ben griffiths
an insight into the mind of a genius

Posts Tagged ‘arashiyama’

Kyoto to now…

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

w00t! I’m back again. Been a while since my last update, the reason? Well, to be honest I’ve been incredibly busy as soon as i have some free time on the computer. Witout going into too much geeky details, i’ve been really pushing the FIAT Forum, working on both the site structure and design, as well as working on getting the search engines to take notice of it.

Have I finished? No, not yet :) But, most of it is done - now begins a waiting game as the engines find all the new content and hopefully give it a favourable ranking. My dream - to get the forums to appear within the first page of a google search if you type only the word “FIAT” in your search terms! :) Will I make it… i hope so, a lot of money has now been spent optimising everything … :eek:
Anyhow, enough of the “ottaku” stuff - let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

As I posted, we were going on a trip to Kyoto (almost 2 weeks ago now) - me, seiko, shiho and toshi. We were going to drive (i’m doing a recap here, bear with me!) and would be staying 3 nights. Things didn’t quite turn out like that, but it was an awesome weekend, as i will start to explain.

The journey began in Noborito, where I had to go after work to meet Toshi and pick up the hire car - a “Toyota Vitz” 1.3 and, shock horror, an automatic :( YUK!


Anyhow, I digress, we then drove the short distance to the station to pick up the girls, before quickly making a stopoff at Toshi’s house to pick up his clothes, before finally getting on the way (about 7pm).

Kyoto is about 340 miles or so from Tokyo, and we had an estimated drive time of 7 hours! Hence the reason both me and Toshi would be taking it in turns to do the driving.

The first 4 hours passed uneventfully enough, with Toshi doing all the driving until we got to a service station where we swapped over. Wooo… my first time driving in Japan :D On pulling out of the service station and onto the sliproad, I knew this certainly wasn’t going to be a power ride - the car took an age to accellerate (despite being brand new, just 70km on the clock!) - thus pulling into the main lane was a bit tricky to start with, but hey, we did it.

Then comes the speed issue - the speed limit in Japan is around 60mph - a tad slow. Now i know the limit in the UK is 70 right? But no one ever drives at this, especially not at 11pm at night - so keeping with Uk style, i kept taking it up to about 90 or so, much to the worry of Toshi who kept warning about police cars. Apparently they are really hot on speeding here (rumour has it that’s why so many sports cars are exported, because no one can drive them here…)

Come 1:30am or so, everyone was hungry - so we decided to head of the freeway and find a food joint. Using the in-car GPS, we were directed to a nearby “Gusto” where we ordered some pasta and pizza, before Shiho’s friend Nana (who lived nearby) came and joined us.

It turned out that we wouldn’t be staying in Kyoto that night, but instead we were still a few hours out, so would be going to this “good place just 5 minutes down the road”. So once our food was eaten, we set off following Nana’s car. Well, 5 minutes soon turned to 10, then 20, then 30 (driving the opposite direction to Kyoto) until finally, the car turned off the main road and we headed into “Kenko Land”.


But… erm, what was this place? It was described to me - a place with loads of public paths, sauna etc, then a big room where everyone slept… erm… wtf?! It was at this point I went into difficult mode (to my shame) and decided I would rather spend the night in the car. There was no way I was gonna share a bath, and then a room with a load of probable homo’s… haha :D
The girls all went in, leaving me outside with Toshi, who was trying to persuade me to come in. I really didn’t want to spend a night sleeping with loads of other people due to the difficulty I find it sleeping …. but, thinking about it, and realising I was being a bit of a brat - I decided to take the plunge.

On entering the place, you have to put your shoes in a locker, then proceed to the reception desk where you pay your 2,000yen and are then issued with a “bundle pack” - containing 2 towels and a pair of pyjamas. You then proceed through the relevant door (men or women) to the changing rooms. Then, you basically just put everything in the locker (read - all your clothes) and get ready for the hot baths.

Depending on how shy you are, you can either walk to the bath area covering yourself with a mini towel, or just wander there without a care in the world. On looking at the people using the towels though, they just looked so stupid, it just seemed better to be brave about it :D haha….

Ok, so I’ve kept talking about baths - but I don’t mean baths in the “home bath” style place. People who have been following this blog will know I hadn’t been to a hotspring before - so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Well basically, a massive room, full of different shape and size pools/jacuzzis. There’s even an “electric bath” which has a current running through a metal panel in the middle - of course, Toshi neglected to point this out and I just stepped right onto it :eek: My leg was then tensed up for the next 10 minutes or so … haha….

Also in the area are 2 saunas (with TV), turkish steam room, a shower section and a swimming pool. However, now, maybe it was just me…. but the pool was the only “bath” that wasn’t hot. In fact, it was freezing…. I don’t know about you guys, but a naked guy getting into a freezing cold pool, and then having to walk around naked again after…. think about it…. ;) haha…. needless to say, i didn’t go in that :)
After the pools were done (they closed at 4am) - it was time to get ready for bed. For everyone else in the complex, this meant getting into the regulation pyjamas. As appealing as this was, I thought it would be much more interesting to wear my “Dilbert” pyjamas, thus ensuring that if i hadn’t stood out before - i certainly did now… :D
One last thing to do before bed was to make a quick stop off at the milk machine (awwww) before heading up to the bedroom……

I say bedroom, but probably a better description would be the “Carnage room” - basically, imagine a room as big as.. hmmm… well say, our hillier road house from the front garden to the back garden in length, then about 4 houses wide. Now fill this room for the back 1/4 with reclining chairs (but very narrow) - the next half with weird bed matress things, before finally the front with just a free for all :eek:
It took us a few minutes of walking around to find somewhere to settle down, but eventually, it was done. However, have you ever tried to sleep when there are about a million other people snoring..? Indeed, I couldn’t either - nor could Toshi.

It turned out that neither could the girls (who were on the opposite side of the building in an identical room) so we all met in the center (where they have game machines, pachinko, massage machines and stuff) and just sat around talking (in Japanese :D) until Seiko (who *had* actually managed to sleep) woke up around 6am and we could get dressed and get back on our way.

So little closing note on that - in the end, the place was fantastic, it would be a really cool place to go for the evening, hang out for a bit (there was an alcohol machine) then just head back in the morning when first train starts. Apparently, there is a Kenko Land near Shinjuku, so maybe if someone will come with me, I’ll go again.

Out in the car park - we said a fond farewell to Nana (who had a birthday party in the evening so had to get home to sleep) and with me now taking over the driving, we set off on our way. Kyoto was a good hour or so from our current destination, so we wanted to get some good speed on…… To start with Shiho stayed up to talk with us, but after an hour, even she couldn’t take the lack of sleep and disappeared back into the back.

Toshi and myself were also quite hungry, so we pulled into a McDonalds enroute, which also gave us the perfect opportunity to snap this photo ….. yes, they were both fast asleep :eek:

The hotel didn’t allow check in until 6pm, so as much as I wanted to go to sleep, this wasn’t going to be an option - and instead we were to go off sightseeing…. oh joy… haha…

First stop was Inariginja, which in my opinion had way too many steps to get to the main bit, but was pleasent enough.


After looking around here for an hour or so, it was back to the car (sleep! yes!! NOOOO!!!) and a 20 minute drive off to the “Ryaonji Temple”. It was a shame I was so tired, as as nice as they were, all I could think about was sitting down and going to sleep. Ah well.. check out the photo gallery for the pics :)
Once here was done, our final stop was “Arasiyama” where I was promised there was something “special”, though no one would say what it was. The area itself was really beautiful, a huge river which was shallow enough to paddle across (but about the width of a football pitch) and LOADS of people.

We were walking down the street when suddenly a rickshaw ambles past. I look up, then have to make a double take, sitting in it is one of my Nova students!!! So I stop him and he is just as shocked to see me…. who would have thought it :) The rickshaw driver didn’t seem to like the hold up though, and started getting aggitated, so I let them go… small world… lollage…

We headed out over the bridge and towards a big mountain (great, climbing a mountain when you’ve had no sleep) - however the sign at the bottom looked quite interesting…


Yes! This was Monkey Mountain :D

You start at the bottom of the mountain, then follow the path up (takes about 20 minutes) until you finally reach the observation point at the top - and are greeted with the following view:


But of course, that’s not the reason you climbed the mountain - oh no… also up here on the observation platform and loads and loads of monkeys! Just running around with the people, not in cages or anything. Stupidly I didn’t take a photo of the top area, so can’t show you. But just imagine chaos with monkeys everywhere :)
You aren’t allowed to feed them on the deck itself, but have to go into the feeding hut. This is so they stay trained knowing they only get food from the hut, so don’t start going after people - you buy bananas and nuts and stuff in there for very cheap.

So without further ado, please say hello …. to the monkeys :D

Suuuugoooooi!!! :D
On heading back down the other side of the mountain after, we even spotted this very strange and rare monkey playing on the swings….. but couldn’t find mention of it in an of the guidebooks ;)

I wonder where it came from???

By the time we got back to the car, it was about 5pm and I was shattered. I was also slightly worried as I had planned to meet up with Yuuka and Haruka later on in Osaka for a nights clubbing so REALLY needed to get some shuteye.

The hotel itself was a little tricky to find as it was tucked down a small backstreet and the GPS didn’t do the best job - but eventually we got there and checked in, before being shown up to our room. Which was, quite possibly one of the largest hotel rooms I have ever seen - but with absolutely nothing in it! :D Just a tatami floor which spanned a good 6m x 3m, oh wait, there was a table in the middle - but that was it!

Everyone was talking about going out and getting food, but I was now just TOOOOOOO tired, so pulled out one of the futons from the cupboard and went to sleep…… ahhh…. sleeeppp :)
I woke up at about 10:30 to the noise of everyone coming back (they had apparently eaten a fantastic dinner… all you can eat meat…. bah!) and on checking my phone, had a message from Yuuka and Haruka asking where I was. I had actually intended to just skip it and stay sleeping, but, seeing as I was now awake - I decided (much to the amazement of everyone else - they thought i was mad) to make the hour or so journey over to Osaka to join them.

After being drawn a rough map, and picking up a bottle of umeshuu from the convenience store (well, it was an hour on a train) - I set off across the countryside (on a train of course).

True to the word of the website, I arrived exactly on time and after getting brief directions to the “rough area” of the club, I set out into the night and the city of Osaka. After walking for about 10 minutes, I soon realised I should have probably got some more concrete directions, as in reality, this club could be anywhere…. doh!

I decided to go to the busiest intersection I could see and ask someone - a friendly looking couple who just happened to be walking past. They weren’t sure where the club was, but tried their best, even trying to search it on their phone. Alas, to no avail….. it was just then that I happened to glance over the road to be greeted by a big white “Club Karama” signboard…. ahh, so it would be there then :D lol…

The music inside sounded pretty good (nice and fast) and after paying my 3000yen entry (ouch!) i made my way into the “chill out room” to be instantly greeted by Yuuka and Haruka, hurrah! Two quickly became three, then four, until I was being introduced to everyone in there…. for my sins, I cannot remember everyones name - but, it was quite loud and besides, I had already drunk the bottle of umeshuu ;)

The night was absolutely fantastic, it completely blew away any night so far in Tokyo. The people were just so friendly and down to earth - not like the ridiculous fashion parades that go on in the Shibuya clubs, and none of the “meat market” rubbish that is Roppongi. Just 5 hours of awesome music, meeting new friends and having a great time.

One thing that supprised me slightly though was the cost, certainly not cheap, drinks were about 700yen and after the steep entry - this soon tallied up. Ah well, it was worth it - they even had a yakitori stand :D bonus!

Special mention should go to Masashi, a really cool guy - who was a great laugh, and we managed to have some pretty cool conversations… :D

Alas, all too soon it came to an end - and the journey back to Kyoto was calling me, so after saying goodbye to my new friends, Haruka walked with me back to the station - where, after arranging for me to come back the next month, we said our goodbyes and I tottered off back to the mainline platform.

I caught the train in good time, and settled back on one of the large “emergency seats” and put on my mp3 player - my plan was simple, get back to the hotel for about 7:30, get 2 hours of sleep, shower, then check out for 10am :eek:.

* BANG *

The sound of my player hitting the floor woke me up - hmm… i wonder how long i had been sleeping. Looking out the window, everything looked very nice - just countryside and fields…. hmmmm… i don’t remember any of this….


An anouncement came over the tanoy “Inae” …. hmm… I looked up at the train map, well, it certainly wasn’t before Kyoto…. I followed the map along… and along … and at the line split, i kept going…. DAH! I was about 17 stops past Kyoto…. doh! Great… so of course, off the train I got and scooted over to the other side just in time to catch the train waiting (not before taking a quick photo of course :))


By now, my phone battery had died - so I couldn’t mail or call anyone, as had my mp3 battery, so I had to sit out the return 1 HOUR journey in silence, trying desperately not to fall asleep again - which I managed… w00t!

This did however mean i arrived back at the hotel at…. 9:50!!! So just in time for a quick explanation of what happened, jump in the shower, brush teeth, and check out (after paying my 7000 yen) - so erm, 7000 yen for a 3 hour sleep and a shower - dammit! I would have been better off just staying in a love hotel in Osaka for a few hours, only would have cost 3000 yen…. nuts.

Anyway, so we are now up to Saturday and of course, everyone was nice and refreshed ready for another days sightseeing…. doh!

First stop was Tofukuji, which had some very nice garden displays and even a rare guest appearence from a multi coloured lizard…


There was also quite an amazing view of one of the shrines in the hills, though we didn’t actually get to go to it.


That done, we then set off to probably the most famous temple in Kyoto - “Kinkakuji” - or the “Gold Temple” - so called for obvious reasons…. see if you can work it out :p

Near the exit of Kinkakuji was a little “Tea” area, which I just happened to browse into - and unbelieveably, another one of my Nova students was there!!! This was now getting too spooky…

I think by now, everyone had started to get a little fed up of temples (and besides it was lunch time) so we set off back to the car and into the Kyoto “city centre” (though that’s not a very good description) where shopping was bought and food was eaten. By now though, Seiko had started to feel unwell and wasn’t sure a car journey back would be too good for her - thus deciding to get the Bullet Train back - she just has too much money… pah!

This just left Toshi, Shiho and me to do the car journey back - however as we now weren’t in a rush, we decided to drive the longer route back so Shiho could see the sea…. so off we set. At around 10pm or so, we finally got there and were then able to drive along the coast a bit to look out the window. Unfortunately, being 10pm meant it was quite dark, so we couldn’t see too much, but at least we could say “we went there :)” …. now, i could sleep a bit…. :D
I woke up at about 8am or so inside a still car. Opening my eyes and looking around a bit, it seemed we were parked up in a service station car park, quite where, I wasn’t sure….

After a few minutes everyone else seemed to awake and Toshi explained that we were going to go home via “Hakone” (an area famous for outdoor hotsprings) - so an allround sightseeing trip then :)
I now took over the driving and off we set. After about an hour or so, we reached Hakone mountain (well that might not be it’s name, but it was the big mountain at Hakone…) which was incredibly steep. Even worse, the weather had now started to get attrocious, with visibility reduced to a few metres at most - which of course meant corners just kept popping up, requiring a sharp decrease in speed.

Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue - but due to the incredible rubbishness of our vehicle, combined with the automatic gearbox and the incredibly steep incline - everytime this happened, trying to get accelleration up again was incredibly difficult. So much so, that by the time we were only half way up the hill, we had a trail of about 20 cars behind us (rather bizarely you could see down, but not up…?) - and try as I might, the car just WOULD NOT go any faster…. pah! Manual transmission RULES :D
We had planned to get out at the top and look around, but the weather was just too bad, so unfortunately, we just continued down the other side and stopped off at a cafe a few miles further down the road.

The rest of the journey back was a pretty uneventful afair, though we did notice this slightly strange construction on the way…. Toshi reckons its part of a Jackie Chan car chase film set, where he jumps from one bridge to the other….. Shiho and myself are not so sure …. ;)

Blimey, that was one heck of a write up. And in reality, there’s still two weeks to go…. however, i’m not going to :p
Ah ok, well, basically - due to the whole trip costing so much, the 2 weeks since have been pretty quiet as i needed to save until i got paid again last Monday. Seiko was also pretty sick from over working, so the weekend after was a non starter.

This weekend gone however was a bit different - I had to work the Sunday to cover the shift swap for the Kyoto trip, which meant Friday night was my only night out. Come friday I actually felt awful, but really didn’t want to waste this opportunity, so agreed to meet Seiko at 12:30 in Roppongi.

She finally turned up at around 12:45 - so I passed the time before by chatting with one of the local prostitutes… lol… She even said she’d give me a discount for being so friendly, but I felt it only appropriate to politely refuse :D
So, Roppongi on a night out. The usual then - Hub first… but, meh, this wasn’t so much fun. Instead it was decided we would head to the convenience store, purchase some alcohol then go and sit in the little park drinking it. This would save us money from not needing to keep paying for club drinks, and also firmly establish ourselves as “cheap ass pickeys” :)
Remembering the success Nesa and I had had the few weeks previous with the vodka and orange, it was decided to repeat the excercise, just with more vodka this time. So a 2 litre bottle of orange juice was purchased, along with a 500ml bottle of vodka - total cost £4.50! We then proceeded to the park, tipped out a quarter of the orange and replaced with the vodka …. voila …. instant drunkeness … hurrah!

Of course, once you drink 2 litres of vodka and orange, you generally need to get rid of it again - and sure enough, Seiko was now desperate for the loo, so we shot off to Donkihoutei which has “the nicest public toilets in Roppongi” - fair enough.

Whilst I was waiting outside for Seiko’s return - who should I spot, but the bartender of Maxim. (see old photo below)


On going over to say hello, he explained that there was a special offer on tonite as the club was renaming, and that we should come along. He also said a load more, but I didn’t understand a word of it … (but of course in true foreigner style, i kept saying “ah, i understand” after everything …. hehe)

So it was settled, as soon as Seiko returned, we headed off to Maxim which was (as he had said) 2000 yen to get in, but with 3 drinks, and every drink 500 yen after this. As per usual for one of mine and Seiko’s nights, memory is now hazy… so much so, infact i can’t remember anything…. blimey…

I just remember ending up at Matsuya later on (because first kitchen was closed) and then bundling Seiko into a taxi for her to go to work… (which she later fell asleep at, and had to stay 3 hours extra to make up for it….)

W000000000t!!! Finally back up to now…. so what else do i have to say.

Well, jumping back slightly to Osaka. On returning, I realised I missed it so much, the music scene is so much better and I feel the people are so much more friendly. As I said, I have booked a holiday to go there again on the 22nd of June - but more than that, if I decide to stay in Japan any extra time (and can get the visa) I will be transferring to an Osaka branch of Nova (I’ve already looked into it, and they say it’s fine!) - I just feel (although it was a short time there) that everything would be so much more fun for me there - I would have the benefit of the great music (for which I miss London) and loads of friendly Japanese people… which means… LOADS OF JAPANESE SPOKEN!!!

BUT… on the other side, Yuuka has now moved to England for one year, so I would like to be able to spend time in London with her and see more of Etsuko (who will also return some time soon) - but flip again, and Haruka is moving to Thailand next June… so I wanna see her….. argh?!?! too complicated.

I’ve also been speaking to Ruks and Lawrence about moving out (along with one Jap person so i can keep practising - maybe Etsuko) somewhere in London. Again, this would be fantastic as they would be awesome flat mates….

As it stands, nothing can be done without a visa anyway - so I’ll see if i get it, but not try too hard for it… then i can put it down to fate - if i get it, i stay, and it was meant to be….

I have a few more thoughts running around in my head which i want to get down, but i have to get up early tomorrow (before 11:30am!?!?! :eek:) so get my hair cut, so i better let it be here…. hopefully this latest incarnation has been interesting - and i just apologise for the poor spelling as i know there’s loads of mistakes - but…. well, i’m always writing this really late at night and I’M TIRED RIGHT :p
Matte ne!