ben griffiths
an insight into the mind of a genius

Posts Tagged ‘osaka’

5 weeks of my life lost

Sunday, July 9th, 2006

I’ve been getting bugged to update this - and now I must be 5 weeks behind. Writing a complete run down will be impossible. So let’s just do a summary….

Week one - went to Roppongi (see slight update below)
Week two - went to Disneyland with Keiko
Week three - went to Osaka to see Haruka
Week four - took Keiko for her first trip to Roppongi

Below is a run down of week one.

Welcome to the weekly update :) Yes, another week has passed, and once again there are many things to say, been quite eventful (and expensive) the week just gone, but all in the name of fun - so no worries :)
First up, say hello to my new language exchange friend - Keiko, as per usual, her english is pretty good - but not so fantastic enough that I feel too shy to use Japanese. She does always reply in English though, so whilst I get to practise speaking, my listening isn’t really going to hot up too much.

We met up on Friday after work and went to an izakaya in Shimokitazawa, where basically we just talked and drank until about 12:30 when it was time for her last train (don’t get me started on the transport system again :D)

I got home at about 1:30am or so, and after doing a little bit of company work, went to bed. Only to be woken at about 4am by Takashi (Seiko’s guy from last week) calling. I wasn’t in the mood to answer (nor do I think I could have, he didn’t speak English) so ignored it. A few minutes later, it rang again, and then again and again….! Eventually I just turned it off - come the morning, I spoke to Seiko and he had indeed been ringing her too, then calling me when he couldn’t get through.

Nor does the story end there - throughout Saturday we combined received a total of 37 more calls!?! By now, Seiko had of course decided she definately didn’t want to see him again (duh!)

Dinner time arrived and we headed to Shibuya to grab a curry at the *good* Indian curry place (making sure we didn’t overstuff outselves as we had last christmas) before doing the usual of jumping into a taxi (yes, trains are no good for us anymore :D) and heading off to Roppongi.

Now I know every week, we post we are bored of doing the same old things over and over, and of course this weekend was no exception. So we actually decided to do something about it! Shock horror! Whilst looking up and down the street, a sudden inspiration came to me…. why not go to TGI Fridays, but just sit in the bar?? Of course, this would normally be an expensive night out, but wait!!! We are in Roppongi where the drinks cost more in the normal bars anyway…

So wait a minute, we can sit in a top quality bar, decent music, awesome cocktails AND yummy food - for CHEAPER than going to a a trashy r’bar….. just WHAT HAVE WE BEEN DOING FOR THE LAST YEAR?!?! haha…. it will therefore come as no suprise to you that a few minutes later, we were perched on some bar stools watching bar tenders juggle bottles, spin cocktail shakers and generally having a great time. :)
Of course, the night could not go perfectly - and there was a slightly dicey moment when Takashi appeared outside and sat down outside the window on his phone! Should he have turned his head, Seiko would probably have been in a little bit of trouble :D But after we stared the opposite way for a few minutes until he had finished his call - he eventually left :D
………. DOH!

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!

Ben and Helen do Kyoto!!

Friday, April 21st, 2006

I awoke at about 6am or so, to be greeted by the site of Kyoto.. w00t! Except of course Haruka had arranged to meet us at 7, so it seemed like quite a bit of waiting around would be in order. The bus stopped just outside the station and we stepped out into what can only be described as EXTREME COLD with strong as winds…

We therefore headed into the station to shelter for a bit and await the arrival of Haruka.

Maybe an hour and 45 later (go Haruka! ;)) she finally arrived and it was time to go back to her house…

…. except she couldn’t seem to work out how to get there!?!?

Lol… after spinning around and around a few times, she finally decided on a route and we headed up through the station to a different train line platform. But it was all not all done, as again she seemed a little lost and we had to walk up and down a few platforms until we were finally on the right one :D
The train journey to Haruka’s stop (Makino) took about 30 minutes (it’s about half way between Kyoto and Osaka) but took us out of the city background and allowed us to see some countryside. This was awesome as I am kinda sick up of the “buildupness” of Tokyo and this made a great change - oh how I wish I lived out here instead… ah well…

Makino itself was even better, the station has a massive bowling alley situated next to it, along with a 24 hour Karaoke centre and a McDonalds (so basically everything you need for a night out) - a small shopping arcade just over the street (so you can buy all you need) - but apart from, NOTHING…. so cool! Just mountains in view, and little houses….

After walking about 10/15 minutes from the station, we finally got to Haruka’s place (or room I should say…)

Here you go, welcome to the Home Of Haruka :)

Do come into the front room and say Hello!! w00t!


Again, as with the area, her place is also pretty awesome! It’s certainly not the biggest of abodes, but has everything you need. Kitchen area, shower room, toilet, then the main room (as seen in the pictures) which is both the front room and bedroom. Oh and the rent, about £200 a month!!! (our place is £1300 or so!!) - let me tell you, I was so jealous!!

We were then very kindly cooked breakfast (Yaki Udon) before settling down in various places on the floor to get to sleep (except Helen who had taken a turn for the worse, so had had Haruka’s bed donated to her). It must have been about 12/1 or so, when I was woken by Haruka leaving to go to her part time job - leaving a map and some keys so we could get out.

A few hours later, we were finally ready to head out, with first job being to find an ATM. No mean feat in England, but as I’ve been ranting over the last year - out here, can be kinda tricky. After looking around the local area for a good 20 minutes, we finally found the Post Office and Helen was able to draw some cash (I couldn’t as my card didn’t work there) and we could start out on our journey.

The train took about 30 minutes to deliver us to “Shijo” - a place I remembered well as it was were Justin and I had gone before (in fact, I remembered lots of places due to having gone there before, I suspect Helen got quite sick of me going “ah I went here with Justin”… lol). Here I was able to go in an AM:PM and get some cash out, before we started off on our little tour of Kyoto.

Admittedly we didn’t see so much, as it was a bit late and things were starting to close (all the temples and what not generally shut up shop around 4/5ish) however we didn’t miss everything…


Timing a little off now, but I think at around 8 o’clock or so (from within the coffee shop “Dotour”) we sorted out the nights plan, to head away from Kyoto to Osaka (and Shinsaibashi) were we would meet up with Haruka and head off on the night out.

We arrived there in good time, and headed directly to Helen’s new favourite haunt - Starbucks :) Where we waited for Haruka to show… and waited… and waited some more, before finally she turned up (though she did seem quite apologetic) and whisked us away to a nearby izakaya where her friend worked.

Once in, we were introduced to “Yuuka” who worked in the bar just part time, in order to save up some money so she can come to England in July! She’s pretty hot too…. maybe coming home in August isn’t such a bad idea…. haha … lol…

She had to carry on working for the first few hours, so in the meantime we ordered some food and drinks (of which only the food got put through the computer ;)) - including a HUGE bowl of sake for Helen (which unbelieveably she DIDN’T manage to finish :eek:)


Once Yuuka had finished work, she then joined us at the table, where we chatted for an hour or so (or at least everyone tried to, but more on that later…) until it was time to go. The girls wanted to go to a Drum n Bass event, though it was pretty obvious this would be a bad idea for Helen - so they were “persuaded” against this, and instead we headed down the street to another bar (run by another one of Haruka’s friends) - this wasn’t however, before the manager of Yuuka’s restaurant gave us a discount on the (already “incorrect”) bill …. w00t!

The next place was an “American Style” diner, which meant nice comfy seats - and again, cheap drinks.

Now the fun and games began … ;)
Of course naturally everyone would sit and chat in a bar. This was fine for me as my Japanese seemed to have suddenly accelerated itself and I could actually hold a conversation, meaning I was able to speak in pretty much straight English. This wasn’t such a good thing for Helen though (obviously) - so the girls did their best to talk in English…

However, it seemed accents caused quite a few problems (much to my amusement, sorry Helen)

It would go like this:

Yuuka or Haruka would ask Helen a question in English.
Helen wouldn’t understand, so it would be repeated a few times.
Finally, after it looked like someone was going to punch someone else, I would repeat it for her.
Helen would then reply (in pretty basic English)
But then neither Yuuka or Haruka would understand.
So I would then have to repeat in Japanese (or in my super dumb English Accent)

It was just bizarre, but highly amusing (well for me at least).

It reminded me of the time Haruka stayed over at Jamie’s the first time she visited, the conversation went like this.

Jamie: What airline are you going back on?
Haruka: ?
Jamie: Airline…
Haruka: ?
Jamie: A-I-R-L-I-N-E
Haruka: ?
Me: Airline
Haruka: Ahh… JAL…

I can only think that due to all the Japanese I have spent time with (both here and in England before) and the fact I have had to practise kindergarden for so long, I can now natually speak on an easy level….. for anyone else involved though, it does seem to be quite frustrating.

We must have stayed at the bar until about 3 or 4am (in which time, I got in like SOOOO much J-practise, it was awesome) until Haruka got a call from her boyfriend to say he was outside and would be able to give us a lift back to the house.

We therefore trekked outside and across the street, to be greeted by the site of what must be one of the smallest cars to ever exist, complete with boyfriend and best mate already inside (and then the four of us) - there was only one option, and that was to go for a complete squeeze. I really wish I had a photo of the car, as it’s quite hard to appreciate just how small the thing was, but suffice to say - there was some serious bone crushing action going on in the back for the hour or it took to get to the first drop off point where Yuuka and then Haruka’s boyfriend’s (Shuuhi) mate… so finally there was room to breath :)
Haruka’s house was another hour or so drive from Yuuka’s, which left me and Helen wondering where everyone was intending to stay… this became apparent on the arrival home, when extra futons were put out, and it became obvious we were all going to share the single room :eek: - to their credit, we did get given the bed, meaning Haruka and Shuuhi had the floor - but it was still very tight and I had to really watch I didn’t roll to the left and end up on top of him!! :D
Sleep was difficult, due to the massive heat (the aircon was left on) and apparently I then stole all the blankets… sorry!

The next day was another late start, with Haruka once again dissapearing off to work, leaving us with Shuuhi who then gave us a lift to the station when we were all up and dressed - in time for us to catch the express back into town.

Once there, we attempted to get a bit more done this time and headed directly for the guidebook trail.


We then walked along through the park until we reached one of the major temple tourist attractions… which of course was closed… doh!

Luckily, Helen wasn’t in the mood to waste time, so we kept on going until we found the “old town”, steep streets full of traditional shops (which looked so cool) before finally reaching the top of the hill and finding a massive shrine area. We had to be quick as we only had 15 minutes until it closed, so we rushed around it as best we could…


Not too much to tell here really, I guess you need more photos to really appreciate the place, so you are going to have to take my word for it that it was nice… but it was :)
For the evening entertainment, a night club again didn’t seem like such a good idea (due to the having to stay out until 5) so it was instead decided to go to the local Karaoke rooms near Haruka’s house. (where we were joined by Shuuhi) … not before first going to the convenience store to smuggle in some drinks ;)

I did have some photos of Helen, but she took the camera when I was in the toilet and then deleted them :(
We must have left karaoke at about 4:08am (that time sticks in my head) - paid our bills, then headed back home - where me and Shuuhi got into a bit of an animated conversation, until rolling eyes from Haruka and Helen made it clear we were to shut up so everyone could go to bed :D
Sunday and our final day, Kyoto wasn’t on the menu - and instead we were going to visit “Nara” - very famous for a large temple and also having a park full of deer. We were in a bit of a rush as it closed at 5, however left at around 2, leaving us plenty of time….

Or not….

The place was absolutely MILES away involving a drive over what can only be described as one of the largest and steepest hills in the world (so steep infact, it seemed on quite a few occassions that the car just wouldn’t make it over!!)


Finally, at about 5:20 (yup…) we arrived to be of course greeted by the main buildings being closed… we were however, able to browse the grounds and run after numerous deer… :D

All was not complete doom and gloom though, as upon asking a local guard, we were directed up a hill towards the “observation point” - high up and overlooking everything… even better, we got there just in time for the sunset… finally, something is going our way :D

Of course, this good luck wouldnt’ be complete without something going wrong, so it was at that point, as we peacefully looked over the setting sun, that I got a text message from England letting me know the database server was down…. great…. this then shattered all peacefullness, and now all I could worry about what “why”….

I tried my best to push it out my mind (though not very successfully) and we then headed back to Osaka to buy bus tickets, get some dinner, and, go to an internet cafe to see what was going on.

Our last meal with our friends was an okonomiyaki restaurant, where instead of doing a “mix up”, just bought one each. Whilst this was good, i think it’s nicer to get a mixture, so will go the share route again next time.

We then browsed a few UFO catcher shops, before I popped into an internet cafe for about 20 minutes to sort out some company work…

Alas, all too soon it was time to get the bus :( It was therefore sadly that we queued up in the bus line to get back on (I so wanted to stay) and said a fond farewell to the Kyoto’ers who had looked after us so well over the weekend… before finally climbing aboard (to a now full packed) nightbus, settling down, and starting the journey back….

BENS RAMBLINGS: I just wanted to make some memory notes here, and just to say a few things.

I just remembered back in 2004, when I first got in contact with Haruka and asked if she wanted to come over a stay - everyone thought I was mad, having some stranger Japanese girl over. But, back then we had a great time. Indeed again in 2005 when she came over with Nagisa (thanks Mum + Dad) - again, people were a bit sceptical and were actually talking about “using” me…

But here, it’s all proved wrong! :p I think the kindness shown to us over the weekend, very much shows that there are some really nice people in the world and it was nice to know I have some good friends down South :D Of course, the invitation has been given for them to visit here in Tokyo, which I hope they will do sometime soon…. show them how we party in the capital :)
Will definately look into more homestays when back in the UK…. whenever that might be …. ;)


Monday, April 12th, 2004

Posted by Justin

The clubs in Osaka didn’t impress us and decided to hang out and at a restaurant for a few hours. The streets of Osaka were filled with ganguru boys in suits and a fair amount of modified cars. Did quite a bit of ‘picture book’ shopping (by request from the boys back home) and decided to head back to the capsule hotel at around 4am

Returned to the capsule hotel around 3am, fell asleep very comfortably but an hour later the boys from Leeds returned and probably woke up the whole floor. They weren’t drunk, just typical northerners. Loud, no consideration – damn pissing off.

Apparently their mate had pulled and there were only two of them.

Asshole1 - ‘WHAT A GREAT NIGHT’ blablabla
one of the guys went downstairs and got a video ticket

Asshole2 - ‘WE’VE GOT PORN’
Asshole1 - ‘YEA! WE GOT PORN’

The bastards then turned up their tv’s on full volume and proceeded with their entertainment.

Asshole1 ‘THIS IS GREAT’

Disgusting, how can you and your mate do that simultaneously and next to each other. Eugh. The funny thing was that they were opposite Ben. Their canvas door was open so Ben could see them. Poor ben

I was so tired, I just kept waking up and falling asleep again, Ben said he was up all night! His personal description of the event was quite horrifying. Aparently he could see the silhouette of one of the guys (being directly opposite his pod)

I got up at 9am after only a few hours of sleep, Ben noticed Asshole1 had left his keys outside his pod. Couldn’t resist opening the guy’s locker and behold, a digital camera, wallet and all his clothes.

Since we have a conscience and would never steel, the contemplation was whether to:
1/fill up the locker with shampoo
2/clean the toilet with the guys toothbrush and record the process on his camera
3/hide his clothes
4/tear up all his cash into hundreds of tiny pieces

looking back now — we feel we could have done better!

Well for the rest of the day we walked though street malls that stretched for miles. I’m afraid to say, that Osaka is minge town - try as we might we did not find any talent. In particular, the japs in Osaka are deceiving. They’ll dress up very nicely and drawing attention away from the face. Long distance/short distance syndrome – hopefully Blanco will describe in more detail

Headed back to Tokyo at around 5:30am to be in time for CODE in Shijuku.

The (sadly) unforgetable experience

Monday, April 12th, 2004

Where were we last…. Ah yes, in the internet café about to go to out in Osaka. Well we did, but there were only very sinister (well I thought so) Hip Hop clubs, so instead we spent a good few hours in a restaurant instead.

If there’s one thing bad we have done with this holiday, its use the nights to their full potential. But I am not too impressed with the nightlife here, it seems to be nightclub or nothing. Would love to just go to a local pub and sit with a drink, rather than be hustled into some expensive (for here) bar.

So yeah, we went back to the capsule hotel (and found it! Go us!) by about 3 I think, to get some much needed sleep for our 9:30am wakeup.

It was so nice and peaceful, nothing to bother us… however in the next capsule, Justin had decided he wanted to look through the photos of the day… So beep, beep, beep, beep (every photo change, argh!) – this didn’t go on for too long though, and it went silent again….. until he decided to read his new books, which were all in bags wrapped in cellophane….. lol… I didn’t want to say anything, so just tried to sleep… and eventually I did :)

Until about 4am that is, when the guys from Leeds came back.. (mum you may want to skip this next part…)

They had obviously had a good night as they wouldn’t shut up about it, and made no attempt whatsoever to be quiet. Not even the stupid drunken whispers, just full on shouting across the capsules. This went on for about 20 minutes until they decided they wanted to watch some porn… but couldn’t get it working, so one of the monkeys was sent downstairs to get the keycard, which he did and proclaimed this to the whole hotel that it only cost him 1000yen… woopie fucking do! Ok, so not thinking it can get much worse… when they start to discuss how much they want a wank…. Eek! No nononononononononono…. This is shouted loudly across the bay, until they work out how the stupid key card thing works and finally get the TV on. Silence again (kinda, tv quiet) then one of them turns it up… so now we got loud porn blaring across the room….. before finally…. the noises start…. I will say nothing more, however I am now traumatised and never ever want to speak of the matter again. Case Closed :(

Decided against showers the next day, figuring we could have them at night, so got up about 9:40 to be out the hotel and to go shopping in Osaka (in the massive mall, where Justin was sure to be wanting some clothes!) Cue many hours of shopping and walking around, including however a trip to the Sony Showroom Centre where we got to try out all the new gadgets, including the robot dog thing, which is imho a much better replacement for the real thing.

Had to get back to meet Chiakiy and Tdu, so made sure we caught the Bullet back from Shin-Osaka at around 5:30, getting us back to Tokyo for 8pm, just enough time to head home for a shower, clean up and back out to meet everyone (including Seiko) at Shinjuku station to go to Code (supposedly one of the greatest Tokyo clubs, playing hard house and trance) – however when we got there, we found it closed at 1am (wtf?!?) and no one except me was willing to pay 3000yen for 3 hours.

This meant a trek back to the train station to head to the good old favourite Roppongi, to find something to do.. First eat though, where we went to the Tokyo Hard Rock Café (which had a live band playing at the time, and very good they were too!) and I was finally able to order large quantities of meat :) They had rather unfortunately run out of ribs, but could still do me a nice big chicken… hurrah!

Left there about 1, and went to a nearby bar. However Justin and crew weren’t too happy with it (and it was 1000yen a drink!!!) so we left shortly after entering to return to (and to J’s dismay) the Lex Club around the corner for all you can drink for only 2500.

It was really packed, a lot more than normally, especially with all the American Marines about, so not as much fun. We spent a lot of it sitting down in the sofa area by the dance floor, meaning we could get up and dance if we wanted to. We kept laughing at this old white haired guy who was going around checking everyone out, like dirty old man, until he came up to us and proclaimed that he was the owner of the club and if we didn’t stay away from Chiakiy, he would have her thrown out and call the police!!!

The jist of it was he would not believe she was not a young prositute!! (lol.. I guess that’s really rude, but quite funny when you look back) Something about too many marines here and it would all kick off… wtf?!?! Kinda put a dampener on the evening, until we sneaked away to the opposite side of the club where he didn’t seem to go. Phew.

If you look through the photos, you will see a really old guy… Haha that guy was funny, he must have been about 50 or so, but was properly drunk and really getting into the music, even trying his luck with some of the ladies. He took a liking to Chiakiy (who was horrified) so we spent 30 minutes or so dancing with him. He was properly mad, getting up on the stage and waving his arms about … hahahaha….

By this time, we had lost Seiko ages ago, and as we had to leave to get to the fish market, we needed to find her. However she was no-where to be found, and her friend was gone too. To make matters worse, all of Chiakiys stuff was in her locker, so we could not leave either until Seiko was found. We waited around for ages until her friend came back and asked us to come with her. I’ll leave that for Justin to tell, as I don’t know the full story…..

Home, sleep then oversleep and sleep some more (J had gone out sightseeing with Seiko by now, me stupid, just stay in bed) until I had to meet up with everyone later on in Roppongi to go to another club called Yellow. We paid our 3000 to get in before remembering we were supposed to have brought in some alcohol with us as its very expensive… a large sign on the door said no re-entry… so we thought we pretty much mucked that one up.

Luckily however, I was in my cunning plan mode, and taking Chiakiys phone, I stood next to the doorman, pretending I was on it, talking to my ‘friend’ who I still had his key for, and that I had to meet him at the station. This worked, so I was able to run to the Lawsons up the road to purchase some 300yen bottles of whiskey. On the way back, I got lost and had to ask directions. Not only did they 2 guys walk me back, one of them then gave me his demo cd!! I like the people here :)

Back inside the club, gave the whiskey to Justin who knocked it back in about 5 minutes… hahahaha…. We then had Chiakiy falling over saying she had drunk too much of it. After asking Justin why she was so drunk, he wasn’t sure as she had only had a tiny bit… lol… funny, she kept falling everywhere :)

I left the club early to go home, just not feeling right and then basically slept through until about 7 or so Sunday. Went with Chaikiy and Seiko (Justin stayed at home to revise) to go to a 24 hour family restaurant called Dennys ( where I had a lovely steak with the nicest bread roll you can ever have J I think Justin is glad he didn’t go as he would have been so disappointed!

This left me with nothing to do for a while, so I went into the arcades, managed to nab a Taito ashtray (cool!) and play my favourite game Final Fight :) For the first time ever I finished it, yay! I have photos to prove it :P and yes, I am the B in first place. I didn’t have time to put in my full name, but that B is me!!

Had to wake up early to go shopping this morning (Monday) so went to bed at a relatively good time……

Tired now, there is still Monday to write, but I am hoping J will fill everything in there, I’ll try to add a bit more tomorrow :)