Polaroid Photo

Random pictures of Japan

Choose a Topic:

Mar '11

Iwakuni and it’s treasures

Today We went to Iwakuni, a little village 40km to the south of Hiroshima. We could get there by 2 different trains and each one of them would get us to a different side of Iwakuni.Since Sybren did the planning nothing was really planned, just a global idea of how to get there.
To get to Iwakuni we needed to get to Hiroshima station first. This was a distance that was easily done by foot. At Iwakuni station we asked which train exactly went to Iwakuni. Sybren knew the Komoda Shinkansen would get us there in 15 minutes. But the person we asked did not seem to understand we wanted to get there ASAP. So we got into a slow moving train that would get us there in 50 minutes.
At the first stop we got out, since we were not entirely sure this was the rigth train after all. We asked another gate keeper (I just came up with that name, but basicly this is the person we show our JR Rail Pass to when we get on the stations) about the train to Iwakuni, he told us it was the train behind us. The one we just got out of and was now leaving again.
Luckely for us, in Japan trains come and go almost every 10 minutes. So we got into the next train and stood there for a few stops, listening to a converstation of a group Australians. Not much to say about that. But you have to kill time one way or another.
When we had only a few stops left, they got out and we got seats. Seated we traveled along and eventually we got in Iwakuni. Now we needed to get on a bus. Sybren found online the bus would get us to our first attraction in about 20 minutes and that we could get a ticket that included the attraction as well as the trip there and back again. This information however was false and we just got a ticket to get there and back to the station.

In Japan the busses work in quite an impressive way. I mean, the paying system does. When you get in a buss you get a small ticket that has a number on it. This number refers to the place you got on the bus. At each stop the price of each individual stop number is displayed on a screen in the front of the bus. This way you can always see how much you have to pay and when you get out of the bus, you put the ticket you got and the money in some sort of machine and you get off the bus.

We got to our attraction one of the 3 wonderful bridges in Japan. The Kintaikyo bridge. A bridge that was completely destroyed by flooding from typhoon Kezia. The bridge was rebuilt in 1953 and would be rebuilt every 20 years to sustain its strength. The last time it was rebuilt was in 2001-2003. The bridge covers a distance of 193.3 meters with four curves.
We got a ticket to get over the bridge and back. At the other side of the river was a park. The Kikko Park, together with the bridge this happens to be one of the national treasures of Japan. The park itself was not that astonishing. It had a lot of parts and we did not go to all, but the part we saw would be beautiful if the cherry blossoms were blooming. Unfortunately we are a bit too early for that, the trees are starting to bloom, but are not there yet. After having checked out most of this park we took a hike to Iwakuni Castle. A castle that is on top a hill that watches over the park and over the city.

Actually there was a cable cart to get to the castle, but manly and dutch as we are we took a free hike. I say we hiked, because the signs told us it was a hiking path, but to be more precise it was actually asphalt we walked on, although quite steep.
At the top we got rewarded with a nice view and some vending machines. We replenished ourselves and got to the castle. The castle held a lot of samurai swords, kunais and katanas, varying from too small to handle to way too big to handle in combat. In the top of the castle we got to see an even better view over the village of Iwakuni all the way to the ocean.

When we were satisfied from the view we got back down and took a walk around the castle walls. This was actually more hiking then the trip to the castle had been. Again it was a pity the cherry blossoms were not blooming yet. After having seen all there was to see at the top of the hill we got back down the manly and cheap way. Back down we took a little more time in the park and then got back over the bridge.

We waited for the bus that would get us back to the station. When we arrived at the station we took a little walk through Iwakuni. Marcel had spotted an arcade hall, so we checked it out. Another Pop ‘n Music arcade was played and another arcade of DJ Max was found. This was a touch screen arcade with pretty nice music. We have a short film on this.

When we got back out we made our way back to the station and on the way there we got some snacks at a local bakery. Sybren tried to buy very old bread and failed, even though they still seemed very delicious they were too old to sell according to the lady behind the counter. Also through this fuss, Sybren got startled by the Japanese jabbering and forgot his newly bought snacks and the lady came running after him to hand them over.

Back in Hiroshima we headed back to the hotel and Sybren, as nasty as he felt, got to take a little nap. This however seemed so good that Marcel took one as well. After a few minutes Marcel got up and went to play some games in the arcade hall. When he got back we thought about getting dinner, Sybren however was not hungry and passed on this. So Marcel got back to the centre of Hiroshima and orderd Beef Doria; some sort of Lasagne with rice and meat. When he was stuffed he got back to the arcade hall and played some more games to finish the day.
We will see what the day of tomorrow has for us.

Some facts:we took about 19000 steps yesterday and today we topped that off with a total of 24000 steps.

Mar '11

Hiroshima’s Treasures

Well, the day started out as any other day. We got up, took a shower and headed downstairs for breakfast. For breakfast we had roasted salmon, rice, sausages, bacon, croissants and some things we don’t know. Sybren also had miso-soup, which is a Japanese tofu soup. After we finished our breakfast we got ready to leave our apartment prepared.

Because we would be heading to the A-bomb memorials Sybren started folding a crane to put next to the Children’s monument to get the achievement. We headed out and started walking to the park. The first thing we saw was the A-bomb dome. A building that was almost completely destroyed by the atomic bomb that exploded ~600 meter above Hiroshima. I can’t really describe what it was like, you could say it is just a ruin (see pictures).
After we walked all around this memorial of destruction we moved on to the next memorial. A memorial tower for all students that gave up their studies and moved to Hiroshima to help the people out. For example, they destoryed buildings to create fire breaks when an air strike would hit. out of the ~8400 students, ~6300 died whe the a-bomb and airstrike hit Hiroshima. After the war, the government only permitted the names of the students of whom the name and date of death were known to be enshrined in the Yasukuni shrine. So bereaved family members made a list of the dead and raised a fund to create this tower.

When we were done with this memorial we moved on to the next. Don’t worry I won’t go in high detail on every one of them. But this next one was the bell of peace. A giant bell that is to be louded by everyone who supports peace. So we took our turn there, we filmed this, so there are no phot’s on this topic.
When we both had our turn we moved on. Next would be the children’s memorial. There is a story behind this one. In short it is inspired by a little girl who was exposed to radiation of the a-bomb at the age of 2. When she was 12 she got struck by it, in the form of leukemia. She hoped to be rewarded with health, happiness and a world of peace. Unfortunately she was not able to complete this task. After this her classmates responded by folding as much cranes as they could. Spreading throughout Japan primary schools adopted this and even now they keep sending folded cranes to this memorial. That is why there are billions of cranes next to this memorial. Sybren put his folded crane between them and we set off to the next.

Next and last would be the fire of peace, this fire symbolizes the eternal war in the world and it would only be put out when all nuclear weapons in the world have disappeared. So it was still burning when we got there.
After showing our respect for all of these people who perished during the air raid and bombing in 1945 we went on. We happen to pass a museum on the topic though. But I will save your time by not telling about it. In short it contained photgraphs of Hiroshima before and after, some paperwork and ripped cloths. Well you can imagine the rest.

After we had enough of all these saddening memorials we started heading for Hiroshima Castle. Since this castle was almost completely wiped out by the bomb as well they rebuild it for us (and for other tourists, foreign or not, they don’t care, it is still culture).  It must have been quite an impressive building for its time, because even now it is quite a fort to see. Again, pictures are online or soon to be online. Inside though we were not allowed to take pictures. So here is what it contained; there were samurai clothings, hirtorical artefacts and astonishing views.
The castle was built by or probably at orders from Mori Terumoto who only lived there for a short time. He was defeated by the next, Fukushima Masanori. Over time the castle got to know 14 different owners, of whom some got to live there with their famliy for over 60 years, while others were defeated within a year. The guns to take over the castle were from the Netherlands so the name of the guns is just like we know it, “geweer” or “ghuuweerh.”

After having been on top of the castle with an astonishing view we decided we saw enough of this and went down again.
We still had some time left before we needed food so we moved on to a park called “Shukkei-en Garden”.
On the way there we got part of our “LIke a boss” achievement, we found the Boss Rainbow mixture coffee in a vending machine. Odly this is a warm beverage in a can. Then can seemed to be reinforced so the heat would not leave it too quick. After being satisfied with this (it was just coffee with milk and sugar) we threw away the can in the can-only-wastebin. I have to say, the streets we have seen so far are all totally clean of all dirt.

We arrived at the park.It was a most peaceful park in the middle of the city. It was such a perfect park with pure peace and happiness poored all over the place. Check the  pictures is all I can say.

After this visit we were starting to feel tired and we moved back to our hotel, on the way we got to the arcade hall where Marcel had played Pop ‘n Music the day before. That time Sybren did not take a picture for his achievement though. So we got back in and headed to the upper floor. Marcel started playing and Sybren got him his picture, after 3 rounds his credits were reduced to 0 and he moved to the arcade next to it. This time it was a green Pop ‘n music arcade, instead of the pink one he used before. Again, he threw in 100 Yen and started playing and again Sybren got him his picture.

On the way back to the hotel we noticed a nice restaurant where they advertised with english speaking personel. We figured this would be a good place to get our dinner. We would be able to ask a few questions about the way we are supposed to eat our food and what to say in return to other japanese people. We tried to just repeat what they are saying and this worked in some cases, but not always, since it is not always as clear.
We moved on to the hotel and Sybren got a nap, he got a bit ill today. Marcel however felt energetic and said he would be in the arcade hall playing Pop ‘n Music.
After some time Sybren got an text saying “In Beatles cafe” and he got to his feet and made his way to this café called Yesterdey (yes, this is the first misspelled word we found). There was Marcel finishing his ordered coffee. After he finished we got to the restaurant I told you about earlier.

We got a table next to the window and an english menu. Marcel got some mixed meat dish and Sybren got Pork (Kats).  Also we noticed some meals were designed for vegetarians, even though they contained bacon. So we deduced bacon is grown on trees in Japan. Which is good to know for all vegetarians; in Japan you won’t have to miss out on bacon!
Anyway we ordered the food and got it in an instant, we were actually used to waiting for 30 minutes or more, but we got our food in 2 minutes! We finished this with the tools of our choice; chopsticks! We ordered desert and after that we paid and went back to our hotel.

Tonight we will be sleeping soon, since we walked quite the mile today. Hopefully Sybren will be all fit again tomorrow when we are going to Iwakuni.

Thank you for reading.

Mar '11

Hiroshima, first impression.

Today we had a travel day. We traveled all the way from our hotel in Tokyo to our next hotel in Hiroshima, where we will be enjoying our stay for 4 days. During our travel we thought of an excercise for you guys and girls. We made an achievement list for things we will be doing and we want you to think of any more achievements. Just leave a comment with the name of the achievement, the conditions it contains and if you like you can add a price to it or whatever. If we think your achievement is cool enough we will add it to our list.

Travel to Hiroshima.
Our alarm went of at 8.00 AM ( 0.00 for the people staying at GMT+1) and we got up, took a shower and headed downstairs for a breakfast. Unfortunately we were too late for that (8.45 AM) so we decided to leave a bit earlier and get some food on the way. We came by a bakery (at least we thought it was one, since it smelled nice).
We got ourselves some breakfast. Sybren had some sort of deep fried something on a bun, 2 toast with something that seemed like cheese and ham with some paste on it (sandwichspread or something) and some sort of fat ball (NL: Oliebol).
Marcel got himself the toasts too and some sort of donut like thing that smelled very sweet and a croissant with ham on it. Last but not least Marcel found there was milk as well (at least he thought it was milk, and it looked like milk), so we took it. To be safe we took the smallest milkbox, just in case it wasn’t milk at all.

With our food packed we started heading for our train. At Tokyo Centre we would take a shinkansen (high speed train) to Hiroshima. When we arrived there we were told we would not be able to take that train with our rail passes. We were startled by this message because the Internet told us we would be able to get to Hiroshima with these. So we started asking questions and the person at the desk did his best to reply.
Turns out we would be able to get to Hirsoshima, but not with the direct line. We would have to switch trains in Osaka. But apart from that it would be free of any additional charge. So we were relieved. The man even made a reservation for seats for us and handed us our tickets. So we headed for our train and got in our seats. We started to unpack our breakfast and started eating. Only now we discovered what our food actually was. The fat ball Sybren had actually contained a kerry stuffing, Marcels donut actually was a ninja bapao which also contained kerry stuffing. The milk was actually milk to our luck.

After breakfast Sybren noticed we would be passing Mt. Fuji very soon, given it is not too far away from Tokyo (about 100 km). But the train already passed it during our breakfast in which we were both focused on the food we were actually eating. We killed the 3 hour trip to Osaka with some gaming, sleeping and what not.
We discovered the seats in the train were able to turn around, so you could talk to your friend if you would be traveling in groups, or just wanted to sit facing the way you were traveling.
In Osaka we only had to ask once where our train would be leaving. Which was quite the improvement to our earlier trips. We got in and got out in Hiroshima.

We went looking for our hotel and found it in record time. We checked in and got the key. we drank some tea and went outside to see what kind of a place Hirsohima is. We were told there was one big street that would contain a lot of stores and arcade halls. The first few big arcade halls were only Pachinko & Slot halls, which are very noisy halls where to only noise you hear is the sound of rolling metal balls. The Pachinko machine is a very popular arcade/slot-machine. People litteraly get in a queue before they open up. Walking further we found some food stores and finally an arcade hall. We went inside to see what kind of arcades it stored. There was a pop’n music arcade and marcel tried it. He didn’t really understand it and started playing in easy mode by accident. Bummer!

We got to see what more was in store for us here in this lively place. When we walked down an alley Sybren looked up and saw a woman waving at us, so he waved to her. Somehow this made her very happy as her left hand joined in and started waving more intense. We stopped waving, in case she would pass out out of enthousiasm.
Not long after we found another arcade hall and we went inside there and we found another pop’n music arcade. Well as you can see Marcel has an achievement up for playing all pop ‘n music arcades he can see. So he had to play this one as well. This time he could actually set the difficulty to his liking and he started of, not much later he had a fan. She was so amazed she started talking to us; “Suukoo!! Very cool!”

After this we were starting to get hungry so we went to get some food. We found some, we ordered, what we believe was, noodle soup. And got a snack with it. When we got our food to the table we started wondering how to acutally eat it. I knew the special spoon we got with it was for the soup and the chopsticks were for the noodles. But this left out a special bowl. We looked around and found someone who had noodle soup too, we inspected this person and tried doing as he did. He used his chopsticks to get the noodles out of the soup and put them in that bowl and eat it from there. So we did the same. During our dinner we didn’t hear laughing, so we think we did everything correct.

After the food we bought ourselves a Japanese beer and some water and went to our hotel. There we wrote this blog and watched some television. Tonight we will be going back in town for some more fun.

PS. There are probably a lot of spelling/grammar errors in our posts, but keep in mind that:

– Sybren forgot to install Word on his laptop, so we have to use Wordpad (no spelling-corrections)

– The keyboar is only 80% of normal size, but our hands are still 100%

– Our trips are kinda exhausting
PPS. Japanese commercials on TV are weird…

Mar '11

Day of Departure, start of an adventure, on the verge of exploring a new culture.

At 2.00 I (Sybren) woke up after about 2 or 3 hours of sleep. I thought it might be nice since we would have a flight time of almost 16 hours. At 2.40 Marcel and his dad arrived to pick me up. So I said goodbye to my beloved parents.

After a smooth ride in the backseat of the car we arrived at Schiphol Airport, Marcel’s dad said goodbye to us and tried to get inside. However this entrace was blocked, no big deal, we just tried another one. Which was of course also blocked, as was the next. But finally we got inside and we went to the original spot where we should have headed inside.

There we checked ourselves in once more and printed our tickets again. Just to make sure it would be oke for the douane. Then we tried to drop of our luggage, but that desk was not opened yet, so we started to look for a place where we could exchange some euros to Japanese Yen. Unlucky that we were we did not find anything so far.

So we headed back to the luggage drop off. It opened and we dropped off our luggage and we went through the douane without any trouble. Apart of needing to strip down until no metal was with us anymore. Marcel failed here and forgot about his watch. The douane took advantage of that and asked him to remove his shoes.
Behind the douane we found an exchange point for money and we got ourselves some Yen. Only 1 hour left to kill before we could get aboard the plane that would bring us to the beloved city, Paris.

During this hour Marcel was a bit nervous, since hés not really found of flying. I myself was quite tense as well, it had been a while since I flew through the air in one of these steel birds.

Finally we entered the plane and noticed we did not have very much space to put our legs. And we began to imagine how we would be survinging such a pain for 16 hours when we got in the other plane, that would bring us to Tokyo Narita.
The tour to Paris was about as quick as going there by train (with all waiting times included), the flight itself was over with a blink of a man’s eye. I don’t know aout a woman’s, since I did not care enough to ask any.

In Paris we had a bit of trouble finding our new departure gate. The screens did not seem to bother showing us the information we needed, so we went to an information desk and asked where we should be. The lady said 6 words: “E31”, for as much that is a word, “that way, thank you, bye.”
Now we had to get past another passport control. We got a paper with the time we got at the back of the queue, it had the time noted, we were told to just hand this over to the agent in the box. “Aye sir” and we started waiting and waiting and waiting.
After about 20 minutes of waiting we were next and we showed our passports together with the planetickets. He looked at mine and said to himself, “damnit, it is legit again.” Then he took a glance at Marcel’s and a glance at Marcel himself. He was not pleased that Marcel shaved off the beard he had on his picture. Marcel told him he was sorry and was working hard to make sure he matched his ID once more.

After this we were through and we could start looking for E31, there was another queue and we thought: “this is probably the right way, seeing all these people lining up for something important.” So we lined up as well and slowly made our way to the next test. The body scan. So we stripped down again and stepped through the portal, of course it went off beeping loudly. Marcel had too much electronic stuff in his bag and he was told to take it all out and show it. then it would be rescanned.
In the mean time I (still Sybren) stepped through the portal, which went off beeping as well. A short person came up to me and told me to take a step to the side and spread my arms and legs; Having nothing to hide I did so and he checked me. Apperently these portals are more sensitive then the one back at Schiphol. it was either that or I inhaled a fair amount of metal in the air.
Anyway we went through and Marcel got checked as well. During the check the man told him “Don’t worry!” and Marcel replied with “Be Happy!”
Now on with the search for gate E31. We looked straight forward and saw a big E with an arrow. We followed the direction the arrow was pointing at and after quite a walk we ended up at the wing of the airport with our gate.

After waiting another hour we could get aboard our next plane. Again we had seats at the far back of the plane. When we settled down and started to check out the chairs we found we had our own tv-screen and a device that had buttons like volume up and down as well as nothing else then 2 shoulder buttons and a by Nintendo copyrighted d-pad as well as buttons labeled ABXY. So our minds started spinning and we couldn’t wait to check it out.

But first we would have to be in the air, so on to check more out. We found it relaxing that we had aout 2″ more space for our legs. Happy and relieved we were. Untill a stewardess came up to us and told us we were quite long. She asked wether we would be interested in a seat in the front to have some space for our legs.
Happily we told her we would love that and so we got new seats. Next to the bar, emergency exit and toilet. But we noticed we did not have a tv. Odd we thought so we started exploring. and managed to find a way to pull out a screen from the arm of the chair. It unfoled and we had our own, kind of star trek like, tvs.
We took off and not long after a stewardess came by to ask us if we would like a drink. We asked if this was included in the ticket and apperently it was, because she said “drink as much as you like.” (Beer also applied for this rule 🙂 )
So we set our games aside and drank to a good flight.

Not much later our dinner was served. Salmon with rice and snow peas and a piece of bread. While eating we checked out a few more features of our interactive screens. I tried watching a movie. Marcel listened to some music, not much of importance. What is important though is the quality of the food, it was very nice food for what you’d expect from airplane food.
I got thirsty so I called for a steward(ess), when he arrived he told me it was self-service and he explained where the bars were located. So i got myself a sprite-like beverage, while I was at it I discovered we had almost an unlimited supply for drinks. Also I found we could get noodles, but they required hot water. Luckely a friendly stewardess got me some water and chopsticks to eat with.

Not much of an adventure. But we managed to get to Tokyo without much of a delay. The biggest delay was the personel switch in Seoul, which took about 1.5 hours of sitting and waiting.
At 11.00 (japanese time) we arrived in Tokyo.

When we arrived at Narita airport in Tokyo, and no idea where to go, we just started to follow the stream of Japanese. When we were about to join a qeue for a passport check, we were pulled out from the stream and directed to a special (empty!) qeue for foreigners. After a quick fingerprint scan and photo we were allowed to pick up our bagage.Luckely most of the bagage was already picked up, so we didn’t have  lot of trouble finding ours. Of course they wanted to check what was in our suitcases.
When asked if we came from Amsterdam we tactfully said “No, we’re from Leeuwarden!” , since Amsterdam is still related a lot to drugs etc, and aparently they knew about that place.

Finally we had all of our belongings back, all that was left to do was get our traintickets for the Japan Railway. This wasn’t an easy task, since we had absolutely no idea where to go. We asked at the ticket information kiosk where to go, and were told to go “that” way.

We went “that” way, found a JPRail kiosk with a sign that so called Exchange order tickets were “the other way”. So after a few minutes of walking around on Narita Aiport Station 1 we finally got our traintickets. We immediatly asked how we could get to our Hotel in Tokyo and with virtually no speaking, we received directions to the Refre Forum Hotel.

After we arrived at the platform we boarded the train towards Kinshichoo.The train was a bit like a carnival ride: at every stop there was an extremely happy jingle, followed by the voice of a woman. Even the posters in the train are nothing like in the Netherlands, for all we know they were all created by the Pokemon company.

The trainride to Kinshichoo was supposed to take 77 minutes, and with every stop it became a bit more crowded. We really felt a bit sorry for taking up so much space with our lugage but the nice ladies next to us didn’t seem to mind it that much.

It was really hard to stay awake at this moment after our exhausting plane trip, but we did our best to look at our surroundings, feeling we were in a completely different world.We were still thinking about what to do in Tokyo, since we would arrive at our stop at 13:15 while our Hotelcheck-in would start at 15:00.

Lucky for us we didn’t have to worry about arriving too early, since we got kinda lost. When we got to streetlevel again, the first thing we saw was a McDonalds and it felt like home. After we started to look around a bit this feeling completely disapeared so we turned on GPS to find our way to our hotel.

GPS didn’t work as well as we hoped, but we did come close to our Hotel. We wandered around for a bit and later asked for directions at a Seven-Eleven.Again without understanding almost any words we continued our travel towards the East of Tokyo.
Walking around there felt a bit like being in Disneyland without having a map: You kinda know where to go, but have absolutely no idea how to get there exactly.

After walking a few circels in East-Tokyo, we finally arrived at our hotel at 14:50.Still affected by our jetlag, we decided to rest for a bit.

The rest of our firstday trip (and the pictures) will hopefully be online tomorrow, right now we really need some real sleep first!


Promised to talk a bit more about our first day in Tokyo:

When we arrived at our hotel, Sybren really wanted some rest, so Marcel did some solo exploring of East-Tokyo.

Everything was kinda crowded but there was a lot to see. I was surrounded by small shops, and also vendingmachines. Found a lot of awesome candy like special Japanese Oreo’s (Which where filled with green cream, my guess is green tea flavour) but also at least ten different kinds of Frisk Mints, which are my favorite kind of mints. Didn’t actually buy anything yet, since I only had large moneybills and wasn’t sure if they would have enough change.

After a while I returned to a sleeping Sybren in the Hotel, using the scenic route (in other words, I got kinda lost), and decided taking a nap wouldn’t be a bad idea.
After we woke up, we did some more exploring but we still needed a meal.We were both still tired, so we took the easy road and grabbed something to eat at the McDonalds (of which there are plenty here)
We also went to a few larger stores, of which one had categorized their movies in a very special way. Every shelve had a drawing on it of a badly drawn actor and all their movies next to it.


Mar '11

At least our plane didn’t delay…

Well that’s a first.

Received an email from AirFrance today:
our plane, which was supposed to be leaving at 10:45 on the 25th of March, will depart 3,5 hours earlier.

Our schedule was a bit messed up by this news, since it meant we had to leave by train on the 24th to Schiphol (They advice you to check in three hours before departure, which is 04:15) to get there on time.

Luckily my dad is awesome and will bring us there 😀



Our blog is still a bit under construction, it will start to look better within the next few days 😉

Mar '11

Supertycoondeluxe test!

Just a small testpost to see if my androidapp is working:
(You can click on it!)

Comments Off on Supertycoondeluxe test!