A Travellerspoint blog

September 2014

Tokyo in a Shoebox

sunny 25 °C

First impressions count, and while Sheila is an old hand in Japan it’s a first for James and friend Trudy. So first impressions – Wow. It doesn't seem expensive here, the Japanese are not shy and the food is wonderful.
There are some 35 million people crammed into the greater Tokyo area, (more than a quarter of the country’s population), so it’s not surprising that shoebox living is the norm. Apart from the soaring skyscrapers and wide streets most things are scaled down to suit the locals. Doorways can give lofty foreigners a headache and while James may have squeezed into the hotel’s bathtub…
…it wasn’t easy to get out.
However, despite the cramped conditions and the teeming subways, everyone has time for the niceties. When Japanese department stores open each morning the smartly uniformed staff don hats and white gloves and bow deeply as they wish each and every customer “Ohayou gozaimasu” (Good morning). But service with a smile doesn’t end there. We have been bowled over by the friendly, courteous and helpful Japanese. Nothing has been too much trouble for the countless strangers who’ve helped us to buy train tickets, find our way and choose restaurants and meals, often without being asked and without any motive beyond being welcoming to foreigners. Our only disappointment was that the Sumo wrestling match we had been promised was sold out. Sheila and Trudy were looking forward to seeing raw nature in the flesh but maybe the mural on the stadium was enough…

After just one day in Tokyo, (we return next month), we began our trek on the famous Nakasendo way – an ancient trail leading from Tokyo to Kyoto. Here’s the monument in the centre of Tokyo that marks the start of the trail…

And all went well until we arrived in Matsumoto to visit the 16th century castle…
This wooden fortress has survived four hundred years of conflict and dry rot but the shoguns and samurai who built and defended it might be shocked to find it being used as the venue for a beer festival today …
Yes - we’ve done it again. After being subjected to a nightmarish situation in Italy a couple of years ago when we accidentally spent four days at the European chocolate festival in Perugia, we’ve now washed up in the midst of a Japanese beer festival. This could be tough – we thought – but fortunately our friend Trudy, who claimed not to like beer, was willing to take a large one for the team and a great time was had by all...
Tomorrow we begin our hike and will wend our way through rural villages and stay in traditional guest houses for the next 5 days - if we can stay off the beer,

Posted by Hawkson 05:51 Archived in Japan Comments (12)

Chasing the sun

sunny 25 °C

The Harvest moon rising over the Rocky Mountains lights a path across the Salish Sea to our front windows and signals that it is time for us to turn our back on Canada and trek westward in pursuit of the departing sun. But visitors to our island home this summer might have thought that we had already drifted westward across the blue Pacific to the shores of another island - to Japan...
This is Sheila's Japanese inspired quilting studio. With its distinctive flared roof line and cedar siding it could easily be in the land of the rising sun, but it is firmly rooted among the giant cedar trees in our British Columbian garden...
The sun may be slowly retreating southward as we slip into fall but what a summer it has been. Month after month of endless sunshine - perpetually blue skies melding seamlessly with calm seas, and balmy evenings ending in glorious sunsets...
It has been a busy summer with little time for sunbathing or swimming. While James wielded his hammer and saw on the new building, Sheila was left to domestic chores and tending the parched garden. But we found time to visit friends; to see some Shakespeare in Vancouver; to watch fireworks; and to attend the annual Salmon Barbecue. The highlight came when our 94 year old friend, Antony Holland, was awarded the Order of Canada for his lifetime service to the theatre. Here he is receiving his award from Canada's Governor General in Ottawa...
Antony was further honoured by having the stage at the island's theatre festival dedicated in his name for perpetuity. James made a speech and rewrote Shakespeare's Hamlet for the occasion and a good time was had by all.
But now winter is only just over the eastern horizon. Calgary, on the other side of the Rockies, is already knee deep in snow and our coastal mountains will soon be mantled in white. So it is time for us to go. Stay with us and we will happily take you along to the land of sumo, sushi and samurai; to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Posted by Hawkson 11:57 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

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