10.04.2012 - 14.04.2012
I left the museum and the area of the hypocenter with my friends to go get something to eat and make our way to Hiroshima Castle. We went into an underground shopping mall and looked to see what restaurants were available. We passed by a liquor store and grocery and kept that in mind for the train ride back. There was a noodle restaurant, actually only spaghetti, but it was done the Japanese way. This looked like a perfect place to eat and satisfy our empty stomachs so we went inside and got a table. Each of us ordered a different but Italian style dish and fell in love. The noodles were perfect and it was just the meal we had been looking for after such an intense walk through Hiroshima. After dinner we all went to the liquor store and got some goodies and then went out of the mall and made our way to the Hiroshima Castle. As we got to the entrance I noticed that it was a Zen garden, large park, meditation center, and off in the corner was the castle. I walked around enjoying the scenery as night was slowly approaching. Brynn got a great picture of all of us under some cherry blossoms too because there were so many in the park. I think we all had a great time going to the park and soon we approached the castle. It was glorious perched up in this corner as the sun was setting. I got some great pictures of it but then we were all getting bored and started making our way back to the train station so that we could take the Shinkansen back to Osaka. Once we got into the train station we asked which train we needed to be on and made our way to the gate. It was getting late and there were only a few more trains leaving from Hiroshima so we got on the earliest one we could. What we didn’t know is that the train that we were on was going to stop at every station on the way Osaka. So, we somehow lucked out and got the entire car of the train to ourselves. As such, we had our own little mini party. It took us a couple of hours to get to Osaka because of all the stops, but once we were there I am pretty sure exhaustion was about to take over. I think that being a little tipsy helped us through the night though. Our mission after leaving the train station was to find a hotel. Brynn asked the information desk if he knew of any, but he could not understand exactly what we were looking for. I went over to a map and found that there was a hotel nearby the station and we could walk there. When we all exited the station we realized that there were a few hotels nearby so we made our walking journey, because taxis were too much, to the hotels. The first one we went to only had one room available and we needed two rooms so we left there and went to another one we had seen. At this hotel the price was really steep, but there were rooms available. We decided that we would check a couple more hotels and if nothing else return to this one because we would need a place to sleep for the night. After leaving that hotel we walked a few blocks to another one that was completely full. Because we were all growing tired of the walking there was a restaurant nearby that was open late so we went and had a good meal. Once our energy was replenished we went to the New Osaka Hotel, the one that was on the station map, to see if our luck might change. When we went inside we thought that the price was going to be too much because it was like walking into a four-star resort. I waited in the lobby to hear the bad news while the others went to ask about the rates and availability. Our luck did change! I was surprised to learn that the rate was actually pretty reasonable and they had rooms available. Brynn and Anna Sophia bought their rooms and Dave and I got ours. We made loose plans for the next day and then went to our room to get some sleep. When I walked into the room I felt like I was no longer at a four-star resort. The room was still nice and they had a fancy toilet, but it was nothing that was fantastic. The beds were pretty comfortable and they provided robes which was nice. I was just happy to get internet and take a nice, long hot shower. I passed out soon after that and had a good night’s sleep before another exciting day of walking and touring.
I woke up to the hotel’s alarm and slumped over and out of my bed to get ready. Dave and I were still pretty tired so I set the alarm a little bit later and went back to sleep. The second time I woke up I packed my bags and then left the hotel room. I met Anna Sophia and Brynn in the hotel lobby where they checked out and then all of us left. We went to get breakfast from a convenience store and then we went to the subway station to catch a train to the Osaka Aquarium. The train ride was a bit crowded, but I was already used to that because of China so it really didn’t bother me. When we got to the train stop for the Aquarium we noticed that there was a huge ferris wheel. Everyone wanted to ride it so we bought a special ticket that would give us entrance to the aquarium and the wheel. We did the wheel first and got into our cart. It was very slow moving, but we had our breakfast on it and got to see a great view of the city. From there we walked to the aquarium. I have been to a lot of those on this trip because of traveling with Brynn, a marine bio major, but I would definitely say that this one was the best. When we got inside the first thing we saw was a tunnel with small sharks and fish in it. From there we saw small river otters, crabs and a giant salamander which was pretty cool. After that we continued on the path and got to see seals, sea lions, penguins, lots of fish, and dolphins. I had seen The Cove and knew about the acquisition of dolphins for aquariums, especially in Japan, so I did not stay at the exhibit long. The glory of the aquarium was the whale shark tank. There are apparently only a few aquariums in the world that have room for the giant shark, and this was one of them. It was really cool to see the giant swimming with all kinds of sharks and fish, but it was also sad because it looked injured or sick. Brynn, Dave and Anna Sophia spent most of their time just staring at the massive creature, and it hadn’t even reached the typical length and weight of an adult. I moved on from the exhibit and got to see a bunch of other critters like the giant octopus and king crabs. When they were ready we continued through the aquarium to see the jellyfish and then went to the gift shop so they could get some whale shark souvenirs. After we left the aquarium we went to the shopping mall right next door to find some lunch because we were all quite hungry. I got a burger from the food court and a soda and was quite satisfied and thankful that Dave had money to support my life. From lunch we got back on the subway and went to the Shinkansen station so that we could make our way to Kyoto. We got on the bullet train, which was slightly crowded and only had to make one stop before we got off in Kyoto. Once we were in the very crowded station we tried to make our way to an ATM so we could draw some money out. Finally there was a 7-Eleven with an ATM that would work for our cards so the girls got some money and then we made our way to the bus station so that we could get to a couple of temples before the say came to a close. The bus was very crowded and we stood the entire time with what I thought was a full bus, but then more and more people would get on. Finally, we came to our stop and got off with some relief of not being crowded. We walked up to this beautiful Buddhist temple and from there made our way to the larger temple on the top of the hill. On our way up there we passed by a massive cemetery. I took a lot of pictures and thought about how many people were buried in the several locations of the cemetery. There had to be at least one million grave plots, but there were so many because they were just tombstones. In Japan everyone is cremated so the ashes are either put in the gravestone or scattered across the land. I would see flowers here and there, a lot of sake cups, and a lot of burnt incense. It was very eerie to be walking through the cemetery, but at the same time somewhat beautiful. They way the Japanese memorialized their ancestors was intriguing and I thought that if I ever died this would possibly be a place to be buried, or at least in a similar fashion. Although, being buried with the dirt that surround me and going back into the soil would probably be the best because I would complete the “circle of life” as Mufasa would have put it. Anyway, we got to the temple and I left the others to go and explore and meditate on my own. I found this to be very hard because there were a lot of tourists around, but it was the one thing I was looking forward to on this trip and I was not going to let anything get in my way of my goal. I found a nice bench where I sat and let my brain wonder. I thought about my voyage, how much I have grown, how much I have learned, loved, lost, cried, laughed. I thought about a lot as I sat there staring at the cherry blossoms and the mountains in the distance. It was so beautiful and mystical. The cherry blossoms were pink and some just blooming, others had already fallen to the ground. It was a magical experience, although short, that kept my mind open and free. I am so glad that I got any chance to go there and I hope that at some point in the future I will have more time in Kyoto to see the rest of the temples and pagodas. The temple we were at was closing so we had to leave, but not before buying some souvenirs. I let Brynn and Dave buy there wacky gifts as I sat on a fence outside the store that was looking up to the temples. When they were ready we left down the long steep road to get back on the bus and eventually the station. When we got to the bus station we all thought it was too crowded so we left and got a taxi to take us back to the station. When we got to the station we were all really hungry again and most of us wanted sushi. We somehow ran into one of our professors that lives in Japan and we asked her if she knew where we should go. She pointed us in the direction but before we went to eat we had to get our backpacks from the locker because we were not carrying them around all day. Once that was over we all went into another underground shopping mall to get some sushi. The restaurant we chose was cozy and not very busy. It was great sushi though, although I only got the cucumber roll because I was afraid of parasites and the problem of over-fishing. Brynn and Dave got some delicious looking rolls though and I think they were both very satisfied with what they got. Anna Sophia did not order anything because she is allergic to fish so instead she got a sandwich to eat on the train to Tokyo. After our great dinner we left to catch our bullet train to Tokyo in anticipation that we were not going to be able to get one because we were leaving so late. However, once we got there we saw two trains left that were leaving, both were lines that we were not supposed to be on but we had no other option so we hopped on and hoped that no one would check tickets and kick us off. We lucked out again and got a train car to ourselves again so we had another mini party for the trip because there were only a couple of stops before Tokyo. It was great being on the train and I really wish that America had a system similar to it because it would be so efficient. I took some goofy videos while we were on the train and we all pretty much just messed around and had fun. Before we knew it the train was stopping and we were getting off at the capital of Japan. When we got out at the station we had to transfer to another train line to get to the famous Shibuya. It was a pretty short trip and once we got there and out of the station we saw the famous crosswalks and nightlife of Tokyo. We walked around a little trying to find our bearings and see if there were any hotels nearby. We somehow ran into a bunch of SAS students and asked them if they knew were things were. I asked one of the students to show us the Hachiko Dog, the famous statue in Shibuya where a dog waited for his owner everyday until he died, because from there we knew where we should be searching for hotels. We took a few pictures with the statue and then made our way across the crosswalks and up the street to find a place to sleep. We ran into some more SAS students and were directed to a capsule hotel. Dave went inside to discuss room rates but found out that it was male only, so that was not an option for us. We continued to walk around until we found this one “love hotel.” We walked inside and got a couple of rooms and were excited because these were types of hotels that were recommended to us before getting to Japan. Dave and I were in a room and Brynn and Anna Sophia in the other. When we got to our room we just started cracking up. There was a large round bed, mood lights, condoms, lotion, music, a Jacuzzi with mood lighting, and of course a television with porn videos for those crazy Japanese. Dave and I could not stop laughing that we were staying in this place, but it was still a place to stay so we didn’t mind too much. I got free internet which was nice and there was a couch so I didn’t have to share the love bed with Dave. The girls and Dave were going to be leaving around 5am to go to the Tsukiji fish market and that was going to be in a couple of hours so Dave crashed. I went on Skype and got to talk to my Mom and Grandma which was great, although they didn’t have the best reception so I didn’t get to fully video talk, more of a phone call. It was worth it though and I was just happy that I could talk to them because it had been a while since I had seen them, especially with my phone being stolen. I had to say goodbye to them somewhat early because I was getting tired and still needed to get some sleep. After talking to them I took a Jacuzzi bath which was really nice because it was relaxing, and much needed after so much walking in the past few days and China. I felt rejuvenated after the bath and went right to sleep on the couch. I woke up around 9am to Skype my mom and grandma again and then after that took another hour or so nap before we had to check out of the hotel.
We woke up to a phone call from the front desk that we needed to check out earlier than we thought so we rushed to get ready and then left the hotel. I think the woman at the front desk was confused when Dave and I left together and then Brynn and Anna Sophia left, but oh well, something for her to think about I guess. Once we left the hotel we went back to the Shibuya station and got on the train to Harajuku where lots of shopping was to be done. When we got there we put our stuff in a locker and then got some lunch at a Chinese style restaurant because they had a dish that Brynn and Anna Sophia were looking for. After a good meal we went into the crowded shopping street and found the most random things. There were panda hats, strange t-shirts, crazy sunglasses, etc. It was fun to walk around and experience the younger culture of Japan. We saw a lot of women dressed in crazy outfits and heard a lot of high pitched voices trying to sell products. When we left that street we walked around for awhile around high-end boutique stores like Gucci, Armani, Dior, and Channel. When we came to this one corner we saw a Condomania and just had to go in because it was a store completely dedicated to protection. They had some wacky condoms but we didn’t buy anything. From there we walked some more looking at the shops and then stopped at an Oriental Bazaar where Dave got a sake set and tea set and the girls got some gifts to take back home to their friends and family. After doing all the shopping I was feeling really tired and exhausted and really wanted to go back to the ship. We went back to the station and got our stuff and then from there we split ways because they all wanted to go to the technology district. I hopped on the train to a station to transfer to Yokohama where the ship was docked. I happened to be traveling at rush hour so the trains were very crowded, but everyone was still really nice and didn’t pop my personal bubble. When I got to the transfer station I asked for directions to Yokohama on a train that used the rail pass and was directed to the right gate. I got on another crowded train and made a stop at Kawasaki before making it to Yokohama. Once I was in the very large Yokohama station I got onto another train that would take me close to the ship. This train was not at all crowded and was very short. When I got into the port terminal station I made my way outside and it was raining. I thankfully had my umbrella and started walking to the ship. I came up to this strange looking port terminal that was all made out of wood and designed after the seas and waves of the ocean. I walked inside and found directions to the ship. It was very quiet walking through the terminal and you could hear your footsteps with each step because of the wood. I checked in at the ship and then went up to the dining hall before dinner closed. I met up with Sara, who transited with the ship, and got a really good dinner. They were all talking about going out for the night, and after eating dinner I was feeling a bit better and like my energy was returning so I contemplated going out to the clubs that night. They left from dinner to get ready and I finished up my meal. Once I got to my room and unpacked I instantly felt exhausted again so I decided to not go out for the night. It was only 7pm and I was expecting Dave and the girls to get back soon along with other friends so I left some notes on the door in case they wanted to go out in Yokohama for a couple hours. I then took a good nap. I then heard some knocking on my door and found out that my buddy Evan was back for the day. I invited him into my room and we talked for a little while about our time in Japan and what our plans would be for the next day. He had a trip the next day but went out to Yokohama during the day so he gave me some suggestions for what I should do. Then we both went to bed and called it a night. Dave, Brynn and Anna Sophia were going to Tokyo Disney the next day but I did not have enough money to go so I was planning on just roaming the port on my own. James came back that night too and I don’t really remember talking to him because I was so tired and was half asleep. I think he had a good time though and he soon went to bed too.
I woke up the next morning somewhat early to get some breakfast. I wasn’t sure what everyone was still doing for the day because it was pouring rain outside. I ran into Brynn, it hurt but I was okay, and talked to her about her plans. They were still going to Tokyo Disney, so I was not going to join, but she asked me to pick up a flag for her if I came across one and she would pay me back. I agreed to the deal and then said goodbye to get some breakfast. Once I was done eating I went to my room to get ready, put on my new p-coat from China and dressed up somewhat nice because I was impressed with the fashion in Japan. I knew James didn’t have plans, but he was still sleeping so I didn’t want to wake him up to see if he wanted to hang out with me. Instead I quietly shut the door and got ready for my own adventure. Once I got outside of the port terminal I opened my umbrella and began making my way to the train station. It was really windy and raining and hard to control my umbrella. Before I knew it the piece of crap was inside out and ripped open my thumb because of a huge gust of wind. I was really frustrated and destroyed the umbrella even more and threw it away. I then walked in the rain for a couple of minutes before I noticed Grace walking on the other side of the street. I went over to talk to her and see what she was doing for the day. She had no plans other than to find a flag so we both decided to travel together for the day. We walked by a place and I picked up another umbrella and found out that they were all free by Japanese law if you saw them on the street, which made me upset that I bought one in the first place. This umbrella was a bit smaller but it worked to keep me out of the rain. We got into the station and went to the large Yokohama station where I was told we could find a flag. It was still a bit early and the stores were not open yet so Grace and I went to the ATM and walked around for a little. Then the stores started to open their doors. We went to a bakery first to get some more breakfast and then went on a search for the flags, which turned out to be quite difficult. We went to this one mall first to try and find one and went up all seven levels before giving up at this mall. We asked the information desk there and they directed us to a couple other malls. We went to one mall where the basement was a huge grocery store so I bought a bottle of wine and we got some sushi for lunch. From there we went to find a place to sit down and the only place we could find was a KFC. I got some more food and then we sat down eating sushi, pastries, and fried chicken. It was actually a really good lunch and I was feeling quite full after we finished. From there we went to a restaurant so they could open the wine and then we went upstairs to find the flag. We ended up finding a store that sold them but they were in the back and we had to ask them for it. When they brought it out we realized it was a full size flag and pole and was not what we were looking for. We had been walking around for a long time and were getting tired so we thought that if we tried this last mall maybe our luck would change and they would have exactly what we were looking for. We went inside another huge mall and went up to the level we were told had flags and began our search. We found a Disney store so I went inside to see if they had anything I would like, but they didn’t. We also asked them if they could direct us to a place that sold flags and they told us a kimono store on the same level should have them. We searched around but could not see any flags. Because we were told it was at the kimono store Grace asked the woman if she sold any. She told us to wait at this desk and then she came out with a box of assorted sized flags. We were so happy that we finally found a place! I bought a larger flag and Grace bought two small ones, one for herself and the other for Brynn. We then left and went to the train station to go back to the port area. Once we were there we walked outside and found a small park with cover from the rain. I sat down and opened the bottle of wine and began drinking. Grace bought a unique beer and drank that. I went through half of the bottle before we got up and went over to another shopping area from the recommendation of Evan before we would return to the port. Before getting to the park though I broke another umbrella. I guess I just don’t have any luck with umbrellas, or the wind just hates me. We left the park and I once again was walking in the rain before we got to the Landmark Tower and we began searching through the shops. The only shop that I had any interest in was the Pokémon store so that was the first stop for us. We were both a bit disappointed in the store because we grew up with the first couple generations and they were now on the sixth or seventh. We also felt a bit old because there a bunch of kids running around and they probably had no clue what it was like when Pokémon first came out. I took a couple pictures of the store and Grace bought some cards. When we opened the cards and were happy to see a couple that we recognized. From there we just looked around and then left the mall to go back to the ship. We stopped in the same park and I finished my wine. We then went to the port terminal and spent the rest of our money on postcards and magnets. I then asked Grace if I could use her computer to Skype my mom while she went to exchange her money. She was kind enough to me and said yes and then I went and sat in the terminal and got a hold of my mom. It was great talking to her because it was going to be the last time I would see her before I got into the States. I was feeling a bit tipsy and after the conversation I stood up and felt really dizzy and drunk. I just laughed because I was seeing double of everything and feeling really giddy. I met up with Grace again and then got in line to process through immigrations. I held myself up and did not act drunk and made it easily through the security check and got on the ship. I then went to my room to put my stuff up and then went to dinner. I got, apparently after hearing from Evan about it later, a good meal and had a great talk with my friends. I then went to my room and passed out on my bed with my mouth open. I was expecting James to come in and wake me up and we could talk a little before I actually went to bed, but when I woke up the room was completely dark. I didn’t think James got on the ship and thought he might have been left behind in Japan so I started to worry. Then I turned the lights on and saw him sleeping in his bed. I turned them back off so I wouldn’t wake him up and could not believe that I had passed out so hard. I was not feeling drunk anymore so I went upstairs to see if anyone was awake and found Dave, Brynn, Anna Sophia, Grace and Sara in a classroom watching a movie. I joined them and watched a few more movies afterward. The ship was starting to rock like crazy because of the waves so I went back to bed and said goodbye to Japan.
What I learned from this port is that it would be too comfortable for me to live in. I would, however, like to return to the country and do some more traveling because of how easy it was to get around and how comfortable I felt. I do not feel like I experienced anything here as I did in the other countries, but it was still great to visit. I have a better understanding of the relationship between Japan and the United States after the war and bombings and am impressed that Japan has advanced so much in such a small amount of time. I think that Japan is also advanced in a lot of areas technologically but still needs improvement with their people in order to remain a power in the world today. I think that the past is memorialized sometimes in a great way but in others is lacking. I am not traveling to Hawaii and will be there in a couple of days. I anticipate to write one more blog on our last destination before San Diego and then another on a reflection of myself and what this trip has done for me. I know for sure that it is going to be difficult to adjust back to the American lifestyle that I have been stuck in for the past 21 years, but I also know that I have grown tremendously and will be able to accomplish anything I set my mind to. I want you to know that I am doing great mentally, although maybe not physically and that will change when I get back home. I love each and every one of you and am sad that this will be one of the last posts for you to read. I look forward to my return to San Diego and Colorado to see all of your smiling faces and to give you a big, fat hug! I’ll be waiting, I hope you do too.