( a blog entry from early January that I never posted)
My 4 week long winter holidays are coming to a close this week, but here is a summary of how I’ve spent the time so that I can remember later on!
Since moving into the dorm, my whole experience of being in Japan has changed completely, ive met new people, become far more relaxed, and been able to do many things that I couldn’t have had I been still with my host family. I’m sure that had I still been living there, the whole Christmas holidays/new year would have been a very different experience!
Anyway I was determined to spend as much of time out of Nagoya as possible (I love it lots here but i needed a break) I went to Kobe on Christmas eve to spend a few days with a friend from Leeds Uni. It was only my second time away from Nagoya so fun to see a different area of Japan and realise how different the experiences are that we all get here. Christmas Day we went to play with some children at a lady’s house (still not really sure why/how etc) but
it was fun and we spent most of the afternoon hand-making takoyaki (small fried balls with octopus inside) which was interesting. Boxing day I cooked my first ever Christmas Dinner, by myself! It was a massive treat to have roast meat for the first time since being here, and I think we both thoroughly enjoyed it.
A friend in Kyoto came to see us for one day and we decided to explore the nearby Rokko Mountain that apparently has views over Kobe and Osaka. Sadly it was late in the day when we arrived at the top (by cable car) but I saw my first snow of the season and there were some lovely views of the lit up cities below. Unforunately we missed the last bus and cable car down the mountain and once we reached a road in the freezing cold and dark, it proved more problematic than imaginable trying to determine which way would be descending or ascending the mountain. Finally after a very long time, thanks to mine and Beckie’s charm we managed a hitchhike ride back down. Was a little gutting to realise later that we had left Beckie’s camera and the memory card
to mine in the back of this strangers car….! That was a faff but thanks to a good spell of luck and the generosity of the Japanese man we were reunited with our possessions within a few weeks.
December 31st saw the three of us (and a friend from far down south in Kyushu) hit Tokyo using a very economical ticket (the seishun 18 kippu) which enabled us all to get there at minimal expense but using the very slow, local trains only…to give you some idea it took us 7 hours to do a 2 hour journey from Nagoya to Tokyo, and 2 whole days travel (5am-11pm) for our Kyushu friend! Anyway we spent our first night in a youth hostel that was full of Australians in the Asakusa area (it was nice for me to see the same famous Senso-ji temple in Asakusa that I’d seen on my exchange trip with school 5 years ago), natsukashikatta~
New Year’s Eve we decided upon Meiji Jingu, the most(!?) famous shrine in Tokyo because we were looking to actually do something cultural. I’m glad we did because it was definitely atmospheric (I think there were around a million people
there!) and we were absorbed into the crowd of Japanese people along with many other confused foreigners. It took us about an hour in the crowds to actually reach the shrine so around 1am we did our hatsumode (first shrine visit of the year) where you throw money, pray and clap in some order or other. We then preceded to the nearby Shibuya Crossing, also very lively, saw the infamous statue of Hatchiko the dog, and headed for an hour long all you can drink nomihoudai at an Izakaya. All in all a memorable evening. Oh also we randomly bumped into some others from Leeds Uni in a station somewhere in Tokyo that evening…crazy times!
The following day we moved our luggage to our next night’s accommodation..a capsule hotel in Kinshichou! Since that’s pretty much all we did that day I feel it’s justified to describe a capsule hotel in length instead Despite there being spaces in the hostel for the 2 nights we had particularly wanted the capsule hotel experience since it is one unique to Japan.
The floors were divided male/female…pretty standard since the living space between each ‘room’ is minimal. The capsules were sort
of built into the wall, with two layers and a small painful step to allow the person above to hoist themselves into their capsule. Only a thin curtain separated you from the outside world but there was plenty inside each capsule to keep one amused, including TV, radio (old school, with dials!) and various lighting settings. The futon was thin but cosy none-the-less. A bathing kit was provided so as to fulfil the original plan behind these hotels-a convenient place for salary men who miss the last train home after a night of drinking to spend the time before work the next day. There was a light cotton kimono type thing with over-coat to wear to the baths and for sleeping in, meaning you can be 100% refreshed the next morning.
However when it came to bath time we were a little troubled as to where the female showers were – the men’s were clearly signposted on each floor but ours were nowhere to be seen. When Beckie and I finally plucked up the courage (in our horrific gowns, in front of the communal lounge) to approach reception and ask, we discovered that the hotel actually had no such
female facilities but instead have some sort of deal with the nearby public bath house to allow their female customers in free of charge! So there we were, minimally dressed, led downstairs, out on to the street in the dark and cold and 2 doors down the road to a sweet little old lady who allowed us into her (very) public bath house. Neither of us were particularly expecting that, and for Beckie it was her first such experience so it made for an interesting but certainly enjoyable start to the evening! As per usual, all Japanese ladies cleared out soon after us Westerners arrived so we had plenty of space to ourselves.
Anyway, that evening we enjoyed several hours of drinking downstairs in the communal lounge with other friendly residents before everyone headed out to Roppongi, a notorious area of Tokyo for clubs and the likes. Sadly I became a little sleepy so was sent to my capsule early -so am yet to experience the Tokyo clubbing scene. Massively upset to have missed out though, apparently it was quite a night.
Our final morning, the 2nd January is the only day of the year the Imperial Palace
gardens are open to the public, and I had found out that the Emperor and his family appear to the crowds from the balcony of their palace, so in proper tourist fashion we joined the crowds and eagerly listened to and translated all of his very short speech. It was very exciting though, waving our paper Japanese flags and taking pictures of the Imperial family.
Since then, ive also spent a couple of lovely days in Kyoto with Beckie catching up, meeting her friends and very successfully stalking actual Geisha on the way to their appointments in the Gion district.
Happy New Year everyone
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