Sunday, April 06, 2008

Japan Part 2
Welcome back for more on our trip to Japan. First I'll go through the pictures of things I might have mentioned about in the earlier post from Japan then go through the second half of our trip. The below picture is of Eric outside the Shizuoka Castle which has been rebuilt of course and is mainly a big city park now. We thought the picture was nice because of the cherry blossoms in the background.

We fed some fish and turtles in the moat around the castle
This is the restaurant where we spent $112 for sushi in Shizuoka. No more buying sushi without seeing prices first! We did end up getting sushi two more times during our trip but we found places that were cheap. One place was a roto sushi (kaiten zushi). Basically there is a conveyor belt going around with sushi on different colored plates. Each color represents a different price. That made it easy to choose which ones to eat. Eric and I gorged and spent less than $30. I'll mention the other place later.

This is the last picture of Shizuoka (we didn't do much touristy stuff while there) I'll post until we move there this summer. This is a house we got to see and is in our price range. It's old but big. Hopefully something along the lines of this house will be available when we are in the market to rent!

We went to Hamamatsu on the request of the housing office in Yokota but ended up being a bust. Of course he said he only rents houses in Hamamatsu, not Shizuoka. We figured that, but we did what we were told. He at least gave us another contact in Shizuoka which we went to later that day. She gave us several fliers of homes in our price range and again looked to be good sized in Japanese standards. So, about a month before we move out there she told us to contact all the agencies because they'll each have different listings. I'm excited to see where we'll end up. The neighborhood around the university is pretty new and nice looking. Plus, I saw lots of little playgrounds which is a must!
While we were in Hamamatsu we couldn't pass up the opportunity to see the castle. Of course it's rebuilt but here are some pictures.

Eric getting some speaking practice with one of the guides
The guide was kind enough to take some pictures

Sakura-Cherry Blossoms up close
Little Shrine at Hamamatsu Castle
I'm not bothering to post a picture of our hotel rooms but I am interested in posting this picture. It's a bidet. I had never seen one or used one until I lived in Japan before and haven't seen one since. So, for those of you that have never had the opportunity to have their naughty bits washed while sitting on the pot, here's a picture of all the handy little nobs on the side of the toilet.
We didn't do much site seeing in Shizuoka since we'll be living there for two years. We did however use our Japan Rail Pass as much as possible. If you ever have the desire to travel Japan you have to get a rail pass. For about $260 each we had just over 7 days to use the trains, buses, and ferries at no expense. There are several things you can't use but you can get around the country at a fraction of the real cost. We figured that it would cost almost the same for both of us to travel from Tokyo to Shizuoko and back. Why not spend a little more so we can see other sites? Good thing it didn't cost us anything to go to Hamamatsu, otherwise we would have been pretty upset about the realtor not being able to help us.
Anyway, the same day we went to Hamamatsu we didn't have any plans for the evening. I jokingly said why not hop on the train and see Nagoya and have dinner. That was the original city we were planning on going too. Well, Eric liked the idea so we did. It was about an hour to get there and the city is much bigger than Shizuoka. I'm kind of glad we aren't going there. If we didn't have kids I would think otherwise. Anyway, we wondered around and we were ready for dinner at 4pm. Not too many places were open and we found a dive selling udon. It was ok, but we've had better. An hour train ride each way for a $15 dinner.

We went up a pretty neat building to check out the city. We got a great view from the elevator.

After Shizuoka, Hamamtsu, and Nagoya we left to spend several days in Hiroshima. That was a pretty long train ride. We had assumed it would be warmer there but it turned out to be pretty cool. We learned how to find our way around by street cars! We love mass transportation. We stayed at Dormy Inn and would recommend it for anyone planning on visiting. It's relatively cheap for the area and located by the memorials. We saw the Memorial Peace Park, Peace Dome, Museum, and Hiroshima Castle.

Below is a free guide walking around the dome giving more information about the bombing of Hiroshima. We were worried at first he was a scam but he talked to us for about 30 minutes showing us some other sites off the beaten path. He was just a baby at the time of the bombing and a couple of kilometers away from the area. He showed us a cemetery where there are headstones and showed the difference in stone from before the bombing compared to new stone. He even had family stories from the atomic bomb and how his dad was seriously ill for years before passing but his grandfather had no problems and lived for a long time. He also mentioned that the majority of Japanese don't harbor ill will towards Americans for what happen. I'm not sure if it's because they know the reason why they were bombed or if they just want to put it in the past.

We didn't have the camera on hand when we walked to the Castle. the pictures would have been blurry anyway because we would have been shaking from the cold wind!
Our second day in Hiroshima we decided to take a train then a ferry (it's all free on the rail pass!) to Miyajima to see the famous Torii gate in the water.

There was a temple facing the Torri gate and we were able to take a walk through it to also get a better view.

We don't know the story behind pagoda's, but here is one at Miyajima and it's pretty cool looking.

There was a rope way to the top of Mt. Misen on Miyajima for it was over $30 per person round trip. We decided to wonder around the park area and check it out. It was picturesque.

Next thing I know Eric is hiking up the mountain. Hello, I'm not dressed for a day hike but we were going. I wasn't too happy about that. See two pictures below.

We made it to the top a good hour or so later and sweating all over my nice shirt. Oh well, it was our last day of site seeing in Japan. The next morning we started our way back towards Tokyo and it ended up taking four hours to get to Yokota Air Base. Eric wanted me to see what it would be like while we stay there for a little while when moving to Shizuoka. The girls and I might be there for some time while Eric finds a house in Shizuoka. It's a pretty nice air base and wouldn't mind getting stationed there sometime in the future. We also were able to have another nice sushi dinner without breaking the bank. So, if you ever happen to be at Yokota, stop by Santa's Sushi. The staff was really nice and the food was really good (especially the salmon sushi).
We stayed the night at Yokota but we still needed to get to Narita Airport for our 4pm flight. It took about 3 hours of train rides to get there but that's always an adventure. What do you imagine when I say Japanese trains? I had envisioned people packed liked sardines. We hadn't seen anything like that until we were doing the local trains in Tokyo. Oh boy, we had about a 20 minute ride where we were all crushed together. It was crazy. I wish I could have reached my camera for a picture. I'm sure I'll get a chance while we are living there.
The plane ride back was uneventful other than having a person sitting next to me with a little body odor. And no, it wasn't Eric! If you ever have the urge to visit Japan, let me know. We should have a spare room if you want to swing by and we can suggest some great places to see and stay along the way. Hope you enjoyed this way too long post.


Jen said...

I love the pictures! We will definitely miss you when you move away. I suppose I could fly to Japan to visit, but I don't see that happening. :)

Debbie'sDailyDose said...

Wow, I love the pictures too...especially the ones with the cherry blossom trees. I think it would be so much fun to visit Japan...who knows what the future holds, I will keep your spare room in mind :o) Oh, have fun on your retreat, mine was great...can't wait to hear how yours goes!