Thursday, July 30, 2009

The long way home

Carrying 3 suitcases by yourself is not fun. It's near impossible and very painful. My bruise hands are the proof. You would think I had learned my lesson last summer.
Tuesday morning. Time to go. The sun is shinning, the birds are singing... we get a phone call: the trains are not running. Because of the storm the day before.
Mamiko generously offers to drive me to Tatebayashi. We get there early so we stop for tea. A tear scene later, I am sitting by myself on the train. I will not go through all the details but here are a few things to important to remember for future consideration:
  • 3 suitcases and 1 person = no good.
  • Narita station is not Narita airports
  • Bring a change of clothing so you get get ride of the gross sweaty cloth you are wearing when you get to the airport.
  • 3 suitcases and 1 person = no good. I know I am repeating myself... but after doing it 2 years in a row, it is time for me to learn.
At the airport, nothing to report. I slept none stop in the flight between Narita and Los Angeles. I got to LA early. My plane back to Toronto was delayed. Then delayed again. I finally got home after living July 28 twice! Talk about a long long day!!!

The day the sky came down.... again





My last full day in Japan the sky came down. Torrential rain. I packed my luggage. To no avail, I had to leave things behind. I scrambled. I tried packing again. We went and had sushi for lunch. The cheap, 100 yen a plate sushi. I wish I had one of those here in Canada. The dollar store of sushi! I went to work with Marie. Then it happened. The sky opened and the rain came down faster than a waterfall. Within minutes, it was covering the streets. I had the great idea of "needing" to go back to the apartment, so under the waterfall I left. I had water up to just below my knees. It was scary. I finally got to the apartment completely soaked. A few minutes later, the storm at past... the water drained away and the sun came back... I was still wet. Turns out, we were the talk of Japan. A tornado touched down not to far from us!!

So I went to work again. The spent the afternoon there talking with her boss. It was great.  

 














Then at night, Mamiko came to get us and we went for Okonomiyaki and Karaoke!!! Saying I had a great time would be an understatement!! Really I could not think of a better way of finishing my trip. First the food was amazing and I tried something new (I forgot the name). Then at Karaoke we pretty much sang every K8 song in the book while doing the full dances. Mamiko's friend was there and even though she doesn't speak english we had a great time. At the end of the night, everyone had teary eyes as we said our goodbyes!

The final count down

Sunday, July 26 2009
Natsu Matsuri time

I love festivals!!!! The atmosphere is great. The food is amazing. The music is great. But I have to say, the best part is wearing a Yukatta.
Marie's boss wanted to take us to the local festival. She bought us beautiful yukata that her mother help us wear. She tied the nicest bow I had ever had (much nicer then the bow I tie). The whole family we took off. The festival was really big considering it is such a small town!! There were many portable shrine being carried around and people were throwing water at them!!

Waaaaaaaaaaaashhhhhhhhhoi!!! Waaaaaaaaaaaaashhhhhhhhoi!!

We ate chocolate dipped banana, okonomiyaki and takoyaki. I forgot to buy the yakisoba ;-) We had a great time! Later at night, there was a parade of carts on which all the school age kids were playing Taiko! I really love Taiko. I am thinking I want to start learning. They teach some classes down at the JCCC.

Shopping in Ota

I was back in Ota and only had 3 days left to my trip. Marie and I spent sunday at the Aeon mall. We went shopping an dplayed in the arcade. I bought Kanjani8's new album : Puzzle. I also bought some t-shirt and other random souvenir. I wasn't in a spending mood... or I should say: I had no money left. For lunch, we had Korean food and Mister doughnut (green tea matsuri doughnut).

We went home and watched some random old episode of Ya-ya-yah. Then VS Arashi was on Tv, so we also watched that.

Nagano-Matsumoto or the bloody mess...


After my Osaka trip, I came back to Tokyo, slept at Lindsay and got up early the next day to catch a train for Nagano. That morning was my first goodbye of the the trip. I hate saying goodbye... so obviously there was a tear scene at the Shinjuku west entrance Jr line. I have to put this in here: Thank's Lindsay for having me over. I had a great time!!
 
So I was off to Nagano. Got there... nothing to see. So I kept going and took the train for Matsumoto. I thought it would be a 20 minute train ride... turns out the limited express takes 1 hour!!!!!!!!!! I had not taken that in consideration in my plans so I actually got to Matsumoto at 5 pm!!! I jumped on a bus and went to the castle. I had to be back in Oizumi for 9pm so that left me a big 20 minutes to visit Matsumoto. So got the the castle walked quickly around, took some picture than walked back to the station through the frog street. And that was it.

I guess you could call it an express visit to Matsumoto. Took 3 hours to get there and well I stayed 20 minutes. I went back to the station, did a bit of shopping and learned that there would not be a limited express to take me back because of an accident. So I had to take the local train back to Nagano (1h45 minutes). So local train it was... but because of it, I was badly behind scedule. I had to be back in Oizumi for 9pm. I just had too. So I finally got to Nagano, took the Shinkensen to Takasaki. Got bento boxes there for dinner (the daruma bento box). Took the next train for Isesaki and that's where disaster struck!!! 

I only had 2 minutes in Isesaki to catch the Ota train. 2 minutes to cross the station and change line!! i was carrying all my stuff from Osaka so it was going to be hard. Usually we have to run to make it. Not making the train meant I would have to wait another 1 before the next one. I was already so late and even by catching the train I was not going to be back in Oizumi until 10:00. So like everyone else, I ran to catch the train. The wheel of my suitcase got caught and I flew in the air (about one meter) and landed flat out on my stomach in the hurrying crowed. Yep. That was embarrassing. Also very painful. 4-5 people rushed to help me. All my stuff was spread out on the platform. At least they held the train so I still ended up making it... but my left leg... what a disaster. It was completely in blood. Actually it looked exactly like when I tumbled down Mt. Fuji last year (same leg also). When I finally got to Oizumi, Marie laughed when she saw my leg, she said it was becoming a End-of-trip-to-Japan-tradition for me...
So I got there at 10pm just in time for Orthros no Inu!!! Yep, all this so I could watch the first episode the the new Tackey-Ryo drama.

Sukiyanen Osaka



It feel funny writing this now. I am back home in Canada. I am looking back at my wonderful memories wishing I was still there making more. But let's go back in time where I left off. My last day in Osaka. Oh, I still have to mention how much I love Osaka. But at the same time, Osaka can be a bit scary. On my last day, I was approached by a weird man and he kept asking weird question which led me to think I should get away from him as soon as possible... which I did by jumping into a tour boat along the Osaka Canal. I didn't let that bad start ruin my day. Once more I was on a mission. Last year, during my visit to Osaka, it was pouring rain, so this year I intended on doing the same itinerary, in the same order but under the sunshine. So I took out,my map and my notes from last year and used the exact same schedule. I even went back to the shrine where I had met and save the little old lady from the rain.
Once I was done, I went back to Namba and ate more Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki. I still can't believe how much I ate while in Osaka!! But the food is on a whole different level there.
To finish the day, while waiting for my train, I shopped some more till I dropped. Clothing, omiyage, food... There were lots of end of season sale so I got Russ-K t-shirts for 900 yen!!! I also picked up a whole new outfit at Uniqlo for under 3000 yen!!

Now I forgot to say: during my visit to Osaka, there was a solar eclipse. I had known this for a long time and I was so excited to be able to witness it. Last time there was one in Canada, I missed it!!! So it was my chance to finally see one!!! Well, no luck. I stood on the bridge of the canal with thousand of people, news reporters, cameraman... and saw nothing. It was too cloudy. We did notice it got darker but that was it...

Tegomass concert report

Well… I finally saw Tegomass. Not that I am a fan or anything. Well I am. So I had tickets. Bad bad bad seats… actually we didn’t even had seats. My tickets were Tachimi. Which means I had to stand at the very back of the arena… and well see nothing. But gladly for me, this concert was not at all Johnny’s like… no costume, no dancing. All singing, amazing vocals. A full 12 pieces band. The concert opened with an Acapella version of Miso Soup. These guys can sing but I have to say I was highly impress. They sang none stop for 3 hours by themselves. No solos, so no time to rest. They really connected with the crowd and against all odd they did really well at MC.
Koyama and Shige were the guest for the MC. I have to say the crowed went absolutely crazy and so did I!!! At first I thought Nishikido would be the guest since the concert was in Osaka but it makes so much more sense to have Koyama and Shige there for the MC.
They sang many many songs. Some I knew… some I didn’t. They sang my favorite song. They also sang their new single Tanabata no Matsuri but without the yukatta ;-)
Funny coincidence, the girl I went to the show with is from Brampton and goes to Ryerson… small world!!
Note: They gave me trouble when it was time to get into the arena… because it wasn’t my name on the ticket!!! So heads up for those attending this tour!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Funky Town Osaka



Ohhhhhhhhhh! How much I love Osaka! The city looks, like crayons were given to a four years old and he had designed the whole city! Osaka is weird, beautiful, colorful and absolutly over the top. So what did I do in Osaka? 
Well what else… I walked down the streets over and over again trying to take in all the sights, I ate. I ate. I ate even more… okonomiyaki, takoyaki… I went to visit Billiken and I watched a johnny’s concert! I also shopped till I dropped. Oh my favorite place in the world for shopping is Osaka. I mean Paris is great but out of my league. Now Osaka has great “Bargain Sale”. The people are also really different there. Osaka is a world apart from Tokyo, Osaka is dirty, Tokyo is clean. Osaka people are a bit rude (well to Japanese standards anyway), Tokyo people are annoyingly polite (and fake). Osaka’s food is amazing. Tokyo’s food is… good. Osaka is a lot like Canada! So anyway, I spent all in day in random conversation with old people there… Let me tell you, the Obachan are nosy!!! But very nice and funny.
I also got caught in the middle of the variety show featuring a famous Kansai comedian. So I will probably be on TV looking like a lost gaijin with my map in my hands… and totally in the way of the comedian.

Miyajima rainy blues

Rainy blues would have been not so bad but instead I had to battle vs Arashi. (ok I am laughing at my own joke here) Ok in plain english… 70mm of rain in less than an hour. I got stuck inside a temple where a nice lady was offering towel and hot tea to everyone. It was scary at time. It didn’t look like rain anymore, it looked like a waterfall from the sky. When it finally calmed down to pouring rain, we were told we should hurry back to the boat and get back to the train station as soon as possible and leave the area. Which I did…
But let’s go back in time. I got to Miyajima early in the morning and was amazed at how beautiful the island was. I walked to the main temple and took may picture of the Tori (one of Japan’s 3 sight). Last year I saw Fuji so now I only have 1 sight left to see. The tide was high so we could not walk all the way to the Tori (same principle as Le Rocher Percé à Québec). So I decided to visit other sights while the tide would go down… that’s when the sky opened up and fell on our head!
I still had time to eat one Hiroshima-fu Okonomiyaki with Kaki!!! (Hiroshima style cabbage and soba pancake with oysters) It was delicious!!! The Oyster were huge!!!
Hiroshima-fu Okonomiyaki with Kaki
This is a place I really want to go back too… I want to eat more oyster and I would like a sunny day so I could take pictures of the beautiful scenery.
So I got back to Hiroshima and played text message tag with Ayumi (who is in Canada).We spent the whole afternoon texting each other back and forth. I was bored and the rain showed no intention to stop. I decided to check out a few famous Okonomiyaki restaurant. First I went to Mitsu (okonomiyaki restaurant from 47 live) but it was closed for mid-afternoon break. So then I made my way to the okonomiyaki street and found Hachimasa (okonomiyaki restaurant feature on Arashi’s TV show) but it was not opening till 5 pm. Out of luck I decided it was time for me to leave Hiroshima and to finally hit Osaka!!
I got to the train station only to find it under a state of pure chaos!!! Turned out all that rain had flooded a city further south and had damaged the shinkansen line. Thousand of people were laying on the floor of the station, waiting for the next available train. Luckily the only track still in function was the one for Shin-Osaka. But what a nightmare… everyone trying to get out of Hiroshima with no where to go… Even the Osaka bound trains were delayed for hours. I jumped in the next departing train (even thought my ticket was for another one) and played the foreigner card!! I had no intention of being stuck one more day in Hiroshima.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hiroshima mon amour: NOT!

I guess Hiroshima is a nice city. Maybe there’s lots to do there. Let’s just say I was not really impress. I started my visit with the Atomic Bomb memorial. It was nice but so Disneyland like. I thought it missed a big of humility. But that’s just my opinion. 

Then I headed towards the castle (which had to be rebuilt after the atomic bomb). For once I have to say I enjoyed a Japanese Castle. The inside of it was a museum with very interesting exhibit. Then it was time to go find my hostel for the night. Well it turned out to be on the outskirt of the city after a 15 minutes walk in the wood. Not fun!! When I finally got there, my legs and arms were devastated with bug bits. At least the actual hostel was nice and clean… but the cafeteria was serving some awful meal (some sort of beef patty) so I walked all the way back to go get some onigiri at the combini. Oh and I should add… off course it was raining the whole time. Just my luck!

Kyoto ---- Hiroshima



As some of you might know, Kyoto is not my favorite place in Japan. I find that city highly overrated. Like a big Disneyland of history. This year, I decided to do a brief stop in the city to go back to Fushimi Inari. I had some business to attend at that temple. Last year, that temple had been recommended to me. As a matter of fact, I witness first hand how lucky that temple was. So this year I decided to go say thank you for the favors I obtain and to also ask for a new favor. (Which really was the exact same thing again this year).
After my brief stop, I took the Shinkansen to Hiroshima. I LOVE the shinkansen. Oh I love train too. But the Shinkansen is amazing. So fast, roomy, quiet, comfortable. So much better than a car, a bus or a plane. You have room to stretch your legs. On my way, an old man was sitting next to me and happy to practice his English he gave me an history lesson of every city on the way (including Himeji, where he was from) Since he seemed to know so much, I also asked him about the Kumamoto Family. I really wanted to go all the way to Kumamoto this year but in order to do that, it would take me another whole day of travel time.
When I got to Hiroshima, it was pouring rain. Like torrential rain. My umbrella was useless. Nonetheless, I headed straight for the Children Peace Memorial so I could hang the origami paper crane the students did at school. I got there easily and found the place. By the time I was done hanging the birds, I was soaked. At that moment I knew Hiroshima was not going to be my best friend!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

EITO RANGER: Concert report



Hard to describe the concert this year! I guess the word would be EPIC!! 


First off, we got to the venue early and try to exchange our extra pair of tickets for another performance. We failed so we just decided to sell them. We sold the tickets to an american girl for face value. She was so happy. When it was finally time to go in, we got really excited to find out how amazing our seats were!!! The show opened with Ohkura and Yokoyama standing right in front of us for Musekinin Hero.
The set list was not as great as last year, but the overall performance was much better. Unlike last year, Subaru was amazing, I had never heard such great vocal from him. Yokoyama still on his high from Quiz Show was also amazing. 

Unlike last year, there weren’t many band song. The show was a lot more mixed up in style. Within 3 hours, they went from pop-ish boys band, to hard core rock, to 50s style and broadway. But the best was without any doubt the EITO Rangers’ skit!! Last year was such a disapointment for us. For the first time they had not done an eito ranger skit. But it was worth the wait!!! This was by far the best skit they’ve ever done. I almost died laughing when they performed the dance from the West Side story famous fight-scene. Or when they did a mock up of a japanese commercial I really like.
If the show and the skit were Epic, the MC was as well. I had never seen Ohkura and Subaru talk this much in an MC. It started with Hina saying that he was as talented as any other Johnny’s and that he could take on Arashi anytime. To prove his point, he sang One Love Acapella. Then him and Yokoyama had that never ending fight as to who is the best singer between the two of them (the joke being they both suck) That’s when they all cornered Yokoyama and forced him to also sing Acapella. It was so funny to finally see all the guys get back at Yoko. Usually he’s the one abusing them during the MC!!
Last little note: Towards the end of the show, the rolling cart went between the rows so we had Nishikido right by us. We waved our canadian flag and when he saw us, he said thank you and bowed down!!!

Kanazawa


Wow. What a beautiful city!! I probably would never had been there if it wasn’t for the concert. Since we watched only one concert and made money out of the extra ticket, we decided to live large and payed our self a nice weekend. First off, we tried finding an hotel, but as expected, the whole city was fully booked, because of the concert. We finally found a cancellation not to far from the train station; we really lucked in!
So we bought bento box and had dinner while watching Nagase’s new drama. The next day we went on a mega sight seing trip! We started off with the Garden (known as the nicest one in japan) and green tea ice cream. We did a bit of shopping and then went on to the castle.
As it started pouring rain, we hoped in the closest restaurant and had some delicious sushi. Then we headed out for the samurai street! We ended the day doing some PuriKura and eating a fancy crêpe!! Then Marie and I went our separate ways: I headed out for Kyoto and she headed out for Tokyo!

Tokyo Friends

Shibuya, Family Club, Harajuku or how I met Tsubasa!

My last day in Tokyo had to be a great one! I was not going to leave Tokyo without a bang!! So I headed off to Shibuya. I walked around for a bit and was please to see that Johnny’s owned Shibuya!! You could not walk five meters without seeing giant poster or Arashi, Hey Say Jump, Tegomass, Yuma and Big Shadow, News… or Nagase, Tackey, Ryo… Even the giant screen were showing videos of Tegomass and NYC boys. I went shopping at Mandarake and then went Karaoke by myself for 2 hours.



Ani and I at the family club rigth after meeting Tsubasa!
After lunch, I met with Ani and we shopped till we dropped in Shibuya!! I bought a nice pair of shoes and some clothing. Then we had dinner together and headed off for the Family Club. As we got there, we noticed a big crowed. That is pretty unusual for the place as people usually just come in, read the messages and then go. So we made our way to the front of the room and saw a camera so we decided we should wait with the rest of the crowed. About 30 minutes later, they had us sitting down on the floor in rows of 7 people. (the room is very long but narrow) I ended up in the forth row. That’s when Imai Tsubasa (from Tackey and Tsubasa) walked in!!!! I was so happy!!! He was doing a live recording of the messages for the Family Club. He talked for a bit and then answered questions from the fan. It was so cool!! I could not believe my luck!!!
This is a screencap from the video that played a few months later. The blond curly hair, that's me

Then we headed of to Harajuku and went around a few Idols shops. We bought Marie’s birthday gift and the headed out to meet her in Shinjuku. (We had decided to celebrate her birthday since neither of us would be there for her actual birthday) so we waited for us  at the bus terminal and when she arrived, we sang happy birthday, gave her her gift and split some fancy cupcakes we had bought!! Then we said goodbye to Ani and headed off for Kanazawa on the night bus!!

Zushi!!





Great day at the beach with Lindsay!! 
She called in sick so we could spend the day together. We headed out early in the morning and got some bento box on the way. It was great to be able to beat the heat!!! 
We stayed all day, on the way back, there was a little natsu matsuri so we stopped by to eat!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

NTV my love


Today I over did it. Walk, walk, walk... Today the heat was unbearable. Even th0ught I drank over 20 liters of fluid, I only went to the washroom once in the whole day!!! That's how much I sweat! My eye lids were sweating! My legs were sweating! I could feel the moisture getting sucked out of my eyeballs. Not fun.

But in the end I had a great day! First off I went back to Tokyu Hands to fill in Tristan's prescription and met a lovely old couple. We had a nice little chat, in japanese. Then I went to Harajuku to meet up with my friend Alex. We went to Meiji shrine and then for lunch. We still had some times before he had to head back to work so I dragged him to the NHK park! I love that place. I have to admit though, I've been there too often...

Gokusen Shrine
After we parted, I headed out to NTV and visited the Gokusen shrine... again. I took some pictures and bought a Fight-Oh cell phone strap!

While most tourist visit Tokyo Tower, I tour TV studios. But to break that habit... or at least to try to break that habit, I decided I should go up Tokyo Tower. Well, I got there. Was not impress by the price list and decided to keep my money in my pocket and my feet on the ground. Instead I visited the shrine around *I forgot the name*. It was great.

After that I kept walking and ended up in Roppongi. Now from Shimbashi to Roppongi that's one hell of a walk. As a matter of fact, I ended up with a hudge cramp in my calve and now I can't walk. Way to go! Yeah, me!!! My calve feels like a brick and my foot won't flex. Oh why do I do this to myself. Half way through the day it was already hurting but I just kept walking, first to save money and second because I have so little time in Japan and I want to see it all.

So now I am back home and I have to limp around the house. Cartoon Kat-tun is on TV. They are doing the super ranger training from the drama rescue.

Tokyo The Hood


Wow!! After spending so much time in rural Japan, I had forgotten how crowed the streets of Tokyo are!! But oh what a beautiful city! The green space, the lights, the architecture.  But lets go back a bit.

Yesterday, after going for lunch with Marie, I took the train for Tokyo. I got off at Ikebukuro and found myself knowing exactly where to go. Not much had change in a year and I had the feeling of getting back to exactly where I left it. I headed straight for Sunshine city and went to Tokyu Hand. I went a head and bought 9 pairs of glasses for a little under 600$. Yep do the math!!! I was so excited. The kids working at the store were really surprise so I explain to them that glasses are really expensive in Canada and not nearly as nice!! After my shopping bonanza, I walked around Ikebukuro a bit and took the Yamanote line for Shinjuku.
Shinjuku is one of the place in Tokyo I do not really care for. I mean it is nice but I much rather spend time in Roppongi, Harajuku or Shibuya. But since I am staying at Lindsay I spent my evening there waiting for her to be done work.

So I first went up the observatory up the government building and hoped to see Fuji San but once more this year: no chance!! Then I went to Kabuchiko and got harassed by Host!! Wow, I forgot how insistent they can be. Then I went to the ramen dark alley and ate Udon. Tourist always walk down that street, take picture and leave. They never end up eating there so I looked really out of place at the counter between 2 salary men.

It was finally time to meet Lindsay!!! Wow, I can not believe it had been a year!! We chatted for part of the night and then I had the j0y of sleeping on a very comfy couch!!! What a nice change from sleeping on the floor!!!

After my first day in Tokyo I am glad to say that I can still navigate without map!!! Yeah, me!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sush-qui peut!!!

Well, my stay in Gunma is done... I now enter the second portion of my trip: hellweek. It won't be hell really, but my lazy days are over. Here is what I am looking forward to:

Tuesday to thursday: Tokyo

Friday: Yokoyama

Saturday: Kanazawa

Sunday: Kyoto

Monday: Hiroshima

Tuesday: Miyajima

Wednesday- Friday: Osaka

Saturday: Tokyo-Nagano-Matsumoto

Sunday: Mizunuma

Monday: Shop till I drop

Tuesday: Back to Barrie

That's roughly a total of 2822 KM (excluding my flight back to North America)

Gokusen the Movie


Some people go to teacher’s college, others like me watch Gokusen and learn. (I should also add My boss my hero and Rookies.) Anyway, I can’t believe it’s been 7 years since the first serie!!! I can’t believe I happen to be in Japan when the movie gets release!!! 7 years in the making. This is Epic. The expectation were high… and well the movie lived up to the drama. How to say… the movie was equally as bad as the drama!!! And off course I enjoyed it ;-) 
Now I have to say, I truly believe they had to completely changed the script when it was announced Matsumoto Jun would not take part. In some really sad ways, I think Matsumoto Jun ruined the movie!! So here is my review in point form:
  • I think Kame’s part was suppose to be Jun’s part… which would have made so much more sense. They would also have been able to end the love story between Yankumi and Shin… but noooooo!! Matsumoto had to ruin it and decide to do the drama Smile instead!! Way to go Matsumoto… you ruined 7 years in the making!! As for Kame... he did a good job filling in for Shin...
  • Kame finally looks like he’s eating!!!
  • Gokusen is such a wealthy franchise… you would think they would hired someone to write an interesting plot!! I mean for god sake… they even built a Gokusen shrine outside of NTV!!! (Yeah, you can go and pray there!!)
  • Miura Haruma is probably the best looking kid to come out of Japan since Kubozuka Yosuke. Unfortunatly, he seems to be stuck in horrible dramas. I really liked him in Koizora the movie. 
  • Yankumi rocks!!!! 
  • It was nice seing so many of the kids from the previous 3 seasons!! 
  • I think it was a good thing Akanishi could not be in the drama.. afterall we had the Jin wanna be kid from the 3rd season to represent the both of them! 
  • I was glad the plot centered arround Miura Haruma’s character!! I was afraid the Jin wanna be kid would be center stage. 
  • Yeah Mitsubishi!!! (That one is for you Marie)

And for those who are interested here is a link to the movie trailer.




 

Mizunuma 5 étoiles *****

This morning, I got up a bit later than I wanted to. (8:30 am) yes, even on holiday, I like to get up early. Once more I put aside my plans to go to Nikko and started looking for an Onsen not to far from Ota. I couldn’t find anything interesting until I stumbled on some old American man’s blog. One word: Mizunuma. Less than 1 hour away from Oizumi… and even better, the Onsen is IN the train station… so no need to wonder around town trying to find it.
I was set… At 10:30 I was all packed and ready to go to Mizunuma. Although I had really liked my trip to Oigami, the onsen over there was disappointing so I was a bit apprehensive about going to Mizunuma. Oigami was suppose to be one of the best in Japan. Mizunuma is not known at all. I couldn’t find any reviews nor pictures… So blindly, I jumped on the train and kept my fingers cross that the place still existed and was open on a week day!!
The train ride was easy and required no line change from Oizumi. I got off at Aioi station and jumped on the mountain street car. What an amazing ride through bamboo forest up the mountain along an impressive canyon!!! Just the trip was worth it. Waterfall, flowers, wild birds… such a pretty sight!! I got off at Mizunuma station and as expected, stepped right into the Onsen.
The staff was a bit surprise to see me and seemed really relieved that I spoke enough Japanese to get around. I had to remind them a couple  of time to speak slower. They nicely answered all my questions through out the day ;-) So back to my arrival. They first showed me arround the whole facility.  And explain to me the different bath. Once more, this Onsen does not compare to the ones in Saitama but I must say the overall atmosphere was unbeatable. The view from the baths was simply breathtaking. The place was calm and very clean. The best part was that it only cost 500 yen for the day. (about 6 dollars)
For lunch I bought a local produce bento box for 1000 yen. It was delicious. The eating room was a traditional tatamis room and the national sumo tournament was playing on TV.
At the end of the day, my skin was so soft!!! I just can’t wait to go back. I decided to go back for my last day in Japan!!
Since Harajuku is out of the question this year, I though the Onsen will be the best departure gift to myself.
Feel free to contact me if you need more info about this Onsen in Gunma prefecture. I truly recommend it!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sunday

Well, Nikko went out of the window once more. It’s been 2 years I mean to go there. It’s not that far. It’s one of Japan’s must see shrine… Yet, I just can’t get myself to go there. Instead, I found myself going to Ota Aeon’s mall once more and Don Quihotte. I got some awesome deals on Russ-K t-shirts and some cool clothing.

At night, Marie and I bought bento boxes and sat down to watch Utaban!! I love Utaban. I love Nakai… except this weeks Utaban was a karaoke comedian special which sucks so we watched ItteQ instead. I don’t usually watch that show (except for some Tegoshi Yuya clips once in a while). Imooto rocks that show and after watching it yesterday I decided I should dress like her for Halloween. If you guys have no ideas what she looks like… just google Imooto from ItteQ. The pictures speak for themselves.

Later at night, there was a Gokusen special. I fell asleep half way through it. Not because it was not interesting but because it was already close to 2 am. I wanted to go to bed early so I could have an early start on Monday and make my way to Nikko.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Oigami in, Tatebayashi out! Nagano no show!!



Oigami IN


Yesterday Ani and I went to Oigami. Oigami is pretty much in the middle of no where after a 45 minutes bus ride from Numata. The landscape was amazing and the cool mountain air felt great. Our day started at 6:30 am. We arrived in Oigami (after taking the wrong bus) at around 11 am. As soon as we got there, we knew this would be a great day!!



We started off by going to the the Fukiware Falls. It was absolutly stunning. Not the biggest falls I’ve seen, but very unsual. It was a great walk in the mountain and definitively worth the trip! I recommand this place if you ever travel in Japan!! 

Along the way, there were a few local cuisine restaurant. We stopped for lunch and I had some white fish. Oishikatta desu!!!!
We then made our way to the onsen. Oigami is known for it’s onsen. I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed by the one we went to. Nowhere near as good as the one I went to in Saitama. If I go back, I will check some of the other Ryokan. Gorokaku was not worth it. Anyhow, bathing in the outdoor was still very pleasant. We stayed a few hours and then had to catch back the bus to Numata. 
We got home and watched some funny videos. After going through my budget, I decided not to go to Nagano the fallowing day. I rather keep my money for my excursion to Kansai!
Yesterday was also the day, Marie’s Japanese failed us… Turns out, weeks ago we DID win tickets through the ballot process for Kanazawa. They are getting mailed out to us as we speak… So now we have two pairs of tickets for the same show. We will keep the best seats and we will try reselling them at the venue or exchanging them for one of the other 3 concerts that weekend.

Tatebayashi OUT!
Today, we all got up at 6:30. The girls were going to Nagano and I was going to Tatebayashi. I recounted my money quickly just to see… no way I could afford going to Nagano. I went to Tatebayashi (the greenest city is Japan). Well, true it is green… and very unexciting. Tatebayashi must beautiful for the Hanami but in summer time, it just isn’t that impressive. I walk all the way to Tsutsugaokakoen to see the Lotus flowers. They were hard to find. Even thought the ones I saw were beautiful, there really wasn’t much of them. At this time of the year they should be in full bloom, but they weren’t. I took a few pictures and headed back home.

I stopped by a take out sashimi place and took a whole platter of Maguro sashimi. I took it home and had the pleasure of having lunch with Marie’s TV. Or I should say, me and VSArashi had lunch together.


It is now 2 pm. I just got a mailed from Marie. They finally got tickets from the scalper after 3 hours of hard bargaining and they are now enjoying the concert in Nagano. As for me, I will do my laundry and start planning my day tomorrow. I might go to Nikko tomorrow and Karuizawa on Monday. I am not sure. I will see depending on the weather. Then on Tuesday starts the Journey… to be followed.

Little up-date as I do my laundry...

Well, TV and I had a great afternoon... Now I am doing my laundry. I didn't bring much clothing since I had no place in my suitcase. I will hit Uniqlo when I get to Tokyo this week. I can't wait!

So while I do my laundry I got these pictures from my sister:

Ohhhh. Such great seats. She said she had to sell her soul to the scalper thought. lol. I can't wait for next weekend.

Lazy day!

All plans went out of the window. Spent the day chatting with Ani. Went to Daiso Mart. I love daiso!!!!!!!

After dinner, we watched Himitsu no Arashi. Ohhhh Aiba! What a dork! That TV show is priceless.

In other news, the musical Rent is playing in Japan right now and it features both Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal!!! I wish I could see it.