Trip Report – December 2009/January 2010

Dec 27, 2009 – January 11, 2010

Day One – Leave US for Japan
Day Two – Arrive in Narita
Day Three – Comiket Day 1
Day Four – Comiket Day 2
Day Five – Comiket Day 3
Day Six – Travel to Hakodate
Day Seven – Hakodate
Day Eight – Travel to Sendai
Day Nine – Yamadera
Day Ten – Matsushima
Day Eleven – Back to Tokyo
Day Twelve – Travel to Hiroshima
Day Thirteen – Hiroshima
Day Fourteen – Okayama, Miyajima
Day Fifteen – To Osaka
Day Sixteen – Arashiyama
Day Seventeen – Himeji, Kobe
Day Eighteen – Kyoto
Day Nineteen to Twenty-Five – Back to Tokyo

  • Day 1 – Sunday, Dec 27 – Leave US for Japan

    Left US for Japan via JAL.
    The service was good but I think I like ANA better.
    Of course, this was before I knew about JAL’s bankruptcy… :p
    I wasn’t as nauseous this time since I avoided eating anything and basically slept the entire time…

  • Day 2 – Tuesday, December 28 – Arrive in Narita

    Arrived in Japan.
    Definitely jetlagged and tired.

    I had a really hard time finding the hotel but fortunately some policeman and later a nice ojisan pointed me the way to the Tokyu Stay Shimbashi.
    It’s a bit far from the station but I had cancelled my reservations at the Sunroute Ariake right next to Big Sight since that money could be better spent on buying stuff IMHO.

    I had basically been walking in the opposite direction but it was hard to tell since it was at night.
    Hmm…10 min from the station is really quite long…

  • Day 3 – Wednesday, December 29 – Comiket Day 1

    First day of Comiket.
    Incredibly jetlagged so I woke up at 3 am.
    It was quite cold waiting for the doors to open.
    Fortunately, because of jetlag, I was able to take the first train to Big Site via the Yurikamome.
    Unfortunately, I forgot that the Rinkai Line has trains that start even earlier than the Yurikamome so by the time I reached Big Site, there were a ton of people.

    And let’s not mention the people who camped out the night before.

    You can read more about my impressions of Day 1 here.

    Big Sight in the morning around 6:30 am

    Finally getting a chance to walk in the door around 10am

  • Day 4 – Thursday, December 30 – Comiket Day 2

    In retrospect, I think this was probably the best day for doujin in the yuri domain overall.
    It’s too bad I didn’t pick up more items.
    And I’ve learned one thing, never get between a Touhou fan and his pR0n…
    I seriously felt as if I were a salmon swimming uphill against the throngs of Touhou fanatics…

    The second day was also not as cold as the first day and some nice girl decided to talk to me so I think it made the hours sitting in line waiting for the queue to start moving pass a little faster.
    My butt still hurt from sitting on the ground on top of backpack though.

    My impressions of Day 2 are here.

  • Day 5 – Friday, December 31 – Comiket Day 3

    Last Day of Comiket, also known pR0n day, or also danse-muke, “for guys day”, 男性向け

    There were definitely a lot of guys out with their wide-angle lenses and digital SLRs at the Cosplay Section so I didn’t hang out there much.

    My impressions of Day 3 are here.

    A complete list of doujin picked up is here.

    The weather was nice, but it also got a bit colder again.

    I had a chance to meet with Yuribou and his wife afterwards where we had a nice Italian dinner in Venus Fort in Odaiba which still had XMas decorations around.

  • Day 6 – Saturday, January 1 – Travel to Hakodate

    I had noticed that there was a mad scramble for tickets and omiyage the previous night on New Year’s Eve, but travelers on New Year’s were relatively sparse.

    Passed on Hatsumode and decided to head on up to Hakodate.
    I figured since I toured Western Japan last time, I might as well tour Northern Japan this time.
    However, being from a temperate climate and not fond of cold, I found myself a bit unprepared.
    Since the shinkansen is not connected to Hakodate yet, you first have to take the Hayate shinkansen up to Hachinohe, and then transfer to the Super Hakucho Express from Hachinohe to Hakodate.

    Trains are quite relaxing to sleep in so I fell asleep and when I woke up, there was snow!
    I was admiring it at first and then realized I wasn’t quite dressed for it.
    Fortunately, my Timberland hiking boots turned out to be somewhat waterproof as the entire platform at Hachinohe was covered in snow.
    It was really quite cold (to me at least).

    I was still a little woozy, probably due to a combination of Comiket exhaustion and anti-nausea medication.
    Surprisingly, the Hakucho was actually late, something quite rare for Japanese trains.
    I fell asleep on the Hakucho again until someone started poking me. I thought I had reached Hakodate, but no, we were at some station where you had to turn the seats around. I was drowsy and couldn’t figure out how to turn the seat (you had to step on a pedal), but a kind ojisan told me it was dangerous and helped me turn the seat.

    So you know that Candy Boy episode where Kana and Yuki travel to their hometown and the train station is just a platform with no attendant?
    Well, yes, those places actually exist (and it was covered in snow), though since I’m on the limited express, we didn’t stop at those stations.

    After reaching Hakodate, it was the middle of a blizzard but fortunately, my hotel was 1 min. away from the station.
    It’s been a really long time since I had seen snow. :p

  • Day 7 – Sunday, January 2 – Hakodate

    Well, I just had to visit Hakodate in winter after working on Himegami, right? :D

    There was another blizzard in Hakodate today.
    Getting covered in snow really didn’t bother me, but then it would melt and get everything wet.
    I managed to make it to the tram and walk to the Kanemori brick houses from Juujigai but that was it.

    Spent the rest of the day indoors since I was feeling a little woozy.
    Even walking around in the snow didn’t clear my head.

    I asked a nice obasan if the weather was always like this, but she said it was especially bad this year.
    She asked if I was travelling alone and I said “yes” and asked where I was from and I said overseas.
    I wonder why everyone is always surprised that foreigners can speak Japanese (even if it’s just a little :p )

    Just use the sign if you don’t speak Japanese. :D
    I really wanted to try it too.

    I must admit everything looks quite picturesque covered in white. =)

  • Day 8 – Monday, January 3 – Travel to Sendai

    Leaving Hakodate for Sendai.
    Well, it was a very nice day today.
    No more blizzard, but I’m actually leaving. :p
    I did notice that the packed snow has turned to ice which is quite slippery.
    Of course, I had to grab some snacks from Hokkaido.
    Hokkaido is know for its dairy and some famous omiyage are Royce Chocolates (really good!) and Shiroi Koibito (langue de chat cookies).

    Hmm…there must be a lot of families traveling because I’ve noticed that no matter where I’ve traveled this time, there’s always a crying baby…
    Now that there’s no blizzard, the scenery is quite picturesque as the train slowly rolls towards Hachinohe.

    Hmm…the seat reservations are a bit weird.
    Though there’s so many empty seats available, they filled up the seat next to me.
    Ah well, I talked to a very nice university student named Hosaka Naoyuki-san. Wow, he’s studying some really high-level math stuff which sort of makes my head hurts since I’d forgotten all that a long time ago. :p

    He laughed when he realized that I was looking on manga on my laptop but I told him I was translating stuff.
    I did say it was all-ages (一般) which made him laugh again.
    I think I have enough sense not to translate ero-stuff in public though I have seen people reading ero-manga after Comiket in plain view…Incidentally, he had a PSP and was playing Monster Hunter 2 Portable G.
    I sort of gave up on the game so I couldn’t really play with him though he did show me how he can kill a dragon.
    Sendai is quite a populous place so it’s like any big city like Osaka and Tokyo.
    A lot of familiar stuff and there was just a tiny bit of snow still on the ground
    The Chisun hotel room is quite small. Possibliy the smallest bathroom I’ve seen. :p

  • Day 9 – Tuesday, January 4 – Yamadera

    When I got there, it was full of snow.
    I must say it was rather picturesque though.
    It’s probably one of the nicest views I’ve seen.
    Looking back, I think this was the highlight of my trip.

    I went early in the morning so there weren’t many people.
    I also made little footprints in the snow just like Metal Gear Solid. :D

    I imagine Shirakawa-go must look something like this in the winter too.
    Fortunately my boots proved up to the challenge though I did lose my footing and slip on the way down though I caught myself on the railing. That made the rest of my vacation a bit painful since lifting bags on my right side was difficult.
    My gloves however, proved not to be so waterproof and started to fill with water on the way back.

    I did get a little startled at times from the snow on the trees which would just shake and plop snow down. I only got hit a couple times though.

    I did get to make a snow bunny just like in “Touhou Winter” by Neko no Sakegoto.
    No Reimu or Alice to give it to though. :p

    The local speciality konyaku on a stick was also quite good and only 100 yen.

  • Day 10 – Wednesday, January 5 – Matsushima

  • Day 11 – Sunday, November 16 – Koya-san

  • Day 12 – Monday, November 17 – Travel to Hiroshima

    Traveled to Hiroshima via Osaka on the Hikari Railstar Shinkansen.
    It’s very nice. There are even private rooms at the front.

  • Day 13 – Tuesday, November 18 – Hiroshima

    Traveled to the Peace Park today and visited the Memorial Museum.

    Also visited Hiroshima Castle.

    And passed by Miyajima Island which is supposedly one of the three most beautiful views in Japan.
    It’s famous for its shrines and floating torii.
    It was very cold on the island due to the wind. Hiroshima is a lot colder in general than I expected. I thought it’d be warmer since it’s more south.

  • Day 14 – Wednesday, November 19 – Okayama, Miyajima

    Visited Okayama which is famous for its castle that is painted black.
    Its nickname is the “Crow Castle”.
    The wind was very strong and cold almost as cold as Miyajima.
    Okayama also seems to have a lot of omiyage related to white peaches and muscat grapes.

    My favorite shinkansen, the Hikari Railstar which serves Western Japan.
    It even has some private booths in the green cars at the front.

    Stayed overnight on Miyajima at a modern ryokan.
    Itsukushima Shrine and the floating torii are illuminated at night.
    Miyajima is also known for its momiji manjuu and oysters.

  • Day 15 – Thursday, November 20 – To Osaka
    It was nice though cold in the morning at Arashiyama since the crowds weren’t around yet. The tours started to arrive promptly at 8 in the morning though!

    Koyo at Momiji Koen – which, like its name, is known for its maple leaves.
    This also near where you take the ropeway up the mountain where you can view all of Miyajima.

    The deer are very tame.

    View of Jinja in the morning at low tide.

  • Day 16 – Friday, November 20 – Arashiyama
    Traveled to Arashiyama in Northern Kyoto today.
    The koyo was quite nice at the temples.
    Tenryuji is one of the famous temples there.
    The shopping district near Saga was quite crowded, as par for this season.

    Arashiyama’s also known for its bamboo forest.
    Though quite small, it’s like something out of a period drama.
  • Day 17 – Saturday, November 21 – Himeji, Kobe
    Visited Himeji Castle in the morning.
    It’s a non-reconstructed castle and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    There was a sample of one of those things you carry in a matsuri at JR Himeji Station.

    Ever wonder what’s in Pocari? I guess this sign doesn’t quite qualify as Engrish.
    I love the stuff though!

  • Day 18 – Sunday, November 22 – Kyoto
    I attempted to visit Tofukuji which is a temple famous for koyo in Kyoto.
    I gave up and turned around after 30 minutes. I knew it was a bad idea when I got on a full train and everyone got off at the same stop and I heard someone say the crowd was as bad as hatsumode (New Year’s visit)…
    I still saw some nice koyo.

    JR Kyoto is getting ready for XMas.

    Here’s a funny sign for those that read Japanese.
    It says actually does read “Happy Terrace” but it means something like “shining lleaves”.
  • Day 19 – Day 26 – November 23 – December 1 – Back to Tokyo
    Went to Kobe for some souvenir shopping on Monday and then it was back to Tokyo for about a week. Pretty much wandered around and did shopping for that week so didn’t have any interesting pictures.

    I must say that the JR Pass was very convenient if you’re traveling long distances by shinkansen. Also, if you wanted to go from Osaka to Kyoto, why not take the shinkansen? It’s only 15 minutes compared to 30 by limited express, hehe.
    It’s a little annoying to wait for the manned gates sometimes but this only happened at Tokyo mostly.

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