Montag, 30. April 2012

April 30 - Tokyo, Matsumoto

Anke's alarm clock rang at 5:30 and she left for the Airport at 5:50. She had to walk about 15 minutes to Ueno Park Station and from there she took the NEX (= Narita Express) to the Airport (the day before she had already bought the ticket). I was a little bit sad when she left because we had a really good time together and this "saying goodbye thing" I don't like at all.
So I used the opportunity to talk with Christoph via Skype from 6:00 to 6:30 and when I checked my comments on facebook I saw that Naomi had posted me a message: She would pick me up at 10:00 in the lobby of my hostel. (now our travel plans were fixed, she had booked the hotel the night before:-).
After checking my messages I went back to bed again til 08:15 and checked out at 09:45. For breakfast I asked the receptionist about the nearest convenient store. There I bought my breakfast and ate in the common room of the hotel. While I was eating I met two guys from Korea, Klara and her friend and it was pleasant to have company while eating. At 10:30 Naomi picked me up and we were walking to Ueno Station. It was a cloudy day but not to hot and not to cold either, actually we had perfect weather conditions regarding my cold:-) I was still feeling tired and weak but the sore thorat was gone and now I was suffering from a stuffed nose. Nevertheless the "day off" I had taken the day before had helped a lot and I was already feeling much better than the previous day. Naomi had decided that it would be the best for me to spend some time in the nature to recover soon. Our destinations would be Matsumoto, Kamikouchi and the Japanese Alpes and she called our trip "the noodle trip":-), because we were supposed to eat a lot of noodles for which this area is famous for.
At Ueno Station we bought our tickets and took the train at 12:00. On the way to our first destination "Matsumoto" we got off at Kofu for lunch to eat special noodles called "Houtou" over there.

Houtou noodles in Kofu

eating noodles
From 15:24 to 16:30 we continued our journey to Matsumoto and when we arrived we checked-in first (Naomi had booked a hotel very close to the train station) and went for a walk to a shopping street. Fortunately this was a very short shopping street because we had only time to look around from 17:30 to 18:00 because all stores closed at 6 p.m.

Naomi standing in the middle of the shopping street in Matsumoto

well-known products:-)
Matsumoto and Kamikouchi are one of Naomi's favourite places in Japan. Matsumoto is a small city and mainly famous for its black castle. Actually Naomi's plan was to visit the castle in 2 days but because we had some time and were in the mood for another walk we decided to go to the castle and enjoy the outside part only.

Naomi and I in front of the Black Castle "Matsumoto Castle"

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle at night
We stayed there until it was dark and on the way back to our hotel we chose a very good restaurant.

Naomi at the restaurant

me drinking cocktail (alcohol) to get rid of my bacteria
 One of our dishes was beef with different salt from all over the world. You had to dip the beef into the salt and then eat it that way => IT WAS SOOO DELICIOUS!!!!!

the best beef ever!
We were talking about our travel plans and all the places in the world we wanna see in our life and so it happened that we spent almost 2 hours in the restaurant, eating and talking (19:30 to 21:15).
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a convenient store, bought our breakfastthere before we went to bed. It was a very nice evening and even though we were already lying in the bed we kept talking til 1:00.
This night I had a really good and deep sleep!

Sonntag, 29. April 2012

April 29 - Tokyo

When I got up at 8 a.m. I was feeling really sick and tired. I had hardly slept the night before because of my sore throat. It was a pity because it was Anke's last day in Japan (the next morning she would leave very early) and this day was warm and sunny and actually it had been the best day - regarding the weather - since her arrival.
But some things can't be changed and so I only had two options that morning: either spending another day in the kitchen or lobby of that terrible youth hostel and pay money for staying after the check-out time or moving to the new hostel and staying in the lobby overthere until check-in time. I decided to go for the 2nd choice and therefor Anke and I moved after shower and breakfast to the next hostel at around 11 a.m. At 11:40 we reached the Oak Hostel and I was really exhausted and was feeling very weak at that time. We paid and Anke went out for sightseeing on her own. Later on she told me that she had visited Ueno Park again and in addition to the park she also went into the Science Museum. I was staying in the lobby of the Oak Hostel and because they had wifi I could use my tablet and so I was killing the time with emailing. The receptionist was very kind and as soon as our room was ready I was allowed to check-in at 12:30 (even though the official check-in time was around 15:00). Our room was very small, but clean and we had our own bathroom. It was a Japanese-style room with tatami mats again and the futon bed Anke and I had to share wasn't wider than 1.20 m. I went to bed but couldn't really sleep. So I spent the day with dozing and surfing the internet.
When Anke returned at around 18:00 she had brought Sushi with her and we had dinner in the room. After eating and talking Anke started packing for her trip home the next morning and because she had some space in her bags left I could give her some of my clothes, I hadn't used so far and wouldn't use anymore during that trip, and souvenirs she would take with her. Then I talked with Christoph via Skype while Anke was taking a shower. Before we went out Anke did me a great favour and cut my hair. It had been growing too long meanwhile and I hated it to have no clear look through my eyes anymore. Anke who had already cut the hair of her daughter several times did a really good job! Thank you again! (It must have been a funny image,the 2 of us sitting on the tatami mats, Anke cutting my hair and I was holding my head over a garbage bin to clean up immediately:-) )

At that time I wasn't sure whether I was able to join Naomi the next day or not. We were still writing comments via facebook and I wrote her, that I would go out with Anke for dinner and a walk and if I could manage this I would join her the next day.
So Anke and I went out and Anke chose the restaurant where we had rice, Tempura and Miso soup. The lady who served us in the restaurant could'nt speak english at all so I had to go out with her and show her the meal we wanted to order in the display case in front of the restaurant:-)

After or while we were eating there was another earthquake at around 20:30 but neither Anke nor I recognized this (Naomi told me later on and asked how it was for us...) The only explanation I had was that we were eating and walking along a subway bridge. Frequent trains using that bridge cwere causing a certain shaking of the ground too, so I assume that there was a train passing when the earthquake (a very short one) took place.

After dinner we were walking around and talking about work and I realized that I had got used to walking and moving every day so much, that I almost missed something if I didn't move at all:-) => good sign!!!

I decided to write Naomi that I was going to join her.
At 23:00 we went to bed but this night it was too hot and the mattress not wide enough: turning around without disturbing the other one was almost not possible:-)

Samstag, 28. April 2012

April 28 - Tokyo, Kamakura, Yokohama

That day we were lucky. It had stopped raining and it was a sunny day, sometimes cloudy, but only a little bit.
Anke and I got up at 8 a.m. and had breakfast in the kitchen of the hostel again. We were supposed to meet my Japanese friend Naomi at 10 a.m. but in the end we managed to meet at 11 a.m. in front of the Asakusa Gate (Naomi lives near that area and so she offered us to spend the day with her). I had chosen to visit Kamakura, because I really liked that place when I visited Japan in 2006 and I wanted to show Anke the Great Buddha Statue.

on the way to the meeting point:
view from the blue bridge to the Sky Tree (the newly build tower in Tokyo) and the Asahi Flame Building
After introducing Anke and Naomi to each other Naomi was guiding us to Kamakura and she told me the last time she had visited that place was together with me in 2006.

Kamakura is a city located in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, about 50 kilometres south-south-west of Tokyo. Kamakura has a beach which, in combination with its temples and proximity to Tokyo, makes it a popular tourist destination.

We took the train from Tokyo to Kamakura and arrived at about 13:00. The first important thing we did was eating lunch (Soba noodles and Tempura for me:-) and then we were walking to the main Shrine, called "Tsurugaoka-Hachimangu Shrine". We were lucky because we could witness a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony when we arrived there.

entrance to the main Shrine

entrance to the main Shrine
wedding ceremony

main Shrine: Tsurugaoka-Hachimangu Shrine

Naomi on the way up to the main Shrine

view from main Shrine

Anke and I in front of a small Shrine close to the main Shrine

Anke and Naomi
From that place we walked to the Great Buddha Statue (= Kosoku Temple) and also went into the Buddha Statue

walking from the Shrine to the Great Buddha Statue
walking to the Great Buddha Statue
Great Buddha Statue

Great Buddha Statue
Great Buddha Statue from behind

inside the Statue

same information about the Statue
From that place we continued our way to the beach

some sweets in between the main meals:-)
kind of pancake filled with ice cream and red beans
on the beach

tsunami warning sign in front of the beach
While Anke was collecting empty shells on the beach, Naomi and I talked about our common travel plans from April 30 to May 2nd.

From the beach we took a train back to Kamakura Station and from there a train in direction of Tokyo. On the way back we got off at Yokohama (a city between Tokyo and Kamakura) to walk around a little bit and eat dinner over there.

At that time there was an "Oktoberfest" in Yokohama and you could see advertisment everywhere. But Anke didn't wanna go there, the one week she spent in Japan should be reserved for real Japanese stuff and not something imported from abroad:-)

highrisers and amusement back in Yokohama
We chose a restaurant and I experienced my first "Shabu-Shabu". It is called like this because you have to toss the thin-sliced pieces of meat in the boiling sauce in a pot on the table in front of you (and this tossing is called Shabu Shabu). Needless to say that it tasted very delicious:-)

Naomi and I
on the left side one can see vegetables and sliced meat that will all be cooked in a pot with boiling "water" standing in the middle of the table

Anke enjoying green tea ice
When we took the train home I already recognized that I was about to have a cold. I had been a sore throat for some time but occasionally I took a pill and it was better afterwards. But this time neither a pill nor my "throat spray" helped:-(
When we were back at the YH (= youth hostel) we first had to search the internet for an accomodation for the next night. Our hostel was already overbooked at that time and because I had mistakenly thought that Anke would leave Japan on April 29 I had only made a reservation in that hostel til April 29 and not til April 30.
So we were searching the internet and found another accomodation not that far from our current one. We booked and finally went to bed at 00:30.

Freitag, 27. April 2012

April 27 - Tokyo

Anke and I got up at 9 a.m., took a shower and were not really satisfied with the hostel, that actually had been awarded some years ago. We were on the top floor (3rd floor) but there were only showers on the 2nd and 1st floor (only 3 showers per floor). There also were 2 toilets on each floor, but the toilets didn't have a sink, so after using the toilet on our floor we always had to goone floor down and wash our hands there. This time the bathrooms were for men and women (but you could lock the door when you were in the shower). According to this the showers as well as the sinks were really dirty... And additionally every time I was in the bathroom there was somebody standing next me who was having a cold and blowing his or her nose into the sink...
Anyway.... After taking a shower we went to the closest Lawson to buy our breakfast and it took us some time to find something because it was a small store and it was difficult to find something we knew at least halfway how to prepare:-) I bought 2 types of noodles (one instant and one already prepared) and when we returned to the hostel I asked the receptionist how to cook and prepare respectively.

At 12:00 Anke and I started our sightseeing tour even though it was supposed to rain all day long.
Our hostel was close to Asakusa, and there we spent the following 3 hours with shopping and looking around at the sales stalls and visiting the temple that belonged to that area as well.

Asakusa is the center of Tokyo's shitamachi (literally "low city"), one of Tokyo's districts, where an atmosphere of the Tokyo of past decades survives.
Asakusa's main attraction is Sensoji a very popular Buddhist temple, built in the 7th century. The temple is approached via the Nakamise, a shopping street that has been providing temple visitors with a variety of traditional, local snacks and tourist souvenirs for centuries.

typical composition of crosswalks in Tokyo
Kaminarimon Gate

shopping street between Kaminarimon Gate and Sensoji Temple

sales stalls
Anke shopping

eating potatoe ice cream:-)
nice shoes, right?:-)

Gate to Sensoji Temple
Anke and I
5-story pagoda

5-story pagoda
Sensoji Temple

inside the temple
 Hi Ramona, how do you like that pink Fiat?:-)
in the neighbourhood of Asakusa

Actually the picutres of Asakusa I took in 2006 were much better because the sun was shining and less umbreallas were seen. I was thinking about replacing some of those pictures by my old one's but I decided: no palliation!

From Asakusa we took the subway to Akihabara, a shopping paradise for electronic, PC, anime etc.
First Anke discovered some small bike-lights for her kids (again nice shopping for her:-) and then we spent some time in 8-story building (unfortunately it wasn't allowed to take any pictures inside) where we were wondering what people spent their money for: f.e. fancy "dolls" that could be dressed in whatever taste you have and on the 1st floor we were wondering if we just missed a sign saying "men only". There were lots of business men after work, looking for toys, mainly small female dolls posing and dressed very sexy....

Anke at Akihabara

the implied 8-story building

view from the building

view from the building
Even though it was still raining Anke and I decided to end the day with a walk in the Ueno Park. The two of us needed "something green and quiet" after all the impressions of a big city.

monument of Saigo Takamori
Shinobazu Pond in the rain and half-light

Shinobazu Pond in the rain and half-light
From Ueno park at around 18:15 we started looking for a restaurant. Both of us were really tired after a that long sightseeing day. Walking in a big city always makes me very tired, so my feet were aching and Anke's back...
After a while we found a Japanese-style restaurant, so it was Anke's first time to sit on the tatami-mat floor and having a meal while sitting on her heels (in Japan men have to sit cross-legged and women have to sit on their heels). They served special rice and we were enjoying our break from 18:30 to 19:30.

Anke's first time in a Japanese-style restaurant

our dish
From the restaurant we went back to our Youth Hostel and I already went to bed at 22:00.
But before we could fall asleep we were disturbed by our neighbours' alarm clock, that was ringing constantly (the walls of that hostel were thin like paper and we could hear everything that happend in the next rooms...) Our neighbours weren't in their room and so my knocking on the wall was without any success. After a while I was so pissed off that I went down to the receptionist (luckily she was still there) and she went up with me, opened the door of our neighbours' room with a 2nd key and turned down the volume of the mobile phone). After that I could sleep ver well:-)