A Travellerspoint blog

TSUKIJI FISH MARKET, REFLEXOLOGY AND BACK TO TOKYO

A RELAXING FINAL DAY IN KYOTO

28 °C

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As I promised myself and my feet, I had a quieter day today. I relaxed in my room, picked up some breakfast and came back to my room to eat before heading out at all.

The last thing on my plan was to visit Kyoto’s famous fish market, Tsukiji Market which also blends into a food market and a huge mall. Although I didn’t buy a thing, I did spend a few hours poking around.

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Many restaurants display their menus in plastic versions outside. Like this sushi in the market.

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I decided to treat myself to another massage and reflexology session and it was well worth it. The service was amazing and I have never had anything quite like it. At the end, she took time to review my results. She is quite concerned about my stomach and also said there are issues with my neck and sinuses. No surprises there. To be honest, the service everywhere is incredible and there is no tipping so no ulterior motive.

I had read that all hotel rooms in Japan are tiny. So far, the first two were small but perfectly adequate. I actually loved my hotels so far. But, tonight in Tokyo, that theory is shot. I knew I was booked into a really nice hotel because the online rates were $600+ a night. A friend got me a US embassy rate for $250 usd which is standard in this area. Well this is nice. They carried my bags, escorted me to my room, and so far, all elevator buttons are pushed for me. The curtains in my room are on a remote control next to my bed. I didn’t get to try it yet because the turn down service did it for me. This is the first place I have been where there are people who speak English.

Here are the two rooms.

Kyoto

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Tokyo

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It is interesting that all hotel rooms come with tons of amenities. You get shampoo, conditioner, soap, razor and cream, hairbrush, toothbrush and toothpaste, q-tips, facecloths, slippers and a bathrobe. These items have been in all 3 hotel rooms and are apparently standard.

To be perfectly honest, as nice as this hotel is, given a choice, I would always stay in a charming boutique hotel.

Tokyo has a very different feel already. I just grabbed a quick bite and the streets are hopping with lights, music and tons of people. Should be interesting.

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I guess I will get a first look tomorrow. I am doing a photography workshop in the morning before switching gears and sadly buckling down to work. I have a meeting preparation meeting tomorrow night so this little holiday is coming to an end. Although, I do hope to have some time to explore a little for heading home next Saturday.

Posted by curlygirl 05:44 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo kyoto japan Comments (1)

TODAI-JI TEMPLE AND FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE

EMPOWERMENT AND CANUCKS FOUND AT THE TOP OF MT.INARI

sunny 31 °C

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Bad hip, bad knee and really bad feet but too stubborn to quit. That would probably be the theme of the day. Or perhaps the week but how can I not keep going in a city that has so much to offer. I have left my room before 8 each day and never seem to make it home til 9:30. I barely take time to sit or eat. Please Buddha, I will be leaving a few pounds behind when I leave on the 3:30 train to Tokyo tomorrow.

I had big plans for today but I seriously underestimated the time and effort involved in the two primary activities. Clearly due to my lack of research.

I had planned to be back in time for a quick clean up before taking in a geisha show but that did not happen. I am not, however, the least bit disappointed. This has been an amazing day. I actually thought I might have been “templed out” but today’s temples were simply spectacular and are certainly the trip highlights.

This morning I made my way to the town of Nara just 45 minutes outside of Kyoto. Because I had to take a bus and then walk 30 minutes across the huge Kyoto station to find my train, this 45 minute trips was almost an hour and a half. Nara, like Kyoto, has a number of temples and shrines, several of which seem very impressive. But, since I had a busy day, I opted to “just” take in the most famous Todai-ji temple.

In both temples today, the crowds were enormous. There were hundreds or thousands of school children, many of whom were working on their “speak to a foreigner” project. Still it was worth it.

When you first arrive in Nara you are immediately greeted by the thousands of deer who roam freely. They look ok but they smell terrible and poop all over the road. Several times one came quietly up behind me and nearly made me poop in the road.

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Todaiji's main hall, the Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) is the world's largest wooden building, despite the fact that the present reconstruction of 1692 is only two thirds of the original temple hall's size. The massive building houses one of Japan's largest bronze statues of Buddha (Daibutsu). The 15 meters tall, seated Buddha represents Vairocana and is flanked by two gold Bodhisattvas. It was beautiful.

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On the way out of the hall, I discovered this guy and because of his healing powers, I damn near rubbed all his wood away and gave myself a public bath. I even took off my shoes and rubbed my feet. And one point on the way up Inari, I thought he cured my feet but the way down confirmed he needs a little more time to work on it.

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Few more from the temple. I climbed to the top. Unspoken rule, if there is a place to climb, you must! What if you missed something amazing?

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From there, I took a different train back into Kyoto and Inari station. Kyoto has so many different forms of transportation; I never know what I am riding. But this train stopped immediately in front of the first gate to Fushimi Inari Shrine. Again, filled with masses of people.

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I was unprepared. I knew there were gonna be gates and I heard some saying about 1000 vermilon tori gates but I never read on to learn that there are estimated to be over 10,000 and that they reach the top of a mountain and that the climb will take 2-3 hours (4kms up hill). Instead I took my time exploring the grounds, snapping pictures and climbing through the gates. As time went on, and almost an hour into my leisurely visit, I notice the crowds are disappearing. I come across this map that tells me I am about ¼ of the way there. I had to get in gear and start making progress.

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A few more from along the way. Just a few. I took way more.

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Did I mention it was over 30 degrees today and suddenly I was grateful to have arrived later than planned and past the middle of the day and the hottest hours. I climbed on, as it got steeper and at the halfway mark two ladies tried to convince me to quit and others said there was more than an hour left ( there was not, more like 30 minutes). It was 4:30 at this point but I had come too far to quit and had flashbacks of my first Gross Morne climb as a kid where I quit after many hours only to learn that I was only about 5 minutes from the peak and those at the top could hear me talking. Never again.

It really wasn’t that bad, just unexpected, by most, in fact, and there were very few at the top. No doubt that was in part to my late arrival. Truthfully, it wasn’t the top that was most spectacular but rather the hundreds of detours filled with shrines, temples and treasures. It was so cool and eerie at times. I loved every minute.

I read this in the Lonely Planet guide when I got home.

“It also makes for a very eerie stroll in the late afternoon and early evening, when the various graveyards and miniature shrines along the path take on a mysterious air. It’s best to go with a friend at this time.”

That pretty much sums it up and on descent, alone, and confused at times because I was heading up hill, I was thinking I probably should have told someone where I was going today.

I begin my visit to Inari feeling old but by the time I reach the top, after watching so many turn back, I felt young and empowered, if only briefly. Looking at my selfie, I really worked for it.

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At the top, I met my first Canadians on this trip and this encounter proved to be quite an advantage.

The descent was faster but still had some distractions. A cool coffee stop and a temple filled with more foxes (the messenger for Inari) so I didn’t rush it. The gates get further apart and the landscape lusher.

The white paper tied to string are seen at all of the temples and are bad wishes left behind so the spirits can exorcise them

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By the time I got down, the place had emptied.

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If you want to do the research that I missed, click here...

I was glad to run into the Toronto couple when I hit the train stations. Even more so when I learned the tracks were closed due to an accident. Equipped with a gps and wifi, they had us on an electric train within minutes. I would have been rummaging through my papers for a long time trying to find a re-route.

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By the time I landed at my stop it was 6:30 and way too late for the show but not too late to stop for sushi and rest my feet. Yum.

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So I am back in my room, resting my tootsies, which always seem to forgive me by morning, with a load of laundry done contemplating how to have a quieter morning in Kyoto before heading back to Tokyo.

I tried to have less pictures in this blog than I had of the bamboo forest but they are all a little different. The light changes, it turns and rises....sigh. I can't pick and I don't have time to pick my favs.

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The view at the halfway mark

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By the way, the Japanese are sugar obsessed. Candy shops everywhere.

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Posted by curlygirl 06:37 Archived in Japan Tagged kyoto japan nara inari Comments (3)

CONNECTIONS WITH THE PROFESSIONALS

TEMPLES, GARDENS, CASTLES AND PROFESSIONAL GEISHA HUNTING

sunny 29 °C

I am going to try and keep the words to a minimum since I have lots of pictures and am completely wiped after a very long day. I left my hotel at 8 am and only returned back at 9:30 this evening. In that time, I only sat for dinner this evening. My aching feet are still screaming at me.

Since there is no restaurant in this hotel, I popped into the highly recommended bakery next door for breakfast for some yummy French toast and a cappuccino. Not so Japanese but I have decided I only like Japanese food for lunch and dinner. Their breakfast appears to be salty pickled everything including fish and eggs. I’ll pass.

But this, I will take.

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So my very busy day included a bunch of stops and I am quite proud that I managed the public transit with relative ease today. By the way, there are 2000 temples in Kyoto

I first took a bus to Kinkakuji Temple also known as the Golden Pavillion. The crowds were crazy but still it was probably the most Zen place I visited all day. Definitely my favorite gardens.

The mobs going in.

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Next stop was a short taxi ride away to the Ninaji Temple and gardens.

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I am not sure what this is but I think it kept me strong all day.

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From there, I walked to the train station where I took the electric train to Arashiyama on the outskirts of Kyoto. My first stop there was to Tenryuji Temple with its famous gardens.

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The walk through the gardens continued in to the Bamboo Forest which was high on my list and did not disappoint.

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Suffering from dehydration in the sweltering heat, I took a forced 5 minute break for a bottle of water and steamed pork bun that was really good, but not nearly as good as Shirley’s mom makes.

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I took an hour to roam around the town and walk to the Togetsukyo Bridge which was recommended but really was nothing special.

Just as I decided to go back into town and perhaps take a 30 minute rest, I ran into Hannah who I met while Geisha hunting last night and her friend. What are the odds? We decided to team up and make our way to the Nijo Castle built between 1601 and 1626 as the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns.

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At 5pm, Hannah and I headed back to the Gion in search of more Geishas. I likened the adventure to salmon fishing. You sit and wait and wait some more, move as the situation dictates and wait some more. When you finally see one you are completely thrilled and willing to wait even longer. We were so lucky. The couple that I approached and spoke to last night, as it turns, out are very connected to the Geisha network. Yoko’s husband, although retired, is an amazing photographer. He pulls out a couple of pictures he took last night and they are NOTHING like mine. As the night goes on we learn his hobby is photographing the Geisha and he knows them all personally. The pull out albums with pictures of him photographing and mingling with them all. We also saw posters and ad campaigns featuring his work with Geishas. We learned so much about the lifestyle tonight it was incredible. Furthermore, these two can spot them as soon as they come into view so without creating any fuss, they alerted us so we could get close before anyone else noticed. Normally as soon as one arrives, she is surrounded by hopeful photographers and tourist. Saying that, even with that advantage, the pictures are just fare. Hopefully when I get home and can do some editing, I will get a few.

More pictures of the gals.

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From there Hannah and I met her friend and we finally sat and ate some ramen for supper. It really hit the spot.

A long and wonderful day with another planned tomorrow so I need to get some rest.

Sayoonara. ( I now have about 6 words and phrases because Yoko was teaching me while hunting).

Oh, I made one purchase today. Often sold at religious sites, I thought I would pick one of these up for Isaac.

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Few more. This is Yoko chatting to Hannah

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other stuff

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Posted by curlygirl 06:24 Archived in Japan Tagged kyoto japan Comments (2)

KYOTO - THE FRIENDLIEST PLACE ON EARTH

TEMPLES, TEMPLES AND GEISHA HUNTING

sunny 28 °C

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My sister wondered how I would possibly manage in a place where few speak English and traveling alone. She suggested I wouldn’t even use my voice for days. You would think by now she would know me better than that. This entire day, I have been talking, waving maps and getting help everywhere I turned on the path from Tokyo to and around Kyoto. I have even made new friends along the way.

My day started fairly early in Tokyo after a reasonable sleep from 8:30pm- 4:30am. I think I even dozed a little after that but I was eager to get on my way. I took a quick taxi ($12) to Tokyo station where I purchased a ticket on the Shinkansen or high speed train (320km/hour). I actually booked the fastest train called the Nozomi with a reserved seat for a one way price of $169 that got me to Kyoto in 2 hours and 15 minutes. Needless to say, nothing here is cheap. Upon arrival, I grabbed a taxi to my hotel, put my bags in storage and set out for a very long day.

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Just a note on the taxis. So far, all drivers seem to practice deep nasal breathing similar to that performed while in labour. What’s up with that?

The train ride was pleasant and filled with men and woman who could have been cut from cookie cutters. Almost everyone on the train was dressed the same, in a tightly tailored black suit with white shirt. I felt a little out of place.

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Carry ons fit nicely

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I decided to use an itinerary offered to me on trip advisor. Sometimes you hit really great people when you ask for help and this time I got lucky. Not only did he suggest an itinerary but he provided the walking maps for the full 3.5 days here in Kyoto. I did miss the first line of the message so started at the second stop but made up for it at the end. I opted to purchase an all-day bus pass for $6 even though the map was completely intimidating. A 10 minute walk had me at the bus station and with the help of about 4 different people I made my way onto the right bus. My first stop was near Kiyomizudera Temple. It was relatively easy to find because of the mobs of people and occasional signs. This Buddhist temple and World UNESCO site was built in 780 and is huge. I spent about 90 minutes, climbing and exploring.

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I immediately noticed all the people wearing kimonos. Kimonos are typically only worn on special occasions but in Kyoto there are tons of shops renting them out for the day. It is hard to tell who is wearing them for real and who is renting one for the day but let me tell you I have no idea why that business is booming. It was 28 degrees and there were people all over the place in these warm costumes, fitted so tight in the legs that a shuffle is the only way to move along and then to top it all off, you wear socks with flip flops as you beat the streets of Kyoto. The sock and sandal thing seems popular with many. Let’s hope that trend doesn’t make it to Canada.

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I continued walking to the Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka Slopes which are filed with curio shops and lots of ice cream shops. I may have to try the Macha ice cream before I go. I waked by the Yasaka Pagoda, visited the Kodaji Temple and wandered to Maruyama Park. I decide not to stop for lunch so dropped into a 7-11 and had an egg sandwich and banana. Still afraid of the things unknown. From there I took a taxi to what is known as Japan’s national treasure. Sanjusangen-do Temple. That was incredible even though I have no pictures to prove it (none allowed) Sanjusangendo, also known as Rengeoin, is a temple in Kyoto that's known for its 1001 human-sized statues of the Goddess Kannon carved from Japanese cypress and gilded. Most date to the 13th century.

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Click here to read all about. Both creepy and cool.

Some more negotiations with strangers helped me find a bus back to Kyoto station where a team of people helped me find the connection home. Honestly, people are so gracious and willing to help and the only real words being understood are “please”, “thank you” (with a giggle always) and my attempt to say thank you in Japanese, “arigatou”, one of the three Japanese words in my repertoire. While on the bus a business man with a few more English words helped confirm my destination and as soon as I landed , someone else jumped it to make sure I would find my way to the hotel. I had people walk me to the right station at least 3 times today. This is the friendliest place I have been to date.

Since my hotel is close to Gion, the Geisha district, I figured I would head there and try and get “the shot”. Who knew it would be so hard and so addicting. Apparently the only real Geisha are found here. I did manage to get some shots of a fake one out on a photo shoot earlier in the day. Can you tell the difference? I am thinking the white makeup runs further back on the real ones.

Fake.

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So hunting Geishas is tremendous work. As a matter of fact, most of what you see are the Meiko, the apprentice Geisha which is still a thrill. I was lucky. I spotted a guy who was seemingly alone and discrete and followed his lead. I saw at least 4 within 30 minutes but I barely got anything with my camera. The sun was beaming in our faces ( a photographer’s nightmare) and they girls pop out of nowhere, traveling at rapid speed over short distances before ducking into an alley or building. There is etiquette to consider as well about respecting them too. We are reminded by the signs. So 3 hours later, I got some mediocre shots, made friends with a gal from Singapore and befriended a couple whose hobby is Geisha watching. They had a little English, enough to share that they honeymooned in Canada 35 years ago and to pass along the tips for tomorrow night. They could spot them as soon as they moved and knew most by name.

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Real ones

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Friends that helped and geisha experts

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To learn more about photographing the Geisha, click here

So after leaving my hotel at 11:00 this morning, I began making my way home at 7:30pm. My aching feet would not let me pass the foot massage place just down the road. A $60 40 minute massage helped me find hope that my feet would carry me again tomorrow. I grabbed a quick bite of Japanese food before making my way home. I think I know what I ate. I recognized the Miso Soup, the rice and chicken but I fear I provided the awkward white human show as I struggled with my chop sticks leaving sticky rice attached to pretty much every part of me.

Oh well. I am trying at least. Overall a great start to my adventure. I am anxious to crawl into bed and prepare for tomorrow. There is much on the schedule and I need to start early if I am to make it back in time for the Geishas.

My hotel is pretty much the same as the last only this toilet has a heated seat as well as all the other thrills. And the public toilets make noises just in case you do too.

This is what I used the navigate today along with the kindness of strangers who drew me lines and circles all over these.

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Check out the feet

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Posted by curlygirl 07:29 Archived in Japan Comments (3)

WHAT A RIDE – ON A TRIP OF FIRSTS

THE SIMPLE PATH TO TOKYO – RELATIVELY SPEAKING

overcast 15 °C

Just a quick update to say that I have arrived safely in Tokyo without incident. It was a really easy trip considering some of my latest adventures. Although I hate the early rise, my 6am departure was on time with a quick connection in Halifax and onward to Toronto. I had about 4 hours in Toronto but by the time I ate and caught up on work, I was on my way. When you live in Newfoundland sitting somewhere for only 4 hours is a good deal.

I had a 13 hour flight on the B787 dreamliner and what a nice airplane that is. I was quite comfortable in premium economy with lots of leg room and a row to myself. The new tvs have google earth showing your flight, the online shopping and your menu. I even managed 2-3 naps so I feel pretty good. I am sure I will be asleep early which is fine as I want to get an early start to Kyoto in the morning.

I checked with information when I arrived and the options were a taxi for $100 usd or the subway for $7cdn (600 yen). I decided on the subway. I missed the train I was supposed to take even though it was there when I got down the stairs. I was reluctant to just jump on without sizing things up a bit. A nice lady who did not speak English managed to help me find the next train 18 minutes later and it worked. If only I followed all the directions, I would have avoided a small detour. When I arrived at my station, I was supposed to take exit A1 but I decided to follow the crowd to A7 (not sure why) which took me outside. When I tried to back track I no longer had a ticket so had to beg forgiveness to the ticket agent. All good…only a 5 minute mistake. When I got out in the right spot, I struggle to read the map to my hotel which is literally 1 minute away but a nice girl did a google search and walked me there. So far, my experience with the locals has been positive.

My hotel is perfect. When researching Japanese hotels I learned that the rooms are very small. This is no exception but I love it. I even have a soft double bed with an origami bird on top. The bathroom is efficient with every toiletry you may need, there is one tap for the sink and shower/egg shaped tub and lots of funky controls for the toilets, including a warm rinse if desired.

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So what are all the firsts? 1. Being in Japan 2. the B787 ( if you are a nerd like me that is exciting) and the one I am most proud of…. 3. I am packed for 2 weeks of business meetings and pleasure in a carry on! Since I have had lost luggage on the last 3 trips, I decided I had enough. Especially in Japan where a size 10 is an XL. So hopefully I survive. I sure didn’t miss the anxious anticipation at the baggage carousel upon arrival. Just walked right on by that sucker. If I didn’t have all my camera gear, it would be easy but I couldn’t be here without my camera. The only drawback was that my small amount of luggage seemed to draw attention to the customs people. My card said 12 days in Japan and they kept asking if this was it. Seemed as unbelievable to them as it does to me so they searched my bags right through asking what everything was.

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I just grabbed a quick bite after getting direction on my map for food. I actually had some Indian chicken tikka for my first Japanese meal. It was easy and I found it which was the only criteria. It was really nice. Had a fine chat with the Nepalese owner. Now it is off to bed. All going well, I will be on a high speed train to Kyoto in the morning.

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Posted by curlygirl 03:55 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo dreamliner Comments (2)

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