Away we go again!

3 July 2014

After spending the past 48 hours slowly recovering from food poisoning I finally feel human again. It is like I am a new person, all that sleep was really needed and I just hope that it was make the transition into a new time zone that much easier. There is always a silver lining.

Saw this sign when we were leaving our neighborhood to go to the onsen. Not sure if the dog is crying because he just took a poo half his size or because his owner didn't pick it up.

Saw this sign when we were leaving our neighborhood to go to the onsen. Not sure if the dog is crying because he just took a poo half his size or because his owner didn’t pick it up.

One of the must do’s in Japan is to visit an onsen. Since we couldn’t get to one earlier in our trip we made plans to visit a sento, an onsen where the water is piped in, for our last day. Kate recommend a easy to get to place called LaQua Spa. I would highly recommend that before any flight you spend a few hours at a spa. Between the hot mineral pools, Jacuzzi tubs and sauna I felt refreshed and was ready for the upcoming 11 hour flight plus five hour layover with another four hours of flight time to arrive at our final destination. After we were both so shocked at how relaxed we felt. We set off for the metro station which was just a few blocks away and were on our way to the transfer station to grab the train to the airport.

The most shocking thing happened to us once we arrived at the airport. To get to the airport there were a few different options for trains, you could either pay a few dollars more for to save 20 minutes or save some money on a cheaper train. We had paid the few extra dollars for the Narita Express train and soon after purchasing the ticket noticed that train was not departing for another hour and twenty minutes. As it turns out we did have one minute to make it to the platform to catch the local express train which would have been cheaper a few dollars cheaper. We just chalked the few dollars up to, shit happens when you travel, and never expected to see the money again. Well when exiting the station and passing our tickets through the machine, they beeped and an attendant came over to see what was happening. He then took my ticket and I thought he was just switching out my ticket, but when Adam’s did the same I then saw him reach behind the counter. And that is when I think my jaw dropped as he was grabbing yen to give us the 220 difference in fair that we had overpaid. And that is just another reason to love Japan!

IMG_1926

Once at the airport we met up with Julius and Ulli who we first met on the food tour in Hanoi, then again in Kyoto where we realized we would be on the same flight to Abu Dhabi. It really is a small world.

Saw this sign in the health advisory area of the airport and it was a good representation of Amy a few days ago.

Saw this sign in the health advisory area of the airport and it was a good representation of Amy a few days ago.

Today’s Travel: From Shinjuku via the metro to the Kasuga stop and walk across the street toLa Qua spa at the Tokyo Dome. Then it was back on the train to Narita airport to hop on flight Etihad Airlines Flight 871 to Abu Dhabi

Accommodations: Etihad Airways A330. Ah airplane sleep, possibly the worst type of sleep. While I made it up until midnight local time that was only 9pm in Istanbul

To the market we go

2 July 2014

Adam was up early to catch the World Cup game, while I just caught the last few minutes of the US v Belgium game. Yelling at the TV and telling the players to just hold the ball to watch them lose in those last few seconds was my version of a morning cup of coffee.

Our first stop of the day was the Tsukiji fish market. We got there just before they opened the main section to tourists. While we had thought we might get up and watch the auction, reality set in and there was no way I would make it there at 5am. Even as most of the serious buyers were gone this place was still very hectic.

Make sure you pay attention

Make sure you pay attention

DSC_4082

Around every turn I was watching to make sure I would not get run over by one of the guys on the mini fork lifts transporting boxes upon boxes of fish from one section of the market to the other.

DSC_4094

DSC_4096

DSC_4107

DSC_4111

At one point we saw a stack up boxes with SFO written on them! Within this section of the market tourists cannot buy anything so after wandering most of the aisles we head out to the outer market.

As we wandered the aisles here it was clear that this market catered to the tourist trade. While we were skeptical we did decided to grab some sushi here assuming our physical proximity to the market would mean we would have some good sushi. Turns out this is where we ended up having some of the most average sushi ever, I think the stuff at Sushi Deli is better.

DSC_4113

I guess it is a place only tourists go so they know who they have to cater to. I will have to add this to the list of reasons to come back to Japan.

It was off to the Ueno neighborhood to wander thru the park and take a stroll to the Nezu neighborhood by way of the Yanaka Cemetery.

DSC_4123

DSC_4127

DSC_4143

 

Adam enjoying some ice cream

Adam enjoying some ice cream

The Ueno neighborhood is quiet unique as it was not bombed during the war so there are many older homes here. We arrived at the Yanaka Cemetery and wandered past the graves of, thanks to the signs posted, shoguns and important families from many centuries ago.

DSC_4145

DSC_4147

DSC_4150

DSC_4156

We continued on for a short walk thru the Nezu neighborhood before getting back on the train to the Shinjukuneighborhood.

Then as part of my goal within every city which is to live like a local, I took a nap on the train and woke up one stop away from where we needed to get off. I am a pro. After that refreshing nap I was ready to take on the next adventure, after a quick stop at Starbucks for the free wifi, we made our way to Tokyu Hands. I had read the write ups and rolled my eyes thinking that this store was really the store that sells everything you need and didn’t know you needed. After wandering the 6 floors I am beyond a believer. And that was even before I made it to the eighth floor which featured stationary and an entire moleskin section. Just imagine all the places you had to run to pick up a few items for that damn pinterest project: Michael’s, Target, Aaron Brothers, Home Depot, Bed Bath and Beyond and Staples here you would just wander the floors of Tokyu Hands and in the process probably finish off that entire pin board.

That evening it was time for laundry and the local news. While laundry is never fun, the rooftop laundry provided for some very nice views especially around sunset. Also, watching the news here is just over the top entertaining, as there is a mascot for the weather; the icons showing if it will be sunny or sunny tomorrow aren’t just smiling little faces but shades of red with half annoyed to extremely annoyed faces. My assumption is that these are the summer faces and because of the humidity they aren’t happy.

Today’s Travel: From Shinjuku to Tsukijishijo on the Oedo line back on the metro to Ueno with a walk thru the park and neighborhood to Nezu by way of the Yanaka Cemetery back on the metro to Shinjuku

Accommodations: JResidence

I guess we need rest

1 July 2014

After 12 hours of sleep you would have thought we would have been wide awake, but nope we only woke up because some previous resident had set the alarm for 8am. We decided we were feeling well enough to go see a few sites. But after the energy expended getting ready I was ready for another nap. I can’t believe how much I have slept.

Once we were ready for the day we walked over to the Metropolitan office building to take in all of the views of the city. The elusive Mt. Fuji was up to its normal ways and all we could see were clouds in the direction of the mountain, but the city skyline seemed to go on for miles. With many skyscrapers in the immediate vicinity of the building, most of the city is dotted with three or four story buildings that look almost the same from neighborhood to neighborhood. While I have noticed that my usual navigation tricks of finding a distinct building to figure out where I am hasn’t been very effective here, seeing the repetition of building from this point of view was impressive.

DSC_3846

DSC_3851

Because we could not get enough we headed back to the Shibuya intersection. This time we went into the Starbucks, which I guess is now my place to go when I am not feeling well, to just sit and watch the traffic go by. It turns out it was a great spot to take time lapse photos and just watch how others react to crossing the street here.

Shibuya Crossing

It was a big day for me so I called it a night, Adam on the other hand made is way out to explore the neighborhood we were in and captured some great shots of Shinjuku in the evening.

DSC_4041

DSC_4044

DSC_4048

DSC_4068

Next time when we are back here I will make it out to the Gai bars and watch the Tokyo hosts pick up on the ladies. So on the bright side being sick has already given me a reason to come back to Japan.

Today’s Travel:  Wandering around Shibuya and Shinjuku neighborhoods

Accommodations: JResidence

And we finally get sick

30 June 2014

I guess it was bound to happen, after months of travel, I finally ate something that my body did not agree with and I spent the early hours of the morning praying to the porcelain gods. While Adam didn’t have the same experience he wasn’t feeling 100%. While I am not completely sure what the source was I think it was some bad soy milk I had yesterday morning for breakfast (Adam only had a spoonful when I asked him to try it because I thought it tasted wrong), word to the wise if it doesn’t taste right you should probably stop eating it.

Of course this was the day that we were going to head into the city and stay in the Shinjuku neighborhood for the last few days in Tokyo. While I really just wanted to get a cab, since the idea of walking a few blocks to the metro sounded miserable, Adam finished packing my bags and carried my stuff so that I only had to carry my small backpack and horrible feeling self, down the road.

Once we arrived at our hotel we slept for about 4 hours. We did make it outside again and noticed on the main street a sign highlighting a shop 100m away. From the logo it looked like it could be a grocery store and lucky for me it was. So we stocked up on Aquarius (the closest thing we could find to Gatorade) and saltine crackers and were back on our way to our room.

IMG_1899

We were clearly both not feeling well as we lasted just a few more hours and were fast asleep by 8.

Today’s Travel: Iogi Station to Shinjuku

Accommodations: JResidence. Located just past the bar and love hotel district and adjacent to a fancy hotel and some nice new apartments in Shinjuku, the location was ideal. The room was also big by Japan standards and as a long term style accommodation we had a small kitchen with a sink, burner, a rice cooker, microwave, fridge, cutlery and a kettle. However all buttons were in Japanese so I wasn’t going to do any cooking, but we could have all the cereal we wanted! The place also had coin operated laundry which is always something we look for. The only con was there was no cleaning service so if you were going to stay for a while and wanted new towels or sheets it would set you back a few dollars.

Even when you are small you are big

29 June 2014

This perfectly sums up how I felt when I went on the hunt to find a new pair of shoes. It was a complete and total fail. When holding a pair of clearly female running shoes and asked if they had them in my size the salesmen response was ‘we don’t have those in men’s’ so with a slightly confused look I tried again, and this time it was a ‘no, try the unisex sizes.’ So if you wear anything over a size 7 or 8, good luck finding shoes in Japan.

We started our visit in the Harajuku neighborhood with a stop at the Meiji-jingu shrine. As this is a very popular location for weddings, we were able to see two different wedding processions during our short visit. The grounds here were also a nice escape from all of the craziness of the city.

DSC_3775

DSC_3780

DSC_3791

DSC_3807

DSC_3809

DSC_3813

After our visit to the shrine and park we jumped right into the heart of the Harajuku.

DSC_3826

And it was packed with locals and tourists alike. While all the tourists were snapping away under the neighborhood sign, all the locals were in long lines. Interested to see what the lines were for we followed along the walkway for a few meters and saw that they were all in line for Garrett Popcorn. I think this ‘Chicago Tradition’ has more fans abroad than in the windy city as I have never even seen this shop.

The area itself seemed to succumb to the tourist trade and while it was a visual overload, we didn’t spend too much time in the neighborhood center. As we wandered around finding our way back to a main road and heading down a side street we were greeted with more shops, some small boutiques and others local name brand alongside the international brands, we took some time to just walk in a check out the various fashions. While I was tempted to buy a few things, the sticker shock made me place those items back on the rack. Even in shops where I had seen the same item in Australia where US prices were usually included on the sticker too, the prices there were almost double. I can’t believe that anyone would actually pay these prices. I guess it is true that people believe the posted price is the fair price and that is what they should pay. I wonder what widespread use of Amazon will do to the shopping culture here? We found a nice Ramen spot for lunch before we continued our day of wandering as we walked to the Shibuya neighborhood.

Only $150 for a watermelon

Only $150 for a watermelon

Once in Shibuya, we made our way to the main intersection in town, which was made popular by the movie ‘Lost in Translation,’ a film I will now have to put on my must see list. Of course we had to partake in the madness of this street crossing, however once you have crossed the streets in Vietnam everything else seems fairly tame. We did have proper crossing here and cars actually stopped, so the fun of it was just walking with such large crowds of people who just following the crossing lights to a t, and the cars that wait patiently. Making our way around the neighborhood we spotted a UNIQLO and of course had to stop in. No trip to Japan would be complete without shopping at our favorite travel clothing store. At this point there a few items in my wardrobe that have served their purpose and it is time for some new clothes. After making our purchases we walked to the door, to see it jammed packed as there is a torrential downpour in progress with lighting included. There were sheets of water rushing down the hill and just a few brave souls running from awning to awning to avoid the rain. We hung out in the doorway for a few minutes until it started to lighten up before we started to wander the neighborhood again. At this point a little rain is the norm and doesn’t even faze me. My San Diegan ways of wanting to stay in to avoid the rain are now long gone.

After a full day of walking, we hopped back on the train to head back to Iogi to hang out for a bit and dry off before making it out to dinner. That evening we went to a great Yakiniku restaurant where after we tried it were told we had just eaten cow’s tongue for the very first time. I am glad I wasn’t told what it was until after, but yet again it was tasty and something I would have probably never tried if I was told what it was first. The meal also included other great cuts of meats and sauces for dipping.

IMG_1898

And for the second time in the day Adam and I both felt like giants. While sitting on the ground I felt like we took up so much room while everyone else in the place seemed to occupy such a small space at the table. I am used to being the tall one, feeling like a giant twice in one day is quiet comical.

Today’s Travel: The train to Harajuku and walked down to Shibuya

Accommodations: Kamoshita Inn

Checkin’ out the neighborhoods

28 June 2014

Being such a large city Tokyo probably could be best described as a giant conglomerate of neighborhoods. There are of course the very popular regions like Harajuku, Shinjuku and Shibuya but there are endless neighborhoods within the city limits.

We decided to explore some of the closer neighborhood so we hoped on the train to Koenji to check out all of the vintage fashion. Wandering thru the arcade and walking in to a shop here and there and quickly realizing these vintage fashions aren’t for the cheap, we didn’t spend too much time in these stores.

Posing with a mascot for a local politician. Yep, their politicians have mascots instead of just being them.

Posing with a mascot for a local politician. Yep, their politicians have mascots instead of just being them.

And another random mascot, no idea what this one is for, but there are literally mascots all over this country for anything and everything.

And another random mascot, no idea what this one is for, but there are literally mascots all over this country for anything and everything.

We did spend a good amount of time in what could only be described as Japan’s answer to Spencer’s at Village/Vanguard. I loved how there were so many different sections fully dedicated to a cartoon or movie character. They had a full hello kitty section but they had tons of Simpsons stuff and even a Sailor Moon area. And of course there was almost an entire floor dedicated to books/comics and so much random 90’s stuff I thought I had walked back into Stoneridge mall circa 1996. As we walked from one section of town to the other we even found an entire anime section of shops, which had everything from games, books, to costumes, cafes, photo booths and pretty much everything else you could think of all somehow related back to anime.

They even had a California bag

They even had a California bag

The highlight of our day though had to be a planned BBQ that turned into a tako-yaki party due to the rain. We got to enjoy tako-yaki on our first night in Osaka and tonight we got to try our hand at making our own.

IMG_1874

While not quite as good as the ones we had previously we were quite pleased with how they turned out and had a great evening hanging out with everyone.

Today’s Travel: From Iogi toKoenji walked to Asagya took the train back to Ogikubo

Accommodations: Kamoshita Inn

Off to Tokyo’s suburbs

27 June 2014

We left Baldwin manor and were on our way to the big city. We had such a great time that it was a little bitter sweet to say goodbye but we had lunch plans in Tokyo.

It was short train ride into Tokyo before changing trains to one of the local suburban trains to Iogi. Arriving at the station we met up with a friend from high school that I had played lacrosse with freshman year.  After we dropped off our bags we walked the main center of Iogi checking out the parks and all the quaint shops. It was a great location as everything we could need was in short walk away and in 20 minutes we could be in the center of Tokyo.

Since we had yet to experience one, we popped into the 100 yen store (basically a dollar store but obviously with Japanese products). It was a fantastic store filled with so many items you never know you would need, plus some practical stuff at really great prices.

The cleaning products in Japan are all happy

The cleaning products in Japan are all happy

DSC_3729

DSC_3739

Not sure how I made it through life without one of these

Not sure how I made it through life without one of these

DSC_3728

DSC_3747

Obviously for when your chair legs get cold

Obviously for when your chair legs get cold

While Kate and I went to run an errand, Adam decided it would be a good time to get a haircut. He had purposefully decided to hold off on getting one while we were at the military base as he stated “I don’t want to end up getting it cut too short and looking like I signed my enlistment papers.” That turned out to be a bad decision as he had a little bit of a lost in translation moment at the barbershop and walked out looking like this.

IMG_1859

Turns out the clipper lengths in Japan are different then everywhere else we’ve been as their numbers are millimeters. Adam managed to communicate everything he wanted properly, but unfortunately the odd look from the barber repeating everything back even mentioning 8 millimeters (seriously we need to learn the metric system) didn’t register with Adam until after the first pass with the clippers had been made and the damage done. Afterwards, when we saw him walking down the street I just could not stop laughing out loud especially considering the irony of not wanting to get it cut too short on the military base.

Today’s Travel: Yokosuka Station to Iogi Station and seeing the sights of Iogi aka the parks and the 100 yen store

Accommodations: Kamoshita Inn. Our bedroom (we stole Nagisa’s (Kate’s son) playroom which I think made us a little suspect in his eyes for the first few hours) was a perfect place for us to lay our heads and relax in urban Tokyo for a few days. Kate played a great tour guide for us and gave us a bunch of great information on areas to explore.

Laundry, exercise and sleep oh my!

26 June 2014

It was an exciting day in the life of two travelers. We caught up on some sleep, I got to go for a run around base (almost like running along the bay in SD), we did some free laundry and of course were able to catch up on posting and writing. In Vietnam I turned into a bit of a slacker with the writing so Adam has picked up on filling in the details on most of time there as all I pulled together were notes of what we did and some random musings. But the best part was watching Japanese soap operas, so much drama! I really had no clue what was happening but that did not stop me from making up my own story line. And in the carrying on the tradition of being back in America we ventured just off base to a Hawaiian burger joint. When they served the burger and the bun was literally as big as Adam’s face, it felt like we were right back at home.

Today’s Travel: Around base

Accommodations: Baldwin Manor

Are you there Mt. Fuji, it’s me the tourist who wants a picture?!?!

25 June 2014

We got off to an early-ish start and were on the road to Mt. Fuji just after 8am. As we started off, I soon realized this was the first time in months that we had been in a car. And have to admit it was a little scary at first. At one point, while we were driving with the flow of traffic I thought we were traveling really fast, but when I looked at the speed we were going about 65mph. Yep, the girl with the lead foot now thinks 65mph is way too fast. I have a feeling that when we are back stateside it will be lots of side roads and minimal trips on the freeways for a few months. We made a short pit stop at one of the road side rest stops. While having done a few road trips between SD and the bay over the years, I have thought that there have been some nice improvements to the rest stops in-between the two areas, however Japan once again reminded me that those are just crap in comparison.  This rest stop had a nice outdoor area to hang out at, plenty of food options and of course really nice restrooms. This will definitely be the first and last time that I go to a roadside restroom that has heated toilet seats and as per usual music options. I have decided that for our next home we will have a Japanese style toilet.

After a few hours on the road we arrived atKitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine. This is the location of the official start of the trail and home to statues and celebrations related to climbing Mt.Fuji. The temple was very colorful and well preserved. However to keep these colors the structure was covered in plexi glass which made it impossible to snap a good picture.

DSC_3538

DSC_3541

DSC_3559

DSC_3570

DSC_3573

DSC_3579

DSC_3593

DSC_3594

DSC_3607

DSC_3611

DSC_3622

While we didn’t make the stop to see the deer on the grounds (I think I’m still a little scared from the deer at Nara) we did come across a pre-school field trip making their way there. It was probably the most adorable thing I have ever seen especially when the kids held up the peace sign as their teachers snapped pictures. Now that we had our time at the temple it was time to take the short cut and drive up to the highest point possible, station five, and start our afternoon walk.

As we were driving up the Fuji Subaru Line towards station 5, we got to experience some road entertainment. There were divots created in the road so that as we drove over them it played a nice little song. It really is the little things that impress us sometimes. Getting closer, the clouds barely began to break at the summit. With the convenience of a car, we pulled over, quickly grabbed our cameras and were out snapping away.

DSC_3627

DSC_3629

Moments later we were back on the road and the clouds had once again covered the view. It is moments like these that being on a bus would have sucked. We arrived at the parking lot to a densely fogged in valley and mountain and some very cool temperatures. To me we could have been on Antarctica. So we stopped into the chalet/restaurant/gift shop to warm up with a bowl of ramen. It was than time to see what this mountain was all about. We started down the path and came to the sign reminding us that the mountain was “closed” so we stepped over the small chain roped fence and were on our way. Thru the dense fog we could barely see a few meters ahead of us, but we were reminded by both Susan and Brice that down below there was a lovely lake and the summit we had quickly seen not long ago was to our right. I guess we had to believe them that these things existed as all I could see was volcanic rock at my feet a few trees every now and again and fog, lots of fog.

Do you see the beautiful lakes down there?

Do you see the beautiful lakes down there?

DSC_3636

Eventually though there were clear patches and you could watch the next section of fog roll in while enjoying the brief views. With all the fog though it did make it seem more mythical as you really didn’t know what to expect to see just beyond the limited view. And at the tree line it made it feel as if we were walking thru an elfin forest. I was expecting a unicorn to appear at any moment.

DSC_3637

DSC_3638

fuji9

DSC_3645

fuji1

fuji2

DSC_3648

DSC_3657

Just before station 7 we decided to end our afternoon walk. We weren’t prepared with the right shoes as we approached this snowy section.

DSC_3667

And after walking in volcanic rock, which you sink into with every step, I was happy with our accomplishment. Plus for just a few seconds the clouds did clear and we could see the torii at station 8. While it didn’t look to far way I did take note of the guy who power walked right by us a few minutes earlier and it looked like he had only made it a few meters. Distance on this mountain is very deceiving. From where we were standing it was less than 6km to the top but a few hours away. The long walk up as a fairly easy walk down. It wasn’t much faster but my lungs were much happier to work less. On the way down the fog broke up for us once again and we could actually see the path.

DSC_3675

DSC_3683-001

DSC_3690

I guess it was better to not see it on the way up as it was very steep.

DSC_3692

Notice the distance to the summit and the estimated time. Almost six and a half hours to go six kilometers.

DSC_3696

DSC_3697

Back in the car we had another glimpse of the summit, so we once again jumped out as fast as we could to see. This time the fog stayed away for a minute or two and cleared out even more than the last time. It really is a massive and forbearing mountain.

DSC_3710

When we got back home we decided that since we are back in the US, our meal choice should be something more ‘American.’ So we decided to head to the Mexican restaurant just off base. And this was the first time where I was actually pleased with our meal, maybe it was the expectation that it was going to be tex-mex or the tasty chips and gauc or the margaritas that made me feel this way or simply the fact that it’s now been 7 months since we’ve had good Mexican food, but whatever it was it hit the spot.

We decided to stop into the exchange to pick up some beers for the evening which turned out to be one of the biggest culture shocks. As we walked in I felt like I was in such a foreign place, a store where you can buy pretty much all the essentials, it was almost like being back in a target. I found myself wandering the aisle completely wide eyed and slightly delirious. I could not believe the amount of options of face wash and that I recognized and could read off every brand name. I was so excited to see this that I think my pure giddiness frightened Susan and she probably thought I should be medicated. Adam too had his own, ‘I can’t believe there are so many options here’ moment, when in the beer aisle. He described it so odd to walk down an aisle that only has beer (as opposed to just a few options) and is full of different beers that he was able to recognize and weren’t just all pilsner type beers. After this I don’t really know how we are going to handle the reverse culture shock of returning to the US. But I guess as with most things re-adjusting is just our new normal, but there will probably be some times where we just stand in store aisles completely astonished with all the options and variety of products available in a single store.

Today’s Travel: We made the drive toKitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine which is the location of the traditional climbing trail, so we did snap a few pictures at the Yoshida Climbing Route then we drove up to Fuji Subaru Line to the 5th station to start our walk up to the seventh station

Accommodations: Baldwin Manor

Making our way back to ‘Merica…sort of

24 June 2014

Our last day in Kyoto would not be complete without one last temple stop. So we grabbed the bus to Sanjusangendo Temple. In reading the description I knew it would be a really cool temple, but as we walked in and saw rows and rows of Buddha statues lined in perfect order on raised platforms I was floored. In total there were 1001 of the Buddhist deity, Juichimen-senjusengen Kanzeon, more often referred to as ‘Kannon.’ The combination of the intricate details of each Kannon and the sheer scale of the 1001 statues lined up was made for an overwhelming impression. It wasn’t until I approached the end until I think I was able to finally absorb every last detail of the Kannons. Also in front of the Kannons there were 28 images/statutes (the images of which initially came from India) placed to protect the massive Buddha statue in the center of the temple. Unfortunately no photography was allowed in the temple so we don’t have any photos to show you, but if you ever find yourself in Kyoto make sure you make your way to Sanjusangendo.

Continuing on our tour we also learned that this temple was the site of many archery competitions. The one that really impressed us was an endurance competition where archers would shoot at a target all the way at the other end of the temple for 24 hours to see who could hit the target the most times. The winner managed to shoot over 13,000 arrows and hit the target over 8,000 times or about once every 10 seconds.

DSC_3480

DSC_3486

Because we have serious problems we were on our way back to Men Ko Bo ren for our last meal in Kyoto. Now this is outside the city so we made it a few blocks down the street to the bus stop, which only makes a stop every hour and it would be arriving in a few minutes (wooohoo to more dumb luck), to have another tasty lunch.

DSC_3491

DSC_3496

The big exciting event of the day was the bullet train ride to Shin-Yokohama. Arriving at the ticket office a few minutes before the next train we bought our tickets and power walked it to the platform.

DSC_3528

We really didn’t realize the time when we bought the ticket and with trains every few minutes we could have waited, but luckily we did arrive at the platform with a few minutes to spare. It was then on the fancy train I have ever been on.

DSC_3517

This is what the world looks like at 300 km/h

This is what the world looks like at 300 km/h

Everything about it was just pure perfection. As we gained speed for the first few moments I felt a little motion sickness as I tried to write, but soon that faded. I did try to watch the countryside as we zoomed by at 300 kh/h But I found it more comfortable to just take a nap.

Once at Shin-Yokohama, we finally had a few minutes to spare before the next train, so I went on a search to pick up the final piece of our gift, kit kats. I walked into a shop and after looking around could not find any so I decided to ask the girl at the register. After asking about two times to completely blank stares another employee walked over to try to understand my question and at about my fourth or fifth ask, he said, ’oh kit-zu kat-zu,’ to which I nodded with a smile. They didn’t have any but once we transferred to a local train we found them at one of the smaller kiosks, crisis adverted. But I guess it was a lesson in pronunciation. While reading in lonely planet about seven elevens being one of the only places for foreigners to get cash they had called out that if you needed to ask for one ask for a ‘sebrun elebrun’ which while reading that I thought it was total crap. But I guess there might be some truth to that. It was then on our third and final train for the day to make in to Yokosuka. While at the platform we debated on which train we should take, this debate lasted a few seconds, as we decided to hop on the one that had arrived while we stood on the platform was about to depart. I barely made it on and experience my first train door body check and almost fell over, but my cat like reflexes were with me at that moment and I really only felt like an ass as everyone on the car was staring at me. As we stopped at every single station it became clear that we probably should have stayed on that platform and waited like everyone else as we were on the local train and the express train would have gotten us to Yokosuka in about half the time. But hey we got to see so many train stops. As we walked out of the station it was great to see two familiar faces waiting for us, Susan and Brice.

It was a short walk from the station to base, where after clearing what felt like customs were back on US soil. Even walking down the street it felt like we were back state side. I found myself just watching people intently like I needed to observe their behaviors so I could try to blend in. It was such a trip!

Today’s Travel: A morning trip to Starbucks to enjoy the reserve coffee a visit to Sanjusangendo Temple and because we have food problem back to Men Ko Bo Ren for more reckoning noodles. Then it was onto the bullet train to Shin-Yokohama to two local trains to arrive at Yokosuka.

Accommodations: Baldwin Manor. The seventh floor estate had expansive views of the harbor (if you squinted hard enough you could pretend you were looking out at the bay in SD), plenty of storage for our bags, extra seating, free laundry (unfortunately they have a policy of not ironing undergarments) and a large bathroom with every type of amenity provided.

IMG_1837

Plus breakfast was included and the welcome guide and maps were an excellent touch. But what really set this place apart was the bedroom mood lighting, you never knew you needed a remote controlled lighting system along the base of the bed until you have a fantastic nights sleeps with the purple mood lights.

IMG_1854

Too bad you have to be in the know to stay here otherwise I would have given this a 5 star review on tripadvisor!