May 24th and 25th: Hiroshima

This is a long one folks.

From Osaka station, it took about two and a half hours to get to my hostel in Hiroshima. It would have been a little shorter, but for my unfamiliarity with where things are and the strange pace I take on when carrying my luggage.

After finding my way out of the Hiroshima station, I found myself with two options, I could grab a local train and then get on a streetcar, or just get on a streetcar and ride for an extra 10 minutes. I opted for simplicity in a new place rather than saving a small amount of time. Also there was a guy with a Care Bear bag (thanks phone!). Maybe it was just cheap, but I like to think it is some weird cross cultural hipster thing. Continue reading

Wednesday May 23rd: Nagoya Central Park

The morning after Nara, I had a bit of time before I could go to the hostel-hotel thing I was staying at in Osaka, as such I decided to wonder around Nagoya in the daylight for once.

After checking out of the hotel, I then left my bags with the front desk. That was a nice change. One I would repeat in Osaka and Hiroshima as well, which made sense to me, as I had such a limited time in each location that to waste those hours between check out and check in time would have been quite foolish. Continue reading

Monday May 21st: The Eclipse and a tiny bit of Nagoya

Just to start off with, the last post I still hated writing about and I’m not particularly in a great mood for this, that and I’m feeling the pinch of time, having a few hours left today and tomorrow to hypothetically catch up. It’s not going to happen. Anyway, this is going to be a shorter than usual post, and if you want a way more awesome article about the eclipse that almost had my pictures in it, look no further than a friend’s article on astrobites. If you want pictures waaaaaay better than mine, head over to In Focus.

(Hey look, I found the “Read More” button!)

Continue reading

Monday May 14th: Sapporo

Falling behind on updates is easy when you end up overly tired and keep falling asleep while working on it. So finally I’m at least getting Sapporo up, over a day late.


From the station before Sapporo, you can see Isengard.

I arrived in Sapporo at a little after six in the morning after the 5 hour partial tour of Hokkaido in the dark. By the time I arrived at the hostel it was about seven, and thankfully the guy running it who goes by Jimmy is very friendly, and just lives next door, at least as far as he acted it didn’t seem like a hassle for him, which was nice.

My attempt to play online with some of my friends was almost a complete failure as I couldn’t stay awake long enough to do much. Alas. Around noon I finally finished napping and getting ready, it was time to start exploring the capital of the island.

Sapporo stands in a kind of middle ground between Kyoto and Tokyo, it has history, but much of it has been rebuilt. There is a core downtown that starts about 2km North of the train station, and goes to about 1km South of my hostel. The East West boundaries are the large river to the East, and pretty much the Western edge of the Sapporo University.

Even the size kind of reminds me of Seattle, though it’s much brighter and doesn’t go to sleep at 9PM. That and I found a few other things, like Kent, looking about as classy as it did in the early 90s.


King5 looks like it has seen better days though.

It became very clear as I walked to the East-West multi-block park in the middle of downtown, that the “Clock tower” on the map was actually a tower, not unlike the Tokyo Tower, it’s a bit shorter, and has a clock on it though, so… there’s that?

The trees, and flowers are more like home, tulips appear quite popular, that and a bunch of other flowers I don’t know the name of but have seen. The park itself has flowers in nearly every section, often in geometric arrangements.


A few tulips here and there.

The central park of Odori has 12 sections, ending in the West with a cultural and historical document center that didn’t look open, nor very inviting. Still along the way I saw many pretty things, including cherry blossoms, turns out they bloom later in colder climates, who would have guessed?

There were also two fountains, actually a few more, but only two were functioning. There were also a few statues, some of ballerinas, one of people fishing and gathering food, a group of animals looking to an owl, and two of what appeared to be scientists. Maybe they just really liked lab coats?


Not the last time I saw a bird drinking that day.

I discovered that the Botanical Garden organized by the university was closed on account of it being Monday. Students don’t like Mondays, big shock. On my way from the park to the gardens, I ran across the court building and one of the current government buildings. The sun was just at the wrong place making it difficult to read and take pictures of, being metal, but I was able to see that the building houses the Hokkaido branch of the Public Security Information Bureau, which is like the NSA, but you know, Japanese.


In Japan boring, nondescript buildings actually stand out.

I found myself pretty soon already back at the train station, as I took the subway to the hostel, I wasn’t quite sure how far it was. At this point I grew wary of having to borrow adapters in the future, especially in South Korea, so I went to Bic Camera to find one of my own. Here I thought Best Buy was bad about mark up. Or so I thought. I found my new 70-300mm lens, and it was actually about the same price, but batteries were insanely expensive. Still, after seeing lenses were about right I checked out the filters… *sigh*

Even the most basic, and cheapest UV filter was seven times more expensive than the one I currently have is listed at on Amazon. Amazon.com that is. Batteries and UV filters are far more expensive even at Amazon.co.jp, though cheaper than at Bic Camera. The cheapest filter on Amazon.co.jp is still over twice as expensive though. Swapping will just have to continue.

On the bright side, I found an adapter with a wire that can be used if you can actually get an external ground, and it was only 300 yen, so yay. Having acquired a headache because of noise of the store, I got out as quickly as I could.

Around the corner I saw a building I remembered from the morning, it looked like it had a giant screen depicting an under water scene, but it moved with the wind, I knew it was likely some sort of colored reflectors cleverly placed outside, and with the wonders of a 300mm zoom, I could confirm it.


Clever, and pretty.

Between my headache, and not doing much urban hiking, I decided to head back for a bit, if only to rest, I went back on the East side of the city, and decided to at least investigate the Sapporo Factory, sure it is a macro beer that is almost always boring and bland, but whatever, it’s within walking distance, and looking won’t kill me.


Pretty brick building at least, built in the early 1900s.

I started looking around, found signs I couldn’t read, and noticed something funny about the windows. They were bricked up on the inside. Almost all of them. Something was very wrong. Maybe it was closed, and just kept standing as an historical structure?

No.


Something far stranger.

It was gutted, and turned into a mall, even the part across the street was turned into a mall, with new buildings constructed around them, and a sky bridge merging it all. It even has an IMAX. For a reasonable price, only 1000 yen, or $12.50 (+300 yen for 3D), not bad, especially if it is a real IMAX and not one of the crappy branded screens. Even if it is a crappy branded screen, it’s still about the same price as a regular screen back home.

Then again, the Boeing IMAX also has a pretty reasonable price of $13.75…

It was a much more sparse and actually quiet mall (even with the arcade), and it had a grocery store to look at, as well as a pet store. I ended up taking a few pictures before I noticed the “Please don’t take pictures” signs, but there wasn’t a crowd, and no one said anything. Would have been funnier if I noticed the sign in a picture, but it wasn’t on the ones I first saw.


Also a mushroom giraffe.

The grocery store was mostly disappointing, the bento boxes I had been living on in Kyoto were about 100 yen more expensive, and everything else was slightly more too. Still, I found what appeared to be a baguette of wheat bread, which was something I had never seen before. Turned out it was… sort of, it had a bit of cinnamon baked into it, but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the bag obscured the fact it was cut open on the side. It was then stuffed with cream. Not quite the bread I was looking for, but at least it was only 88 yen.

Approaching the hostel, I went through the North/South mini-park on the sides of a thin river. This was nice, and with it slightly too high for some of the stone steps, it made for neat pictures.


Conversing across the river.

During the last few blocks I found some rusted barrels and a few crushed… things tossed behind a small building. Discovered that the vine house, also houses four cats (though the fourth had gone back inside).

I rested and chatted with Jimmy for a bit. A new person arrived, but just for the night. As we talked, I discovered he spent time in California where he went to university. In Irvine. I apologized, and we both tried to explain to someone from Ohio why Irvine makes me shudder.

Meandering about searching for a place that serves a Sapporo special, miso ramen, I discovered that there was a Nikka Bar nearby. That sounds cool, right? A whiskey bar, sounds like a good…


Ouch.

At 1400 yen just to start with one drink, I decided to save my whiskey money for the Nikka distillery in Yoichi. Spoiler: I made the right call.

Eventually I found the place with “cheap” miso ramen, which starts at 900 yen. This appears to be about the standard for non-fast food in Sapporo as I would discover the next night. On the bright side, that includes tax, and you don’t tip in Japan, so… $11 isn’t horrible.

It’s not the most complex dish, but it is quite satisfying, the ramen was nice and fresh, and it had some sort of roots along with green onion slices, and a small bits of chicken and half a hard-boiled egg. Anyway, I plan on making this when I get back.

Stuffing myself with that, I headed back to the hostel, tried to get some work done but fell asleep sorting train pictures. It seems to be a theme that would continue at least another day.