Japan Adventure Day 6

Breakfast was provided by our ryokan again in the morning. As usual it was a large 2 platter breakfast, but most importantly we had fresh fish caught by local fishermen  that morning. We had our usual grills that morning so we grilled our own fish. I am not sure what the fish was but it was delicious. It was important to have a good breakfast this morning because after breakfast we were headed to the coast to do some hiking.

We stopped at a convenience store before we got on the train and to my surprise I found some special Pepsi cans that had featured Gundams on them for the Gundam Front in Tokyo. I found a few more cans throughout the trip, but I was pleasantly surprised because I had read an article online before we left on the trip and knew they were going to be out when I was on the trip. I was able to bring a few home.

The Jogasaki coastline was amazing. The ocean water was such a bright blue color it was unbelievable. You could see to the horizon in almost 180 degrees, it really was one of the highlights of the trip. There was even a bridge to cross over part of the ocean too. The wind blew the bridge a little, which added to the feeling of being free and in nature. We hung out in the area for a couple hours and I shot quite a bit of video and seeing how close I could get to the water without getting wet.

One of the interesting things, at least in my opinion, was that I found several bugs and they were all very bright yellow. Caterpillars, spiders and even some other bug I never seen before were all black and a very bright yellow.

We walked back to the train station, and we had a conversation about all of the bigger and more western style houses in the area. We found out they had these bigger homes because there was more room outside of the city to build bigger homes. There were lots of homes that had landscaped their yards and had neatly trimmed trees and bushes.

After we arrived back at the ryokan, we were able to relax in the onsen again and we had a few hours in the afternoon to hang out, relax and to do what we wanted before we headed to our fireworks destination. We arrived at the train station and it was already starting to fill up with people. Little did we know how packed this event was going to be.

We arrived at our destination and the city was filled with people everywhere. Everyone split off into groups and went to find some food before the fireworks display that night. There were even more food vendors out than there was the last couple days we were in the area. I had to have Takoyaki one last time (deep fried breaded octopus) and it had to be topped with japanese mayo and green onions ūüôā

After finding some food, we headed to the beach to find a place to set up our tarps for fireworks. We found a spot and hung out before the display. We had a few drinks and shared some stories. As night time started to set in, test fireworks were fired into the sky. Soon we discovered that there was going to be fireworks launched from several sites in the bay.

The ensuing fireworks display was the best display I had ever seen. It lasted almost 2 hours and the spectacular at the end lasted almost ten minutes with the sky being so covered in fireworks that it was as bright as day in the bay.  After the fireworks there was a giant sea of people headed to the train station to get home. We were fortunate enough to get to the station and get back to the ryokan. On the walk back to the ryokan from the station, we learned that last year they missed the first train and were at the station for over two hours.

That night I went to bed a little early because I wanted to go for a hike the next morning back at the coastline.

*(first image is the delicious fish we had for breakfast on its grill, second is the coastline where we went hiking, third is a shot of a random beach on the train ride, fourth is the packed train station when we arrived for fireworks, fifth is our spot on the beach for the fireworks, finally the sea of people after the display heading to the train station).

Japan Adventure Day 5

Day 5 in Japan started off with a giant 2 platter breakfast for everyone brought on by ryokan staff. Easily the biggest breakfast I had ever seen. After breakfast we had some time to relax in the onsen. An onsen is a natural hot spring that is heated by the Earth/volcanoes. It was super relaxing after walking around Tokyo for the previous few days. There were 3 onsens, one for males, one for females, and a private one for couples.

After getting ready for the day, our first stop was Atami castle. The best story of the trip was when we got into taxis to go to the ropeway and the head lady at the ryokan walked into the road to stop traffic so our taxis could stay together on the way to the ropeway. Now thats customer service!

The ropeway provided us with an amazing view of the seaside city and we were able to see all over in every direction. Atami castle had all sorts of content in it for us to check out. My favorite floors were the top floor, which had a balcony for us to take pictures looking out to the ocean and the floor that had models of other castles in Japan. I can only image the amount of work and patience needed for that process.

After the castle we headed to another restaurant that featured a drink bar (all you can drink coffee, lattes, juice, soda etc. over 40 kinds). It was pretty hot out so the iced lattes and air conditioning were well worth the walk. After lunch some of us headed to the beach for some more time in the ocean, I was one of them.

We splashed around in the ocean for a few hours. We took some pictures with some of the other beach goers. We posed for a few pictures and had a brief conversation with some English and hand signs. Before we left the beach more people wanted a picture. We had a lot of fun at the beach, everyone in the city was very nice.

We headed back to the ryokan to get ready for the night’s events. Some onsen time was in order and then came the time to wear the yukata again. Tonight we headed to a stage by the shore to watch a taiko drum show. There were several performing groups that took the stage and played a wide variety of songs. It was the first time I had heard a taiko drum performance at length, it was very relaxing. We sat in the grass and watched as the sun set. People were free to come and go as they wished, allowing them to go to food stands and get things to eat during the performances.

One of the highlights on the trip in terms of food, was the grilled squid I had. The cook grilled it at his station and the meat was very good. I wanted to try the grilled octopus as well but I was full from the squid, it gives me a reason to go back right?

We grabbed a few more things and headed back to the ryokan and played some board games until the early hours of the morning. It was nice playing games and getting to know some of the other travelers a little bit more. We headed back to our room and got some sleep for tomorrow, our final full day in the seaside city.

*(The first photo is a picture of the ocean outside of our ryokan, second is a photo looking back at the city from the ropeway car, the third photo is the beach we went too and finally the taiko drum performances. That picture was taken of one of the first performances which is why it is still early in the night).

Japan Adventure Day 4

Day 4 of my adventure in Japan started with a walk to the train station before we began our over 2 hour train ride to our seaside destination. The train ride was a nice changes of pace from walking everywhere in the humidity. Once we were out of the city we started to see more mountains, vegetation and also bits and pieces of the coast. It was the first time during the trip that we were able to see that much of the countryside. It was just as beautiful as I had imagined it from watching films like My Neighbor Totoro. My favorite part of the train ride was going into tunnels that and seeing the ocean as soon as we exited the tunnel.

After the train ride we arrived at a small seaside city and checked into our ryokan. The first item of business was to order some lunch. The meal was awesome and extremely large, taking up an entire platter. We spent the rest of the afternoon getting some much needed rest and relaxation. I spent the majority of the afternoon swimming in the ocean since this trip was the first time I had experienced the ocean.

After the afternoon swim, I went back to the ryokan and cleaned up for the festivities of the night. I sported my yukata that I picked up at Asakusa the previous day and we headed to the train station to venture to another nearby seaside town.

Tonight there were a few vendors selling various foods, most of the vendors would be open the next day. My high school friend and travel buddy was persuaded into eating food from one of the vendors after he sold him on eating something that looked like a corn dog covered in mayo and onions. A few of us grabbed some food as we made our way to the river for the launching of the lanterns.

There was very relaxing music being played as people would walk down the dock and launch lanterns. We were told that the lanterns had wishes on them and they were various colors. People lined up on bridges, the river front and everywhere else to take pictures and catch a view of the lanterns floating down the river.

We watched the lanterns for quite a while before we headed to a nearby ramen shop to get some eats for the night. At the shop was a local who was a big guy. We had a traveler in our group who was about his size and he was asking him how much he weighed and how tall he was because he was curious if he was going to train for sumo. It was quite the experience and made for a night filled with stories and laughter. We headed back to the ryokan for the night to get some sleep and start another adventure the next day.

*(In order from left to right) A seaside photo taken from the train outside of Tokyo, my large lunch platter of food, the view from our ryokan room, people launching their lanterns, a close up of lanterns that had grouped up near the side of the river.

Japan Adventure Day 2

Day 2 of my trip to japan started off with a relaxing train ride down to Kamakura. The weather that day was overcast with some rain on and off. We were traveling to Kamakura to visit the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine to learn a little bit about the history but also to spend some time outside of Tokyo too. The shrine had lots of people visiting and taking pictures of all of the lanterns that were on posts next to the sidewalk up to the stairs of the shrine.

Along the way to the shrine, we discovered a lantern that the creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion had made (picture below). There were so many lanterns to look at, some designed by kids and others by famous artists. While we walked around the temple grounds, we saw a group of artists that had settled in to draw and paint various vantage points of the shrine.

For lunch we stopped at a place that gave out big paper bibs to people that ordered curry or ramen. A few of the travelers ate lunch with the bibs and it allowed us to take some funny before and after pictures. It also allowed us to get out of the rain for a little while as well. After lunch we had a little bit of time to roam Kamakura a bit so my friend and I wandered away from the area we were at. In our small area we went to we discovered the shrine of one of Japan’s famous swordsmiths, Masamune.

After meeting up with the rest of the group, we headed to one of the giant Buddha statues in Japan. You could spend 20 Yen (which is probably in the neighborhood of a quarter) to go inside the Buddha and lean about some of the construction techniques. I found a few gifts to bring home for friends and family here as well.

We weren’t too far away from the beach so we decided to stop and check it out for a while before we headed back to Tokyo. We kept our stuff in a beach shack that was run by a group of party kids that had a DJ playing, they were cool with us keeping our stuff their for free. Since it was my first time to the ocean, I waded into the water a bit and looked for some interesting seashells.

To end the day we headed back to Tokyo and ate at an Izakaya. It was one of our fellow travelers 21st birthdays so we celebrated and ate a lot of delicious food. We had a private room that we ordered food from a touchscreen and someone would bring it in when it was done.

(The first picture is of Hideaki Anno’s Evangelion lantern, the second image is the giant buddha,¬†the third is the ocean, and finally the aftermath of our party meal.)

Japan Adventure Day 1

I was introduced to the world of anime when I was in high school. As I watched more, I became more and more interested in Japanese culture and lifestyle. It was at that time I decided that someday I was going to travel to Japan and check it out first hand. Over the years of college and such I started to save money for the trip and waited for one of my friends to save his share up to go as well. This past year it finally happened and I was able to make my first trip to Japan and also overseas.

We booked our trip through an awesome agency Pacset that planned our trip perfectly. The flight over the ocean from LA to Tokyo was just under 11 hours which felt surprisingly short after I slept for most of the flight. We got to know some of out other travelers when we got to Tokyo as we waited for the trains to start running. Our fellow group members were awesome people that I enjoyed getting to know as our tour went on.

The weather in Tokyo was surprisingly humid, even compared to the standards of a midwestern summer. After dropping off our luggage, we headed to a shrine in Harajuku and also checked out the fashion of the area as well. This was one of the top 3 things I wanted to do in Japan, check out the fashion of Harajuku. As the morning grew on, the fashion district starting filling up with all sorts of fashionistas and shoppers. It was here that we were able to discover the Neon Genesis Evangelion store. If you don’t know of the show, check it out. It is one of the most popular if not the most popular series of all time.
The store boasted all sorts of Evangelion merchandise. As you will see over the duration of the trip, Evangelion was especially big right now because the 3rd remake movie is set to be released this fall.

For lunch we found an awesome restaurant that had a drink bar. The drink bar had over 40 kinds of drinks; coffee, lattes, soda, juice, etc. and you could have as much as you wanted. Post lunch activities included some more shopping and finding some toy stores as well.

That night we went to a sushi bar in Shibuya that had the sushi on a rotating belt and you could just grab what you wanted off of it and paid for it by the color of the plate. I had sweet egg, salted mackerel and salt water eel for the first time at this sushi bar. Everyone was pretty tired since we traveled that day so we went to the hotel after dinner and got some much needed rest for the second day of our adventure.

(Pictures include; Harajuku’s main fashion street in the morning, the Evangelion Store sign and Shibuya at night)