Japan 2017

Japan Oct 19

Arrived quite late on Jetair from Taipei to Osaka. Didn’t realize that Japan is an hour ahead had booked a capsule hotel, which is something I have read about and wanted to try, it is a very Japanese concept. The subway stations are enormous and woe if you use the wrong exit, which I did. It took me a little while to find the hotel which is smack in the middle of Dotonbori, Osaka’s version of Times Square.

Reception is on the fifth floor, which is also the women’s floor. I check in and receive a key to my locker which has the same number as my pod. A bottle of water, some apple jelly and a choice of a gift. I selected an item for sore feet. After check in  you remove your shoes and take a pair of slippers, this is a locked cubby. The locker key unlocks the door to the locker room and pod section. There is space for your suitcase with another lock provided. In my locker there is a bag with pajamas, towels and toothbrush. I put my hand luggage in and go to check out the rest. If you can imagine a wide corridor with black curtains half way down openings two high, on the unoccupied pods. I am gratefully in a lower one. All the pods have a TV, USB outlets, alarm clock and climate control. There is a pillow and a comforter on the mattress which is probably closer to a double. The ceiling is high enough that I can sit comfortably and type this.

The bathroom which consist of these miraculous Toto toilets that does everything except dress you. Showers and more lotions and hair preparations than you can imagine for the women to use. There is also a separate room to sit and apply make up. All very impressive even if I would not want to make a habit of staying in Pod Hotels.

Am very tired and go out for a bite to eat at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. Some of it very good some not so great but the bill was $13 not much point in complaining about that. Time to go to bed and I ended up having the best uninterrupted sleep so far on this trip.

October 20
People make bucket lists, I never really have, except I wanted to go to the Osaka Aquarium, see the castle and sleep in a capsule hotel. Managed to do all three here, I bought a pass that gave me free entry to the aquarium as well as unlimited subway and bus rides for the day. The Aquarium is totally amazing with tanks from all the major oceans. One starts on the top floor and walk down, the visibility is extraordinary because it is acrylic instead of glass all the fish are very clearly visible. The main tank can be seen on all floors, and one sees which fish live on each level of the ocean. It is one of the largest aquariums in the world with 29.000 animals and 470 species. It was truly an exhilarating experience being so close to the fish as well as penguins. Had no idea that there were so many kinds of jelly fish in the world, did not find out though what their functions is.

Then it was off to Osaka Castle which I decided to see from the outside, paid my entrance fee to Nishinomaru garden which was not much to see except a large lawn, but it did give me some wonderful photos of the castle. I did try to fit in one more sight before it was time to call it a day but it was just too far. Clocked in almost 5 miles but I am sure that at least 2 miles were purely walking the subway stations. The distances are enormous the stations even more so and you just walk and walk to reach the exit.

It so happened that my neighbor across from my pod is from Taiwan, more exact Hualien which is where I am going on my return to Taiwan. We agreed to Facebook, what on earth did we ever do before internet, social media and smart phones? She is it turns out very active, but it is all in Chinese and Google is not a good translator.

Leave for Kyoto tomorrow morning.

Oct 21

They say you should be careful what you wish for. I was longing for some down time after some rather intense walking in Osaka. Typhoon is hitting Kyoto and the parade I was looking forward to tomorrow has been cancelled. It is raining cats and dogs and not pleasant to go out. This was one of the places where I had very carefully planned what to do each day and don’t really have a backup plan. Will figure it out by the time tomorrow comes.

Rain and more rain. The parade was cancelled, went to a shrine which was supposed to have a handicraft market still functioning despite the rain. Well it wasn’t happening, instead I got to see a bridal couple in very traditional costumes. The headdress alone was spectacular, a really beautiful couple. I am wet and cold and go to the cafĂ© by the entrance for some tea and soba noodles. While I am sitting there in walks an American woman with her Japanese son. It turns out that she has lived here for 40 years and teaches English at the University. Before I know it she has invited me back to their apartment and to go grocery shopping with them. It sounded more interesting than the piano concert I had planned on attending, in hindsight am not so sure.

Had been told that the typhoon was about to hit at 7 pm that night so I made sure to return to my BnB in plenty of time. It is a very lovely place somewhere in between a hostel and a BnB. The owner had arranged for calligraphy lessons and a tea making ceremony to keep us amused. We could hear the rain pelting down but that was all. I heard that the noise from the wind had been bad, fortunately escaped it all.

The next day planned to go to Hikone to see the castle except the trains were not running sat for over an hour on a train that wasn’t moving. Went to plan B or was it C and went to Arashiyama there was a temple garden I missed last year and it has gnawed on me ever since. Also had a reservation at Tempura Matsu at 5.30. for my 10 or was it 11 course meal? It was just as sensational as everything I had read and heard about it. The Chilled sake came in a hollowed out bamboo stem. Each course was more appealing than the next and best of all the atmosphere was very relaxed and friendly. The restaurant is a family affair, the parents and sister were all working and being very friendly. What a lovely ending to a somewhat chaotic day.

Finally there was sunshine and I got to Hikone, and despite a map and instructions I managed to get lost on my way to the castle. This was most fortuitous because I passed by a kitchenware/hardware store that had wooden bento boxes displayed. I remembered the request to bring back a Bonito shaver for a friend, after many explanations they produced the item. The goodbyes were lengthy and after taking the obligatory photos I was gifted a keychain with a bell. As I continued on the same street I passed a private home that was a combination of old and what resembled a clapboard extension You could sense that behind the fence was a Japanese garden. The owners were parking their car, I asked about the extension and was invited in to see the garden. It was magnificent, on a level with any temple garden. The garden and house were 90 years old the extension was built in 1932.

What a lovely beginning to my day. Finally made it to the castle which was high up on a hill, there were steps made of stones and more stones and when I finally thought I had arrived the were more steps. It made the Great Wall of China look like child’s play and I thought that was hard to walk with all the uneven stones.  The worst part was seeing elderly Japanese running up those steps as I labored very hard. The castle is small and very lovely it is one of the few original ones that have survived fires and earthquakes. Left with aching legs and feet but my back is good.

Kyoto continued

Another day of sunshine and the tourist gods seem to still be with me. Had wanted to see the Katsura Imperial Palace, and somehow been misinformed that it did not require reservations. It does, and it was fully booked, but if you arrive at 11 am there are a few same day tickets available. Took a train and a bus using my ICOCA card. This is a prepaid charge card that can be used for transportation and in stores all over Japan. The palace is located outside the local bus company’s rid, so my day pass was not valid. Arrive at 11 am sharp and get a pass for the 3.30 pm tour.

Decide to spend the time seeing the Silver Pavilion which required another long walk to get to. What a beautiful sight, it was originally built in the 1480’s for the shogun and then converted to a Zen temple. The grounds are beautiful and there is a walk up the mountain which looked very appealing but my legs were still protesting yesterday’s outing. This also precluded walking the Philosophers path which I had wanted to do.

Back to the Imperial Palace, again magnificent gardens and an instructive audio guide. Towards the end of the tour I met a Japanese girl who lives in L.A. and we decided to head back to Kyoto together. She wanted to see a goldfish exhibit at Ninja-ji castle, I had no interest. Then she shows me the flyer it is Artaquarium opening that day. I had read about this rather bizarre pop art exhibit. Over 5000 goldfish are displayed in different kinds of aquariums which are lit up in various neon lights. Agreed that this could be fun, we arrive at the castle but the tickets are not available at the venue, you have to go to a convenience store.

I see there is a press gathering and as a lark I say, I write a blog does that qualify and hand my business card to the person in charge and then I say New York. Well, we get two press passes and get to partake of the inauguration which was quite spectacular. We are sitting by the mayor of Kyoto and other dignitaries, listening to speeches, the only one I understood was the Italian ambassador’s. After the ribbon cutting ceremony which was attended by all the bigwigs in white gloves and ribboned scissors there was a Geisha performance. The Geisha and a Maiko, a geisha in training, perform several dances accompanied by a woman playing a stringed instrument and singing. What a treat this was before we enter the actual exhibit space. There are lit tanks in all colours, shapes and sizes spread out over a quite large area and there is a free sake bar. The evening has gotten quite cool the warm sake mixed with dashi tasted delicious, of course we had to have several glasses to warm up. After having chatted with Hidetodo Kimura the creator and some of his friends we left. Hunger has set in a serious way. We end up at an Izekaya, a place to eat small dishes and drink. There is an older man well into his cups but very jolly who insists on pouring beer for us. Then a lively discussion takes place about the Yankees loss and the Dodgers. The owner produces a paper to show me pictures, of course I am not understanding the finer points of the conversation but I got the gist. Baseball is serious business in Japan. Time to head home and get ready for tomorrow and Naoshima.

October 26


On my way from Kyoto stopped at Okayama to see the famous Korakuen garden, considered to be one of the 3 great gardens of Japan. Left my luggage at the station, where I also managed to have my first vending machine ticket for Ramen. Am not sure how the garden earned that distinction unless I didn’t really appreciate it. The distinction may come from the fact that it was established in 1684 it seemed to consist mainly of lawns with some trees in the periphery, perhaps I missed the important parts.

On to catch the train to Uno where I was to get the ferry for Honmura on the eastern part of Naoshima. It said that my guesthouse was just over 1km from the harbor. What was not mentioned were the hills, fortunately, I managed to get a lift with another couple whose landlord picked them up. My accommodation was an entire apartment with kitchen and washing machine for approx. $60 per night. What I love about Japan amongst other things are the wonderful comforters, Episode 1 did not disappoint.

Next morning brilliant sunshine and it was time to hit the museums. There ae 3 museums on the island that can be reached by free shuttle bus. The regular bus drops you off where the shuttle picks up. It all seems great until you realize that the buses only run sporadically. This became even more apparent after the night show of James Turell’s “Open sky” which ends at 6 pm, my taxi cost $16. 

I started at Benesse house which was I thought had very interesting art. What stands out in particular was an installation of flags that were ant farms and 3 wooden figures saying chatter, chatter continuously. There was nude by one of my favorite artists Yves Klein and so much more. Then I went on to Lee Ufan museum who is a Korean artist that left me cold and finally Chichu art museum that exhibits only 3 artists. Monet, James Turell and Walter de Maria. The museum is designed by Ando Tadao and mainly underground. It was a wonderful experience.

Had heard about the “Open Sky” which only takes place on weekends, I managed to get a reservation for that Saturday from NYC, when I arrived I asked if there were any cancellations for that night, since rain was predicted for Saturday. Yes they had a ticket which I grabbed immediately. It is now 2.30 and I have done the museums and return to the ticket office and bus station. There are no buses that will work for me to return by 5pm for the show. The manager gives me dispensation to return to the museum, but the hill up is a long climb for me, especially since I still have to return to the ticket office and walk it again. Decide to stay put, which was fortunate since I met two delightful young Swedish men. One is an artist and the other a journalist and we had some time to hang out together.

My problem with Naoshima is that I don’t ride a bike which it appeared that most people did which gave a greater freedom. The next day it rained, not a gentle sweet rain, but a relentless gray constant downpour. I started to walk towards Honmura to see the Art Project when my land lord rescued me with his car. Dutifully bought the ticket to see the 6 buildings, managed one which was again an Ando designed building and a James Turell art work. For me it was not a pleasant experience, you ae in a totally dark room and then asked to walk towards a lit rectangle. I was very afraid of stumbling and falling since there was nothing to hold on to, of course it was fine.  

Leave with the map in my hand and now it is pouring, I have had it and catch the bus to go back and get my luggage. My land lord is very kind and drives me to the other port so I can catch the ferry to Takamatsu.

October 28

Left Naoshima in pouring rain and it continued the next day in Takamatsu. Am staying at a Dormy Inn with a fake onsen. Fake or not it is delicious to lie in the warm water under a soggy sky. I realized that my body needed to take it easier than I had anticipated, canceled my reservations in Tokushima added on a night here and another in Matsuyama. Felt good about that, took my sweet time getting ready since it was raining and plans were sketchy after the art museum.

My hotel is in a very good location, situated between two shopping arcades, the one on the left which was on the way to the museum was bedlam. It hosted a Halloween celebration through the entire arcade. The children were in costumes, the parents were in costumes the traffic directors were in costumes one could not help but smile. I was told this is a fairly recent event, people had to sign up by September 28 to obtain coupons to be exchanged for candy and other treats. Commercial or not it was a joyous beginning to my day.

It just got better, The Takamatsu Art Museum had a special exhibit called Materials That Tell Stories,

Do not consider myself an art connoisseur by any means, this exhibit blew my mind. There were 6 artists and all but one totally touched me in different ways. The talents and creativity were amazing. One artist had used plastic clothespins to create sculptures and designs. He had used 80.000 pins because there are 80.000 children in this prefecture. Managed to catch a docent who had just finished her talk and got a kind soul to translate. Had lunch at the museum, which is in itself a beautiful very modern building. It is still raining as I leave but it was tolerable so I decided to go to Ritsurin Garden. Despite the weather it was still a great experience. In my opinion this is one of the most magnificent gardens in Japan.

Actually it is more of a park. Met a group of elderly women who were on a guided tour, one of them assisted me across some slippery stones and that was enough for us to bond. Unfortunately, the language barrier was too great, that is until we left the garden and two of the women exited and couldn’t figure out how to get back in, when I left I saw a gate that opened so you could get back in, the laughs could be heard for blocks. I find that the Japanese have such a capacity for joy. The rain made a final appearance by emptying all the clouds at once, before it decided to call it quits.

Today sunshine but cold winds, had read about this open air museum , Shikoku-Mora, of old farm houses and fishermen’s cottages. Why does everything have to be built on top of hills? Managed to climb up but avoided crossing the vine bridge, Many of the paths were closed as were most of the buildings, am sure it is very interesting when that is not the case. I really liked Takamatsu, it seems to be a city that slowly unfolds itself, could have stayed longer, to explore the outer islands would be nice. 

Returned to the hotel for a nap and to repack as I move on tomorrow for Matsuyama.

November 1

The largest city on Shikoku island with a population of approx. 600.000. There might be a lot to see and do but I only found a few things. What I found was a very modern city with quaint streetcars. The second day I bought a day pass from the driver, there is only one car, when I got off he inspected the pass as if he had never seen it to make sure that the Year, Month and Day that he had scratched off were in fact correct.

The ride on the JR line coming from Takamatsu was very pleasant, basically running along the shore line of the Inland Sea with the mountains on the other side. What always amazes me is the farmland that often seems to be between houses. Of course on this stretch there are a lot of rice fields and other crops, but it is the small plantings that amaze. In Kyoto all of a sudden you see farm land in the city. The other thing that really amazes me is how house owners with no front yard create an entire garden by planting in pots. This is all over the country, and I think it is fantastic. A bit scary when the typhoon hits and they start blowing around, the next day however it is all fixed.

Arrived around 2 pm and was prepared to take a taxi, the tourist office said no a street car is fine it’s number 5. Great am all for public transport, except in this case you had to reach the tram stop with an underpass, stairs u and down. I made it but did not have a good time trying. Have no idea what got into me when I packed but it is heavy.

The hotel is off another shopping arcade, I had great directions, but when older Japanese men see me they have to take over. This little man had his phone out and insisted I follow him, I did dragging my luggage. We passed the hotel, went around the block and then triumphantly he showed me the entrance. Have been very fortunate this trip that the places I picked are close to transportation, this hotel even has a real Onsen. Today a man decided to take me by the elbow to show me where to go, and then he asked the people on line to assist me. It’s sweet and funny and fortunately a daily occurrence.

Checked in and then I went to see Matsuyama castle, it’s another very old castle, and it has a cable car to reach the lower entrance. The castle is beautiful and I now appreciate more of the history after seeing and reading about the different fiefdoms.

Went for dinner to a sushi restaurant, wanted to treat myself, it’s very hard to spend a lot of money unless you go to a really fancy place. Though food is my profession I find it difficult to differentiate, unless it is spectacular, between good and better.

Next morning, got an early start and went to Mitsu the original port and fishing village of Matsuyama. Asked the receptionist how to get to the station and she tells me I have to walk, no buses. Stupid me did not ask about the tram, which of course I could have taken.  

I don’t care what the guide books say, don’t bother. It was very funny when I arrived I showed the bus driver the Matsuyama official guide and asked where this old quarter was. He had no idea, until he decided that I should walk down a street, which I did. That’s how I discovered that there are probably 3 old houses. The weather was glorious and I enjoyed my 2 mile walk to nowhere.

Got back to Matsuyama and decided to go to Dogo Onsen which is a tram ride away. It is quite cute and not to be missed is the Botchan Karakuri Clock which on the hour has figures moving and the whole clock comes alive. Walked around and had a most reasonably priced and delicious lunch at Oidenka whose English menu is on a tablet, that you order from. 

The whole time I have been here have only seen 5 non orientals. 3 who were doing a pilgrimage and a couple arriving to the Onsen today. There is very little written in English and very few people speak it. At my hotel the receptionist smiles nicely when I ask what does the sign for The Realization Machine in the elevator mean. She doesn’t have a clue even when I point out the Japanese name she still has no idea, So I still don’t know, was hoping for some kind of enlightenment or something. 

Nov 2


As I leave the hotel I take a picture of the Japanese name for realization machine, but it did not take, my phone camera does not always cooperate. I had asked a gentleman who said it had to do with money, but it was not an ATM. 

Flew Japan Airlines from Matsuyama to Fukuoka, probably the most uncomfortable seats ever, fortunately it was a short flight. From the airport to the AirBnB it was a fairly short ride by subway.

Shortly after my arrival this tall guy walks in, he was the other guest.  I ask him where he is from and he says Sweden, I answer in Swedish, he doesn’t listen to what I said it so he repeats what he said and finally the penny drops. It turns out that he grew up 1 ½ blocks from where I grew up in Stockholm. Though the age difference is probably 55 years we had such similar memories. It was very nice, he is teaching English in Soeul and hopefully we will hook up this weekend.

Am trying to finally keep to my schedule yesterday was the festival in Karatsu which I attended. There were 6 floats which were made in the late 1800’s though the festival is from the 1600’s. Managed to get to where the floats started and also acquired a five minute boyfriend. There were so many photos taken of us and the merriment was high. Walked along the parade route and then lost them. Did catch up eventually but the crowds were enormous so I sat down at a stand for a bite and something to drink. It may be a historic festival, but food and drinks are what its all about as far as I can tell. A few carnival like games for children e.g. fishing for Goldfish.

As I am sitting there two women join my table, one of them speaks fairly good English, so she strikes up a conversation, the next thing I know we are progressing together. She informs me that they like to drink, am unable to deny a proclivity, so she steers us to a miniature beer garden where we each have a beer and they get something to eat. I am more than ready to leave, the crowd is enormous and my hips are bothering me, so they kindly take me to the station while they continue partying.

Get home to rest for a bit and do laundry, time to head out again and I search for a Yatai which is a small food cart with seating. It exists as far as I know only n Fukuoka. I went to the closest area which is Tenjin and sat down. Ordered Ramen and a beer, next thing this couple sits down next to me, they are from near Kyoto, as far as I can understand. Before the evening was over I now have a standing invitation to come visit. How can you not love a country where things like this happens?

Get up early next morning to go to Saga for the balloon festival, get there, and it is cancelled too windy. This explains the long line of people waiting for the return train. I walk around the fairgrounds because that is exactly what it looks like. More food than you can possibly eat, carnival games, and more food. I decide to go to Huis ten Bosch, because that is where the train says its going, it’s a Dutch themed park and where else am I going? The train stops at Arita, known for its porcelain, perfect, it was on my list of to dos so jump off. It’s Saturday and most places are closed I walk on and encounter a photographer, who is catching a photo of a rare train. He ends up driving me to the porcelain shopping mall, which is overwhelming. It didn’t seem very far from the station, but it was. When I asked which direction to walk another kindly soul drove me and my purchases there.

Somebody asked me if I don’t get lonely during the day, and honestly no. I seem to encounter people all the time who want to use their English. Coming back on the train there was a family and the wife wanted to know where I was staying, then she proceeded to tell me what to see and where to go. Which is not to say that there have been a few down moments, actually only one that I can think of now. Time for bed as tomorrow is a toss up do I go to the LBGT parade or Yanagawa or the Japanese garden. So many choices, fortunately have a few more days before Nagasaki.

There were a few responses to my question and they were overwhelmingly for the LGBT parade.

Fortunately I didn’t pay attention but went to see Nanzoin Temple. This was another place with lots of stairs, unfortunately they didn’t lead anywhere, I kept on going up and up and a dead end. Down I went and tried another set of stairs same result. I was sorry I did not get to see the temple, but I got tired, the Buddha I had seen the original in Myanmar so didn’t care. Eventually I gave up and returned to the station, as I was about to cross the street this elderly woman was all atwitter, grabbed my arm and kept on pointing. I know that this is not what she said but to my untrained ears it sounded like “Korean shrine” all of a sudden these Sumo wrestlers appear. No wonder she was excited, one of them was Hakuho probably one of the greatest Sumo Wrestlers in recent times. I did get two great pictures and he shook my hand. Actually he shook everybody’s hand and it was exciting, especially to see the hero worship that people bestowed on him. We were only a handful there. 

Got back to town in time for the parade, which had left as I arrived I saw the rear of it, but it was returning so I didn’t care. I think my friends and I had expected something like New York, but on a smaller scale. That was not the case, this was more like a community street fair in a park, with a somewhat gay theme. The 4 drag queens that were present all had their picture taken with me.

They were all gorgeous and obviously had made an effort, there was a 6 foot+  Texas boy who had a show that he handed out flyers to, but I wasn’t interested. Had ordered a dish of fried chicken, which wasn’t quite ready, so I decided to walk around, one of the workers made a point of getting me so I could claim my meal. It was all very sweet. However not the photo-op that had been expected. 

I had quite a long conversation with a woman who represented a group called Rainbow Cookies,

She said that there has been some progress, the mayor had cut a ribbon the night before and acknowledged the parade. It was also listed in the Tourist guide what to do in Fukuoka.

The next day I went to Yanagawa which is famous for its canals , and the ole driven canal boats.

I had bought my train ticket, canal drive and eventually lunch separately, however there is a combination ticket which is sold at Tenjin station for about $50 which would have saved me $5.

Actually Tenjin and Hakata stations have several deals that if you live by another station you are unable to avail yourself of. A one day unlimited subway ticket is 620yen for another 100 yen at those stations you get a two day unlimited pass.  

Back to Yanagawa, the 1-hour canal ride was lovely, the boatman kept up a running commentary in Japanese and whenever we went under a bridge he sang songs, while we were doubled over so as not to hit our heads. As usual my travel karma was with me and my companions were a family from Hong Kong. The sister who was about my age lived there but her brother and sister-in-law lived in Toronto. We ended up going to the famous eel restaurant, which they had coupons for, and I paid about $35 with a beer. Am not so sure that I thought the secret sauce for the eel was worth the secret. I have had better and tastier, then again who am I to argue with success. The restaurant is enormous,  I would say several hundred seats spread out over a few buildings. It was a very nice experience all the same.

Despite the fact that I had 6 nights in a great AirBnB there are so many places I did not get to go to.

Really liked Fukuoka or Koka as the natives call it. My last lunch was at Chikae, a landmark with large pools containing fish centered around the diners. It was a very good meal and an interesting introduction to Alaskan Pollock spicy roe to eat with your rice.

Nov 9

It was with mixed feelings that I left Fukuoka for Nagasaki. I really liked the city and there were so many things left unseen and undone. However before I caught the train, I went to the Hokkaido festival at Hakata Hankyu. This is something unique to Japan I believe, the food department within a department store sponsors a region. Last year it was Kyushu in Takashimaya in Tokyo. Different vendors give you small tastes and then you can purchase the items. A dining area is set up with the regions specialties. I bought a bento box with crab meat, sea urchin and salmon roe to eat on the train. The train ride despite the rain and grayness was spectacular, it goes past villages that look as stage settings and then the sea, these views continued until we were almost in Nagasaki and when it became industrial and ugly.

My hotel is literally across the street from the station, except in order to cross the street you have to climb stairs, and then descend stairs. Fortunately there were elevators, but not for reaching the street cars.  Am staying at APA hotel because I have to leave at 6.30 am on the 13th and didn’t want to have to travel far. As it happens it is next door to the long distance bus terminal, bought my ticket today, it takes me straight to the international terminal at Fukuoka airport at half the price of a train ticket.  

Didn’t do much on my first afternoon, except went to Chinatown which was inundated with Chinese and Korean tourists I was really tired and went back to the hotel. Am also suffering from a strange foot condition that kept on waking me during the night. First time on this trip I slept until 11.30 am, guess I needed it. Eventually got going and decided to visit the Cathedral and Glover garden and residence. It is a park built for Thomas Blake Glover, a Scottish merchant who contributed to the modernization of modernization of Japan in shipbuilding, coal mining, and other fields. The access to Glover Gardens was most civilized, escalators, and rolling walkways to take you to the top. It was a lovely visit with fantastic views of the harbour and a delightful walk down.

The day was sunny with clear skies it seemed a good idea to go to Mt. Inasa for the sunset and night view of Nagasaki.PR is a wonderful thing, this night view is supposed to be amongst the 3 best in the world together with Hong Kong and Monaco. It was very nice, but so are most cities viewed from high up and lit up at night. To get there was an ordeal, first we, a young German man and I, could not get off the tram in time at our stop. He decided to walk back I to take the next tram. When I got off at the correct stop there are no signs, I ask somebody who says to take the bus and points to a bus that has arrived I get on, it turns out to be completely wrong information, return to the starting point and meet some Dutch people who lead me right. It is a very, very long walk to get to the cable car as well as an uphill climb by now the the sun has set and the lights are on. It is quite a spectacular view, my German friend is on the top tier taking pictures. We end up having dinner at the restaurant. It is amazing how reasonable food is in places that normally would be considered tourist traps. My dinner of Champon, a local specialty, was 1050 yen, approx. $10. The same at the airport, food prices were normal as was the cost of water. Actually I forgot that I had water in my bag going through security, all they did was put the bottle in a tester to make sure it was water, and let me through 

My knees and legs are protesting the previous nights excursions even the back is starting to make itself felt. Went to what used to be an island called Dejima, which was created to intern the Portugese to prevent Christianity to grow. The visit was very interesting, but have not been able to figure out why it was called a factory. Am still trying to get my head around Nagasaki and the Western influence during the Edo period when Japan was shut off from the rest of the world. The history is very interesting, Christian martyrs, Korean mine workers, Dutch shippers, the only export and import to Japan basically only in Nagasaki. After a visit to a market street, and making full use of my unlimited tram pass by going in the wrong direction, and getting off at the wrong spot it was time to call it a day before the rain hit. 

A few thoughts, renting of costumes is very popular, in Kyoto young girls and boys rent kimonos for the day. Her at Glover garden there are period dresses from the 1800’s that girls were wearing. Toilets with delightful warm seats also have a privacy button that simulates the sound of running water. The Japanese are the most courteous of people until it comes to public transportation. You would think that there will never be another train, bus or tram the way they push Most older people die their hair black, but the quality of the product is so much nicer with no brassy effects. Cheese is expensive and hard to find, yougurt is cheap and plentiful. Fruit is expensive and very limited.

Last year whilst in Japan I lost or at least did not gain weight, that was because I didn’t know how fantastic baked goods is here. This time I am just enjoying what I buy, fortunately did not discover this incredible super market with wonderful baked goods until today. It is one of the largest supermarkets I have seen, only wish I had room to put unknown foods in my suitcase. Also very good prices, I guess that is because Walmart has something to do with it. At least all the cash registers has Walmarts logo!!!!!

What an incredible day this has been, it was much cooler but the sun was shining and the sky was blue. Did a toss-up between Hus Ten Bosch or the Penguin Aquarium, the Penguins won. It started when I was standing by the bus stop and two women approached me to ask here I was going, not only was I at the wrong stop, which was discovered after a phone call, but they would not leave until they saw me safely on the right bus. Even if you don’t care for penguins, the ride is so beautiful going into the mountains where the slopes are covered in bamboo, then descending towards the sea.

There are a total of 18 species of penguins in the world, 9 live at the aquarium. As I am walking around and enjoying the penguins, you can get quite close to them, a woman approaches me and tells me that there will be a behind the scenes tour and to get a ticket. While we are waiting she takes me to a beach area on the bay where there are penguins who we feed Horse Mackerel to, a Japanese variety of fish, which we throw into the water for the penguins to catch. During the tour we  find out that all the fish that is fed to the penguins have had their fins removed, because they could get caught in their throats. What a job to have, they must use thousands of fish a day.

There are 10 people on the tour, which is conducted in Japanese, but I get the gist of some of it. Really wish I had understood what was said. We start out at the pump room which is quite mind boggling, then we go to a room where we see the top of one of the fish tanks. We see shrimp larvae under a microscope and feed the fish in the tank with a mixture of fish and shrimp. The last stop is behind the warm climate penguins, for lack of a better word, plaza. We walk by the penguins that are still out close enough to touch. There are pens for them that they sit in and rest after having been fed in front of people. All the way in the back there are two penguins one is laying on her egg with I assume her mate standing next to her. After the tour, the guide who knows a little English points out two babies. One is 4 months old the other 9 months they have not yet acquired the markings of their parents. This was such an extraordinary experience and apparently very rare that this tour is given. Have a $4 lunch and sit outside when the penguins who live in the bay decide to go for a walk up the beach. The guard goes to stop them, they turn back, except one who cannot decide whether to join his pals or stay on the beach. What a fun, educational and interesting day. Now I am off to search for an Izakaya and try some Japanese whisky.

Japan a wrap.

Am very sad that this is my last day and night in Japan. Spent the morning repacking, and again chastising myself for taking such a small suitcase. No room for gifts or other purchases. Went to have lunch at a department store. It is amazing the amount and variety of restaurants that are on the top floor of each department store. Then went on to a Zen temple, but had no energy for any more sightseeing.

Last night was again one of those serendipitous occurrences. Took myself off to Shanbashi, which according to the web is a neighborhood of debauchery, and only to be briefly visited. However, it is also the area where the Izakayas are to be found. Took a tram and started walking, true it is still early around 8 pm but so far it looks very tame. Walk into a posh bar called The Bardyyyz, only because I followed somebody and it looked so high design, It was, there were 4 bartenders to two guests, supposedly they get busy later. Ordered a blended Whisky which was very good and expensive $18, had sort of suspected this to be the case. My bartender spoke some English, so I asked him for a place to eat.

He first makes a phone call, then walks me personally to a tiny restaurant in a back alley. The place has hundreds of Sakes maybe 8 seats at the counter and a back dining room. I am made to feel very welcome, though the bartender had warned me it was all Japanese speaking, it turns out the several people at the counter spoke English. I had a Sashimi platter preceded by a kelp soup with a quail egg that was spectacularly good. It was served with Sake, which was came in an earthenware pot, whereas the others were served in hand blown glassware from Okinawa, as were the plates and sake glasses. The place is run by a husband wife team, though its tiny they seem to do well. The place is called Kaito, but am unable to read the address in Japanese.

When I leave around 10.30 pm the streets are filled with young people who are out for a night on the town, just as it should be.

Tomorrow, bus to Fukuoka airport, Tiger airlines to Taipei and train to Hualien. It will be a long day with an early start.