I took almost 400 photos over the course of the five weeks – visit my photo album to see all of them!
As I'm trying to find my footing here again, I've played around with something: Before I left, I created a 'good stuff' playlist – just random songs (74 of them) I enjoyed, some new, some old.
I actually didn't listen to as much music on this trip as I normally do, mainly because in Japan as a rule there's always a certain level of background noise, but a number of the songs did come to mean quite a lot to me, and I'll probably always connect them to this journey from now on. I thought I'd share this 'ultimate' playlist with you, including some words why I chose these songs. Hope you like it!
Japan 2005 – a travel soundtrack
1. Kaze Wo Atsumete – Happy End (From 'Lost in Translation', a movie that describes my experiences quite well.)
2. 99 Luftballons – Nena (German 80s hit song – first song I ever sang in a karaoke box!)
3. You're Beautiful – James Blunt (My current goosebump song.)
4. The Blood of Cu Chulainn – Jeff & Michael Danna (From the 'Boondock Saints' soundtrack, a song that never fails to make my mind travel.)
5. One Line – P.J. Harvey (Very intense – it has come to be my ultimate 'Professionals' song and I would kill for a fanvid using it…)
6. Und wenn ein Lied – Söhne Mannheims (Not normally my music, this song reminds me of
7. Under the Milky Way Tonight – The Church (This was my New Zealand song, even before I knew that The Church are a kiwi band.)
8. Die Katze – Annett Louisan (One of the songs I sang to myself when I was walking in the mountains, although the voice of the singer takes a bit of getting used to.)
9. Jerk It Out – Caesar's Palace (The iPod song – I might have danced to it out in a field, when no one was watching. *g*)
10. I schänke dir mis Härz – ZüriWest (I felt the need for music in my own language sometimes, and this is an all-time favorite.)
11. The Blower's Daughter – Damien Rice (Another goosebump song, for some reason I keep forgetting how beautiful it is.)
12. When Doves Cry – Ginuwine (After Baz Luhrman's 'Romeo & Juliet' I just adored this song – for this trip, I dug it out again.)
13. Sitting Waiting Wishing – Jack Johnson (Jack Johnson makes excellent travel music – and this song reminds me of the hours I spent waiting for connecting trains… *g*)
14. Your Song – Keane (I think
15. Good Life – Leslie Mills (Discovered this song a couple of years ago through a website that used the phrase 'raspberry sun' – I just love the lyrics, they're so me.)
16. W. Nuss vo Bümpliz – Patent Ochsner (Another Swiss German song that's been a favorite of mine for years.)
17. Ice Cream – Sarah McLachlan (Heard this song on 'Felicity' one time, loved that it mentioned chocolate – and it led me to discover Sarah McLachlan.)
18. Universe – Savage Garden (Will always remind me of a certain special morning in Southampton when I was 17 – one of the few songs that I find truly sexy.)
19. A Sorta Fairytale – Tori Amos (Probably my favorite Tori song.)
20. Almost Human – Voltaire (A chance discovery, this just speaks to me.)
21. Heimweh – Plüsch (This song is called 'homesick', and I listened to it whenever I missed home or felt lost in this strange country – it always cheered me up, strangely enough.)
Today is my last day in Japan – tomorrow will be spent traveling, and Monday morning I'll arrive in Switzerland. Because my plane will arrive early no train from Basel gets to the airport in time, so I'll have to make my own way home, sadly enough… But enough of this, as I'll have six hours in Singapore tomorrow evening, part of which I'll probably spent online. (Also, I mastered the apostrophe on this keyboard, yay!)
In my last post I was talking about going to Nikko, wasn't I? That was really lovely, and we even had time to drive over to a very impressive waterfall in the mountains. Back in Tokyo in the evening, I quickly checked into the other youth hostel and was then taken to the Katayama family's home, where a wonderful feast was waiting for us three travellers. It was incredible, with an amazing number of dishes, one better than the other – and they had even baked a cake for me, which said 'Welcome Eva!' I did feel a bit self-conscious, though, because apparently my chattiness is quite unusual for Japanese standards, as Mr. Katayama pointed out to me – several times… 😉
But anyway, I don't think anyone's ever done anything like this for me before and can't thank the Katayamas enough for their hospitality.
Yesterday I met up with Mie again (who might be reading this!*waves*) and we went all over Tokyo looking at shops and stores. You wouldn't believe some of the things you can buy here! (Amy – we went to a Chinese place for lunch, because they had chive dumplings like the one we ate in Bugis that day…) Among lots of glitter, impractical winter clothing and fake fur, I found a beautiful skirt (which I'm wearing right now) and some other bits and pieces, including several goodies from 'Snoopy World', where I felt right at home, of course. *g* I wasn't succesful in my quest for a nice pair of boots, but that's okay – I just have to accept that my taste isn't the fashion right now… In any case, I had a lovely time with Mie and ended the day on the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, looking out over Tokyo by night.
Today I'm meeting Nozomi and her friend Yoko (who I already met at the dinner on Thursday) and we'll go to one of the karaoke places. Definitely looking forward to that, as Sabine hooked me on this Japanese pastime back in Kumamoto… *g* I then plan on getting a last taste of Japanese culture by going to the National Museum, which is supposed to be really good.
Well, I didn't mean to go on like this, but it just happened, as it does… Guess I'll talk to you guys soon – take care of yourselves! *hugs*
Slowly but surely it is getting to the point where I have to count the hours I have left to spend in Japan… On Tuesday, after traveling all day, I was picked up by two friendly young ladies, Nozomi and Mie (who is half-Swiss French) at Tokyo station, who brought me safely to my hostel and spoke excellent English, much to my relief!
Wednesday I then spent sightseeing – gardens, shrines, the impressive financial district and the Imperial Palace (from the outside, at least). Yesterday Nozomis father (sorry, cant find the apostrophe on this keyboard) drove Mie and me to Nikko, where we saw some impressive temples situated in beautiful big forests.
Okay, time is up – more tomorrow!
Had a lovely relaxing time in Sounkyo (although the weather didn't always cooperate and the famous gorge was partly closed due to rockslides) and the farming village of Bibaushi, where I rambled over the fields and stayed up late (until almost 11pm! *g*) chatting with a nice bloke from Amsterdam.
Only back here in familiar Sapporo for one night, as tomorrow it'll be ten hours on three different trains to get down to Tokyo, for the last part of my trip. In one week I'll be back home! But right now I'm still enjoying myself in Hokkaido – and tonight I'll be sleeping in one of those (in)famous capsule hotels! I'm curious to see how it is and hope I won't get claustrophobic. The hotel also happens to be a spa, but since I have a tattoo (how shocking!) I'm actually not allowed to use it. A girl at the tourist information (where of course I am typing this entry) explained to me that this rule goes back to members of the Japanese mafia having tattoos. I guess I'll just dash in later tonight for a quick dip (since I'm still not tired of the pleasures of Japanese baths) and hope I won't get in trouble… *
It's only 6.15 now but already pitch dark. I don't think I'll ever get used to this. I'll be heading in the direction of the hotel now (situated in the 'red-light' district of Sapporo), grabbing something to eat and provisions for tomorrow on the way. I'll be talking to you again from Tokyo, I'm sure.
In the mountains
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…
The lost day
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…
The good, the bad & the ugly
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＊
Using the opportunity
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.