Saturday, 31 October 2009

Waiting for Ubuntu to upgrade itself

This morning I was finishing off processing some photos that I took on a walk the other day. I also spent quite a while making waffles (well most of the time was spent making the waffle mixture rather than the actual waffles).

In the afternoon I processed a few random photos and did a tiny bit of website work. Ubuntu had an upgrade available, so I started the upgrade process, which was really slow and not helped by my internet connection breaking partway through the process. While Ubuntu was upgrading I checked The Luminous Landscape, Dpreview front page news and Canon Lens forum, and Moose Peterson's blog. Also I posted some photos to Flickr, RedBubble and DeviantArt.

Then I remembered that I use the same username on these sites as I use for everything else, and thought that when I launch my photo website it would be a good idea to have a more 'professional' username. Unfortunately it seems that you can't change your username (not that suprising), so I guess I'll have to create new accounts at each of them. This will mean that my current history on each of the sites and any followers I have on them (only about 2 people) will be lost.

In the evening I cut out some more pogs in photoshop while still waiting for Ubuntu to finish upgrading itself. I also watched Autumn Watch as well.

The weather today started off rainy, but then brightend up through the morning, and was sunny most of the afternoon. There was a visible sunset (I can actually see the sunset from my bedroom now due to the position the sun sets in during the winter months), but I didn't think it was that great to look at.

Breakfast: Bowl of Asda choco hoops; cup o' tea.
2nd Breakfast: Waffle with golden syrup and lemon juice; cup o' tea.
Lunch: Mature cheddar cheese with iceberg lettuce sandwich made with fresh bread-maker-made bread; Crust of fresh bread-maker-made bread with honey; Clementine; cup o' tea.
Dinner: 2x chilli sausages; mashed potato; baked beans. Pudding was a piece of dried mango, a couple of dried prunes; Cherry bakewell. Coffee.
Supper: Hot chocolate milk; choc chip cookie; Hob-nob.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Getting stuck

This morning I was still working on converting part of my photo website code over to an object orientated approach. At one point I needed to check something in phpMyAdmin, but found that yet again it had been broken by an Ubuntu update. So I had to refer to old post to fix it again: Ubuntu update breaks phpMyAdmin.

Then I had a problem with my PHP class, I was getting a fatal error: Can not call constructor. The error was caused by calling the __construct function of the class's parent. Googling didn't come up with much except that you will get this error if the parent doesn't have a __construct function, but my parent did have a __construct method.

After lunch I did some digging around in my code a bit I eventually found the problem, though it took quite a while until I noticed it - while I thought the parent had a __construct method, it actually had a __constructor method. So I renamed it to the correct name (__construct) and that fixed it.

Then I found that my page still didn't work as I was trying to access protected methods/properties of an object that is passed to a class (since a class can't inherit from multiple parents my class instead inherits from one parent and the other 'parent' is passed to it so it can use the methods and properties of both 'parents'). Since I have no idea how to deal with this, I just posted to the Web Squeeze asking for help again.

After that I checked the threads on the websqueeze I hadn't read, then did some gardening. I dug up the Buddleias by the pond and planted them between the pond and the shed. This means that it will now be easy to get round the top and sides of the pond, as in the summer the Buddleia bushes took up all the space at the top of the pond.

One of the Buddleia bushes was really hard to dig up - it was growing next to the piece of fence at the top of the pond between the pond and the greenhouse. Its root went underneath the fence, but I couldn't go round the other side of the fence and dig it up because there is a large rose growing there. I tried digging out the mud by the root for quite a while, but the root just went back too far so eventually I just cut the root. Clare said to throw it away anyway, so I did.

After that I did some work processing a pano that I took the other day in Welland Park. Due to the slowness of my PC when processing and working on the file, that took most of the rest of the day.

The weather today was overcast all day.

Breakfast: Bowl of Asda choco hoops; cup o' tea.
Lunch: Mature cheddar cheese with iceberg lettuce sandwich; packet of prawn cocktail flavour crisps; apple; banana; Cherry bakewell; cup o' tea.
Dinner: Chicken; gravy; Potatoes; peas; ground black pepper. Pudding was plum crumble with custard. Coffee.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Websiting and walking

This morning I was doing more work on my website, trying to convert some of the code to make it Object Orientated.

In the afternoon I went on a walk towards Lubenham, then up to the canal and back home along the canal. I took my 'Essential PX pack' bag instead of the Lowepro Slingshot 300aw bag, as I had found yesterday (and on holiday) the Lowepro Slingshot 300aw bag got quite painful when heavy, since it only has one shoulder strap.

The Essential PX pack bag is quite a bit smaller than the Lowepro Slingshot 300aw bag, but I managed to still fit all my Nikon D200 camera and all my Nikon lenses and some accessories in it.

The annoying thing about the Essential PX pack bag compared to the Lowepro Slingshot 300aw bag is that with the Essential PX pack bag if you want to put something in it or take something out of it you have to take it off your back. This means that if you carrying anything on your shoulders (I was carrying a camera and also a tripod), you have to first take them off your shoulders before you can take the bag off - this is especially a problem if you need to do it somewhere muddy (you would have to put your tripod and camera down in the mud). Whereas with the Lowepro Slingshot 300aw bag, you can just swing it round to your front, even when carrying things on straps over your shoulders.

Because of this, it's also much easier to change lenses etc. with the Lowepro Slingshot 300aw bag than the Essential PX pack bag.

In the evening I finished watching 'The Maltese Falcon' with Moccle and L, and then did more website stuff in the evening.

The weather today was overcast all day. Around sunset the clouds started to break a little bit, but not where the sun was, so there wasn't a visible sunset.

Breakfast: Bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes; cup o' tea.
Lunch: Mature cheddar cheese with iceberg lettuce sandwich; Packet of prawn cocktail flavour crisps; Apple; banana; Slice of sultana cake; Caramel Rocky; cup o' tea.
Dinner: Mashed potato; buttered peas; Quiche Lorraine; ground black pepper. Pudding was Jamaica Ginger cake with golden syrup and custard. Coffee.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009


This morning I looked after Grandad, and also did a bit more OO PHP learning. Grandad had a good appetite at breakfast time - he had a big bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes, 3 slices of toast with marmalade and about 3 cups of tea. Granny used to struggle just to eat one slice of toast!

In the latter part of the morning, the weather had been quite nice, so I went out in the afternoon, but as my luck goes, by the time I got to the first place I wanted to take some photos (Welland Park), it had clouded over. I did wait for a while to see the sun would find a break in the clouds, but it didn't. The cloud covering the sun was a giant long one, and was blowing in the direction so that it would keep covering the sun all afternoon (which is what it did).

I walked through Welland Park up to the road that Welland Park College is on, then back along there and up the passageway near the bridge over the Welland. Then I walked up to the half way point (the road/track) of the giant field, then went along the track to the edge of the field. I walked up the rest of the field along the edge of it to see if there was much Autumnal trees, then back across the middle of the field until I got to the track again.

Then I walked down the track towards Lubenham. The Strawberry growing place down there seemed to have quite a few strawberries growing (actual strawberries, not just the plants). Where the path comes out at the road between Lubenham and East Farndon, I went down the road towards Lubenham. I walked towards Thorpe Lubenham Hall, and saw that the trees in the field next to it were still green, when most other trees have already lost most of their leaves (or just have brown leaves).

I walked down the road to the church, and tried taking some photo of yew berries that were covering a seat in the graveyard there. Then I walked along that top road until I got to the footpath that goes along the old railway line back towards Market Harborough. I found that they'd installed some Kissing gates (replacing stiles) in the field that you have to cross to get to the old railway line.

Also the bridge that you have to cross before you get to the old railway line had had a couple of planks added where the hole bit is on the railway line end of the bridge. This makes it less likely that you'd slip into the river (which is a bit of a fall).

I then walked back along the old Railway line until I got home. There were a few odd trees that still had some nice Autumnal leaves, but it seems that most trees must have been at their peak while we were away, so we did miss Autumn.

When I got home I added all the blog posts I'd written in notepad since we went off to Korea on the 1st of October to this blog. I spell checked each one (using FF's spell checker), and also had to fix up some issues with random line breaks, so although the posts were already written, it still took quite a while.

After that I wrote this blog post and checked my email, then it was dinner time.

After dinner I watched a bit of 'The Maltese Falcon' (Humphrey Bogart film) with Moccle and L, but then L had to do his homework so we stopped watching it. The rest of the evening I did more work on my photo website.

The weather started off overcast, then was sunny for a few hours in the morning. In the afternoon it clouded over again. There was a sunset, but the sun didn't really seem to light up the clouds from below (not sure why), so it wasn't that great.

Breakfast: Bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes; ½ Strawberry jam toast sandwich; cup o' tea.
Lunch: Some Italian style ham with iceberg lettuce sandwich; banana; clementine; Slice of butter Madeira cake; cup o' tea.
Dinner: Burger with mature cheddar cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato ketchup, and red pepper & sweetcorn relish in a toasted bun; Bowl of minestrone instant soup. Pudding was a couple of apple pies heated in the oven with cream. Coffee; Happy Hippo.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Trying to learn OO PHP

This morning I woke up at 4am, but couldn't get back to sleep. I got up at 6am, and after a shower etc. did more work geocoding the images from our recent holiday. Luckily there weren't quite so many images where I hadn't had the gps switched off (or the GPS just hadn't recorded a tracklog) compared to the other days, so there wasn't quite so much manual geocoding needing to be done. For one day I even managed to geo-code all images automatically from the tracklog - and some of the photos were in a subway station!

While getting that finished and the images backed up, I also went through some more of my emails. I've got my main inbox cleared out now. It seems that there was also a lot of work done on panachallenge while I was away, as I had about 200 emails to do with that, which were just all raising tickets, fixing them, then closing the tickets.

After that I did a bit of work on my photo website. At the moment I'm displaying the image's metadata in a table, but it was suggested that the metadata isn't really tabular data and it would be more semantically correct to place it in a definition list. So I tried to do that. While using a definition list does cut out quite a bit of markup - no <tr>s, <tbody>s, or <colgroup>s, I found that with the way I am displaying my table (percentage width cells with padding defined in pixel), I would need to add a <span> or similar inside each <dt> and <dd> to assign the pixel padding to to achieve the same effect.

So after about an hour or two of trying to get the definition list to display the same as a table, I gave up and reverted back to the table.

After lunch I put an order in for some Astra Zeneca shares. I feel the stock market is well overdue a correction, and that the share price of defensives will take a slide along with the rest of the market when it does correct. However, I may well be wrong, and with Money Morning tipping Pharma stocks, and a nice dividend, I thought I may as well take a punt. I've only put £1000 in, as that's all the cash I had in my shares ISA account. When I logged in to put a limit order for the shares, I also checked my current holdings, and my gold holdings have gone up from about £3000 - £4000 - so that's quite a nice profit so far. The problem with being an overly cautious investor like me (and not having much money to invest) is that you always wish you'd put a lot more money in when you see the percentage gains you've got.

I started reading a book about Object Orientated PHP, then it looked like it might get sunny so I cleaned my cameras and lenses, put the partitions back into my Lowepro Slingshot 300aw bag, and then put the D200 and lenses for it into the bag. I also vacuumed my room before doing this to try and minimise the dust.

By the time I'd done all that, it wasn't actually looking that sunny (it never actually got sunny, just looked like it was going to be), so I went in the back garden and took a few photos of some flowers (didn't seem to be any insects around). I came back inside and then read some more of the OO PHP book.

In part of the OO PHP book it was saying about type hinting in object methods. Unfortunately it seems PHP only currently implements type hinting for arrays and objects. Doing some googling, it seemed that type hinting for scalar values was unlikely to be included in PHP, with it being a loosely typed language, but I did find a patch to enable type hinting for scalar values in PHP. I think to apply the patch, you
  1. download and unzip the PHP source code
  2. in terminal cd /path/to/php/source
  3. in terminal patch -p0 < /path/to/type_hint_final.txt

I also read a thread saying that you should use interfaces instead of abstract classes. I'm not sure exactly how this would work though, since it seems you can't define methods or properties that would be shared across a bunch of classes using interfaces, whereas you can using an abstract class as a parent.

The weather was overcast (and quite windy) all day.

Breakfast: Bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes; cup o' tea.
2nd Breakfast: Strawberry jam toast sandwich; Coffee.
3rd Breakfast: Kirsch and desert (custard) biscuit; Coffee.
Lunch: Mature cheddar cheese with iceberg lettuce sandwich; Clementine; Home-made Mince Pie; cup o' tea.
Dinner: Tagliatelle; Cheese sauce stuff; Green beans; bits of bacon; Ground black pepper. Pudding was a large choc chip cookie made from packet mix by Ben and Clare. Coffee.
Supper: Choc chip cookie; shortbread finger; hot cocoa.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Geo-coding holiday photos

This morning I was still working on geo-coding my images from Japan and Korea. The problem I was having with geo-coding using GeoSetter was that my images are organised into folders, where for geo-coding them I really needed just a list of all images sorted in date order.

So I tried Lightroom 2.5 with Jeffrey Friedl's Geocoding plugin. Lightroom 2.5 can list all the images in a folder and subfolders in date/name order, so that's good. Unfortunately, the geo-coding plugin workflow isn't so good. You have to select the images you want to geo-code in the Lightroom Library, then go to File > Plugin Extras > Geoencode. You need to have google earth open (I actually prefer using Google Earth for geocoding as opposed to GeoSetter's Google Maps interface, though there's not a lot of difference).

You locate the correct location in Google Earth, which is quite hard due to much of Seoul looking the same and also the low resolution satellite imagery that exists for South Korea. Then back in Lightroom, on the geoencoding plugin dialog, you click a button to get the co-ordinates from Google Earth. You then click a button to save the GPS 'Shadow Data' to the Lightroom database, and then have to go to a different tab (on the geoencoding plugin dialog still), and click another button to write the GPS info to an XMP sidecar file.

You then close the Geoencoding plugin, select your next image(s) and repeat the process again. Since the GPS data is only saved to XMP sidecar files, when you're finished with the batch you'd need to use exiftool to write the GPS data into the actual RAW files.

Another problem with Lightroom is that there's not an easy way to see what images have geo co-ordinates, and which don't. You can see if a single image has GPS co-ordinates in the metadata panel, but when looking for images that need geo-coding, you don't want to have to be clicking on every single image to check whether it is already geocoded or not. Lightroom does have a filter/search function, but this only seems to work with a few metadata fields (which GPS isn't one of).

Also, if you update the GPS co-ordinates for your images outside of Lightroom, you will then need to 'Read Metadata from image(s)' in Lightroom to get it to update its database, which seems to be pretty slow.

While I was waiting for Lightroom to re-index the images' metadata, and also while I was waiting for exiftool to geocode some images using a gps tracklog, I checked my email. One of the emails I got had a link to a review of Windows 7. Reading the review I saw that Windows 7 isn't much faster than Windows Vista, and in some cases is even slower. So it seems all those posts I've read from people in forums claiming Windows 7 was much faster were just rubbish. It does seem (according to the review) that Windows 7 is a bit less bloated than Windows Vista though, a shame it doesn't actually give any stats for RAM usage. So I think I'll probably stick with Vista for the moment rather than shelling out for a small performance increase.

The rest of the day I just spent geocoding images from our holiday - unfortunately it seems I forgot to have the GPS switched on a lot of the time (or sometimes the battery would run out and I wouldn't notice).

The weather was overcast all day.

Breakfast: Bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes; cup o' tea.
Lunch: 2x cheese on toasts; apple; Clementine; Mince Pie; Slice of home-made chocolate cereal cake; cup o' tea.
Dinner: Chicken; Gravy; Roast Potatoes; Roast Parsnips; Ground Black Pepper. Pudding was swiss roll with custard. Coffee.
Supper: Hot Cocoa; Milk chocolate digestive; shortbread finger.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Geo-coding holiday photos

Today I was still working on geo-coding my images from Korea and Japan.

I also tried out Lightroom 3 beta and Lightroom 2.5 a bit, and waded through a few more emails. I went to Church in the morning as well, and watched 'Night at The Museum' in the afternoon with Moccle and L, and 'Glory' with Moccle in the evening. Both films were a quite cheesy.

The weather was a bit sunny in the morning, but then clouded over and was overcast the rest of the day.

Breakfast: Bowl of Crunchy nut Cornflakes; Banana; cup o' tea.
After Church Snack: Custard Cream; Milk Chocolate Digestive; coffee.
Dinner: Chilli con carne; rice; tortilla chips; cheese. Pudding was a creamy yoghurt. Coffee; 3 pieces of Sainsbury's Caramel Chocolate.
Tea: Mature cheddar cheese sandwich; ⅔ Corn Pottage flavour giant wotsit style thing (from Japan); Home-made Mince Pie; Slice of Home-made Victoria Sponge layer cake; Rocky; cup o' tea.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Geo-coding holiday photos

This morning I woke up at about 3am. By 5.30am I still hadn't got back to sleep so I thought I might as well get up.

I read the latest Nikonians e-zine (issue 42), then after that started tidying up and packing away some of the holiday stuff.

When trying to copy the last few days gps tracklogs to my PC before we left Japan, I had found that they didn't exist! I thought that maybe the gps had been making the tracklogs, but then deleted them for some reason, so this morning I checked the micro SD card from the gps on my PC using Handy Recovery to search for deleted files. Unfortunately it seems that the gps just hadn't been creating the tracklogs, as the only deleted files Handy Recovery could find were old tracklogs I'd deleted myself.

Very annoying. I was pretty sure that I had checked that gps tracklog recording was on within the few days of tracklogs that were lost, so what happened to them I don't know. I guess the thing I should have done was to copy the gps tracklogs every day, that way I probably would have lost one days tracklogs at most, instead of the 6 days that I lost.

So I spent all day trying to geocode the last few days photos from google maps (using GeoSetter) by memory. Some photos you could tell where they were taken, others, like shops, I've tried to find as best as I could but often could find no way to locate where the photo was taken, so I just had to put a point somewhere around the area it was taken.

While images were being processed/geo-coded, I went on various photo websites. One announcement that sounded quite good was Lightroom Beta 3, which seems to have a nice export to Flickr function. Apparently you should be able to make your own export scripts/plugins, but I couldn't find any info on this for Lightroom Beta 3. What I'd like to do is to setup a panel so I could upload to my photo website as well as various photo sharing websites directly from Lightroom. If Lightroom could also send extra info with the image to my website, this would make it pretty awesome and I might have to start using it and buy a copy.

After getting most of the images without tracklogs geocoded I did a backup of them.

Breakfast: Bowl of Strawberry crunch oat cereal; cup o' tea.
Lunch: Mature Cheddar Cheese sandwich made with fresh bread-maker-made bread; Crust of fresh bread-maker-made bread with Strawberry Jam; Banana; 1½ slices of home-made Victoria Sponge sandwich cake; Rocky; cup o' tea.
Dinner: 2x delee sausages; Mashed potato; baked beans; tinned plum tomatoes; ground black pepper. Pudding was home-made Banoffee Pie. Coffee; 2x pieces of Tesco's cheapo chocolate; piece of Sainsbury's caramel chocolate.

Friday, 23 October 2009

First day back home

For breakfast this morning I had to choose whether to have cereal or toast. We had some nice Strawberry Crisp cereal, and not having had any cereal for a few weeks, I did find it quite tempting. However, since I was quite cold, I didn't really want to be eating cereal with cold milk, so I just had some nice warm marmalade toast instead.

After that I went on my comp and checked dpreview, and saw that amongst other things, the EOS 1D Mark IV has been announced. I checked the price on Warehouse express - £4499.00, versus £4199.00 for the similarly newly announced Nikon D3s. Both seem very expensive to me.

I checked my email, and had about 900 messages. While I was copying the photos from the hard drives I took on holiday to my PC I read/replied to a few emails and deleted lots of junk ones. When I'd finished copying the hard drives to my PC I did a compare on the two folders to check they were both identical. There was a couple of small differences so I fixed that and then deleted one of the folders.

In hindsight I actually only needed to copy one of the folders to my PC, then I could have compared that with the folder on the other drive without copying it over (I can only have one of the drives in my PC at a time so couldn't compare the folders on the two drives without copying at least one of them). If I had done this, it would have saved the 50 minutes it took to copy the second folder to my PC (the folder size is 167GB).

I did started cutting out some Animaniacs pogs in photoshop, had lunch, then carried on cutting out the Animaniacs pogs in photoshop for a bit. Mike and Nicky and Grandad came here, as Grandad is coming to stay with us for a while. We sat in the living room and talked for a bit, mainly just me and Moccle talked about our trip to Korea and Japan.

I don't know how long we did that for, but given that the time is now 4pm, I guess maybe 1½ - 2 hours. Mike and Nicky had to go back home probably about 3.45pm so they could avoid the worst of the traffic, then I carried on cutting out the Animaniacs pogs in photoshop.

After finishing getting the Animaniacs Pogs ready for upload to the website, I started working on cutting out some Batman pogs. Just before dinner I started to upload the Animaniacs and Batman pogs to my pog website.

After dinner the upload was still going, so I worked through a few more of my emails. Eventually the upload finished, so I added the pages to the website and updated the home page.

By the time I'd done that it was nearly 9pm, so I made myself some toast for supper, then watched Autumnwatch, which it seems this year is only on Fridays, but over a longer period of time (previously it would be on weekdays except Fridays for about 3 weeks).

I did a backup then went to bed.

Breakfast: Tangerine Marmalade toast sandwich; cup o' tea.
Lunch: Grated cheddar cheese sandwich; a few rib 'n' saucy flavour nik-naks; slice of homemade fruitcake; Rocky; cup o' tea.
Dinner: Battered fish portion; peas; potato; ground black pepper; salt. For pudding we had Spotted dick with custard. Coffee.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Trying to get to the airport in time

This morning I woke up at about 12am, then stayed in bed until 3.09am when I got up.

After breakfast I finished packing up the tripod bag with the toiletries, and also had to wait for a bit doing nothing while Moccle had a shower. We had breakfast, waited for about quarter of an hour, and then went to check out of the hotel about 4.45am.

We went to Onarimon Station and got the first train, which was the 5.06 to Otemachi. There was about 2 people waiting at Onarimon station at that time, and when the train arrived it did have a few people on it, but far from the standing room only that is typical of trains in Tokyo.

At Otemachi we changed to the Tokyo Metro and went to Nishi-Funabashi. Surprisingly, the train was now getting quite filled up seat wise. Moccle had said yesterday how it was weird that in Tokyo they didn't seem to have women-only (train) cars, unlike in some of the other places we visited in Japan, especially considering how packed the trains in Tokyo get. Well the car we got today was actually a 'women only' car (though not before 7am when we were on it). SO it seems they do have some women only cars, just only on certain lines I guess, and I didn't see any 'women-only' queuing points on the platforms like we've seen in other parts of Japan.

At Nishi-Funabashi, we needed to change to the JR Soba line so we could get to Narita International airport.

However, when we got off the train at Nishi-Funabashi, our tickets wouldn't go through the transfer ticket gates to get into the JR lines area of the station. We couldn't see any ticket machines in the Tokyo Metro area of the station, which is where we were, so we had to exit through a different set of ticket gates, buy our JR tickets, and could then go through some JR ticket gates to get to the JR line we needed.

However, when trying to purchase our JR line tickets, we couldn't see Narita International Airport on the ticket prices board. According to the info we had seen previously, the JR ticket to Narita International Airport was about 3000 yen. The highest price on the board was something like 1650 yen, so I thought the approx 3000 yen price we had seen before must have been the price the tickets for both of us. So we bought the most expensive ticket, and went into the JR line area of the station. However, while there was about 6 platforms for the Sobu line, all of them said 'local', and it didn't seem as if any of them went to Narita International Airport, unlike what the Tokyo guide map indicated.

Moccle asked the security guard bloke at the JR ticket gates, and he said that we needed to change at Funabashi. This would explain why we couldn't see Narita International Airport on the ticket prices board. We went down to platform one, which was what the security guard bloke said we needed. Unfortunately we just missed the train, so had to wait about 9 minutes for the next one.

We got the next train to Funabashi when it arrived, but then at Funabashi we just missed a train as we got down onto the platform (though we didn't see where it was going, so I can't say it was the train for Narita International Airport that we missed). We had to wait 20 minutes for the next train to Narita International Airport, which arrived at 6.36am, not giving us much time to get to Narita International Airport, as our flight was leaving at 9am, and you're meant to check-in about 2 hours before departure.

We still managed to get a seat on the train, but as it went along it did get quite filled up, and there were quite a few school children using the trains, despite it still being so early. On the way to the airport we also saw some actual countryside, everywhere else we'd been so far in Japan there had been lots of houses or Industrial buildings.

Despite being a 'rapid' train, the train seemed quite slow, and by 7.30am we still hadn't reached Narita International Airport. With the process of trying to find the check-in point, waiting 45 minutes in a long queue to check-in, going through security, and then walking all the way to the boarding gate, we were thinking that we would miss our flight.

I was also thinking that we should have got the train in the evening and then spent the early hours of the morning either at the airport or around a nearby train station that has regular trains to the airport, which is what I'd wanted to do, but Moccle hadn't wanted to do that, and had wanted to stay in the hotel overnight and get the first train in the morning (which is what we did).

When the train finally arrived at Narita International Airport, it was about 7.45am, so we thought we must be too late. I put my ticket in the Fare adjustment machine, since I thought the tickets to Narita International Airport were meant to be about 3000 yen each, but it just spat it out again, and we were able to get through the ticket gates okay with our tickets. So it seems that the 3000 yen tickets must actually have been for a different train service to Narita International Airport.

We rushed towards the departure place anyway. Unfortunately there were signs saying 'North Departures' and 'South Departures' (or something similar), and going in separate directions. There was a board with departures listed on it and what departure place you needed to go to, but all the flights listed were in the evening. It had one Asiana flight on it, and that was in the South Departure place. So I started up the escalator to the South Departures place, and Moccle followed me, but then asked why I was going to the South Departures place since we didn't know where we needed to go.

I said why I was going that way, but then Moccle said that the board with the flights on was actually rotating through the flights, so if we'd stayed there, we could have seen the correct Departure place we needed. I said that in that case we should go back down and look at the screen, but Moccle said we should carry on to the South Departure place, so we did.

We had to go up a few flights of escalators, and there was a bloke in front of us, so we couldn't run up them to be quicker. When we got to the South Departures place we saw an Asiana check in desk, but Moccle noticed that the first four lots of check desks (A,B,C,D) were first class and business class. We walked (fast) up to the start of the economy class or whatever it was called, and saw there was a big screen with a list of the flights and what check-in desk you needed to go to.

Thankfully, our flight was still listed, It listed A,B,C,D as the check-in desks places for our flight. So we went to one on D I think it was, which said it was business class. The lady there told us that we needed to go to check in desk E. So the board had the wrong information on it, typical!

We went to check in desk E, and amazingly we weren't too late for our flight and got checked in okay about 8am. The closing time for the boarding gate printed on our tickets was 8.30am (half an hour before take-off), so we were still cutting it quite short.

We went through security, which involved first showing passport and boarding pass to someone. Then you'd go through to a separate area and get your passport checked, and the bloke would take off the Japan customs bit of paper that they stapled in the passport when you arrived in Japan.

After that you had to go through to the next security area, bag up all your liquids, remove your laptop from you bag, and place your coat, contents of your pockets, and everything else in a tray(s) so they could be x-rayed. Unlike Heathrow, you didn't need to take off your belt or shoes. You had to walk through a metal detector arch, then you could pick up all your stuff. You could also see the x-rays on the monitors from the other side.

We rushed towards our boarding gate, and were actually making quite good time. Our gate was just round the corner, and it was only about 8.10am when Moccle saw a shop selling Studio Ghibli toys. We had a quick look, but Moccle decided not to buy anything, then we went to the departure lounge round the corner for our flight. To our surprise, there were lots of people sitting there waiting, and the flights (it was 2 gates with 2 flights to Seoul, both at 9am), weren't even boarding yet.

I looked at my ticket, and realised that actually 8.30am was the boarding time, not the time the boarding gates closed (I'm pretty sure that on the flight from Heathrow to Seoul they said that the boarding gate closed half an our before take-off, which in this case would have been 8.30am). So since we had a bit of extra time we went back to the shop that had some Studio Ghibli Merchandise. It only had a couple of shelves worth of Studio Ghibli stuff, mainly stuffed Totoros, but also a few Kiki's delivery service cats and Ponyos.

Since Moccle had been annoyed that he didn't get a Studio Ghibli thing when we were at the Ghibli museum, and also we didn't have any other use for our yen, I said he might as well buying something, even though it was expensive. He bought a Ponyo puppet that was 2600 yen, and also a bottle of Pocari Sweat, which was like 140 yen or something. We went back to the departure lounge and I had a bit of my Korean travel sickness medicine, then shortly after the flight started boarding.

Weirdly, despite us being so late to the airport, we had got a window seat, although the window seat was actually allocated to Moccle, I sat there, and enjoyed the view over Japan, we even got to see Mount Fuji! You could see that the tops of some of the mountains were brown/red (Autumn colours), while most of the rest of the mountains were green. In the valleys was grey with all the houses. Unfortunately, taking photos through the window didn't work too well, and the photos tended to come extremely low contrast, almost just a sold grey colour. Still, at least the view through my eyes was good.

About 10am, they served us some food, which we weren't expecting, given that the flight was only 2 hours long and didn't span a traditional meal time slot. Still, it seemed everyone else was grateful for the meal, and we were too as we were starting to get a bit hungry.

I would guess the flight was 1/3 over Japan, 1/3 over the sea, then 1/3 over Korea. Korea was very mountainous, just like Japan, but in the valleys it was a red-brown colour rather than grey. You could see that the red-brown coloured valleys were actually full of fields. Some parts of Japan seemed to be a lot of fields, but they still seemed to be a more grey/green colour, certainly not the bright brown red of the Korean fields anyway.

When we were getting near the airport in Korea you started to see a lot more grey, with blocks of skyscrapers huddled together in groups. We landed okay, got off the plane, and then followed the signs to 'transfers'.

When we got to the transfers bit, you had to have all your stuff x-rayed again, despite it already having been x-rayed before the flight you came in on. Maybe the Koreans just don't trust other countries to do their x-raying properly. One of the security blokes there told Moccle that he couldn't bring the bottle of Pocari Sweat on board with him. ANNOYING!!!! We only got the bottle of Pocari Sweat to be a souvenir of our trip to Korea and Japan, and so everyone back home could have a taste of it.

What I thought was most annoying about this was not that you couldn't bring the bottle on the flight with you (though that was extremely annoying), but that in Japan there wasn't any notification that you wouldn't be able to take any liquids you bought there on a flight that you transfer to in another country. We were glad that we hadn't bought something like an expensive bottle of Sake though.

Moccle drank the Pocari Sweat while I put all my stuff through the x-ray machine. Moccle actually wanted me to drink half of the Pocari Sweat, but by the time he'd said that I'd already started putting my things in an x-ray tray.

After getting my stuff scanned and myself metal detector scanned by hand, as I set off the metal detector gate (actually everyone who went through the metal detector gate set it off and had to be hand scanned, rendering it pretty pointless), I had to wait for Moccle to finishing drinking the Pocari Sweat, go to the back of the queue, and then wait his turn for x-raying and metal detectoring.

We then went on to the departure shopping area. We walked from where we entered the shopping area, all the way down to the other end of the shopping area, then back, and down to where our gate was. After a bit, we found the same shops repeated. I guess they didn't expect anyone to walk all the way from one end of the shopping area to the other. We also found that all the shops were posh shops, like Armani, Bvlgari, Gucci etc. (I can't remember if those were the actual shops, but the shops were of that sort).

A couple of shops sold cameras and lenses, priced in USD. I don't quite know what the normal selling price of the cameras and lenses they were selling was, but I guess it was about the normal US price (e.g. a D300s was something like $2100), so it would be cheaper than buying from the UK. But unless you are dishonest, you would have to pay VAT when you got to the UK, and also you wouldn't have any UK warranty.

Walking down to our departure gate, there was a small structure with a woman playing a string instrument thing in it and some people watching. We couldn't go straight over and see what it was as we were on one of those moving walkway things, so when that came to an end we went back to see what it was. We just caught the end of her performance, then her, a guy playing a kind of reed instrument, a guy playing a fat flute, and a drummer played a song, which was very good. Moccle said it was the song that they always play in the Pansori film Gyeongbeokgong (or sumat like that).

After that was a performance by a bloke dancing around with a fan. When he was done, a lady told us that the next performance was at 2pm, which was after our flight was due to leave. Moccle picked up a leaflet from outside the exhibit, and it seems it was to advertise 'Korea House', a place 'to inform the public about traditional Korean culture'. Bit strange to have it in the departures area then, where only people leaving Korea will see it.

We went to sit down in the waiting area for our departure gate, and Moccle suggested I check the laptop to see if there was free wi-fi. Amazingly there was, so Moccle checked his facebook and youtube account quickly, and then I finished writing yesterday's blog post. As soon as I started doing that the flight started boarding.

We got on the flight, but had been allocated middle aisle seats, with me of the left of the aisle, Moccle on the right, and someone else in between us. Strange how we could get window seats for the flight from Japan to Korea, even though we only checked in an hour before takeoff, yet we got middle aisle seats on the Korea to London flight which we were checked in for a good few hours in advance (they checked us in to both flights in Japan).

Moccle sat next to me anyway, and we did at least get TV screens in the back of the seats in front of us. We looked through the Asiana Entertainment magazine, which details what films etc. are available on the in flight TV thing. It had a section titled 'View finder' at the top of the page and 'Shorts' on the side of the page, that offered some decent looking programs like 'Human Wrecking Ball: Cinema Smack Down', which had a description of
The Pumphrey Brothers break things with their bare hands. In this episode they destroy a giant movie screen
Unfortunately, when we tried to find the Shorts or Viewfinder section on the in flight entertainment menu, it didn't exist. I checked all the different options, and it didn't have it or any of the shorts.

Looking further into the magazine, we saw that actually most of the stuff was probably available only for Business or first class customers.

The flight started off, and no-one had sat next to Moccle or complained that he was sitting in their seat. Looking round, we saw quite a few other people had spare seats next to them. One guy even had a window seat with two spare seats next to him, that he later used as a bed to lie down on.

On the in flight entertainment I went on a couple of games, both of which had been made by an Indian company, One was a super breakout clone, but the screen was too rubbish to see how big your paddle thing was. The other was one of the jigsaw puzzle style games where you have a picture cut into 9 blocks with one block missing, and then the rest muddled up, and you have to try and recreate the picture but only by moving blocks into the space next to them

When the flight had gotten going, the air stewardesses handed out the pack with slippers, eye mask, toothbrush, and toothpaste, and also some headphones so you could listen to in the in-flight entertainment. I first tried watching Goemon, I chose English language for the sound option, but it was actually in Japanese with Korean subtitles.

Next I tried 'Chaw', which was in Korean with English subtitles. Unfortunately the film was quite dark, and the screen was so rubbish and reflecty, you couldn't see what was happening. After that I tried a Chinese film, 'Alls well, Ends well', which was in Chinese (though seemed to be dubbed, probably from Cantonese I would guess), with Korean subtitles. It was nice and bright so you could see it okay, but the screen is still a rubbish way to watch a film. The sound through the headphones wasn't that good either, as you couldn't hear it when the people were whispering to each other.

After a bit they started serving food (even though it was only like 4pm or sumat), so I took my headphones off, and my screen went black. I can't really say whether the film was good or not, not having watched much of it, and not being able to understand what the people were saying (the plot seemed to involve a woman wanting a husband, and a bloke who can hypnotise people / make people fall in love). Like most Chinese comedy films that I've seen though, it seemed to have good production values but not actually very funny / not a very good plot.

When I'd finished eating my food, I got the laptop out and wrote this blog post so far.

After that I tried to go to sleep for a bit, and probably succeeded a bit as well.

Then we were served another meal, so I ate that, then tried to go to sleep a bit more. After a while it was getting near landing time (though probably still half an hour before), so I stopped trying to go to sleep and changed my watch back to English time and also changed the alarm on it from 3am, which is was set to to wake us up this morning.

After a bit the plane landed, though about 45 minutes late, which they said was due to traffic congestion at Incheon International Airport (where we had taken off from in Korea). We got off the plane and walked to the passport checking area. There was a queue for the EU passports check-in, but I saw another very short queue that said 'UK and Ireland passports'. So I went down that way, but when I gave the bloke my passport, he asked me where I was going, it turned out that the short queue was for flight transfers only.

So we joined the end of the long queue for EU passports, they just did a quick check of the passport, and then we could go through to the baggage reclaim area. There were a few baggage carousels, but I didn't see any boards showing which baggage reclaim station had the baggage from which flight. Moccle spotted one further into the Baggage reclaim area, so he went and looked at that while I went to the outsized baggage reclaim station to pick up my tripod, since when we had left Heathrow they had said the tripod would have to go in outsized baggage, I presumed it would be in that on the way back into Heathrow as well.

However, I was wrong and the baggage reclaim station for outsized luggage was empty. I looked around to try and find Moccle, and after a bit I found him, and he had got my tripod as it was on the normal baggage carousel for our flight, which he had found. He hadn't got his bag yet though, so we had to wait quite a while until it came round on the carousel.

We then exited the baggage reclaim area, there were two ways out we could use - one that said something like 'EU and UK citizens' and the other said something like 'EU and UK citizens - Nothing to declare'. We took the 'Nothing to declare' root, but the only difference between the two routes was that the 'Nothing to declare' root went through a room with some trolleys or something in it, while the other route just went round the outside of the room.

We followed the signs for the London Underground, and bought a ticket there to Kings Cross St. Pancras, which was listed on the machine as just plain 'Kings Cross'. It cost £4 each, but the route was quite far. Luckily the whole journey is on the Piccadilly line, so there wasn't any need to change trains, and the train wasn't too busy either so we could both get a seat. Unlike the trains in Seoul and Tokyo, the train was quite narrow, so putting your luggage by your feet made it difficult for people to get past, and it also didn't have a luggage rack above your head either.

The train left probably about 7.20pm, and took about an hour to get to Kings Cross St Pancras. When we got to Kings Cross St Pancras, we followed the signs for Pancras International Station. When we got there, there was a board with the trains departing listed on it, and the one we wanted to Nottingham was departing at that moment (about 8.30pm), so we'd just missed it.

So we had to wait around for about an hour until the 21.25 train to Nottingham. Moccle tried to phone McRad to tell him, but his phone couldn't phone or send any messages for some cheesun.

Eventually the train arrived, so we got on the train, and headed off towards Market Harborough, which was the first stop. But on train, we had our tickets checked, and were told that they weren't valid as they were only valid on the train at the time we had booked them for. Looking at the tickets, I could see that they did they were only valid for that specific time, but annoying that it didn't seem to say anything about this on the East Midlands Trains website when we booked the tickets (well, actually Moccle booked the tickets, so I didn't see the website, but he would have known they were only for a specific time if it had said so on the website).

So we had to pay an extra £37 each, on top of the £14 we'd already paid, making it £51 for a single from London to Market Harborough. I thought this must have been the standard ticket price, as I know when I looked at train tickets from Market Harborough to London before they were stupidly expensive, but Moccle thought they must have charged us double for not having a valid ticket. In that case it would make it quite annoying for the ticket gates to let us through with an invalid ticket just so we can be charged double the normal ticket price on the train.

The train took just over an hour to get to Market Harborough. When we got off the phone Moccle tried his phone again and it was now working, so Clare came to pick us up. When we got home I unpacked a bit of my stuff and then finished writing this blog post. I went to bed at about 00:20.

Breakfast: ½ Rasin pain delicieux; ½ choc chip and choc striped pain delicieux; cup of black coffee (we'd run out of the milk packet things).
Lunch: Soba noodles with noodle sauce and wasabi; Beef and vegetables in sauce stuff; rice; bread roll with weird butter stuff that looked like cream. For pudding was a delicious caramel flavoured cream thing. Cup of green tea; cup of sprite.
Dinner: Beef stuff; Rice; Various leaves; Weird thing that was like egg and seaweed; Weird piece of fruit stuff that had a mushy texture when you chewed it; Bean sauce; Kimchi. There was also some mushroom soup that I didn't have any of and some bits of chilli pepper that I only had a tiny bit of (too hot). For pudding was some weird fruit that tasted okay, but just okay. Black coffee (I thought I had some coffee whitener on my food tray, but actually I didn't); cup of white wine.
Breakfast (or was it dinner again?): Battered chicken pieces in sauce with various vegetables; rice; Tofu; soy sauce; bread roll with butter; Fruit salad; Coffee; Cup of orange and grapefruit juice (tasted like that anyway).

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Last day in Japan

This morning we got up quite late, about 9am. We had breakfast and tried to decide where to go. In the end we decided to go to Rippongi Hills, which wasn't very far away, then we could come back easily in the afternoon and go somewhere else in the afternoon/evening or have a rest before leaving for the airport.

We walked to Rippongi Hills, and there was some skill people is big costumes there. We walked around there a bit and saw some elephants made of plastic bottles. It was also the Tokyo International Film Festival, and there was a presentation saying about the films coming up. The one we watched the preview for looked quite rubbish and cheesy, about a boxer.

After that we tried to walk to Tokyo Midtown where there was the Suntory Art Museum (Suntory Boss has been the boss of them all since 1992). We walked quite a way there, but then realised that we were actually walking in the opposite direction (as the Japan map on the gps is very basic, it's hard to tell which way you're going on it). So we had to walk all the way back to Rippongi Hills, then walk from there in the right direction to Tokyo Midtown.

We got to Tokyo Midtown about 1pm and went into a convenience store there and bought some food. We then went to the park area next to Tokyo Midtown and ate our lunch there. One of the things I've noticed in Japan is that they don't seem to do 'normal' sized packets of crisps, only the large ones (probably like 120g compared to a normal packet of 25-30g).

After lunch we looked around Tokyo Midtown, which was just totally posh and expensive shops. The Suntory art gallery didn't seem to have anything to do with the Suntory drinks brand, looked quite rubbish, and was about 1,200 yen to look round. So we didn't go in there, but went towards the nearby train station.

Moccle wanted to go to His Master's Voice in Shibuya, so we looked at the train map, and decided that actually we should get a train from a different station that was also nearby. So we did that, and went to Shibuya, which was very busy and full of big shops, much like lots of the other shopping areas we've visited in Tokyo. We went to the hmv and looked at the DVDs/blu-rays there. They were all totally expensive, like 3,000-5,000 yen per blu-ray. The DVDs were like 3,000 yen each. There was also a 300 boxset, which was about 16,000 yen.

After looking round there for a bit, we went back to Shibuya station to get a train back to the hotel. I thought we should get the Tokyo Metro Ginza line to Shimbashi, then the Toei Subway Asakusa line from Shimbashi to Daimon, which is reasonably near the hotel, but quite a bit further away than Onarimon station. Moccle thought we should get the JR line to Meguro, and then the Toei subway Mita line from Meguro to Onarimon.

However, when we got to the station, we didn't know the name of the JR line we needed to take. We couldn't see how to get the Tokyo Metro Ginza line either though. We wanted to be as quick as possible, as it was getting near 5pm and we wanted to try and avoid rush hour. After walking round a bit we saw a sign for the Ginza line, which is orange. Then looking at the other signs, we realised that we hadn't been able to see the way to the Ginza line as we had just been looking for an orange circle (the symbol for the Tokyo Metro Ginza line), but the orange had faded on most of the signs and had gone brown.

So we got the train to Shimbashi okay, and as Shibuya is at one end of the Ginza line, there wasn't anyone on the train already and we even managed to get seats. Moccle thought that we should try walking back to the hotel from Shimbashi as it was only about a kilometre away from the hotel, and would save having to buy Toei subway tickets. But I said that we wouldn't know the way back to the hotel, and would probably get lost and walk the wrong way like we normally do. So we got the Toei subway Asakusa line from Shimbashi to Daimon (which was just the next stop), then walked back to the hotel from Daimon.

When we got back to the hotel I copied my photos across, wrote most of this blog post, and then sorted the photos and copied them across to the hard drives.

We went to bed about 9.30pm, though I didn't actually get to sleep until about 11pm.

Breakfast: ½ sweet custard turnover/danish; ½ long sweet bread thing with icing on it; pastry with sweet custard and cream inside it; a few Pocky sticks; coffee.
Lunch: Packet of Beef and Tomato Taco (or something similar going by the picture on the packet) flavoured Doritos; ½ pack of chocolate biscuits like Cadbury's Animals biscuits but bigger; ½ bottle coca cola.
Dinner: Hot flavoured beef and kimchi like stuff pot noodle style thing; Choco Max ice cream; Pocki Sticks.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Sumo land and two long walks

This morning we went to a sumo place near Ryogoku. We saw a sumo in the train station as we were coming out. We went to the sumo stadium place, but it was all closed up and they didn't have any sumo matches until the 2nd half of November.

We walked around the streets south of the station, which was meant to be where some of the sumos lived, hoping to see more sumos. We did see a sumo riding a bike, unfortunately I was getting me camera ready for a pano, so I missed taking a photo of him.

After walking round quite a bit and not seeing any more sumos, we walked round Kyu-Yasuda park, then up Sumidagawa. Alongside the river there were quite a few tramps houses, which consisted of tents or blue tarpaulins over some sort of frame. The tramps seemed to be resaonably well off as far as tramps go, having pots and pans, and one had an expensive looking mountain bike (others had bikes as well). It seemed they got money from collecting cans and metal for recycling.

We walked up the river towards the Asahi Breweries Headquarters, which looks a bit like a pint of frothy beer. Then we went to Sumida Park, which was a government recommended tourist site, and also had quite a few other government recommended tourist sites nearby.

We went through Sumida Park a bit, then crossed the river and went to Sensoji Temple, which was all covered up as it was having building work done on it. We then walked to Ueno Park and saw Toshogu Shrine, which was also all covered up having building work done on it. There were also some tramps houses in Ueno Park. In the park we watched a magician bloke do a performance.

We carried on through Ueno park to the lake bit, then went from there to the nearest station, which was Yushima station. From there we got the Metro to Otemachi, then the Toei subway from Otemachi to Onarimon.

We had about an hour's rest at the hotel while I wrote this blog post, then we walked up towards Rainbow bridge. We got to Rainbow Bridge at 7pm, so it was still open, and we went up in the lift and walked across it. You got a good view from the bridge, but it was very windy.

It took us over an hour to get across because I took one 360 pano and two partial panos, which took a long time to do given the long exposure times involved (the bridge is over 1km long as well). When we got to the other side we went down onto a beach area, then through a town bit, then across the Tokyo Teleport bridge (which didn't seem to actually have anything to do with teleportation) to Pallet Town.

There wasn't much in Pallet town, I didn't even see any pallets. We did go in an acrcade there though, which was quite empty. It had skill coin operated animals that you could sit on and ride around. Moccle went on some track'n' field style game, which cost 100 yen, and also went on a Pachinko machine for 100 yen.

On the Pachinko machine, it just keeps shooting out balls, there seemed to be a hole in the middle of the machine that you want the balls to go down (as well as a hole at the bottom of the machine where you don't want them to go), and when you get a ball in this hole it stops one fruit machine style thing. So if you get 3 balls in the middle hole you stop all 3 fruit machine things, and presumably if the fruit machine things are lined up properly you would get some points or extra balls or something. As it happened, the fruit machine things never made a line of three of a kind, so we didn't find out.

We started walking up the road to go to Tokyo Big Sight, but then realised it was actually quite far away, so we went back to Pallet Town and got the train from near there (Aomi station) to Shimbasi, which was quite expensive, 370 yen. But when we got past Takeshiba station, we worked out that actually Takeshiba was the station we wanted. Unfortunately we hadn't written this down, so Moccle had thought that we wanted Shimbashi station.

Shimbashi station was actually about the same distance away from the hotel as Takeshiba, but we didn't know how to get back to the hotel from Shimbashi, whereas we did know how to get back to the hotel from Takeshiba. I did have the gps with me, so we tried using that, but since we didn't have any way to reconcile our location in real life with our location according to the gps, it wasn't much help. I did try doing a 'go to' the hotel on the gps, but whether we were walking up the street or down the street, the gps showed us getting further away from the hotel.

So we walked back up the street towards the train tracks, and then we at least had some way to reconcile our location in real life with our location on the gps. After we had done that, we could work out which way to take to get back to the hotel using the gps. After a bit we came across a map, so we used that along with the gps to get back onto the shopping street that we would have walked up to get to the hotel if we had got off the train at Takeshiba station.

When we had got back to the shopping street, we walked up and down it a bit trying to find somewhere to eat, there was the two places where you have to eat at a bar that we saw the other day, so we couldn't go there since I would need somewhere to put my tripod down, and then we also found another similar restaurant that also had tables. First we didn't go in there as it didn't look like they had an English menu, and I didn't want to be ordering random stuff as it would probably fishy and I wouldn't like it. Then we noticed that the time on the door said something like 4-22, as it was already 22.30, we couldn't really go in there if they were meant to close at 10pm.

So we just went back down the street a bit and ordered 4 cheeseburgers from McDonalds. Then we walked down the street towards the hotel and went in the am pm shop near the bottom of the road. We bought some more food/drink from there, then went back to the hotel.

When we got back to the hotel we ate our dinner and watched a bit of TV, mainly a program about Japanese houses, which I think was actually a learning English program. I copied the rest of the pics I'd taken to the laptop, sorted all today's pics, copied them to the hard drives, and wrote the rest of today's blog post, then went to bed about 1.30am.

Breakfast: ½ Zushiri Apple turnover pastry; ½ Double Cream Japanese Pumpkin bread; Chocochip bread finger thing; a couple of very small chocolate chip cookies; coffee.
Morning snack: Small chocolate choc chip cookies; water.
Tea: 2x small croissants; coffee.
Dinner: 2x McDonalds cheeseburgers; Ice cream; Pocky Sticks; glass of Coca Cola.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Shenmue land (Yokosuka)

This morning I had breakfast and finished writing yesterday's blog post. We wanted to go to Yokosuka today, but weren't sure how to get there other than that on our train/subway map there was a train line called 'JR Yokosuka line/JR Shonan-Shinjuku line' running from Shinagawa. According to the map, this line went to Yokohama, as do lots of other lines according to the map.

On the Shenmue dojo website, Kiyuu had posted instructions on how to get to Yokosuka. We don't have internet access at the hotel (I think it costs 100 yen per minute or 1500 yen for a day's access), so we couldn't check the Shenmue dojo website to see what the instructions were. Moccle thought that there was free internet on the subway, so we took the laptop and went down to Onarimon station. There were a few wireless networks down there, one was unsecured, but when connected to would just bring up the connection provider's webpage when you tried to go on the internet (the same as happened at Heathrow airport). Another required a WEP key. And the rest said that the required security certificate wasn't installed when I tried to connect to them.

So we went back to the hotel, then got our stuff and decided to just go to Shinagawa and then we could find out how to get to Yokosuka from the ticket office there.

I thought we could get the Toei subway from Onarimon to Mita, change at Mita to Sengakuji, and then from there get the Metro to Shinagawa, then JR line from there to Yokosuka. But Moccle suggested getting the Toei subway to Meguro, then getting JR line to Yokosuka, so a lot less changing (and less changing of services, which reduces the cost quite a bit).

So we tried Moccle's suggestion, but when we got to Meguro, we couldn't see how to get to get a train to Yokosuka from there, so instead we got the JR line from there to Shinagawa.

At Shinagawa, there were 3 platforms for the Yokosuka line, looking at them we worked out that trains from platform 15 were the ones that actually went to Yokosuka. We found the ticket office and bought the tickets there, which was 3040 yen for return tickets for both of us. We found out when buying the tickets, that Yokosuka is pronounced with the o's like in 'pog' rather than like in 'go', which is how we had always pronounced it.

On the platform for the trains to Yokosuka, looking at the arriving trains, there was one 'rapid' train that was going only a few stops ahead, and another normal train that was going to Zuchi, which wasn't quite to Yokosuka, but nearer. Although the rapid train was scheduled to arrive at something like 10.31, it still hadn't arrived by the time the train to Zuchi arrived at something like 10.34.

So we got the train to Zuchi, then when we were on it, it said that the last 11 cars would terminate at Zuchi, while the rest of the train would carry on to the end of the Yokusuka line (can't remember what station it was). So we walked through the carriages until we got to the first carriage of the carriages that were only going to Zuchi. We couldn't get to the first three carriages that were going to Yokosuka as there was like a drivers or conductors or something bit at the front of the carriage we were in.

So when the train got to Zuchi, we got out of the carriage we were in, and got into the first carriage that was going to Yokosuka. We got to Yokosuka okay, then walked along the wood panelled 'sea' front. We couldn't get into the docks as it was US Navy personnel only, so we went to Dobuita street.

We walked around for quite a while, most of the shops from Shenmue didn't exist, but we did see the car park, Jupiter Jackets, Game Rasu Begasu (Game Las Vegas), and a flower shop. We also saw some stairs, and the way to the stairs, the houses at the top of the stairs, and a small park that was partway up the stairs, all of which were similar, but different to those in Shenmue. Mostly everything was different to how it is in Shenmue, yet you could see where things in Shenmue had got their influence from.

Also in Yokosuka, we saw a totally thin house, a weird plant (we saw it for sale in two places), a totally good tramp bloke sitting next to a statue of a trombonist on a bench, a statue of a trumpeter on a bench, the hand prints of some jazz or blues musician in the road, an exclusive hip-hop shop, an alcoholic shop, a giant inflatable elephant leaning over a balcony, a row of people fishing, some big birds, American ships and submarines, an old Japanese war ship, a skill water fountain place where they play loud music including a skill song about Yokosuka, a Burger King (had seen Wendy's, KFC, and McDonalds before, but this was the first Burger King we'd seen in Japan), a shop selling used gamecubes (with no cables or anything) for 100 yen), and statues of a naked woman, a girl, and a duck.

Game Las Vegas had skill UFO catcher machines outside it, where you had to try and catch a key, then this would open a box with something in it. One of them was pink with flowers on it, and had stuff like a Wii inside it, and had Sonic the hedgehog printed on the 'prize out' doors.

We walked all the way to the other end of the docks away from the station, but it was all US miltary controlled, so we couldn't get into the docks at all. Obviously, there weren't loads of people walking around the docks like there are in Shenmue either. There were some warehouses on the docks though. Maybe the bus that Ryo takes in Shenmue actually takes him to some docks that are a few miles away? Down Dobuita street the shops seem to be mainly aimed at the US Navy personnel, and there was a sign saying 'cowboy parking only', along with a couple of American country bars. There were also quite a few estate agent style places offering places to live for US contractors, and a few currency exchange shops. The jacket shops had quite skill jackets in them, but they were really expensive, like 15,000-25,000 yen.

There was also a Dobuita information shop selling the Dobuita burger gunship or whatever it is T-shirt for about 2,000 yen, and one of the jacket shops also sold Studio Ghibli badges.

We went back to the station, and bought an icecream to eat while we were waiting for the train. Weirdly, Yokosuka station has 2 platforms, but they are numbered 2 and 3. Also, platform 3 didn't seem to be in use at all, and platform 2 received trains going in both directions. We missed the first train that we could have caught, which was going to Zuchi, as I thought the announcer person said the train was going somewhere else (actually I think they were just saying something like 'attention please'), and Moccle didn't realise that the train was there.

So we got the one after that that was going in the right direction. It said it was going to Narita Airport, but Moccle checked, and it did stop at Shinagawa (as well as all the other stations on the Yokosuka line) on the way to Narita airport.

When we got to Shinagawa we spent quite a while trying to find a ticket machine. There didn't seem to be any inside the main part of the station where you can access all the different platforms, so we had to go out through the ticket gates, buy a ticket from the ticket machines, then go back through the ticket gates to get to the platforms.

When we got on the train it was totally packed, there weren't people pushing everyone in, but it was a tight squeeze, and when the train stopped at the next stop I had to get out so that people could get off. This was at about 6.30pm as well, so it had probably been even busier earlier. We got off at Meguro without too much trouble, and then got the train back to Onarimon.

When we got back to the hotel we had some Sake and Coffee (not mixed together), and Moccle wanted some food to go with them. I was getting quite hungry as well. I wrote quite a bit of this blog post, and we finished our coffees, then we went out to the nearest convenience store, which was an am pm, and bought some food.

We came back to the hotel and both me and Moccle managed to make our pot noodles perfectly so there wasn't any soup left over when we'd finished eating them (which is in contrast to normal when we do have quite a bit of soup left over after eating all the noodles). The Sake was quite nice and sweet, it tasted best if you swished it around your mouth a bit, otherwise it just tasted of alcoholic water if you swallowed it down quickly.

Moccle had wanted to go to the rainbow bridge this evening, but it was obvious that it would be difficult for us to do when we were on the train at 6.30pm, since the bridge closes at 8.00pm, and it would take quite a while for us to get to from the hotel (there aren't any subway/metro/train stations particularly near to it I think). So instead we were going to go to a cinema that played old films that Moccle also wanted to go to, however, by the time we'd finished our meal it was probably about 9pm, and we were still quite tired from walking about all afternoon, so we just stayed in the hotel. I wrote this blog post, sorted the photos I'd taken today, and then moved them across to the hard drives, and then went to bed about 22.45pm.

Breakfast: ½ Pumpkin Baumkuchen; ½ Tea with Milk Baumkuchen; coffee.
All morning and afternoon snack: Chocochip Cookie Salty Caramel biscuits; marshmallows with chocolate stuff inside them.
Waiting for train snack: Crunky ice cream.
Tea: Chilli Tomato Big Cup Noodle; bits of breaded chicken. Pudding was a couple of apple yoghurt Pocky sticks and a chocochip snack (small bread/cake thing with chocolate chips in it). Coffee; Sake.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Lack of cosplayers at Harajuku

This morning we had breakfast and worked out how to get to Harajuku, then went there. I wanted to go there as Harajuku station was meant to be where you can go to see cosplayers on a Sunday morning. However, we could only see one cosplayer, so we followed everyone else into the nearby park (Meiji Shrine) to come back later in case we were too early (it was probably about 10.00am).

We went to the Meji shrine, unfortunately I couldn't do a pano as a security person said I couldn't use my tripod, but we did see a wedding procession. You couldn't take photos looking into the temple area where the wedding took place either.

We went back to Harajuku station, but there was still only the one cosplayer there, he would pose for people so they could get their photo taken with him. So we followed everyone else again, but this time down a large street with lots of shops on. After going down there for a bit we went back up to Harajuku station, where there was still just the single cosplayer. He was dancing around, and must have been quite hot since it was hot anyway, and his costime would have made him even hotter.

Next we went to Yoyogi park. On the way into the park we saw a lad who had a stereo playing music and he was doing keepie-ups (rubbishly). There were groups of young people doing something (don't know what, but it reminded me of the Hitler Youth), and also quite a few painters, and photographers taking photos of female models in the park. The park was very busy with lots of people sitting on the benches and on the grass. When we were coming back out of the park we also saw a band who looked like they were just getting ready to perform.

Outside Harajuku station, there was a bloke selling 'magic' dancing clowns. They appeared to be made from card with string or something for legs and arms and thick card or something for feet. He had put signs up saying 'no photos', so I didn't take any photos of it. You could tell the clown to jump, do a somersault, lie down, kneel down, or get up, both in English and Japanese it seemed, and it would obey you. According to the info the bloke had laid out, there wasn't any electronics or strings involved, I could certainly believe no strings were involved.

He was selling them for 1000 yen each, but had a notice saying not to open/use your clown nearby, and not to reveal the secret of how it works. Someone wanted to buy the one he had on display (since it was obvious that that one worked), but the bloke would only sell the ones he had in packets. So whether the ones he had in packets or not worked, I don't know. I didn't want to spend 1000 yen finding out, though it was entertaining watching his example one. I don't know how it did work, but it worked when people watching it shouted commands, even when the seller bloke was busy with a customer.

We went and had a look at the Gymnasium (though we didn't go inside), then went back to Harajuka station. Weirdly, the band that we had seen at the end of Yoyogi park weren't there any more, and I thought we would have been able to hear them if they'd played any sounds, so it seems they didn't play any songs and had just packed up again.

We got the JR line from Harajuku station to Tokyo station, then walked from there to the Imperial Palace. The only part of the Imperial Palace open to the public is the East Gardens, so we looked round there. Weirdly, you needed a ticket, which was plastic, and you had to hand back in when you left, but entry was free. The gardens were nice, though there weren't any plants flowering at the moment except for a few water lillies that had quite small flowers (and the pond was a bit scummy).

After that we walked round the outside of the Imperial Palace, which took ages. There was also a sponsored run going on round the outside of the palace.

Eventually we got back to where we had first reached the Palace, and went down to Otemachi subway station, and got the train from there to Onarimon, which was only a few stops (with no changes). By the time we got back to the hotel it was about 5pm. I had a bad headache, so I took one of my Korean headache tablets and went to bed. Moccle went to bed as well.

By about 6.30pm I was feeling better, so we went out to get some food. We walked from the hotel towards the waterfront. On the way there, we saw two women dressed up in weird anime style clothes just walking down the street. When we got to the Waterfront, I found it would be a good place to take some photos of the buildings on the other side of the water, but I hadn't brought my ball head, which I would need to use my 70-300mm lens for some shots of them.

Moccle wanted to walk to the Rainbow bridge, but when we got there we found the lift or whatever it is you use to get up to the bridge, closed at 8.30pm, and we had got there at 8.45pm.

So we walked back in the same direction we had come, except along a different road. Eventually we got back to the same road that went from near the hotel to the waterfront, so we walked back up there trying to find a reasonably priced place to get something to eat. We saw 2 shops next to each other who were selling bowls of rice and beef for about 500 yen, but you had to eat at a bar thing (so not really any space to put my tripod, camera and coat down), and also the dishes looked like they were just plain rice and beef with no sauce or options (though we didn't go in, so maybe they did have a menu with more options than what was displayed in the window).

We also had a look at 'Mos burger', which does 'Japanese burgers', which was about 400-500 yen for a burger, but when you added on a drink and chips the price was more like 700-800 yen. We went back down the road towards the waterfront a bit and looked at the Wendy's. Again, the burgers weren't too expensive, but when you added on chips and a drink it came to about 700 yen. They advertised a 'jr burger' for 99 yen though, so we decided to get a couple of those each.

When we went in to order, they showed us the menu, and we saw that they actually had jr. cheese burgers and jr. Teriyaki burgers (and jr. something else burgers) for 120 yen each. So we bought 2 jr. cheese burgers and 2 Teriyaki burgers, so we could have one each. Moccle thought they would be dead small, being called 'jr'.

We had to wait a few minutes while they made up our order, and then we went in to a Family Mart, which was just down the road. There we bought some cakes, sake, and coffee. The coffee was quite expensive - 500 yen for a jar, and then another 2-300 yen for some little tubs of milk. Still, you get a lot more cups for your money than buying the instant all-in-one coffees.

After that we went back to the hotel and ate our burgers, which were actually about the same size as McDonalds basic burgers (and about the same price). We thought the cheeseburgers were nicer than the Teriyaki burgers as the cheeseburgers had cheese and some gherkin or onion or something in them, while the Teriyaki burger was just a plain burger with Teriyaki sauce and some white sauce (mayonnaise I guess). We finished off our big bottle of coke that we had bought the other day and had been keeping in the fridge, and also had a Japanese thing from a packet we had bought, which turned out to be marshmallow with chocolate stuff inside it.

Breakfast: Pack of Croissant style bread; water.
Dinner: Wendy's Cheeseburger; Wendy's Teriyaki burger; 2 glasses of coca cola; Japanese marshmallow thing; 2x Winter Pocky sticks; Chocolate bourbon biscuit thing (not like the normal English bourbon biscuits).

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Studio Ghibli, Shinjuku, and Akihabara

This morning we went to the Studio Ghibli Museum. Moccle had worked out all the trains we needed to get, but it's still a bit confusing changing trains and making sure you get a train that is going in the right direction and stops at the station you need. You also can't buy tickets direct to the station you want to go to if it means changing lines. We had to change from the Toei subway to JR, so we had to buy a ticket from the subway to the JR Station, then a ticket from there to the station we wanted to go to (actually we ended up buying 3 tickets each way as we couldn't see the price at the first JR station to get to the end JR station where we wanted to be, just the price to the JR station where we needed to change.

There is a Tokyo Free Ticket that was 1520 yen, which lets you use any Metro, Toei subway and JR East Tokyo train in one day, however since the station nearest the Studio Ghibli museum is outside the JR Tokyo East area, we would still have had to buy tickets there and back from the nearest JR Tokyo East station.

On the way to the museum, we had to change at Shinjuku, but it was quite confusing as there were 6 platforms all called JR Chuo line, which was the line we wanted. 4 of them said they were limited express, and two said they were rapid express. None of them said they were local.

The rapid express platforms seemed to be going in the correct direction (according to the stations they visited), however on the ticket machines, you could get a ticket to the station we wanted, but only via the limited express (and the tickets were quite expensive - 500 yen each).

We walked around a bit and went to a lower floor where there was a JR ticket office. So Moccle spoke to the lady there, and we got tickets on the rapid train to the station we needed. The lady took our tickets from us (the ticket machine at Shinjuku hadn't eaten them, unlike the ticket machines at most stations), and then it was something like 190 yen each for our tickets to the station we needed.

Although we had set out at about 9.15am, by the time we reached the Studio Ghibli museum it was around 11am. You weren't allowed to take photos in the museum, so it seemed I had wasted bringing my camera lenses, and tripod, but luckily they took the tripod off me and gave me a ticket thing to get it back when we were finished.

There wasn't really much to the Ghibli Museum, but it does show all the work that they put into their films, with lots of research, multiple layers of drawing/animation, and loads of drawings (there was a bit with a great pile of folders showing all the drawings they did for Ponyo, something like 170,000).

Including watching a 15 minute film and also a shorter animation, it only took us about an hour to look round everything there. After that we went back towards the station so we could get some lunch, as I thought I had seen quite a few convenience stores along there on the way to the museum. However, by the time we actually came across the first convenience store, we just about right next to the station (and so quite a bit away from the park where the Ghibli museum was, and where we wanted to eat lunch.

So we went in a convenience store and bought some food, then went to look for somewhere to sit and eat it. However, we came across the same brand of restaurant that we had eaten at a couple of times in Kyoto, so we went in there and bought our lunch from there, saving the convenience store food for tea.

We walked around Mitaka a bit, but didn't really see anything interesting, so we went back to the station and went to Shinjuku. We walked round Shinjuku a bit, which was mainly just shops, then went back to the hotel.

We had a rest at the hotel for about an hour, then went out to go to Akihabara, however after walking a bit I decided that it was raining too much, so we went back to the hotel. We waited for about half an hour, then went out again, and it had stopped raining.

To get to Akihabara, we had to change at Hibiya station to Yurakucho station (the two stations are connected according to our train map, but in actuality you had to leave Hibiya station and walk a short distance to Yurakucho station, though luckily there were blokes holding signs saying 'JR' with an arrow on them pointing the directions from Hibiya station to Yurakucho station.

We bought a ticket to Akihabara station from Hibiya station (you couldn't buy the ticket from our local station Onarimon as that is a Toei tube station, and we needed to get a JR line to Akihabara). But then when we got to Yurakucho station, we found that actually the tickets were no good. It seemed they were Metro tickets rather than JR, so we had to buy new tickets to get from Yurakucho to Akihabara. So the lesson is to only buy tickets when you get to the actual gate you need a ticket to go through.

When we got to Akihabara, we walked around a bit and I took a few panos. We also went in a few shops to see if I could get a replacement power supply for the external hard drive adapter so I wouldn't have to keep having to hold it in annoying positions while copying files to the hard drives (which often takes quite a while). Unfortunately none of the shops we tried did that sort of thing. One of them did sell USB hard drive adapters (so I could buy a complete replacement unit rather than just a replacement power adaptor), but the cheapest was something like 35,000 yen. Since I only need the adaptor for the rest of this holiday, I thought that was too much.

We also went in a couple of computer games shops, one had about 20 copies of Pokemon Stadium for the N64 for 10 yen each. Most of the games didn't seem that cheap though. Another shop had unboxed SNES's for about 30,000 each, and had one on that someone was playing on. There were also quite a few shops full of Anime/manga related stuff. One shop had a cardboard box outside it that had a photo of rude dude on it!! There were also some women dressed up in maids costumes or something weird and handing out leaflets throughout the area where we walked.

We got back to the hotel about 9pm, unfortunately we weren't able to use the Metro tickets we'd bought at any point in the journey, and when we put one in a fare adjustment machine, all it would let you do was to add 100 yen on to the price of the ticket.

When we got back to the hotel I took some more photos of the Tokyo Tower from our hotel, as it had its 'crystal' lights on, instead of the normal lights. When we had left the hotel earlier, it had just been using its normal lights. I wrote some more of this blog post while copying pictures across, and then sorted the photos.

Breakfast: ½ White Choco Pain; ½ Long sweet bread thing with icing; Latte coffee.
Lunch: Beef; ground yam; onion; rice; wasabi; Miso soup (didn't like it - tasted fishy); Tofu (didn't like it - tasted like the milk stuff they make cheese out of before maturing it into cheese); water.
Tea: Caramel Baum; Latte Coffee.
Supper: ½ bag of some sort of cheese flavour Doritos; Bread thing with curry inside it; green tea.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Going to Tokyo

Today was our last day at the B&J Family guest house in Kyoto. I was quite relieved to be going to a proper hotel in Tokyo (the Tokyo Prince Hotel, so part of the same chain as the one we stayed in in Oiso). At the B&J guesthouse, we didn't have our own bathroom/toilet, the upstairs shower always seemed to go cold after a minute (though there was also a downstairs shower), and our room was pretty tiny (also we had a double futon to sleep on between us as opposed to separate beds/futons).

Another thing I like about proper hotels is that you get a toothbrush and toothpaste provided, I hadn't bought one on holiday with me, and didn't want to buy one (they were 300 yen) just to use for a few days while we were staying at the B&J Family guesthouse, so I just went without brushing my teeth while we were there.

We had to check out by 11am, so we got up quite early and went to To-ji temple. We got there about 8.30am, which was when it opened, and had a look round, which was 500 yen. There was also a museum you could look round, but that cost another 500 yen. Looking round, it looked like all the buildings were closed, but Moccle found out that they were open, just you had to open the doors (normally open temple buildings have doors open so you can see they're open).

It didn't take long to look round there, and there wasn't that much to see, mainly more golden Buddha statues (that you're not allowed to take photos of) inside the temple buildings. Inside one of the temple buildings they seemed to have an art exhibition by some artist selling loads of cartoon style drawings of Buddhas and monks.

We got back to the guesthouse about 10am, and went on the internet on the laptop to see how to get to the hotel from Tokyo Station (or Shinjuku if that was nearer, which it wasn't). Then we checked out and went to the station. On the way, we tried to go in the same shop that we had been in yesterday evening so we could buy some breakfast, but we went down the wrong street, and so went in a different shop instead.

At the station we bought our Shinkansen tickets, which were totally expensive. We thought the woman asked us if we wanted a result sheet, which we though was a print-out of something, so I said yes, but then actually she was asking if we wanted 'reserved seats', so I said no. The first train we could catch to Tokyo was too crowded, so we got off again before it left and waited for the next train, which was a 'Nozomi' class train (faster) as well.

The next train (the 11.09am) was crowded as well, but we did manage to find some seats next to a Japanese business man. So we ate our breakfast/lunch on train, and got to Tokyo about 1.30pm.

We followed Moccle's information he had written down in the morning about what trains/lines/stops to get to get to the hotel, and got there okay. We got a Metro/subway ticket from Tokyo to Otemachi, where we had to change and buy a subway ticket to Onarimon (you couldn't buy a ticket from Onarimon from Tokyo station). When changing at Otemachi to the train to Onarimon, we had to walk quite a way through the underground station to get to the line that went to Onarimon. From Onarimon, it was a short walk to the hotel.

When we got to the hotel we had a cup of Cafe Latte (the hotel didn't have any coffee sachets in our room, just green tea and 'special roasted tea', so lucky that we bought the Cafe Latte sachets). We sat around for a bit drinking our coffee, then explored the area around the hotel, which includes the Zojoji Temple, Shiba park, and the Tokyo Tower. Inside the Tokyo tower was a Sega exhibit, but it cost 500 yen each to get in, and seemed to mostly be a 3D Sonic film. The end of the Sega exhibition part of it that we could see from the entrance didn't look that interesting either (just posters on the wall with a photo of a Sega games console and some info about it). There was also the Guinness World Records exhibition, which was 800 yen each, and a Wax Works, which was 500 yen each.

To go up the tower to the 150m viewing deck cost 820 yen each, or 1420 each to go to the higher (250m) viewing deck. They also did a ticket for 2000 yen which allowed access to the Guinness World Records Museum, Wax Works, and Space Wax (the Sega exhibit), and the 150m viewing deck (not the 250m deck it seemed). We decided not to go up the tower at the moment given the high cost, but went to the convenience store (Family Mart) on the bottom floor instead.

We tried to walk back to the hotel, at first without using the gps, but were actually walking in the opposite direction. After getting back to the hotel, we had our dinner. I checked out the window to see if we could see the Tokyo Tower from our room, and we had a good view of it, so I took some photos of it.

Moccle planned how we can get to the Studio Ghibli Museum tomorrow.

Breakfast/Lunch: Large Packet of pizza flavour crisps; French cheese (sweet bread with cheesy stuff on top and creamy/soft cheese in the middle); 2 waffles; water; JR Coffee.
Dinner: Instant noodles/ramen; Pocky Chocolate (Chunky Pocky sticks); 1½ pieces of croissant style bread; a few cups of green tea; 2 cups of Cafe Latte.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Shrine gates and shrines overload

This morning we went out to Fushimi Inari to see the 10,000 gates. Before we went, we went on Google Earth to find where it was in relation to the train station, and then added it as a waypoint on the gps. We went to Fushimi Inari station on the JR Nara line from Kyoto Station. Like yesterday, we just missed the train there (except this time we wanted the local train, not the rapid), so we had to wait about 15 minutes for the next one to leave.

When we got there the way to the gates/temple was actually pretty obvious. In the temple bit near the bottom of the hill, there was a large group of school children looking round, and also a large group of Japanese business men looking round.

We walked up the hill through all the gates, which are all really close together. There are also loads of shrines all over the hill and people put replica wooden shrine gates on them. Also, there were lots of statues of dogs with stuff in their mouths and some of them were wearing bibs. We stopped partway up to eat breakfast, though by now it was about 12.30pm. There was an annoying cat that kept trying to eat our food though, so we just ate part of it, and then carried on.

We stopped a bit later to finish our breakfast, then went back down towards the station. We got the train to Tofuku-ji, and then looked around a temple there. It looked like some monks were giving guided tours, and one of them was old and skill and had a bear. Then we walked back to the Guest house.

I copied some of today's pics to the laptop, wrote most of this blog post, and went on the Luminous Landscape.

We went out again to try and find a shop with an ATM so we could get some more money out as the 10,000 yen we got out a couple of days ago was used up already! We walked around for quite a while, but it took us ages until we actually found a shop with an ATM. We also bought some chocolate biscuit stuff from there called Packitz and what we thought was 30 cups worth of instant cafe latte, but turned out to only be 6 cups worth.

We went back to the guesthouse, and I finished copying the memory cards to the laptop. I sorted the photos, then moved them across the external hard drives, which involves sitting very still holding the external hard drive power adapter in a certain position so it doesn't break (it seems a wire is broken inside the adapter wires somewhere or something, and it is very particular about how it is positioned or it won't work).

Breakfast: Long sweet bread thing; Bread with melon flavoured cream stuff inside it; Pocky sticks; Bottle of amino value.
Lunch: A few bits of KFC style chicken; A KFC style chicken drumstick; some of Moccle's KFC style chicken; some of Moccle's cold rice; Bottle of Pepsi Nex.
Tea: Some cake stuff (like ginger cake but not gingery); Green tea.
Supper: Some Packitz; Green tea.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Korean bag gets eaten by deer and getting chased by giant Japanese Hornet

This morning we went to the train station, then got a train to Nara. We couldn't buy a return ticket (Nara wasn't listed on the 'round trip' tickets),so we had to get a single, which was 690 yen each). We just missed the 9.50 rapid train, so we had to wait half an hour for the next rapid train.

When we got to Nara we went into the shop near the station and bought some breakfast, then followed a route Moccle had marked on the map using the Japan Guide book. When we got to the start of the park bit, there was a lake with terrapins in it, and quite a few people sitting down round it. So we sat on the fence round it to eat our breakfast. But then a giant bee/wasp/hornet that must have been about 3 inches long came and annoyed me first, then it annoyed Moccle who was trying to eat his random Japanese food in a tray meal.

After a bit, it left Moccle alone for a second so we quickly picked up our stuff and went away, but as we were going away we saw a skill old bloke had killed the giant bee thing. He stamped on it a few times, but it was still alive, but not flying around any more.

We went up towards the 5 storey Pagoda, to try and eat our breakfast up there without being annoyed by impossibly big bees. But when we got up to the top it was like a temple. We didn't want to annoy anyone by eating food in the temple area, so we walked round a bit and went round the corner where it was more like a park, and ate our breakfast there. Though by now, it was past noon. Thankfully, it was quite quiet where we were sat, and there weren't any giant bees.

After eating most of our breakfast, we went and saw the 5 storey pagoda, and also saw a deer. We walked through the park and saw more deer, who were very friendly. On the way from the station to the park we had seen lots of shops selling deer memorabilia, so I guess the friendly deer are what Nara is most famous for.

We looked round a few temples that were free, and also went inside the main one, which you had to pay for. Unfortunately at the main one, no tripods were allowed, so I couldn't take any panos. The Japan guide book said that you shouldn't visit Nara on the weekend, but it was really busy with schoolkids today, so if it's busier on the weekend, it must get totally packed.

After looking round the main temple/shrines that were on the path of our planned walk, we went back through the park towards the station. We had a KFC near the station, which was quite expensive, and I bought a skill Colonel Sanders keyring thing for 200 yen.

After dinner we went back to Kyoto on the train, then went straight back to the guest house. I started copying across the memory cards to the laptop, and writing this blog post. I also went on the internet a bit, and read about the D3s announcement on dpreview and byThom. I started getting up to date on The Luminous Landscape newly posted articles/news as well.

After a bit we went out so I could take some night time panos. When I was doing one near a Boss drinks machine, a bloke on a bike stopped to talk to me and said that Nikon cameras were very good. He said that Clint Eastwood uses Nikon or sumat, and I think he said that Tommy Lee Jones (who advertises Boss Coffee) was a big famous wrestler. We went into a Seven Eleven shop and bought some cakes, then went back to hotel and ate them with some Wonda Zero Max coffee that we bought from the machine outside the guest house.

Breakfast: ½ Cheese and bacon bread thing; Waffle; Weird sweet battered rice thing from Moccle's box of random Japanese food; ½ square croissant style thing; some apple squash stuff.
Afternoon snack: ½ sweet bread thing; some apple squash stuff.
Dinner: Large KFC chicken wing; KFC Chicken fillet burger; medium chips; medium Melon Fanta.
Supper: ½ Chocolate bread with chocolate chips; ½ Double chocolate ├ęclair; 2x Pocky chocolate sticks; Can of Wonda ZeroMax Coffee.