A Train to Japan: Stardate 23798.5

Tuesday, August 7 2012 at 17:00 (Trips)

I’m travelling in some kind of alien craft that is capable of moving extremely fast, possibly due to to a device located in its pointed ‘beak’. Surroundings are not identifiable. I will write probably my last log here in the hopes that I will prevent others from attempting my foolish journey.

(So yeah, I’m on a Shinkansen for three hours and figured I might as well do some writing.)

So what’s happened? Well, a bunch of stuff. There was further time in Mimasaka, where lots of cool things happened, and then there’s been more travelling. In fact, my trip can be neatly divided into three two-week ‘arcs’: the journey out, Mimasaka and the travelling in Japan.

In terms of activities in Mimasaka, there were several more instances if playing with young children and them showing us their rad cup-and-ball skills (I can’t remember the Japanese name), meeting high school students, cleaning near a Buddhist temple and one especially memorable morning where we picked individual blades of grass on a golf course.
At one point I went to go and see a public viewing of the Japanese women’s football team playing their first Olympic game with my host family – the goalkeeper and captain are from Mimasaka and the team won the world cup last year, so it was a big thing locally. At the public viewing I inadvertently ended up being filmed and was apparently on NHK (national television station) the next day. On top of that we also had a camera guy following our volunteering exploits as a group and that has also produced several reports on local television.
There were a number of other activities we did, but really it was the people who made everything fun and interesting. All the volunteers (and the leader) in our group were just great to work with, all the locals were helpful and smiling, and my host family were saintly in their kindness. Going back to travelling on my own after having made such good friends over the two weeks is crushingly lonely by comparison, though I hope to meet a few people again before I leave.

In terms of travelling, so far I’ve been to Kyoto, Fukuoka and Nagasaki and I’m now on my way to Sendai. Kyoto was a brilliant city – I was with Allan the Belgian from Mimasaka for the first full days, and he led me on a leg-shattering tour of Kyoto’s six billion temples. The worst one was the one with 10,000 orange torii (archway thingies) on a mountainside where we got somewhat lost. We also went to the Shogun house place and looked at the outside of the imperial palace.
On the second day, now on my own, I took a more leisurely pace due to my leg pains and laziness and saw only the golden temple, one other famous one and the one with 1001 Buddha Kannon statues. Honestly, I kind of feel that many of the quiet, plain shrines in the Okayama countryside were far prettier than most of the blaring ones full of tourists.

Next I went to Fukuoka on Kyushu, where I experienced the worst hostel directions I’ve yet had. Overall Fukuoka didn’t really agree with me – there wasn’t that much to see, the subway coverage was poor and the museums weren’t overly interesting. The best parts were when I went paddling on the beach and when I ate some of the famous ramen noodles with locals in a roadside stall.

Next day I went on a day trip to Nagasaki, taking full advantage of the fact that my Japan Rail pass lets me ride any JR train I like except for a few specific Shinkansen lines. Nagasaki was really pretty and had a neat tram system for getting around. I spent most of my time in the nuclear bomb museum, which was very interesting and very atmospheric… at least until 2,000 Chinese tourists appeared. Honestly, they were terrible. ‘Hey, take a picture of me doing a funny pose next to this nuclear fallout chart!’ What the eff. Seriously.
I visited the nuclear bomb remembrance hall after the museum, which was thankfully totally empty and utterly silent.
The Chinese had taken over Nagasaki (more than usual, anyway) so I only visited the various other nuclear sites and a few temples then got a train back to Fukuoka.

I had been worried that I wouldn’t be able to get a place at a hostel in Sendai because of the Tanabata festival, but fortunately I found one and all is good.

Loot-wise, I have a neat wooden bento box I made (also not so useful because European rice sucks), number of nice cards from people, assorted anime goods and some things from my host family’s shop.
In terms of things I’ve bought, I have a number of CDs: Holidays in the Sun (YUI), Birthday (ClariS), Prog-roid (school food punishment), Rock the World (Home Made Kazoku) and one Chatmonchy album I can’t read the name of but I know that I wanted. I still want the nano.RIPE album which is nowhere to be found, as well as Over the Border (Stereopony). Oh, and I bought a Star Driver artbook too.

(I’m now in Sendai as I’m publishing this but I’m too tired to update it in detail. Sendai is brilliant.)

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1 Comment

  1. camillaherrmann said,

    That stardate equates to October 19, 2346, at 10:51:35, in our calendar. I know it’s easy to lose track of the days while travelling….

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