Friday, 4 February 2011

Big in Japan

Well... not quite. Everyone is taller than I expected, shame. Yeah it's quite tricky for Hana being a veggie here but I had some fish noodle soup which was pretty good, although a bit unnerving as we we're the only people in the restaurant and they were all watching me eat it. Plenty of slurping was involved but gochiso-sama deshita (it was a real feast).

It's a good job the city is laid out in a grid system, otherwise we would have no clue where were going as most of the signs are written using Japanese symbols rather than words and so very difficult to translate.

Everyone is very friendly and respectful here. Just getting the bus from the airport with Heisa (aka "the kind lady") we found that every time the bus stopped someone from the bus company would get on, bow and announce where we were before bowing again and jumping off.

From the temples I've seen so far I am very impressed, even lighting my own incense stick and "washing" the smoke over me. It's quite an odd sensation but very calming and serene. The city itself is a really interesting mix of old and new but many of the traditions are still very much in place.

Anyway, I've written a good essay here (the result of not being able to sleep!) so I'll round it up. Off to the fish market tomorrow, one of the largest in the world - they have 300kg tuna for sale, might bag me a fresh one! Hope everyone is well, please email or comment on here to stay in touch - mobile doesn't work.

- Phil x

Jet-lag and fishy noodles...

We have arrived in Japan!! After a very long 11.30 hour flight on Wednesday, we are now in Tokyo. The trip started well as I met a kind lady on the flight who gave us a lift from the airport to our hostel. Good start! We are staying in a backpackers hostel called K's house. It's fairly basic but clean and there are lots of other travellers here.
The first thing we did upon arrival was to walk around the area (Kuramae) and find our bearings. Tokyo is much quieter and cleaner than I expected. The roads are laid out like the American grid system, however the weird symbols remind you which country you are in! It also feels very safe and it is a great place to just walk around and take in the sights and smells. Yesterday we went to Senso-ji temple and the surrounding area of Asakusa which was cool. There were lots of incense sticks burning and people have to wash the smoke over their body as a symbol of good luck. On entering the temple, we struck a large bong and saw the Buddhist monks throwing beans to people beneath them. In our jet-lagged daze it was all a little surreal!
After a well deserved but unfortunately repeatedly disturbed (jet-lag) nap, we walked to Ueno today. There is a large park there with beautiful big ponds and lots of temples and shrines. We checked them out and then went to the National Museum of Japan, which was interesting. I think I know a little more about Buddhism now! We are now back at the hostel to get 40 winks before heading off to electric town tonight.
My first impression of Japan is that the people are extremely friendly and respectful, the streets are clean and the atmosphere is peaceful...but it is almost impossible to be a vegetarian here! I will let you know if and when I find a meal that does not consist of fish. Yuck!
That is all for now. We have tomorrow (Saturday) in Tokyo and then we are off to Mt.Fuji for 2 nights to celebrate Philip's birthday. I will update you upon arrival in Kyoto next week.
Lots of love to everyone. Keep in touch (although phone does not work so email etc) xxxxx