6 November 2012

V in Japan - Day 6

Day 6: Last day in Tokyo and travel to Takayama

  • Date: October 18:
  • Weather: Clouded & rainy
  • Mood: kind of annoyed

Senso-Ji & the Kaminarimon

This day was our last day in Tokyo and we still had to visit the Kaminarimon & the Senso-Ji temple. K’s House Oasis is like a 5-minute walk away from those two spots, so we reserved it for our last day in Tokyo.

I woke up, wrote some cards home (my mom adores foreign stamps), skipped breakfast (my stomach wasn’t that great in the morning), packed my stuff and met up with the others. When packing my stuff I noticed I couldn't find my black vest anymore, but I could not remember where I forgot it.

We then walked to the temple. Weather started off with a bit of rain. But while the clouds stayed, the rain stopped soon after.

We were quite early at the Kaminarimon, so a lot of the souvenir shops were still opening up. We didn't mind, since it’s easier to walk with less tourists and less shopkeepers. In the few shops that were open Steven tried some random snacks for on the road and Francis got a T-shirt with the Kaminari symbol.

Look how adorable, a priest with a group of kids
(wait, again? Don't kids here EVER go to school?)

At the Senso-Ji temple itself, Steven and I had to try out our luck with the luck-sticks. You know the principle? Make a donation, shake the tube until a stick pops up. Compare the symbol on the sticks to the drawers. Spot/open up the designated drawer and pick up the top sheet in that drawer. That is your luck!

I got the best of luck (but I’m not allowed to brag about it), while Steven had the worst of luck, totally pissing him off. After Francis finished taking some more pictures with his fancy iPhone, he came to us. When he noticed the bad luck note, he suddenly didn’t want to draw a luck-stick anymore. Superstition all the way.

On the right-end is 2 sets of luck-stick cabinets, each with the drawers, donation slot and stick-tube.

Split up

After our visit to the temple environment, the three of us split up.

I went to the old Japanese style bar we went to two days ago, because I thought I forgot my vest over there. Steven and Francis on the other end went to the post office to find an ATM that accepts foreign cards (a rare sight in Japan, don’t forget that!).

When I arrived at the bar, I noticed that it was closed, so I had to return empty-handed (I still had another vest with me, so it's not like I needed it right now. But I liked that vest).

While I was at the pub, I took a few picture of the Tokyo Sky Tree & the Flame d’Or (nicknamed “the golden turd” by a lot of people I showed the picture to), since it’s so close by. Maybe a few places to visit the next time I go to Japan.

Back at K’s house, we Checked out, wrote something in the guestbook and took off. The guest books in K’s House Tokyo are a nice thing to read if you’re bored or if you have some free time. If you’re there, check Guestbook volume 12 – Filip from Belgium (that’s me).

The trip to Takayama

After checking out, we traveled to Tokyo Station, took the Shinkansen to Kyoto and then a local JR train to Takayama.

A few anime ads. The Laughing man (Ghost in the Shell) and One Piece.

By the evening, we arrived in Takayama and walked to our hotel, Hotakaso Yama no Iori. Yes, this is the Japanese Alps already. It’s over 500m above sea level.

The hotel was a nice Japanese-style Hotel that was in semi-Onsen style (didn't really get the semi part, but I'll go with it). It had a public hot bath (guests only), free Yukata, slippers for everyone and beds that looked like futon’s (but had mattresses and a plank bottom.

On the right you see the Emperor and his trusty secretary...

A fun thing about this hotel was that next to the slippers for everyone, it had special slippers for going to the toilet (you had to change slippers at that point). This was so you wouldn’t stain the slippers I guess.

After bathing, we chilled a bit in the lounge area (the only place that had Wi-Fi in this small hotel).

Don't we look zen?

After chilling for a while, we went out and checked a local restaurant to have some Udon noodles and a beer. We noticed there weren’t that many people in this restaurant, while the food was still good. Since there wasn't a lot of noise (outside of the kitchen noise) and since the TV was on, we watched some baseball (one of the most popular sports in Japan).

When back in the hotel, we looked a bit around on the ground floor of the hotel. We noticed that the hotel didn't have a bar, but it did have vending machines with beer (so kids can get one too? Weird), We bought a beer, drank it in our room and then went to sleep.

Udon noodles, with egg and seaweed and a Kirin beer bottle

Tips for traveling in Japan - Public baths and onsen

We went to a public bath a few times. The first one was here in Takayama, in this hotel. Later on we went to a real onsen (Japanese hot springs) in Kurama.

And believe me, it IS a weird feeling if you're not used to it. The correct term that describes your feelings upon entering for the first time is "awkwardness". You know, all males in the nude (or females if you're a female, obviously).

The best advice I can give you is: Flip the switch in your head and get over it. I know that sounds easier than it is, but just try and do it. But more importantly, DON'T STARE at everything you see. You don't want people staring at you too when they enter, right? So don't do it yourself. Just be calm and enjoy the hot bath.

If you think you'll have trouble with this, try and book a hotel like the one we went to, with an included hot bath. Only hotel guests were allowed in our hotel, and at most there will be one or two other people in the bath with you (sometimes you could even be alone in there).

I could explain how it works, but I get the feeling I would miss a few steps. But Japan-guide does give a few good pointers on the following page: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2292.html. Just remember that you rinse/clean yourself BEFORE you go into the hot bath.

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