ben griffiths
an insight into the mind of a genius

Posts Tagged ‘shinsaibashi’

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 …. ;)

Travelling across Japan on the train known only as “Bullet”!

Thursday, April 8th, 2004

Ok, we have done a lot since the last entry, travelled miles across Japan :) Am now sitting in an internet cafe in Osaka, but more about that later,

Despite getting up late on Wednesday, we were determined to get to Kyoto, so went off to Tokyo Central to get the Shinkansen (sp?) which is the Bullet Train to your normal people. Shock horror, it cost us 70quid each, one way, but we wanted to try it so coughed up :)

The train was so clean and smooth, i don’t know what a Eurostar is like, so can’t compare, but to normal British trains it woops their asses! Whole journey took just over 2 hours with no problems, we even managed to get off at the right stop.

When we got there though, we wondered why we had bothered, it was exactly the same as Tokyo, just a lot more cheap looking… to say we were upset is a bit of an understatement, we were distraught that it had cost so much, but were determined to make the most of it. To save ourselves some extra money, we decided not to bother with a hotel but to rough it instead, meaning we could go straight out.

Walked around for quite a bit until we decided we would catch a train to a station which looked like it was near some shops. Now, something you should be aware of here… there is JR Rail which is the overground and Subway (which is obviously underground) however the ticket machines look (sorta) similair so of course we bought the wrong one. We only realised this after we had then gone onto the JR platform, so headed back to the ticket office where we were actually given a refund!! (lets see that in england!) and told which ticket to buy.

Dont ask why, but we again bought (the same!!) JR ticket but this time went down to the subway. It of course didn’t work, and we were sent back up to get another refund (boy did we feel stupid!) before we could finally get our tickets! lol…

Sanjo was a lot different from the city part of Kyoto, with more bars and nice scenery (though still pretty city based) however it did make us feel a lot better. Went to an all you can drink for 1500yen and tried to make the most of it, but got turfed at 12 as everything shut!!?!?!

This of course left us with nothing to do but wander the streets and try to find somewhere to sleep. No mean feat when its freezing cold and pouring with rain! doh! After trying to sleep on a step to the metro, justin got fed up and insisted we had to move on….

Only place left open was a Karaoke bar, so we proceeded to sing the rest of the night away (and cheekily sit in the foyer for the final hour when we ran out of money :)) - Left there at about 5:30 to walk down the canal for about 6 miles and watched the sunrise :)

Wasn’t sure what else to do, so went back to the main Kyoto station to look around. Its a massive building, but we weren’t actually sure why… We saw an escalator, so got on it… then at the top was another one… and another… and another… it just kept goind up and up until we were on the roof. We don’t have a clue what the designer was on when he thought up this place, but boy did he have a good idea… The place is amazing, the most amazing piece of architechture you will ever see! I hope the photos will come out as it really is awesome to look at… if ever you go to japan, you MUST go to Kyoto just for the station if nothing else!!

We were absolutely knackered by now, but stil thought we must find the cultural but of Kyoto, as there must be more than just city… We jumped on a train to Higashiyama.. and there we found it… The most beautiful part of Japan we have seen yet. Amazing, and hopefully captured in all the photos. There were shrines and temples and everything just looked… WOW!

There was even a Zoo, which we went into to have a look at the animals. I think it was good, but can’t really remember as when i sat down to have a rest… i just fell asleep. Justin can to find me, sat down, and fell asleep too!! lol… we realised now it was time to head to Osaka (if anyone tells you they are far apart, they’re lying… they’re only a 2.50 train ride from each other) - justin caught up with some sleep on the train whilst i had to stay on guard to make sure we didn’t miss our stop.

You think the buildings in Tokyo are impressive, head to Osaka. They are even more so (well the few we have seen so far) massive clean structures, that really give the place a futuristic feel. Even a huge ferris wheel that goes around one of them! - mission one was to find somewhere to sleep (boy did we need it) so headed to tourist information where they directed us to a local capsule hotel (Capsule Inn).

Findind the stupid place though was more than easy, even with the help of 2 maps and countless locals (one who even very kindly walked us around the whole area to find it!) it still took a good 30 minutes to get to it!!

If you don’t know what a capsule hotel is, imagine basically a load of pods, the length of a person, and high enough to sit up in stacked one on top of the other. You are allocated one of these, we you basically just go to sleep. Single sex only so no bring backs,. though the leeds people who rudely woke me up by shouting outside (they have no doors, just a blind) claimed he would be able to get someone back. I hope not as the sound proofing is pretty bad…

Slept there for a few hours, then headed out after a shower and teeth brush to find some nightlife. After walking about 5 minutes from our hotel, we hit THE shopping centre. This is pretty much underscribable to put the whole picture.. but basically it spans over 3 and a half miles!!!!!!!! There are arcades EVERYWHERE and anything you could ever want clothing related. Its called the Ebisubashi Shopping Street (which becomes Shinsaibashi Shopping Street further down) - but if you just head to that you will find the rest… believe me!

Eating wasn’t a problem, but finding a club proved hard. So hard in fact that we had to log in here to look them up :) That done, and this entry filled in, means we can finally leave and go get wasted in Osaka :)

Can’t do too much though as have to be out hotel by 10am tomorrow, and then sightseeing, before heading back to Tokyo to go a HardHouse/Trance night at Club Code in Shinjuku - HURRAH!