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:
              BioPark (on a Saturday or Sunday)
              Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Memorial Museum

              Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Peace Museum

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

Departs at: 6:33am
Arrive at: 8:07am

Depart at: 6:00
Arrives at: 7:26
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.