Archive for Travel Diary

Japan: One Year On

Wow. It was a year ago today. A whole year has passed. The trip’s memory is still fresh in my mind. It changed me forever and more than I’d ever think it could. It set me on track to begin an amazing journey. If you’re interested in what I did for those three weeks a year ago, be sure to check out my diary.

The Japan Travel Diary Is Complete

So having processed over 4,000 photos and tidied up the entities, The Japan Travel Diary 2011 is finished. Don’t know what it is? Check it out here – it’s pretty self explanatory. It was created to chronicle the way I changed over the solo-trip, and as a helpful resource for anyone who may choose to visit the wonderful country themselves.

It’s packed with helpful sightseeing suggestions, things to eat, places to stay – all the while supported by the photography I took.

All I can say is enjoy, and roll on Nepal 2012. Oh, I never mentioned that – Nepal –  2012 – Me.

Day 20 – Last Day – Mt Fuji

6.54AM, Ueno – Just got woken up by an aftershock, only lasted a few seconds mind you. At least it wasn’t as bad as that snoring I could briefly hear through the wall.

1.38PM, Mt. Fuji – It’s cold 2,300m above see level – I’m glad I ran back to the hotel for a jumper. The tour’s been really good so far – there’s only 14 of us and the guide is good. She speaks very good English and is very sweet. It’s clear today, both at the foot of the mountain and at the fifth station. That means stunning views of the summit and the area around the mountain. We’re just on the way to Hakone for lunch, to look at some volcanic activity and then a boat cruise in a lake. It’s turning out to be a really nice last day.

I’ve talked to a British family on and off through the day and it’s quite funny, having settled in, to see them in the culture shock state I was in when I first arrived. It’s interesting what three weeks makes for your perceptions and comfort zone.

6.09PM, Last Shinkansen of the Trip – What an awesome end to my trip. Wherever we went in Hakone, we could see Mt. Fuji. The tour guide said this was very rare – it’s an amazing mountain that juts into the sky. After lunch, and having made friendly with Sharon, a woman I was plopped on the same table with, we went to the sulfur volcanic activity area up a gondola ride. It was cool apart from the smell (utter rotten eggs). We then took a faux pirate ship across a beautiful lake before being dropped off at the nearby station. As per usual, Facebook saves the day for keeping in contact with Sharon.

It’s remarkable to consider just what I’ve seen the last three weeks. It’s been an incredible trip – everything about Japan, from the people to the culture, the kindness shown to me, the amazing sights I’ve seen, the food, stories, new friends – it has changed me. Self confidence, a desire not to just sit in silence wherever I go (although London might prevent that on occasion), the need not to be terrified of food I’ve never tried – it is all literally life changing. Who knows what awaits me in the future, but hopefully God blesses me with the ability to continue traveling healthily.

Life in London is always hectic but in my busy life it is important to remember how lucky I am in life. The important things – friends, family, food – should always overlook the trivial. Always take life as it is, but make sure it’s with a smile.

6.55PM, Kanda – Forgot to say, I bought the most awesome wooden frog ever. Best memento for my desk to accompany the owl and pigeon.

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Day 19 – Tokyo Return

10.57AM, Nagoya Station – Off to Tokyo! At least this time I know how to get to my hotel.

12.39PM, Shinkasen – That was cool, I happened to look up from the book I’m reading and you could see Mt Fuji in all it’s glory. It’s certainly one impressive mountain. There’s something particularly relaxing travelling via Shinkansen with a bento box for lunch and a book for entertainment.

2.51PM, Senso-Ji – Pretty decent temple, but no way near one of the best that I’ve seen. What is good is that it’s really busy so I can blend in and photograph without being noticed. I had a chat with an old man who tapped me on the shoulder and wanted to know all about my trip. The Japanese are so inquisitive about foreigners. At the end he took our picture and wished me well.

7.47PM, Ueno – The kindness of the Japanese never ceases to amaze me. While sitting at the counter in the hotel restaurant, and following a broken conversation, two old ladies decided to buy me some sake. I’d probably have forgotten to try it if it wasn’t for them. The world may be a horrible place but the majority of people aren’t there to take from you. Rather they are there to share love and kindness.

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Day 18 – Nagoya

10.22AM, The Hilton Plaza West – It’s all but stopped raining today which means I had a dry walk to the station. I dumped my bag in a coin locker and am waiting for the Hilton restaurants to open. The shops don’t interest me and they’re the kind that have three items in them, i.e. way beyond my spending power.

The food places don’t open until 11AM which I’ve discovered is the usual opening time. So I’m just sitting on a sofa listening to a piano man play some awful experimental jazz, (if you can call it that).

11.20AM, The Hilton Plaza East – I’ve gone for italian again, a set menu with pizza and pasta. When asked what drink, and I suggested water was fine, they can’t comprehend that someone doesn’t want something that isn’t included in the set menu. The waiter got really confused.

It’s the same when you’re at road crossings. Even if it’s a one way street and there’s no traffic, everyone will wait until it’s green – apart from huffy business men. It means you’re forced to strategically cross when you can because all the lights are on timers for effective traffic management.

It also seems that I’ve forgotten how to use a knife and fork. It seems really unnatural.

12.20PM, The Hilton Plaza East – Lunch was nice, I’ve got a couple hours before my train to Nagoya. I bought several non fiction books to keep me entertained, as I’m about to run out of reading material. One’s a supposedly humourous look at 2012 and apocolyptic theory. The second is a collection of firsts, so the first person to write sonnets, etc., – it looks interesting.

They say knowledge is power. What’s more interesting is that I’m beginning to really rediscover my love of reading. Obviously on holiday with no-one to talk to, it becomes an easier pastime. When I’m in England I have a lot more distractions and hobbies. The Tube seems a good place to hopefully continue it. I’ve got a couple of Don DeLillo’s novels sitting at home waiting to be read including his latest, Point Omega.

12.53PM, Osaka Station – Word of advice, want a bargain? Don’t go into a Japanese department store – their prices are ludicrous.

2.02PM, Osaka Station – Shiiiiiiinnnnnkansen!

7.32PM, Sun Hotel Nagoya – After struggling to find the hotel in the rain (it was on the second floor of a shopping complex), it turned out to be pretty nice digs. I even got the single room upgraded to a twin free of charge – it means I’m not cramped in a box. I’ve never been comped anything before, so that was a fun first.

I’m back to Tokyo tomorrow – I’ll do the Senso Ji area when I arrive early afternoon. I also need to book my NEX 8.00AM ticket as I’m away the whole day of the 14th at Mt Fuji. I think the weather is letting up, so that’ll hopefully be a nice end to an amazing trip.

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