April 12 - The Longest Day with "The Abyss" and "An Innocent Man" plus the
kid and the foot tapper...anyway
April 13 - Arrival, and it's like a dream.
After Prince check-in, went for a stroll down Shinagawa section of the old
Tokaido Road. I see that cans of tea are available at Kentucky Fried
emblazoned with the colonel's image, and McDonald's sells hot dogs, called
April 14 - Exhaustion. After a real cho-shoku at a restaurant in the complex,
a valuable visit to the TIC. Then a stroll through the grounds of the Edo
Castle/Imperial Palace, and the Museum of Modern Art. After a stroll through
the Kanda district (the Tuttle shop) final return to Tokyo Station. A brief
rest, then dinner at the Yoro No Taki down the street (their goal: 5000 franchises.
It says so on their beer). Evening explorations: Roppongi and Yoshiwara. Neither
impressed. Good business hotel possibility at Iriya station, but tomorrow, the Toko.
(There's a Johnny Rocket's in Roppongi!)
April 15 - (And a Pollo Loco in Harajuku!) But first, after a Shinagawa exit,
I visited the Meiji Shrine. Then more in-depth Harajuku/Yoyogi Park exploration,
but nothing really different from last time, except perhaps MORE weird people
attracted by the rock and roll. Then, a Shibuya return. This time I found Faithful
Hachiko and Tokyu Hands. As rain threatened, hordes of Japanese appeared. After
hotel check-in, exploration of Gotanda in the rain. Now I relax in my room,
drinking a "Kirin Cool", watching an apparent Pippi Longstocking cartoon (she
sounds just like Mei in "Totoro"), and pondering the long list of people which
require postcards. Outside, the neons blink and the raindrops patter against
the window. Tomorrow, bullet trains west.
April 16 - Awoke this morning to the sound of crows 'cawing'. Still rainy as I
made my way via crowded Yamanote car to main Tokyo station, where I obtained my
railpass and an Osaka reservation. The paper says hotels are booked solid there
and in Kyoto, due to World's Fair. We shall see.
After speedy train ride, boarded the Kanjo for Osaka loop ride.
Glimpsed the castle briefly; also the 'proletarian" Tennoji Park
(was that an entire roller coaster in a cage?) and Tsutenkaku Tower.
TIC sent me on a fruitless hotel search; the intenseness of Osaka
crowds and urban environment made me scurry back to the trains.
During slow local ride, saw a donjon-less castle at Akashi, and
finally arrived at Himeji. Another hopeless hotel search, yet here
I am in the noisey New Castle Hotel. Cheap and raggedy, but cozy
after my soba meal (or was it udon?)
April 17 - An outlandish day! Stashed bag at the station, then had coffee/toasta
within sight of the Snowy Heron. As I reached the castle's moat, a large yellow
fish jumped fully out of the water. Was this golden carp a lucky omen? Finally I
explored a Japanese castle, and I was early enough in the day to avoid most of
the field-tripping hordes of children. Rain threatened, finally poured, and I took
refuge in a restaurant for unagi. Then rode to Akashi, for another fruitless search
for lodging. Decided to continue on to Osaka, but got off impetuously at Kobe.
Nice girl at the TIC counter got me a room, and immediately after check-in I
zipped into the dazzling Osaka night lights; a variable-intensity blue neon credit
card was most amazing. Packed subway ride to the intense Dotombori district.
After takoyaki, back on the subway (still packed at 9PM on a Tuesday evening!)
To return, I got on a train that was totally reserved for a group, which all got off!
The conductor ejected me through his door, giving me a glimpse of a bullet train's
cockpit. Back in my hotel room with its scenic view, watched a hideously dubbed
"Fast Times at Ridgemont High".
April 18 - Now I am ensconced at the Kyoto Grand Hotel. It's rather like the Marriot
in Vienna VA, if you ignore the shoji at the window. This is the first "real" hotel I've
stayed at in Japan, and it's only $50. Its reality is confirmed by the sight of room
service trays in the hallway... but it's the first-ever hotel I've lodged at where
the bell boys wear pillbox hats, like in a vintage film.
Today began with a futile search for a laundromat in Kobe. So I returned to Kobe,
and found one right away. The hotel room search was breeding despair, after TIC
indifference and negative vibes at the JTB. The office at the Bahnhof came up with
the Grand, and I thought, why not. Then it was off to the Fushimi-Inari shrine, with
its tunnel of toriis, the Sembon Torii. I enjoyed a small chakinzushi bento while a
man prayed out loud - then I photographed him. After I walked down the hill, I
returned to the Kiyomizu temple, locating the veranda this time. As I departed
down the Sannenzaka slope, I bought twisty chopsticks to the accompaniment of a
dubbed Star Wars finale. In the evening I had okanomiyaki at two different
places. Also saw some maiko women in the narrow streets.
Was that a transvestite one last night in Osaka's Dotombori?
April 19 - After arrival in Osaka's underground shopping mall, wandered around until
a proper moningu restaurant opened. Mickey Rourke's barfly raised his glass in a
toast, as I ate a piece myself. Then rode around the loop line to catch the mag-lev
train out to Expo '90. Pavilions visited:
Then climbed the Sunshine Lookout and walked through some gardens and finally
departed, exhausted. Neither the extensive flume ride nor the swiss sky ride
- 100 Years in The Future "Nonbirimura"
- Fantasy of Light Electric Power
- Tokyo Twinkle Post
- International Exhibits Aqua Hall
- the Emporium
- Micle Fantasic World
After return to Kyoto, recovered in hotel room, finished
McTeague and wrote postcards, then revisited Ponto-cho and had a great
unagi dinner at the sushi bar (heated foot-mats!) of a deserted restaurant.
April 20 - After cho-shoku at a station restaurant, rode a bus out to the
lovely Jisho-ji, or Ginkaku-ji (silver temple). Its grounds were mossy, and
included a bamboo forest. Strolled down the "Path of Philosophy" after more photo
fun with the school girls. Then hit the Kyoto Handicraft Center for the last
black T-shirt and more ties. Had a late lunch in another station restaurant
after squaring the ticket with Koreanair. Rested in room with tea and yatsuhashi
confection, then zipped back to Osaka for one more circuit around Dotonbori
of Minami district. Rode the late local train back, and watched USA Express
(more coverage of the NYC club scene).
April 21 - Checked out of the Kyoto Grand, and had a dialogue with a 55-year-old
accountant during moningu. Bought sencha, then rode for hours to Odawara, and
thence to Ofuna, where I rode the monorail 3.6 km to Shonen-Enoshima in the rain.
Several hours of full-hotel-despair followed, including a quick dash around the
main Yokohama train station in the middle of 6PM Saturday crowds. All changed to
happiness after check-in at Gotanda Capsule hotel (although I'm in one of its
single rooms). Rode out to Mejiro, where I had an incredible meal...of course,
it did cost ¥4000. Now I rest in my room, listening to the rain and the
muted street noises eight floors below, lounging about in my post-bath yukata.
April 22 - This morning woke up with the sudden desire to zip out to Matsumoto
to see the Black Crow castle, so I stowed my bag at a Shinjuku locker and
boarded the Alpine Express. Saw Fuji's crown above the mountains en route, as
it became sunny. Weather was pleasant at Matsumoto, there was some kind of
'do' at the castle so it was crowded, but not unpleasantly. Red and white
fabric fences and tents were erected on the castle's grounds, many women
in their fine kimono, seemed like it was a tea ceremony, but I didn't stick around.
Weather became cloudy again on the return trip, and this line curved around
the base of Fuji: some hikers got on, and it began raining. Checked into the
Swier Hotel for the third time, then dashed back to Shinjuku for photo-op
and Blue Mtn pinch. Then to Akasaka, which was no big deal - mostly high-rise
hotels. Put together a convenience store dinner; unfortunately, the original
takoyaki yatai wasn't there.
April 23 - Left the Swier and joined the wall-to-wall commuters in the subway
trains, making my way to the Sunshine City Prince in Ikebukuro, where I checked
my bag. Then I returned to the Tokyo Station area to touch base at the TIC,
and made successful Jena bookstore visit. Thence back to the Prince for check-in
after subterranean ticket lunch. Room is about a foot larger all around then the
Shinagawa Prince, but this one has a spectacular 30th-floor view! A washi purchase
was next, followed by a short streetcar ride (ding ding) and Sunshine City
exploration, with earrings buy for Cheryl. Then to the top of 60-floor Sunshine
City - great view, including Fuji, and the sun set with subsequent city-light
display. Finally, great meal sitting on the tatami after night-time Ikebukuro
walkabout. Narita tomorrow.
April 24 - Nabbed at Ueno for expired railpass, but then a pleasant moningu. Train
ride of 1:15 to Narita; they took away my Swiss Army and Scott's saw. Finally
reached [the woman at work's daughter who's on a Yokohama military
reservation] - good thing I didn't, before. Full 747 with the worst sort
of passenger next to me - light on all night, overly large and fidgety,
coulda been worse. And Customs was a breeze, again.
donjon - castle tower
cho-shoku - breakfast (traditional Japanese)
moningu - Japanese pronunciation of "morning," nickname for minimal 'western'
breakfast: coffee and thick-sliced, toasted bread - "kohee-toasta"
TIC - Tourist Information Center
torii - Shinto gate
washi - handmade paper