hello japan! (backlog flush #66 and travelog)travel

March 15, 2008

Travelog Photo Insanity of the Moment
So, Saturday. Josh played tour guide and we hit Kamakura, with dozens of temples and a giant Buddha, and then the port area around Yokohama. I appear to have gone a bit crazy nuts with the photos this day.

I adore the controls of Josh and Tomomi's microwave/toaster/convection oven. Why haven't I seen color icons on one of these type of products before?

At the risk of stereotyping, the Japanese love their umbrellas:

Sidewalks in big cities and walkways at train stations have interesting tactile paths for the blind. They combine these lines with another tile pattern more like rivets, for indicating when the path is no long a straight line:

There is a drink called "Calpis". The phonetic reading of that is not a coincidence, but actually it's very tasty, a kind of lemony milky flavor. (Better than the infamous Pocari Sweat, which is kind of a bland gatorade flavor.)

Japan is 13 hours into the future, and it shows: modern trains have these useful video screens over the doors. They even tell you if they're the side that's going to open or not!

An image of Kannon, overlooking where Josh used to live, photo from the train.

After about 2 hours of train rides - with 3 train changes, painless but I'm dreading doing them on my own a bit - Josh and I first visited Engaku-ji, a Zen Buddhist temple, actually a series of buildings, full of Buddhas and giant bells perfectly set among the steep hills and cedars. An image from there:

At the risk of being stupid... hey look! The Triforce from Nintendo's Legend of Zelda! (Mitigating factor: at least I didn't take photos of and make dumb jokes about the reverse swastika. These guys had prior dibs!)

Giant bell, rung on New Year's, at the top of a STEEP set of stairs that might've helped prime a bit of a sore knee later (nothing some advil didn't more or less clear up though.)

So another thing the Japanese love: vending machines! Outside of stores:

Near Zen Temples:

And in giant quantities in town:

So after a lunch of soba noodles ("Foreigners!" exclaimed one of the hostesses at the little noodle place as we entered. "Foreigners who speak Japanese," clarified Josh) we headed to the Shinto shrine Tsurugaoka Hachiman temple.

Shinto temples have a trough with dippers for washing of hands. Plus, you often see the guardians "Ah" and "Un" (err, the names are aout the Japanese equivalent of "A" and "Z" or maybe "Alpha" and "Omega", more info)

Typical view of the temple and its stairs:

Me and Josh in front of a giant wall of Saki, probably all sponsors of the shrine. Damn, I need to start tucking that shirt in, I think it unfairly looks like maternity wear on me:

This photo illustrates two things: there are pigeons at Tsurugaoka that will actually fly in to land on you. Also, many, many Japanese wear these surgical mask looking things this time of year to keep out the pollen. After a while it moves from the weird to the intriguingly mysterious, sort of a "what's behind the veil" kind of thing.

Just a billboard I liked, also gives kind of a feel of the surrounding town.

Pseudo-artsy closeup of random kanji for the word Inside, I think Josh said, from a larger monument.

So cars in Japan are: A. narrow, but tall. and B. generally replaced every 3 years or so because of a prohibitive tax on older cars (kind of the reverse of how it is in the USA) There are a few SUVs though, which get extra mirrors attached, I guess to help see around on narrow streets:

Josh tells me that Japanese people put out bottles of water in a belief that cats won't pee there. Josh himself doesn't feel that this theory - err - holds water:

There were also a lot of political posters, mostly with guys making fists.

Then up another steep hill to a Shinto cave (Zeniarai Benten) to engage in some good-luck money laundering. Well, washing:

Finally off to Daibutsu, the giant Buddha!

No seriously, this is a BIG Buddha... 750 years old, cast in bronze, you can pay 20 yen (about a quarter) and walk around inside. Between that and the giant bells I was looking at before, I figured that they really had metallurgy down back then! After a Tsunami, this Buddha was all that was left in the area...

My first photo idea was dancing to I LIKE BIG BUDDHAS AND I CANNOT LIE - the photos weren't so great, but I like the expression of the girls behind me.
Finally, just an oddly cropped photo with the Buddha, the blue sky, and if you look really closely, a hawk.

I don't know much Japanese but I think it says "beware of men in uniform who will put your hat on a stick and lower it to the kanji below".

Train station billboard. I post it hear only to admit that yes, I actually asked Josh what a "Lo-Cal" train would be about, like some kind of diet thing?

Then we took a few more trains to Yokohama. This is the Landmark Tower, Japan's tallest building. "Only" 69 stories or so (or at least that's where the Sky Garden is) but it has the world's fastest elevator:

A great view. There area also has a mini-amusement park, with what was the world's biggest Ferris Wheel 'til the London Eye showed up:

Just to be clear, the ferris wheel boasts a GIANT DIGITAL CLOCK. Complete with blinking seconds indicator. I <3 Japan.

Attached is 5 stories of shopping goodness at the Landmark Plaza...

...which had the only curving escalator I remember seeing in my whole life... weirdly disconcerting in its elegance, you just don't expect an escalator to DO that:

Random Engrish T-shirts, I like the one that says LOCAL ONLY: Enjoy The Life More Because It Is Short


To end the day we stopped at Yokohama's China Town: yes, I know it seems a bit ornery to go to a Chinatown in Japan, but Josh was very familiar with the restaurants in the area and we had a really tasty dinner. This is the traditional gate marking the entrance to the area:

Then on the train home, I found a poster advertising the upcoming Red Sox vs A's Opener in Japan:

Finally, back in Chiba, I found a peanut, found a peanut, found a peanut last night...

On that note....good night!