Thursday – Jigokudani (aka snow monkey land). So Thursday was the day I woke up early and had an outdoor onsen – sitting in the hot water while snowflakes caught in my hair and a monkey or two came for a visit…. Then was breakfast – I’ve been really enjoying traditional japanese breakfasts… I love rice at the best of times but the morning rice seems to always have something really good in with it.
Then walking in the snow for five minutes to see the snow monkeys – squeeeee – as documented in previous photo post…
Back to the ryokan for some yummy soba and then a wander down the snowy path to see if the museum is open (nope) and check out bus timetables. It’s a 2km walk from the ryokan to the spot where the bus drops you off – which is fine when you know where you’re going, but not quite so shiny when you’re carrying all your worldly goods (well the ones in the country at least), there are no English signposts and it’s all a little snowy and confusing! Walking the track a couple of times unencumbered was much more fun – and gave me a chance to soak up the Narnia feeling – the silence, the snowy trees and the winding path…. No lamp posts or fauns however – and the only Jadis I know is holding the fort for me at home!
More onsen goodness (I’m becoming addicted) and then the super yummy traditional japanese dinner… and sleeeep!
Friday – Woke up – bid a sad farewell to the onsen (both indoor and outdoor) – talked to slightly wrong americans… they’d been living in Japan for three years but still had trouble working out the food and barely spoke a word, slightly more than I – but only just and I’d been in the country for three nights!
Then a dash through the snow (including a couple of unpleasant slips on the ice which is harder to navigate when you’re laden) with packs and stuff to catch the bus to Yudonaka – then the train to Tokyo via Nagano. Trains in japan are exactly what you’d expect – clean, reliable, fast, convenient… The Japan-rail pass rocks!
It was very surreal to arrive in Tokyo with muddy boots having been in a remote snowy place only a few hours earlier… I felt super scruffy wandering into my Ginza hotel lobby – it’s all black granite and minimalist chic. The room is 23 floors up and has an amazing view – even from the bathroom if you press a special button that makes the shower wall become transparent! All hail the internet gods for delivering us these deals I say 😉
A hot shower and change into something less – umm – rustic, then a quick wander up the road to Ginza to take a look at some of the stores – and then I was catching up for drinks with a friend and really enjoyed seeing a tiny cute bar in Shinjuku… Made the last train home – the tokyo subway is still packed even at midnight!
Saturday – Kawaii! A big sleep in – first this trip – hehe – then morning wanders around Ginza finding coffee and pastries and the Sanrio store for Hello Kitty goodness… happiness. Caught up with friends and tried to find lunch – ended up with Italian – hehehe… We headed on the subway over to Akihabara which is just wall to wall neon, electronics and weirdness, I found some cute bondage girl models, bought some random things out of vending machines and looked vaugely at video cameras – but as I haven’t done my homework and decided what to buy it was far too complicated – but I’m sure I probably missed a lot of great deals… It was very cold – but I was still resisting the siren song of the ugly jumper so I only have myself to blame – then back to the same bar as the night before, but an early night. This was more a hanging out in Tokyo day than anything else.
Sunday – Eeek… Such a big day… Up bright and early to take a tour of the Imperial palace gardens (or at least the part open to the public), the group was me, timling and the guide – he knew where he was taking us, but wasn’t hugely useful as an information source… however it was very good to get some culture. It was SO COLD and incredibly windy – a lot of the time walking across the gravel paths and open spaces I felt like Marcel Marceau walking into the wind, only really 😉
The plum blossom was very beautiful – and the gardens – we were also shown a statue of a warrior on a horse – who served the emperor well – but I’m not quite sure *which* emperor… Mr Guidu wasn’t so great with history really… he did take us to a Baiking restaurant which is what a Buffet or Smorgesboard is called – the food was surprisingly very good – and it was nice having someone to find out if things were vegetarian so I could try more things. Yummy yaki soba, some sort of sea vegetable with soya beans, dried radish with other stuff, bean and sesame, miso soup (of course) – lots of good things…
I had to meet up with a friend in Harajuko so the guide invited himself along too! Or a least to show us the Meji Shrine – which is where the Meji Emperor and Empress were given their godly status… it’s very beautiful – I got to see a wedding procession with shinto priests, bride and groom all looking very serious and formal – very beautiful.
After the shrine we were given an option of a couple of things to see – one was the Ukiyo-e museum, the other something else – I’m not quite sure which! Obviously I picked the Ukiyo-e museum – which was small but perfect… we had to leave our shoes in a locker and pad around in slippers – even leaving those off to examine some prints. Lots of beautiful art – all the famous printmakers – Hokusai and Hiroshige and others who’s names I didn’t recognise but it’s been a long time since art history at PLC!
Finally leaving slightly cranky guide behind we met up at Snoopyland (weird but true) and wandered off for the Harajuku experience… not so many cosplay girls around… either we were early (2pm) or it was just too windy for the lace parasols 😉 loads of shops down little alleys selling various odd things – though I have to admit being rather old and jaded… it’s all very samey after a while and Enmore road morphs into Camden Lock markets morphs into Harajuku… same gothic lolita dolls and cheap polyester velvet and pvc clothes. Not so much my thing….
The other end however… swoon – though the perfect pair(s) of boots and heel elude me – but I had fun looking – especially at the amazing Prada store which is marked in a guide book as a sight rather than shopping for the incredible architecture. The Comme de Garcons store was a retail experience – with winding paths so you never knew exactly where you were… All the names – I checked in Gucci – ozibootslave will laugh to know there are still no perfect boots! (well apart from my beautiful custom english leather ones – but really – can a girl *ever* have enough pairs of boots?) I’ve been looking for a cute mini trench coat – and thought I’d found the exact one at Hanae Mori – but sigh – they couldn’t fit my “chinese swimmer” shoulders into it – sob – I’m okay in most things here – my waist is small enough to fit japanese sizes, but I really do have surprisingly broad shoulders…. so no fabulous coat for me 🙁
I ended up spending a lot of time and rather a few dollars in Anne Fontain – which might seem very underwhelming unless one is looking for the exactly perfect white shirt… happiness
Lots and lots and lots of walking today – my legs are aching and my feet are sorely in need of a pedicure (or was that some Prada heels I forget).
Tomorrow is the shinkonsen to Kyoto – and all the kyoto goodness… though I’m wondering if I can quickly dash out to buy the cute baby pink leather gloves I saw in Printemps before I get the train 😉