A few years ago (or less), each day was quite tough. Now, each day i deal with pain and confusion but enough joy and interestingness to compensate. My brain fires but i have to throttle as i get headaches and eye strain very easily, i remain very sensitive to light and sounds so use dark glasses and ear plugs when out and about.
Anyhow, there are several recent “standalone” dispatches of activities and outings (Mae Maes concerts, tea ceremony, museums, tours…) but this post simply gathers up miscellaneous whatnots which don’t really chronicle anything but normal day-to-day tasks and action with brief annotations.
Japan can be intimidating, even for seasoned travellers. You arrive to massive sticker shock, tiny octopi in soup, and 30 kinds of hot canned coffee (which all taste moreorless the same) in ubiquitous vending machines.
Japan is a long country with 80% mountains – covering several climates, from frosty Hokkaido in the north, to tropical Kyushu giving adventurous folks much opportunity to head to the outer provinces for exploration of the heady scenery of this varied archipelago. With some planning, politeness and persistence, combined with a little zen, you can find big adventures.
Indeed, it is easy to get lost in the big cities of Tokyo and Osaka – crowded with skyscrapers and twisted alleys, piled high with screaming neon clubs pumping techno, reggae or karaoke and shops piled with futuristic technological gadgets that won’t make it to North America for another decade – but, far away from the expensive hotels and talking toilets of the huge Pacific metropolis, you may find yourself soaking in alpine hot springs on a starry night, drinking sake with strangers crammed into a mountain hut after a backcountry dinner of rice, seaweed, miso and green tea.
Best to fly to Kansai (KIX) Osaka airport. This schmancy modern airport is located on a human-made island in the middle of the bay and includes 2 hotels, like 100+ restaurants, post office, an airplane viewing platform and importantly, a train station. The hotels (the full-service Nikko Hotel & business-single-pod-style First Cabin) are super useful if you arrive exhausted from the long flight (usually about 14 hours from N.A. west coast). A short trip from the airport’s island by shuttle bus brings you to loads of other hotels. This airport village also has loads of shopping for buying treats on your way home. Of course, the are other airports, specifically Tokyo (massive international hub Narita NRT or sometimes Haneda HND which is usually used for domestic flights) and the new Centrail/Chubu/Nagoya (NGO) airport. While you might save a few dollars on the flight, you’ll have a longer (more expensive) train journey to reach Okayama which is the destination for the shindig.
Fly direct to Okayama (OKJ) via the charmingly convenient and cute Momotaro Airport. If you fly to Haneda or Narita (Tokyo) mentioned above, you can transfer and fly right here. Sometimes this requires an airport shuttle between Narita (mostly international) and Haneda (more domestic). There is a bus service from Momotaro to downtown Okayama too. Note: there is a huge service difference for the long-haul flights from North America. My personal experience is to fly an Asian-based airline, i.e.: Japan (ANA *fave, JAL), Korean (Korean or Asiana), Taiwan (EVA), HK (Cathay Pacific) or Singapore if coming from YVR, SFO, LAX, etc. If coming from other Asian destinations, well you are usually all good. I have experienced much less enjoyment from US-based airlines and China mainland airlines often have low prices but check the reviews and adjust against your comfort levels.
While dispatches and re-caps of various outings and events exist elsewhere in this archive, life is so wonderful right now i don’t want to miss a thing or fail to appreciate the glorious mundane details of just existing.
As such, what follows are bits and pieces which don’t fit elsewhere, a round-up of miscellany and odds and ends and mild annotations.
Starting with the pleasantness of stopping for a coffee and receiving a free lil sandwich plate (and seeing Ryoko’s adorableness :)).
The internets instructs food photos be posted with frequency.
The magical art city of Kurashiki was holding a Jazz Street event with loads of bands playing at various venues around the historic Bikan area with narrow Edo-period laneways, the magnificent Ohara museum (featuring European post/impressionist art) and lots of little shops selling handmade paper, handicrafts of all sort, plus great coffee shops and kissaten (a sort of Japanese diner/lounge type establishment).
After all the friends came and went from the wedding festivities in April (including a hospital stay by one intrepid adventurer) and then the Emperor abdicated and new one enthroned, then we rambled through much of May to Toyama, Nagano, Niigata etc. seeing small museums, riding various trains, soaking in a few hot springs, visiting a few pals… oh then of course, doing all the paperwork and procedure for my zairyu card, national insurance and pension programs and setting up our little house with some 2nd hand furniture, a fresh shelf books and hooks and hangers… we set about just “normal life” here.
Note: Indeed, indulged with a very practical maneouver to acquire a stack of books… this pile is primarily from Vancouver and Vancouver-related by Grant Lawrence, Aaron Chapman, Eve Lazarus, plus Marc Zegans and David Willis… i will document these and many others recently added to collection forthwith(ish).
What follows are very mediocre snapshots to chronicle various normal-outings, non-events, day-to-day errands, and other otherwise insignificant actions.
For the record, we live in Tsuchida neighbourhood outside of Okayama city (shi), the capital of Okayama prefecture (ken). A mix of old (pre-war) homes, new homes, rice fields. 20 mins by car or 30 minutes by the fantastic Uno Bus to Okayama Station. Easy to go to Kurashiki or Bizen or the inland sea.
I’ve even tried to plant some garden boxes and various seeds for greens. Okaasan (mother) has a much better technique and diligence with gardening.