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Posts Tagged ‘shremples’

Golden week was a really good opportunity to have a proper break, catch up on sleep and do a few fun things. Its a fantastic idea having a week of national holidays back to back, but unfortunately this means that everywhere you go, prices are doubled and everywhere is crowded. Interestingly, Japanese people love domestic tourism, so even at “touristy spots”, places of interest or natural beauty I often find myself the only white person there.I really would have liked to have gone to Okinawa or at least Kyuushuu, but it would have cost me so much more than I could have afforded so I stayed around Nagoya with a few day trips, and plenty of trips to onsen to relax!

Ise Jingu

Ise Shrine is where one of the main gods is supposedly enshrined, and it is also the setting for part of the Japan myth (a bit bonkers). It is a collection of lots of small shrines which you can wander freely around, and Ami, Yasu and I decided to go on a daytrip there as it is pretty famous. However, as one shrine looks much like another, we spent most of the time going around the surrounding “town”. All the buildings look old-fashioned, with the signs written in the pre-war style (kanji which are read from right to left instead of the now conventional left to right) and even modern banks and the post office are made to blend in!

It was absolutely fabulous to wander around and soak up the atmosphere. There are all kinds of shops selling souvenirs, toys, clothes, and amazing food. Essentially it was as all good days out should be – very chilled out and constructed around eating lots of local specialities and yummy food. We had the finest steak grilled on a stick, semi-frozen cucumbers on sticks, Ise style udon noodles (, freshly caught whelks, melty-cheese filled deep-fried giant crab stick things, plus, shaved ice covered in syrup of freshly pulped strawberries.

We also got to see live taiko drummers which were fantastic!

Ninja Town

I also went for a mini road trip with Yasu and went to Ninja-mura, to see an actual ninja house filled with trap-doors, revolving panels, hidden passages, hidden upper floors, hiding places and doors/windows with special locks that only those in the know can operate. After that we went to the most amazing playground which is called ninja town. Its built like a mini village and ninja training ground – I would have loved to gone as a kid but that didnt stop me trying out the assualt course as an adult!

They even had costumes for you to rent so you could look and feel the part! We went on the zip-wire, climbed over a roof, crossed a pond using ninja floats, and paid a visit to the ninja-star throwing gallery. Even though the stars weren’t particularly sharp I got the impression that even in a semi blunt condition they could still inflict a lot of damage!

Shiga

During that same road trip, we were already in Shiga, so I took the chance to go back to where it all started, the Wilsons house in Ono. Since it was almost exactly 4 years after I left, I wasn’t sure if I could find my way there, but as soon as we got to the local station I instantly remembered the way that I used to bike home everyday! Unfortunately they werent in, but I left a note and maybe I will get to see them another time. Still it was really fun going back to where I used to live. Not much has changed at all! Its still exactly as I remember it!

I also got to see the replica of the inside of Nobunaga’s castle (important Japanese historical figure) and went around the attached archealogical museum – since there was no English I really had no idea what I was looking at though!

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For the last month or so, one group of friends  have been telling me of the wonders of a particular restaurant in Nara (not so far from Kyoto). This restaurant was said to have served very authentic and delicious Indian food the like of which I have not seen for over 4 months. Ever since they got back they have been talking about making a return trip, and on a complete whim (and also out of boredom) I decided to go and see what all the fuss was about.

My oh my. I was not disappointed! Proper Indian food, tasty, hot, flavoursome, authentic AND all you can eat (cooked to order) for only 2500yen! We all ate until we could barely move!

Whilst we were in Nara we also got to see the giant Buddha that sits in the middle of the main park in the worlds largest wooden structure. The Buddha is absolutely vast; one really does have to wonder how they made it all those years ago.

We also got to feed the deer which were a little too hungry/friendly for my comfort. They are “technically” wild, and they roam around the markets and parks like cattle in India, although I don’t know if they would be able to survive on their own without all the tourists feeding them deer cakes. Far too much time was spent trying not to get  nibbled or headbutted, or indeed running away like a little girl from these cute critters which are only a bit bigger than dogs! Luckily the males have their antlers removed or else I would probably be in a world of pain right now…

Argh! Deer!

Oh I almost forgot to write how we had a nice little adventure getting home too. We arrived and planned to return via JR local trains which is a pretty cheap route if you have the time and don’t mind a couple of changes. Unfortunately we forgot to check how late the various lines ran and we missed the last connecting train. Luckily we checked before we left because if we had got stuck at Kameyama then that would have meant Actual Death, by which I mean spending the night in the middle of absolutely nowhere, with no hotel or place to stay, no place to eat and no food in temperatures which have recently been barely above zero.

So we took a very long winded route home via Kyoto from where we caught the shinkansen home. Saying it like that makes it sound like a rather casual affair, but in all honesty we caught it by the skin of our teeth! I’ve always admired how punctual Japanese trains are. They are Never, Ever EVER late. Especially not the bullet trains. Their reputation depends on it. However, for some reason (*cough* MIRACLE *cough*) this particular train was 4 minutes and 30 seconds late. Buying the tickets for shinkansen always takes a bit of time so you can imagine what it was like trying to get six tickets in only 5 minutes! If it had not been for those extra 270 seconds… Even one of the guys agreed it was the most compelling evidence for the existence of God that he had ever seen!

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This first month has absolutely flown by, and I can hardly believe its October already! I’ve just got internet in my room which I’m so happy about (even if it isn’t wireless and has taken a month to arrive!) So I’ll be able to update more frequently from now on.

I just got back from a study trip to Kyoto which was one of the best things I’ve done so far in Japan. It was so nice to really get to know my classmates and spend time in such a beautiful city! First of all we went around the Ritsumeikan University Peace Museum. We could do the tour in Japanese or English so I decided I would go for the challenge! Luckily I was pleasantly surprised how much I could understand. My Japanese has already improved so much; a couple of months ago I would have only got the overall meaning, but I’m now at a stage where I really understand things like this in more detail. The lady who gave the tour was so passionate about war history of Japan that it was not only educational but really interesting.

After the tour we did a workshop to help us think about ways we can make our world more peaceful and at the end we had to create a “recipe for peace”!

We had a big party at an Izakaya (very traditional Japanese pub-restaurant, where one eats a large variety of small dishes whilst drinking heavily) and many shenanigans followed. Drinking in Japan is great fun, not only because Japanese people love the silliness of drinking, but also because of a wonderful thing called 飲み放題 which means you pay about £7 and you can drink as much as you want (or can) for 90 mins. And the next day, unlike in the UK, none of the Japanese discuss the embarrassing details of the night before!! Whilst this is kind of expensive for most of the Japanese girls, pink and merry after 1 drink, for the exchange students it was very good value for money! Even our teacher of older years downed a drink or two!

The next day we saw a few shemples (shrines and temples; 数きれない), had a fantastic lunch at a rather posh restaurant, did some shopping and generally mooched about in the rain.

For the first time since arriving in Japan, I felt a very strange mixture of emotions. Arriving at Kyoto station, all the memories of teaching near there flooded back! Visiting Keihan Sanjo tube and other places was also very nostalgic; I used to visit them once or twice a week for 3 months! Going back to Kyoto a second time, this time being able to read all the signs and understand the announcements etc was also a strange feeling, because last time couldn’t understand any of it!

I was also surprised because I could actually notice differences in the way people speak! I couldnt put my finger on what it was but the accent was somehow different, and they use different words too. We always learn about it in linguistics but I never thought I would be able to tell the difference.

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