Four fun-filled days

I sit here at my kitchen table, rubbing the weariness from my eyes. Not the things you’d normally hear from me, mind you — I haven’t been working too hard as of late (as you know, my big project is done). No, this is from something much better — spending time with my family, and notably you, Monkey.
The last four days have been a lot of fun. Maybe even too much fun. Both of us are pretty pooped. You went to bed and for the first time in a long while, there wasn’t hours of chatter from your room. I think you pretty much passed out. I won’t be too far behind you, I think, but I do wish to describe the fun that we’ve shared.
‘Cuz, frankly, I’m not sure how the heck I survived it all…
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My favourite trains (so far)

I rarely remember my dreams. I have to wake up in the middle of them to remember what they were about, and quite often I’m so tired that by the time I can get my mental faculties together to try and remember the dream, I already forgot what it was. Which is probably good, since most of the dreams I remember make very little sense.
This morning’s dream was an exception. I was talking with someone I know (admittedly, can’t remember who it was) about trains. (Believe it or not, this is not an unknown conversation.) They asked me what my favourite train trips were, and I had said something like “whoa, that’s a tough one, let me think”. Then I started rhyming them off.
Oddly enough, that was about when I woke up … and I kept rhyming. So I figured, heck, that just sounds like a blog post!
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Why the right tools matter

A few years ago, I went off to Japan to visit my friend Chris. I took along my (at the time) fancy digital camera: a Canon Pro 90 IS. Fancy in that it was big mega-pixels (for the time) and had an image stabiliser built-in (that’s what the “IS” stands for). Like I do now, I used it to document the heck out of my trip.
One thing Canon had on its prosumer cameras at the time that they took out of the DSLR line was the panorama assist mode (I don’t think it exists in any of their models now — does it?). A handy feature, it let you create panoramic views by being able to line up your previous shot. Then you used some included software, and BOOM!, you had a panorama.
Or that’s how it was supposed to work.
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Things seen along the way

As we’ve moved along over this journey, I’ve taken pictures of things for posting to the blog. Some of them didn’t make it, for one reason or another. But hating to waste good pictures, I thought I’d throw them into a blog posting for all to experience.
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Nara is neat

The last time I was in Japan (a little over a year ago), I’d wanted to go to Nara. I’d quite a bit about it, but just hadn’t gotten the chance to go. So when we planned this out, and happened to be spinning through Japan on our way home, it was a very fortunate happenstance that both of us wanted to be there.
Nara, as it turns out, is a very neat little city. Make no mistake, this is most definitely no town. But it doesn’t feel large. At least, if you’re within the “walled” portion. (I’m not sure if there’s an actual wall, but that’s what it looks like on the maps we’ve seen.)
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Wandering around Tokyo

Tokyo is a wonderful city. Even in the rain. Despite a delayed start (we were up late — it doesn’t help that Chris and I yak a lot), we soon found ourselves in Ginza, walking through the mist-like rain in search of not much except yarn (Amy’s got a project she’s trying to finish).
We went through the sweet electronic sanctity of the Sony Showroom [insert drool marks on the screen here], then over to the Apple store (four floors of pure industrial design nirvana), before crossing Ginza dori in search of, well, food. Amy spied a small sign that led us down an alley barely wide enough for us to walk, then down a set of barely-marked stairs into a basement restaurant that served some darn fine raumen, and some pretty funky dumplings.
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Turning Japanese Again, Returning to Canada

I can’t even call this a “last day”. Yesterday, really, was our last day. Today is the packing/travelling day.
And the day to say goodbye to dear friends. I hate leaving friends behind.
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Turning Japanese Again, Tsukiji Market

Why had I gone to Shinagawa to kill time? Simply put, it was far enough away from Tsukiji that walking alone would eat up some time, but not so far that I would be exhausted by the time I got to my destination. I had originally thought Shibuya, but a quick glance at a map ruled it out immediately.
To add to my time getting to Tsukiji, I also planned to walk to Tokyo Tower for some night photographs. Beyond that, I was making up everything as I went. That wasn’t too hard, considering I didn’t really know where I was going. I wasn’t looking at a map, I was just using my sense of direction (usually very reliable) and certain landmarks to know where I was.
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Turning Japanese Again, Touring Tokyo (more still)

We got up a bit later than I’d hoped for, mostly because I’d accidentally turned off the alarm instead of snoozing it.
We took the first train we could get to into Tokyo. I stood, wedged in a space between the door and the side of the bench, watching the scenery pass. At the time, I had thought this to be my last trip into Tokyo. Having been to Japan twice in two years, I can’t honestly imagine returning any time soon.
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Turning Japanese Again, Kamakura

We were up a little earlier than the previous few days, so we could catch a good train out to Kamakura, our excursion for the day.
Kamakura is a small town south of Tokyo, about an hour and three-quarters away from Yotsukaido. From 1192 to 1333, Kamakura was the feudal capital of Japan. There are no signs of its previous governmental past today, but the marks of its present status as a religious centre are very clear. The area is peppered with no less than 84 shrines and temples. Less than Kyoto, but Kamakura is a much smaller area.
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Turning Japanese Again, Touring Tokyo (still)

The alarm went off early. Earlier than usual, anyway. Jen was still sleeping, so I thought I’d let her sleep a bit longer. But at 9:00, I got her going.
Unforunately, Jen started off with a killer headache, so she didn’t move very quickly. Compound to that a very irregular bus schedule and not being able to catch a limited express to Tokyo wound up pretty much killing the point of today’s journey — going to Nikko.
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Turning Japanese Again, Touring Tokyo

The household woke up slowly. The events of last night (see [[Turning Japanese Again, Reception Party in Chiba]]) had done us all in. Kaz and Chris were tired from all the attention they’d been getting. Jen and I were tired from all the things we’d done and drinks we’d had.
As such, we were in no hurry to do anything. I was the first up, my bladder calling attention to itself, and sat down to catch up on my journals. Chris and Kaz were up shortly afterwards. Chris needed to go back to his apartment before going to work, and suggested that I come along to collect last night’s laundry.
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Turning Japanese Again, Reception Party in Chiba

We woke up several times this morning. Once when the phone rang (Mike and Brenda checking in on us), when Kaz and Chris’ new refrigerator showed up, when the phone rang a second time, and when the earthquake hit.
And this time, I’m not joking.
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Turning Japanese Again, Shinkansen to Tokyo

More tofu for breakfast. Blech. Well, not so much blech as bland and really not what I’d like to eat first thing in the morning. Jen didn’t eat much.
Today we’re back to Tokyo (and Yotsukaido). But first, we wanted to do a little touring around. And I do mean “little”. Specifically, two stops up the Karasuma line to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. I really wanted to see what it’s like in there.
But first, we had to pack up and check out. Which wasn’t easy — we’d spread ourselves all over the room. Although it didn’t take me long to pack, Jen had to take a bit longer out of necessity. It’s safe to say that, either way, both of us officially have too much stuff.
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Turning Japanese Again, Touring Osaka

We attempted to move a bit quicker this morning. The key word being “attempted”.
The idea was to go to Osaka and do the touring thing. That meant we had to leave at a reasonable time so we could catch the various trains (subway, shinkansen, local, loop, and subway, in that order) to get from our hotel to the Osaka Aquarium, our first destination of the day.
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Turning Japanese Again, Kyoto Nishi Honganji Temple

Today, we experienced what can only be the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced. The earthquake hit around 7:30, and shook the entire room. Jen and I leapt from bed, and I dragged her into one of the doorways — supposedly the safest place to be during an earthquake. The rumbling continued for a good 30 seconds (not that I was timing, but it was certainly a long shake) before things settled down a bit. I don’t know how often Kyoto gets an earthquake, but apparently even our modest little ryokan can handle the stress.
April fool! Had you going, didn’t I? No, there wasn’t an earthquake. Quite the opposite, actually. It would have taken an earthquake to get Jen out of bed.
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Turning Japanese Again, Kyoto Kiyomizu Temple

I was up long before I’d planned to be up. I’d wanted to try and sleep a bit more to get rest for the long day of walking ahead, but my body said it was time to rise, and so it did.
Besides, the racket of Kyoto on the move outside the window pretty much precluded any additional sleep.
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Turning Japanese Again, Shinkansen to Kyoto

We woke before 8:00 this morning, expecting breakfast. At least, that was the time they put on the reservation notice I got from the guest house reservation service. We didn’t eat until about 8:30, though, which was fine.
Breakfast was mostly western: scrambled eggs, toast, orange juice, and the like. Nothing particularly fancy.
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Turning Japanese Again, Shinkansen to Hiroshima

No hangovers. This was a good way to start the day, even if it was a lot earlier than Jen really would have liked. (Mind you, Jen likes noon as a wake-up time.)
It was warm in the room. The Japanese seem to like it warm. Even trying to turn the heat down didn’t help. Twenty-four degrees is just uncomfortable. We rose, repacked our bags, and prepared for the trip to Hiroshima. Neither of us were particularly hungry, so would skip breakfast. Chris called to inform us of the paper shinkansen schedule, which we’d found out about the night before.
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Turning Japanese Again, Chris and Kaz's Wedding

I woke just before sunrise. I probably should have gotten up to look around, but decided that I’d rather sleep a bit more. I had a sneaky suspicion that it was going to be a long day.
I woke again around 7:00, when my alarm went off. Jen sounded like she was still asleep (though she claims she wasn’t), so I opted not to disturb her and went to go see what the area looked like with the rising sun.
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Turning Japanese Again, Shinkansen to Toyohashi and Irako

I slept a little oddly, considering we’d been up for over 24 hours straight. Woke up once around 3:00 (mostly to go to the bathroom), again at about 5:00, and finally at about 7:50. At that point, it was enough to say I’d probably adjusted to the time zone.
Jen and I proceeded to get on with our morning. For me, showering and shaving (showering when it’s eight degrees in the shower room is a bit of an odd experience), gathering our things from the previous night, laying out Chris and Kaz’s wedding gifts (that they don’t yet know about), and getting breakfast.
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Planning for a Return Trip to Japan

Fourteen days, and counting.
Two weeks from today, I’m off to Japan. Again. Relax, this isn’t going to turn into a yearly thing. If I’d had a choice, I’d probably be going to Australia this year, maybe New Zealand. But I’ve got a good reason for going back to Japan.
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My Trip to Japan, returning home

When I finally arrived home from my stint with the CBC so many months ago (see [[Home for a rest]]), I was happy to be back. It will be nice to be home after my trip to Japan, even though it’s sad to leave it so soon.
When I arrived almost two weeks ago, I had no idea what to expect. There were a lot of questions, intrepidation, excitement, and desire. The fear would not last long, and I certainly got a healthy dose of adventure. But there is simply too much to see and do in Japan — you could visit for a year and before you could see enough to be satisfied.
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My Trip to Japan, Imperial Palace and Ueno Park

Today was my last full day in Japan. There was so much I still wanted to see and do. I couldn’t do everything … but I darn well tried!
Chris had to work, so would stay behind in Yotsukaido. Kaz, her friend, Ellesen, and myself went into brave the city of Tokyo and what wonders there were yet to find.
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My Trip to Japan, Yokohama

Another day, another adventure. Today, though, we would throw in a different nationality.
We all rose at basically the same time and quickly prepared for our departure. We needed to be in Yokohama by about 10:30, which meant we had to leave fairly early. It’s just shy of two hours to Yokohama.
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My Trip to Japan, Odaiba Seaside Park

Today was a good day. Not that other days have been bad by any means, but when you can sit back and reflect and feel really good — that’s a particularly good day.
Chris was up early to meet Kaz at Tokyo station. We had loosely planned to hit something interesting in Tokyo today, but Ellesen and I needed to sleep in a bit. (Where Chris finds all the energy he’s got lately, I’ll never understand.)
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My Trip to Japan, Harajuku and Shibuya

I think a good rule of thumb for how long you should stay in one place while on vacation is your comfort level. When you become too comfortable, you’ve stayed too long. I’ve become very comfortable with Tokyo.
That’s not to say I’m bored with Tokyo — far from it. This city — this country, in fact — has so much to offer that it is seriously impossible to cover all of it in a mere two weeks. I could spend almost two weeks in Tokyo alone! I wish I didn’t have to go home right away, so I could spend more time seeing the country. Four days remain.
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