Saturday, June 21, 2014

First time everything and things that blew me away!

Day 1:  Fukuoka
MiFi  or individual wifi devices that you take with you.  I've seen them before but my husband has never seen them and was thrilled about them.  I, however, was blown away but how cheap they are in Japan.  $10-20 a MONTH!  What a steal!  Why have an internet router and a phone if you can get that and just use your iPod touch as a phone.

Day 2:  Nagasaki
Let me tell you, there are lots of vending machines in Japan but NONE like this!
As we were walking down the street, something caught my eye about a certain vending machine.  It has something floating inside the bottle and when I looked closer, it was a fish!  I wigged out until I read that it was for dashi or soup base for noodles.  Still pretty weird and when I told a host family about that, they were also shocked at our discovery.

Day 3:  Hiroshima & Osaka
I've NEVER been that close to a deer in my life!  They were cute and docile and I got to take a selfie with it!  Yay!
We also went to an izakaya and had Fugu for the first time!  Yay!

I almost forgot the best story yet!
So we went to Spa World and it was spectacular but the best part was the pool!  I've not been on a waterslide in almost 15 years and my husband found out for the first time I hate rides.  The first one freaked me and and so he said I didn't have to go on the second one if I didn't want to.  WELL, since I was making him spend that evening naked with a bunch of strangers, I figured I can concede to one more ride.  It turned out to be the best thing ever because despite my fear of rides, I felt like I was a part of a comedy because as we were practically hydroplaning down the stupid tube, there was an attendant that was SUPPOSED to stop us.  In fact, he was braced and everything but we were coming down fast....REAL FAST and the look of shock and fear was priceless!  We plowed RIGHT THROUGH him and he went down like a bowling ball pin and our floaty capsized!  It was the funniest thing ever and I couldn't stop laughing and apparently so was everyone else!  In a place that is normally reserved about embarrassing situations, they didn't hold back and their laughter was even more contagious!
I think that was the best memory we've made yet!

Day 4:  Osaka
Met with my friend again and went to an aquarium and saw the deep sea crabs for the first time ever!  They were cool and the fact that they are kept alive in that tank was amazing.
I was also blown away by the sheer size of Osaka Castle because those pictures just don't do it justice!  That building is not only old but it's HUGE!  So are the walls and the planning that went into this structure was definitely awe inspiring even for this day and age.

Day 5: Nara
Ha!  Just Deers!  These deers had NOTHING on the ones in Miyajima Island/Temple.  They are a fixture of Nara but they also rule that area and let you know.  If you feed them, be prepared to defend yourself as they will be pushy, rub their antlers on you and also nip at you.  At times they jumped up on their hind legs if you tried to hold the senbei away from them but these deer don't play that!
...Then again neither do I and a good shove will tell them to Fuck off until I tell them it's okay.
We also talked to some REALLY cute elementary school kids that gave us a short interview for their English class and they were the cutest things ever!

Day 6: Kyoto
Fushimi Inari!  I LOVE that place and it was the only place that had so many Toori and had me enthralled until the very end!
We saw a few really great temples there as well but that place really stuck in my mind.

Day 7: Kyoto & Obama
Chance meet with a good friend from across the world!  Sorta.
Found out she was going to Japan the same time that I was and we could meet up in Kyoto Station to catch up.  Great Coincidence that just happen to have great timing!
My husband mentioned to our host in Obama that he's never seen a monkey outside of a zoo.
"...So, how does one find a monkey around here...Oh, my GOD!  MONKEY!!!"
Just as he was asking about them, as if they heard his call, they were waiting for him at the side of the road as we drove past.  The timing couldn't have been more perfect
I've also never seen a firefly and mentioned it to our host.  He was gracious enough to show us his 'secret' Hotaru spot and shared his secret for attracting them.  (hint: it involves your hazard lights)  After a few moments, they came swarming and I couldn't have been happier than a kid in a candy shop.

So many great experiences and we're only half way through our trip :D

Monday, June 16, 2014

Day 1

     The flight here was longer than anticipated.  It's about 7 hrs from Honolulu to Narita but because we were going down to Fukuoka, I didn't realize that it would take an extra 2-3 hours more!  It was definitely the longest flight we took since I was 19.  I feel old saying this but my body just can't handle long flights like it used to.  Not only was it the longest flight for me but it seemed even longer because I felt a bit under the weather.

I know, I know.  Wuss!  Ah, well!

     So we arrive in Fukuoka and it takes FOREVER to get through customs, which I get but everyone always insist on having a hotel.  We're staying with CSers so I don't have their addy on hand and so I just play the gaijin card and say we don't (which, to be fair, we don't) but that we're going to look for one as we go along.  They double take as though the concept is new (which, it may be since they like to plan more than me) but I insist on a Youth Hostel.

   Now, we're late to meet our gracious host and on top of that, our bag came out close to last.  When we finally meet, it's amazing how fast you can hit it off with complete strangers.  I love CSing because it's such a great way to meet people and also get to know a place better.  Our hosts showed us her place and then we went to a great little Izakaya (Japanese Bar) and ate the recommended Ramen.

     Ramen is one of my favorite foods of Japan that originated in China, came to Japan via China and I'm sure Korea.  Simple but heavenly noodles with broth made from meat and veggie goodness and topped off with onions and meat of choice.
 
     We ate and drank and had a blast and came back to exchange gifts and then sleep.

     Met great people and started off our trip with awesome food.  Thanks guys!  See you soon!


 

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Decisions, Decisions...

So, we're cutting it close with our schedule for the beginning of the trip and the end of the trip.

Things that I want to do:
Nagasaki
              BioPark (on a Saturday or Sunday)
              Hashima
              Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Memorial Museum

Hiroshima
              Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Peace Museum
              Itsukushima



There are a few links for Hashima to check out:
   Link 1
   Link 2

Make sure to check what times the vessels will be out and come back if you are doing more than one thing that day.


Now, I know I want to go to BioPark on the way back to Fukuoka, so that trip is taken care of.

I was thinking doing Nagasaki on one day and then Hiroshima another day.
If we hit up Hiroshima, we can spend the day there to see the Museum and the temple and then head back to HQ
Fukuoka, Japan
3 h 28 min
In current traffic: 3 h 33 min
Hiroshima, Japan

176.0 mi
From: Fukuoka, Japan To: Hiroshima, Japan


So, hit up Hashima in the morning and then go to the museum after (8:30 to 18:30 hours of operation)

Search Results

  1. Fukuoka, Japan
    1 h 56 min
    In current traffic: 1 h 59 min
    Nagasaki, Japan

    95.0 mi
    From: Fukuoka, Japan To: Nagasaki, Japan

Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, it would make more sense to go to Nagasaki first THEN Hiroshima.  We are planning on making our way down to Osaka after that so it making our way more NE would be better.


Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
4 h 3 min
In current traffic: 4 h 4 min
Hiroshima, Japan

205.5 mi
From: Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan To: Hiroshima, Japan

Options on the Shinkansen

As I'm planning this trip for us, I'm trying to find a way to make it to my destination in time as well as see all the sights that I want to see at my own leisure.

The HyperDia site is very helpful and there are a few others out there that I need to take note of.  I'm learning about the Night Trains and the different types of compartments.

As a Japan Rail Pass holder, we may only be looking at the Seats or Carpet Seats for free.  If you want the Shared Compartments or the Private Compartments, you'll have to pay for the whole ticket.

I'm cool with huggin' a rug.
So is my husband...or least he will be.

These are the only locations that have night trains.  Unfortunately, due to cuts in funding and competition between the night buses etc. the number of lines that have overnight options have cut down .


With this in mind, I want to get from Tokyo on one of our last days and make it to Nagasaki to finish up my sightseeing before we have to make it back to Fukuoka and catch our flight.

I'm always worried if we're gonna make our money's worth from the JR Pass but I think if we do an overnighter, that'll do it!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Train Schedule

This is now going to be my best friend until the day I leave Japan.

Just in case you are in the dark about what to do, Japan has provided you with their detailed picture instructions.



So, now you know the basics about how to decipher your ticket and know where to go to schedule your Shinkansen departures. Now, it's time to micromanage the shit out of your train schedule.

At this point in time, I don't have THAT much to really be a control freak about but there are some time crunches that we need to sort out during the last leg of the trip. Think about what you'll be doing for the day and how long it could possibly take you. Now think about what times you'll be able to make it to the proper station with your commute. Now, think about how long it'll take you to get there and what time you'll arrive. The arrival is very crucial for us because we are Couch Surfing and we need to keep our host in mind.

This is our current schedule.

15-17 fukuoka
17-19 osaka
19-21 kyoto
21-22 obama
23-25 sapporo
25-28 tokyo
28-29 fukuoka


Now, I just need to figure out what we are doing and what times we are going where.

We arrive at Fukuoka at night and are likely to eat dinner and crash.

Next day...get our rail pass and do shit. We'll probably go to Hiroshima

SHINKANSEN KODAMA 730 HAKATA - HIROSHIMA (2 hrs)
Departs at: 6:33am
Arrive at: 8:07am

Or
SHINKANSEN HIKARI RailStar 440 HAKATA - OKAYAMA (1.5 hrs)
Depart at: 6:00
Arrives at: 7:26
Or
SHINKANSEN KODAMA 730 HAKATA - SHIN-OSAKA (1.5 hrs)
Depart at: 6:33
Arrives at: 08:07


Things to do!

Explore Explore...then leave.

Done for now but still more planning to do!

Goals for the Trip

I don't know about you, but when I travel, I usually have a goal to see or do something on my trip.

On my 2008 trip to S.E. Asia, my main goal was to see Angkor Wat and I fixated on that forever! Slowly, as I started to build my trip itinerary, I started to add more and more things to goals but I never forgot the main reason I went on that trip. It was an added bonus that I got to travel my way from Bangkok, Thailand to Singapore then fry to Cambodia and catch a bus to Vietnam and back.

My list of goals kept on growing even as I was on my trip with my goal of Angkor Wat in mind.

I had a great time traveling and I met my goal



I now make it a priority to come up with a goal with each of my trips, whether it's a day trip out of town, around the state or during a conference :P You have to have something to look forward to while you're ON your trip.

For this trip, one of my goals is to visit Kansai and Hokkaido during the Summer. Very broad, very simple and do able, especially now that we just received the JR Railpasses to travel unlimitedly throughout Japan.


Now build upon that.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Planning Your Stay

One of the hard things about any traveling is finding a good place to stay the night. If you're like me, I like to finding a place that's cheap...or Free.

Look no further than Couchsurfing!

I'm a HUGE advocate for this community and have had some of the best experiences traveling with this website. If you're curious or would like an overview of this site, watch the video below. Everything they mention is crucial to be a successful couchsurfer (CS).



So, I mentioned that it's usually free, and yeah, that's a big perk but it's also the experience you get to have being in someone else's home. Even if you have to pay for dinner, cook or do dishes, it a lot cheaper than staying at a hotel and you get to meet some very cool and exciting new people at your destination that will usually give you great advice!

Just like searching for a hotel, you have to do some research in the area that you want to stay in. Granted, as the couchsurfer, you need to put a bit of time in your profile and talk about yourself, but think about it; you don't want some random stranger to walk into your home not knowing anything about this person that's going to stay with you. Vise versa as a host as you won't really have people asking to stay at your place if you don't share a bit about themselves. You want to be able to know what the host is like and find out more about the person you are staying with.

If you're still unsure about this whole deal, just find a CS Gathering nearby and meet people. You'll meet a wide variety of people that are really into CS and they'll even tell you about their experiences through the organization.

Feel free to ask me any question about couchsurfing!

Just click on the link if you would like to see an example of my profile.

Happy Surfing!

Just a few more weeks!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

2013 Samoa


For those of you thinking of traveling to the South Pacific, be prepared to be out of your comfort zone but also be prepared to be blown away by the people and the beauty.

Forgive the crappy format.  I'm still trying to get my bearings using Blogger but I'll figure it out as I go along.

Anyhoo...I'm write more on this but I also want to advise anyone that flies with a company that is not your typical commercial airlines, BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE!

Seriously.

Spend whatever extra (usually <$100) and just buy it!

This trip taught us TWO things:
Buy Travel Insurance
&
Fiji Airways nee Air Pacific is the WORST company to fly with during a natural disaster!

I swear I'll make a Part II and Part III afterwards but I need shut eye and I'm too exhausted to get worked up over that whole fiasco during X-mas 2012 (i.e. Hurricane Evan :S)

Until next time!

Coming up with a Schedule

So, we're (my husband and I) going to Japan!

This time around, it was GREAT not having to do the planning like I did on my last huge trek around S.E.A.. Having to work with two weeks is a lot easier to deal with than a whole month and not having to move around as much will be a lot less stress.

We bought some really cheap tickets online from Hawaiian Airlines to get from Hilo to Fukuoka ($800ish/person) but because I wasn't sure when the next time we'll go to Japan, I wanted to hit some of the more popular and well traveled areas. I knew I wanted to travel around Kansai because I didn't get a chance when I lived there and I only saw Tohoku during winter so I wanted to see what it was like during summer.

I chose regions or landmarks that I've been dying to see as I was given free reign to sort of make out where we wanted to go. We were landing in Fukuoka, I knew I wanted to see Tokyo/Saitama as well as Hokkaido again but what to see in between....

I've always wanted to see Kyoto, Osaka and Nara but we decided Nagasaki because it was one of the historical sites where America bombed Japan. I know what you're thinking: That's a bit missed us! But tons of Japanese tourist flock over to Pearl Harbor for the same morbid curiosity! It's also an ugly time in our history but it doesn't mean we don't learn about it and just push it to the back burner hoping we'd forget it.

That's not the point about history.

Learning from past actions in hopes of either repeating good outcomes or not repeating bad ones are is a major tenant to continually learn about history. It's not about who was right or wrong. It already happened and the victor is usually the one deemed "RIGHT" in those instances but also to be subjective about what happened and finding a good or moral outcome if something bad happens again in the future.

Getting way off topic here, so, back to the ranch....

Scheduling what we want to see regionally was important. Not the 'Why' though because you'll find that we chose some places for stupid reasons.

Our trip, not yours and you can make your own stupid picks for your trip when you travel.

SO,
Kyoto: Culture & Family
Osaka: Prove or Disprove the BangBang you're Dead thing
Nara: DEER!...Oh, and culture
Nagasaki: Bombed and Biopark - Animals!
Obama: DUH! Who wouldn't go to a town named about our current President?! (I know, I know, many people but that doesn't matter!)
Sapporo: Ichiban! Ramen, Lavender and BEER!
Tokyo/Saitama: Friends, Food, Nostalgia, University, Ghibli Museum,BASEBALL, Fishmarket
Hiroshima: Bombed
Nagasaki: Hashima - SKYFALL and creepy abandoned island!
Fukuoka: Ramen and Airport
DONE!


Now...figure out when you're going where...a bit tougher...

So, in order of arrival to departure
15-17 fukuoka
17-19 osaka
19-21 kyoto
21-22 obama
23-25 sapporo
25-28 tokyo
28-29 fukuoka
...Now we need to figure out what to do while we're there.

Planning a Trip

In 2007, I was living in Japan which was a HUGE journey in itself but I decided to branch out and spread my wings to fly further. I made a mini trip by myself to Hokkaido for the Yuki Matsuri in February and decided I needed to fly further. When spring break came around, I planned my trip to S.E. Asia. Both trips were great stepping stones in my life that shaped how I think about traveling and one of my greatest learning achievements I've ever undergone but do you know what the shitty thing is?

I DID NOT BLOG IT!

Honestly!

I had a written journal as well as a digital one on my computer and silly me, I didn't bother to back it up and it was before Google Docs/Drive - or at least I didn't hear about it then.

I've had some very profound experiences traveling by myself and I perfectly captured a lot of my in the moment emotions on pen and paper or in a word file on my macbook...until water spilt on my journal. Gone. My macbook hard drive crashed. GONE!

The pain of losing a perfect slice of that part of my life and never being able to relive it again has made me wiser and now I know.

BACK YOUR SHIT UP!

Now, here I am...posting on Blogger to make sure that I have a cyber copy of my journey - Raw and everything! - within my reach. I'll be backing up EVERYTHING on my Google Drive because it's not gonna crash anytime soon...I hope.

I know better and I will definitely be documenting my travel this time around the way it should have been done half a decade ago. If I find other great tidbits of random journal entries floating around somewhere, I'll post it just for my benefit but reliving great and at times, bad memories makes sure I never forget.

Ijou desu.

Memory Lane 懐かしい ... Public Bath Houses (Old)

* Just posting this older post from 5 years ago to remind me of Sento etiquette

Public Bath Houses!

 Not that different from my experience

Well, when someone mentions public bath houses, the reaction that people usually goes along the lines of: Public...as in you bath...with strangers..? You were neked in public?! ...So...what was it like?

The responses were wide and varied from shell-shocked to curious. In my opinion, a lot of westerners can't quite get over the fact that you'd have to get naked in public (okay, not quite public public) but with total strangers. Bathing is a very private matter and not for the rest of the community to see but, in Asian countries that have a tradition of it as well as places like Finland, it has it practicalities.

I'm not going to go into historical details or whatnot because a lot of my information is second hand and may be wrong so I'll just talk about my FIRST experience going to a public bath.

First things first, make sure you bring all the necessities that you would normally use during your shower or bath time. (towel, razor, cloth, etc.)

Most places will provide liquid soap but if you prefer to bring you own or don't want to risk it, by all means bring your own!

If it's cold out, during winter, or whatever the weather may be like, please dress appropriately. That being said, make sure you bring extra clothes unless you have no problem wearing the clothes you went there with.

Oh, and don't be like me and forget your towel. It'll cost you around 500Y or just about $5.00 for a new one, but at least you get to keep it.

I'll take you on a step by step process on what I did:

1) You walk in and you'll notice at the entrance, there is a rack with circular slots. If it's raining, that's where you put your umbrellas. You'll find that almost at every store or restaurant entrance to keep the floors dry and immaculate. I wish that my home town had those because it rains a LOT!

2) you walk into the main door way and you'll notice that there is a change in levels and a huge rug or mat before that slight level change. Normally, you take off your shoes and step on the higher level with your socks only.

NOTE: Japan is VERY big on socks, especially at places where you take off your shoes. It's almost rude to come with no socks but also in their opinion, it's a bit dirty. They just prefer socks is all.

3) You carry your shoes with you and there are tons of lockers around so you just choose one that isn't occupied and then store your shoes, taking the locker key with you.

4)Next there is a front desk you head towards but don't go to the people behind the desk. go to the vending machine and buy your ticket in.

NOTE: Japan is WELL KNOWN for their various vending machines, whether its for food or for buying tickets for entrance, they have vending machines or just about anything! Also note, even if you try to tell the people what you order because essentially, you go and give them your ticket, they won't deal with you until you purchase you ticket and will point you to the machine anyway. It's just how things are done here (Shrugs)

5) You look for Adult admission and usually the admission tickets are at the top because it is the main ticket bought. This is also where you would pick up your towel *Ahem* if you left it at home. If you need any other necessities like lotion or conditioner, this is the place to buy it.

6) Take your ticket and hand it to the ladies at the desk. Don't forget to give them your key as well; they store it during your stay. They will hand you a key for your lockers to store the rest of your stuff and it has a little bun-gee or spiral cord that stretches so that you may put your key on your wrist. They directed us upstairs or depending on where the bathing area is at, they'll point you in the right direction.

7) You find the door that says Man or Woman; 女 男;おんな おとこ;女おんな=Woman 男おとこ=Man. Please go into the appropriate one otherwise you will be in for a BIG surprise upon entry.

8) Ever gone to a gym or YMCA and you have people that have no problem getting naked in front of others...well, it's the same here, in fact, expected here! In this locker area, you've got your designated locker key from the front desk so you may put all your belongings including your clothes.

NOTE: Being a westerner myself, I had to take a few deep breaths before getting the nerve to take off my clothing but after that, I was fine seeing as no one really stares or gawks. Plus, most of the people that go to these public baths are the older generation and I'm just glad that I'm still firm in places that they otherwise aren't. (HORRIBLE, I know but it was the one consolation for me to walk around there without hiding in ever corner :P)

9) So you store everything you need, just bringing the necessities. It's your preference whether or not you want to bring your towel but I prefer to have it with me.

10) As soon as you walk past the locker area, there is a sliding door that leads to the bathing area.

NOTE: One of the most important parts of this experience is the actual washing. The whole idea behind it is to keep the pools clean when you want to soak so you wash from head to toe.

11) So there is a bench or plastic stool to sit in as you scrub up but these washing areas have mini stations each containing: one stool, one bucket, one mirror, one shower head/spigot or faucet as well as a set of liquid soap and shampoo. You can adjust the temperature of the faucet turning the dial away from you to make it hotter or towards you to make it cooler. The Bucket comes handy for dousing yourself or washing hair.

NOTE: Because the whole idea is to get clean, the best rule is to wash from head to toe or vise versa, twice. If you have long hair, it's advised to put it up and away from your nape. If you are like me and condition your hair, it's best to wash once again because the oily residue from the conditioner would stick to your body even if your rinsed well.

12) Now that you are all washed up, you may leave your articles above the station you were washing at as long as it is out of the way. Don't forget to rinse off your station and area for the next users.

13) Now you can relax and enjoy the best part about the whole public bath house experience: the Pools & Saunas

NOTE: You don't submerge your whole head underwater, but up to your neck. Also, please don't bring your buckets into the pools because they are considered dirty; wash cloths as well. I think regular towels are fine as long as they don't come into the pool and only used when you get out of the pools

14) There are then pools of different sizes and shapes as well as temperatures. I was going to pull a faux pas and walk right into the 18C degree pool if my friend hadn't given me a warning. I'm sure the older ladies would have had a nice laugh, especially after I just walked from the washing area to the outside where it's less than 10C.

NOTE: LOOK CLOSELY at the temperature for each pool. The hottest can go up to 42C and if your aren't ready to go into that, you'll shock your body. It's good to change pools and go into the cold one every so often to temper your body. Sometimes you can get dizzy from staying in too long or even feel sick, so limit your time in the hot pools to only 15-20 minutes each. Feel free to utilize the veranda chairs to cool off if you don't feel like shocking your body in the 18C pool.

15) When you leave, don't forget you stuff at the top of the wash station and just outside the door by the locker area, there is a drying area with a large mirror and sinks. You can dry off their and adjacent to that is the hair drying area.

NOTE: If you have long hair, it's good to dry your hair before braving the elements, especially if it's winter and you just got out of that warm place, you'll keep warm longer if you don't have a cold sopping wet head.

16) When its time to leave, return the bath locker key to the front desk and they'll hand back your key to access your shoes.

17) Grab your shoes and leave the key on the door and you're free to go!

That's the basic bathhouse procedure but if I'm not mistaken, it's the same or very similar to Onsens 温泉- hot springs as well

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Inroduction

Hmm...
I don't like the title of this post already but I'm horrible with introductions. Might as well start off with something I need to work on. I'll be posting some old travel posted from a previous blog from...2005 (yikes!).

I like to write and now-a-days, it's whatever I'm in the mood to write about or want to share, because let's face it; It's all about sharing whether it's for me...or others, it's just out there.

Cheers!