed up, I’m a little scared of playing the ones I bought in Japan, for fear of the same thing happening). Nearly cried while watching the “Embryo” video on Diru’s “Kimon” collection. Of course, it’s one of my fave songs of theirs, quite sad & beautiful. But in this particular instance, I think it was a combination of that plus the pangs of re-adjustment. I very much missed the place I’d left. Time had stopped for me, while I was there. The problems, concerns, & fears of daily life were, for the most part, non-existent. Felt as if I had found paradise & been torn from it. I was trapped between worlds.

Yes, I know I only got to see the best of the place, & everywhere has its ups & downs, its positives & negatives, but it's so much more than that...

Things are a little better now, though I still miss Japan - the sights, the sounds, the people, the food, the atmosphere. I’ve got no discernable sleep (or eating) pattern at present, but I am getting back on track: have done laundry, gone grocery shopping, & am taking care of bills & mail. Also applied to a temporary agency, & am looking for others in my area, in case nothing comes from this one.

That’s the next adventure: getting a full-time job.

One final note...
japanesedream_72: (Default)
Back in Tokyo now. Last full day.

The grave of the professor who owned Hachiko. Aoyama Cemetery.

The little park on the way to Tokyo Tower.

Full-length shot of Tokyo Tower.

The tofu shop just before Tokyo Tower. I am really obsessed with the trees in Japan.

Up close & personal - Tokyo Tower.

Me & my terrifically bad hair day under Tokyo Tower. The closer you get, the more it looks as if it’s leaning over.

Me & the mini-Tokyo Tower, near the souvenir shop. One more peace/victory sign for the road.

Bamboo & flowers in a garden near Tokyo Tower.

Me & the little Sumo statue. If I’m not mistaken, this was just outside the train station. I think this section of Tokyo is called Ryogoku, or possibly Sumida.

One of the “big boys” hanging on the wall of the train station (pretty sure it’s Ryogoku Station) near the Sumo Museum, Ryogoku/Sumida.

The Ryogoku Kokugikan, Ryogoku/Sumida, which houses the Sumo Museum, & where they also hold matches & tournaments.

Detail of one of the outer walls of the Ryogoku Kokugikan, Ryogoku/Sumida.

Flags outside the Ryogoku Kokugikan, Ryogoku/Sumida. Each is dedicated to a different Sumo wrestler.

The Sumidagawa River.

Gackt! Pretty boy in a Samurai outfit (yum). This ad for the new drama he’s starring in was posted in a train station. Might have been Suidoubashi, I’m not sure. He’s one of the most popular Japanese stars, yet this was the only hint I saw of him my whole time in Japan.

Tako-yaki! Battered octopus balls (yum). Tokyo Dome City.

Jump Shop anime store. Tokyo Dome City.

The amusement park & mall known as Tokyo Dome City, just outside the Tokyo Dome sports & entertainment stadium.

The mall at Tokyo Dome City.

The stadium. Due to its shape & colour, the Tokyo Dome is nicknamed Big Egg.

The amusement park at Tokyo Dome City.

Me in my yukata, my final morning, after having put the face on. This & one other shot next to my luggage would be the final photos I would take in Japan.

Next time: Homeward Bound
japanesedream_72: (Default)
I call this look Kyoto Goth. (That dress I'm wearing is the qipao I was talking about.)

The Shinkansen Hikari train at Tokyo Station, known to most in the West as the Bullet Train. This is what I rode from Tokyo to Kyoto.

The huge Torii gate marking the entrance to the Heian Shrine, Kyoto.

The entrance to the Heian Shrine.

Pretty sure this is the main part of the Heian Shrine, where people go & pray.

Another building at the Heian Shrine. There are wine casks there (though you might not be able to see them in this downsized photo), more of which are showcased in a separate area outside (much like the ones at the Meiji Shrine).

A fairly famous tree, we were told, which has been written about in poetry & the like. I forget what kind of tree it is - might be a sakura (cherry blossom), but I’m not 100% sure. Gardens at Heian Shrine, Kyoto.

I saw quite a few trees like this one, in both Tokyo & Kyoto, though I never did learn what they were. Gardens at Heian Shrine, Kyoto.

The beautiful waters surrounding the gardens at the Heian Shrine. Note the stepping stones at the far end. Hiro, our tour guide, gave us a little detail about them, though I can’t recall exactly what he said.

More of the waters at the Heian Shrine gardens. Can you see the crane? (That white thing next to the rock in the center of the picture.) I saw several whilst in Kyoto. We walked over that bridge going across (in the back, to the right), as well.

This is the bridge. Gardens at Heian Shrine, Kyoto.

If you looked down over the sides of the bridge, you could see lots of big koi fish & turtles! Gardens at Heian Shrine, Kyoto.

View from the bridge. Gardens at Heian Shrine, Kyoto.

Another building at the Heian Shrine. I think this view might’ve been from the bridge, too. (Sorry if I seem a little vague - I took a LOT of photos.)

This is the Sanjusangen-do Temple, Kyoto. You can see our tour guide, Hiro, giving commentary. The tour guides always hold up little flags so you can find them (each tour has its own design). His says “Hiro Tour”.

Garden at the Sanjusangen-do Temple, Kyoto.

Housed in this building are the thousand statues of the Kannon Buddha (actually, I think it might technically be 1001 - 500 on each side & a huge one in the middle; there are also renderings of various guardian gods - adapted from the Hindu gods, if I remember rightly - as well as other artifacts). Hiro explained that Buddha himself, having attained enlightenment, was thought to be too “high up”, so to speak, to be asked by the common person for help with seemingly mundane or trivial problems. Kannon, a Buddha who had not yet reached the most enlightened stage, was felt to be more approachable. This is the same Buddha (Kannon) honoured by the temple in Asakusa. Note, if you can (they’re kinda small), the little racks in front on which to tie bad mikoji. Sanjusangen-do Temple, Kyoto.

Entrance to the Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto.

Pretty sure this structure marks the observation point at Kiyomizu Temple.

The courtyard at Kiyomizu Temple.

Walkway through Kiyomizu Temple.

The inside of the walkway. Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto.

The temple is built more or less on the edge of a cliff. This is the wooden veranda that, as you can see, juts out over the cliff’s edge. According to the tour book, “The veranda is supported on a scaffold of wood towering on a wooded hillside, so the veranda seems to hang in mid-air. The valley is so deep there is an expression, ‘jumping from the veranda of Kiyomizu Temple’, which means doing something daring.” Little side note: those people standing furthest to the right are the British couple with whom I conversed. Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto.

The valley below the veranda. Yes, I like those downward angles, though I was also trying to get a shot of the scaffolding that secures the veranda to the edge of the cliff (you can see it on the bottom left of the photo). Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto.

The awesome treeline that towers above Kiyomizu Temple.

View of Kyoto from Kiyomizu Temple.

Another view of the city of Kyoto from Kiyomizu Temple.

Still more to come!
japanesedream_72: (Default)
Hope you enjoyed the Asakusa/Akihabara pics - what could top temples, maids, & anime, you say? Well, there are lots of shots yet to post! I'm still going through them all & picking out some prime ones to show you.

Like these!

View from the bridge outside the train station, Shinjuku.

Government Building, Shinjuku.

View from the observatory - Government Bldg., Shinjuku. I think that big green patch in the back are the woods surrounding the Meiji Shrine.

Aren't those buildings neat? More from the Government Building observatory.

Looking down into the courtyard from the observatory - Government Building, Shinjuku.

More of the view of Tokyo from the Government Bldg. observatory.

Yet another view of Tokyo from the Government Bldg. observatory. Yeah, I took a lot of these.

I like my downward angles. More from the observatory - Government Bldg., Shinjuku.

Long way down, eh? Another shot from the observatory - Government Bldg., Shinjuku.

A very long way down, indeed. One more from the observatory - Government Bldg., Shinjuku.

Satellite dishes (I think that's what they are) at the top of the Government Building, Shinjuku. [livejournal.com profile] styxonline referred to them as mushrooms.

Me & that famous cat outside Family Mart, Harajuku.

Happy that I’m going to see Mana-sama.

Wait, Goths aren’t supposed to smile! Time to look evil. Actually, that’s not so much evil as me being ticked that I don’t have cool hair like Mana-sama. I’ve GOT to take a better picture in that outfit one of these days.

Some lucky Japanese printer got to do up a whole bunch of these! Flyer for Moi-meme-Moitie event (Mana’s clothing line).

More on the way!
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Nothing like a Nikuman in the morning! Except maybe a little shopping at you-know-where.


More Asakusa.

Bridge view, Asakusa.

The other side of the bridge, Asakusa.

Asakusa's Golden Poo.

Shops & things, Asakusa.

A hearty lunch - tonkatsu in Asakusa.

The Shin Nakamise, Asakusa.

Me & my lavender backpack (on the right), exploring the Shin Nakamise.

Geisha shoes in a shop in the Shin Nakamise.

Entrance to the Kannon (Sensoji) Temple, Asakusa.

Asakusa Kannon (Sensoji) Temple. Note the large pot-looking thing in the middle in front of the temple. Whereas some places (I think it's Shinto shrines) have fountains at which you purify yourself before praying, others (pretty sure it's the Buddhist temples) have areas where you brush the smoke from incense over you for purification. That's what the big pot is.

Pagoda on the temple grounds, Asakusa.

One of the statues flanking the entrance to the temple, Asakusa. I think this might be Kannon, but I'm not entirely sure.

Tying my less-than-stellar mikoji to the rack - Asakusa.

Geek Central! Akihabara.

More Akihabara - notice the maid giving out flyers.

Even more Akihabara.

Cool billboard, Akihabara. I think this is for a game. I liked that character's design. We saw several signs & figures of her in shops & such.

You've just gotta love these signs! Only in Akihabara.

Shop in Akihabara. Notice the hand-drawn anime characters on the signs. Anybody know who that is on the tv screen? (I don't.)

Another shop in Akihabara.

One very cool wall, Akihabara.

Me & my girl, Akihabara.

Dragon Ice, fluffiest ice cream in the universe! Akihabara.

Told you maid culture was big here. Akihabara.

Evil American fried chicken chain invading Japanese culture! Akihabara.
(For those who don't know the story, the first time I really understood how much American culture had 'infiltrated' Japanese culture when I was watching the movie "Ichi the Killer" & saw the Japanese gangsters walk right under a KFC sign! I used to use a shot of it as my Friends Only banner: http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v415/japanesedream/?action=view¤t=LJfriendsbanner5.jpg)

Yodobashi, a massive electronics store - Akihabara.

There's always room for dessert, ne? Green tea ice cream & tofu cheesecake. Akihabara.

More soon!
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Me & the statue of Hachiko, Shibuya. I warn you now, in the first couple of days, I was apt to do that peace/victory sign thing one often sees the Japanese doing in photos. I've no idea why. I stopped it pretty quick.

Having a very bad hair day at Moyai, Shibuya. (Actually, I had the same bad hair day at Hachiko. You just can't tell 'cuz I've shrunk the pictures for uploading purposes.)

Shibuya, just outside the train station, in front of the Scramble Crossing. That's the back of my head there on the left.

Kabuki-za, Ginza, where we saw AKOYA performed.

Poster advertising the plays at Kabuki-za. AKOYA is on the right.

Ginza at night.

More Ginza.

Clock tower place (probably a store or office building), Ginza.

Shinjuku at night.

Me in an alley, Shinjuku. Absolutely no chance of becoming Bridget Fonda at this point.

More Shinjuku. I think this might have been heading toward the beginnings of Kabuki-cho.

Even more Shinjuku. Think this was just after we left Kabuki-cho. It's all sort of a magnificent blur in my brain.

Cool manhole cover, Shinjuku.

Revolving sushi, Shinjuku. Too bad I can't upload the video, or you'd actually see it revolving.

Mt. Fuji, in all its glory. Told you we could see it really well! This was at the Visitors' Center.

Me in front of Mt. Fuji, at the Visitors' Center.

View from the Mt. Fuji 5th Station observation point. (Sorry to all those with slow Internet connections - I should've shrunk this one more.)

Another view from the 5th Station observation point.

5th Station souvenir area & coffee shop. The red Torii gate there leads to the shrine where Mt. Fuji is worshipped.

Cool trees! At the back of the 5th Station souvenir shop.

5th Station restaurant - you can see the top of Mt. Fuji behind it. Kirei, ne?

Shrine to Mt. Fuji, behind the 5th Station souvenir area.

More Mt. Fuji shrine.

We cruised Lake Ashi on this boat.

Me cruising Lake Ashi. Note the Dir en grey shirt. ^_^

More of Lake Ashi - look at the little Torii gate!

Pretty buildings, viewed from Lake Ashi.

View from the cable car, Mt. Komagatake, Hakone National Park.

Another view from the cable car. You can see the hot springs steaming.

Hakone Ropeway, another cable car going by.

Better view of the hot springs - Owakudani, Hakone National Park.

Lone man humbled by the mountain - Owakudani, Hakone National Park.

This one's for you, [livejournal.com profile] el_jefe59! Owakudani, Hakone National Park.

And still much more to come!
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By now, you've read up to my last full day in Japan. Next, I'll tell you about the crazy time I had getting out of there! Until then, let's look back on my wonderful journey...

...with pictures!

I'll use links to avoid crashing anybody's systems.

Except for this one.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

That's part of a poster on the wall at Narita Airport. ^_^

On the limousine bus, on the way from the airport to the ryokan, I took some video clips. Also took videos at dinner, baseball...took quite a bit of video, come to think of it. I apologise if the screencaps are a little grainy. Still shot quality is better, but that's hard to do when you're moving. Or cooking. Or...you get the idea.

Pretty sure this is the Rainbow Bridge. Could see Tokyo Tower, as well, but I have better shots of that from when I went there, which I'll post later.

Here is Fuji TV studio. The arrow is pointing to what I think is the teeny, tiny, mini-Statue of Liberty. [livejournal.com profile] styxonline said there was a story behind the statue, but has yet to tell me what it is. When I find out, I'll let you know. ^_^

EDIT: According to [livejournal.com profile] styxonline, "The story goes there isn't only one Statue of Liberty that was made, but there were a few. The one you have in NY is much larger than the others. I did some research, and it looks like for two years, the French statue was sent to Japan to stand in Odaiba to celebrate France Year (??) and bonding between the two countries. After she went home, the French goverment made another statue of bronze, and sent it to Japan as a permanent gift. (Of course, they can't leave their statue with us forever.) So it's maybe the third (??) Statue of Liberty in the world."

The Hotel Fukudaya, the ryokan where I stayed.

The hotel's entrance garden.

My room.

More of my room - tv & lamp. Anybody know what anime I was watching? (I have no idea!)

More of my room - tea set with cushion.

Dinner, Day 1 - "mon-jya" & "okanomi-yaki" (the latter is the lighter-coloured one).

Took some video clips on the Jingu-bashi. Here is a screencap of me getting free hugs.

And one of Kei-jin by the phone booth.

A still shot of Kei-jin posing with tourists.
(I think the gal in the red might be cosplaying Ruki from Gazette. If so, she did a great job!)

Torii gate - entrance to the Meiji Shrine.

Not Bridget Fonda - bridge on the path to Meiji Shrine.

Wine casks - Meiji Shrine.

Doorway - Meiji Shrine; this is the one I walked through when I did my major face-plant. :P

Visitors wait to cleanse themselves at the purification fountain - Meiji Shrine.

Screencap of the wedding procession we saw at the Meiji Shrine.

Harajuku! This is the entrance to the Takeshita-Dori.

Me in front of Takenoko, Harajuku.

The portable shrine in front of Daiso, Harajuku.

Pikachu Boy! Cutest kid ever. Harajuku.

Yakult Swallows mascot - Jingu Stadium.

Swallows pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii interviewed on the big screen - Jingu Stadium.

More coming soon!

Last Day

Oct. 5th, 2007 07:11 pm
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Day 8 - As my time in Japan was coming to an end, I began to feel sadness creeping in. However, I was very happy to learn that, as I put it in my notes, Japan likes me!

Even if I am a cheese-ball.

Caught some of the anime shows I enjoy back home (Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh) on tv, & got video clips. There was another anime, don’t know what it was, that I tuned in to, with a very pretty, sad ending instrumental. Anime would play an important part in the joys of the day.

But first, a brief chat with [livejournal.com profile] styxonline, who was unable to meet me until the afternoon. She suggested, knowing my interest in seeing Aoyama Cemetery, that I take the train (actually, it may have been the Metro, now that I think of it) to Gaienmae, where we stopped earlier in the week (when we went to Jingu Stadium for the baseball game), & ask from there. It’s not that far from the station to the cemetery. She said that Hachiko was supposedly buried there, & it would be nifty to ask about & find out where he might be.

It was raining, & a little chilly, so I grabbed a sweater & my travel-size umbrella, & made off. Still nervous, I prayed a while to the powers-that-be, to let something good happen to me prior to re-grouping with my friend. That way I would know that Japan still liked me, that my presence there had not sullied it, & that I would be welcomed back sometime in the future.

Got in quite a bit of practise with regard to my practical Japanese; I kept getting lost (no surprise), but people were very willing to help. Stopped a gentleman taking leaves out of the street drains, who let me know I was - once again - going in the opposite direction from where I was headed (& I had a map this time!). Now on the right path, I questioned a parking attendant, who had me going straight a bit, then left (it helped that I already knew my migi [right] from my hidari [left] - learned that from a Dir en grey song!).

Finally, I found the cemetery, though I had major trepidations about filming there. I know it’s supposed to be like a park, but I didn’t get even the remotest sense of that. There was too much history & spirit in the place. Not to mention the rain. It felt like a cemetery, only with a much thicker atmosphere than any of the ones I’ve visited or photographed here in the US. Perhaps it was the Kyoto experience hanging over me, but I asked whatever spirits were around to give me a sign that it was okay to film a bit, maybe take just one or two shots (though I seriously could have been there ALL DAY taking pictures, were I so inclined, it was that amazing to look upon), so that I could bring the beauty & reverence of the place home with me, to show to others. I made it clear that I meant no harm or disrespect (that was the Kyoto experience hanging over me), I just wanted something to help me remember the experience.

Walking up a slope, I began to feel the heaviness in my heart lightening. I took this as the sign I had asked for, & snapped a shot or two. Asked who- or what-ever may have been around if video would be okay, so I could show the energy of the place. Took a couple of video clips, but didn’t actually look while I was doing them. Just started rolling film & walking around. So you will see that they are rather shaky. I think I was also afraid of being spotted. As I said, I’d read Aoyama Cemetery was also like a park but it really didn’t strike me as such. I was scared of people (there were a few around, but only a very few) seeing me & being upset that I was filming in such a solemn, respectful, spiritual place. (I guess it didn’t bother me at the major shrines & temples because everybody was doing it.)

Got snagged on the branch of a bush & stopped. Took another photo - included the bush a bit, the tips of which were a pretty colour, sort of coral pink, as I recall. Soon, saw a raven (I absolutely LOVE the birds in Japan; I could hear them in the morning from the window in my room at the ryokan), & filmed it a bit. A few minutes later, a little dog in a red rain-slicker came running playfully up to me, quickly followed by his owners, a slightly older couple. I asked in nervous Japanese where Hachiko’s grave was.

Talk about a good thing happening - these people not only walked me to the grave (it’s actually Hachiko’s owner - I asked if it were okay to take a picture of it, & they said sure, so I did), but gave me the history of it (you can read about Hachiko here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachiko), & had a full-fledged conversation with me, half in Japanese & half in English (their English was quite good), over the course of at least 15 minutes!

They asked where I was from, where I’d been, how long I’d been staying, complimented my Japanese, asked what I’d been doing/buying, how I liked Japan, how I knew about Hachiko, how I’d been learning the language. I mean, it was awesome! I told them I was going back to America the next day. When we parted, they told me how to get back to the train station, wished me a safe trip, & bid me “sayonara”.

That’s better than a zillion photographs I could have taken at the cemetery! Now & then, I may regret not having more pictures, but I am so much richer for the experience. (I don’t have any shots of Tower Girl, the maid cafe, or Moi dix Mois, either, but those were all definite highlights, as well!)

On the way back to Gaienmae, thought I might be messing up the nice couple’s directions, but I stopped someone walking down the street & asked. After that, I just had to go to the end of the road & turn left, & there it was. Made my way back to Shibuya, & bought a bento box at the Tokyu Food Show.

Hoping to cram in as much of what was left to see into my day as we could, [livejournal.com profile] styxonline soon met me & we were off again. After snagging a shot of an ad posted in one of the train stations for an anime art school, we made our way up to the Tokyo Tower. Walked around the park & scenic areas leading up to it first, though, talking about this, that, & a whole lot of the other. ^_^

They don’t let you out onto the observation part of the tower when it’s raining, so we got some souvenirs, & some food. She bought me a Chou (pronounced like SHOE; it's sort of a cream-puff) & let me taste her yummy Teriyaki burger (from McDonald’s, I think it was - that was the closest I got to “Western” food the whole time I was over there!), while I snarfed my bento, with all the healthy things in it. There’s a mini-tower in the souvenir area of the real tower, so I have a picture of that, as well as pics of the park, Tokyo Tower itself (if you look up from directly underneath it, it looks as if it’s gonna fall over on you!), a tofu shop in front of the tower, more cool trees (including bamboo), etc. The rain had given me one heck of a bad hair day, but [livejournal.com profile] styxonline snapped several pics of me that day anyway, in front of various sites, single-handedly saving me from becoming Bridget Fonda. :)

Saw a neat drinking fountain that doubled as a chess board at one of the stations on the way to our next site - the Sumo Museum! Unfortunately, it was Saturday, so the museum was closed. But I got pictures of the outside, including flags with the names of popular Sumo wrestlers & tournament winners, a Sumo statue, & gigantic paintings of well-known old-time wrestlers (those “big boys” were in the train station). The whole little town around there is pretty much devoted to Sumo culture. There was a neat shop we went into that sold all manner of sumo items, & a restaurant we passed that would let you try a meal like the actual wrestlers eat - this would feed, like, 3 or 4 people!!

Oddly enough, despite all the J-rock bishi I’d found on CD, video, etc., the one artist I like that I did not see is probably one of the most popular among the Japanese - Gackt. (I found, when asked by locals what J-music you like, if you’re talking about the modern stuff to anybody who you don’t think is heavy into J-rock, just say “Gakuto” & “Haido” - Gackt & Hyde - & they’ll instantly get it.) However, there is a single Gackt-related item I was able to bring back...& it didn’t cost me anything, except perhaps a moment of my time. Leaning more toward acting than music at the moment, Gackt is set to star in a period drama on Japanese television. Walking through the train station - was it Suidoubashi? - I saw a lovely face I thought I recognised looking out from one of the posted ads. “Is that who I think it is?” I asked - & it was! Got a really nice picture of that ad, with Gackt in his period costume. As I wrote in my notes: Pretty boy in a Samurai outfit. Yum.

Train stations have stamps! Each has a different design, & the name of the station. People collect them. There’s a stamp & ink pad at each station. Wish I’d known about that from Day 1. Ended up getting 3, though - Suidoubashi, Harajuku, & Shibuya.

Took more photos - a cool sculpture outside the train station (cool sculptures are all over the place), & the Sumidagawa River. Off we went again, this time to the Tokyo Dome. It’s a major place for events like concerts & baseball. (Yes, I know, it’s also the home stadium of the Yomiuri Giants, arch-rivals of my beloved Hanshin Tigers - I was in enemy territory!) There’s a mall & amusement park there called Tokyo Dome City. Got some tako-yaki (battered octopus balls), which was tasty but is softer than one imagines, so it tends to fall apart on you unless you eat it quickly. Went into an awesome store, Jump Shop, which is all anime goodies. Finally got me something Dragonball from Japan! Ended up with a pin of my fave character, Vegeta. Whilst in the store, we saw anime cosplayers! I learned from [livejournal.com profile] styxonline about all the intricate rules of etiquette regarding their little scene, one of which is that you can’t take pictures of them unless you ask.

I’m a sniper-shooter; I like to catch life as it’s being lived, not posed or contrived. People don’t stand in one spot & smile all the time; they do stuff. That’s what I like to get in my photos. So it was quite difficult for me, but I curbed myself, determined to play by the rules & be a very good girl, in this land that had been so dear to me, so kind.

Turned out there was a pretty fair-sized cosplay event going on, which is why, when we went further up from the mall into the little square where we planned to eat our tako-yaki, we saw OODLES of cosplayers! A whole slew of them! Their outfits were all amazingly well-done. I’d wanted shots of all of them! But I’m a weenie, & wasn’t able to bring myself to go up to each & every one of them asking for a picture, so I figured I’d settle on just one group. Though I was kind of hoping it’d be a group from an anime or manga that I knew, & most of what I like is old hat by now.

Whilst eating & chatting away with [livejournal.com profile] styxonline, I’d noticed these 2 girls - the Cosplay Bishettes, as they came to be known - directly across from us. One had a pretty spiffy outfit on, & the other was taking pictures of her as she posed (it’s so cute when they admire & take photos of each other, whether they‘re together or not). Couldn’t see the other’s outfit incredibly well, except for the hair, so I knew she was cosplaying something, but I was unsure as to what. It wasn’t until she turned around & I saw her necklace that I knew what anime they were from - Yu-Gi-Oh!

That was it. If I were gonna get a shot of cosplayers, it would be them. Double-checked my practical Japanese with [livejournal.com profile] styxonline, who brushed me up a bit on how to approach them, & we waited until what looked like a professional photographer was done snapping shots of them before I nervously went up to them to try my luck.

“Excuse me,” I said politely (not in English), addressing them by their character names - which [livejournal.com profile] styxonline said more than likely made their day! - “Could I ask you a favour? Would it bother you if I took a photo of you?”

They were so sweet & obliging. They actually posed for me! Naturally, I thanked them several times. Now, due to the aforementioned rules of etiquette, I can’t actually show you the photo they so kindly let me take, but I can show you the characters they were portraying: Seto Kaiba (in that spiffy outfit - she even wore blue contacts for his eyes) & Ryou Bakura - this girl had even made her own Millennium Ring! They were both spot-on costumes.

Took a couple pictures of the amusement park area (careful not to capture any cosplayers unknowingly), & one very cute sign. Got a flyer from the event staff regarding the next scheduled cosplay event. Wish I were able to attend one. Don’t even know who I’d dress up as if I could. Wouldn’t be one of the strong, sexy characters - I don’t have the body or confidence to pull it off. My safest bet would probably be Witch Hunter Robin (who simply wears a long black dress & coat, with her hair pulled up on the sides; see here: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_Hv-1mLTN7lI/SMPc3MlRWSI/AAAAAAAADdw/lSuPDWXjdrg/s400/witch-hunter-robin2.jpg).

Back to Shibuya, for shopping at some very cool stores, Tokyu Hands & Loft. By the time we went for our soba noodle dinner ([livejournal.com profile] styxonline finally let me buy!) & one last coffee for her & a chai latte for me (which I bought & ordered), my feet were absolutely dead.

But my soul was totally alive.

[livejournal.com profile] styxonline came back with me to the ryokan, gave me a few goodies to take home, & helped me cram 8 days’ worth of purchasing power into one suitcase & a shoulder bag. Sadly, she was unable to see me off on Sunday, having some obligations of her own, but I must say that she is completely & totally awesome, & I am so very happy to have found a friend in her.

Next time: Day 9 - Going Home...but first, photos!

Kyoto Song

Oct. 5th, 2007 12:42 pm
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Day 7 - Another day sans [livejournal.com profile] styxonline. But once again, she got me to the right place. I, on the other hand, got myself lost, but more on that later.

Had to take the train (bless that Yamanote line!) from Shibuya to Tokyo Station, where I boarded the Shinkansen’s Hikari train for Kyoto. Almost sat in the smoking car (there’s always one, a fact I was unaware of until that moment), but soon got myself into a nice, non-polluted car. Some guy was reading manga in the seat next to me. Don’t know which titles they were. A girl on the other side of me was reading a fashion magazine & listening to an Ipod. It’s almost amazing how people kind of avoid each other, so consumed are they on buses or trains by things like reading manga or small books, listening to things, or clicking away at games or Internet on their cell phones. Whenever I traveled with [livejournal.com profile] styxonline, it was the two of us, yaking it up.

Earlier that day, a guy staying at my ryokan was walking with me briefly to the bus stop. I was catching the bus to Shibuya Station, though he was planning to walk there. The wild thing was, he asked me, “How long have you lived here?” Made me feel pretty darn good.

Oh yeah - looking at the photo of the cross on my purse that morning reminded me that Mana-sama had a nice cross necklace on at the concert the night before.

On the Shinkansen, we made a few stops before reaching Kyoto, where I would get off (the train was bound for Osaka). One of the stops was Nagoya. Always makes me think of something they keep saying to the main character in Takashi Miike’s GOZU: “You’re not from Nagoya, are you?” My grandpa & I used to get a kick out of that.

Got lost in Kyoto! Would’ve done some shopping in the mall on the other side of the train station, but went the wrong way & ended up yonks from where I was supposed to be. Why are the pick-up points for these tours at hotels nobody can actually find? Maybe it’s just my screwed-up sense of direction (or, rather, lack of directional sense of any kind). Probably looked like a hopeless idiot. Certainly felt like one. Finally asked a policeman (at least, that’s what I think he was), who pointed me in the right direction.

Kyoto is really nice. Pretty. Old. Historic. They said sometimes you can see Geisha or Maiko walking the streets, but we didn’t see any. Went to beautiful places, peaceful places, awe-inspiring places. I hoped I could take some of that profound, tranquil beauty home with me, that serenity. Saw the Heian Shrine (so lovely, esp. the gardens & the little bridge on the water), the Sanjusangen-do Temple (a very humbling place where they have the famous thousand statues of the Kannon Buddha), & the Kiyomizu Temple (which is absolutely gorgeous, situated at the edge of a cliff, a wooded hillside on one side, a panoramic view of the city of Kyoto on the other).

Our tour guide, Hiro, was from Kobe. I prayed at the shrine & temples. Got lots of photos (except in the very, very sacred spaces, where I wouldn’t or you weren’t allowed to photograph), but only one souvenir. Wanted a Han’ya, but couldn’t find any small ones. There was a ’bishi shop’ on the street leading up to Kiyomizu (the only place where we really had any time for shopping), which I thought might have been showcasing artists from the Kansai region (Osaka, Kyoto, & the like), as it had Diru & L’Arc photos on their outside board, though I only saw a tiny bit of L’Arc inside (they were playing L’Arc’s “And She Said” while I was in there, though). The souvenir I bought was a small fan, since they’re different from the Tokyo style (I’d gotten one in Shinjuku at the Gov’t. Bldg.), Kyoto’s being more traditional-looking, like the paintings you sometimes see in books, of Kabuki plays or Samurai.

My purchase was also something of a form of atonement, to appease the spirits of the place. I was terrified that I’d offended them. Certainly didn’t mean any harm, I’d only wanted a photo of a statue* outside the shop, but the woman asked me not to take one. She seemed a little frightened. It was the only time during my whole stay in Japan (including the night that I got upset about not surmounting the language barrier) that I’d actually felt foreign.

I wrote in my notes that evening that I could’ve done more in Kyoto (more of what, I don’t know) if it weren’t such a novelty, something so new I had to take mass amounts of photographs of in order to preserve the moment. My memory isn’t so good these days, & I don’t want to forget anything as wonderful as those places in Japan that I have seen & experienced.

I suppose my penitence worked, though, because I got into conversation with some nice people (as opposed to what could have happened, considering I kept losing the group & feared getting stranded). First was an older British couple. The guy asked me where I was from & when I said, “New Jersey,” he said, “From Newark?” I told him Newark was a bit north of me. He said he’d worked for the company that had put in or developed the scheduling or some such mechanisms for New Jersey Transit. (That’s the rail system I take to go to NYC.) At one point, in the temple (Kiyomizu), we’d watched people trying to lift this really big, heavy staff, the kind with the rings on it, like the Mad Monk in VERSUS or Miroku from “Inu-Yasha” carried. Naturally, nobody could do it. The guy turns to me & tries to encourage me to give it a go. I quipped that I’d only be able to do it if I were from Newark. “They do make them tougher there, don’t they?” he laughed.

Later on, the lady asked me, “Are you by any chance [called] Goth?” I said yes, excitedly, though I wondered how older people keep finding out about Goths (I’d once been asked the same question by an older check-out lady in our local supermarket). These people explained that they lived near Whitby, which has connections to Dracula, so all the Goths hang out there.

The guy said I didn’t seem as extreme as the Whitby Goths, to which I said, “You didn’t see me last night,” having previously mentioned, in the course of our conversation, that I’d been to a Japanese Goth show. They didn’t know the Japanese had any Goths. I said they do, but they’re usually referred to as Visual Kei (forgot all about the Gothic Lolita faction - DUH!), & they are fantastic! We talked about other places we’d seen & things we’d done in Japan, & I mentioned I had a native, resident friend showing me about. “Is she Goth, too?” he asked. “No,” I said, “but she was with me last night!” ^_^

The guy made a joke later, going back to the vampire connection, & said, “Well, you don’t have any marks on your neck.” (Of course, he wouldn’t have been able to see them even if I did, ‘cuz I was wearing my qipao.) I joked & said I would have to check, then said who knows - maybe I’m the one who MAKES the marks. Wonder if I frightened him, ha ha. Nah, he was a nice old gent.

Later on, got to talking with a woman from Auckland, New Zealand. She told me her name but I couldn’t remember it long enough to jot it down in my notes. She’s a teacher & is very into trees. She said they trim the willows a bit in Japan ([livejournal.com profile] styxonline told me later about the tradition of the gardeners there), which takes away some of their energy. I’ve always loved willows. She said they’re good for grounding.

Sat next to yet another guy reading manga on the Shinkansen coming back. On the other side of me was a woman whose case kept rolling in my direction whenever the train turned a bit. I’d catch it for her, she’d thank me & apologise. I told her it was fine. Think I slept a little.

Whilst hurtling toward Tokyo, I wrote that I hoped Kyoto wouldn’t leave a lasting impression of regret with me because of that stupid little photo incident. While the place itself feels historic, antiquated, more in keeping with tradition (they even put a limit on how tall the buildings can be, ‘cuz they don’t want any huge skyscrapers), there is also a nervous energy to the place, or should I say, to the people. They don’t come off as unwelcoming so much as uneasy, hesitant. There is an air of knowing the need for ignorant, baka, gaijin tourists (like myself) to be catered to in order to help ensure ongoing financial stability, but this lends itself to cheapening the point of the place. So the atmosphere’s a little sad, a little uptight. (I’d had these thoughts phrased better in my head, but that’s how I put it all down in my notes.) Tokyo, on the other hand, seems less reluctant, almost eager to throw itself out there. I wrote that I’d like to see Osaka. I bet it has an altogether different kind of energy.

Thought to myself that there were two great achievements to the day: 1) that I did it, & by myself, no less, & 2) that (unlike my embarrassing little Jingu moment) I didn’t trip.

Got some dinner at the konbeni - lotus root salad & mikan (Mandarin orange) juice, & a chocolate/vanilla parfait. Fell asleep in front of the tv & woke up at 4:30 am. Started to pack. Catalogued my purchases - knew I’d have to declare them on the way home.

Wrote some notes:
Want to ensure (or, if I can’t, at least HOPE) the place, the land, the nation’s spirit(s), likes me. Don’t want to have offended or disrespected it. I have tried to exist here according to its inherent nature & its rules. Don’t want to be a crummy tourist type. That’s not what I came here for. This place is saving my soul. It’s only right that I honour it.

And later:
Still hoping the place likes me. Don’t want to leave it on a sad note...I just want this place to know how much goodness it’s given me, & how grateful I am for it.

Next time: Day 8 - Redemption at Aoyama, Tokyo Tower, Sumo, & Cosplay!!

*EDIT: Many moons later, I discovered the statue depicted a tanuki. I already knew about the animal, but at the time of my trip, I wasn’t aware of its place in Japanese folklore.

August 2017

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