Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Japan Round 3

I can't believe I've been back for nearly 5 days, and have not written a proper report until now. o_0 Actually, I've been terribly jetlagged and SICK. Gah~ I was actually sick during the latter half of my trip, but whatwith the adrenaline rush, I managed to ignore it. So now that I'm at home, it all came crashing down on me.

All in all, it was a very good trip! I managed to do lots of stuff (but there was a lot more that I didn't do, lol).

The flight there was rather excrutiating. I was flying out of Vancouver and somehow, it took forever.  I honestly don't remember it being that long, but anyways, I managed to watch 3 movies before passing out.  One of which was Usagi Drop! ^_^ I was very pleasantly surprised because I've read the manga, but didn't know they made a live-action film. It was actually just so-so.

My first night was spent at my friend Hitomi's place.  Her parents were so welcoming; they didn't speak a word of english, but we somehow managed to communicate in the end, lol.  It was nice spending time in a Japanese household... it kind of reminded me of my homestay experience 2 years ago.

So the next day, we were quickly off on our trek to Tonosho, on Shodoshima Island, Kagawa Prefecture in Shikoku. Really, a random place in the countryside! LOL We took the Shinkansen to Okayama, which is further than Osaka but closer than Hiroshima.  From there, we took another train to Takamatsu (the mainland of Shikoku in Kagawa) and from there, we had to take a ferry to Tonosho.  Gosh, what a trip! I think it was like 10 hours of travel/transit time... Oh, one might wonder WHY I went to such a place: it was to visit my Calgarian friend Lori who is teaching english as a JET and was placed on that island. 

I was lucky to catch their aki-matsuri (autumn festival). 

Essentially, all the men gather from their respective local shrines and they hoist these huge logs holding mini-shrines (mikoshi) containing 4 kids playing taiko drums. 

Some of the younger guys were dressed funny! Of course, they all still had their uniform happi shirt, but then they'd wear distinct stuff underneath... Prime example above is the dude third from the right; every time I saw him, I couldn't help but die of laughter. A full-patterned suit. Seriously? 

The next day, Lori was off to Teshima (another island) for more of the matsuri and she also had to work.  Her friend however offered to show us more of Shodoshima, but finally, I really wanted to visit Naoshima...a different neighboring island that housed a shit-load of art! I never even heard of it, but while perusing Hitomi's travel magazine about Shikoku, I saw a picture of a sculpture that I knew must have been by Kusama Yayoi.

More ferry rides!

Kusama's Red Kabocha
There was more matsuri going on here. It was a lot smaller than Shodoshima's though.

We weren't allowed to take photos in the art sites/museums, but there were some pretty cool outdoor things along the way.  There was actually loads we missed too. o_0

Random cool string drawings on the wall.

I'll report more in depth about the specific art stuff in my other blog about art exhibits, but in summary, Naoshima was really cool! The Chichu museum, although it was pricey, was really worth it.

We returned on the ferry as the sun was setting.
There was no direct ferry from Tonosho to Naoshima, so we had to transfer from the mainland Takamatsu. We had dinner there. Delicious delicious udon (Kagawa is famous for it).

Funny thing happened at that restaurant: as we were paying to check out, the clerk asked my friend if she could help get the order from this foreigner lady who didn't speak a word of Japanese. It was pretty random for a foreigner couple to be there; it was late on a sunday in a remote place where there were hardly any english signs anyways.  Long story short, my friend ended up doing lots of translating (the couple was actually dutch but obviously spoke perfect english) and they even wanted to take her picture!  As we were leaving, nearly already down the street, the clerk ran after us and gave us a gift! I don't know why I got one too, but I did. LOL

Delicious udon-ish snack!
Anyways, so next stop out of my trip was to Kyoto to meet up with my parents and their friends.  I bid Lori farewell, we took the ferry (again), then the shinkansen, and found ourselves in Kyoto.  We had lunch with my folks, and while my mom was off to have her "maiko experience" (at a studio, you can get dressed up as a maiko, get pro photos taken, and walk around in the Gion district), Hitomi and I made a short trip to fushimi-inari, a place that I've visited 2 years ago and wanted to see again.

It's basically a hike/walk of all these tori gates placed consecutively; they almost form tunnels! I find the place really magical and spiritual... I'm not particularly religious, but somehow, I really feel the forest being alive or that something could happen.  I'd highly recommend visiting there if you're in Kyoto.

We then went to Gion to see my parents; indeed a funny experience seeing them both dressed up in traditional japanese garb. LOL. Then they took a walk and I grabbed my dad's DSLR and snapped lots of photos. (but I don't have them with me cuz they're on his camera)

That night, my parent's friends took us to this very expensive restaurant.  The food was... delicious. Again no photos cuz I was using my dad's.

I spent the next few nights in my parent's temporary abode/apartment in Osaka. Hitomi was staying at her grandparents in Kyoto... it's roughly only about an hour away from eachother, so the arrangement was fine.  We did some shopping in Osaka but I didn't buy much aside from fabric at Otsukaya.  I also visited their k-books and animate; I bought some manga supplies! Mainly a "g-pen" nib and some screentone. I didn't visit anything too touristy like Osaka castle or anything... We just walked around and soaked in the city life.

Just can't get enough of Japanese HAIR! LOL

Okonomiyaki at Chibo. Really recommended!
I forget what it's called. But it's gelatin and it's matcha and it's cute.

Hitomi had to return to Tokyo because of work, so before she left, we met up in Kyoto again.  I desperately wanted to eat some shiratama...and so we did. ^_^

Shiratama parfait! All it was missing was anko.
And that marks half of my trip. ^_^ Lots of travelling and eating already! The second half in Tokyo was less eventful since I basically had three main goals:
1. Visit as many art museums/galleries and get started on some drawings/studies for paintings.
2. Buy fabric. Hunt down specific items for plush commissions and find Japanese prints.
3. Shop for friends/family. (namely, my sis' bf who drove me to the airport; I really needed to get him something!)

Also, there were other friends to visit while in Tokyo, so before I knew it, my trip was already over! -_-

Club Festival at my university.

Ghibli museum!

 Going to Mandarake was a funny experience. I've been to Ikebukuro before, but I still wasn't 100% sure where k-books, animate and mandarake were because it's been a while (and I was only there once before)... But I used my instinct and managed to find that road!

I saw the Mandarake sign, but there was no obvious door...until I saw lots of girls walking down a stairwell. I internally laughed: it's in a basement?? The symbolism was too funny. Anyways, but inside, were shelves and shelves of doujins! If Alice didn't specify EXACTLY what she wanted, I would have been pretty lost. I quickly just asked a clerk for what she asked me to find, and got what I was looking for. :) (hope she likes the doujins I picked out for her!) Looking back, I should have looked for some Soul Eater stuff for myself; doujins were reasonably priced...a little over 400yen a piece (maybe 5~6$).

I didn't find anything for her that was reasonable at k-books and animate, but I was satisfied with the doujins, so hope that's enough. ^_^

Fabric street= LOVE. I really enjoyed Nippori! At that point in my trip, I was quite sick (practically walking around with a fever), but fret not! I was so into fabric shopping that I forgot about my physical state. I blogged in depth about my fabric hauls in my previous post.  http://pheleon.blogspot.com/2011/10/japan-fabric-haul.html

Yokohama at dusk.
Although I had closure with my Japanese-romance more than two years ago, going to Yokohama always held a soft spot for me. I wondered if it would resurface memories... a part of me was thinking of making it the subject of the manga I need to write.  But I believe in signs and the signs were pointing: IT'S DEAD. LOL.

I had to meet up for dinner with some friend in Yokohama, but I had spent the day in Tokyo and was rushing to get to Yokohama before nightfall... mainly because I wanted to take some stock photos of the ferris wheel in Minatomirai and I needed the daylight to get clear pics. I got off of Yokohama station and decided that the 30~45 minute walk there should be worth it since it should evoke some memories.

For one, I got lost. (gosh, I have instinct for Ikebukuro but not Yokohama that was held in higher regards to me??) And in summary, I never made it to Minatomirai because I walked in the wrong direction! I could have taken the train at that point, but then I realised that I didn't care. I wasn't feeling any nostalgia and the memory was over, kind of dead.  The sign? Not meant to be. So I'm back to square one with the ideas of that manga~ but I have other ideas, so it's all good. ^_^

Japan Trip #3 finally comes to a close. It was excellent, and the next time I come back (cuz there will be a fourth round!), I'll be sure to visit new places.

1 comment:

  1. Looks very jam-packed! They put your friend on an island?!! Wow! O_O The food all looks delicious btw, and I just ate dinner. LOL...omg does it sound weird that I want to see pics of your parents?! Because I wanted to have a maiko experience also and I find it so cool that your mom wanted to have it done!! (cuz my parents would never do anything fun like that, ever)
    Much thanks & love for the doujins!! You got my fav ones! ;)