7 01 2010

On our epic local train journey home from Hakuba to Kisarazu we stopped off at Matsumoto to visit the famous Matsumoto-jo.

While I was disappointed that it wasn’t covered in snow like every building was in Hakuba, we were still able to enjoy the pigeon-mountain on top of the castle.

Looking across the inner moat at Matsumoto-jo.

Photos from mum and dad’s camera

21 11 2009

Photos from mum and dad’s camera of our time away in Hakone, Yokohama and Kamakura, along with some shots from mum and dad’s shinkansen trip up north to Akita and Sendai.

Summer Holidays and Rice Paddies

18 07 2009

I finished my last official duties at school today. I rode my bike at 8am and started ‘staff room supervision’ duties at 9am. I read the Japan Times newspaper for a while, then got bored and read some of the LOTR books from the Inter Library, then did some lesson planning and read textbooks until 12. Then I walked through the two 4-level high school buildings to ensure windows were closed and lights off in all the rooms and rode my bike home again. Now I’m on summer holidays!

Here’s some photos from my ride home from school today:

Yokohama Yodel

3 05 2009

Early in the morning we packed our bags and headed to the train station on our bicycles to catch the 8.30am express bus to Yokohama for our Golden Week Sunday excursion.

We had been warned that during Golden Week it would take twice as long to go anywhere because of the crowds of people. Plus there were ongoing Y150 celebrations (Yokohama 150th birthday). But, it took the normal time of 55 minutes to get to Yokohama station.

We wandered down to collect a map from the next station, passing the Anpanman Children’s Museum. There was a line up of parents and their little children going around the block waiting for hours to get into the museum.. and for what? Anpanman merchandise? If you don’t know who Anpanman is, there’s a picture below.

We walked down the ‘horse-drawn-cart’ avenue, Bashamichi Ave. Features of the avenue include old stone buildings (for example, the Former Bank Head Office. As the sign said, “a fine example of European classical style work left to posterity by a Japanese architect. Large pediments in front and at corners on both sides, along with prominent giant order pilasters between windows, emphasize a baroque effect.”) and the first gas lamps. There were also lots of police men and people sitting on the footpath.. we asked a police man and he said there was a street parade for Yokohama’s 150th birthday celebrations in one hour. We ate some homemade cookies for a snack and kept walking.

We wandered past the old buildings, then to the Yokohama Stadium. A baseball game with the Yokohama BayStars was scheduled for 2pm and there were fans dressed in baseball costume already waiting for entry.

But we continued through Yokohama Park to Nihon-odori Avenue to look at a floral expo. There were artworks on the road made from coloured petals (not live plants like I was expecting, but nice none the less).

We walked up the floral avenue and intersected the closed off parade road. We watched the marching bands, floats and cheerleaders for a while. One band played ‘In the Navy’, followed by another playing ‘It’s a Small World’, then a coca cola boat float with the Yokohama 150th mascot, a camphor tree seed, went past followed by some Chinese dragons with a lot of noisy firecrackers.

We left the parade and went into Chinatown. Yokahama’s Chinatown is the world’s biggest with over 500 restaurants and shops. There are meant to be 10 gates in Chinatown. One is not even in Chinatown but is on the other side of the expressway, and two we didn’t walk past as Benno was getting hungry for lunch. We looked at the shops and restaurants and ate a huge sesame/bean (anman) steam bun. By lunch time the throng of people was bumper to bumper. Busy! We saw some funny t-shirts. Some lines read ‘LET EAT BEANS’ or ‘Curiosity Polishes’ or a grammatically strange shirt ‘I like your taste in men’s’.

It was about 1pm, now so we crossed over the parade road in a squish of people jostling to get over the road in-between floats. We ended up in Yamashita-koen (Yamashita Park) by the Port. We ate our marinated tofu salad sandwiches and non-msg chips under a tree while watching the end of the parade (yes, it was still going. It look about 4 hours just to pass the starting line.)

We looked at the Hikawa Maru Steam Ship at the Port (a passenger liner that sailed the world and once had Charlie Chaplin travel on it) and the Marine Tower (the world’s tallest lighthouse at 106m above sea level) before going further south and up the hill to the Minatonomieruoka Park (Harbour View Park). After a lot of stairs we ended up at a lookout point with a view of Yamashita Pier – industrial and not actually very pretty to look at. We could see a wind turbine, the Yokohama Bay Bridge and the Landmark Tower from the lookout, but the rest of it was just industrial Port buildings. Benno had a nap on a bench to rest after all those stairs and then we walked back down a different route back into Yamashita Park.

We followed the crowds (still bumper to bumper) to Minato Mirai 21. We looked at the touristy Red Brick Warehouses (Akarenga Kokusaikan), described as “nostalgic through its unique red brick architecture” but they were also packed with lunch-goers.

We wandered past the giant spider, La Machine, to Yokohama World Porters, a shopping mall with imported clothing and food. We ate a sweet potato bagel from “le Bon Pain” and found mexican food in the Vivre Supermarket. One night this week we will be feasting on tortilla chips and refried beans.

Next we went past the Amusement Park Cosmo World, with the world’s largest clock/ferris wheel called Cosmo Clock standing at 112.5m. In my mind I had an image of clock hands on a giant ferris wheel, but no, there is just a digital clock display on a ferris wheel. Cosmo World has free entry, just admission for rides. So we were able to walk through all the attractions.

Past Landmark Tower, a very tall building (296m to be exact, the tallest building in Yokohama), and past the Maritime Museum with a navigation sail boat called Nippon Maru, much like the merchant ships that arrived in Yokohama 150 years ago and opened up the Port and Japan to the West.

We laboured up a hill to Iseyama Shrine, which was almost deserted apart from about 4 monks. It was built in 1870 as a place to pray for national security.

Then we came back and watched the lights on the Cosmo Clock until it was time for dinner. Dinner was at a vegan macrobiotic restarant called Flancl Garden Chaya¬† Macrobiotic Cafe (another branch of the Chaya’s in Isetan, Tokyo) in a shopping mall attached to Yokohama Train Station. We ate the Millet and Soy Vege Loaf Plate, the Mild Vegetable Curry and a small Cabbage Soup. Dessert was Black Soybean and Matcha Cream Tart and Mixed Berry Blancmange with fresh mint tea and bacha tea (not sure what that is). All that for only 3500 yen.

We raced out after our delicious meal and back down to the bus station where we only had to wait 10 minutes for a bus at 8.30pm to Kisarazu. An hour later and we were back at the station, collecting our bicycles and riding home by 10pm for a good night’s sleep to rest our walking legs for another day out tomorrow.