Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Summer Vacation – Tokyo

The day after finally getting a car of our own, it was time for our first road trip, destination: Tokyo.
Another BoderLink worker named Michelle was kind enough to offer her loft as a free place to sleep during our trip, which was doubly fantastic since the cheapest hostel that I had ever seen looking around was 2,500Y a night, and there is no guarantee that your roommates there will be good company.

Michelle unfortunately had some meetings during the first day, so Debu and I headed to Ueno on our own to see visit an Edo period museum that I had heard about.
For just 300Y, this museum was a great treat. It was filled with antiques that the surrounding community had donated to help recreate an entire Edo period neighborhood, and everything is touchable. There was a fantastic English tour guide as well, who spent an equal amount of time explaining the museum and having friendly chit chat with us about life in Japan, he even showed off his skills at the Edo period toys that were set up and cracked a few jokes along the way. This museum was well worth the price and every worker was simply lovely to us.
WWII poster about the blackouts

recreated Edo candy shop

common, only 50,000 for a freaking bear!
The museum was directly across from the Ueno pond, which luckily was in full bloom and breathtaking, add to this luck that there was also a flea market that day, and it makes this pond just about the best place for me to be, as I am a bit crazy for flea markets. This one was exceptionally interesting because most vendors had quite eclectic wears for sale, from scrolls that were over 150 years old, to WWII helmets, to an actual bear! I spent at least an hour just wandering around gawking at everything and forcing myself to not buy anything.

mmm pineapple

Probably did not entirely purify me
To help combat the heat of Tokyo, we went down into one of the side alleys and bought some frozen pineapple on a stick, and then wandered into a local shrine to purify our souls and get some shade.
The next stop on our trip was the Tokyo University Historical Museum, which a friend had told us had a torture section in it, but after walking the 90mins to get there from Ueno and arriving with no time to spare, it came to our attention that that area is now Edo crafts and that the torture artifacts have been long gone. To quell the sadness in my heart from not getting to see an Iron Maiden, I wandered Akihabara until I found something cute and fluffy to hug. 
Yes, that will do.

With day one coming to a close, Debu and I headed back to Michelle’s to relax and prepare for the next journey: Tokyo Pokecenter.

So, every website that I had read said that the Pokecenter was right beside Tokyo Tower. Awesome. Go see the tower and then run in and see Pokemon, sounds like an easy day. 

Except things got very complicated, very quickly.

For starters, after meeting up with friends, we continued to get lost on the way to the tower a few times, and after a lot of wasted time, finally visited Tokyo Tower, to find it isn’t all that impressive a sight.  Afterwards we asked for directions, because the Pokecenter was nowhere to be seen, we came to discover that it is a few kilometers away from our location. So… walk a few kilometers, the whole while thinking “well maybe that was the closest train station, and that’s why the sites say that.” Nope. There is a train stop just a few blocks from the center, and the center ended up being not nearly as amazing as all the reviews had made it out to be. I mean, it was still neat and fantastically dorky, but was it worth the heinous trip? Hell no.
f you Pikachu!
To make matters more depressing, all our efforts in finding the place had basically wasted our entire day away, resulting in the rest of our plans becoming scrapped for going back to the apartment and moping instead.  

On the plus side, finally found an Women Only train car

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Summer Vacation – Takeda Shrine

To celebrate the beginning of summer, and try to calm my stir craziness, the last weekend before vacation, I talked Debu into taking a trip into Kofu-shi to see the Takeda Shrine. Unfortunately for both of us, that day ended up being one of the hottest and most unforgiving days of the entire year. During the time it took us just to bike to the train station and then walk to Takeda, I was already getting rather red.
Hello Kitty is sacred, who knew?
The shrine was absolutely lovely, filled with many interesting relics, Shinto priests going about their days, and a random Hello Kitty statue

blessed tree

The only issue though, was that during the time it took us to walk around the small shrine grounds and start to head to another area, we had already gone through 4L of water and I was starting to get rather dizzy, even when sitting in the shade. It quickly occurred to us that I was having the early symptoms of a heatstroke, so plans were scrapped for instead trying to find a shaded place with water.
mmm horse
The place ended up being a yakitori shop that for whatever reason had horse on the menu, it turns out that horse does not taste all that great, and also that Debu is great at making me feel bad for dragging him outside into extreme heat.  Who would’ve guessed?
By the time we arrived back home, it was becoming pretty clear that I had received more than just a minor sunburn, it ended up being  a 2nd degree burn that would linger and cause immense pain for nearly two full weeks, all the while making me look like a disfigured burn victim.
The burn was so bad in fact, that multiple days were spent with my shoulders wrapped in gauze and trying to find new ways to do things without the use of much arm movement. 

2 weeks into it
yea, those are blisters. Quite painful.

The process of not moving was going fairly well, until the last day of school, which all of the staff celebrated with a massive enkai (drinking party). During the night I was deemed pretty awesome for my drinking prowess and everyone fell in love with Debu because, well, he speaks Japanese. It all came to bite me in the ass though, as at some point during the night I split open my burns again, and spent the entire next day with hurt shoulders and a hangover that threatened to make even leaving bed end with bad results.
Totally worth it.