I must say, it feels good to be out of cities for a spell… Much less stressful rushing around, more just taking the beautiful nature in. Of course, the mountains are not specifically Japanese, but they're sporting the most beautiful autumn colors – and yesterday, I even saw snow!
Glad to say it was only at the top of Asahi-dake, the highest mountain, but still, it's definitely much cooler here. I even bought a pair of gloves, because they told me at the hostel that it'd be around freezing on the mountain. So I didn't bring those long-sleeved sweaters in vain after all… 🙂
Now I'm in Sounkyo, where there's a famous gorge to be seen. I'll do that tomorrow, though, when I have a full day. Can't check in here until 4pm, so when I log off here (it's nice and cheap) I'll go for a wander around town and maybe later for a nice bath at the hot springs. I'll get all relaxed just thinking about it! *g*
Brought my own provisions so I'll be self-sufficient – although the meal at the hostel last night was very nice (despite me not knowing what the heck I was eating), it's just too expensive. Especially now that I've learned that I have to stay in youth hostels after all in Tokyo – the people my cousin got me in touch with will 'only' play guides, not hosts. But (as long as I don't think of the costs too much *g*) that's completely alright, as it leaves me more freedom to come and go as I please. But that's in the future – now I'm off. Just hope my foot won't bother me too much…
This was by far the most horrible day on this trip. Because of crappy public transport links I didn't get to see either one of my two Ainu villages – instead I sat around train stations waiting and experienced the gulf of the language barrier until all I wanted to do was scream. Instead I cried for a while. I also read (finishing yet another book), listened to Swiss music (maybe not the smartest move) and 'The Hobbit' on audio book and sat around in the sun. I also composed long journal entries in which I described this endless waste of a day in detail, but now that I'm back in Sapporo (my last night before going to the wilderness of the mountains, so I might not get in touch again before arriving in Tokyo next week) I think I'll go buy some more books instead. That always cheers me up. 🙂
Oh, and all this sitting around was definitely good for my foot – I'm barely limping anymore…
First the good news: I finalized my itinerary for Hokkaido today, picking out hostels, making reservations and looking up trains. Luckily there always seem to be helpful souls around to make phonecalls or find information for me – but I've got to admit, speaking Japanese would definitely be handy… Anyway, I'll be leaving Sapporo the day after tomorrow and will head north, towards one of the National Parks. I'll spend one night in Asahidake Onsen (Asahi-dake being one of the highest mountains), then two nights in Sounkyo Onsen (near a famous gorge), and then one night in Bibaushi (apparently countryside mindful of the French Provence), so it's going to be a whole lot of nature – and hot springs, if the 'onsen' part of the village names is to be believed… Sounds simply wonderful to me!
Before heading down to Tokyo in a week, I'll also spend another night here in Sapporo – but instead of the rundown hostel, I've booked myself into a capsule hotel! Looking definitely forward to the experience, I gotta say, especially since apparently it's very luxurious despite the good price. I only hope I won't get in trouble at the bath there because of my tattoo – I stumbled across a (very positive) review where it was mentioned that technically they don't allow tats… *crosses fingers*
Okay, so that was the good, exciting part, now to the rest. Although I did have a mostly good day exploring the interesting Historical Village of Hokkaido (and buying a couple more good-value books to keep up with my ferocious reading *g*), I'm a bit under the weather. For one I suspect that I might be running a mild fever, although it seems that I managed to get purge the beginnings of a cold that have been bothering me the last few days – and then there's my heel. Yesterday I took off my shoes on the train – and after I put them back on, the left one seemed to have developed a whole new kink. But of course I tried to ignore it, thinking that it would only turn into a small blister or something. Instead I am now in pain whenever I wear shoes of any sort (the open-backed houseshoes being the only exception), despite trying to use creams, band-aids and bandages to take away the pressure. Not good. Not good at all, considering that I'm on the road and want to see things – sitting at a hostel twirling my thumbs really isn't an option. I guess I just have to hope that this night's rest will do the trick – else my Ainu expedition tomｏｒｒｏｗ （ａｎ ｏｐｅｎ－ａｉｒ ｍｕｓｅｕｍ ａｎｄ ａｎ ａｃｔｕａｌ ｍｏｄｅｒｎ ｖｉｌｌａｇｅ） ｗｏｎ’ｔ ｂｅ ｍｕｃｈ ｆｕｎ ａｔ ａｌｌ．．． Ａｌｒｅａｄｙ ｔｏｄａｙ Ｉ ｃｏｐｐｅｄ ｏｕｔ ｏｆ ｖｉｓｉｔｉｎｇ ｔｈｅ Ｂｏｔａｎｉｃａｌ Ｇａｒｄｅｎ ａｎｄ ｔｈｅ ｍｕｓｅｕｍｓ ｔｈｅｒｅ ｉｎ ｔｈｅ ａｆｔｅｒｎｏｏｎ， ｂｅｃａｕｓｅ Ｉ ｓｉｍｐｌｙ ｄｉｄｎ’ｔ ｗａｎｔ ｔｏ ｗａｌｋ ａｎｙｍｏｒｅ． ：（
Ａｎｙｗａｙ， ｅｎｏｕｇｈ ｗｈｉｎｉｎｇ ｆｏｒ ｔｏｄａｙ． Ｈｏｐｅ ｅｖｅｒｙｏｎｅ ｗｈｏ ｒｅａｄｓ ｔｈｉｓ ｉｓ ｄｏｉｎｇ ｆｉｎｅ！ ＊ｈｕｇｓ＊
This free net access is too good to pass up, so you might be hearing little bits and pieces from me every day while I'm staying in Sapporo… 🙂
Today I took the train back south a bit, to Toya. There I caught a bus to two nearby volcanos, one of which was only 'born' 1946 or so, growing out of the ground to over 400m in only a year. That was pretty cool! Sadly the ropeway up to the other, still active volcano was so expensive that I had to refrain from going to the luxurious spa there, but I'll make up for it by having a nice long soak in the Japanese bath at the hostel tonight…
Although the hostel I'm staying in is pretty crappy (not even a self-service kitchen – I have to ask for hot water at the reception!), they still have the proper bath instead of just showers, which is lovely, as I've developed the habit of ending each day with a nice soak. In Japanese baths the (very hot) water always stays in the big tub (often the size of a small pool), and you have to clean yourself before getting in, sitting on overturned buckets, using either shower heads or bowls that you fill in the tub, depending on how basic the bath is. If you go to a public onsen (normally translated into English as 'spa', although they're often little more than public bathrooms used by the whole neighbourhood), chances are that little old ladies will show you exactly how it's done. 🙂
Okay, enough for today. It's almost 6pm, which means that it's dark outside, so I think I'll go to Starbucks for a tea (everywhere else they seem to sell only coffee and basic black tea) and a read (had to buy even more books today *g*), before heading to the hostel for my daily cup of noodles… Take care – and get in touch, I love hearing from you, even if I don't have the time to answer! *smile*
Arrived in Hokkaido's capital today and am very much looking forward to spending 9 days on this most 'wild' of Japanese islands… Even found free internet access in the train station, but people are waiting so I'll keep this short. Hardly anyone here speaks English, even more so than down south, but so far this hasn't caused any major problems although it makes conversations a tad difficult. But I've also met some nice foreigners and hope that trend will continue. Else I'll be starved for a real chat soon! 🙂
Randomly: What does it say about my obsession with LiveJournal that I can navigate it even in Japanese? *g*
Missing everyone. Will try to update again soon. Hugs.
Three minutes of internet time left… Am in Kyoto now, all by myself, which does make things more interesting, to say the least. Even more so after tomorrow, when I will move north, to Hokkaido, where things are a bit more rustic, as far as I can tell. But I am looking forward to this, after spending most of this week looking at impressive temple after beautiful park and pretty shrine… If I can get the hostels booked, that is. 🙂
Hope all of you are doing well, too. Thinking of you and missing you lots! Big hugs.
Still with Sabine and having a great time. We went to Mt. Aso yesterday, a volcano, which was pretty impressive, as I'd never been at a volcano crater before.
It's really nice here in Kumamoto – Sabine is looking after me nicely and we cycle into town every day, on sightly rickety Japanese bikes, which makes it feel more like everyday life than traveling. It's fun, too, and I'll miss it when I move on tomorrow morning. I'll take the Shinkansen (the fast 'bullet train') up to Osaka, making a stop-over for a couple of hours in Hiroshima on the way. I'll stay in Osaka until Wednesday, making a couple of daytrips to the historic towns of Nara and Himeiji, then I'll move on to Kyoto.
As you can see, my plans are slowly taking shape – I'm planning ahead a little, so I can take advantage of the internet connection here. Missing you guys as well as many things from home, but Japan is very exciting and I'm looking very much forward to seeing more of it!
Today I left Denise (), who had the doubtful pleasure of giving me my first introduction to Japan.
I was definitely grateful to have her around, because I had already gotten the first taste of the vast language gap that exists between Japanese and non-Japanese on the train ride from Osaka airport to Kurosaki, where Denise picked me up. It's really astonishing, how difficult even the simplest conversation becomes!
Other than that I'm having a great time – Japan is definitely different from anything I've ever experienced, not only from Europe but also from Singapore. Some things will take a while to get used to (like not being able to read the maps and street signs and the ever-present noise level), others I took to like a duck to the water. For example I've already been to several onsen (traditional hot spring baths) with Denise, which was absolutely fantastic for a spa-fan like me. 🙂
Now I'm in Kumamoto with Sabine () and am looking very much forward to learning and discovering more about this country!
Amy here updating for Eva! She should have reached Osaka by now, and on her way to Fukuoka by train. Internet accessibility might be intermittent, and she's probably out of contact by phone, seeing that the telcom system is different in Japan. Let's hope we can still hear from her soon though 🙂
Just quickly, because I mentioned it to some people without going into details: The day before yesterday I was bitten by something, and since then developed an allergic reaction of some sort, which caused my right ankle to swell and turn red.
After I could hardly walk anymore yesterday (btw, a wonderful day on the recreational island of Sentosa, including real tropical beach time!) I went to see a doctor this morning. He gave me antibiotic and anti-inflammatory pills and a cream, which are already starting to work. I can move much more easily now, which was very nice today at the Singapore Zoo, although the ankle still looks quite bad. I keep it bandaged most of the time, to stabilize, and will try not to walk too much on my last day here tomorrow… Promise! 🙂