26 December 2009 (Matsue, Tottori): It is not fun to wake up to the sound of rain outside. This happened today, so I decided to sleep in. For japanese breakfast, Yoshitaka-san I just realised is their name, made grilled Kare fish and rice. A little bottle of yakult yogurt tops it all off.
Took a kilometre walk to Matsue-jo castle this morning, passing by the lake for another crack at shooting the little island by the art museum. Again it started to rain little hailstones. On the way across the main bridge, the hail storm intensified and mixed with a little snow. Once that quickly cleared, the sun was out in full force.
Matsue-jo is on top of a hill. It is just after a large hospital, and you know you are there when you see a hill and a moat going around the area. The entrance of the castle is on top of the hill, accessible by going up a few flight of stairs. A cub baseball team was training on the grounds the morning I was there. Made to run up the staircase.
Matsue-jo requires an entrance fee to get in, and if you are a foreigner, it is 280Y and half the original price local pay. It must be a limited time promotion. There is nothin special about the garden although it is a nice little stroll and has nice views being perched on top of a hill. To enter the castle it is necessary to remove shoes and there are ample lockers with locks to store them too bad they are not made for shoes sized 11 or more. I had to get creative to fit my shoes into the locker. There are about 5-6 storeys in this castle and the interior has a rustic feel to it. It is quite clear they did replace some wood here but generally the original interior stayed intact. The most interesting part for me is how they take a bunch of wooden pillars and staples them together with a giant piece of steel brace to form a larger pillar. The wood is darkish in colour and on the outside the mortar is all bright white, which kills the exposure on my camera, you have pure white and black wood, so impossible to get details in both. Back to the interior, on the first floor is the storage area and this is where they store the original building materials when they are renovated, and also a really deep well to get water in times of a siege. Second floor is a museum with a nice collection of samurai costumes and hats. The other floors are empty which explains why I lost count of the floors after the third.
Continue reading “Mount Fuji and Western Honshu, Japan (Part 3)”
23 Dec 2008 (Tokyo, Hiroshima): Long shinkansen ride today. First a Hikari train from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka and then the next train on the same platform to Hiroshima, arriving just shy of noon. 4 hours in all to travel almost to the southern tip of Honshu. Grabbed a bag of sandwiches and bottled tea at Tokyo station 10 minutes before the departure, and true to Japanese rail’s obsession with timeliness, we left at 7:03am. Only complaint I had during the trip was that the heating in the train was set to a balmy 27C at least, making it sweaty in a jacket. Kind of betraying the fact that it is below 10C outside. The only thing it is conducive to is the type of short naps that gives you splitting headache when you wake up.
Arrived on time in Hiroshima and right away I booked the train for tomorrow to Matsue. I let their super computer system choose the best path but will leave after lunch. Should make it to Matsue before sunset.
Time then to get on the JR line to Miyajima-guchi station to look for my hostel for the night. Will drop my things there before going roaming streets of Hiroshima till night time. Miyajima is an island that is quite popular, possibly just because of a floating Torii gate. Since the moon will be up during the morning tomorrow, I have decided the plan would be Hiroshima today, and if I get high tide tomorrow morning, I can catch the first ferry across to Miyajima to shoot the gate in the morning.
Continue reading “Mount Fuji and Western Honshu, Japan (Part 2)”
Somehow the end of the year season is now becoming a global holiday. In places where Christmas is not normally celebrated, you have lighting and large trees, especially in areas of commercial interests and where shoppers like to feel like they have an excuse to shop more than they usually do. I don’t celebrate Christmas other than accepting gifts. Somehow I don’t think I will get anything from anyone this year. Self-pity aside, one thing I do during the end of the year season, is NOT be in my country of residence, always preferring to be out travelling during this holiday. Last year it was the toture up Huashan in Xian province, China. And this year in 2008, thanks to free ticket courtesy of the airmiles I have collected on Cathay Pacific, this year the destination is Japan.
With the Japan Rail Pass, trains are now affordable, especially when the trip involves long distance train rides on the excellent Japanese bullet trains and jumping from train to train everyday. Anyone who has been to Japan knows that travel by rail, for any kind of long distance travel there can get quite expensive. The Japan Rail Pass brings flat rate rail fares for multiples of 7 days up to 21 days. For long distances like Tokyo-Hiroshima, a Rail Pass for a week cost less than a return ticket for the same destination. For my case, a return ticket to Hiroshima from Tokyo Station is roughly 18,000Y one way reserved seat while a Rail Pass is 28,000Y for 7 days. Only difference is that with the Rail Pass you cannot use the Nozomi express trains. But not a big issue. So I proceeded to purchase the pass in Shanghai, and generally any of the Japanese airlines like ANA or JAL will sell them. You buy a document the size of an airline ticket way back when they still use paper tickets, and exchange it for the Rail Pass when you arrive in Tokyo. As far as I know, it is not possible to buy the thing when you arrive in Japan. So plan ahead.
Continue reading “Mount Fuji and Western Honshu, Japan (Part 1)”