Japan - A Bit of Tokyo & Mount Fuji and Hakone

My last leg was Tokyo. I promptly drifted off as the plane took off and kinda napped all the way until it was time to land. This Japan trip was really strange indeed that I was able to sleep during the journeys. Arriving in Narita again, I got rather confused in finding the counter for the airport bus limousine. It's all because I was in the domestic area. After some asking around, I managed to find it and I was still early that I didn't miss the next bus. The hotel I chose was Shinjuku Washington Hotel. Chose that simply because there's the airport bus service as well as pick up option for the day tours that I wanted to take. The hotel itself wasn't that amazing. I arrived before 2 pm and somehow was told to wait until 2 to check in, sigh. Luckily I didn't have to wait long. The room was the smallest I had in Japan. The biggest was in Kyoto, where there's enough space in the room for 1 long sofa. The most horrendous thing about Shinjuku Washington Hotel though was the long queue for breakfast even though there are 3 different restaurants to choose from. Anyways, after I put my things, I decided to proceed with the plan.

First stop was Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. My research told me it's like 10-15 minutes walk from Shinjuku station, but Shinjuku station itself is humongous and there are the Shinjuku subway station (green line) and the Shinjuku train station. I just got lost badly here. What supposed to be 10-15 minutes, I think took me 40 minutes to figure out and I was bounced off here and there, going back and forth and kept on checking the map. I just couldn't get it. I even asked 2 different policemen in 2 different posts to help me with direction. At the second post, the policeman pulled up this really old (it was brown looking) map of the area and I thought it wasn't helpful at all :( Also all of them didn't speak english :( However I do have to count my blessing, because at the second post there was this tourist who was accompanied by someone whom I think maybe she just met who helped her to report that she lost her bag. So I could be really tired then, but at the very least I still had all my thing and was alright. I think the reason why I had a hard time with the direction was because if the direction required multiple steps, I just couldn't follow it well. I attributed it to being tired. Also, when I think I had to walk a little but ended up walking a lot, I lost my confidence that it's the right way and I would end up not following through with the path. Eventually, I made it to the park, around 1 hour before its closing time :( I had walked a lot and I didn't have much energy :(

As is the tendency with me, I rarely consult the map of a place and just walk whichever way I feel like it. So I didn't really see the map of the park to decide where I wanted to go. I went to the direction of a french garden, but I wasn't sure if I found it or if it was already closed when I was there. I did make it to the green house and it reminded me of the domes in Gardens by the Bay, but it was in a much smaller size and it was hot inside it! I'm not sure if a greenhouse is meant to be hot. It could be because they're hosting tropical plants inside it which didn't interest me much. A papaya tree is maybe interesting if you have never seen it, but for me it's not. I did see this little strawberry plant which I found interesting. It's all because I haven't had the chance yet to visit the many strawberry farms in areas just outside Jakarta.

Then like any other gardens in Japan, there are ponds and I saw at least 2 of those. There's also a nice clearing where there were a few people lying there enjoying the sun or having a picnic. I saw poppies too, which made me glad but then it made me rather sentimental because there weren't any red ones which reminded me of Spain and Italy :( These ones reminded me more of the poppies in France, Avignon to be exact.

Now as I was googling about this garden as I'm writing this, I found out that I did make it to the French garden. There were many roses there. I wonder if they're always there or it's just some sort of exhibition. The roses were big and reminded me of the little rose garden in Rome near Circus Maximus. Anyway, there were many different species with interesting names. I found myself loving the ones with patterns in them instead just 1 colour. It was great seeing them and I just couldn't help it, I always try to smell roses whenever I can.

I think around 30 minutes before closing time, there was announcement that the park is closing and they repeated this announcement 15 minutes later. The french garden with the roses were the last one I saw and I decided to just leave. I found out there's a subway station nearby. I could have taken a subway from the station near my hotel and it would have saved my energy and all the confusion, aarrrghh! I felt rather idiotic. I'm not sure why I didn't find out about it during my research. Anyway, next on the plan was Yasukuni Shrine. It's a controversial shrine because of the soldiers which are enshrined there. They're considered as heroes and are highly respected in Japan but for countries, like Indonesia for example, who had to experience Japan occupation during the war, it's kinda a touchy subject that these people whom the victims suffered under are honored as heroes. For the record though, I don't think Indonesia has ever made any objection if any Japanese politician visits the shrine, but for countries like China and South Korea, it's a big issue for them. So anyway, I was just intrigued and curious to see what it's like. I got out the station and followed the direction, but when I was in the street level I was rather confused. I was thinking if I would be lost again, but thank God it wasn't that painful. It was a long walk, but I wasn't really lost. I remember having to pass a very big torii and another big torii before finally reaching the compound. It was near closing time and there weren't many people. I felt that it's rather formal compared to the other shrines I've visited but my impression could be very well influenced by what I know about the shrine. I didn't feel like I can take pictures freely because there's a security guard there and basically there wasn't any other tourist :( A group of Japanese asked me to take their picture. I did and I realized the sun was behind them so their faces were dark and I explained in english while pointing a lot to the sun and my face that it's better if we changed position. The gesturing helped and they agreed with my idea. It was much better and they thanked me profusely. Japanese are so cute in their politeness. Since I didn't feel that comfortable in exploring the shrine, I didn't really stay long and I just decided to call it the day.

Well next on the plan was actually to go to Tokyo Tower before calling it the day, but since I had walked so much, I decided that it's enough. Anyway, I may have a long day the next day and so I thought I better rest. The next day, I took a day tour to see Mt. Fuji. I gave myself 1 hour for breakfast but the queue were crazy. I finally got a table around 15 minutes before I was supposed to be picked up. I had to wait for the food to come and I think I just gulped as much as I can within 7-8 minutes. It wasn't fun :( Went to the meeting point where there were many other tourists waiting to be picked up. Saw a couple whom I suspected to be Indonesian. Just because they're muslims and Indonesian looking, I thought they're Indonesian when I could be so wrong and they could be Malaysian or others. Luckily I was right :) I greeted this tante and om (aunt and uncle) and I was right to call them that since they're perhaps only slightly younger than my parents. They're from Surabaya. So it turned out, all of us will be taken to the actual meeting place where we would be sorted into the different tours for the day. In the bus, I also heard some Indonesians from behind me, but I didn't introduce myself to them.

Arriving in the bus terminal, we found out which bus was ours. Again seats are assigned. I got window seat. Next to me was this Philippino dad who was traveling with her 2 daughters. I found it amusing that Philippines kids call their dad, "daddy". I was expecting something more local. It was quite a long drive and the guide talked the whole way, except on our way back to Tokyo. I have a suspicion that it's inside their task list and so they have to do it. Before I went to Japan, I read an opinion of a blogger who said that one shortcoming of the Japanese is that they're not very flexible. I began to see where he's coming from. I often see people really carrying their job without any deviation. That actually can be seen as a good or bad thing. What I'm trying to say is, it was a long drive and I wouldn't mind some peace and quiet, but didn't really get that. I think the guide still did an excellent job though. First stop was Fuji Visitor Center. Nothing much to be said here. It was good to get out of the bus for awhile and we did get some nice pictures of Mt. Fuji. This picture below though was taken from the bus, I think.

Then it was some drive again to Mt. Fuji 5th Station. This is where climbers would start their ascend. It was cold there, windy as well. The mountain was white with snow. There are shops and a small shrine. Other than that, nothing much to be explored. When I was exploring the shrine, a girl asked my help to take a picture. When I turned to see them, I knew they were the Indonesians from the bus earlier this morning, so I straight away started to talk in Indonesian. They're childhood friends from Jakarta. One of them is leaving for home the next day and so the other would venture on her own to Kyoto. They're doing this Mt. Fuji tour too. Apparently as well as the couple they talked to in the bus that morning. It's just all of us were in different groups, so we weren't in the same bus. It's kinda nice talking to them in our usual Jakartans way :P It's also interesting that we're actually staying in the same hotel.

Anyway, I had to part ways with them because I had to go back to my group. We went for lunch next and it turned out even during lunch, the table had been arranged for people who's traveling alone, in group of 2, 3, and so on. So I ended up sitting with the other solo travelers. There's a guy from Australia, a guy from America, a Chinese Malaysian who's perhaps Australian now, a Swiss girl but from the Italian speaking part of Switzerland, me, and the guide. Everyone weren't that chatty but we did make small talk a bit. I spoke a bit of Italian with the Swiss girl, but honestly my Italian is not awesome. Lunch was great though. Tried 1 slice of tuna sashimi. Managed to get it down, but I didn't really enjoy it so I didn't finish the rest.

After lunch, we're supposed to go take a cable car in somewhere and a boat cruise in Lake Ashi. It turned out the weather wasn't that great. We did kinda get blue sky in the morning, but it got quite cloudy during the day and I think the wind made our original cable car plan to stop its operation. So our cable car plan was changed to another one, I think its name is Hakone ropeway. While waiting for our turn for the cable car, I decided to greet a couple in my group whom I suspected to be Singaporeans. They are indeed. Then I made a huge mistake. I told the lady, oh you're pregnant and she said, no, not really. AWKWARD!!! It's just she really looked pregnant and her husband was like always holding her and making sure she's okay. The positive side could be she just gave birth but I think she just lost her baby and that made me feel so bad, aarrghh!!! What are the odds :( I was speechless after her response and just diverted the conversation to other topics. I saw them again because we were flying back to Singapore on the same day and we were taking the same bus to the airport. At that time, I just waved and said, hi!

Back to the story, we got off the cable car to this place, which I think is called Owakudani Valley. Seeing the smoke rising from the sulphur vents and hearing about how people use the hot water and smoke to boil eggs, I basically thought that it's the Hakone's version of Tangkuban Perahu. It's interesting that even the egg thing is the same. Different country, different place, different culture, but how did people think of the same thing? I didn't try the egg here though. I heard when it's boiled using the hot springs, the egg' shells turned black. I'm not sure why that is so. It's not like that in Tangkuban Perahu. Another funny thing that came to my head was that, when I visited one of the crater in Tangkuban Perahu and my brother was getting the eggs for us, I saw some Japanese tourists doing the same. In a way, it was kinda a role reversal for me :P

Last stop of the day was the short boat cruise. I think we did it in Lake Kawaguchi. It wasn't anything special for me. I think because I had done this kinda thing before. I was on a boat in Lake Garda and last year I was on a boat through the Bosphorus strait. It was just a lake and green hill all around. Perhaps during autumn, it would be pretty cool with the different leaves colours. Most interesting highlight was perhaps seeing a torii by the edge of the lake and seeing this pirate looking ship.

So that was it, the trip to Mt. Fuji. I didn't think it was an exceptional trip or anything. I did see Mt. Fuji, but I wonder if there are other better places to see it from. Sometime it's better to see a mountain from some distance than to be actually near it, if you get what I mean. Well at the very least, I think I crossed that very Japanese thing off my list. For pictures from the trip, you can go here.

There are different options for this trip. I chose to go back by the bus rather than the shinkansen train. Reason was because I guessed I was rather cheap, but more logically was that when I was looking at the different options, the return time was around the same time, 7-8 pm, regardless if you choose the bus or train. I ended up reaching Shinjuku before 7 pm. I heard from the Indonesian couple the next day that they reached Shinjuku around 9 pm even though they took the shinkansen option. So good for me, I guess :) Of course I got badly lost trying to find my way to the hotel, so I still ended up reaching my room way after 7 pm :( It's quite an interesting ride to Tokyo. It seems unbelievable for me to be saying that I found the roads in Tokyo to be incredibly amazing. Tokyo is just so big and with the flyover criss-crossing everywhere, it was a real something. One of the most incredible thing was that I think we went through this tall circular tunnel. That's not very descriptive, but you know how it's like when you go to a mall and you have to park your car and the parking lot is another building and you ended up driving your car up and down most probably in some sort of circular direction to navigate yourselves among the levels to find a free spot, now imagine that structure and the cars are going in that circular tunnel like up or down and then they can exit to the freeway that they want. I'm not totally sure if what I'm explaining is correct or if it exists, it's just that's what my perception of the tunnel was when we're inside it. Maybe I'm totally wrong, but it's just the roads, the structures in Tokyo impressed me deeply. Yes, it's busy. Yes, it can look so chaotic, but I found them to be very fascinating and it took me by surprise that I can be fascinated by a city's engineering :P Okay, that's the story for now. Hope that I can write the next part soon and hope you're not that bored yet.

:) eKa @ 9:28:00 PM • 0 comments

Japan - Sapporo

Why did I choose to go to Sapporo when travelling to it is quite a hassle and there are so many things to see in the island of Honshu where Tokyo and Kyoto are? Well, the only reason why Japan was in my head was because my cousin floated the idea of visiting it when she was here last December. I thought why not, it should be great during Sakura season. Now as I didn't know much about Japan before this trip, I also didn't know much about Sakura. I didn't know that they would bloom early in the Spring and I didn't know they would last only around 2 weeks. So it was rather sad when I found out I wouldn't be seeing any sakura. That is until I found out that sakura bloom the latest in Hokkaido. How glad I was. That's why I decided to go to Sapporo to chase for it, even though even I would admit at that time that I was crazy to do so. However, what fun would this whole thing be if I wasn't a wee bit crazy? When I started planning this, I actually put Sapporo as my first leg. It was like, get the hard one done first. The forecast was looking like it matched my arrival. Then because I have a bit of an OCD, I kinda kept on checking the forecast and they got moved back. I was still crazy and so I switched the whole plan and made Sapporo as my leg 2. So from Kyoto, I had to make the long, rather nerve wrecking trip to Narita and then take a plane to Sapporo. It's nerve wrecking, because if I had missed any of the train or something, things could be catastrophic.

I'm glad to report that the trip went all smooth and that I made it to Sapporo alright. Perhaps the rather not so nice part was that I didn't get a window seat on the Nozomi train from Kyoto to Tokyo and the train was kinda full and there's always someone who sat next to me :( In the trip, I actually saw a glorious view of Mt. Fuji. The sky was blue, the weather was great, and there's a whole sweeping village and farm below it. It was the most perfect view of Mt. Fuji that I had ever seen in this trip. Looking at it was rather surreal for me, because it's like I was sure it was Mt. Fuji, but I thought I could be so wrong as well, but then I thought there couldn't be many snow capped mountain between Kyoto and Tokyo. Unfortunately, I didn't take any picture simply because I wasn't at the window seat. It didn't occur to me to go to the side of my car and take pictures :( so it was one of those things that I had to just keep in my memory. There's a Japanese some seats away though who used his phone to take pictures of it. The sounds were rather weird to hear because of the quietness that on usually hear on a Japanese train. How about that, I just made a sentence which implies hearing silence :P

So anyway, there's nothing interesting to report on my trip to Sapporo. Again, so unlike me, I kinda drifted off after the plane took off. I actually managed to squeeze in a bit of sleep. Arriving in Sapporo, I knew I had to take the train, but I also knew that I didn't have enough money in my suica card, so first stop was to recharge it. I found the machine with the same logo as my card. Found a button for an english instruction but didn't find anything there to help me. So I quickly just asked a lady who was in the machine next to me. I asked if she spoke english. She said no. I must have looked pretty pitiful that she looked at me instead of saying sorry and quickly went away. Then I repeated "money" over and over while pointing at my card. She finally got it and tried to work the machine with me. First she pressed the english language and then she realized she couldn't understand the buttons when they're all changed in english. So I laughed and said Japanese and she laughed too, thank God. Then she pushed the buttons and the numbers appear and I got it and to tell her I got it, I pointed at the place where I knew I had to insert the money. I thanked her over and over with a big smile and then she was off on her way. I am thankful that there's someone to help me. So got my card charged and I found the train easy enough. Got off at the correct stop though I had a moment of uncertainty but all was good and I also managed to find my hotel on my own. So all was good.

Now, the night before I had to leave, I checked the sakura forecast again and darn it, the forecast was moved back again. It was still cold in Sapporo so the forecast now said that the flowers were to bloom on the date that I left Sapporo. For the record, the forecast was moved back again that the first bloom was 2 days before I left Japan and the full bloom was when I already arrived here in Singapore. Seriously I felt like I was bitch slapped by nature in Sapporo :( I felt sad and disappointed and as with everything, I got really down when things that I planned didn't go my way. I actually feel like that is what God wanted me to learn with this Sapporo leg. Sometime things just wouldn't go our way, no matter how hard we try and pray and we have to be acceptant about it. I told myself that over and over in Sapporo and may cite this Sapporo experience for times to come, but I have to admit that I don't think I fully grasped the lesson. It's just hard, you know. Anyway, I had to move ahead with the plan. Got to my room and it has the best bathroom of all my other rooms. Then I went to find my way to Odori park. When I was researching for this Sapporo leg, I actually didn't really see many interesting things to do. Perhaps because I was somewhat in the weird season to be in. If it's winter, I suppose it's great to do winter sports and such. If it's summer then the farm nearby with the lavender fields and all seem interesting. When I was there, it's in the middle of seasons changing, so it's not as interesting. Anyway, I decided that I should go to Odori park, one of the landmark of the city.

There are sakura trees lining Odori Park so during flowering season, it must be rather cool. It's not a park per se. It's being cut off by streets. It's more like smaller sections of green area and from one end to the other, the whole thing is called Odori park, but to go from one section to another, you have to cross streets. It's quite a long walk from Sapporo station to Odori Park. It's a straight walk though. On one end of the park, there's the Sapporo TV Tower which was renovated when I was there, seriously it's being covered by some sort of net. I was like, of course, my luck. Not that I wanted to go up there but it's just I felt it's another thing to ruin an already bad situation :( I don't think I bothered to go to the other end. I did find Sapporo clock tower. I didn't go in, because even from the outside it wasn't interesting. Then I stood and see some of the fountains. I couldn't remember how many there were. From my pictures, I seem to have only taken pictures from 2 different fountains.

Then I started to take many pictures of the buildings nearby with the empty branches. They made for pretty nice pictures actually. There was this tree with a white flowering flower, but I'm pretty sure it's not sakura. I'm not sure what that is. I sat underneath it, taking its pictures and feeling rather gloomy. I tried, I really did, to lift my spirit, after all I was in Japan. Anyways, with nothing much to be seen, I headed back to find dinner and called it the day.

The next day, I decided to proceed with the plan. First was to visit Hokkaido Shrine. Nearby there's Maruyama Park with the many cherry blossom trees. So you understand why I wanted to visit it. Of course when I was there, it was empty branches all around. Sigh :( Anyway, I got quite confused in trying to buy the day pass but I finally got it and I found the shrine easy enough. It was rather simple. There's nothing interesting here. I did see koinobori here, big ones. They are these carps wind socks which was hung on the flag pole to celebrate children's day. I suggest you click on the links because I think the word wind socks is not very explanatory, at least for me. Being that I was all gloomy and in need to let go, I decided to pray, so that's the second shrine I prayed in. I did the water purification, so this can be said as the first Shinto shrine where I prayed in a correct way. The compound really has nothing special in it. Here's one of the buildings in the compound.

With nothing much to do there, I decided to see the ema being hung. So it turns out ema is the name for the wooden wishing tablet, which I had been calling wishing tablet. The nosey me was looking if some of them were written in a language I can understand. By that, I mean English or perhaps French and Italian. I never expected to find an Indonesian one, but lo and behold.

It's in Indonesian! It's kinda the only one written in Indonesian I'd seen. Well I saw another one in Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, but the way it was written it could be in Malay instead of Indonesian, or it could be written by some non-Jakartan Indonesian. Anyways, I was happy seeing this wish. It's from Sheila and she hoped that she could open an animal hospital in Surabaya and continue her studies to master or PhD in animal behaviour. I remember thinking that I hope Sheila got her wishes. I saw it as a sign to write my own ema. It's never something that came across my mind, but looking at it, I was thinking maybe I should. On my way to the counter, I saw that there's a box for the fortune papers in english! I saw that even more as a sign that I had to try that. You have to put 100 yen in the slot next to it and then you put your hand in the box and take a piece of paper, like you're trying to win a lucky draw. Noone was watching if anyone put the required money, but you know if you want to not get seriously bad luck, I say be sincere and honest in doing this. I put my hand deep and drew a paper. I opened it and it read "There can be seen a shadow by the moon above the top of a tree. And it can be seen in different ways, according to each man's mind". There's a summary that said my fortune is good luck, and there are 1 sentence each on topics like wish, missing thing, travel, business, love. etc. Actually the one liner wasn't that encouraging, but overall I think it kinda spoke to me about having to look at situations in a different light. Since it wasn't bad, I decided to keep the paper instead of tying it in up in the shrine. Then I proceeded to get an ema for my own. It cost 500 yen, except for a bigger one which cost 800 yen. The process of telling the girl at the counter was difficult, because she didn't speak english and I wanted one with a particular snake picture. There's one which is a teddy bear, but I thought that's too modern (you can see a glimpse of it in the picture above) so I chose this snake which I don't actually know what it means actually :( Anyway, what's written behind it is too personal for me to share here :P

Other than that, I also saw a procession of Shinto priests going into the building behind where people usually pray. Inside the building there are many people who were sitting down. It's like they're attending a mass or church service. The window was dark that I couldn't see much, but I heard there's music and it was pretty nice and from what I saw, there were 2 girls in Shinto outfit who seemed to be dancing, pretty interesting and traditional.

After that I proceeded to my next destination of Moerenuma Park. Got to the correct subway station and found the bus terminal easy enough. Then I had difficulty understanding the bus timetable since it's all in Japanese. I thought there should be one bus coming soon, but it has an asterisk on it, which I didn't understand why. After having to wait there long and wondered why my supposed bus never came, I deduced perhaps it's the schedule for summer :( There are 2 buses that can be taken to the park, but darn it their frequency is rather bad, around 40 minutes or so. So I waited awhile in that little quiet bus terminal. There were people, but they're Japanese senior citizens so I doubt I could engage in a conversation in english. Anyway, finally the bus came and I boarded. Was totally confused and was just relying that I would know where to stop because everything is in Japanese :( It reached a point where I was the only person in the bus and the bus instead of passing through the park as I had researched on, stopped on a bus depot, I think. The bus driver in Japanese asked me to get down. What?!?! I pointed my Sapporo guide and told him in english that I wanted to go to Moerenuma Park. Pretty sure he understood me but that didn't magically make him able to speak in english and bottomline, I had to get down and I concluded I had to walk. Which direction not sure. He pointed a general direction, a direction the bus should have gone I think if it hadn't turned right to the bus depot. So I got down and started walking. Darn it!!! Reached for my ipod and plugged in and the first song that came out was Tout Va Bien from Pascal Paridot. Darn, you just can't help grinning at the irony of the situation. There you are in the middle of nowhere and to be honest for the first time in this trip, I thought about that fact that I was in a middle of nowhere, didn't know if I get to reach my destination, or if I would find my way back to the hotel, to Sapporo city centre which at that point in time seemed like a whole different world (there's no high rise buildings in that area, traffic was very light, and it seemed that there's no taxi around), and yet a song that came was saying everything is alright. I mean it's a song which literally says everything goes well, the birds are singing, the sun is shining. The irony or mockery of it made me smiled so wide which may make people who saw me think I was crazy but darn I felt it's all too funny. Thank God that after some time, my walking straight brought me to see the top of a glass pyramid which I knew meant that I was reaching the park, yay!!! So tout va bien indeed and God really don't let me down.

So I kinda reached the entrance of the park. It's free by the way. Saw the map and saw that I would pass a bicycle rental before reaching the pyramid. That didn't happen. I did cross a rather big bridge in which underneath it, run a river. Nothing fancy about the view, but you can kinda see snow-capped mountains in the distance. There's a man there fishing in the picture below.

So I reached the pyramid and didn't even pass the bicycle rental, sigh! I didn't understand it, but since I was there I just went into the pyramid. It's hot inside it. Not sure why. Could it be all the glass windows retain the heat? Took some pictures of it and saw a map and saw that the bicycle rental was near the parking space before the bridge. Aarrrghhh!!! Now I was already quite tired with the walking, but I thought since I didn't manage to cycle in Kyoto, let's just do it here, especially since the park seems to be interesting.

So I walked back, crossed the bridge, went to the parking lot and did see that the white structure there is the bicycle rental. They should have put bigger sign or something!!! Rental is 200 yen for 2 hours and that's the minimum, for extra hour is 100 yen. Was given a bicycle and the auntie there was trying to communicate the fountain show timing which was to be soon. Tried to disengage the bicycle from the parking position, but I couldn't and the uncle had to show me that I had to switch the little handle thing by the wheel. Pretty embarrassed about it, but hey it's been years since I last cycled. Was also embarrassed that I wasn't looking steady when I cycled away that I quickly cycled away lest they're having second thought about giving the bicycle to this girl who didn't seem to be able to cycle. I can cycle, it's just it's been a long time and I didn't realize how easily I can be swayed.

I had a map this time around, but me as always really just went on my way, so I just cycled and turned when I wanted to turn. Found myself in one of the kids' play area and a young japanese couple approached me and asked if I they could see my map. They speak very little english and it was quite funny when we're trying to figure out the map to get them to the fountain. At one point, I told them to hold the map while I was taking picture. Then I suggested that they asked the tour guide coming behind us (he's holding the pointer thingy with a group of people with him) and they understood me, after I pointed behind :D Anyway, they're very cute. The girl gave me an awkward handshake to thank me. Then I made my way to not sure where, but I realized that I too better get to the fountain. Was a bit lost myself that I could only see the fountain shot up high from behind trees. When I arrived, it was just a small little water thingy but then it became really cool. The little mass of water started oscillating (for lack of a better word) and created some sort of wave which grew more aggressive to fill the basin. It took some time to fill the basin, and when it's filled, they're immediately was drawn again to clear the water out of the basin and that's pretty much the end of the fountain show thingy.

After that I just cycled around. I did see the map to make sure I see all the things there but either I couldn't find them or they're under renovation or something else (some of the things weren't clear for me, like the beach) I may miss them. By the way, the park was designed by a famous architect, Isamu Noguchi, whom I've never heard of before this. I was interested in visiting it because it's listed as one of the things to see in Sapporo. Also when I saw the mountain picture, I was thinking it's like where Teletubbies live! This is one side of the mountain. You can take the stairs to go up there, which of course I didn't. By the way, my bike fell when I was taking this picture. I think it could be the wind, or because my bag was too heavy in the basket and it tilted the whole bicycle, or I didn't flip the handle on the wheel thingy when I parked it. Thank God noone was there and it seemed the bicycle wasn't in any damage. Sorry auntie and uncle!

This other side of the mountain seems to provide an easier way to reach the top which I again didn't take. I don't think the bicycle is allowed up there. You can see a bit of the pyramid on the right. Seriously, doesn't this mountain make you think of the telettubies? I think the view could be pretty awesome from the top. I saw some people on its peak.

Anyways, I just cycled around which is not as easy as I thought it would be. It wasn't a breeze because there are a few strong wind and cycling against the wind was hard for me!!! I also realized that man, I was so bad in steering. I did manage to ride with only 1 hand though. I was thinking that I shouldn't be allowed to drive. It's by God's grace that I didn't fall and there weren't many people that I didn't hit anyone. I found the kids' play area, there are a few of them with interesting things like blocks, another pyramid, slide, etc. I found this swing and I just had to stop and have a few swing on it. I couldn't remember when I was last on a swing, so it was like something that I had to do. Felt happy to be doing that. Sapporo didn't live up to what I expected it to be, but at that moment, I was thinking that this was that happy moment that Sapporo gave me - I got to play like a child.

In another I found a slide and seesaws. I saw this boy playing on the slide and I felt like I wanted to play too. When I saw his mother getting on it as well, I went up and down the slides a few times as well. Each time with a big smile and happiness in my heart. I was most probably in kindergarten the last time I was in a slide. By the way, look at the ladders to the slide. I actually got a bit nervous going up and yet the boy without hesitation just stretched his little legs to climb all the way up. I'm not sure it's very safe for kids, but there were the boy's mother and grandmother there. He seemed to take pleasure in seeing me trying out the slides as well :) There were some seesaws in front of the slide but I couldn't find anyone to play it with me, so I just looked at them longingly.

After that, I decided to call it the day, especially since my watch was showing that I had spent close to 3 hours since I rented the bicycle. Went back to the bicycle rental and the auntie quickly pointed out the bus schedule to me. Darn it, lesson learnt, there's a bus schedule. As mentioned before, the buses don't run very frequently so it's a good idea to note their time to arrange the time for catching them. I didn't know all that. She kindly pointed the bus stop in the map and then offered to write down the timing. I must have confused her, because I told her that I couldn't take the bus she told me since I was late. It turned out for some reason my watch went to a different timezone. I found out when I tried to pay the extra money for the bicycle and she refused it since I was like only around 10 minutes late (I thought I was near to one hour late). So then I realized I may have confused her about the bus timing. Anyway, I was in english and she's in japanese so the confusion may not be that bad since all can be attributed to language barrier. I thanked her profusely since she was so nice. Then as I walked away, she was calling for me in japanese which I think means "wait". Turned out she wanted to give me a candy. How sweet and nice!!! This time I said thank you with a bow :P She seriously made me warm and fuzzy inside. It made me think that it's perhaps one of those times when people are really nice to you because you're alone.

Anyway, made my way to the bus stop, but then when I reached the main road, I wasn't sure which way I was to go. Left or right? I didn't memorize the map, thinking it would be visible straightaway when I reached the main road. Stupid me. I started walking left and after some time, I think it was wrong, so I headed back and then after some walking I did found the bus stop not far from the entrance. Stupid me! Then I realized there's a little sheltered area to wait for the bus. Not very clean, but I supposed it helps when it's raining or snowing. The bus came and it was a straightforward right back to the bus station, thank God. There were a little japanese boy and girl (I think maybe 7-8 years old) going home from school. They're so cute together. The girl alighted first and the boy started collecting ticket with each stop, I think it annoyed the bus driver. I was thinking how interesting that their parents let them take the bus on their own.

After I reached the station, I decided to head to Odori park again before calling it the day. The trees were as bare as the day before :( Heard some Indonesians and asked the Indonesian tourists to take my picture while I offered to take theirs. And so it was, my Sapporo leg. It wasn't as perfect as I would have liked it, but it had its nice moment I have to say. Moerenuma Park did give me some happiness. For pictures from Sapporo, you can go here. Off to Tokyo next.

:) eKa @ 10:52:00 PM • 0 comments

Japan - Kyoto Part II

I forget to add this bit of unfortunate thing that befell me. On my first evening in Japan, as I sat down and wrote, I realized that I lost my return Narita Express ticket. Narita Express (N'EX) is an express train that would take you from Narita to Tokyo. It would stop at some of the big stations like Tokyo, Shinjuku, and Shinagawa. When I arrived, I got the package of 2 returns N'EX tickets and a suica card which can be used on the subway / metro of Tokyo and on trains line operated by JR (Japan Railway) in Tokyo, Kyoto, Sapporo and perhaps many other cities. Coming on to Kyoto, my first ride was the Narita Express from Narita to Shinagawa. I got the return ticket because my leg 2 is in Sapporo and I had to go from Kyoto to Shinagawa and then take the Narita Express to Narita for my flight. So I looked and looked among my papers and I just couldn't find the ticket. I'm still not sure what happened. My guess was, since the ticket was important, I put it inside my passport since it's also as important. I think it must have fallen when I handed my passport at the hotel when I checked in. So the morning after, the day of the Kyoto - Nara trip, I asked the receptionist about it. I kinda confused one of the girls. She had difficulty understanding me and asked me to speak slowly. Her english wasn't good and her other colleague with slightly better english tried to help us. She then told me that they would call me when they find that small ticket. I had high hope, but up until I left, there wasn't any news :( I was feeling very very bad because it felt like failure for me. How could I be so careless :( Of course I texted mom and she said it's okay. Of course it's okay, it's not a major thing, the new ticket cost below S$40, even in Indonesian rupiah the lost is not that bad. Still, I am me, when bad things happened to me, I couldn't just give it 10 minutes or so to grieve. It takes me a long long time to get over it.

However I was in Japan. Alone. With lotsa plan. So I did have to shut down those thoughts of wondering where I did wrong and I should just move on. Day 3 in Japan, Monday, was kinda my last day in Kyoto because the next day I would be moving on to Sapporo. The plan was to start early, visit Fushimi Inari which is famous for the many torii, then I would go back to Kyoto station, find the bicycle rental shop and cycle my way to the things on my list. That was very ambitious. Before coming to Kyoto, I imagined I would toughen myself up and just do it. Arriving in Kyoto, I was quite intimidated with the fact that Kyoto is actually pretty big and it's pretty much a modern city with big streets and many cars. However, that day I thought that I couldn't chicken out, I should do what I said I would do. So the morning started, not as early as I told myself to, but I was on a holiday. I was sick when I came, so I needed the rest, and so I wasn't rushing at all. Had breakfast at Mister Donut again. 2 donuts this time around, I guess appetite was coming back. Then I tried to find the train platform. I knew which train to take but somehow standing there at the station looking at the train direction, I couldn't really quite get it. The impatient me straight away just asked the nearby staff. I asked which train to go to Fushimi Inari which of course is famous that everyone would know where it is. For the record though, Fushimi Inari-Taisha is the name of the shrine. Inari is the name of the area and so the train station is called Inari. The staff told me the platform number and the direction for it. When I reached the platform, I confirmed it again with the staff there. It was a really short ride to Inari, just a few stations away, and exiting the station, the shrine is just across the street. So it was truly painless reaching the shrine :) The shrine has a very big compound and everything is painted orange. Going towards the back, you could easily find the double torii path. It's that place where so many pictures have been taken in. However, with the so many tourists, it's rather impossible to take pictures without anyone in it. I tried to wait it out, but it didn't happen. People were passing by. When I thought no more people would be going in, there would be some people going back. So yeah, I don't have any picture of the double path :( In fact, I actually do not have many pictures of the torii.

The reason why I didn't have many pictures of the torii was because I was thinking that I would just explore the area first and come back later and then use the time to take more pictures. That didn't happen because as I started going through the path, I just kinda didn't stop. The torii are leading up the mountain. I don't mind if it's a slope going up but when it comes to the staircases, it was tough. Passing through a torii gate means that you are being purified. Now I am one of those people who by reflex would just curse and say things like shit and fuck. It's bad, I should be controlling myself, I know. Along with those words, I also often by reflex say, "Holy Jesus!". So as I hiked my way up the mountain under the many torii, I was going "Holy Jesus, please help me". I think it's quite silly. It's just I'm a real couch potato. I will take the bus, even though my destination is just 1 bus stop away or a 10-15 minutes walk. So you know, for someone who never exercises, hiking up a mountain is not easy for me. I am actually surprised that I had some stamina and wasn't really in bad shape (by my standard) during the hike.

Why did I go on then? I don't know. I didn't even know what I wanted to reach. I didn't know what the goal was. The path never stops and I just kept on walking. Never once did I think if I would have the energy to make it down. Sometime in my hike when there weren't many tourists anymore, there was this Japanese older man who in Singapore we would address as uncle. I think he may do this often, as a form of exercise. So at some point, there would be just me and him. We didn't talk at all or even greeted each other, but for some reason, I saw him as that person who's there for me and who's doing this with me. It's like as long as he's walking, I could make it too. Sometime he would pass me and at other times I would pass him, but we would always kinda near each other. Then we reached level 6 and I just straight away sat down at the bench. At that point, I was thinking I had done it long enough that I should most probably go back. There's a map and after looking at all the clues, I found out that I was at level 6 and the top was around 15 minutes away! Did I go to the top? I didn't. I thought it didn't matter if I reached the top or not. 15 minutes is perhaps the time it will take if you're all fresh, but at my state, my heart was beating faster and by the time I sat at the bench, I was trying to get my breathing into normal speed. Also came was a dad with his boys. He also sat down and the boys wanted to keep going it seemed that the dad had to say over and over to wait :P That's what I think he said in Japanese :P So I decided not to go to the top and to go back. The uncle also didn't continue to the top, he decided to go the other way which by looking at it seemed like the way down. Now, a smart person would go back the way she came, however I decided to take the other way down which the uncle also took. I have no explanation why I did this. Perhaps because the uncle took that path. Perhaps because of the subliminal desire of wanting to keep on exploring different things. If the path is going down, I would eventually reach the base right? Right?!? I should have turned back when I was walking a path without any torii, when the path was getting really narrow, when there wasn't any human being, when I was wondering if I did the right thing. I should have. I didn't. Can't explain why. Maybe again it's because the path hasn't ended, so I kept on walking and walking. It was all green with plants, sometime there's a little stream. I thought maybe a bear would come out of the green, but then I thought bears don't live in this kinda place. I thought maybe I'll see a fox, which would be awesome since there are many fox statues in Fushimi Inari. Of course I also understood the likelihood of it was non-existent. The thought that never came was that a really bad person would do really bad things to me. Maybe I should be more cautious, but somehow when I travel, I never think that really really bad things can happen to me.

As I walked, thinking I may have made a big mistake, I did think of how strange that moment also was. I couldn't remember much about the view now which is kinda sad because I thought I would remember that moment of me walking alone, in a middle of a forest (if I can so) without anyone at all (the uncle disappeared). It's like a real moment of solitude that God put me in and truth be told I couldn't understand why he did that to me. If there's a reason for anything, I'm not sure what the goal of this was. It wasn't bad actually but I just asked myself over and over why I was doing this. Maybe whatever lesson I had to learn with the walk, I haven't learned it at all. Maybe when I remembered that I should just enjoy that moment, rather than trying to understand why I was doing it or was put to do it, I took this picture of this pretty orchid like flower.

At some point, I finally saw the uncle again. He was on the phone and he smiled as he saw me passing by. Then towards the end, I also passed this area where there were a lot of bamboo trees. Unlike the ones in Arashiyama, these ones weren't that green. They were more light green and yellowish and then I finally emerged into a ... residential area! Oh my God, that's all I could say. I wasn't at the base of the shrine? What's with this residential area with houses? They were looking so empty though which was weird for me. Yes it was Monday, but it was also still a public holiday, so I wondered where the people were. The streets between houses are pretty wide which is nice because in my home in Jakarta, the street gets pretty narrow now. The houses are not that big, but they look cute and when they have gardens, they looked so well maintained and pretty much always in japanese style with the pine trees. So I didn't know where I was, didn't have a sense of direction. For some reason I just thought I was kinda too east of Fushimi Inari. That is weird to say since I didn't even know where north was. Anyway I just thought I needed to get to the main road while walking to my left. It was a long walk without any sign of getting it right. Here I actually got really frustrated. It's like all the walk I did earlier kinda evaporate into this part of frustrating black hole. Somehow I got myself into a temple or a big shrine. I didn't know what its name was and I was too tired to take picture or to find out more about the place. I did read an information panel about the place, it seemed the place is important. I just remember that the shrine or temple or whatever it was, was black in colours. The pillars of the buildings and the roof was all black. It was a total change from the orange Fushimi Inari. I found some sort of an information or ticket counter and asked for direction to the Inari station. The lady at the counter didn't really speak english. Then came 2 Japanese tourists who were rather old. The lady maybe could understand english a bit and she spoke to the lady at the counter and they understood where I wanted to go. As usual, people started talking to me in Japanese. I don't get it. In the end, they managed to get 1 word out, which was walk and then a hand gesture pointing to the general direction. I said thank you and started walking again. I was kinda at the main road of some sort, I guess, I didn't remember any bus going through. It was a long walk and I started to wonder if I was in the correct way. So after some long walk, I asked a girl who happened to understand english and I think she replied in english too that I had to keep on walking straight. I was glad that I received a confirmation that I was in the right track. So I walked and walked and yay I found Fushimi Inari again.

I think it took me around 3 hours from when I started hiking from Fushimi Inari into when I reached back there. The hiking down and the lost part may take close to 2 hours, it felt really really long. Since I was thankful that I found my way back, I finally decided that I wanted to pray at the shrine to say thank you. I found out from Mariko the day before that Shinto is more like believing there's spirit in everything and in praying to those spirits for gratitude and protection. Knowing that, I was like, well that's cool, I mean my family pretty much follow the same principle, so there shouldn't be a problem in me praying in a shrine. I still however wasn't sure if I should because I didn't want to do it wrong and be seen as disrespectful. However since I was (am) truly truly thankful that I made it back, I really really want to pray. So I watched some people until I was sure I got the whole steps. I did forget about the whole water purification part so I didn't do that. I'm sorry. The shrine in Fushimi Inari is actually kinda cool because they have these large bells that you try your best to ring as loud as you can before you start praying. I didn't remember seeing bells in any other shrine I visited. So I put some coins into the box, rang the bell, clapped twice, prayed, and clapped again, and bowed - something like that. I really felt thankful for the chance of visiting the temple as well as getting through that challenging situation safe and sound.

After this, I went back to Kyoto station. It was already like 12. I was tired and hungry and so my first stop was getting a hearty lunch. I settled for a tonkatsu set and boy how that day's experience made tonkatsu my Japanese comfort food. I ate it each in Sapporo and Tokyo too. The set I chose usually came with 2 prawns tempura, 2 smaller pork cutlets filled with something, chawanmushi, miso soup with tiny clams in it, rice, lotsa shredded cabbages, and a small teapot of Japanese tea. This first tonkatsu set I had was the best one I had. The small pork cutlets each came with cheese and asparagus filling. Eating cheese with rice is weird for me (I don't enjoy arancini), but I had burnt a lot of calories that morning, so that meal was amazing for me either way. Lunch done and I had to figure out what's next. Only half a day left and I was already pretty tired by the morning activity, so I decided to scrap the bicycle plan thing. It did seem like I got an easy way out to cover me getting chicken out trying to cycle my way in Kyoto, but hey, taking the sightseeing bus would totally help me a lot in getting to places. So I went to the visitor center, got Kyoto Sightseeing Card for 1200 yen which allowed me unlimited bus and subway rides for a day. The buses which go to the touristic areas are clearly marked with signs in english and staffs who understand english a bit. I didn't really read much about the must see things in Kyoto. I had bigger plan for the things to see, but I had to simplify things and decided to settle on Sanjusangendo, Heian Shrine, Ginkakuji, Kiyomizudera. I got on the bus, not sure about how to use the card. Went straight to the bus driver to ask if I had to insert my card now. The bus driver didn't really speak english. A older japanese lady was sitting at the front and tried to help me, but she thought I was asking if I was in the correct bus so she asked where I was going. She didn't speak english well but I had a feeling she wanted to practice or tried to be helpful. Anyway we confirmed I was on the right bus and I should just insert the card when I was going down. She asked me where I'm from and I asked her if she lives there (in Kyoto). She said she's from Osaka. I think she was travelling with her husband who just watched her talk. Her being so nice made me feel so good :P The bus has announcements to tell passengers what the next stop is, both in Japanese, English, and I think also Chinese (can't really remember it). So I knew when I had to get down, but the lady was also reminding me when my stop came.

I didn't know much about Sanjusangendo so I didn't know what to expect. One must take off their shoes entering it and there was sign for people to be observant and be quiet in the temple. When I entered and realized what this temple is, I was just in awe. It's basically a long wide hall and inside it, there are many statues of the thousand-arms Kannon and they took my breath away. I gasped. I was in awe. I was perhaps in a state of disbelief. It was unbelievable. You see rows and rows of them fill that long hall. Each of them perhaps one of its own kinds, but I couldn't be sure. It is interesting to note that the gold colours made you think that perhaps they are made of metals or something like that, but they're actually made of wood. In fact, I am often in awe that many statues in Japan are actually made of wood. Then I remember that Indonesia also has good carving skills, like the artists in Bali. I digress. Anyway there are also statues of the guardian deities at the front, like the God of thunder, wind, etc. Then as you go along the hall, right in the middle is a bigger, not in gold, statue of Kannon (Goddess of mercy). Then I realized that the other smaller but also big (because they're human size actually) statues are there to accompany this main statue. There's an altar there for people to pray and so I prayed. To say I shed some tears was an understatement. I think I actually cried. The tears were falling pretty quickly. I realized I may alarm the other tourists or the people who work there, so I had to just put the joss stick (again the joss without the stick) and kinda moved away to blow my nose and wiped the tears and yet they're still coming. I just got so emotional. I felt overwhelmed seeing such sights, felt touched and blessed that I was there, and felt like all my prayers to ask for things is pale in comparison to asking to be an actual good person and to be forgiven of all my sins. Perhaps it's the effect of religious places that they make you want to be all good and yet after you get out, you kinda forget all about being a good person, but at that time it was really what I felt. I took me some time to stop the tears. They just kept coming. I wasn't sure why I was that emotional. It was really an amazing place. Once you complete the hall, you go round the other side and there are explanation about the temple. It should be really interesting, but I didn't read much of the information. Since one cannot take pictures inside the hall, I got myself a collection of postcards from the shop. This is not a very good picture of how long or wide the hall is.

Outside there's a pretty nice garden with a pond. Just like anywhere else in Japan, there's also a small Shinto section in the same compound as this Buddhist temple. There are little torii with little houses for worship around the garden. After this temple, next on the bus route is Kiyomizudera, but since it closes later than the rest of the temples, I thought I would do this last. It was a really wrong decision on my part, sigh :( More on that later. Next for me was Heian Shrine. The compound of this shrine is so big and it's filled with white gravels. They make the whole compound so bright. The shrines are all orange. Those are not sakura trees by the way in the picture. Those are the fortune papers in light pink being tied into branches. When I first saw them from afar, I thought they were actual flowering trees.

I read that the garden is beautiful, so I decided to go to the garden. In the map given to me in the visitor center, I read there's a discount to enter the garden. I thought I just need to show my sightseeing card, but apparently I had to give the coupon from the map. The girl at the counter didn't really help me well in this, but I got it to her anyway. Entering the garden, I had the impression it wasn't so big, but it turned out it's really big. Like many other Japanese gardens, there are ponds. There's one with stepping stones which you can take to cross. I didn't fall, thank God :D In the season I was there, all are mostly green, with not many colours of the flowers. There are the wisteria which are in season. By the way, when I heard the word 'wisteria', my mind just went to Wisteria Lane of Desperate Housewives fame.

Then there is a bigger pond with this structure where you can just sit awhile, eat snack, and enjoy the view. Honestly, going into the garden, I wouldn't expect that there are all these things inside it.

After the garden, my next stop is Ginkakuji. I'm not sure why I chose it. Maybe because its name is similar to the delightfully golden Kinkakuji. It was a bit of a hike up from the bus stop, but the street is lined up with many interesting shops. I kinda glad I visited it because I saw something different. There's one of those Japanese style sand garden. I felt like it completed my Japanese experience to see something like that although I am sad to say I didn't spend a long time to reflect on it. I didn't even stop to sit around it. There was this mound of sand which at that time I didn't understand the meaning of, but after wikipedia-ing, I realized it was to signify Mount Fuji. I had a good picture of it from a different angle when it's slightly covered by a Japanese pine tree and the leaves from that tree kinda signify clouds for me. Kinda cool. Perhaps the bigger sand area with carefully placed bumps signifies the sea with waves.

As I said, I didn't really hang around that area long, I just followed the path into the garden. The garden is rather different. The path goes up a hill which would bring you into a point pretty high that you kinda look at the temple being covered in trees. A rather cute Japanese girl in kimono asked my help to take her picture there and I kinda can see why many guys like Japanese girls. She didn't speak english and so I'm not sure I got the pictures the way she wanted it. Going down, there's also a nice view of the temple surrounded by the trees and the pond. Just like Kinkakuji, it seems that noone can actually enter the building. I wonder if it's possible and I just didn't realize it. Anyway that's Ginkakuji there hidden on the right there.

After I finished with the temple, I decided that the custard puffs at the nearby shop was too tempting. Being that I was in Japan, I settled for the green tea filling though to be honest I have mix feeling for matcha, not sure if I love it or not. The puff was big and the filling was generous and lucky for me it didn't have very strong tea taste in it. In fact as I was sitting there, a light bulb went on in my head. Since it's so green, I thought we should make filling with avocado cream. It would be so good!!! Someone out there gonna take this idea of mine :( Anyways, after that, I could just have gone back to the bus stop and figure out how to get to my last stop of Kiyomizudera. Unfortunately, I can't even understand myself why I did this, as I made my way, I saw on my left there's a nice looking path. Could it be the philosopher path? Up until now, I cannot confirm that to you. After contemplating a bit, I decided to take my chance and just take that path. Very stupid me to do so perhaps. It's just I kinda knew the path connect Ginkakuji to another temple and there's a bus stop at the other temple and I thought I would surely could then figure out my way when I reached the other side. The path however was very long, it took me a long time to complete it that at many points I began to think I made a mistake. It was a nice walk. The weather was nice. The trees were nice, there were some flowers, and next to the path there's a canal. There were also not that many people, another reason why I was thinking perhaps I was wrong to take that path. It also another point where I thought, this is another time today I walk alone in a pretty nice green place. I read that it does take around 30 minutes to complete it. So perhaps I did walk on the philosopher's path? I like to think I really did.

Just like earlier in the morning when I had an epic lost, I again didn't know where to go when the path ended. Sigh. I saw direction to some temples, but I didn't find any bus stop nearby. Maybe they were near and maybe it's just me who just have the tendency to miss out signs because for some reasons I wasn't in the correct angle to see them :( So I got lost, lost, lost. I kept on walking without any idea on how to help myself. For some reasons, I just thought I needed to find a bus stop, like that's my only solution. I didn't think of anything else, like why didn't you just get a taxi? I think taking a taxi would really solve my problem then. However, either perhaps because I wasn't really looking for them or there really wasn't any, I think I didn't notice any taxi going round the streets. The street wasn't really that busy in that area. I also couldn't find the bus stop. Maybe it's me, I just find bus stop in Japan is not really obvious. They are like just poles with a small sign that people can easily miss. Only in Tokyo, I saw the bus stop was slightly bigger with a shelter, but even then they are still small and people can still easily miss them. Maybe I just saw them wrong. Maybe they are just pretty obvious and it's all the fault of my Singapore-tuned brain. Anyway the thing is, even to find a bus stop, I didn't know which bus to take, so asking people wouldn't be really helpful. So I just kept on walking and then I found a subway station. Again here I wasn't sure which direction to take. In fact it took a long time for me to understand the whole map and finding where I was. Without a destination though, it's not very useful so I actually got out of the station and walked aimlessly around until I came to my senses that it was an even stupider plan. So I kinda admitted defeat and got back to the subway station. Figured out how to get to Kyoto Station. Again for some reason, I didn't just think about maybe I should just go there and then I can take the bus again to Kiyomizudera. Instead I stopped at another stop thinking that I figured out the map and there would be a bus there to take.

I got out from the subway station, saw the bus stop, but couldn't understand the sign. Crossed the street and saw another bus stop thinking that's the correct direction to take. Mulled over the map again and realized perhaps I was wrong and I decided to go back to the other side of the street. I was convinced that I was in the correct bus stop and the bus I needed to take would be there. There was an information panel, but it was in Japanese. Sigh. A Japanese lady actually came and kinda greeted me but of course I couldn't understand her and I couldn't ask her anything and she said something which of course I couldn't understand. I assumed she meant the bus would take a long time to arrive and so she kinda said goodbye and started walking away. The bus I wanted never came and I waited pretty long and so I just took the next bus that came which I was sure going to take me to Kyoto station. It did and by that time it was pretty late and I wouldn't have enough time to make it to Kiyomizudera and so I didn't :( I was (am still) disappointed about it. In between being lost twice in the day and having to walk a lot and not being able to do everything I planned, this failure as usual was kinda ruining my mood :( It's like I forgot about the fact that I saw awesome things in Sanjusangendo. Anyway I tried to comfort myself with the fact that parts of Kiyomizudera is under renovation. It's perhaps an amazing place to visit, but perhaps my time for it would be when the renovation is more completed. Also in retrospect, it's a good thing that I didn't attempt to explore the city on a bicycle, because if I got lost really far and I was really tired, I couldn't just got on a subway or bus to make my way back. So perhaps God has arranged it as such for me. Anyway, here's hoping for a next time and so I conclude this Kyoto part of my trip. For pictures from Kyoto, you can go here. I love Kyoto a lot. I like the fact that it has many temples and gardens. It's pretty much my favorite leg in this trip :)

:) eKa @ 11:23:00 PM • 0 comments

Japan - Kyoto Part I & Nara

On my day 2 in Japan, I woke up feeling not so bad. Did have to let out some mucus out and it was still the brownish yellowish kind with a tinge of blood. Was slightly worried, but I had to get on with the day. For this day, I decided to take a day tour which would explore Kyoto and Nara. Generally I think taking a day tour in a city which you use as your base is not beneficial. Most often than not you can explore the city on your own. Of course if you're unsure about the transportation and what with the language barrier and you just don't want to deal with the hassle, you can do so, like I did in Istanbul. Also there are cases where the city tour can help you jump through hoops and queue. For example a half a day or day tour in Milan will be so worth it because most of it will take you to see The Last Supper and if you try to book the entry yourself, it's almost impossible to get. It's always full and even if a slot exists, the timing may not be that convenient. So anyway, I chose this day tour because I wanted to visit Nara and it's a different city altogether. So it would be great to not have to bother about transportation. It's like even if going from Kyoto to Nara is easy enough, arriving in Nara and getting to the places where I want to go may not be that straightforward. So I just didn't want to deal with the trouble. To be honest, I didn't know much about Japan before getting there. Like I didn't know that there are friendly deers roaming around in Nara. Casryn was telling me about that when she asked me if I was going there. I found out about it when I was reading about the tour and also about the fact that we're going to see a giant Buddha, the biggest one in Japan.

So anyways, the tour started late at 9 am. I only had to be at the meeting place at around 8.45 am. That's good because I didn't have to rush in the morning. I went out and had breakfast at Mister Donut in Kyoto Station. The Mister Donut in Kyoto station is rather strange. It doesn't sell drink and I was pointed to the cafe next door when I asked for tea. So I got one donut from them and hot tea from the cafe next door. I love Mister Donut but I think I wouldn't ever find a donut shop that I don't love. After that I headed to the hotel where the meeting place is. I didn't print out the map for it, I don't know why I have a tendency to not do important thing like this. I just kinda remember the location and direction of it in relation to my hotel. So I started to walk, walked out of the station, was rather confused that it's not obvious that the hotel was there. Tried to ask a japanese lady in suit, thinking she dressed so nicely so she must have some English skill. She didn't and didn't really help me. So I kept on walking in the direction which I think was correct and yay I found it. So that wasn't so bad. Found the tour counter and then it's a short wait before we were told to get into the bus. The Japanese are so organized that they actually assigned seat number for each people! Lucky for me, noone sat next to me.

The guide was this plump short Japanese grandmother, named Mariko. She's rather cute. First stop was Nijō Castle. Mariko having to do her job, gave a lot of information, which obviously I couldn't retain. I think it's a Shogun residence. One thing that I remember from what Mariko said, also the thing she said that if we should forget everything else, we should remember this analogy about the relationship between the emperor and the shogun. The emperor is like the husband in a family and the shogun is the wife. When the emperor wants to make important decision on something, he has to consult the shogun and often time just like in a marriage the wife (shogun) will have a bigger say on whether certain things are to be carried out or not :D Nijo Castle itself is pretty interesting. You have to take off your shoes to explore and it and no photos are allowed :( So I have no pictures from inside it. There's basically a route that you have to follow to explore it and it made it difficult for me to follow how one building is connected to the other and what's the whole layout looks like. There are meanings in almost everything. Meanings in the paintings on the walls for example. Then there's a section with a floor which they call the nightingale floor. Basically it's designed as such that if you walk on it, there will be sound coming out it, supposedly like the sound of nightingales. After hearing the collective sound from so many people walking on it, I think they sounded like mice instead. Although as we went along, I did think it's like a combination between the sound of mice and birds. The purpose of it is of course to know when there's someone coming. So it's all around the important area of the castle.

After we're done and was given some time to explore the surrounding, I decided to greet the Indonesian group who were sitting in front of me in the bus. Maybe because I've been away from Indonesia from some time, I may have forgotten certain norms in addressing people since I don't get to address people in Indonesian here that often. I started addressing the ladies of the group as "tante", which means "aunt", which is perhaps a bad way to address them since it made them feel so old and hello I'm not that young myself. The proper way of addressing them is to call them "kakak", I guess, which is an Indonesian word to address anyone slightly older than you be it a woman or a man. However, since I started with "tante", I just continued on. In this trip, I just started greeting every Indonesians I can find :P I found myself gravitating towards the Indonesian so much and not so to the Singaporeans :P I guess it's very telling about where my heart lies and where I feel more comfortable in :) Anyways, on a weekday, this tour would visit Kyoto Imperial Palace too, but since I was there on a Sunday, we went to Kitano Tenmangu Shrine instead. It's quite a pity that my schedule didn't allow me to visit the imperial palace in Kyoto as well as in Tokyo. I read that it's quite a hassle to visit them. You have to join a tour and I think if you choose to join the imperial palace tour group, you have to register with your passport. Also the visit doesn't mean you get to go inside the building, it's most probably just walking on the ground around the building and getting official explanation on it. The east garden in Tokyo imperial palace is free though and you can roam about it freely so that seems interesting, but yeah I couldn't fit in my schedule when I was there.

The compound of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is pretty big. There are many little houses with different Gods, to whom people can pray to depending on their wishes or request. One interesting part was this section where people who wants to have their car blessed, usually new car owners, can park their car and the Shinto priests can do the blessing ceremony. Mariko said the blessing will cover the car for 1 year, so the next year they should come back :D I asked Mariko what's the difference between the wooden tablet (which now I found out is called ema after I googled it) and the papers being tied all over. I thought the papers were wishes as well. Mariko explained that ema does contain wishes, the papers though are fortune papers. Visitors can randomly get a fortune paper after donating some money. If what's written is good luck, they can bring it home. If it's bad, they can tie it at the shrine and the priest will burn them (I suppose periodically) so that the Gods will take care of this bad luck. Glad to be learning something there. This shrine has a lot of plum trees all around it. I read that during flowering season, it's very pretty. When I was there, there were just a lot of little green plums. Also glad that I finally found out what fruits they were.

After which, we went to Kinkaku-ji which I can only described as delightfully golden. There were many tourists taking its pictures from across the pond. It is very beautiful and on a sunny day it's very shiny. It emanated golden ray all around :D I love it a lot. It's one of those things that made you gasped and made you feel warm and fuzzy because you see something wonderful. It's also telling how I really had little knowledge of Japan, since I've never heard about this place before I visited it. I basically just went straight away to take pictures and didn't listen to Mariko when she was gathering people and explaining about the temple. So now, I looked for Wikipedia to enlighten me :P

This beauty ended the Kyoto part of the tour and next was lunch. Lunch wasn't great :( There were free flow of ice cream though. I did take them, but with me being in recovery mode, I was trying to avoid all things cold. I sat with the Indonesian group and found out that one of them is actually Singaporean. Then I got very curious. She's been in Singapore only for 6 years and she managed to change her citizenship. How that did it happen? Did she get permanent residency straight away when she arrived? Or is it actually possible to change your citizenship even if you haven't completed a 5-year permanent residency? I know the answer is actually possible, since Jet Li can be a Singaporean even though it's questionable how long he actually spends in this country. I'm not a Singaporean but I do share the sentiment of many Singaporeans that there are too many foreigners here and I can see where they are coming from when they're annoyed that many foreigners can get citizenship "rather easily", though perhaps it's not that easy actually. It's just as pure blood Singaporeans, many do feel that there's something culturally different about being a Singaporean and just because foreigners can change their status, they're not necessarily one of them. The fear is perhaps that when there are more of these new citizens keeping their own culture, the culture of Singapore will actually be disappearing. The government will say that's what you get when you don't want to make babies. I did read an article that says something along the line that it's useless to argue about the need of foreigners becoming citizens and the changing of Singapore culture, since it's something unstoppable. Singapore will always need immigrants and with them the changes in culture and society will be something which is to be expected and valued instead. Alright then :D Coming from the other side, I get why people would like to be Singaporean. Coming from Indonesia, I think for every non-muslim Indonesians, citing discrimination and muslim extremists is a good enough answer. I personally like to think that I'll stay through thick and thin with the country that God chose for me. There's loyalty for me. Does it mean that people who change their citizenship are not loyal? I usually think it's unfortunate that they do it when their original country does not cause them to be in dire harm, but who are we to judge. This lady though is not that very good of a new citizen. When I said that after all these years, I still do not want to change citizenship, she said changing citizenship to Singaporean is a stepping stone. So yeah, not much loyalty. I guess if you can do it once, you may be able to do it again. I feel rather disappointed hearing her. I feel if you have chosen this path, you should be committed damn it. Anyways, I digressed pretty far off. After lunch, I parted ways with them because they were continuing with the second half of Kyoto tour and I was to start on my Nara part. I had to leave first so I said goodbye, got on the bus and we started picking some other tourists.

Now I got a bulky American guy sitting next to me :( Didn't enjoy having to sit with someone, but at least I got window seat. The guide was still Mariko, yay! I think it's a more than 1 hour drive to Nara from Kyoto. We had to go through some express way and I remembered her saying that the bus can only go 60 kmh max and I thought that was rather slow. She was explaining things throughout the journey, but I actually drifted in and out and slept a bit. Seriously, this is so not me. I guess I really didn't have much energy because of the flu. First stop was Todaiji Temple where the giant Buddha is. There were many tourists and the Buddha is inside the temple. There were some other statues of what I believe are the guardians around the main Buddha statue. It is very very big. There's one pillar inside the temple with a hole underneath it. It is said that the hole is as big as the Buddha statue's nostril and if you are below 180 cm and 80 kg, you can join the queue to see if you can go pass it and if you can pass it, you'll be very blessed. There was a queue for it. Children can crawl in and out easily. I think I can. I wonder if anyone ever got stuck :D We were given some free time on our own. I felt very blessed to be given the chance to visit this temple and so I decided to pray and put the prayer joss stick at the bowl which strangely is located some distance away from the temple. Also strange, so far all the joss stick I found in Japan are just joss without the stick. So they're pretty short and it made it rather hard to stick it in the bowl if the bowl is rather full and now that I think of it, wouldn't this make the joss to not be able to burn in its entirety? Weird. But also in Japan, the joss comes in many different colours, like purple, green, orange, yellow, pink! Anyway I could only say a little prayer in the direction of the Buddha because there were many people.

After that, we went to Kasuga Grand Shrine. The compound is also very big and because in the area there are a lot of old trees and there are deers (they were among the first things we saw there) and there are many stone lanterns, I was feeling a bit of Bali in here. Like in one of those temples in Bali where the monkeys roam free. Different country, different animal, different things, and yet my brain was making this connection. The deers were definitely not shy. They were looking at us and didn't run away. Mariko said since it's Sunday, there had been many tourists in the area and most probably the deers were already well fed and that's why we're not seeing many of them. We saw 2 when we came and of course everyone including me was approaching them and started taking pictures :P Walking around the areas seeing the lanterns was very nice because it's outside with the nature and the weather was agreeable. I wonder if there's a period where the lanterns are actually filled with candles and people can explore the shrine at night. It must be so cool as well.

Before we left, 2 of the tourists in my group, including the American guy sitting next to me in the bus, were feeding the deers with biscuits which I wonder if a special deer biscuit or human can eat it as well. There were 2 deers and they were eating calmly. This one was actually blind in 1 eye I think because its left eye was rather white. Poor little thing. This is the only picture I had of him which doesn't make him looks so scary

Before we ended the day, we visited a souvenir shop. I think I got something from there. Then it's the drive back to Kyoto. I was dropped at my hotel, yay! Got dinner and since I was staying at Kyoto Tower Hotel, I got a free pass to go up the tower. Since it's free, I might as well use it though for real I wasn't interested at all. Kyoto Tower is really not something beautiful and I'm just not interested anymore in going high up to see a view of a city, though I will still be interested to go up in Monas to see the view of Jakarta. I thought since the tower is not actually that beautiful, there wouldn't be many people going for it. Boy was I wrong. There was a long queue and I ended up waiting 20 minutes or so. If not for the free ticket, I wouldn't waste 20 minutes of my life for it. I also didn't feel particularly amazed seeing the view, maybe because I couldn't identify anything. I guess it would be interesting to see the view during Kyoto bond fire festival since there will be bond fire lighted in the form of a Japanese character in the surrounding mountains. I actually saw the character during the day when one of the mountain was visible. In this picture, you can see a pagoda on the right. I don't know which temple or shrine it belongs to.

To see more pictures from the Nara trip, you can go here and I'll try to write more about the trip soon. Writing this and looking back at the pictures, I realized how I really had a good day that day and how fortunate I felt seeing many wonderful things. Thank you God :)

:) eKa @ 10:44:00 PM • 0 comments

Japan - Arashiyama

Hello guys, so I'm back. Landed back in Singapore and the land of english and also chinese Tuesday evening. It was good to be able to understand things and say things in a language that people can understand me. I said it's also the land of the chinese because it is. My head almost got knocked by the taxi's trunk when the taxi driver was opening it and he asked me in chinese if I didn't see it coming. It surprised me that I could understand him, all these years really make an impact on me.

Anyway, all that is not interesting right. Will my story of the trip be? Let's begin from where I last left you. I was leaving Friday night. Lo and behold, just my luck, I had a bit of a flu starting Friday morning. I do often sneeze and get runny nose in the morning, but usually they will go away. That day, it didn't. Went through the morning, then I proceeded with my ritual of praying before a trip. Didn't complete the need for Indonesian food because I just didn't have much energy and I was thinking that seeing the doctor was necessary. So I had chicken soup from Soup Spoon for lunch. I love them. It wasn't that filling though. Went to see my usual doctor who finally found out that I moved. I last saw them in September. I didn't tell her I was leaving for Japan though, too tired and annoyed with the illness to be chatty. She said it wasn't so bad so she didn't give me antibiotics. Only the flu med and lotsa vitamin C. Maybe she's right, I mean if I wasn't supposed to fly in a few hours, I would just carry on as usual. It seemed like one of those things like a lot of rest could fix and under normal circumstances, there's the weekend to rest. However, since I was flying and with the fear of flu in this side of the world, I needed to make sure that I'm not having suspicious runny nose when I walk in Narita airport. I don't want them to suspect me of carrying any deadly disease which I believe I didn't since there's no deadly flu virus outbreak in Singapore and as much as I ate a lot of chicken, all the ones I ate were cooked well. So I took the medicine immediately when I reached my room. Tried to take a nap, but couldn't really. I got up sometime around 6 pm. Still wasn't feeling well. The runny nose wasn't totally gone and my energy level was so low :( Called mom, posted that last post on the blog. Forgotten about my laundry and Jenny took them down for me. Tidied up my things and off I went to the airport. The plane was delayed, well it's departing later than what my ticket showed me. Got quite annoyed with it. Felt hungry because I didn't have dinner and at that point, I needed something healthy. Changi airport close to midnight is not really that bustling, there weren't many donuts left in Dunkin Donuts so I opted for tea and a chocolate muffin at Cedele. Took my flu med again since I was still feeling bad and the energy level just kept on dropping and I felt sleepier. Finally got into the plane. Didn't even bother to plug the earphone and watch things on the tv. I ended up drifting in and out for most of the flight. Only got fully awake when there's around 2-3 hours left in the flight, just in time for breakfast and that's when I decided to watch something. Settled on Quartet. Did a body check on myself, temperature seemed okay. No runny nose but I knew there's mucus in there.

Landed safely. Walked through the part where you can see monitors checking passengers' temperature. All went well. Didn't get stopped, thank God. Went to the immigration. They took a picture of you and fingerprinted your 2 index fingers. All went well. Got my luggage. Got stopped at the custom check and the girl asked me to open the suitcase. Sigh. Panicked when she asked me for the key because I wondered if I brought the key with me. I did. Was pretty embarrassed when she opened my suitcase, but she gotta do what she had to do and I was the unfortunate random one that morning. Proceeded to go to the train counter. Found it easily enough. Got my tickets. Decided to get the package of Suica Card and Narita Express. I already researched all about this and was able to tell the girl at the counter that I needed the next narita express train to Shinagawa and I needed a nozomi train from Shinagawa to Kyoto. The nozomi train is the fastest train to Kyoto from Tokyo and it does cost more. I already knew the time, just needed her to confirmed it. Decided to take the second nozomi train in Shinagawa from my arrival time, since it's my first time and although I had studied the station layout and read all I could find about it, I wasn't sure I wouldn't get lost. You know, I'm directionally challenged and with really low level of alertness and energy level, I needed to be more careful. I think it's really helpful for all parties if you really know what you want. This will not confuse the people at the counter and of course you can get things done fast to get on with the train. The lady at the counter asked if I wanted window seat, that was nice of her. By the time I was done, I think it's only 15 minutes before the train departed. Saw a group of Indonesians but too tired to say, "Hi". Asked the staff there, if it's the correct train. The fellow looked at my train ticket and told me it's correct and pointed me to the door. Got in, sat down, looked at the ticket and something was just telling me it's not quite right. At that time I didn't really listen to the announcement clearly, but something about it didn't feel that right to me. The thing is I felt that I was in the wrong car and since I didn't listen to the announcement from the beginning, I wasn't quite sure, but it seemed that the train would split out and you need to make sure you're in the correct car so that you get to your destination. Asked a Japanese lady who like most Japanese don't really speak English well, but somehow we confirmed I was in the wrong car. I was like oh God, seriously?!? Panic was rising. I was in car 5 and needed to be in 9 I think so I started to walk. I wasn't sure if I was going in the right direction or if the whole thing is right. What got me concerned because the connection between cars is weird sometime, but I guess it's because they made room for toilets, but things like that made me wondered if all the cars are really connected. Can I really get through? Stopped for awhile and was thinking if I should get off to the platform, maybe it would be clearer to me, but I wasn't sure and luckily I didn't. I walked again, found a staff and she confirmed that I should walk on and thank God it's all correct because the train started moving. It was scary indeed that I could have missed the train. Found my car and sat down and thank God. Saw the view as we went along. Tokyo sky tree was the first thing I identified when we entered Tokyo.

Arrived in Shinagawa without much problem. Bought my first meal, a bento box. Took it and went to my shinkansen platform. Found it easy enough and I had to wait for sometime. The train arrived and I got into the correct car. Wasn't sure about where I should put my luggage. The bottom compartment in the luggage area was already full and I sure hell wouldn't haul my luggage to the upper compartment, so I decided to bring it with me and I was worried if there's space. Yes there are. The seats are very spacious. You can fit your luggage but of course you sacrifice you leg space but hey, noone was taking the seat next to me. As the train moved along, I had my bento lunch. It wasn't bad, I just wasn't feeling well so appetite was low and I just don't like food which is not warm. When I bought it, I didn't think about asking if it could be heated up. Ate as much as I could and I took my flu med again. Then I began to feel sleepy and again I drifted in and out. This is out of character for me. I don't normally sleep on places other than the bed, but this time around in this trip, I slept often during the travel. So with that, I didn't see much of the view. Anyways, arrived safely. By the way, everytime I got out of the ticket gate, for some reason the barrier didn't open and the staff had to check my tickets and take it. I'm not sure why. Anyway, got out from the barrier. Got confused with direction. Asked a policeman I found walking there the direction for my hotel. He gave me direction in english, but can I reiterate again on how I tired and how low my energy level was and so I couldn't really register that instruction that came in a few steps. So after some walking which was still inside the station, I asked an information counter. Then I was told the direction again and as I got out from the station, I knew where my hotel is since I was staying at Kyoto Tower Hotel and there's a tower on the hotel building. It's not really pretty, but you can't miss it. Why I chose that one, well there wasn't many hotel rooms left near the station during the period of my stay which was at the end of Japan's golden week.

Couldn't check into the room yet, so I left my luggage there and proceeded to the planned destination, Arashiyama. Found the train easy enough and arrived. By this time, it was sometime before 3. I had a packed plan for this which included visiting Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, which is quite far. Got into the taxi stand but there wasn't any taxi. Went to the other exit, did see 1 taxi and I stood there thinking and decided, no, I was just to weak to hustle. So I decided to just visit Tenryū-ji temple, the nearest temple to the station. As I walked, there's direction to walk there. Now, I would like to urge you to not rely so much when you read information about it takes x minutes to walk somewhere in Japan. I now believe, the Japanese just walk faster than the common people of this world. This is coming from me who live in Singapore who unconsciously have acquired quite a stamina and speed in walking. I mean, I think I can walk as fast as the Japanese, but the predicted time differed with how long I took. I think I read it takes 10-15 minutes to reach the temple from the station, I felt like I took longer and I wasn't even lost. Anyway, got in there. Bought the ticket, decided to not buy the ticket for the building.

Now that I think about it, it has the word temple in it, but it doesn't have any Buddhist related things in it that I can recall off. Then there's a big pond. You may be tired hearing me say how sick I was, but really excitement level wasn't that high with me.

As I walked away from the pond, there are more trees and plants. I got to thinking about Monet. He had a Japanese garden in his estate and there were many Japanese paintings in his small house. I was thinking if these things really inspired him. His flower garden is one of my favorite places on earth, though I've only visited it once, but I can see how wonderful it is to hide and escape in one corner of his beautiful garden. Now in Tenryu-ji, though there are more trees than flowering plant (perhaps it's just not the season), there are just these little paths which you can take and you can just disappear from view and these ideas, these connections between this garden and Monet's was just really nice for me and it made me love this garden. Notice the thought of how I like to just hide and disappear, do your own psycho analysis on me. Anyway, there are also some flowers in the garden, like this one which is the biggest flower I've ever seen, well not counting bunga bangkai, that one is not beautiful. Anyway, this flower just made me stop and be in awe and thought what did they put in her? Are these for real? Naturally like this? I know from this photo, you couldn't get the scale of how big it is, but it's big.

There are other interesting things, like trees with red leaves and the leaves look like maple leaf but I could be so wrong calling it a maple tree. Anyway, walked all around the garden and towards the exit there's a bunch of bamboos and I did read if you follow a certain exit, it would lead you to the bamboo forest so I guessed that was it and I think it really was it. I wish I could tell you that I took nice pictures as the pictures you may be googling now. I didn't. As expected in places like this, there were many tourists and I was still stupidly disappointed with that.

They were quite a something. Very tall and very green and they like prevent the light from coming down. It was something for me, to just stand there and listen when there's a stronger wind blowing them. The way they swayed and the sound, it was really something for me and I walked and stood for sometime. Followed the path until I saw the end of the section. I don't know what's wrong with me that I just often didn't try to get back the way I came, but I decided to continue with the path and stumbled into my first shrine in Japan. Just found out its name as I'm writing this. It's called Nonomiya Shrine. It's quite small, but there were a lot of youngsters praying and I observed them for awhile. These are the wishing tablets, see this cute one in my flickr set.

The day was getting late though and I decided to just proceed to the last destination of Togetsukyo bridge. It started to drizzle and I only had my hoodie. I couldn't really get direction to it, but I found my way back to the station. There, there was direction to the bridge, but with the drizzle and the distance which now I felt wouldn't be so near, I decided to call it the day. So my Arashiyama plan didn't go as I had envisioned, but I did see nice things in Tenryu-ji and I did see the bamboo forest which was the reason why I wanted to go to Arashiyama in the first place.

For more pictures of it, you can go here. I have to tell you something though. I don't think I'm that good in taking pictures, but for some reason the pictures from this trip are not amazing. It's not a good representation of how things really are. So don't take my pictures into account much. So, I went back. Had my first ramen for dinner. It was at the underground mall in between the station and the hotel, called Porta. Chose the mall, just because I understood what the name means in Italian, it means door. Arrived back in the hotel. The staff had kindly placed my luggage in my room. Showered, sat down and write while drinking hot water to help my body. Let out an ugly yellowish mucus. I know this is too much information, but I just want to say that it did mean that I was rather sick. Took my med and just kinda collapsed in bed, it was the best sleep I had in Japan. I felt better the next day but that story is for another day. Hope I'm not so lazy and I can write it soon.

:) eKa @ 11:49:00 PM • 0 comments

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