Tuesday, May 27, 2008

And on to the end.... China

Okay, are you really ready for this. You're going to want a face mask and some oxygen before you're done! Just kidding. I tried not to drag you through too many of the smoggy photos. I really don't have that many of China because of just that. There wasn't anything you could see.

This was nicknamed "the 580" because there were 580 knock-off shops in here. Little did we know ALL this stuff was illegal. We came home with some pretty good stuff though!

This is the fabric market, although to you it may look just like the 580, but it wasn't. Here we had all our clothes made... and it was so cheap and lets not forget legal! Some even had jeans made and they were only $15. Ahh! This was probably the only thing I thought would be worth going back for!

And NO, it's not just bad photography on these next few. This is really how everything looked since it was covered in a film of smog. Some days were worse than others, but this was just your average look here. My heart actually started to hurt after walking around outside for a few days. I was SO glad to be home!

This was first thing in the morning when we woke up, before the winds had a chance to clear any of the smong. Remember we are already 80 floors up.... so there should be tons of buildings visible below....

Thursday, May 22, 2008

juSt rAndoM In jaPAn

Here are some random photos from Japan!

This is probably one of my favorite photos, since it describes their culture perfectly. It's talked about over there how the youth want to stand out, but never too much because "the nail that pokes out is the one that gets hammered down". Talk about trying to get everyone to conform.

You'd think this was a mail box because it says "post", but doesn't it look eerily like our fire hydrant?

Here is an actual subway train. I know... now you can finally see where it is that your NOT supposed to get caught in the doors! And really, once those doors start closing they DO NOT open if someone is caught. We found out the hard way. Those eyes do hurt worse than the doors!

In Nikko, walking from one temple to the next I ran into this old chair just sitting in the intersection. I don't know where the inhabitant went....

So many people walked around with face masks, we started to feel like maybe we should too. Take a minute though and think how much healthier we'd all be if we wore a mask at the sign of a cold or anything else. One of the only things we are all good at sharing, and probably the only thing we shouldn't. Sickness. ugh.

Here we are inside the underground world. There are 6 different hallways you can actually see in this photo, but probably that many more you can't. It was the most confusing but also the best way to get around. And you can definitely tell when you are swimming up-stream.

Okay, so this line for Krispy Kreme was and hour and a half long. I mean, really? And it was all locals there too. Strange.

We have no idea what this is for. It was at a corner in a main city area, just out of nowhere. This BIG american looking display, in english and in bold red. It was soooo out of place it was really funny. Everyone kept stopping to take pictures next to it. So either they knew something we didn't, they thought it was just as strange, or they were doing what we were doing and taking one "just in case" it was something important since everyone else was! Once home I googled it and here is what I found. Now I wish we'd taken one without me in it. O-well!

And that's it. So next we're on too China. Don't hold your breath..... actually you may want to hold your breath because for the next 5 days you won't be able to breath again.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Last day in Tokyo

Our last day in Tokyo started at 4 am in the fish market. We could not believe how much fish went through this place, and it was so busy with workers you really had to watch out or you'd get run over. They take the fish from being still alive all the way to packed and rolled as sushi, ready to be bought at the store. There were a lot who ate some of the sushi right from there, but after watching all of this, and smelling all of it, I just couldn't stomach it. O-well. One thing I won't have done! We had a bunch more pictures, but thought we'd spare all of you the details!
Later in the day we headed over to Asakusa. This is where much of the shopping is done for the china. It was packed with people, but was fun to experience. We bought some cookies they made at one of the booths, which weren't that bad. The cream center was made of beans... who would have thought...
There's also a view in here from the top of the building next to our hotel. This is the never-ending view of Tokyo we looked at every day. Pretty amazing.

Friday, May 16, 2008


So are you sick of all these photos yet? Hope not because I've got a bundle for you today!

This was our Friday, and we went on quite the adventure. We took some subways (The wrong ones unknown to us, but still got us there all the same.... somehow) to a rural city up in the mountain tops. Once to the city we took a bus to the top of the mountains, looking for some waterfalls. What do you know, they were all still frozen. If we spoke the language we would have known it was not yet the season, so instead we got to walk 2 miles down these mountain roads trying to get to a bus stop that was running. I actually enjoyed it. Not being anywhere around any city was great.

In Nikko they have some of the oldest Buddha temples (finally huh?). So here's a bunch of photos from the day.

This are fortuns you can recieve at the temple after making an offering. If you don't like your fortune you tie it to these ropes and they burn them to keep them from being granted. It seemed most people hung theirs back up. I wish I knew what they said.

Just so you know we were really there!

The rice fields. They can harvest them here throught the year. We took this through the subway window.

This was Friday night at "time square". There were lights and people everywhere. We kept commenting how it felt like a big football game just got out or something because the amount of people out walking around. It was insane!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Day Three, A stroll through the gardens

This day came at a perfect time in the trip.
I was tired of walking around the cities with these "shoppers" and just wanted to enjoy what there was to see in Japan.
So me and a new good friend (who's music you really need to check out here) just took off with the two of us, our subway passes and our cameras. And of course I can't forget the good conversation! The gardens were so gorgeous. We ran into a darling group of school girls who had a blast trying to talk to us. We found many old ladies painting in the gardens. Discovered how they keep the trees up once the branches get too long, which is what gives them their unique shape. And found the biggest flower I've ever seen. It was bigger than the palms of both hands places side by side.
If you look at some of the skylines, you'll still see the buildings in the background... which was strange to be someplace quite the opposite of everything surrounding it, but being able to see both at the same time.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Day two in Nippori

On day two I headed up with this time only a group of 5 to the old town of Nippori. This being one of the older cities having made it through all the bombings. This was very unlike the downtown Tokyo where we stayed. Nippori was a smaller city full of homes and local shopping. I loved this stop and wanted so badly to take Matt back to this charming village.

The first thing I saw when stepping out from the subway, which was a great way to travel once we figured it out, is this view of the distant Tokyo. A reminder of where we really are.

But a short walk up about ten steps and rounding the corner you see this. You instantly forget the view just seen and find nothing but houses lining little roads, in a very old town. It's beautiful, serene and very quiet.

The houses are so close together there is only room for one narrow car to squeeze into a garage. You can see part of one starting to pull out here, which I thought helped show the spacing between these homes. It was interesting to walk by one of the homes and little american flag hanging in a window.

First stop was to one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Tokyo. Of course, as was everything thing else, it was just beautiful and peaceful. This Buddha is one of the oldest, and I love how time takes its hold on things, giving everything more character.

Before entering the temples, those there to worship the Gods clean themselves to gain worthiness to enter. They wash each hand, and then touch the water to their lips.

I loved the detail put into everything, even their rain spouts.

Walking out of the shrine we find a historical cemetary. This was the front of the cemetary. I loved the blue bike, with all the surrouding green. I loved the stillness here, and looking at this helps to remind me that stillness can be good.

This is a "headstone" as we we call it. When someone dies, they are cremated and placed with the rest of the family. So what you see here would have an entire family under there. On the front of the tall stone the prayer is written and along the side of the stone will have the name of all the family members placed there. There are 4 holders in front, two for flowers and two for candles. Certain years (first, 5th, 10th, ect) after someone has passed, they do another memorial service for them. Each time a service is done, they place a stick with a prayer on it behind the stone. Some of those stones had so many sticks you couldn't count. It was amazing.

This was an entrance to another cemetary. There are more of those lens flares (or spirits, depending on what you believe). I wish I knew what all of those said.

A typical road here in the little villa of Nippori.

A roof top in Nippori.

For the rest of the day I took Matt to the Manji shrine back closer to where we were staying, since he hadn't seen it yet. It was a good day, and so far the food was pretty good!