Published: October 20th 2007October 20th 2007
Japan is FANTASTIC. If you haven't already heard, Shanghai wasn't really my cup of tea. Not to put anyone off their travels there but it's a polluted, stinky (really, there was a 'melting plastic' aroma almost everywhere I went) people spit in the street, people try to scam you (Idiot number 1 over here, scammed for AU$155) I was even latched onto and chased by one beggar, one minute you're talking to someone about your drawings and the next they're getting a bottle smashed over their head??!!. Yep, Shanghai was one big stinky, smoggy, crappy, overpopulated chinese city. So I was pretty happy when I boarded and sailed off on the ferry to Osaka, Japan. Woohoo! I did however have some very hilarious and memorable experiences there, for example when I arrived at Shanghai station from the 20 hour train ride from Hong Kong I tried to take a taxi to my hostel, and instead ended up taking a motobike with a stocky and bristled Northen looking (mountain people, as some would say) who kept speaking to me in Chinese (poutungwa, spelling?) and laughing hysterically over things like my piercings, some military dressed men waiting in a triangle at the traffic lights.
Girls In Jimjams
These two French girls (I think) were advertising that life is more fun while wearing pyjamas (I think). Good to see someone being creative in this stifling place!
He was fun, and made me smile, even though when i got off the motorcycle my face felt caked with smog. Easy breezy beautiful covergirl! I also shared a room with three Japanese kids, who were so friendly and fun they made me even more excited to boycott shanghai and head straight for Japan. Also met some fantastic travellers in my hostel which was comfortable and atmospheric, even though there were alot of people coming and going. Stefan from germany, he listened to a montage of 80's music with me while we used the wireless internet and (he) reminisced.. Jack from Yangzhou in China who is a climber/outdoor educator he helped to get me out of the hostel when I was too scared to go outside.. really! i couldn't read the menus either so it was a challenge even trying to order something remotely vegetarian on my own. And also Noam, from Israel. He had just alighted the ferry from Japan, the same one I took and we sarcastically and sadistically took the piss out of shanghai together, visited the old Shanghai area (which is pretty mystical besides the swarms of tourist) and saw a chinese opera! So, now that I
Everyone told me "You have to go down to the Bund!" It was pretty much just a bunch of beautiful architecture.
think about it, China wasnt't ALL that bad, and I'd like to experience some other areas aswell.
But, that's in the past, now I'm in Kyoto, Japan!! Its's great here, the past two nights I stayed in a fabulous and very homely (very suited to my style of hermitude) guesthouse that Winny (friend from HK) recommended, Waraku-An. The owners are a french (Nico-San) and Japanese (Yuki-San) couple, with a 7month old daughter Hanna, and the place was 100 years old. Naturally it fell to bits, but Nico is a carpenter and has restored it all. Brilliant. They got a little pissy on my first night and abandoned the guesthouse to take me out for Japanese barbeque - squid, WELSH onions and peppers - and Sake. I haven't felt much like drinking since I've left Australia so I just had a sip of the sake and Nico finished it off for me. It's nice, has a bit of bite to it, but more like a sweet wine than a spirit.
A beautiful sprite named Ami also worked at the front desk of the Waraku-An and after I gave her some wordly wisdom about men (hahahaha) we arranged to meet
Ｉ shared my room on the ferry with this little fella, Yuok, cute by day, screaming wretch by night. Also shared with his mum and Chie, a japanese woman from Osaka!
after she finished uni yesterday and hit the Town. Oh, the Waraku-An was in a picturesque are of Kyoto, outside the city a station or two, so when I say "hit the town" I mean, we actually ventured into Kyoto city, Ami dinking me on her bicycle which was a blast! The police didn't like it much and we were pulled over (or just pointed in the real sense) and had to disembark and walk. First we went out for Japanese Pizza "Okonomiyaki" which is basically a thin dough or pastry with THE STRANGEST pizza toppings (Ishka, you HAVE to try this!!). Ours was egg noodles, squid maybe some onion? with japanese mayonaise (YUM!) and various other sauces, and big fish flakes served up on a hot plate for use to devour with a small spatula and, yes, chopsticks. I can't say it was easy eating a pizza with chosticks, but it was fun and the conversation and company were really all I needed for a good time out. After Ami and I walked through a busy friday night in Kyoto, to people watch the young club hoppers and a few male escorts which was very fruity, fasionable (I guess)
Chie and I on the train, her boyfriend was also there who came to meet her, and two other guys from the ferry..
and an interesting way to see Japan nightlife for the first time. The area we visited was the Sanjo street arcade area, I went looking around earlier in the day in this same area because it pissed down with rain yesterday and Nico-San told me it was a great place for a rainy day as the arcades are undercover. And holy crap, some of the fashion here is amazing and a little ridiculous, but nothing short of eyecatching! it's hard not to stare at people, and I think people maybe the Japanese have that same impression of me! I did feel a little out of the times (but isn't the time-warped 70's nerd look what I'm going for at the moment?) but I think to not feel that way would be somewhat difficult. I bought some wool to crochet my 'Jess' asia tour scarf' with, I'm finding a ball of yarn, wool or anything thats crochetable in every place (or most places) I'm visiting and scarfing it up for winter back in Australia. It's looking good so far!
So, Ami and I are cycling (with me on the back) through Gion area, which is like the nightlife area and she
Marcus and Nori
Marcus is swedish, I had a riot talking to him, and Nori a Japanese fella who I'll hoepfully meet up with again through japan.
takes me down a couple of back streets cause we're looking for a famous street she loves that's filled with lanterns. And what do we see? A GEISHA, WALKING (not casually but rather tightly) DOWN THE STREET. Ami tells me she's not a real Geisha, she looks too old and maybe she's retired. But in the next street, ANOTHER ONE, this time A REAL ONE!! The Geishas are not supposed to be seen in everyday life because the industry want to keep their 'secret' a mystery. Japan has fake Geishas walking around near temples and other touristy attractions for people to have very cliche and staged photographs with, so it's quite rar to se Geisha unless you wait on a street and watch them hurry from their quarters into a taxi. But I saw one, and then TWO MORE. You can imagine my excitement, Ami just laughed. So so far I've eaten traditional sushi (not the fremantle upmarkets Takas kind!) traditional Tempura, stayed in a 100 year old Japanese style Inn, seen Geisha, and today I went to the Kiomizu Temple one of the most famous (and frequented by tourists) temples in Kyoto. They have all sorts of ceremonious activites, like
Home sweet home.
burning incense, ringing bells, and you can drink from the Otowa waterfall which brings health and happiness to anyone who drinks the water. It was fabulous but I didn't get to see the entirity of the grounds, i was too put off by all the people, literally hundreds swarmed the pagoda and surrounding temples. I much prefer to walk around and get lost in backstreets of Kyoto, try different food and be dinked around on a bicycle Geisha-spotting than temple hopping with so many other hundreds of people.
There's so much to tell, and my back is getting sore as I'm sitting on a tatami matt on the ground typing this memoir. The beds here are also great, a beautiful nights sleep guaranteed. They are futon style (which here means on the ground and folded out at night time for sleeping and packed away in the day) on tatami (bamboo) matts and yes, you have to take your shoes off pretty much everywhere indoors, even some shops. One more thing anyone reading should find amusing. Seeing as the rain was heavy yesterday and 'temple hopping' wasn't really on my rainy agenda, Nico-San suggested i visit the public baths closest the
guesthouse. "Does everyone have to be naked?" I ask Yuki-San. She told me "Yes, but just take a little towel to cover yourself until you get in, that's what I do". So, she gave me a little towel and off i went to the public baths. First I couldn't work out which side was for men and which was for women cause they're segregated, and stumbled into the mens only to be told to go next door and less words than actions. And, when I got there, it was myself and two saggy little old ladies. First I undressed and used the towel but then I was refused to go into the bath by one old lady, she pointed to some buckets and then showed me the action of washing my groin area. Very good demonstration really. So i did that, then i wanted to get in and she told me (in more hand signs) to go to the bath in the corner. I got in and all my muscles convulsed like there was an electric current moving through the water. It was scary. Later, Ami told me it was just hundreds of tiny bubbles that press certain pressure points
Second Hand Shop Kyoto
Forgot to mention, along with the way out fashion, every shop has a second hand section. The prices are the same as at home.. This one is a specialty american 60's 70's wear. I MUST save my money for travelling i MUST!
to make our bodies and skin feel good, but I saw no result of this. i was scared but didn't want to appear foolish infront of the oldies, and I'm pretty sure they were already laughing at me by this stage. So, I went to finally get in the bath, but no.. "SAUNA" and lots of happy facial expressions and thumbs up from the old lady. So, sigh - I went into the sauna, cooked myself for about 10 minutes (felt like decades) and then FINALLY asked, "is it ok to go in the bath now?" I had permission. yay. I didn't stay long as i had to meet Ami and was also feeling a bit well, naked! so I quickly hopped in and hard boiled myself before getting into the cold water pool and rinsing off. "No I don't use soap" i told the old lady as I was rinsing. Sheesh! More saggy old ladies in the changing room and off I went to meet Ami. It was a great day! This morning I had to change guesthouses to my absolute disappointment "Are you sure there's been NO cancellations?" and now I'm staying in another very old inn run
only by one guy! he's giving the introduction and formalities speech to some new guests next to me, dressed in a Kimono. Ahh Japan. I love it. Next stop Shizuoka, to meet up with Kei-San. More Afro-beat adventures to come!!
There are more photos below