A Travellerspoint blog

Chapter 3 - Dear Tokyo...

Dear Tokyo,

Thank you for showing me how old and new can hold hands and create so many jaw-dropping,inspiring and peaceful moments for every tourist you welcome in.

The Jaw - Dropping

Moment #1 (of no significant ordering) - GIANT ROBOT !

The Gundam really was huuuuuuuuuuge. For a fleeting second,the child in me paused and waited for it to launch itself into a puff of white smoke.


Moment #2 (of no significant ordering) - Asakusa Market
We did a LOT of shopping in Tokyo and Sam and I aren't really known for it...This place was surprisingly where we purchased the least of our souvenirs. Mainly due to the fact that we could have happily bought EVERYTHING and left ourselves poor. Many,many atmospheric,aromatic,colourful stalls drew us in like quicksand. Lucky charms,geisha dolls,oriental fans,art prints - an endless list. Although they did repeat themselves a little,I seemed to forgive this in a 'Dory' way as I'd almost forgotten that ooooh,aaaah noise I made at first sight.

Moment #3 (of no significant ordering) - A Special Appearance
Our jaws dropped as we found ourselves joining the tidal wave of immensely vast crowds. Waiting in anticipation for the Emperor's first of two bi-annual greetings.
Now just as we are not shoppers,neither of us have much patience for long queues but... We were very impressed with Japan's organisation and 'calm crowds' - two words I never thought I'd put together. Taking our FREE Japanese flag and having our bags searched in the most polite fashion (#forgotwehadglosticksinthere-wewillrefrainfromusingthem) we sensed we were about to be privileged with a unique experience.

Meandering with the crowds,we admired the gardens and palace buildings (not usually for the public's eyes) before congregating before the royal appearance which I'm sure had a likeness to the Queen's speech - broadly speaking. Of course we couldn't understand a word but there's something universally magic about thousands of flags being waved simultaneously on a windy, January day.

Inside_the_palace_walls.jpg Hello_Emperor.jpg

The Inspiring Moments

Moment #1 (of no significant ordering) - Skyscrapers
They are ... MASSIVE!

Moment #2 (of no significant ordering)- Mori Art Museum
The exhibition we saw was called 'The Universe and Art' which suited both our interests well. While Sam took a shine to the 'Sexy Robot' (can't think why), I found the baby caterpillar very endearing and I still regret that I didn't take a selfie with it or buy a t-shirt of it.

We did however share some mutual fascination with the discovery of an original Japanese sci-fi tale featuring a miniscule moon princess - I have later discovered that people have made links between this and the Sailor Moon series character - Princess Serenity.


Moment #3 (of no significant ordering) - Spot the Gaijin
As Sam went to take the obligatory new year decoration photo in front of a hotel, I was distracted :- "Sam ....there's robots...and they're cleaning the FLOOR!" ... Okay so I know you've probably heard of and seen these on T.V. but I am easily amused.

Moment #4 (of no significant ordering) - Oji Kitsune-no-gyoretsu Fox Parade
Our very first festival in Japan. It was so exciting I don't actually think I could pin down the words and make them coherent enough. Just imagine my vocal spurts of these words...


The_Fox_Parade.jpg Sam_facepa..some_desu__.jpg

The Peaceful Moments

All of these moments can be summarised by our continued new year venture to Mount Takoa-San to see the first sunrise - the kinda thing you read about in a lonely planet guide and think some hippy must have struck lucky once...
Although surrounded by hundreds of people, the hours of wait were slow but tranquil. Even someone who doesn't write pretentious blogs like me would find it hard not to be poetic in description. It was like watching the greatest painting being created and brought to life - it quite literally blinded us with it's beauty and I only hope I can endeavour to see every new year sunrise; even if it will not be as momentous as this was.

As we took the chilly walk back down, Sam was the first to spot the sun shining through Japan's flag right in front of us... As if someone was saying 'Welcome to 'The Land of the Rising Sun'.


Yours faithfully (and sure to be back again soon),


Things I've learnt in Japan so far...

  • The shinkansen's alien cleanliness is due to an impressive ARMY of brightly uniformed (blue for men pink for women) cleaners.
  • The sith lords round here also use light sabers for road safety - who knew ?

Posted by jasmine26 02:11 Comments (0)

Chapter 2 - More than a few weekend breaks


Feel this second entry deserves a subheading or two .... (professional moi ? - I do try ! )

Home Comforts (mainly warm things)

Although it will always be one comfort that will never match home; you will all be RELIEVED to know I have found a mild resemblance to the sweet drink of my dreams. After a few experiments with the drinks machines (which really are EVERYWHERE) , I have found a couple of hot chocs - they come in teeny,tiny cans and also act as great hand warmers :) .
hot choc drink machine

hot choc drink machine

I am starting to 'warm' to the genius that is heated toilet seats... I find it amusing that the traditional toilets which are so often for public use still manage to jump forward a few decades and play soothing waterfall music at perfect crouching level.
Although we've not had as much time to talk to home as we'd like, it has been really fun to Skype family and friends. Going to try and fit a few in this weekend as we have vowed to rest .... and maybe go to Costco #marriedlife.

International School

To be absolutely honest, I don't think I'd thought about how much enjoyment I would get out of teaching in an international school before we arrived. I think the nerves,the unknown and the excitement of exploring Japan trumped everything else when I was at home. It has been enlightening and fun so far discovering the differences and making friends from all over the world. It has given me comfort to see friendly ,smiley faces and hear English. I have learned so much just from having little chats with my colleagues - and not just about Japan. It has opened doors to social opportunities for both of us and I look forward to many more.
The children are also great and I hope they are learning as much from me as I am from them! I have a refreshed patriotism as I realise I am one of just two British teachers... Unlike back home where I grin and bear it for the little one's sake, I am actually enjoying the prolonged build up to Christmas as a lot of it is new to my class - bring on the glitter !

Exploring Japan

It's no secret that we've had a few fun weekends already. Shout out to Sam for being our 'Travel Agent Extraordinaire' - finding and booking hotels/transport etc...

At the top of my Japan bucket list was Kyoto (former imperial capital). It went above and beyond my expectations and it was great to do it so early on in our stay. So many beautiful temples,palaces and shrines to see....

We began with Fushimi Inari Shrine,this is the one I have chosen to describe as I think I could ramble too long about this special city. I have never appreciated the rich,vibrantness of orange and red so much.... It was a steep climb through what seems like endless torii gates to several small shrines , breath-taking views and sacred spots. I ,like many young women of today) am enjoying the current celebration of british wildlife and the cutesy things that go with it - particularly foxes. Apologies for my crude link but I hope you all appreciate my honesty when I say one of the main reasons I loved this shrine - was it's devotion to the graceful fox - or Inari's messenger to those who follow the Shinto faith. I am not religious but really appreciate having the privilege to see places like Fushimi and always find myself in a reflective,thoughtful place that seems inevitable. Once we we're past the main crowds at the bottom and we gained height,there were less people around and it really was so tranquil.

Fox statue kyoto

Fox statue kyoto



fox prayer

fox prayer

This weekend was also very memorable. We visited a small,quaint place called Nara(Nala). It is famous for it's Sika deer. I think maybe the better perspective would be from deer world where Nara is famous for it's people... wandering around randomly with crackers seeking affection. I have no shame in admitting to being one of these such people ! I felt a lot less scared and concerned about these wonderful,wild animals. It was amusing to fight through crowds of people and deer. Sam was gutted he didn't photograph on of the deer using a zebra crossing which they have to do all the time of course. The deer are beautiful from head to hoof and predictably I had a soft spot for the fawns even though they were a little timid. They were camouflaged so well against the bark of the trees that Sam and I would often be startled by a deer just chilling by them. I have read that in Summer their coat is much redder which gives me another reason to re-visit. We sat down for a rest on a wall and we're greeting by a passing lady with beaming smile. She was refreshingly confident and started talking with us. She proofed to be truly fascinating as she told us the history behind the old bell just behind us and her life as a wife of a scholar who sounds like he will never retire. Her English was great as she'd studied English Literature and had travelled a lot - her aim was 51 (to beat her rich friend) and she was currently at 46. It was a magical moment,that I hope you can all relate to but I made sure we had a snap with her as like all the best conversations we both forgot what her name was!

me and deer nara

me and deer nara

deer scene nara

deer scene nara

Lost in Translation

I think a recurring theme of this blog is going to be how the language/cultural barrier will create humourous,frustrating and special moments for us.
Sam had a frustrating (but now we appreciate to be humourous) day and I emphasise the word DAY where he used one of his days off work to try and get the keys to his car park space.... I will let you ask him for the full story of you want to hear it but it basically involved a lot of gestures,phone calls,waiting and ... PEOPLE. What started off as him and another man - became Sam,the said man and a couple of women and children from the other apartments. I can imagine the centre of this being Sam scratching his head and trying not to pull his hair out.

I had an interesting time trying to buy shampoo .... Japan have thousands of brands/flavours/packaging on offer for every single product they sell. Thus making it very hard for a gaijin like me to buy the simple daily things. After pondering for several minutes and standing in front of products that I could only definitely confirm was for hair, I realised that it was vital I at least tried to ask for assistance - there was an imminent danger I could have dyed it not cleaned it with the bottle in my hand. I approached two shop assistants who had very little English but such big hearts, They watched my pointing and gestures to confirm - shampoo -yes with a convincing relief and happiness as big as mine.

Anpanman is one of many popular cartoons with the very young children here. I was amused to discover that translated to English his name means something like 'Bean-Bun Boy'. This is due to the fact that his huge round head is supposed to be one of the many red bean buns I have enjoyed. So now when I see him I will smile and also salivate a little (with hunger of course... ).



Things I've Learned

  • Foxes are more majestic than I ever thought they could be...
  • The post office can be painful until you discover sellotape is a cognate!
  • Most Japanese people are very helpful
  • Toilet trips don't have to be taxing...

WOW, I have written so much more ... hope it's more entertaining than the last chapter - I certainly could have written more!

Jazz x

Here are some pictures from a very local festival which I didn't describe at all...

taken by  a keen passer by ...

taken by a keen passer by ...

three squeezeboxes festival

three squeezeboxes festival

puppet festival

puppet festival

Posted by jasmine26 05:08 Comments (0)

We have landed...

This is rambly,please forgive me


Konbanwa everyone !

We are just at the cusp of our adventures in Nihon and I have decided to have a go at this blogging malarkey. I think it will be a good way to record this very exciting time and update those who are curious without taking over facebook (or giving too much away to those who plan to come to Japan and take it all in for themselves).

It's only day 3 (+ or minus a few hours for time difference and jet lag) and we already have a few tales and photos to illustrate.The flight was long and surreal but it was made pleasant with a little business class tlc and a beautiful sunset (see Sam's Fb picture). The staff were amazing and as usual I was in awe of their bi/trilingual abilities. Many friends,family,acquaintances (even a woman at the bank had something to say) describe in length the major difference in japanese food - with the majority having a negative opinion.... I am not a huge fan of seafood but hope I can embrace the cultural cuisine and look forward to the potential slimming qualities of being fussier than normal ! This being said,Sam and I still wanted to hang onto some western comforts for our journey. I decided to be ambitious and ask a kind, japanese flight attendant if she had hot chocolate. Nodding enthusiastically she said "Yes,yes we do!". I shared her elation with precaution and double checked "hot chocolate really ?". She continued to nod and disappeared for a second. Sam then piped up with a knowing sneer and said "They won't have it you know...";annoyingly he was right and I nodded politely as I was bought two milka bars of chocolate, we found this hilarious. I think I was actually more embarrassed that this woman had watched me polish off a second flight meal only seconds before and therefore must have thought me very greedy!

One of the first things I noticed when I arrived here was the smells... I have been told it is mainly miso in the air. I'm sure this will soon come to be the smell of home! We continued our sensory experience (yes teachers I did just drop that one in ;) ) as we went to buy a drink. Sam grabbed his usual treat of a coke zero and I thought I would take a gamble on one of the iced teas. My japanese is very poor and so I used the picture clues - aah this looks floral - it will probably be a bit like rosewater... was more like drinking a curry with an after kick ! I soon went back for a tropicana but I have not given up on tradition yet! - I quite like this game of lucky dip.

Although we have so far only eaten out at turkish and hawaiin restaurants, we have ventured to try a few of the pastries - lots of smelling was involved. There are some mean tea cookies and rice buns out here. Ooh and our first ice-cream was pretty cool (pardon the pun). We stuck to strawberry but there was pumpkin and chestnut on offer !

We have already had a short tourist adventure just round the corner in Gifu.... It was a beautiful day (much like a summer's one in England). We walked through the colourful streets admiring the bus decors and plastic food we've heard so much about. Then we reached the tourist hub. Here we managed to make ourselves known through a kind gesture and a clumsy accident but the staff were friendly and helpful.

Halfway up to Gifu castle was how Sam had sold this destination to me............A SQUIRREL VILLAGE! Admittedly it was smaller than I thought and would probably only get 9/10 for animal care from me;but all the same it was surreal,cute and traumatic all at the same time ! The main adult attraction of the castle and it's musuem were pretty cool too. The view we had was awesome and we were a little disappointed to only capture it with our phones.

Today we left our hotel and were shown our new apartment. It's great and far more spacious than I imagined. There are lots of mod-cons, my favourite being that you can control the filling of a bath from just outside the kitchen and talk to each other through the same contraption. I always wondered what was missing from our british homes and now I look forward to making my orders of wine and more bubbles to my doting husband :P .

Things I have learned so far :-

  • There's a whole new meaning to jet lagged.
  • Cats and other cartoons really are everywhere.
  • I am better at layer printing than Sam. :P
  • Squirrels aren't as pretty when they're hungry.

I shall end my ramblings here and hope to come back with chapter 2 in a month or so when I am not so jetlagged and have more material for you all.

Thanks for reading to the end !!



Posted by jasmine26 06:54 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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