A Travellerspoint blog

Japan

Day 12

First on the agenda - walking to Zuihoden. 30m later, I’ve just climbed the steps, and I thought I had made it to the place, so I took a few photos. Weird, I thought, it seems like it’s spring cleaning day. Lots of people here, but less than I’d expect, and none really seem like tourists. And they all know each other. Well, I feel bad poking around here when they’re working. Guess I’ll head to my next stop. And then I step outside the gate, see the many stairs ahead of me, and realise it was a completely unrelated building. Ah. Good.
This random house (definitely not Zuihoden)

This random house (definitely not Zuihoden)

Definitely not Zuihoden

Definitely not Zuihoden

Still not Zuihoden but it's a great bell

Still not Zuihoden but it's a great bell


I remembered what Zuihoden is: a mausoleum of a feudal lord. Not a house. Good. Right. I pretended like this never happened and start climbing the steps. Why are there so many steps getting to these places? If Japan was flatter, like Canterbury, it would make everything a lot easier (for me specifically).
The walk up to Zuihoden

The walk up to Zuihoden

Zuihoden was nice. Lots of history and lots of signs written in Japanese, which are obviously not very helpful for me. I’m discovering history isn’t really my jam - I just can’t bring myself to care that some dude who was powerful many years ago is buried here. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool to look at, and it’s great to know history, but I just can’t care that he was buried with this helmet. Yes, knowledge about how the past was is great, but other than the historical context I don’t need to see it, you know? It’s just a helmet which is kind of falling apart. Maybe I’m not making much sense. It makes sense to me. But the buildings are cool! So I took photos of the cool things. Really pretty grounds though, loving nature.
The main Zuihoden gate, called Nirvana

The main Zuihoden gate, called Nirvana

The Nirvana gate from inside

The Nirvana gate from inside

At Zuihoden

At Zuihoden

Part of Zuihoden

Part of Zuihoden

At Zuihoden

At Zuihoden

Zuihoden detailing

Zuihoden detailing

This interior gate at Zuihoden hasn't been reconstructed as it would have been, instead it's a modern iron fence

This interior gate at Zuihoden hasn't been reconstructed as it would have been, instead it's a modern iron fence

Inside the Zuihoden grounds

Inside the Zuihoden grounds

The Zuihoden grounds

The Zuihoden grounds

Attached to Zuihoden, a short walk away, were two other mausoleums in which the two subsequent feudal lords were buried.
One of the mausoleums

One of the mausoleums

Mausoleum

Mausoleum

Mausoleum detailing

Mausoleum detailing

A mausoleum

A mausoleum

Detailing of a mausoleum

Detailing of a mausoleum

Inside the Zuihoden grounds

Inside the Zuihoden grounds

Inside the Zuihoden grounds

Inside the Zuihoden grounds

I set off for the ruins of Sendai Castle. When I got halfway there, and looked up at the hill I suddenly had to climb, I thought: it’s going to be lots more history. Didn’t find the last bit of history I saw very interesting. Am I super keen on seeing this castle? You know what? Nah. So, I didn’t.

Instead, I veered right slightly and headed for the Miyagi Museum of Art. Seems maybe cooler to me. Was hoping that it was modern art, but general art is cool too. Maybe there’ll be chairs so I can sit down finally. It was actually really great! After managing to break the lockers (a nice lady fixed it for me), I went around the two galleries and sculpture garden I was allowed to see with my ticket (wasn’t very interested in paying more to see indigenous art - I’m here for the weeeeeird stuff). I saw some pretty neat art! See below. One thing I did see, that I wasn’t expecting to, was some black and white minimalist art by Wassily Kadinsky. Not going to lie, I didn’t know he was the pioneer of abstract art till afterwards. So it added to my general knowledge!
A cat statue

A cat statue

"Frog and Robot" is an apt description of this statue. I really liked this one

"Frog and Robot" is an apt description of this statue. I really liked this one

Another cool statue

Another cool statue

This statue was entitled "Man Riding Horse" and this is a true statement

This statue was entitled "Man Riding Horse" and this is a true statement

Man Riding Horse part 2... not sure if this statue's called that, but it's fitting

Man Riding Horse part 2... not sure if this statue's called that, but it's fitting

A rabbit?? statue

A rabbit?? statue

I walked to the Sendai Mediatheque next. It’s meant to be a marvel of modern architecture and a really cool space. But on the way, I saw a cool statue and a train I could go inside! Which was cool! However, it was kinda under renovation (the central struts were covered up) and since it was very busy and active, I felt uncomfortable taking photos of it. Next on the agenda: trying gyutan, which is grilled beef tongue. I was a bit (read: very) anxious about it, but I didn’t bail. The restaurant was one where you sat at a long table right in front of the kitchen. Ordering in Japanese was a bit of a struggle but we got there. I ate tongue and it was quite good. About as chewy as steak and very salty. Quite proud of myself for that one!
Gyutan

Gyutan

Headed off to walk through some shopping arcades. Clis Road was first on the list by virtue of it being closer. I saw a poster for a band/singer called [sNow letteR] (who, incidentally, I can’t find anywhere online - maybe it was her album??) performing in the next fifteen minutes - she had a little stage set up. So I hung about and soon she came out! It was pretty cool having a live singer in front of me, but a bit weird because she was very amped and the shoppers were interested but didn’t really have any energy. She also had a backup guitarist who was pretty good.
sNow letteR

sNow letteR

After she finished her set, I was pretty pooped, so I headed back to the hostel. I had plans to go up an observation tower that night, but it didn’t end up happening. I ran into a nice Auckland family at the door of the hostel, who were nice to chat to. I updated this for a bit then went to bed.

Posted by boredgoldfish 07:24 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Day 11

Got up early to catch the bus to the airport this morning. Was all sorted and packed, and had Lots of fun dragging my bag through the streets. They were really icy this morning which was Fun. Didn’t slip over though.
View from my bedroom when I woke up

View from my bedroom when I woke up

View from my bedroom when I woke up

View from my bedroom when I woke up


Made it to the bus (just missed the one before), and headed off. The bus ride was an hour long, and the bus was meant to leave at 8:30 (10:35am flight) so I was pretty comfortable. You can imagine my terror when we pulled up and the time was 10am. The departure side of the airport was much, much larger than the pokey departures I arrived in. So, by the time I got to check-in, check-in had closed. I had missed my flight.

$116 later, I had rebooked my flight for 11:55am. I was only out by 2 hours, too. It could be worse. I could have missed my flight home. I could have forgotten my bag (either of them) at the hostel and had to go back for it. There are worse things that could happen. It is so surreal, though, buying a ticket at the airport and going straight to the check-in gate and through security. So weird.

The airport was surprisingly large, still, so much so in fact that we took a bus to get to the plane. It’s so weird, everyone being deferential. The bus driver stood and kept bowing as we all got off. I can’t get used to it. Pretty empty flight, yet the row I was in had 3 of us in it, despite there being 4 half-rows across from us empty. I was in the window, so I couldn’t move. I guess they were too polite to move (although I’m sure we all would have liked the elbow room!).

An hour and a bit later we were in Sendai. I popped off the plane, grabbed my luggage, and caught the train just in time (it goes every half hour). 30 minutes later, I was in Sendai proper. I had a shrine and temple I wanted to see, to make up for my lazy time in Sapporo, so I popped my suitcase in a coin locker at the station and headed off. First stop: Osaki Hachimangu. This shrine was really just a delight. While the building itself wasn’t out of this world spectacular, the grounds around it and the huge gates were just awesome.
Entering Osaki Hachimangu

Entering Osaki Hachimangu

Entering Osaki Hachimangu

Entering Osaki Hachimangu

At Osaki Hachimangu

At Osaki Hachimangu

Inside Osaki Hachimangu

Inside Osaki Hachimangu

At Osaki Hachimangu

At Osaki Hachimangu

In Osaki Hachimangu

In Osaki Hachimangu

At Osaki Hachimangu

At Osaki Hachimangu

Inside Osaki Hachimangu

Inside Osaki Hachimangu

In Osaki Hachimangu

In Osaki Hachimangu

Inside Osaki Hachimangu

Inside Osaki Hachimangu

At Osaki Hachimangu

At Osaki Hachimangu

In Osaki Hachimangu

In Osaki Hachimangu

Gate at Osaki Hachimangu

Gate at Osaki Hachimangu

In Osaki Hachimangu

In Osaki Hachimangu

Inside Osaki Hachimangu

Inside Osaki Hachimangu

In Osaki Hachimangu

In Osaki Hachimangu

Inside Osaki Hachimangu

Inside Osaki Hachimangu

In Osaki Hachimangu

In Osaki Hachimangu

In Osaki Hachimangu

In Osaki Hachimangu

In Osaki Hachimangu (all made out of ticky-tacky...)

In Osaki Hachimangu (all made out of ticky-tacky...)

In Osaki Hachimangu

In Osaki Hachimangu

Exiting Osaki Hachimangu

Exiting Osaki Hachimangu

Exiting Osaki Hachimangu (glad I didn't have to climb these stairs)

Exiting Osaki Hachimangu (glad I didn't have to climb these stairs)

Exiting Osaki Hachimangu

Exiting Osaki Hachimangu

Looking back into Osaki Hachimangu

Looking back into Osaki Hachimangu

The front gate of Osaki Hachimangu

The front gate of Osaki Hachimangu

I was on a time crunch now though. It was 3pm, and the sun would set a little after 4. Rinno-ji Temple was 30m away on foot (22 by train, so I just walked), which would give me about 15m to sightsee before it got too dark, unless I got distracted. I got a little bit distracted, not going to lie. Along the way I kept coming across these fantastic buildings, which I wasn’t sure were temples or lived-in houses. This kept me from getting too close, so as you can see most of my photos are taken from just beyond the gate (which also lets me get a cool artsy framing). I kept taking photos further and further away though, as I realised how late in the evening it was getting. [Future Emma: with a further scour of google and my route, I’m 90% sure that they were all temples/shrines. However, since they all seemed closed & had cars in the driveway, I feel like I took a good level of caution.]
A cool house/temple

A cool house/temple

A cool house/temple

A cool house/temple

A graveyard near a cool house/temple (this one's certainly a temple)

A graveyard near a cool house/temple (this one's certainly a temple)

A cool house/temple

A cool house/temple

A cool house/temple

A cool house/temple

A cool house/temple and a cool tree

A cool house/temple and a cool tree

Rinno-ji Temple had a relatively unassuming street entrance. I actually almost missed it, but Google Maps is good to me. The only problem with visiting all these things - how many stairs they all have! This one wasn’t so bad, but I was still glad to make it up. Now, I had heard online that this temple had a Japanese garden you could see, so I was excited to have a look around. Oh boy, am I glad I decided to come here. It was beautiful. It was so tranquil and beautiful. There were so many paths through the garden, you could pick your route, and you saw something new every time you went through. It was huge, too. This was definitely a major highlight of my trip.
The first Rinno-ji gate. A wee way back from the road

The first Rinno-ji gate. A wee way back from the road

Rinno-ji entrance

Rinno-ji entrance

At Rinno-ji

At Rinno-ji


In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

In the Japanese garden

Detailing of the pagoda in the Japanese garden

Detailing of the pagoda in the Japanese garden

Inside the Japanese garden

Inside the Japanese garden

The cat outside Rinno-ji

The cat outside Rinno-ji

Headed back by the time it got dark. Went down the wrong road to get to the train station cause I thought I was smarter than Google Maps. Hint: was not. Asked the train conductor for a timetable when I finally got there.
“Sumimasen (excuse me), timetable?” I trace the TMO shape with my hands.
“Timetable?” He copies the box shape.
“Hai, hai!!”
“All?”
“Hai!” So I collect my timetable, walk away - not a word of English on it. What was I expecting? So I return...
“Gomenasai (sorry), wakarimasen (I don’t understand)...”
And he laughed, I apologised, he managed to communicate that the next train I want comes in ten minutes. It was a good time. I survived, got on the train, got my suitcase from the coin locker, and-- Well, I would have taken the train home, except the free wifi was super spotty, my phone kept crashing, I was tired and didn’t want to drag my suitcase for 20m, and I couldn’t find the right station for the life of me. Eventually asked the man on duty, and he explained I needed to go on the subway. Next issue: the sign for the subway points down the stairs, and then there are no further subway directions. Only exit signs.

It’s then, when I’m getting really frustrated & have finally decided to walk, that my fairy godmother sees me. She’s a lovely old Japanese woman who sees me getting frustrated, can speak some English, and reminds me of Yoda a bit. She walks me to the subway gate (she’s so slow it’s so sweet) and makes damn well sure (she talks to the man at the ticket gate) that I get on the right train. Bless her cottons, bless them forever!

Got to Hostel Kiko alright. They’re a really friendly bunch. Got a bit lost finding it, and seeing the literal light at the end of the alley was just such a relief honestly. The first lady who greeted me had actually been to high school in Auckland, so it was really nice having someone to speak English to for a bit. I paid for my room in cash, which is a detail which will be important later. Another of the staff physically showed me around the building, which is a level of interaction I haven’t had all trip. I’m pretty sure the staff also sleep in the building, so it’s pretty nice everyone being so friendly.

It’s not a super classy joint otherwise? The living spaces are nice, but the rooms have a lot to be desired. I almost feel like I’m going to shake my lower bunkmate every time I get in or out of bed (this was never an issue in Sapporo, when I was also on the top bunk. They were really nicely built). I also can’t lean backwards, there’s only plywood between the other top bunk and me, and it bends and makes noise if I lean on it. It’s somewhere to sleep though, for which I am grateful. Grabbed dinner and kipped down for the night.
Relaxing at the end of a long day

Relaxing at the end of a long day

Posted by boredgoldfish 05:30 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Day 10

Woke up a bit late & it was snowing (which was fun! not) (okay, I slept in quite late). I spent most of the daylight hours back in the Hokkaido Ki-in (there were not very many left, this was an easy feat), playing go, which was lovely.

After a couple of hours, I decided to go check out the covered shopping arcades, which were pretty cool. I had a wander up & down, and checked out some Very expensive boutique stores (Y15,000 black shirt anyone?? Y26,000 used guitar????). The same pharmacy kept showing up every few meters. It’s so weird, the perception of distance in Japan, how walking long distances isn’t really something that’s done. It’d be insane if there were anywhere near this concentration of convenience stores in NZ.
Inside the covered shopping arcades

Inside the covered shopping arcades

The covered shopping arcades

The covered shopping arcades

The dingier side of the shopping arcade

The dingier side of the shopping arcade

There were at least three of these shops in the small part of the shopping arcades I investigated

There were at least three of these shops in the small part of the shopping arcades I investigated

A Don Quixote at Sapporo in the covered shopping arcade

A Don Quixote at Sapporo in the covered shopping arcade

And that’s literally all I did today. I know, it sounds boring, but the various phases took up quite a while! I knew it would snow in advance, so I wanted to do most of my outdoorsy things yesterday and this morning - but unfortunately I forgot to set my alarm this morning, and did too many other things yesterday morning (shouldn't have gone to the go club yesterday!).

Posted by boredgoldfish 05:15 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Day 9

Breakfast at The Stay wasn’t very good. Probably not going to eat there again. The mashed potatoes were cold and all lumps. Cold corn & broccoli isn’t really my cuppa either, and neither is corn soup (at least it was hot though). The rest was fine though. Had a bit of a lie in. It’s looking like Sapporo is going to be a bit of a dip in activity - need time to recuperate and prepare for the busyness that will be Sendai! In hindsight, writing this from Sendai, I wish I had just spent these three nights in Sendai. But we live and learn. I did get out there eventually, and headed to Odori Park.

Look, don’t know what I was expecting - a green paradise in winter? In Japan? C’mon. No, it was frozen and icy and all tarmac paving. We moved on to the Hokkaido University Botanical Garden, which was closed. Bummer. Peeping through the iron fence, though, I saw the most gorgeous frozen lake. Frozen lakes are such a rarity to me in NZ, so they’re pretty exciting. They did have a greenhouse open, which was pretty cheap so I went in. It wasn’t super exciting, but was fine. The cacti were cool. Was keeping an eye out for NZ plants in the international section, but no dice. All the plants local to the Hokkaido region looked very dead, so I wonder what was up with that? Everything else was flourishing.
Odori Park

Odori Park

A frozen lake at the Hokkaido University Botanical Gardens

A frozen lake at the Hokkaido University Botanical Gardens

Inside the greenhouse

Inside the greenhouse

Inside the greenhouse

Inside the greenhouse

Inside the greenhouse

Inside the greenhouse

Outside the greenhouse

Outside the greenhouse

Moving on (and looking at that pond again) I started the long hunt for this go club I had my eye on, the Nihon Ki-in Hokkaido Headquarters (it’s a go thing - basically a place where lots of people go to play). I did see on google maps, on the way, this cool-looking park, so I headed over. It wasn’t closed, and here I discovered my favourite thing - all the trees had hats. Well, maybe that’s a misnomer. Some had cloaks! And some were held up! Man, it made me so happy. Trees with hats. Yes, okay, it’s to stop the snow from crushing them, but trees with hats is a very cute image in my head (and in real life!).
Frozen lake from another angle

Frozen lake from another angle


Trees with hats!

Trees with hats!

All the trees have hats!!

All the trees have hats!!

Trees with hats AND bows

Trees with hats AND bows

These trees are too cool for hats

These trees are too cool for hats

The park was pretty nice. It was centered around this red brick building, which was the old government building and is now a tourist spot, which I just happened to stumble into. I thought it looked quite nice. I must say, it’s a lot better being in Sapporo when the ground is clear. Walking over the snow yesterday was such a hassle, but with the ground clear it’s much more delightful just walking around. I had a poke around the park, and the nearby boulevard.
Trees with hats! And the famous Red Brick House (yes that's its name)

Trees with hats! And the famous Red Brick House (yes that's its name)

Trees with hats   government buildings

Trees with hats + government buildings


Thanks for the warning

Thanks for the warning


The red brick house

The red brick house

Huge pile of snow (random family for reference)

Huge pile of snow (random family for reference)

A pretty avenue in Sapporo

A pretty avenue in Sapporo

Pretty and big avenues

Pretty and big avenues

Time for lunch! Then I kept trying to find this go club. Turns out, I had put into Google Maps the name of the suburb, not the street. Japanese road design is pretty confusing, not having usual street names. It was pretty cool, recognising the kanji for “go” and then hunting it down through this building when I got closer. It was up on the 9th floor, in this big office room, but all well set up for playing go. The receptionist paired me up with the only gentleman in the building (I presume) who spoke any English. He spoke a lot better English than I spoke Japanese. We played for quite a while, and I lost track of the time. I realised at 3 what the time was, and had to go! It’s an hour trip to get up to the top of Mount Moiwa, and since the sun sets at 4, I had to hustle. Finding free wifi to sort out my Google Maps is always a hassle, but I managed it in the end.
Trees with shields (ft. a single glove)

Trees with shields (ft. a single glove)

Trees with shields

Trees with shields

Trees with protection

Trees with protection


The Hokkaido Ki-in

The Hokkaido Ki-in

To get up the mountain, I had to get to the base of it by tram and then up by gondola. The tram was pretty cool and had a cool old-timey vibe while also being a regularly used method of transport. The underground really isn’t used in Sapporo very much it seems. Some buses though. I hiked up the mountain (look it was a small hill okay) to the bottom of the gondola and queued to get on. It was really busy, despite being winter and the view from the top being not so good. I did ask, and they reckoned the view wouldn’t be much better tomorrow. Up I went! Unfortunately it was dark by the time I reached the top. It was pretty cool (and cold!) but there wasn’t that much to see, and with it being so cold I didn’t really want to stay outside for that long. Was hoping there would be an interior viewing platform but I was wrong. I eventually headed back down. The midway station of the gondala wasn’t super exciting, a small outside area though, with some families having a snowball fight and run around, which was nice to watch.
Nice house on the way up to the gondala

Nice house on the way up to the gondala

Graveyard up the hill a bit from the gondala stop

Graveyard up the hill a bit from the gondala stop

View from Mount Moiwa

View from Mount Moiwa

View from Mount Moiwa

View from Mount Moiwa

View from Mount Moiwa ft. ticket

View from Mount Moiwa ft. ticket

View from Mount Moiwa

View from Mount Moiwa

Lover's Bell on top of Mount Moiwa

Lover's Bell on top of Mount Moiwa

Lover's Bell ft. lovers

Lover's Bell ft. lovers

Selfie over Sapporo

Selfie over Sapporo

Distant gondalas (and Mount Moiwa)

Distant gondalas (and Mount Moiwa)

Coming down the gondala

Coming down the gondala

Gondalas

Gondalas

Midway up Mount Moiwa

Midway up Mount Moiwa

Midway up Mount Moiwa

Midway up Mount Moiwa

Took the tram back to the closest stop and walked back to the hostel. Relaxed for the rest of the evening.

Posted by boredgoldfish 05:01 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Day 8

It was a travelling day today! Up at 6, breakfast at 6:30, left the hotel by 6:45. Took the subway to get to the airport bus, and took the bus to Narita. Easy check-in, though I might have cut it a bit fine. Napped on the plane, instead of updating this like I was planning. By the time I opened the window again, there was snow!
Snowy fields around Sapporo

Snowy fields around Sapporo

Flying over Hokkaido (the prefecture Sapporo is in)

Flying over Hokkaido (the prefecture Sapporo is in)

It was at this point, unlike all the other times when I told Japanese people I was heading to Sapporo and they got a ??? look on their face, that I started to feel like I had made a mistake. What was I doing in Sapporo in winter, with no winter clothes and canvas shoes?? But hey, she’ll be right. I’ll figure it out.
Busy Sapporo

Busy Sapporo

Getting a bus to the hostel was a little stressful, but I figured it out. You’d think snow is lovely and romantic until it’s dirty and the footpaths are frozen over and you’re dragging a canvas suitcase through frozen roads with canvas shoes. It kinda stops being fun then. The hostel itself was actually quite nice. Lovely top floor. I relaxed and call family. It gets dark here by 4, so I took the evening to relax and explore the area a little.
Just a face on the crosswalk

Just a face on the crosswalk

The tenth floor lounge at The Stay Sapporo

The tenth floor lounge at The Stay Sapporo

The tenth floor lounge at The Stay Sapporo

The tenth floor lounge at The Stay Sapporo

The tenth floor lounge at The Stay Sapporo

The tenth floor lounge at The Stay Sapporo


Was really smart and took a glass of water into the bunk. Managed to spill it everywhere so was very smart. Dried everything out before bed though.
Drying sheets at The Stay

Drying sheets at The Stay


Lazy evening. Short day but there you go.

Posted by boredgoldfish 02:03 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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