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Japan

Osaka-An Earthquake to Shake Things Up

Yesterday, I didn't have any plans. I wanted to find an English bookstore, and to walk around the city. Otherwise, I had no plans.

It turns out I picked a good day to have no plans. As usual, I went to the common area of the hostel to use my computer. The wifi didn't work-so I went to a small table near the front desk of the hostel on the lobby, where I was able to get the wifi on. The staff came in. At around 8:00 am, the table started shaking softly, and then it started shaking violently. The whole room started shaking violently. Some pictures fell off the wall, I think. I held on to my expensive camera so it didn't fall off the table. An alarm went off, and about 20 folks from the hostel, groggy from being woke up, walked down the stairs and went outside.

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After a few minutes, the shaking stopped. I joined the others from the hostel, we chatted for a while. One girl from Southern California said she thought that was the worst earthquake she had ever been through. The two staff workers at the hostel we're nonchalant. Apparently they have been through enough earthquakes here in Japan that this was no big deal. (I found out a few weeks ago Japan has an earthquake at least once a day-although many are extremely minor). This actually wasn't the first earthquake I experienced. Back in the 90's I was living south of Boston in a rented room in a house on a small street. One morning, I felt the house shake-it felt like a big truck went up the street. When I got into the car to go to work I learned it was an earthquake (it may have been from a nuclear power plant 10 miles away or so). When I got to work that day-someone was recounting the earthquake, shaking a desk back and forth violently (but I remember, it felt like a big truck-nothing more ). THIS earthquake felt more like his exaggerated movements. While it was somewhat scary and exhilarating at once-I thought it was just an interesting way to start the day. I wanted to get on with my day, so I planned a free walking tour I found out online.

I walked outside-everything looked normal, and walked down to the metro station to take the metro 4 stops to the walking tour (Which started in about an hour-but I wanted to get there early). People we're just mulling around the metro station, but there was a sign mentioning there was no service. So I walked back up the stairs, and tried walking to the area (I walked there the previous night-so I thought I could find it ok). When I walked at night, I found some bright lights that indicated where it was-Since it was daytime there we're no bright lights. So I walked roughly an hour in the wrong direction. I eventually found a metro station-but the metro was still closed. I walked 45 minutes to the meeting point.

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Google Maps was still working on my phone-so once I found some wifi-at 7-11, I turned on Google Maps, and walked about 45 minutes in the correct direction. Wifi also told me the walking tour was cancelled, as the tour guide was stuck in a train during the earthquake. He did say there was a 1:30 walking tour, and I decided to wait for that.

At 1:30, I met some others waiting for the tour to start. We waited 1/2 an hour-the tour guide didn't show up. I learned this tour was cancelled to. So I walked around a little, and decided to go back to the hostel and take a nap. I did, and read my book. (I was able to take the metro-it started running again).

After a while, I Found there was an English bookstore about 45 minutes from the hostel by the main train station. As I walked along-I discovered that about 1/2 of all stores we're closed. In the train station-folks we're just standing around as well-most trains we're cancelled. That day, I also learned that the earthquake was a 6.0 on the Richter scale, and at other parts of the city, there was a lot more damage, and some injuries.

I wanted to go back to the conveyor belt sushi place for dinner-but it was closed. So I took the metro back to where the walking tour was supposed to be (there are lots of restaurants/vendors there). and had some noodles and some grilled dumplings, and then went back. I had a beer with some guys from the hostel on the roof.
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Posted by DavidPearlman 14:50 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Osaka-Pissing People Off, Lost Tickets and Broken Sandals

Yesterday, As usual, I got up and went to the common area of the hostel. Normally, there are three types of people in the common area as this particular time. (1) Folks like myself who get up early (2) Folks who stayed up all night partying, and they want you know that you know they stayed up all night (3) and girls talking to their boyfriend at home. This was the case of #3. Some girl was talking to her boyfriend, who I guess was a non-native English speaker, and he was couldn't say the word vague, I guess. He was saying the word veeg. I couldn't help laughing under my breath. The girl clearly didn't appreciate that-as I saw her later on and she ignored me when I said hello.

Breakfast was at 9:00 am, and I left the hostel after that not sure of what to do. I wanted to go to Himeji Castle out of town but I wanted to wait until Monday. The only thing was it was supposed to rain on Monday, and I didn't want to go in the rain. Therefore, I decided to go to the station and take the one hour train ride to Himeji. Himeji was built in 1580, and is supposedly Japan's most magnificent castle. Many other castles in Japan we're reproductions. This was the original.

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Upon taking the train to the town, the castle was immediately visible on hill in the distance, and was magnificent indeed. I walked along the main street past many shops and a small flee market to a moat, and then to the castle. I walked through the first building,which was the west keep, and was the residence of the Princess. It was a long hallway, and was quite magnificent. There we're all sorts of displays around. After that, I walked up a hill to the main castle, and walked up the 4 stories to the top floor. I learned the castle had all sorts of defense mechanisms, such as small window ports made for throwing stones, and ceilings that we're high to let the smoke from gun-fire dissipate

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After a few hours, while walking out of the castle, I tried putting my sandal back on (visitors to the castle had to take their shoes off), and the strap broke. This pissed me off. Although the sandals we're only about $3.00 in China, they we're the most comfortable ones I ever owned. So I walked around with a broken sandal.

After the castle, I went to the nearby gardens adjoining the castle. There we're 9 gardens, some with bamboo, pine trees and waterfalls. They we're pretty. When I bought a ticket to the castle, I paid approximately $10.40 for a ticket to the gardens as well, but I lost that ticket. So I had to pay $3.00 more for the gardens. I can't say it was really worth it-the gardens we're ok but pretty much what I have seen in Japan all along. It was probably worth the $10.40 combo ticket but not the additional $3.00.IMG_7677.JPG

Afterwards, I hobbled along with my broken sandal, found a dollar store in town that sold flip-flops and bought a new pair, and took the train back to Osaka. It was dinner time, and I found a conveyor-belt sushi place-which was delicious. I walked back to the hostel-I thought it would be a long walk but was only 20 minutes. It was only 8:30-so I walked a few miles to the district with all the lights, and took the subway back to the hostel around 10:00.

Posted by DavidPearlman 15:21 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Hiroshima to Osaka: Meeting Mr. Shinkansen hungover

Yesterday, I woke up late-about 9:00 am. I never wake up late. Normally i wake up around 6:00 am (or earlier).

The night before I was drinking with some of the folks here at the hostel. They shared some whisky, I bought a new bottle. I remember drinking at the hostel, and leaving the hostel. I also vaguely remember finding my way back to the hostel, but nothing in between. I don't know what we did, where we stopped, or if we stopped anywhere. I just know that at 9:00 am i was still in bed. And it was Friday night-just like the Katy Perry song (and unfortunately, not I Kissed A Girl).

i woke up with a headache, had breakfast at the hostel, and packed up the rest of my stuff to leave Hiroshima. A lot of folks don't visit Hiroshima. They think apart from the bomb, there is nothing there-and that makes it a great place to visit. The city is very leafy, has beautiful parks, and is very walkable, and the people are really friendly. And it's not overflowing with tourists. I was sort of sad to leave.

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But on to my last stop in Japan- Osaka. I boarded Mr. Shinkansen once again. Mr. Shinkansen is much more expensive then the bus or other trains-but once you use Mr Shinkansen, it is hard to go back. He comes along every 20 minutes, or so, and is so fast I get dizzy by looking out the window.

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After 2 hours or so I was is Osaka. I used Google Maps to find the hostel, which was 4 stops away on the subway and then a nine minute walk. After some trouble i found it. I also found a cheap noodle place for lunch near the hostel.

After checking in, I took a nap to get rid of the hangover. i was slowly getting better, and I took the metro a few stops to Dotonbori, a huge area of Osaka, where there are countless vendors, stores, shops selling cheap street food, and neon signs, sort of like Times Square. There is also a giant river running through the area. I enjoyed walking through the area, eating foods like yam pie (or something like), Octopus balls, and something like that as well, and other stuff.

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Posted by DavidPearlman 15:41 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Hiroshima-Hiroshima to Iwakuni/I met Whitesnake

Yesterday, I left the hostel on the late side. It was my last day in Hiroshima. I planned on a quiet day, but someone at the hostel mentioned that I should go to a nearby town, called Iwakuni, which had a pretty bridge, and some other stuff. So i walked from the hostel to the train station, which was a long walk, but it was a nice day so i no problem with it.

After the walk, I bought two train tickets: one to my next destination of Osaka and the other to Iwakuni. The train ride was about an hour-I actually fell asleep and woke up at the last stop. After asking a woman how to get there, she directed me to a bus that goes right to the bridge.

The bus ride was about 20 minutes long, and I was at the bridge, which was a 5 arch bridge, built in 1673 (and replaced many times since). it was a beautiful bridge, in a nice town.

I crossed the bridge, and took a tram up to the castle, called the Iwakuni castle, which was originally built in 1608, but burnt down long ago. The new castle was built in the same style in 1962, and is actually 3 miles from the original castle,(chosen for the great view).

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i went into the castle-there was an exhibit of Samuri swords. I then saw the museum of white snakes. White snakes are supposed to bring good luck, and people pray to the white snakes. From a cartoon film at the musuem, it seems like the reason people like the snakes is back in the olden days, rodents used to eat the food, but of course the snakes ate (or at least scared away) the rodents, so people like the snakes. The museum explained how the white snakes ribs expand to eat mice (and other targets much larger than themselves), and how they pee and poop at the same time. There we're also various snakes to look.

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After the museum, I walked around the town, and had an ice cream. I met some folks walking their pet ferret, and then took the train back to the hostel. I actually took the train to a tram, which took longer but was cheaper. I found a restaurant serving Okonomyaki, which is a type of pancake-it was good and filling. I found the hostel and had some drinks with the guys here.

Posted by DavidPearlman 18:36 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Hiroshima-Trip to Miyajima, Dangerous Creatures all around

Yesterday, I went with a group of folks from the hostel to an island nearby called Miyajima, which is famous for a Tori, or shrine that is only reachable during low tide. I went with a bunch of others from the hostel, all significantly younger, of course. The trip consisted of taking the bus to the train and train to a ferry. The folks I went with was a Crocodile Dundee sounding like person from England who lived in France, and then moved to Australia a few years ago. He is 24, over 6 feet tall, with blond hair and blue eyes, and of course-he speaks fluent French. So he went with two Quebecoir girls as well, and a guy closer to my age-32, who was from Italy and a tour guide in Florence.

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As soon as we got to the island, we decided to climb a mountain to the top. Crocodile Dundee and the two girls decided to go ahead, because he was used to hiking. I hung back with Luca, and we walked, discussing life. It was a nice time. On the lower part of the mountain, friendly deer we're all around, and they let me pet them. Luca had bought some cookies. As we we're walking up, we ate the cookies. He also picked up garbage on the mountain. The hike was pretty rigorous, with lots of steps going up the mountain. After what seems like a few hours. We reached the top of the mountain, and the observation peak. There we're a lot of others there. Of course, Crocodile Dundee and the two girls we're up there taking a break, and said they had been there for about an hour. There we're also lots of crows. As I was taking a picture of a few crows, I heard my friend cursing loud in Italian-it turns out one of the crows flew away with the bag of cookies we we're still eating, and the garbage.

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We walked down the mountain. It was tough walking down, but as we did we came to a few shrines along the way, including a very impressive temple at the bottom of the mountain, which was quite beautiful and worth seeing.

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At the end of the day, we went to the bottom and had a beer. I encountered some more deer. I sat down and pet one deer. The deer licked my hand like a little dog-until a guy said I should pull my hand away, because of ticks. So I washed my hands carefully, and kept getting paranoid because of the deer.

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We then saw a snake against a statue. I don't normally care about snakes, but there was a sign on the mountain that i think said the snakes are vipers, are poisonous, and if bitten, call emergency immediately. Actually, i didn't care. I was still worried about the deer. We also saw the famous tori, which you can walk to during low tide but is surrounded by water during high tide.

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After that we had another beer, and then took the ferry back. I took a nap at the hostel, and went to bed.

Posted by DavidPearlman 16:59 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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