kisrael.com | archive | 2008 mar | travelog of the moment

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(8) travelog of the moment
2008.03.29
OK, I know I've written an awful lot about Japan, and this should be my penultimate entry (assuming I get to assembling the list of interesting man hole covers I photographed...) While I really enjoyed assembling each day's travelog just after it happened, I kind of longed for a summary like I had for some previous trips -- a way of telling my future self, where the heck did those 14 days go? As well as having a single URL.

It's kind of odd that each day's entry starts with three random quotes or links, but oh well.



thursday/friday
to Japan!
Fly to Japan, via DC instead of Chicago. Josh meets me at Narita Airport and we take trains to his place in Shim-Matsudo in Chiba.
 

saturday
Kamakura and Yokohama
Josh and I head to Kamakura. We hike all over place and see the Zen temple Engaku-ji, the larger Shinto temple Tsurugaoka Hachiman, wash money in (Zeniarai Benten) and adore Daibutsu, the outdoor giant Buddha. After we head back east to Yokohama, go up Japan's tallest building the Landmark Tower, hop the water-taxi, and then have dinner in Chinatown.
 

sunday
Akihabara, Takeshita Street and Harajuku
Josh and I meet up with my college buddy Alex. We geek out at the Electric City Akihabara, taking in one of the giant stores (Yodobashi-Akiba) and the weekly street fair. Then we see super-you-threndy Takeshita Street and chic Harajuku. Finally we have dinner near the famous scramble intersection (as seen in Lost in Translation when it had the giant dinosaur on the electronic billboard.)
 

monday
to Hiroshima
I head out on my own to Hiroshima, walk to my posh (but cheap) hotel and pay my respects at the Atomic Bomb Dome. After I go gift hunting in the impressive Hondori shopping arcade.
 

tuesday
Hiroshima
I visit the Peace Memorial Park and with a heavy heart view the displays at the Memorial Hall. Then I hike across the city and up to the Museum of Contemporary Art and check out the Manga Library. Finally a train to Kyoto.
 

wednesday
Kyoto
I take a bus tour of Kyoto along with some friend Finns and Norwegians. The rainy day tour features the elegant Nijo-jo with its Nightingale floors, the Golden Pavilion shrine, and the Imperial Palace. After a buffet lunch and light shopping at the Kyoto Craft Center I switch to the Nara tour for the afternoon, getting attacked by friendly but hungry deer outside Todai-ji, world's largest wooden building and home of a Buddha even larger than Daibutsu. I paint a tile there, the tour makes one last stop at the Shinto shrine Kasuga Taisha, and then it's back to the hotel, damp but happy.
 

thursday
Osaka
I hop the train to Osaka, the third largest and most generally easy-going big city of Japan. I go to the of Osaka-Jo, have some squid on a stick, enjoy seeing a slightly twisted version of home in America-Mura, have more great vendor food, and then witness the restaurant apocalypse that is the Dotombori district. Finally I ride the Hep Five Ferris Wheel (starting on the 7th floor of the shopping center and spinning its way up) and catch the bullet train back to Tokyo
 

friday
Ginza and Asakusa
Josh and I head through the Ginza and Asakusa district and take in Sensoji Temple, with its giant lanterns and huge festive row of vendors. Then we watch two great programs of Kabuki.
 

saturday
Hakone
Josh and I journey out to Hakone, near the base of Mt. Fuji. We take a bus over steep climbs and scary hairpin turns and do a bit of hiking. We drink in magnificent views of the lake and Mt. Fuji, as well as a visiting a few neat shops. Finally I try the Japanese Onsen, natural springs, with nary but a little towel to hide my junk and then sit folded on my hand as I decompress in the hot water
 

sunday
Akihabra Again and Shinjuku
Another day in Tokyo. Josh and I go back to see some stuff we missed in Akihabra then we again meet up with Alex. After a brief respite in Starbucks Josh heads home and Alex and I head to the top of the neo-Gothic Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for more great views. We then see a bit of Shinjuku and have some great conversation over some Shabu-Shabu hot pot cooking.
 

monday
to Kanazawa via Echigo-Yuzawa
Time to head to the west coast on my own, this time to Kanazawa. The snow covered landscape near the Echigo-Yuzawa station is just breathtaking. I walk to my hotel, taking in some cool public sculptures and then see the Oyama Jinja shrine with its lovely rustic pond gardens. I get a feel for the city watching a video at the minimalist Noh Museum and then head to my hotel, right in the heart of the Katamachi scramble area.
 

tuesday
Kanazawa
A brief stop at a Shinto Shrine and then I spend hours exploring Kenrokuen Garden, arguably Japan's finest. I follow the water, see some shops, and take tea. Then I get lost in small forest of Kanazawa Castle, never sure if the storehouses I saw were all there were to see because of the construction or if I was just lost. I then experience the delight of the 21st Century Contemporary Art Museum, including the so-brilliant permanent installation Swimming Pool. A quick dinner at McDonalds (lemon pepper shaka shaka chicken is weirdly good) and then I see the Red Sox opening the season against the A's.
 

wednesday
to Tokyo
I walk to the train station and then head back to Tokyo. On my own I hunt down the brandless brand store Muji (at last!) as well as a particular shop in Akahabra I wanted to check out for some gifts. Back one final time to Shim-Matsudo where Josh and I head out for some pizza - Pizza Hut, but Korean BBQ style!
 

Final Thoughts
All the things I didn't have time to fully ramble about when putting together the previous updates.
 

Manholespotting
A quick postscript, manhole covers that seemed a little interesting at the time.
 
Bonus: Larger versions of 13 of the most visually compelling shots on Flickr.

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