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Showing posts from March, 2013

The quiet of Takasaki

Last sleep in Japan after an unremarkable day. Got woken up way too early by Alex while B kept sleeping, had a breakfast of toast across the road, then lugged our ever increasing baggage to the Shinkansen platform at Kyoto station, the one visible from our room the night before. The reserved sections were booked out, so we chanced the unreserved sections and were in luck. I had wanted to take a different, longer route to our destination of Takasaki, to travel on a new line for me, though undoubtedly older than the one we were on. Instead we were on the too familiar Tokaido Shinkansen bound for Tokyo. After the flat farmlands and factories whizzed by we at least had the pleasure of great views of Mount Fuji, still snowcapped, around Shizuoka. In contrast to the bare slopes of Japan's highest and most sacred mountain the other hills were forest or bamboo clad, speckled with pink puffs of cherry blossoms or the orderly rows of tea plantations. At Tokyo station we change

More springs and shabu shabu

"This was the best hotel ever!" said a sad Alex as he trudged away from the Morizuya ryokan. None of us wanted to leave, least of all him. We had woken up, packed, played trains upstairs for a short while, and returned for the breakfast in our room. Again it was dish after dish. Soup boiled at the table. Disgusting looking pickles and seaweed. Dried fish from the racks outside the fish mongers along the street. More savoury custard. Rice porridge. I don't mind curry for breakfast, but a traditional Japanese breakfast can be difficult for a westerner (or a Malaysian) to stomach. It was a real struggle, especially as more food was brought out. I upset the old lady serving us when I accidentally dropped a bowl of soup for dessert on the table, my hands slippery from the oily fish and steaming bowl beneath them. Fortunately, it was cleaned up before it touched the beautiful straw floor. Before the check-out at 10 am there was just enough time for one more bat

The little Jedi of Kinosaki Onsen

A long time ago in a land far, far away. That's what it felt like as we walked the streets of Kinosaki Onsen dressed in our yukatas, the clop-clop of wooden getas sounding in the air. In his robes Alex looked the spitting image of a young Jedi padawan, all that was missing was the lightsaber. Incidently, Padawan is a district of Kuching in Malaysia. The town was so far back in time that my 4G router couldn't get a signal, hence the lack of an update. Plus I was feeling a little under the weather. There can be few better places to rest than Kinosaki Onsen. We dragged our luggage on the Midosuji subway to Umeda, then barely caught the Ltd Exp Hamakaze in time. An older Japanese train it lacked a food service or vending machines, leading to big issues. Alex was hungry for breakfast. B and I had eaten slices of Kobe cheesecake for breakfast, but Alex didn't like it. As we raced past the huge Akashi bridge Alex was pleading for food and drink. The kind

From springs to shopping and shabu shabu

Sleeping on the floor can be really comfortable - if there is a shikibuton beneath you and a thick warm kakebuton on top. None of us really wanted to get up in the morning. I would have been happy to have a lazy breakfast in the cafe opposite and view the replica foods at Iwasaki Sample Factory nearby. But There Was Shopping To Be Done. We raced to the train with a bare minute to spare, and then replicated the previous day's journey, only in reverse and with the Shinkansen taking us from Nagoya to Shin Osaka rather than from Toyohashi. In the rush I forgot to take tickets from the dispenser near the door of the Nagaragawa train as we boarded. You then put the ticket and the right change in the box near the driver when you get off. Alex stood with me for much of the ride back on the Nagaragawa Railway's railcar. It was fun sharing the pretty ride with him. Lugging the ever increasing luggage mass to the next couple of train put me in a bad mood. We