Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Joyous Japan

Right now we are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and we are all learning to appreciate the vastness of this ocean.  Our route from Yokohama, Japan to Honolulu, Hawaii is 3861 miles on a great circle route, as compared to the 2475 miles between New York and Los Angeles.  The seas have also been fairly rough for the past couple of days and the weather has cold and nasty.  Not good for getting my tan back that I lost in China and Japan.  But it should be warming up soon as we get to Hawaii.

Japan was awesome.  My friends I and bought rail passes that let us get on practically any train at any time, and we took advantage of it and went to 6 cities in 5 days.  The ship docked in Kobe, Japan.  It took forever to get off the ship because everyone had to go through face-to-face inspection and get their photo and fingerprints taken.  Five of my friends and I were planning on headed to Hiroshima to see the museum and park there.  It again took us a long time to exchange our rail vouchers for the actual passes, but if this whole trip has taught me anything, it is patience.  

We made it to Hiroshima on a bullet train around 4 pm and made our way to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which is in the Peace Park.  The museum was very well put together and powerful and I learned a lot about the bombing and the aftermath.  We then walked through the peace park, which was beautiful, especially with all the cherry blossoms in bloom.  At the end of the park is the A-bomb Dome, which was a sort of city hall building that was the thing closest to the bomb that is is still partially standing.  It was beautiful and eerie all at the same time.  

Then we headed back to Kobe.  The boys wanted to have Kobe beef for dinner, but the girls didn't want to spend $80 on a meal, so while they had their beef, we went to a noodle place and had ramen and dumplings and rice.  Kobe is also famous for its pastries, so of course we had to sample a couple of those as well.  The next morning 12 of my friends and I headed to Kyoto, which is an old city in central Honshu that was the capital of imperial Japan.  It is famous for the cherry blossom trees and we were there at the perfect time of year.  We got off the train and found our way to a shop and rented bikes for the day.  We got split up into two groups and my group ended up going to a pretty garden and walking around for a while.  Here is my friend Emily and I in front of a cherry blossom tree, which are everywhere.

Then we rode up toward a temple that is in the mountains near a gorge.  We grabbed a lunch of rice or noodle bowls and then walked up to the temple.  It was really pretty and had a great view of the city.  Then we started biking toward another temple across the city, but never made it because it was getting late.  We still saw a lot of Kyoto over a short period of time.  We made it back to return the bikes and then some of us headed to the small town of Koka where we were going to visit a ninja village the next day.  Koka turned out to be a really small town, but we found a hotel for the night.  Then next morning we met up with the rest of our friends, and after wandering around in wrong directions for a while, we went back to the train stations and took a shuttle to the Ninja Village.

When we got there, we got a tour of a ninja house, which had all sorts of secret doors and passageways and even a sort of three foot middle floor for storage.  We then went and threw ninja stars, which was really fun, and it was also fun to see all of the boys become about 8 years old again.  Here is a picture of the boys throwing their ninja stars.

I got several of my stars to stick to the board, and even got on in the outer right of the bulls-eye.  We swung across a little ravine on a rope swing and just wandered around.  We also took a bunch of ninja pictures, like this one of all the girls.

After this we headed back to Kyoto and then went to Tokyo on a three hour bullet train.  Mount Fuji was out the left side of the train at some point and it looked really cool.  We got to Tokyo and took the subway to the Roppongi district, which has lots of lights and night life.  We found a hotel and had dinner and met up with our friends.  That night we all went out and fun around Roppongi.

The next morning my friends and I headed to Akihabara, a district in Tokyo that is knowns for all its electronic stores and gaming stuff.  It is very bright and colorful.  We wandered around for a while and went into all sorts of stores.  We wandered into this five-story arcade, which was interesting.  There were what looked like Japanese businessmen on their lunch break playing video games.  I also played one round of Dance Dance Revolution, which was fun.  Here is a picture of the main street, with the arcade, the red "game" building.  

We had lunch at a cafe and then headed back to Tokyo station to walk around the Imperial Palace.  It took us a while to find it, and by the time we got in there, it was closing in a half hour, so we just walked around for a little while.  We decided to walk back to Roppongi because we could see the Tokyo Tower and knew it was near by.  Those sorts of walks always turn out to be longer than planned, as was the case here, but it was fun.  We grabbed some dinner and then met up with our friends.  Later that night, people split off and my friend Matt and I went and had some terrific sushi.  I was much more adventurous than I usually am, and I got all sashimi, which is just the fish on top of rice, and it was all excellent.  My friends were going out that night, so I went out for a while and then headed to bed.

The next morning, most of my friends went to the biggest fish market in the world, outside of Tokyo, but a few of us headed to Yokohama after a delicious breakfast at a bakery.  We went back to the ship and ate lunch there, and then went out into Yokohama in search of Internet.  It took us a while to find, but we eventually ended up in a hotel lobby.  We sat for a couple of hours and then headed back to the ship.  Yokohama is a very pretty city.  Here is a picture of part of the skyline.  

That's all from Japan.  There are still 5 days until Hawaii, and it's definitely going to test the patience of many.  I will try and call lots of people when I'm in Hawaii because my phone will finally work!

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