Thursday, June 4, 2015

Intro to Japan

I’m Still Here

            Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, but it’s been a rough couple of weeks here in Mongolia.  Now before you ask it’s not the weather, food, or the job, let’s just say that Mongolia is not the easiest place in the world to do the single guy thing, and leave it at that.  Originally I planned to spend the summer here in Mongolia and do some Mountain climbing, which I mentioned previously.  Sadly for most of you or happily if your my mother, that particular trip is not going to happen as I am headed back to the states for the summer to recharge for another school year in Mongolia.  So for my west coast relatives, I will see you on the 17th, and I am ready for some California food, ah cantaloupe, jack fruit (I’ve been dying for some since Thailand), guacamole, and seafood.  As for all of you guys back in PA and NJ, I’ll be back in town on the 22nd.  John, I am still working on a Mongolian cookbook written in English, but I haven’t had any luck yet.  Oh and I almost forgot one thing, real American cereal, not the cheap knock off stuff either.

            Now with all of the topics I have to write about, the last several weeks in Mongolia, South Korea, and such, I have decided to go with Japan, because today was at least the third time Kelvin asked about my blog.  He wants to know when I will post again and specifically about Japan.  FYI- I really think he just wants pictures of sushi.  So Kelvin, today’s post is just for you, the first post about my travels in Japan in the spring of 2013.

            First things first, why did I go to Japan?  Well, if you haven’t figured it out already I am a huge anime fan (ok super fan, but who is keeping notes).  So like any self-respecting anime fan I had the desire to travel there eventually.  Well after several years of saving I amassed enough funds to afford a 2 month jaunt in style around the country.  So after finally completing a master’s in education, I took off for the Shangri-La of anime fans.  Let it be said that there is much more to Japan than just anime, and I discovered that very early on in my journey.  I also found those aspects to much more interesting than the anime related stuff, as you will see as I post about the locations I explored on my travels.

            So two months, 8 weeks, or 56 days would be nearly impossible to write about in a step by step fashion like I am doing with my South Korea trip, so this time I will be writing about all of the places I visited during my original trip to Japan and my much more recent weekend getaway individually.  This also may not be done in the correct order.

Warning Japanese Geography content

            Japan is an island nation made up of four main Islands (Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, Hokaido) and the Ryuku islands, which are broken up into several smaller chains.  All told the country stretches from just south of San Diego CA, to Seattle Washington.
            Honshu- The main Island of Japan and the seventh largest island in the world.  The island is divided into 5 regions, and more on that later.
            Shikoku- The smallest of the four main islands.  It did not have a direct connection to Honshu until the 1990s.
            Kyushu- The southern most of the four main islands, and it was the access point for foreigners into Japan for centuries.
            Hokkaido- The northern most island and the frontier region of Japan, large national parks and untamed wilderness.
            Ryuku Islands- Also known as the Nansei islands.  The Ryuku kingdom ruled the islands and had relations with Japan starting in the 700s with varying levels of influence until they were completely under Japanese control in the 1870s.

            The islands are subdivided into 47 prefectures, which are akin to something between states or counties.  The prefectures are then subdivided into cities, districts, and villages, similar to local townships and municipalities.

Japanese Geography content over

            Out of those 47 I traveled to locations in 23 of them, and here all of the locations I traveled to.

            Honshu- Tokyo, Hakone, Takayama, Shirakawa-go, Kanazawa, Nagoya, Nara, Ise, Kyoto, Mt. Koya, Osaka, Himeji, Shikoku, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Hirosaki, Kakunodate, Sendai, Matsushima, Niko

            Shikoku- Matsuyama

            Kyushu- Nagasaki, Kagoshima

            Hokkaido- Kushiro, Lake Akan, Abashiri, Ashikawa, Saporro, Utoro, Noboribetsu, Hakodate

            Ryuku islands- Naha, Ishigaki, Iriomote

            I know that most of my locations are located on Honshu and Hokkaido, but I still feel like I saw most if not all of what Japan has to offer.

Getting to Japan

            Today is the big day it is finally happening.  I am finally on my way to Japan, after three years of saving, and planning I am doing it.  So I’ve gotten everything packed up and ready to go.  I don’t know if I’ve over packed or not only time will tell I guess, so I’ve got a medium to large sized hiking pack, and a small triangle sling bag for my trip, with enough clothing to last for two weeks so I’ll have to do laundry at least 4 times.  Anyway it’s 2am and I’d better get some sleep before I leave for Newark.  Everything went exactly as planned, and I even got to the airport early with enough time to wander around the concourse several times before heading to the gate.

            Sadly things did not go as planned once I got to the gate, the freaking flight was delayed several hours totally screwing up my travel plans.  Well several hours later and a Limo ride across town to JFK and I’m on my finally on my way.  The alternative was an overnight layover in Dallas.  Ooohhhh Shiny…..

            I am now stuck in a window seat with my knees jammed in place and the person in front of me is probably a little annoyed that he can’t move the seat back.  Sorry that isn’t a knee defender it’s my knees.

            The eagle has landed; I repeat the eagle has landed.  The flight was fine seeing as I slept most of the way, and the snacks came in handy so I didn’t have to eat the nasty ass airline food.  Now Japan is a first world country, so I did not expect to have to march down off the plan on to the tarmac at Haneda airport before taking a bus to the terminal.  Customs was fine but it was almost 11pm by the time I made it through and began the joy of navigating the mass transit systems of Japan.  It was a little confusing but give me a break it’s late and I can’t read Japanese.  So I finally made it to the right subway and the only other people in the car is a mother and daughter from Bergen County NJ.  Sheesh, give me a break, I’m who knows how many miles from home and the first people I meet are from NJ.  Now by the time I made it to Asakusa Tokyo, it’s after midnight and I am lost wandering around like an idiot when this nice Japanese woman rides up to me and asks me if I’m lost.  Yes, yes, yes, and hell yes.  Oh and thank god for cell phones, since she whips hers out and finds my Ryokan (Loose translation a Japanese bread and breakfast).  A short walk later and one phone call by her and I’m in (she wanted to make sure I got in since it was closed for the night).  However, I made my reservation starting Friday not Thursday ddoooohhhhhh!  Well a few extra bucks later and I finally have my room.  In closing if I had a similar problem in Philadelphia or New York I would have been shot and stabbed several times before being left for dead in the street.  I love Japanese women.  (Helpful and cute)