Japan, Day 10: Final Oddities

Today, I awoke comfortable. I felt used to Japan now. It wasn’t home, by any stretch, but it felt familiar. My plan for today was simple: visit the Imperial Palace, then head over to the fashion disticts of Shibuya and Harajuku. And they were all on the same Yamanote Line. First, the Imperial Palace. I had already visited a week prior, to discover the Palace was closed on that day. Today, I knew it would be […]

Black and white roof

Japan, Day 9: Ueno Park

I awoke early today, before my alarm went off. my mind full of the events of the week. I had only a few days left in Japan. I’d spent about 45 minutes the night before looking over my plans for Tokyo. Now that I was spending a full day there (tomorrow), plus half the day after before catching my 5:30pm flight, I had options. I would visit the temple and museum complex at Ueno, the Imperial Palace (now […]


Japan, Day 8: Kyoto and Japanese TV

Today was, in some ways, a bust. I explored Kyoto, but found little of interest. I ended up wandering Kyoto Station, which is itself a marvel of engineering. To give you an idea of its scale: the extreme west end of the station consists of a department store that’s 13 floors high. Not just 13 floors up; it goes from floor 1 to floor 13. And that doesn’t even reach the top of the station. […]


Japan, Day 7: Kyoto’s Temples and Gardens

As I mentioned yesterday, I took a quick walk up to a nearby temple to verify its location. Today, I woke up early and decided to head right up. For breakfast, I didn’t want to waste time, so I crossed the street to Kyoto Station and popped into the 7–11. I polished off an energy bar and a bottle of milk, then headed north. I soon arrived at Nishi-Honganji. It’s hard to get across just how huge it is. According to the placard […]

Kakunodate Ryokan Sign

Japan, Day 6: Bullet Train Travel

I awoke early, at 6:15am, and I’m glad I did. I had plenty of time to stretch, dress, and walk around Kakunodate with my camera before leaving. Low clouds hung over Kakunodate, and the air held the cool promise of autumn. I returned to the river walk and took more photos, though the diffused light did the river no justice. Back to the hotel, where I reluctantly gathered my belongings and checked out. I told the staff that this was my first […]


Japan, Day 5: Kakunodate, the Town of Samurai

Today worried me. (Worry is a theme of this trip.) This was my last day in Tokyo; I had to get up to Kakunodate, about 3 hours north of Tokyo. I knew I had to take a single bullet train from Tokyo Station, but I wanted to get to Kakunodate by lunch, which meant a fairly early start. To get to Kakunodate by lunch time, I’d have to leave Tokyo around 9:00am. This meant facing the legendary […]

Japan, Day 4: Imperial Palace and Akihabara

Japan, Day 4: Imperial Palace and Akihabara

Today would be my day of culture and errands. I wanted to visit the Imperial Palace, and find a few things I needed: an AC adapter for my laptop (it was just too convenient to check the weather and change reservations from the laptop), and an extra SD card (I’d already burned through most of a 16 GB and all of a 2 GB card). I also needed extra cash; I’m used to operating mostly with cash and had already spent […]

Japan, Day 3: The Life-Size Gundam

Japan, Day 3: The Life-Size Gundam

This was my only sunny day in Tokyo, according to weather reports, so I awoke with a dilemma in my mind. I had originally planned to visit Mount Fuji this day. More internet research revealed that Mount Fuji is 2.5 to 3 hours from my hotel, and is a bit of a tourist trap. You arrive, snap a photo, and get back on the bus. Also, no JR Pass trains go there, so you […]

Senno-ji Temple

Japan, Day 2: Senno-ji Temple and the Gundam Cafe

I awoke today at 4:00am, to my lack of surprise. Even that gave me 8 hours of sleep. Still, I dozed and watched TV for another 3 hours. I was thrilled to catch an episode of Pythagoras Switch, a Japanese equivalent of Sesame Street that’s far more smart, entertaining, and heart-warming to my taste. I even caught their special dance, an Otosan Switch segment, and one of their wonderful Rube Goldberg segments where a ball rolled down a ramp […]

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