Rash banner    



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 Frank Burger.

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:

  • 100 Years in The Future "Nonbirimura"
  • Fantasy of Light Electric Power
  • Tokyo Twinkle Post
  • International Exhibits Aqua Hall
  • the Emporium
  • Micle Fantasic World
Then climbed the Sunshine Lookout and walked through some gardens and finally departed, exhausted. Neither the extensive flume ride nor the swiss sky ride were operational.

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

Other sections of this site:
Home - weblog | Prose | Links | Misc | Contact