Hello. This is Dave.
Japan has been wonderful. Its extremely clean, organized, and safe here. One of the great things bout Japan is their Japanese gardens. We visited several and even though this isn't the most popular time of the year for them (when the cherry blossoms are blooming,) they were still absolutely beautiful. Peaceful pathways, koi filled and lilly pad covered ponds. Babbling brooks with stone foot bridges, trickling waterfalls, and a variety of extraordinary trees. All with the line of hazy mountains in the distance. Well, here take a look for yourselves:
We were blown away at one garden when we rounded a bend and were struck with the view of this spectacular bamboo forest. It was just like the one in the movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," Minus the battling swordsman balancing above.
English is not very prominent in Japan. The language barrier has actually been the hardest here out of all the places we've been so far, which was surprising with how modern it is. Our friend living here taught us a few phrases that have helped a lot, and we've used the guide book for a few interactions. The train system, especially in Tokyo is massive and complex, with so many different lines. Sometimes it can be stressful trying to find your train, with not all the signs also being in English. Especially during the chaos of rush hour. Then trying to find a worker to help who speaks a bit of English can be difficult. But it always works out somehow, even if we look a bit foolish at times.
Here are some shots from our trip up the Tokyo Tower. As I said in the last blog it was built to resemble the Eiffel Tower, except painted bright orange. I'm sure you can see the resemblance.
We also went up the Kyoto tower while we were there. We spent a little time viewing the city from the top then came down to a lower level for a few drinks at the lounge. We both decided to try sake for the first time. We each selected a different brand, and we didn't know what to expect. I had thought sake was like a liquor that would come as a shot, but they brought us each a bottle the size of an average beer. Mine tasted a lot like straight vodka but was not as high of alcohol content. The harsh taste made it hard to finish, but I managed. Lynette was pleased that hers actually tasted more like bubbly champagne. It was amazing to sit back and relax while watching the sun set over the city.
If you are ever planning to go to Japan you should take enough cash to last your whole trip. Even though they are very modern here it is very hard for foreigners to find places to get money out. The other day we were in Kyoto and were trying to find an ATM. It was getting late and we only had a few Yen left. We went to several Japanese banks but their machines only take cards made specifically for Japan. Besides the machines only display text in Japanese so we couldn't read them. Finally we were lucky to find a tourist info office open late and they told us to go to the 7-11 down the street and use the ATM machine there. They said its the only place in town where foreigners can use their cards. It was kind of funny because we had unknowingly gotten money out at the 7-11 when we were in Tokyo. We didn't realize at the time that those stores were the only places you could get money out in Japan. Thank heaven for 7-11.
We've had some great food here in Japan. I'm actually surprised that I like it so much. I like a lot of different types of Asian food but all I knew of Japan's was sushi which I don't like. But there is so much more. Here's some shots of Lynette enjoying her noodles:
Almost all of the restaurants here have plastic displays of the food out front so you know what you are getting. It was quite helpful for us. Sometimes a woman stands outside and you point to what you want. Another place had a machine outside where you put in your money and push the button of the item you want, like a vending machine. It gives you a ticket that you then present inside to get your food.
We've also discovered green tea ice cream which is everywhere here. I was a little freaked out about the green color and hesitant to try it. But it was actually mild tasting and very good. We had it several times:
We've seen a lot of Buddhist temples on the trip, but some of them still amaze. Here are some shots from some of the several we visited here.
The Sofie Star in Japan:
This temple is the largest wooden structure in the world:
In Nara they have hundreds of tame deer roaming the streets and parks. You can walk up to them and pet and feed them. They are just considered part of the community.
I swear to God this one waited for a green light to cross the street. We couldn't believe our eyes.
Harajaku park in Tokyo is a fun place to hang out and relax on the weekends. On Sunday morning young people gather there dressed in all sorts of costumes. There's a fifties greaser look, cutsie baby doll and Lolita look, and of course the whole goth thing is popular - and much more.
Here's the famous intersection at Shabuya in Tokyo with the hordes of people that cross in every direction when the light changes.
I loved hitting all the shops with vintage and modern toys and action figures. They've got tons of Power Ranger type shows here from the 50s up until now with the most unique super heroes, villains, and monsters. I couldn't resist and picked up a few for my collection. The stores are filled with display cases like this one:
There have been so many things we've wanted to buy on this trip, but its tough. Not only because we are on a tight budget but because we have to carry everything we buy. But at the end of each country we ship a package home full of the small things we do actually purchase. So it will be nice to have at least a few souvenirs to remind us of our journies.
Until next time.....