27 August 2008

Flowers & Hot Bath

I have to say this is a place you should visit, Furano, Hokkaido. After getting off the train yesteraday, I started riding north out of town on my push bike. The valley stretched before me, the mountains climbed in the distance... the wind gave a gentle push behind me, snacked on peanuts and listened to music riding along, and soaked up the beautiful country scenery.

Ahead, there were some lavender farms. The colours were amazing. Didn't expect that at all! And, free... no entry. Tomita Farm was a beautiful place, flowers of all colours. Visited a few other places in Naka-Furano, and then kept riding as the sky was just starting to grow a little dark.

A few more kilometers and I made it to Kami-Furano. This was my place for the night. The chain came off my bike, but no real problem... just put it back on (but then had greasy hands!) Found the campsite and got an early night after eating some dinner.

Up early the next morning, packed up the tent and headed to the train station to get the 7am bus to go up the mountain. Then realized I didn't understand the timetable, and the first bus was 9:33 am! Anyway, got that bus, and enjoyed a superb onsen. 600 yen, but I got it for 400 yen because I stayed at the campsite the night before (for only 500 yen).

Then onsen had a washing area, hot dripping water section, sauna, cold water pool, quite hot water pool, bubbling pool, and then 3 different out-door hot pools (two of them impossibly hot!), and there was also a covered section. Like usual, men and women in seperate private areas and naked (that's the style here in Japan), and there was also a mixed section (for those with swimming clothes) which had little slipperly slide into warm water. The pool in the mixed area was quite large and deep... large enough to do swimming! The weather outside was about 15 degrees, foggy, cloudy, misty, rainy weather. The steam was rising off the hot pools outside, and just let all worries drift away...

Up, on the bus, back down the mountain to the train station. The bus got back 20 minutes after the train I wanted to catch had left. The results are cascading, meaning my whole itinerary is changed for the next 5 days until I get back to Hiroshima. I can still just make it back home in time for work on Monday... I'll have to do some bike riding though... at least I don't have to pay any extra money.

Well, time to go... been good talking with a person next to me on the computer. He's from Hong Kong and reminds me of my Asian friends from Melbourne. Good to talk.

Now, to study more Japanese on the train.

26 August 2008


Here in Furano, central Hokkaido, Japan... the sun is shining, just a bit warm, plenty of fields and flowers to discover... and, probably a hot spring or two to bath in. Got a nice afternoon to do it... on my bike, of course!

25 August 2008

Summer 2008 Places

Aug 12 Tue - Hiroshima, Okayama, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Shizuoka, Shinagawa, Tokyo Shinjuku
Aug 13 Wed - Shinjuku, Yoyogi, Harajuku, Shibuya, Akihabara (all Tokyo), Kanagawa Odawara
Aug 14 Thu - Shizuoka Fujieda, Mt Fuji
Aug 15 Fri - Kanagawa Odawara
Aug 16 Sab - Shinjuku, Tokyo, Odaiba, Kanagawa
Aug 17 Sun - Kamakura
Aug 18 Mon - Yokohama, Shinjuku, Mito, Iwaki, Sendai
Aug 19 Tue - Morioka, Aomori
Aug 20 Wed - Hakodate, Toyoura
Aug 21 Thu - Toya
Aug 22 Fri - Toya
Aug 23 Sat - Toya
Aug 24 Sun - Toya
Aug 25 Mon - Toya
Aug 26 Tue - Asahikawa
Aug 27 Wed - Sapporo, Oshamambe
Aug 28 Thu - Hakodate, (sea tunnel), Aomori, Akita
Aug 29 Fri - Akita, Niigata, Naoetsu
Aug 30 Sab - Naoetsu
Aug 31 Sun - Naoetsu, Nagano, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima

Tokyo to Hokkaido

I can't say I've been having a bad time. Quite the opposite. It's Sunday morning and been away from home almost 2 weeks. Another week to go. It's definitely a worthwhile holiday.

Currently I'm at Toya Lake in the southern part of Hokkaido, the northern most of the 4 main islands of Japan. I live in Hiroshima, Japan, and have taken a holiday which has lead me up Mt Fuji, around Tokyo sightseeing and catching up with friends, and up to northern Japan by train.

I left Tokyo Monday. Stayed in Sendai at an internet cafe, only to find myself having no sleep due to booking flights for Christmas holidays, uploading photos of the trip so far, emailing and planning the next part of my trip. At that stage, I didn't know exactly where I was going to stay in Hokkaido.

Made my way onto the train about 6am Tuesday morning in Sendai. Grabbing bits to eat on the way from 7-eleven and small noodle shops (eg. onigiri, soba etc). After no sleep, was very tired, and slept a little on the trains, trying not to miss any train changes.

Could only make it as far as Aomori that day. It was a rainy, cloudy day of travel. Spent a little while at a small station during lunch time and had to wait for more than 2 hours for the next train. Had a nice meal at the family-run restaurant across the road... very nice. The cloudy weather made for nice, cozy travel, making it easier for me to sleep on the train, and for others to fall asleep on me!

(Japan is quite a safe country, so it's not uncommon to see sometimes more than half of the people on seats sleeping on the trains. Then, of course, people tend to "fall" and end up sleeping, leaning up against someone. I'd say, on Japanese trains, if you're not using your mobile phone or reading, then you're probably sleeping.)

Found a business (capsule) motel in Aomori across from the station for 3000 yen for the night. You get a capsule (about 1m x 1m x 2m) with TV, radio, clock and bed. Also, there was a shower and ofuro (bath) and lounge area. Good price and jost what I felt like I needed. I'd had anough of internet cafe sleeping... time for something a little nicer.

Got settled, did some washing at the laundromat (coin laundry), went for a bike ride just after dark in a tiny bit of rain. Ate some dinner, had a good scrub in the bath, relaxed, watched a little olympics (go Australia!) and had a good rest.

Up the next morning, another bath (just because I could), some breakfast at the station (soba and tempura) and then raced for the train! Oh no! Only seconds to spare... racing down the escelators (with suitcase, bike, tent, backpack, clumpsy!) and just as I got to the platform, the train just started to move.

The next train was about 2.5 hours later, cutting my trip right down for that day... but... the train driver saw me, slowed and stopped the train, let me on! I couldn't believe it! I've never heard of that before. I was so thankful, and stood on the train trying to catch my breath and calm down for the next 5 minutes. Then thanked the trian driver. I doubt that would ever happen in Tokyo.

From there, caught the train to the northern tip of Honshu (the main island of Japan). Changed trains for the next interesting leg of the journey. To get from Honshu to Hokkaido (two islands) there's a 50km train tunnel under the sea. So, we caught an express train and completed it after 20 minutes of travel, and passing 2 underground train stations! I don't know what you would do there, but I think they're for maintenance and emergency escapes etc.

On that train, I met Daiki, a young man from Tokyo tripping up to Hakodate (the next stop). We had a good time, and, in Hakodate, shared a nice meal and enjoyed good conversation. It was a pleasant time.

So, we'd now made it to Hokkaido! Let's compare the trains. In Tokyo, fast, new, 16-car electric passenger trains with few seats and plenty of standing room to jam people into during peak hour. In Hokkaido, slow, older, 1-car deisel passenger trains with seats and not much standing room. Hmmm... I don't know why they go so slow, but now I know why it takes so long to get around Hokkaido by local trains. I shouldn't complain. I still love train travel and Hokkaido.

About 5:30 pm Wednesday, left Hakodate (main centre for southern Hokkaido) and caught a train to Toyoura station, a little to the east along the coast of Hokkaido from Hakodate towards Muroran. It's a very small town.

When I got there at night, it was dark and rainy. So, reassembled my bike, saddled it up with my suitcase on the back, and made my way to the onsen place down by the coast (1 or 2 km away). They said there's no accommodation, and the onsen was closed, but the map I had said there was a campsite next to it, so I found it, setup the new 3000 yen tent and got settled.

But, I was hungry, so I rode up and down the main street (not very long!), saw a karaoke bar and a few other bars, and then finally found a place where they served up some nice Hokkaido ramen (noodles) with vegetables. That really did the trick and suited me fine. Rode back to the tent and had a good rest.

Good morning, Thursday morning! Woke up to the sound of waves washing up on the shore. The day before, I'd planned that I would spend a good 3 or 4 days next to the mountain lake about 10 km away, Lake Toya. So, that was today's plan. I checked out the map, planned which tent site to stay at next to the lake, packed up, bought some good groceries (finally descent food, not 7-eleven style), and headed up the mountain.

Rode through some tunnels (scary! on my tiny wheeled bike, loaded up, low gears and trucks coming up behind!). Made it to the next town about 5km away, and at the station there, there was some stuff about an international summit etc. Anyway, headed up the mountain from there. Was a good, tough climb.

Rode past some smoldering (what was probably a) volcane, and saw some destroyed houses. Hmmm... Anyway, kept going and cruized down the hill to the Toyako town next to the lake. Found that my $50 bike has it limits, especially in the "brake" department. They smelt hot! Smelt just like car brakes when the get too hot. Luckily I had the front brakes to use also. The back brakes haven't worked as good since.

When I got to Tokako, it was much bigger than I thought. There are free hot foot and/or hand baths scattered around the town. Post office and bank, plenty of hotels, really nice visitor centre, volcano museum and pretty much everything you need for a good holiday. Not to mention, the really nice scenery, the fresh mountain air, beautiful lake, and overall healty feel to the place. Also, there were quite a few eco-friendly things around the place... solar panels, wood things, natural feel etc. Then, I found out, this was the place where the G8 Summit was last month! Didn't even realise! Anyway, wasn't time to rest yet, because I hadn't made it to the campsite.

So, another 10km or so around to the west side of the lake, I finally made it to Toya and found a nice grassy spot beside the lake. In this little town, there's also a post office, bank, konbini (convenience store) open til 11pm, info centre (with good price fresh fruit and veges and bread), free internet, great camping places, and, not to be missed, a nice onsen on a hill overlooking the lake.

Boy, was it good to have a nice meal and get settled. This was the destination of rest. I'd spend the next 4 or 5 days here. This was one of the aims of the trip... to rest, relax, refresh and revive in a rural place in Hokkaido. It was good to unpack and settle.

I later found my way to the onsen, got clean, slept a little in the relaxation room, ate some dinner, saw some fireworks across the other side of the lake, did some reading and slept. It was a cloudy day with a tiny bit of rain, but a very nice day.

19 August 2008

Holiday Photos

Tokyo (Shinjuku, Meiji Shrine, Harajuku, Shibuya, Akihabara) & Fujieda

Mt Fuji


Kanagawa & More

Tokyo Summer Holiday

On the train again... seems to be the best time to type blogs. Can't go anywhere, but I still find I'm never bored on the train.

Firstly, you're getting somewhere and it's often interesting to see what's out the window. Good chance to eat a meal (even though it's not super-culurally acceptable to do so, it's still ok). Sometimes there are toilets on the trains. You can strike up a conversation with someone (practice Japanese). Read a book. Study some Japanese. Write some blog. Sort photos. Do anything on a laptop. Listen to music. And, of course, like so many Japanese people do, catch up on some sleep (and if the train is empty, lie down on the seat and try to wake up at the right place).

Currently travelling from Tokyo to Sendai about half way up the coast from Tokyo to the top of the main island of Honshu. The trains stop there tonight. Tomorrow I'll head further (catching the first train about 6am) and make it into Hokkaido, my destination for the week. Accommodation tonight will probably be a 24/7 internet cafe in Sendai :-)

Let's back track a bit to since my last blog post.

Last Tuesday arrived Shinjuku station just after midnight. Rode around Shinjuku with my luggage on my fold-up bike to find an internet cafe (which would be the place to stay the night). The place I was looking for had closed down, but right next to it was "Mamboo". Proved to be a good alternative. The deal: 7 hours (1-8am), shower, unlimited drinks (water, juice, tea, coffee, miso soup), internet (of course), probably other stuff, comfy foldback chair for 980 yen. I was very happy. I have to say, the sleep was not that great, but it did the job for the night.

Wednesday morning relaxed in the park and meditated on Bible teachings. Communicated with God. Headed up Shinjuku Metropolitan Government building for a very good free panoramic view of Tokyo. Sky was a bit hazy. Rode my bike through Yoyogi Park and Harajuku to Shibuya.

(Shinjuku is the skyscraper district of Tokyo, is a business and shopping district, and contains the worlds busiest train station (3 million passengers per day) with well over 200 exits. Yoyogi Park is a very park and a good escape from Tokyo's continuous buildings! Harajuku is a youth/fashion district... any form of fashion imaginable (beach, gothic, minnie mouse, casual, dress up etc). Also in Harajuku is the Tokyo Central SDA Church. Shibuya is a youth area also. It also has many love hotels.)

Met up at Hachiko Statue in Shibuya, with Kouda (good friend from Hiroshima) and Mari (good long term friend from Nagoya). We had a good meal together. Great to catch up.

Kouda and I went to Akihabara! Akihabara has "Electric City", which, I would say, is the most "electric" retail centre in, probably, the world. So many electrical products for sale (eg. computers, cameras, TV's and everything else). It's a crazy place with bright, visual advertising, loud shop assistants shouting out their products, music blaring, jingles jangling and everything moving. Good prices for many things. Cheap cameras (yet good quality), 50 blank DVD's for 1000 yen etc. Good place to get bargains, but I didn't buy anything :-) When I need something, and if I can get there, I'll go there. Recommended (for buying things and just seeing the craziness!)

Akihabara has a real unique culture. Apart from the geeky side of it, there is the manga culture (Japanese comics), and also the "maids" among other sub-cultures. Maids are dressed up like European "maids" and are seen advertising and giving out things. Maid Bars are places that pretty much only men go to have someone give them some wanted attention.

Kouda and I headed back to Meiji-jingu, one of the most famous Shinto shrines in Tokyo (located next to Yoyogi-park). It was quite impressive, and very peaceful. A good environment for thinking about the things in life that really matter. We then walked around Harajuku a little. Quite busy. Then we caught a train to Kouda's home.

Kouda lives about 100km south-west of Tokyo in Kanagawa Prefecture (near the border of Shizuoka Prefecture). We caught the Odakyu line train and met his parents, who took us to a "kaitensuzhi" restaurant, where the sushi goes around on a conveyor belt and you just take off what you want :-) It's really cool, I think. His parents welcomed me to their home, I had a nice bath and rested well.

13 August 2008

Important Notice

This life is not forever. We all know that. We all know that will will live an average of 70 or a bit more years. So, why do we still seem to think that it will never happen to us?

But, the reality is, God's does give eternal life. God has given us all life. An enemy has caused trouble in the universe and the conflict continues. Soon the conflict will cease. There will come a time when the way we lived our lives will determine our destiny. The choices we make each day have consequences.

It boils down to: will you live for yourself, or will you live for God and for other people? Will you live a life that is 'universal peace' compatible? ie. being willing to put your own wishes aside when necessary. It's summarised in: "Treat people the way you want to be treated."

God wants to overlook our faults and forgive us. If we turn away from our wrong actions, God forgives and gives us eternal life. Can this really be true?

If you are not sure, determine to search for God. Determine to find your purpose in life. Seek each day to live the best life you can. As you give to others, your life will be filled. As you open your heart to the truth, peace will come. The Bible reveals a message of hope, despite the seemingly hopeless situation the world is in.

Yes, each person has value and is precious. The world might not tell you, but the Spirit of God will tell you. Think about reality. Think about the most important things in life and in eternity. Take time each day to consider these things. If you don't, you've thrown away eternity. But, as you do think about these things, you won't want to turn back. You will have found the path to life!

Tokyo Sleep $10

Shinjuku, Tokyo. I'm in Manboo Internet Comic Cafe for not real other reason than to have some cheap sleep. Get the night pack for less than 1000 yen which gives you 7 hours of time in an open (but large enough) cubicle.

Put the seat back and get some sleep. Can also use the shower for 30 minutes and have unlimited drinks (juice, tea, coffee, softdrink, miso soup etc). The guy next to me was smoking, but he's stopped now so that's ok.

The staff were ok... not super friendly. I don't speak good Japanese, so that didn't help. I guess it doesn't really matter, as long as you get the rest and shower you need.

Plenty of entertainment around... after all, it is a comic cafe too. Movies, comics of all types and varieties. Plenty of things to distract from real life and many things to make oneself disatisfied with life. I have to say, close your eyes to a few things in here to keep your heart pure.

The train ride today was good. Left Hiroshima 8:45 am and, 10 trains and 15 hours later arrived Shinjuku about 12:10 just after midnight. All for 2300 yen. Now it's nearly 2am, after trying to find an internet cafe with 'sleep' mode, having a shower and typing this up.

I have to be out of here by 8am in the morning. Try find some locker to put my suitcase for the day. Meeting friends at Hachiko Statue in Shibuya for lunch and then doing some Tokyo sights after that.

Good night!

12 August 2008

Hiroshima to Tokyo 2300 yen

On the train from Hiroshima to Tokyo. Yesterday, finished last day of work for my first year contract. Wow! Doesn't feel like a big thing, but, nevertheless, I'm done for a year. Start work on Monday, 1 September.

So, the big trip has started. The origin of this trip goes back to primary school when we had Japanese classes. Ever since, I've wanted to come to Japan and climb Mt Fuji (and catch a bullet train, see the cherry blossoms and have a hot spring/bath). So, 12 or so years later, I'll be able to climb Mt Fuji these holidays!

The plan:
12-17 Aug: Tokyo & Fuji.
19-27 Aug: Hokkaido.
28-31 Aug: Arrive home.


Aug 12 Tue: Catch local trains from Hiroshima (8:45am) to Tokyo (11:46pm) for only 2300 yen using Seishun 18 Ticket. Stay the night in an internet cafe in Shubuya or Shinjuku.

13 Wed: Meet friends in Shubuya, see a bit of Tokyo, stay a friends house in Kanagawa-ken (outer Tokyo) that night.

14 Thu: Visit friend in Shizuoka during the day. Climb to Level 8 on Mt Fuji and stay the night with a friend.

15 Fri: Wake early, climb the rest of Mt Fuji to watch sunrise from the summit. Sightsee a little around Mt Fuji area. Stay friends house in Kanagawa-ken.

16 Sab: Head in to Tokyo late morning and relax. At night, hang out with friends and stay the night at friends house that night.

17 Sun: Probably head to Kamakura with friends. Stay somewhere (?) in Tokyo that night.

18 Mon: Catch trian headed for Hokkaido (2 days by local train north of Tokyo). Stay somewhere on they way.

19 Tue: Keep travelling to Hokkaido and stay the night there.

20 Wed to 27 Wed: cruise around Hokkaido, camping here and there. Spend a few days in the one place doing almost nothing except relaxing, reading, praying, meditating, a bit of Japanese study, some Bible reading, maybe a bit of bicycle riding and a few onsens (natural hot spring baths).

28 Thu to 31 Sun: Head back to Hiroshima by train (about 3 days travel).

Sep 1 Mon: Work :-)

08 August 2008

2008.08.08 08:08:08 +0800

Well, that's the date and time! 888888
Apart from the being the day the 2008 Beijing Olympics start (and being a lucky number for them), it's also a friends birthday among other things.
Holidays just around the corner starting on Tuesday for 3 weeks, during which I hope to climb Mt Fuji, visit Tokyo and stay in Hokkaido for a week or so. Really looking forward to it.
Work starts again on September 1 (Monday), so the break will be nice.
Tonight we'll have some friends from work and church over for dinner, so should be a nice Friday evening together.