Japan 2009

Jimmy and I went to Japan June 13–23, 2009. We visited Tokyo, Fusjiyoshida where we attempted to climb Mount Fuji, Osaka, Kyoto, Iga, and Mount Osore way up north in the Shimokita Peninsula.
Pretty much everything I packed.
Packed up. It was still too much.
Our first time crossing the International Date Line.
Upon landing we were inspected by a team of swine flu detectors.
They use a thermal camera to see if you have a fever.
Jimmy gets some money.
The airport is a long train ride past rice paddies to Tokyo.
Subway ticket machine.
Jimmy checks the money.
Our room in the Homeikan ryokan.
We happened to choose a western restaurant by accident, but at least no one spoke English to us.
Jimmy in his yukata after a bath.
The sun rises early in Japan, like 4 AM.
Our first Japanese breakfast.
All gone!
Statue at the University of Tokyo.
The Bentendo in Ueno Park.
People tie up their fortunes.
Jimmy with some aisu koko (ice cocoa) from a vending machine.
We turned a corner and suddenly we were in Japan!
Pachinko parlors as far as the eye can see.
And karaoke.
Don't play with fire or do other dangerous activities.
There was a little bazaar in the park.
Little schoolkids march around like soldiers.
Miruko kōhī (milk coffee, kurīmī!) and rōyaru enajī (royal energy).
The Tsukiji fish market.
Mmm, ramen with a boiled egg in it.
Inside a Japanese vending machine.
Inside some temple. It was built on land reclaimed from the sea.
The Ginza shopping district.
This little museum and shop was full of coin-operated mechanical things.
In Shinjuku near sunset, trying to figure out where we were going to sleep.
The trains that go to Fujiyoshida are painted with the many faces of Mount Fuji.
Look at the manhole covers.
The little shrines are seriously everywhere.
The entrance to Fuji Sengen shrine.
This torī is built bigger every 60 years.
The trees here are sacred.
This tree is the Yokozuna.
Haikingu kōsu — hiking course. This is where you climb Mount Fuji from the bottom.
A deer scarer.
I don't know what the stickers mean, but they make the shrines look like a guitar case.
Once you cut the cable the poor phone can't even call for help for itself.
Here's us in a conveyor belt sushi bar.
I think "Asian Restaurant" means "Indian Restaurant" here.
Lake Kawaguchi.
Man was this day ever filled with walking.
The deluxe model washlet, with sprayer, bidet, deodorizer, and flushing sound in case you're shy.
The bus up to the fifth station, the usual starting point for Fuji climbs.
It's like a big mall and tourist destination.
Everyone's trying to talk us out of climbing the mountain.
No snow at first.
Okay, a little snow here.
We watched the weather change in the valley below.
Sixth station.
We had to turn our heads to avoid being blasted by supersonic little volcanic pebbles.
Seventh station, where we decided to turn around.
This group of climbers didn't go any higher.
The wet was the worst. We're about soaked through here.
These guys were doing some kind of training.
The camera was internally fogged by here.
Back in the safety of the fifth station, where the weather had gotten worse.
Buying tickets.
Online bus fare schedule.
Our first ride on the Shinkansen.
I practiced some origami using instructions from the airport.
Arrival in Osaka.
A nice hotel for a good price, I recommend the Hotel Il Monte.
We hit the town after midnight, because that's when we got there.
But there wasn't a whole lot open, most places shut down at 11 or 12.
The ferris wheel is on the roof of a building.
Anti-drip umbrella ensheather.
There is such a thing as Japanese Braille.
The moat around Osaka castle.
Peace, dude!
The view from the top of the castle.
Don't forget an exterior shot.
Persons who have gotten dead drunk are not allowed in Spa World.
The outside of Spa World. We spent a few hours there but of course there's no pictures of the inside.
Dotombori, where we failed to find the restaurant we were looking for but found other stuff just as good.
My home town in a shop of expensive pseudo-American clothes.
It's like tapping into the cortex of an aphasic extraterrestrial supercomputer from the future.
This district is where all the Japanese kids buy their American clothes.
The okonomiyaki restaurant.
I recommend the melon soda.
Down by the aquarium.
Looks like a wedding photo.
It's unbelievable, the Osaka aquarium has two whale sharks.
Black lights add to the fun.
The whale shark is the biggest fish in the world, but this isn't the biggest whale shark in the world.
Spider crabs.
Little jellyfishes.
I don't know what it is, but it's easy to take good photographs in this aquarium.
The little mermaid, like in Copenhagen.
At the top of a tall building in Osaka there is an observatory.
This is what a Japanese keyboard looks like.
Do you know why you didn't see a supermarket? It's because they're in the basements of department stores.
On the way to Kyoto.
Our lovely bentō lunches.
The Imperial Palace park.
Jimmy is unfazed by the vermilion pillars.
Clove hitch.
At the Ryōanji Zen temple.
Why are the rocks wearing aprons?
Rain chain.
Bizarrely pruned Dr. Seuss trees.
We were trying to ambush a wily frog. I don't have a picture, but I swear a warthog jumped out onto the path and stared us down for a few seconds.
Kurēmu burē.
From a high-up restaurant in Kyoto.
And this is how you make the lights turn on in your hotel room.
It was a long series of train rides to Iga.
At the ninja museum at last! This is a secret lookout room.
Many ninja weapons were also farm tools.
Me wearing chain mail armor.
A real ninja outfit.
Ninja swords are straight, not curved like a samurai sword.
All the tricks in the ninja house.
The littlest ninja.
You could buy these outfits at the gift shop.
Here's how a ninja uses a sword to climb a wall.
Throwing ninja stars.
Here's me throwing ninja stars.
I forgot, this is also Bashō's birthplace.
The students who accompanied us on the train.
The front of a Shinkansen train.
From inside Tokyo International Hostel, where we stayed when we missed the last train up north.
It's like a normal hotel, but with less privacy and more rules.
Subway ticket.
That shows confidence, when you put a clock right next to the arrival times.
Shinkansening it up north.
We got off at Sendai after we realized we were supposed to have reserved tickets.
Kurīmu sōda.
Shimokita is the axe-shaped peninsula at the north of Honshu.
Some nice soba and udon while we wait for the next train.
The train goes right by the ocean.
The bus to Mount Osore stops here so you can wash!
Mount Osore is a Zen temple, the Yellowstone of Japan.
The steaming sulfurous rocks do bring to mind the entrance to Hell.
People leave money and the chemical fumes eat it up.
And for some reason there are dozens of pinwheels.
Green crystals at one of the vents.
By the poison lake.
Mud pot.
We slept at Hachinohe on the way back. Toyoko Inn is also recommended, low-priced with a free breakfast.
We made it in time for the top-ranked wrestlers on the second-to-last day of the May sumo tournament.
Sumo is all suspense. The matches last less than ten seconds but are preceded by a few minutes of showmanship.
You toss salt to purify the ring then you stomp all the evil spirits.
This one was over in one second flat.
And now a word from our sponsor.
The bow dance at the end of the day.
We had searched and searched and finally found some Mineral Sparkies.
This is the Akihabara electronics shopping district.
This is the Shinjuku area at night.
Umbrella lockers.
The pianist and bassist were playing "Moon River."
The view from our window on the 25th floor.
Mount Fuji may be visible from this room on exceptionally clear days.
Fugu sashimi, the beginning of our multi-course fugu dinner.
Fugu McNuggets.
There were other courses too, but this ice cream was pretty good.
We played for a while at an arcade. Jimmy plays Taiko Taiko Revolution.
Jimmy gets killed by Death, not before getting a lick in. It's not his fault, the controller was off.
Sadly the arcade was more about gambling and pachinko than fun games. Here's a simulated horse race.
Tokyo is not as pretty in the morning as she was the night before.
This is in the park around the Meiji Shrine.
This is a famous shopping street in Harajuku.
If you try to enter the store this monster wakes up and eats you.
Me and some Harajuku kids.