Thursday, March 29, 2012

A day in Kobe

So, tomorrow I'll be heading out west, through Hiroshima and Miyajima, to Fukuoka. To make this trip affordable, I bought a JR seishun 18 ticket, which allows the holder unlimited travel on JR lines for five days, or five travellers for one day, or a combination thereof. The ticket has five spaces for stamps, and one stamp allows one person to travel for the date on that stamp. It costs 11500 yen (about AUD 130) and can definitely save you money if you've got the time.

Anyway, I realised that, with my plans, I had a spare stamp space left on my ticket. So I decided to head in to Kobe, and visit the places I hadn't been to yet. The beauty of this ticket is the ease by which you can just hop on and off trains, where you'd otherwise have to buy a ticket for each leg.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Shamrocks and Sumo

So, the other week, we headed in to Osaka for the Grand Sumo Tournament, which is a 15-day event held every second month in Japan, but only once a year in Osaka. We went in on the 17th of March, which was also St Patrick's Day. The St Patrick's Day festival wasn't as big as Oktoberfest in Umeda, but people were still definitely getting into the spirit of it...

The final winner in the video was Hakuho, who is the Yokozuna (grand champion) and also not Japanese (he's Mongolian). It was interesting to see that there were a noticeable number of European and Mongolian wrestlers, and encouraging to see that, at least here, there is a substantial level of internationalisation in what is one of Japan's most traditional and pure traditions.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A weekend in Nagano

On the weekend, we travelled to Nagano Prefecture - famous for its snow resorts and the 1998 Winter Olympics, amongst other things. It was also, for me, the first time outside the Kansai region (other than my first day in Japan). We met the bus in Osaka at 11pm on Friday night...

It was my first time snowboarding. As you can see, I was far from being the embodiment of grace, poise and timing, but I did manage to stay balanced for a sustained period of time. I almost made it all the way down the slope without falling off. Almost.

And then, on Sunday, we travelled to Jigokudani Park to see the famous Japanese Snow Monkeys. These are amazing creatures, who live in the mountains and come down to the valley during the day to feed and bathe in the hot springs. I was amazed at how close we could get to them, without causing any distress or alarm. They were generally indifferent - possibly due to the knowledge that, if they wanted to, they could re-enact certain scenes from Rise of the Planet of the Apes. They were certainly big enough, and had the numbers...

Then, it was back on the bus at 2pm. We arrived at Kishi at 11:30pm. Despite it being a long trip, and the fact that every muscle in my body is sore from snowboarding, this weekend has definitely been a highlight of my time in Japan.