Japan Travel

September, where did you go?

Yes, I know, almost another month has gone by. Hard to believe it’s almost October, and almost six months in Japan.

Sodegaura, site of the Kishidan Banpaku rock festival. Pain in the ass to get to (6 trains, 1 bus, probably an hour+ of walking, about 6 hours of travel round trip), but an amazingly gorgeous location for a show.

In my defense, last weekend was the first weekend I’ve actually been at home since August 11th. First was uber-rainy Kyoto for the MUCC x Granrodeo show. Then the two weeks in Beijing (once I have a chance to label all those pictures, I’ll post some kind of wrap-up). I was only back three days from Beijing when I flew off to Tokyo for the long weekend, so Nancy and I could have a geek/Granrodeo fest, including the Bakumatsu Rock Namja Town collaboration, the Sunshine 60 observatory Kuroko no Basuke exhibit,  day 2 of the Kishidan Banpaku rock festival (for Granrodeo and Vamps) and day 3 of the Kanto Lantis Matsuri rock festival (for Ali Project, Kuribayashi Minami and, yes, of course, Granrodeo). There was also a marvelous lunch at Harrod’s with Riko squeezed in there on Saturday!  And theeeeeen, the following weekend it was off to Hiroshima, for sightseeing and a Suzumura Kenichi live, followed promptly by another day off last Tuesday, and another SuzuKen live, here in Fukuoka.

Plus working job 2 most nights.

So, yeah, kinda busy. Kinda worn out. But definitely happy with life.

Glorious hair! (and as much of my mug as you’ll get)

I apparently brought back some kind of chest bug from Beijing, which I’ve finally beaten.  Which means I’m also finally back to cleaning the apartment, cooking and exercising (well, started that yesterday). This past weekend also brought my second visit to Yasu-san’s salon, where he’s painstakingly fixing my poor, damaged hair, and moving it towards a warm, strawberry blonde. I will never want to dye my own hair ever again.

Oh, I should also say that 9 days with no coffee in Beijing (yes, it could be found, but I didn’t feel up to drinking it the last week) has detoxed me from caffeine. I can’t drink coffee of any kind any more. No withdrawal headaches, but the psychological craving is strong. Oh yes. I have bought some 100 yen fake hazelnut coffee drink mix. It’s tasty enough, but won’t make me feel like I just ran a marathon. The nice clerks at 7-11 are confused and wondering why I’m not buying my iced coffee any more….

Backing up a tiny bit to Hiroshima and Miyajima Island (or Itsukushima, as it’s also known). I had tried for a ticket to Suzumura’s show in Hiroshima a) because I really wanted to see him perform live and b) an excuse to finally get to Hiroshima.  So when I got the ticket, I booked that Saturday night at a hostel near the main train station and picked up a shinkansen ticket before I went to Beijing. Hiroshima is reachable from here by regular trains, but they’re only slightly less expensive than the shinkansen, and take over 6.5 hours. The shinkansen takes about 70 minutes. Worth the extra money, definitely.

One of the best-known sights from Japan is Itsukushima Shrine’s “floating” tori (gate). It’s considered one of three best views in Japan (check out the link). I’ve wanted to go for years, but had somehow forgotten its proximity to Hiroshima. Nancy reminded me and I Itsukushima toriidecided that would be my Saturday sight-seeing. The shrine is apparently really something at high tide, with the shrine and torii floating over the water. I, of course, got there at almost extreme low tide. And fell in love anyhow. Even though I was under the weather, I didn’t mind the ferry ride, and I spent about 3 hours wandering around just the area near the shrine and port and took about 200 pics. Will have to go back another time to see the tide and take the ropeway up to the top of Mt. Misen and see the shrine and temple there.

Deer SignI’d be remiss in not mentioning the deer. Like Nara, they’re considered sacred and roam freely about. There’s nowhere near as many as Nara, but they’ve gone beyond feeling entitled to deer food and will pretty much eat anything that isn’t nailed down, whether that’s your sandwich, in the baby carriage, in your purse or discarded banana peels and flyers. One of my favorite Japan moments ever:  wandering back towards the port, heard a group of Japanese women (probably in their 20s) screaming and turned to see what was up, only to find a gaggle of women, mostly in dresses and pumps, running away from a very determined … doe. I can’t help it, I burst out laughing. Not sure if it was the time of year or not, but the deer here had softer fur than those at Nara (yes, no one pays a bit of attention to the the “wild animal” part — they’re very pet like). Oh, and an annoyed deer who’s been denied food? Sounds like a balloon slowly losing air. Not terribly dignified!

After enjoying the shrine, I stopped for an oyster lunch — so, so good — and a “momiji,” or little cake shaped like an oak leaf. The one I had was chocolate. Yum. Took the ferry back to Miyajima proper, and then the train to Hiroshima, where a nice policeman helped me find my hostel. Ended up with a room meant for two all to myself, which was nice. Napped, wandered back to the station, where I grabbed food in the basement of a department store, watched bad TV and generally relaxed.

Peace Dome
Peace Dome, Hiroshima

Next day, checked out and went to find the venue (and a locker for my backpack, which took considerably longer) via tram. And then I headed to the Peace Park, which was just a few minutes walk from the venue. Like many who visit, my feelings were jumbled as I wandered around. The eternal flame (there’s another from the same source in Ueno Park) always gives me pause, and the dome itself … is both humbling and fascinating, in that it could survive such destruction. It was definitely heartening to be able to look up, or away, and see the beautiful city that’s sprung up since the destruction. Life forges onward and forward.

After the history lesson, wandered back to the venue and had lunch at the Suzu Cafe (it seemed an imperative, given I was seeing a Suzumura). The show was fun, and I had a good spot. Trip home was uneventful. Worked one day, then had the Autumnal Equinox off. Slept in, picked up Granrodeo CDs and merchandise, had lunch and then met my friend Diana for another Suzumura show, as fun as the first, although I didn’t like the venue. Met a fan from Thailand afterwards, who was surprised to find other foreign fans — and obviously foreign fans (Korean, Taiwanese and Chinese fans don’t stand out quite like many American and European fans).

And now, part way my first full week of work in the office in a month. The Chinese staff are off for a week starting tomorrow, so nothing new to test — just one big project they turned over today. Eagerly looking forward to Saturday, which involves a mini-acoustic live show and hand-shake event with (you guessed it) Granrodeo here in Fukuoka. Hoping I can meet some folks from Twitter there. Will also have a friend in town so she can see her favorite band at the venue I was at last week. Should be an interesting weekend (especially since I assume the band can’t help but remember me … and our last exchanges with one another were rather memorable, you might say).

Will attempt to blog about things other than trips, since the next one of those isn’t until the end of October, when it’s off to Shizuoka for the weekend.

All my Hiroshima & Miyajima pics are here, and my random pics for September are here. Oh, and Kyoto pics are here! Few are labelled, and some still need some editing, but … enjoy!


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