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Moe Moe Overdose- A Japanese Trip


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Ok so, some of you may be aware that I have just been in Japan, my second trip in two years; last year it was part of a group tour, this time was by myself.


Anyway I took the laptop with me, to connect to the internet but I had problems connecting to any wi-fi networks out there- but as I had taken the thing with me, I thought I may as well make use of it, and during some downtime; I ended up writing this trip diary.


So as I had written it, I though I may as well share it in a public space, and I thought why not the GDS forums, as quite a few of you may have read such classic works as my Burning Hammer diaries, my FCW diary and my latest masterwork DIASPORA- Takayuki of the Revolution (don't fret- that's still continuing, this is just a side project.)


I'll be posting each day separately- and will be posting them every couple of days- and of course feel free to comment between each entry (I put my trust in the people of these boards, that the comments won't be the sort of brain-deadery that litters the comments section of a YouTube video)

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Day 1- Saturday April 14th (Shinjuku Soaking)


After the as expected tedious flight (though admittedly we did manage to get off on time), I finally arrived back in Japan. Getting through the airport bureaucracy was as easy and as efficient as one could hope it to be, and after asking the information clerk, where I exchange my voucher for my Japan Rail pass- I was nicely pointed in the direction of the correct office. Getting the voucher was a doddle, though after seeing that the next train was only ten minutes, in a fit of panic and a case of post flight slumber , I nearly left my case behind in the Japan Rail office. That really would have been a disastrous start to the holiday- luckily I realized in enough time to collect my case and still get on the train to Shinjuku. I guess I was lucky in the fact that Japan suffers very little in the way of petty crime, and some opportunist did not want to grab my case for themselves.


The weather forecast before I came, said it would be rainy, and that’s exactly what I was met with, as I travelled on the Narita Express to Shinjuku in Tokyo. It was rainy when I came here last year on the first day, when I was on the group tour. When I got to Shinjuku Station, the heavens had well and truly opened, but the hotel was only a few mere blocks away,or so it looked to be on the map and the instructions given to me by the tour company told me to go to the South Entrance- and then the hotel was just a few turnings away from that- in theory it looked a doddle.


Well I thought it would be easy but either things had changed in the station since Inside Japan Tours got their map together or perhaps in my post flight zombified state- I had in fact taking a wrong turning-it did say new South Terrrace entrance, the entrance/exit I end up coming out of . This was frustrating, and the terrential rain wasn't helping me think calmly and logically. All I wanted to do was find the hotel, but it was nowhere to be found and myself and my luggage were being drowned under the non stop rain.


I did however get my wits together, to not entirely give up hope that this situation could be rectified, before I ended up curling up in a ball and weeping for salvation, I had spotted a Lawson's. Convenience stores in Japan- really are convenient and the nice assistant pointed me in the right direction with their clear instructions, spoken in the usual pigeon english. Pigeon English it may have been, but the instructions were clear enough and I finally found my way to the Hotel Sunroute Plaza.


When I got to the smart, modern looking hotel- it was unfortunately still not time to check in yet...even though all I wanted to do was crash out in the room, especially in this ridiculous downpour. At least they were kind enough to keep my bags for me- but it was raining so hard, I wasn't going to go far, so I decided to have lunch at the attached Trappatoria style restaurant.


I decided on the beef set- but when ordering there was a lost in translation moment with the waitress- who seemed to be saying something about tea or coffee, but I was wondering why she was going on about tea and coffee, when I had already ordered my drink- a small beer. Well turns out after writing it down, you get tea or coffee as part of the set. After coming to an understanding with the admittedly very cute waitress, I decided on a milk tea. The steak lunch itself was pretty good, the meat was tender and it came with a nice dipping sauce. Unlike sauces in western cuisine, which I feel are there are to hide the lack of flavour of a poor cut,the sauce here enhanced the beefyness of the thinly sliced and tender steak. The set also came with the slightly bizarre combination of weak minestrone soup, a leafy side salad and some rice- but it was all edible and the main thing was that the steak itself delivered on a satisfying taste experience.


It was still bleeding raining though , when I finished my lunch- so all I could do was kill time being half asleep in the lobby, as the jet lag began to kick in. After an hour of waiting, my room was finally ready. The room itself wasn't a bad size, by the Japanese compact standards. I semi unpacked and then crashed out, before firing up the computer, but frustratingly the hotel did not appear to have wi-fi so that killed that idea. So it was the TV then- but the jet lag was truly starting to kick in, and I was too tired even for that...so I headed for the bed again- why I even thought firing up the computer would be a good idea in this state, was rather questionable in itself.


But after a while, despite being in a half asleep state , I felt that I could not spend my first day-couped up in this room, so at around 6pm I dragged myself up off the bed and outside, where it was still raining! I was determined though to sample some of the Shinjuku night life and get a bit to eat and the rain had at last eased off enough to at least walk out with an umbrella.


After procuring an umbrella from the front desk, I stepped outside and after walking around in a half zombified state, making sure not to stray too far from the vicinity of the hotel I finally decided on a small conveyor belt sushi bar. I could see that there was spaces free and that there was also a couple of western tourists in there, so It wasn't one of those places that only the locals attend. The waiter, gave me an easy to read english menu- with the pricing guide. To be honest I just grabbed plates of the conveyor belt, making sure to look at the colour of the plates- though all I avoided was the top end 500 yen a piece plates. All together for seven plates of delicious sushi (my favourite was the squid) it came to 1000 yen exactly. The sushi you get in the supermarkets back home is OK, but in no way does it compares to the stuff in Japan, even in bargain conveyor places like the one I settled on.


But I really had got to the stage, where I was too tired though to carry on exploring for much longer, and the fact that it was still raining also dampened my enthusiasm. So I headed back to the hotel and crashed into the sack. 8pm though, probably was too early for bed, so I rewoke at one in the morning and ended up watching some late night anime- yep even though there was no subtitles, I could still find a degree of enjoyment out of seeing some anime on tv.


The first one I saw was Bodacious Space Pirates- I knew it was that because I had read about it online before I got to Japan, and the fact that this anime was a bunch of high school girls on a space ship- fitted the description I had read. Seemed to look OK to me, and if at least an English sub version comes out, I'll probably check it out sometime.




The following late night anime though was just plain weird, and featured a boy sucking drool off a girls finger. The girl would also whip out a pair of scissors from her panties, and just randomnly cut something up into a paperchain or something- yeah as I said this one was just freaking weird. Turns out after research when I got back home, that this one was Mysterious Girlfriend X.




I decided then, to go back to sleep or at least attempted to. I ended up having a bit of a tossy/turny night, and I had probably now crossed the border into a state of over-sleep. I just wanted the clock to turn to about 6 am, eventually though I did get to sleep properly and when I woke at just after 7, I was ready to hit the ground running with my first full day back in Japan.

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Sunday 15th April ( Sleaze and Tranquility)


Breakfast, which I headed down for just before 8 was one of those self service buffet affairs. I really didn’t want cereal for breakfast, I’m not the biggest cereal fan at home and I certainly didn’t want it in on my holiday- it's just something I have at home, because it's quick and convenient, not because it provides a particularly thrilling taste experience. Luckily enough it had a traditional Japanese breakfast section- Miso Soup, various pickles , grilled fish. In fact I don't see why soup for breakfast shouldn't catch on elsewhere, especially with a light soup, such as is Miso soup.


After the breakfast, I headed on out. Thankfully it had rained itself from the ridiculous downpour of yesterday. I headed for Okubo, the first stop on the Maranouchi Line, as there was an animation museum I was interested to see there. However it seemed to be somewhere, off the beaten track. I tried my convenience store method, but the Lawson assistant- some gawky high school boy, was of no use this time. So unfortunately I gave up, rather than run the risk of spending my whole day being lost in a really boring part of town- I wonder if this anime museum was actually a figment of someone's imagination, as who in the hell would want to be put one in Okubo of all places.


Ever since seeing the anime Durarara!!, I’ve always wanted to check out Ikebukuro, and perhaps just behind Akihabara, it’s supposed to be an Otaku’s paradise, for those who visit Tokyo. It was on the Maranouchi Line once again- but despite potentially being only a few stops away from Okubu, I end up doing a 20 stop loop. If I had checked my metro map properly, I would have got off the Maranouchi earlier and changed to another line.


Ikebukuro itself, seemed pretty cool when I finally got there, and I headed towards it’s most well known mega shopping complex- Sunshine City. I saw a large anime store 'Animate', just before I got there, so being the self confessed Otaku that I am, I just had to go in. After browsing through several floors of anime merchandise, I finally settled upon the CD section. Admittedly too I have become rather addicted to anime music. Blame the Ho-Kago Tea Time album I brought back from my first trip to Japan. Anyway I end up blowing nearly 20,000 yen on anime CD’s (mostly K-On!/HTT Related), but hey look at it this way, most of this stuff is impossible to get at home without having to take out a second mortgage to get your hands on them.


Yep these are some of the Ho Kago Tea Time singles I ended up putting down some yen on.....






After my anime music blow-out, I then headed into Sunshine City itself. Which was basically just a humongous shopping centre, with floors and floors of shops and restaurants, but I was also aware that the place had an aquarium. Unsurprisingly my awarness of that was from another anime- Darker Than Black.


The aquarium was on the top floor, so I headed on in- it wasn’t the greatest aquarium but it was quite a pleasant way to pass half an hour before lunch. For lunch, I found a noodle shop, amongst the many restaurants within Sunshine City. Only thing is that this place, didn’t do an English menu, but there was a way round this. All I had to do was go out to the shop front, and point at one of the display dishes. I ended up going for an 880 yen bowl, that had an egg on top of the noodles. My pork Ramen with egg ended up being pretty delicious.. all in all a satisfying and reasonably cheap meal.


The anime CD’s in my bag, were killing my shoulder though (as I had put them into my shoulder bag)- so first things first I needed to head back to the hotel and dump the heavy load. After a brief rest at the hotel I headed on out again, my intention was to go to Akihabara , but it was not on a direct line, so I ended up getting off at nearby Jinbocho. However I ended up stumbling across the palace gardens, and I thought why not change my plans.


I had done the Otaku thing this morning, and there would be plenty of other time to head towards the Otaku Holy-land. It was in fact nice to head into a space of comparable tranquility, within the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Unfortunately my chance of relaxation on a park bench for about ten minutes, was cut short by some uniformed old boy on a bike, telling me that the park would be closing at five, and I promptly got the hint to shift my backside off the bench.


On my way back to the hotel, I picked up a soft drink and a snack from a convenience store. I settled on Shana’s favourite Melon Pan. Ah yes that would be Shana, from the anime Shakugan No Shana- as for the melon pan itself, it was in fact pretty good and much like Shana herself, I did develop something of an affiliation to this sweet pastry, for the rest of the holiday, as a quick convenience snack.


After another period of rest, I headed back out just after 7 to sample some of the Shinjuku night life. Somehow I ended up taking a wrong turn into Tokyo’s seediest of districts, Kabukicho. Some West African tried to tout me one of those hostess bars… ‘You like drink, with pretty girls’. Oh for sure the girls might be pretty, but really what would be in it for me, besides a potential hangover and an unintended hole burned through my wallet- chances of me actually having any real fun with the pretty girls he was offering up, were about as likely as my football team Watford ever winning the Champions League.


Was it a wrong turn?- or perhaps deep down, I was in fact seeking such a place out but then came to the realisation, that I really couldn't afford to be wasted, otherwise I would miss the bus to the Fuji Q them park, the next morning, and nothing was going to get between me and a ride on Fujiyama.


The West African was a persistent bugger, but he finally got the message, that I didn’t have 'mug' written on my forehead. Then after I had shaken off the West African Hostess Bar tout, some Japanese dude then tried to get into a strip joint…. Unfortunately for him, I had long since come to the realisation, that I really didn’t want to be doing something I’d regret in the morning , I shook him off too and tried to get out of the sleazy Kabukicho area as quickly, as I possibly could.


I did need to find somewhere to eat though, but I really didn’t want to do Sushi or noodles again. I stumbled across somewhere that was advertising Yakiktori. But when I headed down it’s stairs, it was one of those Izakaya type places, more suitable for groups. For those who aren't aware an Izakaya is sort of like a Japanese pub.


But after getting the attention of the waitress on the door, I would have felt guilty to turn back- plus my feet were killing me and I just wanted to somewhere to eat/rest. Now these Izakaya places, really aren’t ideal for the single traveller, as you end up being shown to some single table, buried in the depths of the restaurant, well certainly with this experience I was shoved on some single table, that seemed to be next to the kitchen- a 'chef's table' experience though this was not. The few dishes I ordered, weren’t bad, but it’s not an experience I would seek again- as a single traveller and I really must remind myself not to order fried shrimp (because it's literally the shrimp with the head and tails still on, fried in a pan, and then served up in a bowl).


So it looks like it will have to be noodle bars or sushi go-around, if I want to eat away from the hotel. To be honest after an expensive day, I think I’ll go really budget tomorrow and just end up getting a convenience bento, when I return from the Fuji Q Highlands Theme Park.

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Monday 16th April (Fuji Queue)


Instructions in the Inside Japan info pack told me to leave plenty of time to locate the bus station, so perhaps with little faith in my navigational skills, I ended up getting up and to the bus station way too early. Mind you I still had to locate the correct bus stop, and the old boy I asked initially sent me to the wrong stop, or more to the point the old boy's instructions really weren't all that clear in the first place.


It was only when the same old boy, saw me still waiting alongside the wrong bus stop, that he realised the mistake that had happened here, and with just enough time left, before a near catastrophic miss of the bus to take me to Fuji Q- I managed got get myself onto the bus, that Inside Japan had kindly bought a ticket for. Admittedly I could have tried to get onto another bus to the theme park, but the ticket paid for was specific to the bus I was getting on and it would have been a real waste, had I missed that bus, and it also would have been a real hassle too, to try and get onto an alternative bus.


After that near miss; I arrive at Fuji Q Highlands- after a journey which seemed to take forever....as we climbed out of Tokyo and into the interior mountains, where the Fuji Q Highlands theme park was set- hence the name. And despite having what felt like a bit of cramp from the long bus journey, I quickly shoke it off, there was not time to lose and it was time to locate my first coaster.


The roller-coasters were the only rides I was going to be interested in going on, sans the Evangelion World and maybe the haunted hospital. I decided to head for the coaster, that was furthest away (Eejanaika) and then work my way back towards the entrance. When I got there, the queue was pretty long- but I had to say the insanely twisty coaster was worth the wait and I remembered why these thrill rides are worth the attritional queuing experience. Feeling like you are staring into the pit of death- just makes you feel so alive!




Ok, so after reading that article- there's some controversy over the amount of inversions coming from the spinning seats, rather than the track itself- in all honesty, who the hell cares- it was still a great coaster experience.


I then decided on tackling the ‘King of Coasters’ itself Fujiyama next, before I even contemplated the thought of lunch. As expected there was yet more queueing, but whilst in the ridiculously long queue, a nice young couple- did ask me where I was from etc, as we somehow conversed in a mixture of broken English/Japanese. Fujiyama itself was worth the wait- it's more of a traditional roller coaster, but it gets insanely high and the drop from the top, is absolutely devastating- which of course is a good thing!




I decided to have lunch next, and settled on a ‘western style’ experience, by heading into the on sight branch of MOSBurger. I went for the 700 yen set meal of Teriyaki Burger, Fries and a drink. Though you order in the modern day McDonalds/Burger King fast food style, you only take your drink with you and the burger and fries are served later to you, as in the old fashioned style of the much missed Wimpy bar. The burger itself is pretty small, and sure some would feel that they would need about three or four of them to be truly satisfied. But it was reasonably tasty, and it was enough for me to fill the hole- perhaps this might be, why on a whole the Japanese don’t tend to be a nation suffering with a chronic outbreak of obesity….they clearly appreciate their food but the emphasis is more on quality over quantity- even when it comes to ‘western style’ fast food.


Being a fan of anime (like you haven't already guessed), and the Evangelion series itself- I then headed for the Evangelion World. It’s more of an exhibit, than a ride….but seeing some original artwork and some other Evangelion based artifacts, was a pretty enjoyable way to pass the time, plus there was a slightly cheesy show where the head of the EVA-01 unit blowed out steam, whilst an original video for the exhibit played. I also got to do a lame Gendo Ikari impression/pose, and got a couple to take my photo doing said impression- everyone else couldn't resist doing it- so I was just following the crowd on this one.




After the walk round Evangelion World, gave time for my lunch to settle down- I headed for the next coaster. Dodonpa, but after yet more queuing (though admittedly less than either Eejanika or Fujiyama), disaster struck when I had actually got to sat down in the ride…. After several minutes of uncomfortable waiting, trying to figure out why the hell we weren’t going, the ride was abandoned and we were told to get out…..and were then handed some kind of voucher. I was hearing noises, that sounded a bit like terrential rain- thankfully though when I got out it was not bucketing it down- but it seemed to be that there was something wrong with the hydraulics of the coaster, and it was making a terrible din.


I decided to head next for the last of the big four coasters, Takabisha… only to be greeted with perhaps the most ridiculous queue so far, but I was determined to experience this ride, and I have to say yet again it was worth the wait…….perhaps the best of the lot so far, it had frightening rolls, and an insane vertical drop.




Well look at that, I knew that vertical drop was insane, but apparently it's the world's steepest rollercoaster. I also think that the fact, that this coaster is still under a year old (thus it can still count as new) and is currently holding a world record- would explain the ridiculously long queue, that I had to endure.


Whilst waiting an age, in the queue for Takabisha- they were doing test runs on Dodonpa, and when I came off Takabisha- it was up and running again, so I headed towards it for a second attempt.


The voucher I was given meant I could cut the queue- however despite the coaster being very fast, I would say it was the weakest of the four, and it would have been better had I finished my coaster experience with Takabisha, as intended.




Yes the speed is impressive, but for me a truly great coaster experience- should also include plenty of twists and/or drops, and Dodonpa didn't really provide any of those.


Oh one thing I forgot to mention in all of this, is that I was a little concerned with how I was going to ride these coasters, whilst carrying my day bag with me…. Well the Fuji Q theme park, has a rather ingenious idea, of giving you lockers to put your valuables into, just before you ride the coaster. In fact they demand it of you, that you put anything that could fall out/off whilst riding their coasters- but it’s a sensible approach, it’s for everyone’s safety and peace of mind really. Perhaps they also have this at other theme-parks, but it's not something I had previously come across in any theme-parks I had been to in the UK or America.


Unfortunately after Dodonpa, with the time at 4.15 and my return bus expected for 4.45- I did not really have time to do anything else. The rides I experienced were on the whole excellent, but I reckon they the Q must stand for Queue, as standing in a queue is what I seemed to do most of the time.


After a brief look round the tourist tat shop, I decided to head on out, to get ready to catch my bus. But I could not for the life of me remember, where the stop was. So I asked, a coach driver- where the stop was- the driver thankfully realizing that just pointing in a direction wouldn’t suffice….walked me across to the location- though many not be able to speak English all that well, the Japanese consistently find a way to overcome the language barrier and find a way to go out their way to be extra helpful.


When I got to the stop, I saw a bus waiting there, but the driver told me that my ticket was for the next bus. I was perfectly fine with waiting for my intended bus, but the driver actually went out of his way, to get me onto his bus- it’s like they really want to impress you with their superior customer service.


When I arrived back in Shinjuku, I decided that with my legs feeling weary, that an ‘easy night’, would be best- so I settled for a convenience store Bento of Tonkatsu and rice, plus a cream filled Bun from the ‘patiserrie’ section, for my dinner- and just decided to relax, read a few chapters of the manga book I had taken with me; Higurashi- Demon Exposing Arc and listen to my ipod.




With nothing set in stone, in terms of plans for the next day, it gave me a chance to properly rest and get my sleeping pattern properly in place, and because I had nothing set in stone, it would not matter were I to get up a little later.

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Tuesday 17th April (or Moe Moe Meido Land)


I did get up a little bit later, but still in time for the buffet breakfast. A buffet breakfast, I was already becoming wearisome off, but that’s always the case with any hotel, if you've been there for more than two days. I then decided that I would take another crack at doing Akihabara (aka the ‘Holy-land’) today. It’s not the easiest of stops to get to from Shinjuku, but I did learn on the trip back that it’s easiest to get on the Shinjuku line to and from nearby Iwamatocho subway station.


Whilst there I looked round the shops full of anime related merchandise- but buying anything like DVD’s or Manga is no good, as it’s all in Japanese only…so the only feasible things as souvenirs are Figures, music CD’s or other 'tat' like trading cards/stationery. I settle for an original version Yuki Nagato and the relatively hard to find (well hard to find back home) Ryoko Asakura Figma figures, for my Haruhi Collection. The fact I'm far from fluent in Japanese, probably prevented me from wiping out my entire's allocation of holiday spending money in one day- otherwise I don't think I would have resisted the DVD's on offer.



I was then approached by one of Akihabara’s 'maids', trying to entice me into one of their maid cafes. However unlike the hostess bars of Shinjuku, there was actually a part of me that wanted to have this tacky experience- so I threw caution to the wind and decided to take the plunge.




The introductory maid, who was putting on the stereotypical clumsy maid act straight away, by giving the impression that she had forgotten where it is that the cafe was and literring her sentances with 'etto', then took took me over to where her café 'Maidreamin' was.


It happened to be on the 6th floor of a building attached to Akihabara station- going up in the lift I could have feasibly saw 'common sense' take over, and pressed the down button as soon as I hit the top- as the introductory maid did not follow me into the lift, as she went back out to entice in more customers/victims. But I was clearly in the mood for giving 'common sense' the proverbial middle finger.


I was told when I got there at the reception, that there would be a standing fee for staying there for one hour- I expected that to be the case, I had read up on these places and knew that they weren't a cheap experience but apparently it's something every self-deprecating anime fan must do, especially one with a guilty pleasure weakness for all things 'Moe'.


As for the maid cafe experience itself, well I came to the conclusion that it's not so much sleazy, as just bizarre- It’s basically just a bunch of girls, serving you junky food and doing cute stuff….such as saying cutesy chants like ‘Delicious, Delicious, Moe, Moe’ or something like that, when serving you your food, whilst some aggravatingly repetitive music played in the background- reminded me of the music for Purupuru Pururin (the spoof magical girl anime, featured in Welcome To The NHK)



I settled for a neon green Melon Soda, a diabetes in a glass Strawberry Parfait desert and an iced Cappuccino, where one of the maid’s came over and drew some cutesy drawing with squeezy chocolate on top, my one did a cat face for me. At the end of this bizarro-world experience, I then got to have a cheesy photo taken with one of the maids- which saw us forced into doing 'cat' poses. I say forced into it- but I think the OD on sugar must have done something to my brain, to make me refuse to do such an embarrassing act.


Another thing I observed, is that all the maids also all happened to have cutesy names in Japanese such as Hime, which means Princess- somehow I don’t think they are their real names, and were there to further enhance the over the top cuteness.


I also thought at first when going into this maid café, it was just going to be me and this one other lonely saddo. I know, I know- that sounds like a really hypocrytical statement- as I too had enterered this Moe Bizarro World by myself- but truly, I got the impression that this guy had been there many times before. I also observed that he was given a CD of the annoyingly catchy music that had been plaguing my ears ever since I got in- probably got it as a special prize for attending the cafe for a certain amount of visits.


Thankfully, a few groups came in after me, and gave some crumb of comfort, that these places aren't just visited by the most desperate of the desperate, and that they are there to be enjoyed as a sort of tacky 'you must experience it at least once' fun experience.


On my way out one of the groups did converse with me and wished me a nice stay in Japan. And actually on my way in, the maids were impressed by the fact that I was wearing my Haruhi Suzumiya ‘SOS Brigade’ T-Shirt. In which they asked a question, that didn't really need to be asked 'Do you like Haruhi?' , to which my answer to this painstakingly obvious question was ‘I love Haruhi’- which can totally be quoted for truth- because Haruhi rules!




Unfortunately during the cafe experience I had begun to develop a nagging headache, I’m not going to blame the sugary overload that was the maid café, but instead I think I spent too much time on the Tokyo metro- you see on the way there, I unfortunately took the hard route, and not the easier one I managed to work out on the way back. My original plan was to find somewhere else to head to- as you're never short of stuff to do in Tokyo, but my head was starting to thump and I needed to get back to the hotel. In fact when I got out at Shinjuku station, it was starting to feel as though, my head was being placed in a vice.


Taking some strong headache tablets, and then trying to sleep off my headache for a few hours, wasn’t what I planned, but it needed to be done, there and then- otherwise the entire day and possibly the one after that would have been ruined by me being left in a state of perpetual illness.


Thankfully the tablets kicked in fast and I was able to get into a comfortable nap in order to sleep off the irritating headache. But when I woke from my slumber, I was still feeling a bit groggy, so I thought a refreshing shower would be a good idea- that coupled with finding some cooling strips, I purchased from my last time in Japan (which I actually used as padding for the blisters my feet endured, from the last trip- thankfully I was not suffering thus far with those- so the Gortex walking shoes I purchased prior to the trip, looked to be a fine investment) rid me of the headache entirely.


After I felt well enough again, I wanted to sort out arranging use of the use the Luggage Forwarding service, as recommended by Inside Japan tours- to take my case onto my hotel in Osaka- but I could see that the front desk was still busy with people checking in. So I decided another trip out would be good- but unfortunately it was raining again- and I had to kill time in my room once more, thankfully the rain eased off after an hour.


I decided to head towards relatively nearby Shibuya- I had in all honesty felt as though I had worn out Shinjuku itself. Truth be told though, I was starting to get a little bit Tokyo’d out, especially the Tokyo of the neon lights and skyscrapers kind, and in all honesty I was feeling ready for the contrast I would be expecting from Kanazawa. I settled for another Sushi go-round place in Shibuya for my evening meal- which I had a bit early just before 6- but then again a diabetes in a glass dessert, can hardly count as a proper lunch.


I then decided I would head back, but I could see it was ‘silly hour’ for the trains, where all the ‘salary-men’ would be rushing for the train, all to get packed in like sardines, so I decided to take a further walk round the Shibuya district (in all honesty I wondered into a nearby district, and not Shibuya itself)- after finding my way back to Shibuya station- it was still busy on the trains…..but at this stage I just wanted to get back, rest up and prepare myself for the journey on to Kanazawa the next day.


I then decided that I would try to sort the Luggage forwarding to Osaka. Now Inside Japan Tours, say that the best time to sort this out, is the night before you send it- but the woman on the front-desk, got a little bit shirty over the fact that I was trying to arrange the Luggage Forwarding at that moment in time. This was something unusually out of character from the usual experience I have had from the Japanese, when it comes to customer service- guess there must be exceptions to the rule for everything.


Admittedly there was a little bit of a misunderstanding at first, as she thought I was trying to arrange for the case to be sent onto my next hotel, to arrive there for the next day. I explained to her that wasn't the case and, that I wanted it to arrive in Osaka for the 19th, and that I would be heading to Kanazawa first, but that it’s a long train journey- with several changes and that I would only need my smaller bag, as I would only be staying there for a couple of nights. Anyway after we finally came to an understanding, the front desk woman- still told me that it would be best to go to an office that they have for this service- at around 8 am in the morning.


That wouldn't be too much hassle, as I wasn't planning on getting up too late to start my journey to Kanazawa anyway- but it would admittedly been more reassurring to get it done that very evening, rather than on the morning I would be checking out.

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Cool diary, as a man whose last holiday was five years ago and that didn't even get me out of my home state, I am mad jealous.


Well I'm probably going to have to settle for a few cheaper end holiday's myself, as much as I would love to go to back to Japan- I know that for the sake of my bank balance, I need to go back to cheap UK/European holidays for the forseeable future.


I'm determined to get back there sometime, during my lifetime. Though next time it would be nice to go with someone, rather than on my lonesome. I liked being on my own, doing my own thing during the day time- but to be honest there were times in the evening/eating out, when it would have been nice to have had some more permanent company to talk to. Don't get the impression that I spent the nights out in Japan, feeling all depressed though, just admitting it would have been even better if a companion would have been there with me.


Needs more anime though. :p


I'm sure there's some people who have dipped into this, that think there's already too much anime - though I can't imagine they've carried on reading. :p


One more thing, for the sake of some balance, one thing I forgot to mention in the last entry- is that whilst in Shibuya, I saw a massive billboard on one of the skyscrapers for this Japanese boyband....




I'll let the picture speak for itself on this one.

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Wednesday 18th April (Everything’s ‘Bishie’ with Cherry Blossom and Yukata’s)


I woke up in a somewhat foul mood, due to the fact that up and until 1.30 last night, the room next door to me, was very noisy. There had been some school-boys staying at the hotel, but surely they shouldn’t have been up that late. The racket from the night before sounded more like drunken salary-men, and I’m sure I kept hearing some female giggles amongst their irritatingly raucous laughter, perhaps they had picked up some ladies of the night from Kabukicho? Whatever the situation it was irritating, as I wanted to get a decent nights sleep, before the long journey to Kanazawa.


Can’t say I’ll be missing the buffet breakfast, especially as I ended up going for pretty much the same thing…Miso Soup, Fish and Pickles, followed by a bowl of fruit salad with almond jelly, plus a glass of juice and a cup of coffee. They offered the western style cooked stuff... egg, sausages etc…but I only really go for that sort of thing, if it's cooked fresh, rather than left festering out in the open under some hot lights.


After breakfast, I checked out and sorted out the luggage forwarding to the hotel in Osaka. Turns out I didn’t need to go to the special room, the girl (a different one this time) sorted it out at the front desk- and said that I would pay for the service , when the luggage (hopefully) arrives in Osaka. But it was a risk worth taking, as I really didn’t fancy lugging the big case round on the trip to Kanazawa- with multiple train switches ahead of me.


It’s a good thing I did rid myself of the big case, as I ended up going in the wrong direction on the first train I had to catch. Luckily I worked this out, after one stop and not several, but it was the morning rush hour, and none of the trains available looked particularly appealing to step onto, luckily enough I was up early enough to be ahead of the schedule recommended by Inside Japan. I really didn’t fancy the squashed sardine experience, so I must have yet about 20 trains go by (they go every 5 minutes) before I finally settled on the 8.39- because though I still had to stand, I could actually breath, and though it was only for two stops….I got a seat eventually. Really baffles me how people, can suffer doing that sort of trip, day in day out- but I suppose you would get used to eventually.


I then caught the Shinkansen, to Echigo Yuzawa. I accidently got on the reserved car, my Rail pass, only covers me for non-reserved. I knew I had made the mistake, as soon as I got on, but I was hoping they wouldn’t notice- as loads of the seats were free anyway. But after half an hour of comfort, I was turfed out. I played dumb and apologized for my ‘error’, and unfortunately the rest of the train ride was spent stuck between a pair of salary men.


When I got to Echigo Yuzawa, the next train was only 8 minutes , according to the Inside Japan Guide, and would be on some ‘scenic’ private line with a supplementary fee. But with my navigational skills, there was no way I was going to make that in that time span, and besides I was desperate for the toilet (yeah I know too much information- but when you need to go, you need to go!)


I followed the platform signs for Kanazawa. But it turned out in the end that it was for the JR line- anyway rather than waste more time trying to find this private line, I remembered that you can book a seat on the train for free, if you flash your rail pass. With time ticking by, I thought sod the scenery and booked myself on the JR Line train- which would be a faster, more direct line anyway.


I got into Kanazawa at around 2.15. Now the Inside Japan Tours guide said it would be a 20 minute walk, or a 5 minute taxi ride. I thought with the fact that I was carrying luggage (it was still weighty, despite ridding myself of the big case for the time being) and that I had yet to get my bearings in this city, that the taxi was the best option.


I ended up going with some gruff old driver, in a taxi where the seat-belt, didn’t sodding well click in properly. What concerned me more though, that on the journey he had to keep checking the map, in the Inside Japan booklet- had this guy, not learned his Kanazawa equivalent of the London Taxi Knowledge?


Eventually I arrived at my next port of accommodation- the Nakayasu Ryokan, having had to fork up 1100 yen for the hairy taxi ride. I thought, I’m going to have to learn the route from the centre of town and back to hear by foot, or I would be forking out for more extortionate taxi fees. The man on the front desk, greeted me, but had problems announcing my name- referring to me as Martin something.


Despite that he seemed pleasant enough, he offered me a Japanese or Western style room- as I was doing western style for the rest of the trip, and the whole point of doing the Ryokan experience, is to go traditional- I opted for the Japanese style- as originally intended.


A young woman, then showed me to my Japanese style room, and then brought me some complimentary Japanese Green Tea and a biscuit. The gingery biscuit was nice, but unfortunately the tea was that green powder matcha stuff, that tastes like pond water- not that I've ever tried pond water....perhaps I'm being offensive towards pond water, because it can't be much worse than 'matcha' tea.


After a brief rest period, I then decided that having got to Kanazawa with plenty of time, before it got dark and before my agreed meal time, I should at least explore some of the local area. The local area happened to have two of Kanazawa’s top attractions near by, the Castle and the Kenroku-en Garden. The castle looks quite impressive, though I learned later that it’s a rebuild, but in a lot of ways I prefer that, than having to look at some boring old ruins. The only people who get any joy out of boring old ruins are archeologists.


Kenroku-en Garden, is only just across the street from the castle….supposedly one of the top gardens in Japan according to the guide books, I have to say that it did live up to it’s reputation. The Garden was impressive and as the Cherry Blossoms had just bloomed in Kanazawa, it was even more resplendent in it’s beauty. It was also clearly the place to be at this time of year in Kanazawa, because be it Grandparents taking their grandchildren to the garden, or dating couples….the garden was clearly popular with the folks of Kanazawa and possibly from surrounding towns and villages beyond. I almost got lost in the gardens though, so it was wise move on my part to set my meal time for 7, rather than 6.


When I got back to the Ryokan, I was greeted by a couple of yukata clad girls (so cute!), these girls could have spilt tea over my head like a stereotypical clumsy maid and I'd still be satisfied with the service put before me. Doesn't matter about anything else, just give me cute girls in yukata's!




When I got back to my room, there was a pot of tea waiting for me, it was still tea without milk but was at least a much more drinkable blend compared to the ‘macha’ aka pond water, I was served earlier. In all honesty I’m getting used to tea without milk and admittedly it can be quite refreshing.


The man on the desk earlier, said that the meal would be served to my room, but with it having gone to around 7.15, I was wondering where my meal was, or if I had misheard him, so I went down to check. Seems like they had forgotten, he apologized for his oversight, and about another fifteen minutes later my meal was served to the room, by one of the cute girls, still dressed adorably in their yukata.


Tonight’s meal was kaiseki, and it really was a feast for the senses. The meal had sashimi, what I think was some sort of fried pork with mushroom, a whelk with an egg cake, crab and some tradional Japanese pickles. Of course that wasn't all, as the cute yukata clad girl returned with more culinary delights... tempura, miso soup and a big bowl of rice (apart from noodle dishes, no matter how big or small the meal, the Japanese insist on serving rice- it’s like the Irish with potatoes).


Only problem with my meal is that my soy sauce for the sashimi was supposed to come in a dainty little china kettle thing, but it was empty. I demonstrated this to the cute Yukata clad girl, who then cutely apologized for the error and then came back with a filled one, when she brought the soup and rice. I really didn’t mind the mistake at all, it just made the experience all that more cuter, it was like the sort of thing the maid café’s are striking for, but the fact that this was for real (and not part of an act) just made it all the more adorable.


Having finished the Kaiseki feast, I phoned down for them to collect my meal, I told the cute Yukata clad girl, that the meal was very good in Japanese! – She seemed a bit taken a back at first, but then giggled cutely at my attempt at Japanese gratitude, before she offered to make my bed for me.


I then went down to the front desk, again to check what time the baths are open from….even though my room, came with a pokey en-suite, I thought it would be nice to do the proper Japanese bathing experience once again.


Mr Front Desk had shown me earlier, but I had not taken them in and I wanted to check again. Oddly Mr Front Desk, did not seem to understand what I was on about….he then got me to speak into a phone, at first I thought he wanted me to speak to a translator, but turns out there was someone else on the end of the line! After the man on the end of the line (who assumed was the real boss of this establishment) understood that I wanted to know what time the ‘public bath’ was open, he asked me to put Mr Front Desk back on the line.


After that Mr Front Desk, finally understood what I was on about, and give me a copy of the bit of paper with the bath and breakfast times to keep. To be honest these sort of misuderstandings feel a bit aggravating when it comes to dealing with a middle aged man, I wouldn't have minded at all- had it been with one of the 'moe moe' yukata girls.

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Thursday 19th April (Sunny Sunny Pottering)


I ended up kind of regretting not going for the Western Style room, because there was little in the way of padding with the bed (I may as well have been sleeping on the floor) and the pillow was made for a midget. Somehow though I still managed to get a decent nights rest, I suppose you just end up passing out from the pain!


I decided on just having a normal shower for the morning, with the consideration of doing the Japanese style bathing for later in the day. Breakfast is traditional Japanese style, and though it wasn’t much different from what I was having at the previous hotel (soup, rice, fish, pickles), it was just better- because it was cooked fresh, was presented better and it was served to me by a cute girl! I think that goes for any sort of breakfast, be it Japanese or western style; of course getting it served to you by a cute girl is an added bonus.


I then set off to explore Kanazawa, my first target was the Higashi Pleasure district (where there were Geisha houses)….but there really wasn’t much to it apart from a few old houses, or maybe I didn’t explore deep enough, but it felt like I was wondering into just a residential district that happened to be old houses, didn’t really see any signs up to say otherwise. So I decided to head back in the direction I came, and whilst heading back I was held up by a young lady, who was having trouble backing into a spot, even though her car was smaller than a mini. I ended up having to help guide her in, in order to move on- to be honest she did ask nicely for my help and was sorry for holding me up.


I then just generally wondered around Kanazawa, coming across the Oyama Shrine, where some old ladies got me to take their photo, I then got one taken of me in exchange- because thus far I hadn’t really had that many photos of me taken, then again i'll fully admit to not being a great fan of getting my photo taken, which is why I wasn't spending every other second barracking people into taking my picture with a variety of landmarks in the background.


I then took in the old Samurai quarter, where the old Samurai houses stood- this was signed up better than the Higashi district. All in all Kanazawa, felt like a nice city to stroll around in, and with plenty of parks, there were plenty of spots to take regular rests. I get the impression, it is at its best at this time of year, with the Cherry Blossom in bloom, but I can also imagine it being quite stunning in winter, should it be snow of the picture postcard kind. Nice city though it is, I can understand why it wasn’t included on the ‘Essential Honshu’ tour, I went on for my first trip to Japan; it’s in an area where it’s jutted out on its own and it also comes across as Kyoto-Lite. It’s like if you do Kyoto on a tour, you don’t really need to do Kanazawa.


I then decided to check out the market, where I witnessed some fishmonger take an Octopus apart, it was gruesomely compelling, watching him hack the ugly creature apart, and I wasn’t the only one gawping at this process….as quite the crowd had gathered round to see the Fishmonger at work. I had also read that the market was a good place to get some food. But to be honest most of the places, looked a bit expensive, and besides I was going to get a hearty meal this evening from the Ryokan.


But I did spot a place doing ‘Seafood Bowl’ for just 500 yen…..I thought bargain! But I really should have been wary of a place that doesn’t have an English and/or Picture menu. Turns out the seafood bowl, wasn’t really a bowl at all, it was just three different types of seafood, served in a sectioned rectangular dish. I thought it was just a free appetizer, but turned out it was the main dish. I felt ripped off, for 500 yen- after feeling unfulfilled by such a disappointing lunch, I then spotted a Yakitori stand. I got four different types of Yakitori, for less than the Seafood ‘bowl’ and to be honest it tasted better too.


This should also serve as a lesson to always re-read the bumpf that the tour company give you, because there was a recomnendation for a restaurant. Mind you there I also tried looking for other restaurants I read up about on a Japanese food website in Tokyo but could never find them, so that probably would have failed. Usually you can just stumble across a good eating experience for a reasonable price- as I said there's always exceptions to the rule (see tetchy concierge at the Hotel Sunroute).


I was feeling a little weary at this stage though, and decided to go back to the Ryokan for some rest and to put on some suntan lotion…the day had been surprisingly scorching, certainly the nicest day thus far in terms of weather, I had had during my stay in Japan. Of course the bed, was put away though when I came back (so nothing to lay on, even if it was hardly all that comfortable), I guess at this Ryokan, they really did like to keep things traditional and keep to the same rituals day in, day out.


After a brief rest period, I then set off to explore a little more of Kanazawa. I headed in the direction of Kanazawa Castle and the Kenroku-en Garden again, but found that my legs had grown weary and I really did not fancy going much beyond….so all I really ended up doing was potter around the garden and the castle grounds again- but at least it was a nice day for such an activity, and I did manage to enjoy a Green Tea and Vanilla swirl ‘Mr Whippy’ style Ice Cream- a worthwhile purchase for 300 yen, on a day like this. If it had to rain, I am pleased it rained in Tokyo rather than in Kanazawa, because at least with Tokyo you have plenty of places to pop into and there is always a metro station nearby….I just feel that rain really would have dampened the mood here, but it is though the weather even manages to have good timing in Japan, just like the trains.


I returned to the Ryokan at around 4, but unfortunately this time was not greeted by the cute Yukata glad girls, instead all there was on the front desk was an old man. I then went up to my room, but just a few moments later one of the girls, came up with a pot of Japanese tea and asked me when I wanted dinner. Disappointingly there was no yukata this time, maybe they only put it on in the evening, I mean the night before, I did not get back to the Ryokan until past 6. I then went out to check out the public baths, but I had to say I was disappointed by what I saw….the bath looked pokey, and with that in mind I decided not to bother. No wonder they were hardly pushing the experience. Perhaps I had gotten a little mixed up in my mind, with the Onsen experience I had in Hakone on my previous trip, but even the public bath at the Ryokan in Takayama I stayed at on last years group tour, was better than what I saw here.


Even though I just wanted to crash out at that moment in time, the lack of a bed in my room meant that with dinner not going to be ready until 7, I would just have to take another stroll back out again. I suppose I could have made the bed myself, but I would have only denied one of the cute girls going about the whole bed-making ritual.


I headed back to Higashi (the old pleasure district), but my instincts were right in the morning, there really wasn’t anything I missed here…it was some old houses, now surrounded by newer houses. Then it dawned on me that this whole area, would be more interesting with a guided tour and perhaps I should have got Inside Japan to arrange me a guide, I know from other peoples testimony’s on their site, it is something they offer. But of course, I’m the sort of idiot who tends to think of these things, after the event.


It had also gotten a bit cooler, but ironically this made it more pleasurable for walking, and perhaps had it been cooler earlier, maybe I would not have felt the urge to return so quickly or had the energy to go beyond the castle and gardens. When I returned from my last stroll of the day, I was once again denied the lovely image of the yukata clad girls from yesterday, instead all there was to greet me was an old woman.


When dinner was served, the same girl who served me the previous night, was not wearing her yukata….I was wondering now, if perhaps the whole yutaka thing from yesterday, was some kind of moe mirage. I really should have taken a photo of the cute girls in their yukata's on that first day, just to prove to myself that such a delightful image actually existed and is not just something I dreamed up in my head.


Dinner again was Kaiseki, but according to Inside Japan- I should have been getting a Nabe (seafood hotpot), then again the Japanese are very seasonal about their food, and perhaps Nabe, being a winter stew…..is for the winter season only, and with the day's sunny weather you could hardly say it was winter. Despite the disappointment of not getting the Nabe, as advertised…the Kaiseki was once again delicious, and this time included a Japanese take on fish and chips.


Kanazawa had been pleasurable and I have burnt the image of the cute yukata clad girls from the first night into my memory, but after two days I was certainly ready to move on…if at the very least to get back to a proper bed. Had my stay been more than two nights in the ryokan, then I feel I would had to have ‘wimped out’ and asked to be moved to the western style room.

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Friday 20th April (or Temptation Battleground)


I woke around 7, but as check in time wasn't till 2pm at the next hotel, I did not need to rush and did not head down for Breakfast until 8. Pretty much the same thing as yesterday, and as there wasn’t anything keeping more to keep in me in Kanazawa, I decided to check out. Unfortunately all there was to greet me at the check in desk, was the old boy (aka Mr Front Desk substitute version)…..I really should have got that photo of the cute girls in their Yukata's when I had the chance.


Despite the fact that I would be lugging a heavy rucksack, I decided to walk to the station, rather than pay the exhorbitant taxi fee. I knew my way round Kanazawa pretty well now, and signs for the station were clear. Of course when you're coming in the other way, it's a bit different when you first arrive somewhere, because there is isn’t regular road signs for the accomodation you're planning to stay at- so you have to pay for the taxi or end up walking for miles getting lost.


Anyway as my Inside Japan ‘Bible’ said I could book a reserved ticket, for no extra charge- if I show my rail pass….I headed for the JR ticket office, and got myself booked on the next train to Osaka, the 9.53 ‘Thunderbird Express’- the Japanese like giving the trains these OTT names.


Unfortunately my reserved ticket, was in a seat where I had to sit next to someone. Now I wouldn’t mind this, if it was a cute girl- but of course with my luck I end up next to another salary-man. To be fair, at least he wasn’t irritating, as he was either just reading his book or sleeping.


I arrive at the Shin-Osaka station, at around 12.30,and then proceed to try and find my way to the subway…..however with so much time to spare, before check in and a plethora of eateries at the station, I decide to get some lunch, and besides I needed some viable change for the fare ticket on the subway. I decide to go with a Tempura on rice place, that is doing meals for reasonable prices, everything under 1000 yen, and as it has pictures, I can actually see what I was buying- unlike the seafood (non) bowl from the previous day. I go for the mid range 540 yen option, for an extra 60 yen, it comes with a soup…and I thought for just 60 yen, why not…… The Tempura with rice was pretty good, and the flavoursome 'prawn stock' soup was a worthwhile addition to the meal.


I then proceeded to get my subway ticket to Namba….luckily the machine, had an in English option, and with the Inside Japan ‘Bible’ telling me exactly the amount I would need to pay, purchasing the ticket was a doddle. I still managed to get to the hotel about 15 minutes too early, as it was very easy to find from the station. The 15 minutes waiting in the lobby, went by painfully slow, all I wanted to do at this stage was check in and discard of my luggage. I was also anxious to know if my main luggage had arrived there from Tokyo. Thankfully when I checked in, they told me they had received my luggage and I proceeded to pay the 1800 yen charge- a worthwhile investment, as it would have been a pain to lug it on the trips to and from Kanazawa. The trip back to Tokyo is more direct, but I would consider using the service again, as it’s a real pain hauling a case on the subway lines.


As for the Cross Hotel itself, I had to say I was impressed- it had a really stylish modern feel and when I got into my room, my bed looked to be pretty comfortable. After a bit of unpacking and a rest period (and as I would in Osaka for 5 nights, I unpacked properly- with the intention to re-organize my case), I headed out to explore Osaka. Now the useful free map, said that there was an area called Den Den Town- which is Osaka’s equivalent of Akihibara. Now me being a fan of all things anime related, that was surely going to be my first point of call. When I got outside the weather was rainy, but it was a spotty rain that did not bother me, at least it was at first but unfortunately it got more frequent, and in the end I had to submit to whipping out the totally unstylish pac a mac.


On my way to Den Den Town, I was apprehended by a gang of Japanese Schoolgirls, who wanted me to have their photo taken with them. I obliged their request, as they got some stooge to take the photo. The bespectacled stooge, was clearly the classes resident photography otaku, and after the schoolgirls got a photo on their camera, I got the stooge to take photo on mine- much to the delight of the girls who were all too happy to pose for another photograph- who then all proceeded to individually thank me for making their day all that more exciting.



When I got to Den Den Town, I was not disappointed…..and I managed to find a couple more Figma's , the rather rare Ui Hirasawa for my K-On! collection and an original school uniform of my favourite Haruhi side-character, Tsuruya-san. I was tempted of course to buy other stuff, but the fact that they would struggle to fit in my case, and I would of course have to consider the weight restrictions, held me back from trying to 'purchase the shop'.


Just because she's megas awesome...here's some Tsuruya-san!





Of course being an otaku hang out, there were also plenty of 'maids' around…trying to entice you into their maid cafes. I resisted the urge to go into one, remembering that I didn’t want to end up like the seemingly tragic figure I saw at the maid café in Tokyo. With my legs feeling a little weary at this stage, I decided to head back to the hotel for another period of rest, with the idea in mind, to head out into the bright lights of Dotonbori, when the sun had gone down.


Dotonbori was as I remembered it from the last time I was in Japan, chock full of bars and restaurants, and full of posers gathering round for not much more reason, than doing alot of posing. I settle on going to Kinryu Ramen, for my evening meal. That’s the branch of Ramen shops, with a Dragon’s head popping out . It turns out to be a real no frills place. You buy a meal ticket, from a vending machine… you give the ticket, and then you got round the side to get your bowl of Ramen. I went for the 900 yen option with extra pork, because I had the feeling the cheaper option would literally just be noodles and broth. The noodle shop may have been a real 'spit and sawdust' type of establishment but for 900 yen, I did get a big hearty bowl of Ramen.


After my Ramen I continued to take in the bright-lights, OTT shop signs and the hectic vibe of Dotonbori at night. One set of ‘trendy’ Japanese youths, approached me- and asked me where I was from etc, etc. The girls in the group, then asked me if I thought they were pretty girls. To be honest, they were all 'OK, nothing special' but to be polite, I said that they were bishojo, and then for some reason I decided to live dangerously, by referring to their male accomplices as their bishonen. Such a 'compliment' seemed to freak out the boys for a bit, but in the end they took it in good jest.


As much as I wanted to carry on mingling with the Dotonbori crowds, I was starting to feel weary, so I decided to head back to the hotel. It was then that I decided to make use of the hotel's film service, even though none of the films were in English, but to be honest the film I decided to watch, didn’t really have much in the way of dialogue, and was more about the hot action. ;)

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Saturday 21st April (King of Sports)


I woke around 7.30 and decided to make use of the large wet-room, in my en-suite….to have a good shower. Only thing is, is that the only towel they give you is what you would barely refer to as a hand towel back in England. It was back to the buffet style for breakfast….and this one bizarrely offered up Japanese curry, being someone who is unafraid to try the unusual when it comes to food ( though I don't mean Bear Grylls unusual), I went for this option, and it was actually pretty good...perhaps that's another breakfast concept to introduce back at home...Curry and Rice.


I then headed out, but the weather had now turned considerably hotter, it must have rained itself out the previous night, and now the heat was sweltering. I decided in that case to head back to the hotel, to put on some suntan lotion, as I would feel had I carried on, I would have ended up becoming a victim of sunburn.


I then decided to take the subway up to the Umeda part of Osaka, which is wher I was based for the Essential Honshu guided tour, last year. But I soon remembered, that there really wasn’t all that much up in this part of town, and that all the action was back down in Namba. Still I got a good photo of the Hep-5 building with the ferris wheel on the roof, and I even managed to pass by the hotel from the guided tour! My legs were already starting to feel weary though, it was though an entire weeks worth of pavement pounding had truly caught up with me and having been to Osaka before, all I really wanted to do was get back to the hotel and take it easy for a bit.


Only problem with that is that, they were doing my room…..so with the feeling, that I couldn’t really just mope around in a lobby, or not really one for propping up a bar or having a spa treatment, I decided in-spite of my knackered state to wonder back into town.


I decided, that I would head back to Den Den Town, and kill some time there before lunch….but for reason, despite having no problem finding it the previous day, I somehow managed to head in the wrong direction. Luckily a friendly fellow Otaku, who spoke reasonable English, pointed me back in the right direction.


Even though the temptation was there to get some more anime merchandise, the figures I would have been interested in bringing back, were a) expensive and more vitally b) would probably take up too much room in my case. I knew that from last night, but today…just re-confirmed it. I could probably squeeze in one or two more of the Figma's , but they would have to be one’s I know are pretty hard to get hold of on ebay for a reasonable price, to feel like a worthwhile investment ......to be completely honest I was trying to find Battle Waitress Mikuru....but my search was to no avail.


With my feet and legs feeling more worn than ever, I decided to fork out the 200 yen for the one stop journey between Nipponbashi and Namba stations. With Dotonbori and its many restaurants nearby, I decided to head there for my lunch. I decided to go into the famous crab restaurant Kani Doraku, and with the wrestling event set for the evening I decided to make this my main meal of the day, and went for the full-set. At nearly 5000 yen it was far from cheap, but came with crab done about 7 different ways and it was pretty tasty, if somewhat fiddly. That's the problem with eating crab.......


"What would be nice? Hotpot? Sukiyaki? Crab is a no-no. I can't take it. Picking the flesh out of the shell drives me nuts. Why can't crabs make their shells edible? How come they didn't do anything about that during the course of evolution, might I ask?" - Haruhi Suzumiya


After my crab lunch was done, I then headed back to my room, to finally get that period of rest, I actually wanted before lunch time. I then headed out to locate the venue, that the New Japan Pro Wrestling event would be taking place at. Now the instructions made it sound simple, but instead of saying follow the road round, they said carry straight on and you shouldn’t miss it. Which lead to me becoming confused as to where the hell the building was supposed to be, and missing this event, because I couldn't find the venue...really would have put a dampner on the holiday.


Luckily I gave myself plenty of time, and after finding a street map, I managed to get my bearings and find the venue. I even had enough time to pick up a drink and a melon pan from a nearby convenience store.


Unlike at western events, the Japanese are happy enough to let you bring in your own food and drink. With my snack bought, it was time to go in, I went past the merchandise tables (deciding that I would head for them at intermission) and found my seat....of course in typical fashion I was heading towards the wrong side of the ring when I showed my ticket to the attendant. Perhaps because I was a rare gaijin visitor to a puroresu show, the attendant went out of his way to not only point me in the right direction, but literally show me to my seat!


Now in Japan, you actually get girls going to the wrestling, and I don’t mean of the couldn’t get a date, weird or butch variety either… I mean cute and pretty bishojo. But trust my luck, my seat is between a lone wrestling otaku (which wouldn't be so bad, if either his English or my Japanese were to a reasonable standard to hold a half decent conversation) and a couple of sickly old duffers, wearing hypochondriac masks……..typical! On top of that, the man in the seat in front of me, had an unfeasibly big head….impairing my vision.


During the final match before intermission, two of the wrestlers Togi Makabe and Minoru Suzuki, take a brawl to the floor, right up near to our seats. Anyway what else I noticed is that quite a lot of the crowd leave their seats, and either stand at the back, or hang out round where the wrestlers make their entrance.


When intermission came, I got up to head to the merchandise stand, where KUSHIDA, Jushin Thunder Liger and Ryosuke Taguchi, were doing the meet and greet/help flog the merchandise bit. I got a signed T-Shirt from KUSHIDA and a couple of classic New Japan ‘King of sports’ T-shirts, one for me and one for my friend Grant. One is black, one is red…..I would let Grant decide which colour he prefers, as his birthday present (he chose the black)


Anyway after intermission, I decided not to head back to my seat, and hung out with the standing crowd. One couple, were particularly amused by me getting into the chants for all the babyface wrestlers. In fact standing, despite my legs and feet still feeling weary, it was a wise choice as I could see the action better, plus I didn’t have to sit next to a couple of sickly oldies.


Still, that is what impresses me about wrestling in Japan, is that it’s something everyone can go to….from pensioners down to little children and everyone else in-between. If you go to a wrestling event back home, you’re basically stuck with the ‘black hoodie’ brigade. As for the wrestling itself, it wasn’t the best show I’ve seen from NJPW but I still had an enjoyable time and it was just great to experience an actual live Puroresu event and I hope one day that I can see another live show.


However I think to experience a top quality Puroresu event, you either have to plan a trip round one of the big PPV’s, such as New Japan’s yearly show at the Tokyo Dome , around New Year or wait last minute for the schedules to come out, for when a promotion is running a show in somewhere like Korakuen Hall.


Here's the results of the show and my recollections of the match


1. Tama Tonga beat Hiromu Takahashi (8:36) with the Headshrinker.


Crowd were more into the young lion Takahashi, who showed decent fighting spirit than Tonga. All in all, this wasn't bad for a 'jobber' match.


2. YOSHI-HASHI & Tomohiro Ishii beat Strong Man & Captain New Japan (12:40) when Ishii used a brainbuster on Captain.


I was expecting this to be awful, due to it being the dregs of CHAOS vs Roid Man and comedy gimmick wrestler Captain New Japan. Whilst it wasn't a great match, it wasn't as bad as I though it would be either and Roid Man even showed some surprising athleticism with a dive to the floor from the top turbuckle.


3. Low Ki, Rocky Romero, Jado & Gedo beat Prince Devitt, Ryusuke Taguchi, Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask (12:36) with Ki used a diving footstomp on Devitt.


Disappointing match considering the talent involved- this was due to the fact that the most talented of all (Prince Devitt) spent most of his time laid out on the floor, after the CHAOS team took control during the a chaotic opening few minutes. Match seemed to pick up when after a boring heels in control heat segment, the faces seem to seize back control, with Devitt even coming back to life and pulling of a crowd popping tope to the floor- But it then ended all too quickly, with Devitt falling to the Diving Foot Stomp from Low-Ki, a bit of weak finish in my opinion.


4. Minoru Suzuki, TAKA Michinoku & Taichi beat Togi Makabe, Wataru Inoue & KUSHIDA (12:35) when Taichi pinned Inoue after Suzuki used a Gotch-style piledriver.


Decent match, that had more of a back and forth feel to it between both sides, than the previous multi-man tag. Makabe is extremely over, and the fans rabid support for him in particular, lifted the contest.


5. Special Singles Match: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Takashi Iizuka went to a double countout (6:03).

5a. Rematch: Hiroyoshi Tenzan beat Takashi Iizuka (4:06) by DQ.

6. Special Singles Match: Toru Yano beat Satoshi Kojima (9:37) with the Akakiri.


I'll lump these together, the wrestling for these matches between Ten-Koji and the CHAOS duo of Iizuka and Yano, wasn't that great and were really there just to further the rivalry angle, but the crowd were admittedly well into this part of the show...the legendary team of Ten-Koji being obviously very popular and the CHAOS pair of Yano and Iizuka performing their role well as the despicable heels.


7. Special 8 Man Tag Match: Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura, Masato Tanaka & Yujiro Takahashi beat Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hirooki Goto, Tetsuya Naito & Karl Anderson (19:24) when Tanaka used the Sliding D on Tanahashi.


No surprise that the main event was the best match of the night, though what was suprising to me was the result, because....


A) The faces had taken a butt kicking all night, and I would have fought that New Japan would want to send the fans home happy with the babyfaces at least getting a victory in the main event.


B) Should CHAOS win, I would have either though it would be their leader Nakamura or the current IWGP champion Okada pick up the win


C) I would have thought should the faces lose it would be Anderson that would end up the taking fall and not NJPW poster boy Tanahashi...especially with that loss coming at the hands of Tanaka.


Had I taken a better camera with me, I would have posted some pictures up here, but unfortunately any photos I tried to take of the in-ring action came out all blurry.


When I returned from the wrestling, I dropped off my merchandise and then I headed out to sample some Dotonbori Takoyaki. I went for ten balls, but to be honest, I think it was over-doing it, as with the rich sauce...they started to become a little bit of a chore. Admittedly though it would have been better, had I ordered a drink to sip between each bowl, not so much to wash away the taste but to clear my palette between each ball, as too much richness/steaming heat from the balls- did become too much in the end.


With my next event, a baseball game in Kobe planned for tomorrow, and with it being for 1.30, I decided to head back to the hotel for a reasonably early night, with the intention to get up fairly early, so I can see a bit of Kobe itself first and then head for the game.

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Wow, great to hear about your trip in Japan, and I'm glad you've enjoyed yourself. Even getting to see a NJPW show live? I'm quite jealous :p


As for the results of the main event, I'm not so shocked. Karl Anderson has gotten a very good push this year, to do some great matches vs Nakamura and the fact that Bernard is gone.


Its really a shame you weren't able to go to a Champions Carnival show, or the amazing ZERO1 Over the Rainbow show instead that happened just a couple days later. The nice thing about wrestling in Japan is you can find can almost always find something good almost every day if you look around a bit.

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Wow, great to hear about your trip in Japan, and I'm glad you've enjoyed yourself. Even getting to see a NJPW show live? I'm quite jealous :p


As for the results of the main event, I'm not so shocked. Karl Anderson has gotten a very good push this year, to do some great matches vs Nakamura and the fact that Bernard is gone.


Its really a shame you weren't able to go to a Champions Carnival show, or the amazing ZERO1 Over the Rainbow show instead that happened just a couple days later. The nice thing about wrestling in Japan is you can find can almost always find something good almost every day if you look around a bit.


Anderson has been getting a pretty strong push since Bad Intentions broke up- highlighted by his win in the New Japan cup over Nakamura. But still I was surprised to see Tanahashi take the fall- especially to Tanaka. In TEW terms it's the B guy in terms of pop getting the pin on the A/A* guy. Then again I suppose Tanahashi's so over- that the odd loss to an Upper Midcarder here or there, isn't going to damage him in the eyes of the fans.

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Sunday 22nd April (Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain...aargh RAIN!!!)


Another morning, another generic buffet breakfast and sadly no curry this time (at least the curry was a bit different) If only the western style hotels, did Ryokan style breakfasts. I also thought that the wet weather had passed, after yesterday’s heat wave, but this schizophrenic weather we have been having in Japan has decided that it would like to be rainy again.


Today is my first of two baseball games, this one being between the Orix Buffaloes and Nippon Ham Fighters in Kobe. But it’s at an awkward time 1pm, so I decide that instead of moping around Osaka, I would head for Kobe in the morning. Not seeing any clear signs for the trains on the Shinkansen tracks to Shin-Kobe…I asked at the ticket office when the next train was. The helpful female assistant, not only told me when the next train was and which track, but booked me a reserved seat, though for a 13 minute journey she really didn’t need to.


Anyway I get to Kobe, and then it’s the challenge of trying to work out their subway system, and the other problem was that I forgot to bring my guide book with me, which would have given me an idea which parts to head to. Anyway I thought hopping around would soon add up, so I asked at the office- if they had some sort of one day pass, and for 800 yen…I felt this would be worth it- as by the time you would make all the back and forth journeys on the subway, it would amount to more than that.


Anyway I decided that the best place to head for would be the Harborland (where I imagined the chief Kobe sight of the Kobe Tower and Ferris Wheel would be), but it would take several transfers, and the quickest would be to go to Sannomiya station. That’s all well and good, but the second line I had to transfer, to I could not find for love or money, amongst the hectic undergound shopping centre. With time starting to run out and with the station I needed to get to Sogo Undo Koen in the opposite direction, I had to admit defeat, and just make my way to the ballpark.


I got to the game about an hour early, but people were still heading in. Unfortunately it was well and truly bucketing it down, and the Hotto Motto Field, is a stadium with little in the way of cover. Now this would be a nice stadium to have sat in on a day like yesterday, but today it was far from an enjoyable experience.


Still I accepted the situation and tried to enjoy watching the game as much as much possible- which was helped along by the amusingly enthusiastic crowd- even if the stadium today was only a quarter full….it seemed like only the die-hards had bothered to come to the game today, probably because 1. The weather was awful, 2. It was a fairly meaningless early season game, 3. It was against a team, not seen as a local rival (the Ham Fighters are based in Sapporo, on the northern Island of Hokkaido). But the die-hards still made as much noise as possible, there was an old boy who came along with his son and grandson, that was REALLY into all the Orix Buffaloes chants.


The weather did begin to clear up round about the 3rd inning, and I could at least take the hood off my pac-a-mac. Unfortunately that respite did not last the whole game, and around the 7th inning it decided to piss it down even heavier than before…..


Well that was the final straw- I had enough of getting soaked , and decided to vacate my seat. Now that's not to say I walked out on the game, all I did was vacate where I had been sitting. Several others had the same idea to watch the game standing from the shelter of where the food stands were placed, and despite having to stand for three innings, it was better than getting soaked. The game itself was a tight pitchers duel, with the away side the Ham Fighters coming out on top 1-0- the home fans meeting the slender defeat with an apathetic 'oh well there's always tomorrow kind of response'.


With the rain still pounding down, I pondered whether or not just to head back to Osaka, and forget exploring Kobe. But I had paid 800 yen for the one day pass, and I was determined to make use of it. I found an alternative way round the subway system to Harborland, rather than go to the confusing Sannomiya station, and when I got out at the Harborland station, the weather had at least stopped raining- which proved some vindication for not giving up.


I then followed the signs to the port, and eventually got to the point of where the Tower and port was. The area had a really pleasant air about it, and it was just nice to stroll in the cool breeze, along Kobe’s harbor. With the feeling that I needed something to eat, I then headed to a shopping centre along the harbor. I found a beef restaurant whilst in there, and whilst a lot of the prices being advertised were out of my range, there were some that were reasonable.


When I got in, it was explained to me that the famous Kobe Beef was from 10,000 yen and up…..and that anything under that was Japanese beef. As much as I would like to have tried the genuine article, at 10,000 yen I felt that it was a bit on the pricey side for something as disposable as food. Still I felt I couldn’t really head out, and I knew Kobe Beef was stupidly expensive anyway. I settled for a standard Japanese rump steak, that came with a salad and a mushroom soup as part of the set. Which all came to the rather more reasonable price of 3900 yen, and it may not have been ‘Kobe’ beef, but my steak was still flavoursome and tender.


I then decided to head back to Osaka, and though I would liked to have explored a little more of Kobe, it was now that time….where nothing would really be open apart from bars, restaurants and late night shopping and despite only seeing a small fraction of Kobe, I felt I had experienced the image that Kobe is most noted for the it's Port Tower and the colorful Ferris Wheel.


When I got back to Osaka- I took another stroll round the Dotonbori area, because there was just something fascinating in just going out there and watching the posers- especially the Host Bar Bishonen's attempts to snag some clients. On the famous bridge, I was approached by a gaggle of young Japanese men, whose point of reference for England was David Beckham, and asked me if I like ‘the soccer’ (the main spokeman for the group, insisted on putting the in front of words, that didn't need the put in front of them). They then asked me if Iike 'the Japanese girls'- but all they did was ask me the question, but they weren't actually with any, nor did they have any lined up to introduce me to.


After that fruitless exchange, I headed back to the hotel, and just watched a little TV before heading for the sack….. Now depending on when I would decide to get up the next day, I woukd either head for the shorter trip of Kyoto or the longer journey of Hiroshima.

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Monday 23rd April (Full Yen Panic!)


I got up a little later, and decided as Hiroshima is a long train journey,even on the Shinkansen- that I would head to Kyoto. I had seen Kyoto on the Essential Honshu Tour, but there is still plenty to see and I had a couple of specific spots in mind.


I had a light breakfast this time of just some Miso soup, some rice and a couple of rolls, and then made my way to Shin-Osaka. Again I thought it best, to enquire when the next train was to Kyoto. It was the 10.40, and once again the helpful station attendant booked me a seat. I had a little time to spare, so I grabbed myself a melon pan from the bakery to have for later. If only they had melon pan back home.




Melon Pan- It's THAT good


When I got to Kyoto, my first target was the Toei Movie Land Park…..now I got off what I thought was the right subway station, and one of the exits actually had it marked up. But I walked around the area, which was a real Yokel area, with mom and pop stores and just people’s houses and I could not find the place. You’d think it would be pretty obvious to find, but sod if I could find it- plus the weather had turned hot again- the weather in this country really cannot decide what it wants to be.


With the risk of just spending the day walking around aimlessly, knackering my feet out and dying of heat-stroke, I had to concede defeat on the movie park….so I ate my melon-pan, and then headed for my next target the Kyoto International Manga Museum. Not finding the Movie Park, was one of my few true regrets of the holiday- but it will teach me to actually prepare properly and print out directions/info on the place before I went, rather than just simply rely on the tourist map or perhaps actually join the 21st century and invest in one of those new fangled I-Phone's or whatever. Learn from my mistakes, I make them so you don't have to!


I got off at the wrong station however, after misreading the map…but I was near Nijo Castle, which is a sight I had not experienced, when I visited Kyoto during last years group tour. It was a world heritage site as well, and with it being just 600 yen, I thought instead of spending more time aimlessly wondering that I would head into the castle.


To be honest, it triggered the 'see one, you've seen them all' reaction when it came to the castle itself but the castle and it's castle did make for a pleasant stroll, and it is amazing how your feet and legs feel re-energized, when you’re actually doing something with an actual purpose, instead of wondering hopelessly trying to find a proverbial needle in a haystack.


After the castle, I found my way back on the subway to the right station for the Kyoto International Museum. I thought for a moment when I got out at the station that the museum would unfortunately be another Toei Movie Park, but thankfully I stumbled across the building- saving the return to Kyoto from being somewhat of a failure.


The museum if you wanted it to be could be a pretty interactive experience. Primarily because of the 'Wall of Manga', where you could take out and read a manga in the museum, Though admittedly most were in Japanese and it had already headed into late afternoon...so I did not really partake in treating the museum like the world's coolest library.

Admittedly had there not been more to the museum, than just a huge collection of manga that you could treat like a library, then the place would have been disappointing. But thankfully there was much more to it than just that, with some fascinating exhibits on the history of manga and the manga/anime industry.


To top it all off, it even had an exhibit of Haruhi Suzumiya merchandise…..it was like a shrine to the goddess herself! I would have loved to have taken a photo of it, but I did spot some no photo's allowed signs and being respectful of such signs I restrained myself from snapping away.


However someone obviously did not restrain themselves, as I've found a photo of said exhibit online.....






After the museum, I headed into the shop and purchased what turned out to be a couple of K-On! Document wallets, a really cool looking book of Haruhi illustrations and a Haruhi poster (that I got specially framed when I got home)- We were after all in the home of Kyoto Animation, the studio who did the anime adaptions for both K-On! and Haruhi.


It was starting to head towards the early evening though, so I though it best I head back. In fact time was heading on so much that when I arrived back at Kyoto Station, that I thought it best to get something to eat there, it was almost 6 and all I had to eat all day was the light breakfast and a melon pan.


Any major train station in Japan is stocked full of eateries and Kyoto Station proved to be no exception. In the end I settled on a curry and rice place. A cheap option, but with the initial spending money I had taken with me on holiday suddenly starting to run low, it needed to be. I decided on the curry and rice with fried chicken option. Hardly the height of sophistication, but it was actually pretty tasty. I'm trying to convince the folks back home that curry and rice with some fried chicken thrown in on top actually works. After the bargain curry (and because it tasted good, it actually was a bargain), I got myself booked on the next Shinkansen to head back to Osaka.


Now after I got back to my hotel, all I wanted to do was rest my weary self; but of course I was running low on cash and this situation needed to be rectified as soon as possible. I had underestimated the amount, I needed to bring and though I had kept the food budget down, my weakness for anime merchandise had obviously eaten into the funds. To be honest I thought I might have to get a little extra out eventually, but more towards the very end of the trip.


People accuse me of being tight, but I’m only tight when it comes to spending on things that are of little benefit to me. I’m not entirely selfish, however- I forgot to mention that the anime museum had an exhibit of peoples art-work for the Tsunami that hit Japan last year, and you could leave your own message and a donation- which I duly did. Despite almost being out of cash, I still dropped in a 1000 yen note plus some loose change.


But being down to just 7000 yen and with another 5 days to go, I really did need to get some money out, and the place to withdraw money if you ever need to in Japan is either a 7-Eleven or a post office.


A post office would be no good at this time of night, so I I asked the front desk, where the nearest 7-Eleven was located. Thankfully there was one, just a few blocks up from the hotel, along the Dotonbori canal. However when it came to withdrawing the money, the transaction was saying my card was invalid. This really wasn’t a good situation, it looked as though a block had been put on my card for some reason and I needed to phone my bank ASAP to get the situation rectified- apart from the ray of sunshine that was the Kyoto International Manga Museum, this really was proving to be a challenging day.


So I got back to the hotel, and attempted to make the international call to the 24 hour helpline on the back of my card…but all I kept getting was an automated message of a Japanese woman, and the only word I could understand was Kudasai (please)…. A this point, I really was getting pissed off with the situation but remained calm and headed down to the front desk, to explain I was having problems making an international call.


The helpful front desk assistant, showed me exactly which numbers to press, and I finally got through to the helpline of my bank. Turns out a block had been put on my card, after I made a payment to a gym I had just joined. A rather pathetic reason for my card to have a block on it, but though I was somewhat cheesed off at having to incur an international phone call charge for that, I was at least relieved it wasn't for something genuinely serious- like someone cloning my card and attempting to clean out my bank account.


Anyway the bank told me the card would become unblocked in just a few minutes , so I headed back to the 7-Eleven in the hope that I would be able to make the transaction. After thinking it would get rejected again, when the money didn’t appear instantly, a draw finally opened up in the machine, and the 30,000 yen I tried to withdraw earlier was there, and I couldn’t really care that it came in three 10,000 yen notes….I just needed the money!


I then headed back to the hotel to rest. I aimed to be up early tomorrow, especially with my intention to go to Hiroshima.

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Tuesday 24th April (Nuclear Heartbreak)


I did get up early in the intention of going to Hiroshima (just before 6.30 to be exact), and as I was up early, I also sorted out forwarding my case to my final hotel back in Tokyo. I had the case packed and ready to go- and the same concierge who sorted out the international phone problem, helped filled in the luggage forwarding form. I said to the concierge that I had used the system three times previously (once on this trip, two times on the Essential Honshu Group Tour) and that it had never failed me. The concierge agreed that it makes things so much easier. One thing I will say about the Cross Hotel staff, is that all speak excellent English (the best thus far) and all in all this had been an excellent hotel.


After enduring the breakfast (I’m not really a breakfast person, unless it’s freshly cooked goodness), I then made the usual Midosuji 270 Yen ride to Shin-Osaka station, a process I felt could probably do in my sleep , I had now done it so many times since arriving in Osaka. I then managed to get myself booked on the 8.35 Shinkansen to Hiroshima- my intended target from the timetables given to me by Inside Japan.


I got into Hiroshima round about a quarter past ten, and then proceeded to work out where to go from there. Of course Hiroshima’s main tourist attraction, is one that is there for the worst of reasons- the site of where the first atomic bomb exploded.


Now Hiroshima has a streetcar system, and after myself and an American couple (I’d say in their forties) who were in the same predicament, worked out that we could get a day pass for just 600 yen we hopped on the correct streetcar to take us to towards the Peace Park.


Whilst taking the ride, the American’s asked my how long I had been in Japan- I said I had been here since the 14th, but also mentioned that I had come to Japan as part of a group tour last year, but Hiroshima was a day trip option of your own choice- you see last year it clashed with a Hanshin Tigers Baseball game I wanted to go to, and we simply did not have enough days in Osaka to do one or the other.


When we got to the site of the A-Bomb Dome (formerly the Exhibition Hall), it was quite the eerie site. The American’s took my photo in front of this monument of devastation, and to be honest it felt a little wrong having the tourist photo but the American’s insisted and I wasn’t going to get into an ethical argument.


The American’s who I gathered would actually be staying in Hiroshima for a few days from the conversation we had on the streetcar, then parted a separate way to me, and I then headed for the Peace Park- which was full of tour parties, be it foreign ones or the greater spotted Japanese school party. One Elementary School Party was having a big group photo taken, and the female teacher taking the photo- was scarily over enthusiastic in her delight at taking this picture.


I then followed the tour parties into the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Museum- I ended up spending a good few hours here, as it was so vast- three floors worth of exhibits on the explosion of the bomb itself over Hiroshima, the after effects of the bomb and Hiroshima’s efforts in pleading to the world leaders that they should get rid of their stockpile of nuclear weapons.


After truly learning about the devastation that such a bomb caused, I’m inclined to agree and I don’t see myself as being the emotional kind, but the museum ended up being a very moving experience- anyone who doesn’t at least feel a pang of sadness whilst walking round this museum, could barely call themselves human. The account of a girl who lost her life to the effects of radiation related Leukemia years after the bomb hit Hiroshima, and for whom the Children’s peace memorial was particularly touching. I was so moved by what I saw in the museum, that added my name to the petition to get rid of nuclear weaponry- and I’ve never really seen myself as the ‘ban the bomb’ type….. perhaps I always have been deep down, I’m just not the type who goes out on protest rallies.


What impressed me about the museum, is that it did not portray the Japanese as martyrs. The way the facts were presented was very balanced and there is a realisation that their own actions during World War II, were in part responsible in leading towards such a devastating cause of action. Lets just hope no one feels the need to use nuclear weaponry again- because the initial effects and after effects of such weaponry both physically and emotionally are sickening. Moribund the museum may have been, but it was also compelling and for just a staggeringly cheap 50 yen extremely excellent value, considering the vast amount of exhibits the museum had to offer.


It had just gone two, when I got out of the museum, and felt I really needed to find something to eat. An underground shopping plaza was nearby, and that was bound to have some eateries, and I managed to find an Okonoyimaki ( a sort of Japanese omlette with fried cabbage and anything else they wish to throw in)- I had the ‘special’ which had Yakisoba, Octopus and Shrimp plus an over-generous helping of spring onion sprinkled on top. I could have done without the spring onion overload, but all in all it was pretty tasty and it ended up being my main meal of the day.


I then decided to take the Streetcar to Miyajima- the Island noted for it’s famous floating Torii Gate. This was a long ride though, as it was the last stop on the line, and when I got to the station, you then had to get a ferry to the Island itself. Thankfully my Japan Rail Pass, also covers ferry trips and I got on the boat for nothing. The ferry ride, was only five minutes- a good thing for me, as I don’t exactly have great ‘sea legs’…..

Unfortunately the famous Torii Gate, was a bit of a disappointment, as it was covered in scaffolding.


Still the island itself seemed quite beautiful, and it was one of those places with sacred deer. I went to Nara last year, that also had tame deer roaming around the place. One such deer though, proved to be a bit of a pest, as he tried to get after the Mandarin Ice Cream I had just purchased- something that greatly amused the Japanese school party that was passing by.


After walking round the shrine, I then decided it would be best to head back. There was more I could have done on the Island, such as take the ropeway up to the mountain, but time was ticking on, and I knew the boat ride, and more the case the streetcar journey would be long ride back to Hiroshima station. But there didn’t really seem to be an alternative route, to the long streetcar ride, that took up the entire line- end to end.


The streetcar was well run, and it’s actually more pleasant than riding on an underground system, but the problem with streetcars/trams, is that they have to stop for traffic, resulting in the journey’s being considerably slower than that of an underground system.


Still it got me to see a snapshot of Hiroshima, beyond the A-Bomb Dome and the Peace Park, and after seeing the devastation of the atomic bomb as accounted in the museum, it is amazing to see how Hiroshima has rebuilt itself as a vibrant modern city. I know the bombing took place 67 years ago, but still apart from the A-Bomb dome itself, you wouldn’t think that the entire city, was once flattened to ashes, and it made me feel positive that Japan can rebuild the towns and villages in the Tohoku Region that were devastated by the Tsunami last year.


I finally got back to my hotel in Osaka, at around 9 pm, and after grabbing some convenience store snacks, took another wonder around Dotonbori. I have come to the conclusion, that the people who frequent this area, are like the Japanese version, of Essex Boy and girls. There are some genuinely cute and attractive Japanese girls, but the ones who hang out in the streets round Dotonbori, are often of 'the trying too hard kind'. Many of the girls have the dyed hair (some of them go really blond), have too much make-up and just generally dress in a tarty fashion. I know that I'm beginning to sound overtly picky, but I came to the conclusion that these really weren't my type- they're not my type back home either.


I then for some reason, decided to actually head into an arcade, and then proceeded to spend 200 yen playing a first person shooting game. My tragic performance….soon reminded me why I don’t really go ‘gaming’ and I decided not to waste any more yen on such a fruitless exercise.


I then decided to head back to the hotel, and made the decision to use the 100 yen for 10 minutes internet machine in a lobby. I put in 300 yen for a half hour session, and proceeded to write a pointless message on my facebook, that took me about half the allocated time to type up, due to the fact that the machine kept wanting to default back to Japanese.

With check in not allowed until the afternoon at my final hotel, back in Tokyo- I wouldn't be rushing out the door the next day, and planned to have at least a little bit of a sleep in, before heading down to breakfast, and doing the packing of my hand luggage tomorrow morning- though I did still have to check out by 11.

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Keep up the updates, they are alot of fun to read.


I then for some reason, decided to actually head into an arcade, and then proceeded to spend 200 yen playing a first person shooting game. My tragic performance….soon reminded me why I don’t really go ‘gaming’ and I decided not to waste any more yen on such a fruitless exercise.


Just takes a little skill. Here's an



but the ones who hang out in the streets round Dotonbori, are often of 'the trying too hard kind'


Great place to meet foreigners though.


Internet in Japan is annoying. Almost everyone has smart phones and flat rate data plans are common, so even for a laptop a 3G card is normal. So there is little free wifi.


Very disappointing there was a scaffold over the Floating Torii Gate.

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Keep up the updates, they are alot of fun to read.


Nice know, you're still reading and enjoying this Miko- only got 5 more day to go now though- and one of them is just the fly home/epilogue.


Thanks for the picture of the Torii Gate at Miyajima, that's how I wanted to see it :)

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Wednesday 25th April (Moe Moe Reprise)


I planned to get up a little later, as with a 15.00 check in time there was no need to rush to my final hotel in Tokyo; but nature called and I ended up getting up at 7.30. I then went down for the buffet breakfast- I settled for a relatively light option of miso soup, salmon, egg cake and a couple of rolls. After breakfast, I then realized it was rush hour, so with that in mind I though I may as well not rush out- so I spent the next hour lounging, watching some Jidaigeki(Samurai Drama) on the TV.


By 9.30 though I had grown wearisome of the Jidaigeki, that disappointingly ended up being all talk and little action, plus I could just hear the bedroom maids itching to get in to do my room- so I decided, with the rush hour passed, then would be a good time to check out. I made my final 270 yen ride on the Midosuji line to Shin-Osaka and then got myself booked on the next train to Tokyo. That next train, was literally only five minutes away, so I had to rush up to the platform, and I decided to step onto the train, and then walk down to the correct car on the train, rather than risk the doors of the train closing on me, as I try desperately to get onto the correct car.


The journey took around 3 hours, which still left with 2 hours before the check in time at the Hotel Villa Fontaine Shiodome. So I decided to get something to eat- as I was actually quite hungry by this stage- I ended up going for a Udon Noodle shop. I had cold Udon with egg, and with the weather still being warm- this was quite a refreshing yet hearty option- they gave you the option of adding Tempura on a separate plate- and it’s an option I went for- a good choice as the Squid, Prawn and Sausage Tempura were all delicious.


I then proceeded to make the subway ride to Shimbashi station, which was a ten minute walk from my hotel. Anyway, it wasn’t entirely straight forward to find the hotel, and it really didn’t help that there was building work going on. However eventually I worked out from the maze of escalators and walkways how to get to the Hotel Villa Fontaine Shiodome. Despite probably wasting a good 15 minutes heading in various directions and checking the street maps on my way to the hotel, I still got there early. But my backpack was heavy and I just waited patiently until it was time to check in.


The Hotel Villa Fontaine, is as the Inside Japan blurb said, a smart business hotel, and the front desk staff seem quite friendly here- the admittedly attractive female concierge who booked me in, couldn't help but laugh when I mentioned that I would be checking out way before the check out time of 11.00 on my last day- of course that isn't funny in itself, there was just a mutual understanding that telling me their check out time was a rather pointless exercise. Once again the Takkyubin Delivery Service did not fail me either- I really would recommend this to anyone who goes travelling round Japan.


After a brief rest period, I decided to head over to the nearby Conrad Hotel, as Inside Japan had given me a voucher for the Limousine Bus Transfer, and said that the Conrad Hotel front desk, would need to book you onto the appropriate bus. After riding in a lift to their lobby, and having to listen to some American suits out on business in Japan, going on about the ‘Japanese Board Representative’- I then sorted out my booking for the bus- though according to the Conrad staff member, the Villa Fontaine could have done this, and that the Conrad was just the pick up point.


After that I decided to head back across to Shimbashi station (the route there was easier, than the route to the hotel- probably because I had worked out where the shortcuts were), and then proceeded to hop one stop, on the Ginza line to Ginza itself. I headed into the posh department store Mitsukoshi, with the intention of seeing if there was something I could purchase as belated birthday gifts for both my dad and my sister in law- but came to the conclusion, that what I had in mind, I could probably purchase at the airport.


So with the time already heaidng into the early evening, museums and such not really being a viable option- I decided to head back to the ‘holy land’- Akihabara. I looked round a few shops again and settled on purchasing an Azuza Nakano from K-On! Mug.


Here's an Azu-Nyan intermission




It had also started to rain again- and with the thoughts of shelter and food on my mind, I couldn't help but be tempted by the attractive maid tempting me to once again enter one of their cafes ! And yes I did say rather adamantly I didn’t want to end up going down the same tragic path of the saddo-regular I saw at the MaidDreamin café, but here's the thing as tacky and strange as the whole thing was the first time round- I actually kind of enjoyed it and it was not like I was going to have this experience again anytime soon.


Interestingly enough though the The Cafe Mermaid, ended up being a somewhat different experience though to MaiDreamin, having more of a feel of a real cafe, as opposed to stepping into a strange uber kawaii bizarro world. So in that sense it was also intriguing to see that these places don't all follow an exact formula and that there are differences to be had between different maid cafes.


The maid's still did the stereotypical moe moe cute stuff, such as doing 'latte art'on your dessert (I ended up going for pancakes with Ice Cream), but beyond that there was less emphasis on keeping up the ‘act’- at least that was the case with the maid who served me Kirhihara, a name that actually seemed to be her real one and not a blatant stage alias.


In fact Kirihara, actually ended up having a normal conversation with me, as her English was quite good and again I'll stress the point that there wasn't this feeling of putting on an act. The cynic in me could say, that it was another act again...just a much more subtle one but at that moment in time I could not care and it was just nice to chat to someone- even if that someone happened to be an 18 year old girl that had just graduated high school and now worked in a maid cafe.


Turns out that the maid cafe thing isn't some long term career choice for Kirihara- though I imagine it's not a long term career choice for anyone, more than likely once they reach 20- they're ready for retirement! - Back to Kirihara herself, her actual goal is to become a Seiyuu (anime voice actor) and that she's already in training to become one. Perhaps one day I'll see her name pop up in credits somewhere and I'll remember the day I was served by her at a maid cafe.


After my second and surprisingly different maid cafe experience, all I did was head back to the hotel and to be honest nothing really of note happened after that.....


Anyway the schedule, recommended that I did the excursion day the next day, recommending Nikko, north of Tokyo- to be a good option. It seems to be more temples and stuff (something I ended up over doing on the group tour)- but I've not done much of that sort of thing this time round and as they say variety, is the spice of life.

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Thursday 26th April (or Bishie Surprise)


I set my alarm for 7 the previous night and that’s when I got up, with the intention to catch the 9 am train from Tokyo station to Nikko. I go down for the complimentary buffet breakfast, and just settle for some soup and a couple of rolls, unlike the others this one is in the lobby, rather than an attached restaurant and you're forced to battle your way to a spot on some conference table. I really think I may not bother with the breakfast tomorrow, and just find a coffee shop- I didn't intend to get up too early anyway, because after this day I would have my fill of long excursions.


Anyway I did manage to catch the 9am Shinkansen to Utsominiya- before managing to get on the Nikko line train to Nikko itself- this was an unreserved seats only train- so it was just a case of getting to the platform in time to catch the earliest one possible.


I arrived in Nikko just before 11- but was unfortunately met with horrible wet and windy weather, but I had spent the time getting there, so I wasn’t going to turn back. The World Heritage site, with all the ‘must see’ shrines and temples, were not in the immediate vicinity of the station- in nice weather it would have been walkable, but as the rain was so irritating at that point, I asked the Tourist Information, which bus to catch, and I duly got on the 11.15 to where the World Heritage site was.


Anyway when I got there, you had to pay to go into some parts, and with me being a bit low on money, after the previous night’s second maid café experience, I wasn’t prepared to pay anything over a 1000 yen entrance fee, which one of the temples/tourist traps unfortunately was.


I did pay to go into a 550 yen temple, and managed to get a young Japanese couple, to take my photo there- as I really don’t have enough pictures of me......I guess that’s one advantage of going with someone else, you don’t have to harass some stranger(s) into taking your photo- I know they don’t mind it, but it’s just not something I feel entirely comfortable with.


The rain was so irritating though, that I did consider going back there and then, but it did let up a little bit, and I even spotted a 7-Eleven across the road, where I could get some more money out, and not have to watch the pennies so much.


By the time I had secured the extra funds to see me through to the end of the trip, it was lunch time, and one of the restaurants in the area, enticed me in with a 10% off coupon.


I settled for a 550 yen bowl of basic Ramen- basic it may have been, but it was still delicious, filled a hole and for just 550 yen was something of a bargain. Sometimes the minimal approach towards food, can produce the most delightful of results.....you could tell the broth was simple, yet it still managed to stand out.


With a renewed spirit, I headed back into the World Heritage site, and decided to cough up the 1300 Yen to see the Toshugu Shrine- which is after all the main attraction in Nikko- but unfortunately the rain was turning worse again. On one hand I was awestruck by the splendor before me, yet on the other I was becoming increasingly pissed off by the endless rain that was bombarding me.


Even though there was more I could of seen of Nikko, I had enough and decided at around 2.30 to make my back into Tokyo- I managed to hop onto a bus back to the station and then made the return trip. Unfortunately I just missed a 15.06 Shinkansen back to Tokyo and had to wait until around half past for the next one. I had spotted on my way to Nikko, that the Maranouchi line from Tokyo Station, takes me to Ikebukuro in under 20 minutes, and it was there that I decided to head back to on my way back. Yes I had been to Ikebukuro when I first arrived in Tokyo but for some reason I felt an urge to go back there.


I was obviously drawn to going back to the Animate shop, where I bought all those anime CD’s. Unable to resist the urge to buy some anime related tat, I ended up purchasing an Azusa from K-On! Notepad and a Mikuru Asahina keychain. I also headed back to the CD floor, and purchased some more K-On! CD’s and even managed to find some of the Haruhi Suzumiya Character singles- that shop has had some good business from my arrival in Japan!- Put me in an anime store and suddenly I really couldn’t care that I was spending money, like it was going out of style. It's probably a good thing for my bank balance, that such stores aren't within walking/reasonable driving distance of me back home.






It was getting near dinner time though, so I headed into the nearby Sunshine City Building, where I knew I would find some eateries. On my way to the eateries though, I noticed a crowd all hanging round the central reservation, whilst I could I also hear singing…..getting nearer the crowd were all raucously getting into the performance, and some were even waving glow-sticks. Intrigued by the performance, I went up a floor, to get a better vantage point.


The J-Pop singer was admittedly cute, what I could see of her- Though what kept catching my attention even more was the rabid enthusiasm of the crowd. Especially the one’s on the ground floor, in front of the stage- one mesmerized/clinically obsessed fan looked as though he was about to have a seizure everything the bishojo J-Pop singer spoke, yet alone sang.


Unfortunately some security types were around, preventing people from taking photos of the performance- something I would have done, because as I said, the singer wasn't too bad to look at. The songs themselves were probably a little too straight forward pop for my liking but they weren't terrible either. She had a nice voice, the songs were just kind of meh.


After the performance was over, I then asked a nearby fellow observer, who she was?- He said, that she is a new singer, and one who does voice performance for anime. It then occurred to me, that earlier in the performance, she was wearing a pirates hat and earlier in the holiday, I saw a new anime about a band of female space ‘pirates’….I could only assume that this singer was the lead role seiyu, for that same anime I saw at the start of the holiday (an anime I since worked out to be Moretsu Pirates/Bodacious Space Pirates). New she may be, but she already seemed popular with the hysterically enthusiastic crowd.


* Since Hyde Hill pointed me in the direction of an english sub link for Moretsu Pirates...I've been following the series (currently still airing in Japan). It's not going to end up being amongst the top series I have seen, but I have been enjoying it and do give it the thumbs up...right now somewhere in the 7/10 range.


After randomly witnessing the J-Pop/anime singer performance, I then found somewhere to eat. I settled for a Tonkatsu place, and went for the 1200 yen set meal- where you got 4 pieces of Tonkatsu (Fried Pork cutlet), some salad, the obligatory bowl of rice, a clam soup and a savoury egg custard, that had a surprise prawn inside. All in all it was a very satisfying meal, then on my way back to Ikebukuro Station- I then headed into the Hello Kitty shop. This wasn’t for my benefit, but my niece Teagan, who loves Hello Kitty almost as much as I love Haruhi- so I decided to get a couple of little presents for her.


When I got back to the hotel, I then decided to re-organize my cases, leaving out just enough clothes for the next three days, and see if there were ways I could redistribute the weight- as I really didn't want to be coughing up for the excess weight charge.


I also turned on the TV, and bore witness to a TV show, on Bushiroad's (pronounced in a cute moe girl voice BUSHI-ROW-DOE!!) card trading games. The card trading thing is one part of otaku culture, I can't really get into....but the Bishojo host prevented me from feeling the urge to change the channel. She was joined by more girls, who wore school uniform and appeared to be a sort of ever present 'home team' for the program.


One segment had a team of geeky Otaku* take on the girls (they lost, probably because they were too mesmerized by the Bishojo) and then another segment had special guest New Japan Pro Wrestling megastar Hiroshi Tanahasi take on one of the ‘school girls’ (he won, probably because his contract said so).


* I can see the words Pot, Kettle and Black forming in the minds of the readers here :p


The program was like one big advertisement for Bushiroads’s Card Trading games, and Bushiroad are the company that now own New Japan Pro Wrestling, which explains why they managed to get Tanahashi involved with this black hole of pointlessness.


If that wasn't enough between the program, you were also bombarded with Bushiroad adverts- you could well believe that people could be bombarded into submission by such relentless marketing.

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