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Japan Trip – Week 3

October 24, 2010 By: Nopy Category: Personal

Today I decided to take a break from studying and continue posting pictures from my trip to Japan, which was 4 months ago now. Don’t worry though, I’ll get them all up before Christmas :)

Picking up where I left off last time, the day after seeing the incomp…*cough* battle-damaged gundam in Shizuoka, my friends and I headed to Ikaho for a relaxing day at the hotsprings.

Ikaho is a small town in the mountains so there are no trains that run directly there; you have to take the train to Shibukawa and then take a bus to Ikaho. All of the bus routes and maps were in Japanese though, so we had to ask a bus driver which bus to take (luckily he understood English). A few hours after leaving Tokyo, we made it to Ikaho in one piece and were greeted with the above sign. Personally, I found it strange that they used the American flag for the English section rather than the British flag. Whenever I’ve travelled to Europe and other parts of Asia, they’ve always used the British flag.

If you go to Ikaho, you’ve got to work to get to the hotsprings. The town has a lot of ancient steps since it’s on the side of a mountain. As far as I know, the only way to get to the top is on foot.

Near the top we caught a glimpse of some of the water from the hotsprings. I know it looks disgusting, but that’s because of all of the minerals in it that are supposed to cure you of disease and whatnot. And for those wondering, no, the actual hotspring water you bathe in doesn’t look gross like that.

Here is the source of the town’s hotspring water. It’s covered by a piece of protective glass, which is why you can see my reflection there :)

I took my first ever dip into an outdoor hotspring nearby, and I have to say, it doesn’t feel any different from taking a bath. Sure, you’ve got lots of trees and bamboo and rocks to look at, but there are also some bugs floating around that looked like they were boiled alive. There’s also old Japanese men who aren’t afraid to let it all hang loose. I admit, there are some things I wish I could unsee.

After about an hour or so at the hotsprings, it was time to head back down the long steps and back to the bus station. By the time we got back to Tokyo, it was already night time.

The next morning we took the bullet train to the city of Hiroshima. I’m sure everyone has heard of it considering it was the first city to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon.

Outside the train station was a fountain which I like to call the Giant Butt, for obvious reasons.

Hiroshima is probably the newest looking city in Japan, but that’s no surprise since everything there was built after 1945.

Rihga Royal Hiroshima

This is the hotel we stayed at, the Rihga Royal Hiroshima. It’s supposed to be the classiest hotel in the city, and at first glance it does look that way. It dominates Hiroshima’s skyline and is connected to a high-class shopping centre and and underground shopping area. The people at the front desk spoke excellent English and made sure to treat us very politely. The hotel rooms, however, were nothing but average and a major concern for my roommate was that there was no free internet access (I think it was around $15 per day). You had to pay for TV too, but that was less of a concern since none of us understood anything that was on anyways. The main upside though, is that the Rihga Royal is within walking distance of all the tourist hotspots in Hiroshima.

Atomic Dome

Some of you may recognize this structure, it’s the famous Atomic Dome, just a few minutes walk from our hotel. I’ve heard that peoples’ shadows were burnt into buildings when the atomic bomb went off, but I walked all around the A-dome and didn’t find any. I guess no one was standing around at the time.

Aioi Bridge

This is Aioi bridge, which was used as the target when the bomb was dropped. Unfortunately, the bomb missed and instead exploded above a hospital about 300m away.

Peace Memorial Park

Across the river is the Peace Memorial Park, the place that everyone that visits Hiroshima comes to see. The following pictures were all taken in the park and come with signs in English, so I’ll let them do the talking.

Peace Memorial Park Sign

Bell of Peace Sign

Bell of Peace

paper cranes

Monument to Korean Victims and Survivors

Monument to Korean Victims and Survivors Sign

Peace Memorial Park Pond

Memorial Cenotaph

Memorial Cenotaph Sign

Peace Museum

This is the museum at the south end of the park. Inside is a timeline of the events leading up to the destruction of Hiroshima and a bunch of artifacts that have been recovered.

Hiroshima before the bomb

Here’s a miniature model of what Hiroshima looked like on the morning of August 6, 1954. You can see Aioi Bridge and the Atomic Dome here.

Hiroshima after the bomb

And this is what it looked like moments after the blast on the same day. The red ball is where the bomb exploded, note the location of Aioi Bridge below it. For those of you wondering why the bomb was exploded in the air, it was to maximize the amount of damage caused. A blast in the air will create a spherical shockwave, and as the bottom of the sphere hits the ground, it is reflected back, in essence creating a second shockwave following the initial blast. Basically, two shockwaves will deal almost twice the amount of damage as a single wave. The museum didn’t explain any of that though, it’s just something I know as an engineer.

Pocket watch from a victim

Wooden sandal from a victim

A fountain outside the museum

This was a nice fountain just outside the museum.

Paper crane art

I don’t know about other places, but where I’m from everyone in school had to read that story about the girl that tried to make a thousand paper cranes in order to make a wish. Sadly, she died from being exposed to radiation from the atomic bomb. The Peace Memorial Park has a statue devoted to her and thousands of paper cranes everywhere.

Atomic Dome seen from across the river

After seeing everything in the park, we headed back to Aioi Bridge to exit and I snapped a few more photos of the A-dome.

Video game store "Visco"

A few blocks east of Aioi Bridge was this video game store called “Visco”. I wasn’t expecting to find anything of interest here, but this is the place I picked up my Sumomo nendoroid for half price ^.^

Hiroshima Castle Map

Our next stop in Hiroshima was the ruins of the Hiroshima Castle.

Hiroshima Castle Grounds Entrance

Like everything else, the castle was destroyed in the nuclear blast, but some of the buildings, like the second compound (shown above) were rebuilt.

Second Compound Interior

This is what it looks like inside.

Second Compound Hallway

The walls were lined with pictures and captions detailing the reconstruction of some parts of the castle grounds. There were also some displays about Japanese castles and fortresses in general.

Hiroshima Castle Map

The castle grounds are pretty large as you can see from the map.

Hiroshima Gokoku Shrine Entrance

Within the castle grounds is the Gokoku Shrine, one of the newest looking shrines I’ve seen, again for obvious reasons.

Hiroshima Gokoku Shrine

There were some miko working there, but I thought it’d be rude to just start taking pictures of them (you wouldn’t walk into a church and start taking pictures of nuns would you?)

Hiroshima Castle Ruins

This is what’s left of one of the buildings.

Hiroshima Castle Ruins

Some more ruins.

Hiroshima Castle Watchtower

This is the reconstructed watchtower of Hiroshima Castle. Inside there were designated areas where visitors were allowed to take pictures. There was a really fascinating Japanese sword display on one of the floors, but unfortunately, that was one of the areas where picture taking was not allowed and there were guards watching me so I couldn’t take a sneaky shot. I really enjoyed the sword displays though because in one of my classes I learned about how Japanese swordsmiths combined the best properties of high and low carbon steel and controlled steal grain size and microstructure by maintaining specific temperature ranges and coating swords with special clay before tempering. It’s amazing to see tools that were designed using science that was never fully understood until hundreds of years later.

Hiroshima Castle Watchtower Interior

Hiroshima Castle Watchtower Interior

Here are some shots of areas where picture taking was permitted. Nothing too special in my opinion.

View from the watchtower

This is the view of the castle grounds from the top of the watchtower.

Ferry port to Miyajima Island

The next day we took a ferry to the island of Miyajima.

Itsukushima Shrine Torii Gate

Some of you may have heard of Miyajima or at least know of the torii gate in this picture. Miyajima island is home to Itsukushima Shrine, which is known for having a large torii gate in the water.

Miyajima Island Sign

A sign welcoming visitors to the island.

Giant Wooden Spoon

This was a huge-ass spoon. Apparently Miyajima is famous for it’s wooden spoons.

Male Deer

Miyajima is also home to a population of deer. Just a warning to anyone planning to go there, those deer are viscious. The locals and other tourists sat back and laughed as about a dozen deer chased me around the ferry station :(

Despite looking like cute innocent creatures, Japanese deer will chase you down like a pack of wolves if they think you have food. I really wished Miyajima had some hotsprings afterwards because I was all sticky and smelly like Tsukasa.

Itsukushima Shrine Torii Gate

Here’s the torii gate in the water. You could pay a couple of guys to row you over to it, but I didn’t think it was worth the money.

Itsukushima Shrine

Itsukushima Shrine was also built over the water.

Itsukushima Shrine

Unlike other shrine, you had to pay money to get in, but it’s also a lot nicer looking than other shrines.

Cool-looking tree

I found this cool tree while exploring the island. If I were a kid and I lived here, this would’ve been my secret base.

Itsukushima Shrine from above

This is a view of Itsukushima shrine from the top of a nearby hill.

A small stream with deer lazing around

The surrounding town wasn’t very interesting, just a bunch of stores selling souveniers and some deer looking out for their next prey.

On a ropeway to the top of a mountain

There was a ropeway in the town that took you up to the top of a mountain on the island. One of my friends had suggested we walk, but after seeing how far and high it was, I’m glad we didn’t.

Lovers Sanctuary flags

At the top was the Lover’s Sanctuary.

Lovers Sanctuary Satellite

It was rather unimpressive if you ask me.

A view of Miyajima Island and surroundings

This is reportedly one of the three most beautiful sights in Japan. I didn’t think it was any better than Vancouver Island on Canada’s west coast. One of the things I noticed during my stay in Japan was that the air is always hazy, but I’m not sure why. I’ve asked people about it and have gotten answers ranging from pollution, water vapour, and dust blowing in from China. This haze blankets the entire country all of the time so I doubt it’s pollution; water vapour can’t explain why it’s hazy at inland areas; and constant dust from China is just absurd. Some of my photos may seem relatively clear, but I can assure you that the haze is still there, it’s just not as bad as usual. If you think those grey skies are because of clouds, you’re wrong, most of my pictures were taken with cloudless skies.

Just to compare sceneries, this is a picture I took several years ago while on a yacht in Queen Charlotte Sound on the west coast of Canada.

Going down the ropeway

This is a better representation of how far it would’ve been to walk up the mountain.

Itsukushima Shrine at low tide

By the time we returned to the shores of Miyajima Island, it was low tide and Ikushima Shrine was no longer sitting on water.

Itsukushima Shrine torii gate at low tide

The torii gate was also no longer in the water, allowing people to walk right up to it. Now I was really glad I didn’t pay anyone to row me over there earlier.

A small crab

Krabby!

Miyajima mascot

As the day was ending, we were in a hurry to get back to the JR port and catch the last ferries back to Hiroshima. While heading back, I snapped a quick shot (hence the blurriness) of this cute little mascot girl that I saw out of the corner of my eye. I’ve searched on google to try to find her name with no success. I’d be happy if someone could name her.

Crane machine

Back in Hiroshima we spent the rest of the night wandering around town. Most of my time was spent at the two Taito Stations nearby. If you really suck at UFO catchers (crane machines), you might want to head to Hiroshima to try your luck. The UFO catchers here are extremely easy and actually worth the money (unlike Akiba, which is a total rip-off). There’s no photos allowed in Taito Station, but I secretly took this shot of my favourite machine. Inside are these adorable goth-loli vampire cat plushies called nyanpires.

The instructions tell you to nudge the plushies into the middle hole using the catcher, but I figured it was impossible after a few tries. I then thought that maybe I could hook onto the string at the top of the nyanpires’ heads and drag them over, so I gave it a shot and it worked! After I figured out how to win, my friends and I cleaned out half the machine in a few minutes and left before the arcade employees got suspicious.

Nyanpire plushies

Here are the two nyanpires I won ^.^

The next day was the long train ride back to Tokyo. The good thing about having an apartment is that once you’ve finished visiting a city, you can drop off any extra stuff you got and go on to the next city. The rest of that day was just spent relaxing and checking out the loot we brought back from Hiroshima.

Nagano

The day after that we took a short train ride to Nagano, home of the 1998 winter Olympics.

Statue of Princess Nyoze

Outside the train station was a statue of Princess Nyoze from a Buddhist legend.

dragon statue

Wandering around town, we found some arcades (they’re everywhere), shopping strips, and a small outdoor market. I found this cool dragon head while my friends were looking at some Yu-Gi-Oh cards.

Following a crowd of people

We tried to find some of the Olympic facilities when we came across a large group of people heading towards a temple.

Zenkoji Temple

Being the curious people that we are, we followed the crowd and ended up at Zenkoji Temple. It looked like there was something exciting going on to the side of the temple, so I ditched my friends to take a look while they were busy taking pictures and this was what I saw:

The Dalai Lama's Umbrella

To be precise, this shot is of the thing I saw 2-3 seconds after I saw it and apparently it had disappeared by then. So what was it that I saw? Well, as I made my way over to the large congregation of people, there was a huge collective gasp and when I turned to see what everyone was looking at, I saw none other than His Holiness the Dalai Lama walking down the steps of Zenkoji. It took me about 1 second to turn on my camera and another second to raise it above the crowd and take a picture, but as you can see, the only things I managed to get were his umbrella and the very top of his limo. For a frail old guy, he sure walks freakishly fast. Maybe some of you can enhance the images on those cameras in front and see inside the car.

Dalai Lama's subordinates

I did manage to get a picture of the Dalai Lama’s subordinates. I guess it’s not as important to get them into an armoured vehicle as the Dalai Lama.

Zenkoji gardens

With the excitement over, I took a look around the temple’s gardens. As with almost all of the gardens I’ve seen on my trip, this one was also beautiful.

Dalai Lama poster

I found a poster advertising the Dalai Lama’s visit while leaving the temple.

Nagano Olympic Podium

We originally came to Nagano to see some Olympic-related things and were upset that we weren’t able to find any buildings. A glimmer of hope came when we spotted the Olympic rings across the street. Unfortunately, it looks like the Japanese didn’t care much for the Olympic Podium and the last remnants of it are now crumbling apart and rusting away at the end of a parking lot.

Chuo-dori in Akihabara

The following day was Sunday, and I’m sure any otaku out there will know that Sunday is when they block-off Chuo-dori in Akiba and cosplayers roam the streets. Sadly, due to the murders a couple years ago, this weekly event stopped taking place and didn’t start up again until after I left Japan. There was not a single cosplayer in sight.

Gundam Cafe

We went to the Gundam Cafe after seeing how empty Akiba was. I didn’t order anything since I wasn’t hungry and I don’t drink coffee, but my friends said the stuff there was not worth the cost.

Harajuku Station

Japanophiles may also know that Harajuku is home to the wacky fashion trends of Japanese teens, including the goth-loli style. According to Wikipedia:

Every Sunday, young people dressed in a variety of styles including gothic lolita, visual kei, and decora, as well as cosplayers spend the day in Harajuku socializing.

Believing this, we spent a good 2 hours standing around the train station so that my friend could get a picture of an actual goth-loli (he’s really into them). After all that time, we saw 1 goth-loli who was deemed “too ugly”, a trio of ganguro girls, and a girl wearing a lop-sided mini top hat like Mio from K-ON. The moral of the story: wikipedia lies.

Harajuku

After a late lunch, we went and explored the streets of Harajuku.

Engrish sign

Anyone up for some illegal smorking?

Condomania store

Ladies, would you be as happy as those girls in that poster if your man bought some rubber here?

Harajuku Station

Back at Harajuku station, still no sign of goth-lolis. There was a caucasian girl on Jingu Bridge (to the left of this photo, not shown) dressed like a goth-loli, but my friend wasn’t interested.

A wedding at Meiji Shrine

At the nearby Meiji Shrine, there was a wedding taking place. Apparently I wasn’t supposed to take pictures, but oh well.

Akiba sign

Later that day we ended back at Akiba.

loli itasha

I spotted my first itasha.

Miku itasha

And my second.

Whew, that was a long post, but I hope you guys enjoyed the pictures. I’ll probably get the pictures from my 4th week in Japan up sometime in November.

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10 Comments to “Japan Trip – Week 3”


  1. Owow, actual itasha. I’m sure I would’ve gotten all giddy on the spot.
    Lol, smorking. Well, I’d believe engrish is volumes worse in China – absolutely terrible things like ‘deformed man toilet’ for a handicapped washroom. They had a book on it I reckon: http://bit.ly/dlXSW2

    Anyways, awesomely long informative post. Had no idea the atom bomb worked like that, and the thousand paper cranes is a very tragic, romantic fare.
    I have that experience with hotels that I’m told are high-class; the rooms always end up mediocre, if not a bit bigger. Well, there is a sort of standard to hotel rooms, and unless they throw a jacuzzi in there they’re not about to be significantly different, as far as I know.

    All-wood Japanese architecture is spectacularly beautiful – I’ve always wanted to see their castles firsthand. And then a Gundam Cafe (meh, I would’ve bought something), PLAYABLE UFO catchers, the Torii gate! I’ll just go to sleep now before I decide to stowaway on a plane to the Land of the Rising Sun.
    Ningyo recently posted..I Choose You Forever- Gardevoir

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  2. Very nice piece of post! :)
    Man… do you have to wait a long time to update us with your Japan travel post? Heee…
    Seems like I’ve missed out a lot when I was there. I should make a thorough visit to Japan after my wife finishes her Master Degree. :) Thank you for sharing.
    softz recently posted..COVA Pasticceria – Confetteria @ Paragon – A Wonderful Dinner

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  3. Engineer huh? My housemate works for Raytheon and he says once you get in, its hard for them to fire you. that a lot of employees there are incompetent and shouldn’t belong there and they cant fire you for those reasons, unless its really bad. it takes like 4-5 years of reviews before they fire you for below average performance. i wanted to be an engineer for a short while, till i realize i suck at calculus. it took hard work and help from friends to obtain a good grade at my last math class.

    hmm a full itasha cost about 1.4-1.7k US dollars =\. i wonder how much for partial. lol not like id do it on my corolla.. maybe on my future car @_@.

    i thought “condomania” was about a store that was crazy about condos lol. i didnt think about condoms.

    an air burst nuclear weapon also does more damage with EMP and also it would be less confined by natural or artificial barriers and obstacles. the blast doesnt kill you.. its more like the gamma/beta radiation, fire, vaccum = asphyxiation.
    alucard13mm recently posted..Touhou Project – Yuka Kazami 1-8 figure by Griffon Enterprise

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  4. @Ningyo:
    China probably doesn’t have as many English speakers as Japan, which could explain the number of mistranslated signs there.

    I have stayed in hotels that had jacuzzi-like bathtubs or free access to pools, I was kinda expecting something like that in Hiroshima.

    If you do stowaway on a plane and make it to Japan, make sure to avoid the UFO catchers in Akiba, those ones are rigged so that you never win.

    @softz:
    Heh, sorry about the long waits, but going through all of my pictures and uploading them takes a long time, and free time is something I’m short on right now.

    @alucard13mm:
    It’s hard for an engineer to get fired in most places, which is good news for me :)

    I would’ve thought condomania was selling condos too if it weren’t for those little condom mascots on those posters.

    You’re right about the nuclear weapons, it’s not the blast that kills you but the other effects. The shockwaves mainly serve to deal physical damage to buildings and infrastructure.

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  5. Nyanpires! They’re so cute!

    Are there a lot of itashas in Japan in general?

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  6. @flyzice:
    Yes, they are cute :)

    Unfortunately, those were some of the only itasha that I saw. Most people aren’t hardcore anime fans.

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  7. More animals after your stuff :lol:. I wonder what animal decides to chase you in week 4.

    I’d like to see Hiroshima or/and Nagasaki someday. The Japan/US conflict isn’t really taught much in History over here at school, it’s more the lead up to WW2 that’s concentrated on where Germany did X and Britain did fuck all apart from borrow a French word and use it as a policy.

    Krabby didn’t try to Water Gun you did he? xD

    I’m not sure about Japan, but it can get foggy/misty like that at the coast here – and it sometimes seeps towards mainland. It usually happens when it’s been hot during the day and cool at night, or when rain is lurking (even if it doesn’t fall). Looking over the river Forth you see this a lot.
    BioToxic recently posted..Shining Wind Kureha Swimsuit ver by Max Factory

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  8. I like that bridge and hotspring photos. They have a nice rustic feel to the scenery. That watchtower is quite a sight too!

    I want to visit Harajuku sometime too. It’s pretty fashion forward. Even if there weren’t a lot of people in wacky clothes, there should be some pretty good shopping hot spots.
    Yi recently posted..Strike Witches 2

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  9. @BioToxic:
    Heh, guess you’ll have to wait for my next post to see what happens.

    Krabby didn’t squirt any water, but it looked like it was trying to do a bubble beam ^.^

    I would’ve thought any fog or mist would just stay around the coast near the water, but if it does move inland a lot, then it could explain why all of Japan is like that.

    @Yi:
    Harajuku does have a lot of clothing stores. I walked down one street and there were all these brand name stores that I knew I couldn’t afford to walk into :(

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  10. Colby Jaruis says:

    Great information :)

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