Posts Tagged ‘tokyo’

Previously our only first-hand knowledge about Asia was from travelling in Japan, little did we imagine how full of variation the continent is. After 3 months we still realize we’ve only seen but a portion of it and will sure return for more. For people coming from the Europe-centric part of the world, as ourselves, it was actually very refreshing to see places so detached from what we otherwise think is the center of the world.

08 – The Terracotta Army 

The immense detail and beauty of this amazing collection of statues surely make up for the hordes of tourists one has to fight to see them. A must when visiting Xi’an, China.

07 – Suwon’s Ancient Walls

There was something about these ancient walls of South Korea that made us romanticize about forlorn times of honor and greatness 😉

06 – Beijing And The Qing Dynasty’s Heritage

The capital of China has some real treats to offer, most of which can be attributed to the Qing dynasty. The Great Wall, the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven are all fantastic sights, all accessible from this bustling city..

05 – Thailand’s Beaches

It might sound like a cliché, but who can resist the charm of beautiful soft sand, turquoise water, colorful fishes, friendly people and good food? We chose a spot on Koh Phangan which didn’t disappoint us.

04 – Monkeys And Hot Springs

We’ve seen many monkeys and they remain one of our favourite animals. If there is a place that not only has wild monkeys but also hot springs, it will definitely be one of our tops picks of any trip. Believe it or not, it is not difficult to find a place like that in Japan, but Beppu sure was easy to like.

03 – Buddhist Temple Stay

Probably one of the most personally rewarding experiences from our travels, staying for 2 nights at Golgul-sa near Gyoengju, South Korea. It was fun, insightful, exhausting and painful.

02 – Chengdu’s Pandas

They are adorable, even more than one can ever imagine and as the animal lovers that we are, completely irresistible. Chengdu, China, is a nice enough place to be in anyhow, but the pandas are amazing.

01 – Tokyo And Sumo Wrestling Live

Probably our favourite city on the planet, we are big fans of Japan, and this was our 3rd visit to this versatile city. I mean, can anyone tell me of a place were you can get a cat café, robots, electronics, manga, delicious food, crazy fashion, ancient culture, friendly people and on top of that, this time we got to watch sumo wrestling live! We will surely be back.

With a stroke of luck, our friend and CouchSurfing host Yuichi had managed to get 3 free sumo tickets, and invited us to go with him.

Arriving in Ryōgoku we saw several sumo wrestlers in the station, on the streets and in the convenience stores.

The tournament goes on for 15 days, with the most exciting matches at the end, and runs about 8 hours each day, also with the strongest wrestlers last, so that’s why it looked a little bit empty when we entered the Ryōgoku Kokugikan.

The lower ranking wrestlers were already going strong when we showed up around 2 pm, but we were absolutely amazed anyway. It turns out that sumo is one of those things that are incredible to watch first hand, but looks less impressive on small photos (similar to grand landscapes).

Luckily we had Yuichi with us to explain the rules, sumo history and the match schedule that was all in Japanese.

Most matches were mostly about both wrestlers charging forward, followed by some pushing and grappling, but occasionally they threw their opponent out of the ring (And into the laps of the first line of the audience. One poor woman had two different wrestlers land on her on different occasions).

Sumo has strong connections with Shinto and has many ceremonial parts, of which I think the leg lift and throwing salt into the ring are the most famous ones.

Another is when the wrestlers line up around the ring with the referee and perform a short “dance” – with the lack of a better word.

And speaking of the referees, they were changed every now and then, with one in more flamboyant robes than the other (which is no coincidence, as they – like the wrestlers – have different ranks that are reflected in their clothes).

When looking at sumo wrestlers, it’s easy to think that they’re just fat, but there’s also a lot of muscle in there.

And then this guy showed up, who had barely any fat at all. He’s not very strong for a sumo wrestler, but he managed to win his match with some agility and a sneaky throw.

Near the end the champion, Hakuho, appeared and performed a ceremonial ritual.

As always in Japan, efficiency is valued and a troupe of cleaners sweep the dohyo between the different divisions’ matches.

Finally it’s time for Hakuho’s match, but since it’s only day 3 he’s not facing his strongest opponent.

A few more spectators…

And with a bust of energy, the champion easily pushes his opponent out of the ring in a second.

Everybody is going towards the train station, creating a sea of umbrellas.

A bowl of ramen with pork slices is the perfect ending of a hard day. Well, maybe not so hard for us, but it tasted good!

Day 160 – Touristing In Tokyo

Posted: May 9, 2011 by monoton in Asia, Travel
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After cruising around Tokyo on our own for two days, our CouchSurfing host had a day off and took us on a tour through the city.

As always the city is full of signs with cute illustrations.

Asakusa market is popular with tourists and Japanese school children alike.

And it’s also a good place to pick up a soft ice cream with some (to us) exotic flavor, such as cherry blossom, chestnut, sweet potato or lavender. We got green tea and vanilla mix.

(looking up)

At one end of the market you find the temple Senso-Ji, which was quite busy. It seems like it’s flu season, as we saw many wearing face masks (contrary to popular belief these are to reduce the risk of contaminating others, rather than to protect oneself from pollution. And since some of you are probably wondering, bacteria and viruses are of course too small to be hindered if travelling freely in the air, but they mostly transmitted by tiny water particles in our breath. So now you know ^^)

And furthermore, contrary to what the Internet will tell you, people wearing anything else than plain clothes in anything else than black/white/grey/tan are quite rare in Japan. Well, maybe we’ve been looking in the wrong places, but I must admit that the first time here I was a little disappointed. These skeleton stockings felt like quite a find though.

On our previous visits I took about a million pictures of carps in different colors, but I couldn’t resist photographing this one who got incredibly excited when it saw us.

Monja is a Tokyo speciality, not unlike okonomiyaki except less round and more gooey, which we had for lunch. At this particular restaurant you were served the ingredients in a bowl and then you could cook it yourself in the middle of the table. Very tasty!

Later we went to a market street near Ueno where we stocked up on Japanese candy and Evisu jeans. In the Evisu store a group of artists were hand-painting the jeans, and as an added bonus they had a 30% discount.

The evening was rounded off with dinner at an izakaya restaurant Torikizoku with our friends from CouchSurfing and fellow surfers.

On the way home we stopped at a supermarket to get some beer, shochu and dried squid for snacks. What really caught our eye were these colorful octopus arms though.

Day 158 – All Quiet On The Eastern Front

Posted: May 7, 2011 by minimal in Asia, Travel
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We are here! We arrived!

Visiting Japan during our around the world trip has definitely been one of the highlights of our trip that we have been looking forward to very much. This is our 3rd visit to this fascinating country and our 3rd visit in Tokyo. There are so many fantastic memories that we hold in this place and over the years our attachment to it has grown. When we first received the news about the earthquake and the tsunami that hit the northern part of the main island, Honshu, we were very sad and alarmed. Later, with the development of a new crisis in the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, we started to ask ourselves if we would need to cancel going to Japan at all. Our friends and family were concerned for us, they asked us not to go, people we met along our travels cancelled their trips there.

We decided to come anyway, we wanted to support Japan, we didn’t want to be scared off and most of all we wanted to visit our friends there. We arrived in Tokyo three days ago to a lovely spring day. The Japanese continue their daily life, as kind and friendly as ever and if we didn’t know better, it was like there was no major nuclear plant crisis threatening this country at all. Still, we noticed that there are no tourists on the streets and the all so colorful neon lights on the streets are turned off, the train companies are saving energy.

Since we had a bad nights sleep on our flight between Sydney and Tokyo we decided to take it very easy on our first day in Tokyo. We locked our backpacks in a bag locker in Shinjuku station and took a stroll around the area. We went to the huge book store Kinokuniya and bought some books in English by Japanese authors, the famous Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto and I Am A Cat by Soseki Natsume, I would love to have bought many more, but I’d have to carry them on my back. After doing some window shopping we decided to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and went up to the top floor of the Isetan department store., where there is a lovely garden.

We decided that we had had too much sun and spent a couple of hours at the huge internet and manga cafe, Gran Cyber Cafe B@gus. We paid for a double booth which included free drinks. The place is very popular and it is full of teenage couples that look terribly innocent when checking in. We’ve read, that since it is cheaper than a hotel people who are without a place to stay or even homeless will spend the night here, the place even has showers.

One of the big things in Japan is the food, there are so many delicious and different things to try out that it seems there is never enough time. Another aspect about eating here, is that half the time you don’t know what you are getting, if you are lucky there is a picture menu, but even then it is hard to know what you are ordering. It seems like we spend a lot of time eating while we are here, if it is not noodles, it is sushi or green tea candies or tasty pastries.

On our second day in Tokyo, we made our way to the outskirts of town to visit Neko no mise, a cat café, basically you go there and pay for the hour and get to have a cup of tea or coffee surrounded by cats. There are many cat, and dog, cafés in town but this one by the Machida JR station, was the first one, and it is a really nice café to hang out at.

When it is time for the cats to eat one of the regular customers gets the privilege to feed them, and the cats come running and line up to get a piece of the good stuff. Most of the cats are a bit shy, but if you are lucky one will let you pet it.

As usual we had to do a visit to Akihabara Electric Town, it is a part of town which is a major shopping area for electronics, computers, manga, and a lot of other odd items.

Akihabara is also known for its, so-called, maid cafés, in every corner you can find a young girl dressed in maid costumes trying to get customers for a café. We visited one of these last time we were in Tokyo, and as obscure as it may sound to a westerner, it felt perfectly innocent and cosy.

There is always something going on in Akihabara, lucky for us, this time we found a game fair.

Tokyo is really an amazing city with huge diversity, sometimes it is hard to picture it, so many people living so close to each other. If you want to try to understand it you can always go up on one of the big skyscrapers and see it with your own eyes.

Around The World In Two Hundred And Fifty Eight Days

Posted: November 14, 2010 by minimal in Preparations, Travel
Tags: ,

As a child I often dreamt of becoming a great explorer that would travel the world and learn everything there was to learn, hear all the stories that were ever told and see everything. This is how that dream becomes reality. Sure we aren’t exactly Phileas Fogg and Jean Passepartout, but I’m sure our adventures will be as exciting. We decided to try to take it easy, 80 days chased by a cop would just be too hectic, so what about 258 days?

It took us some years to get here. When Johan and I met, we started planning our first trip to Japan. I was delighted, since I loved traveling and thought I had finally met my match, little did I know that Johan was a rookie in the hard and dangerous life of traveling. Soon it turned out that a little naivety and good faith in people was exactly what a paranoid control freak like myself needed. A better traveling duo is hard to find. Things went wonderfully, even though we followed a group of complete strangers to a desolate parking lot for a photo shoot, we didn’t get robbed, it was an actual photo shoot. And they even gave us two beers.

In a beautiful lily park in Tokyo we got engaged, I don’t know if it was the flowers or that we might have been lost in translation. The idea was to get married and travel around the world as our honeymoon trip, three years later here we are.

We want to thank everybody that contributed to this trip, it is the best wedding gift ever.