Recently in Japan Spring Category

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Various hair products of the "Gatsby" brand. I bought two extra bottles in HK...

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Sake comes in various grades, including "window-washer". (That must've been below 20CAD?)

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A meal at a "family" restaurant near Murone village in Iwate.

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Mystery pic! (First hint: pixelated)

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Wanted for pickpocketing. As a measure to curb pickpocketing on public transports, the authorities use "shame-based" incentives.

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A bowl of ramen noodles, "Hokkaido style", from the Ramen museum in the Shin-Yokohama area.

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An O-bento bought at Shin-Osaka for about 1000¥ for the lunch on the Shinkansen between Osaka and Hiroshima. A slab of rice, dried/preserved veggies and cooked fish...

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Yuki's Joy album, which came out the month before. I bought it at the music store in Hiroshima's Shinkansen station, and remember it as being what I put in my walkman to quiet the snoring at the various youth hostels I stayed at.

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The interior of a pachinko parlor. Pachinko is a sort of hybrid between pinball and slot machines (with the addiction aspect of slots).

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"Love. Lab. Love." Indeed. (For my friends formerly or currently working in labs)

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Springtime in Nagasaki, Kyushu.

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You get yourself a box-shaped glass (traditionally in wood, now in plastic) and line up in front of one of those buckets. Japanese springtime picnics are the greatest.

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An O-bento at the Himeji castle. I had the chance to hit the yearly O-hanami on the Himeji castle grounds (without the sakuras).

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Caught this dietetic bomb on my way back to the Shin station in Himeji, the Okonomiyaki, a sort of pancake that's egg-based with onions, maybe mushrooms, meat, and a few things I don't recognize, sprinkled with bonito flakes and topped with soya sauce...

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Trip to Japan was seriously hectic. Unlike other half-day stops, where there were lockers to stock things for a few hours, this time in Kobe, I had to walk from one station to the other to see something. And I did Shin-Kobe to Kobe station (which isn't even the most downtown-ish JR station) carrying this stupid bag with me, and forgot to see the Earthquake memorial in the process...

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My room (shared with four others - potentially 6 people could fit in one) at the youth hostel near the Shin-Osaka station. Opened last year, and is a bargain at 3300¥/night...

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10,000¥. The Japanese Yen is worth less and less Canadian Dollars (it was 76¥/CAD in summer of 2002, 85¥ in April 2005, and now hovering just below 93¥).

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Apparently they got sued by Starbucks Coffee, I wonder why...

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When circulating between the blooming peach trees, you really really hate being by yourself.

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Umbrellas, on a typical cool spring afternoon at the Kyoto Imperial Palace.

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Heh, 'nuff said.

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Taken April 4th on my last morning in Osaka. The closest thing I've got of sakura with a Japanese castle background...

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As I went back to the youth hostel to pick up my bag, I bumped into this regiment of men in blue uniforms (what you saw was just the end of the column...).

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Ketchup at McDonald's.

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I'm fine with Expo 2005 stuffies...

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...but Expo 2005 popcorn?

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It was Canada Day at the Expo, on April 5th, and besides Corneille, and a few other performers, there was the treat of the day, Ms Alanis Morissette, of Ottawa.

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Hot dogs sausages in Japan don't taste like they do in North America... It's either b/c it's closer to the European style, or because it's typically Asian? Typically, they are juicier, and you can still feel the consistency of the meat (cartillage parts, etc), while the North American sausage is just some really uniform "meat".

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The bathtub in the Satsuki and Mei's House.

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A tempura-don (with Udon in broth on-the-side) ordered at the JR station in Iidabashi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo.

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Some delicious sushi from a sushi bar in Akasaka.

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Sakura trees in the quiet Western Tokyo suburb of Mitaka, as I walked down Sakuradori in the wrong direction, and suffering one of the worse allergic reactions to pollen of the whole trip.

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A giant stuffed Totoro guarding the entrance to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka (the reflexion of some random HK/Cantonese tourist).

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Table hockey found in the Omote-sando branch of toy store Kiddy Land.

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Merchandise from the My Neighbor Totoro cute-cult movie of the early 90s. So expensive... :/

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Crossing on the Omote-sando in Harujuku district, complete with a giant screen blasting Top 10 music videos in the back (not shown).

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They really don't understand what they're wishing for. -_-;;

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A real Green Tea Frappuccino from Starbucks in Japan.

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White and predominant variety of sakura.

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Dark pink-red sakura, somewhat spotted less frequently.

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Eventually lost those.

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Enough of running around Japan, and gladly Hong Kong, thinks Cedric. It's also terribly lonely, he thinks, but it was only two weeks, what about the four more months to come? Well, it didn't help, did it?

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Of course, you got to have sake on a Japanese airline company. it helps to forget, for a while.

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And Chicken Teriyaki to fill up the stomach inthe meanwhile.

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They give you a "film" ticket at the Ghibli Museum (my pics of Mitaka). Mine was a sequence at the beginning of Spirited Away, when Chihiro boards the lift to meet Yubaba and comes face to face with one of the "monster" customers. Much complicated process to get tickets... I went by the JTB travel agency office in Canada (office in Toronto), but they charge something like 25$ for service. Useful if you don't speak Japanese and don't want to face the automated ticketing system at Lawson convenience stores (since the number of admissions per day is limited, you got to go through a centralized ticketing system)... I should've waited, because the day before I arrived, Tante Ghyslaine went with the kids. :/

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Doorknob at Ghibli Museum. No pics allowed inside, they've guards posted everywhere. It's a wonder I twisted the rules and got a snap at the live-size neko-bus from Totoro...

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A large representation of the Robot-creature from Laputa on the roof of the museum.

Evening in Harajuku and Shibuya pics.

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Me in a mirror sold with merchandise from the Kiki's Delivery Service Ghibli film, at Kiddy Land on Omote-sando. After coming back from Mitaka, I wandered a bit in Shinjuku, then realized the park was closed, and went off to the Omote-sando classy shopping avenue in Harajuku (to the "Kiddy Land" toys shop, which turned out to be a super Gaijin hangout - saw table hockey sets!). And spent some time in Shibuya, the young and vibrant amusement district, two or three stations below Shinjuku on the Yamanote.

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Shibuya crossing from the JR station. When the pedestrian light goes blue, it becomes a sea of people. Immortalized it in videos.

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Street in Shibuya.

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Unlike what the filename says, not a pachinko... Pachinko parlours are large, much larger, with rows of people sitting in front of their pachinko machine, sort of mix between pinball and slot machine (with all the addictiveness of the latter). Pachinkos are everywhere, even places where you walk by with your family and stuff. Japanese have no concept of protecting the youth against the vices of society... or it's perhaps not necessary and we North Americans are wrong. You can for instance buy alcohol and cigarettes quite easily off vending machines on the street, found at a rate of 1 for every 4-5 "regular" pop soda machine. Not that Japanese are worse smokers/drinkers than North Americans, I'm sure. Did I talk about how they put porn magazines at the front of newspaper stands?

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Went for sakura-viewing that same evening with everyone. Bunch of students merrily drinking, chanting and vomiting beside us. Indeed the joys of sanctionned drunkedness in public... Like frosh, but with salarymen/women along.

Last few days were spent in Tokyo. On my way back to Iidabashi, stopped in Akihabara (station where you change from the Yamanote line to the Sobu line). And the Thursday (2005-04-07) I went to Mitaka, a suburb to the West of Tokyo, 20 minutes on the Rapid service Chuo Line from Yotsuya via Shinjuku. Then on Friday, I went to Shinjuku Goen, a 10 minutes walk northwest from the Sendagaya on the Sobu JR local train line.

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These are called nigiri, and they're basically rice balls with something in them. Convenience stores has them as an unexpensive snack, as an alternative of the sandwich (which is pricier, and not necessarily tastier) for about 100-150 a pop, depending on the filling. But because I can't read hiragana, and can make out that much of the kanji, every nigiri was a surprise. And forget about colour coding, there are many companies making them in each different city...

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Electric town is where you traditionally found the newest/cheapest wares in electronics and computers in Japan, but the market has declined ever since, according to word of mouth. But it still maintains its reputation (although I was told you should go to Bic Camera electronics stores for the best prices in the market - largest of which is in Ginza, near the Yuracucho JR station). A few pics taken first around Yuracucho, and then in Akihabara, and Iidabashi and surroundings.

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Akihabara outside JR station. Mirror of a pic I took in 2002 at dusk.

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Summum of the self-pic. I don't even know why my camera was facing down like this... But I'm certainly a natural. :D

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Akihabara shops, around the corner from the station.

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I believe it should be called a tempura-don, with udons on the side in some bonito/MSG broth.

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Sushi in Akasaka. Wasn't so more expensive than Montreal... Sushi is still an expensive meal to have (3000-4000yens), compared to the usual noodles/rice bowl (400-800yens).

Finally in HK... And I must have 30 minutes to wrap up the overview of Japan. Got bookfulls of things to say about Japan (in my head). A striking thing is how much more of an advertisement jungle Tokyo is. It felt extremely good to be in Hong Kong, a burst of joy on the bus from Chek Lap Kok to Causeway Bay (with my nose into Bacterial Pathogenesis, however :D).

I'll try to introduce the portion between Osaka and Nagoya, and then the last two days in Tokyo...

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The castle of Himeji. It was the start of the sakura season, as the blooming was starting. Not quite there yet, but I think people still take it as a start signal for the ensuing weeks of drunken debauchery (in public). This was a rather benign picnic party on the grounds in front of the castle, main attraction of Himeji. Was just stopping there for 3 hours, on my way to Osaka, as there's a Shinkansen station 15 minutes away from the castle.

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Next, I saw Kobe, another rather boring city, also because I missed the 1995 Earthquake memorials for having checked my travel guide as I disembarked from Shin-Kobe... I did a bit of shopping, and nonetheless walked through the whole city, from Shin-Kobe to Kobe station, on the Kobe line towards Osaka and Kyoto...

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For 3000 yens or so, the youth hostel near Shin-Osaka (not to confound with the original one nearer to Kansai Airport, south of the city) is really teh shit. It was built in 2004, and everything is brand new, and if you have a JR pass, then you're in business.

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Japan is big on recycling, because of its dependence on energy. You won't find trash cans in the street, like in Canada, US or Europe. So have deep pockets! Until you find a recycle bin...

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The Japanese alternative to McDonald's. Kind of good, expensive, but still not that more expensive than the Golden Arches. I had a pork cutlet I think... Could've been gone more exotic, like with a shrimp burger (for about the same price), or a burger served with avocados... yum. Maybe there are Mos Burger in HK. There are Yoshinoyas in any case. :D

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Japanese are crazy about sakuras. Think that for each series of photoos I take with sakuras in them, the locals do the same with their mobile phones... Rest of Kyoto in the afternoon, as I spent time at the Imperial Palace (did not go to the mountains in the East, and apparently missing on the most typical of Kyoto... I suck so much).

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Women in kimono are not that uncommon (you see them in the subway, the street too). Rebates are given to people who wear kimonos in some gardens.

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Not all of Kyoto is old. Like any major city, it's got its 21st century buildings.

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The Japanese breakfast is served with rice, and usually contains a portion of cooled fish. Traditionally, the Chinese do the same thing, must be what you do with leftovers (the rice becomes congee, sometimes).

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People attach good wished to trees. This was taken in the morning at Osaka Castle, a concrete re-rendition in the 1920-30s of the original castle destroyed a few centuries back.

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Attack of the annoying ad. I ended up buying the girl's (I think it was Kimura Kaela) latest single at HMV the day before leaving... Nonetheless, Vodafone isn't the most popular (tante Ghyslaine has one, but I guess it's b/c of the European connection), as NTT Docomo leads the market, followed by KDDI (the logo is similar to PCCW in HK... are they related?).

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A Linimo ticket... It's expensive... :(

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That's me. I've become better with taking pictures of myself. First day/evening at the Expo.

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The Canada pavillon was kinda a no-show since I was Canadian... I didn't go see the other national pavillons (except the UN's, right across Canada's).

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They'd sell their mother... Anyways, make for cute souvenirs. :D

Second Day at the Expo (2005/04/05):
First Half
and Second Half.

Once again out of time... There are only the two last days in Tokyo to speak about. I got off at Akihabara on my way to Tante Ghyslaine's from Tokyo station. Went sushi in Akasaka with her later that evening. On Thursday I also went to Mitaka, a suburb 20 minutes west of Tokyo, and the Ghibli museum there. But of course, what I really want to show are the sakuras, which are in the temp directory until I've time to separate them from the airport pics...

So, tonight in Akasaka, chic neighborhood south of the Center of Tokyo (if it was the Imperial Palace - I'm sure it is), eating sushi, and such delicacies.

Continued pics. The computer is in the guestroom, and the guestroom is now occupied by my hosts' guests from France, while I sleep in the younger one's (Paul) room.

Now, on my 6-day trip/tornado-ing around Japan.

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The venerable Mount Fuji. Kind of romantic that the nicest pic I have of Fuji-san has those chimneys in the foreground. Took this unboard the Shinkansen, going to Shin-Osaka from Tokyo. Was sitting next to an Indian-born economist who studied and lived in the States, and who was travelling with his family in Japan. Kept switching seats for the Fuji picture taking, etc. Great tourist in Japan moment. I should've kept track of who had the Lonely Planet Japan among the people I met.

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I followed the Carp games religiously in the next few days, as they were visiting the Giants in Tokyo for their debut series of the season. Once in the hotel room in Fukuoka-Hakata, as described in the previous entry, and then at the Shin-Osaka YH, with a handful of Hiroshima natives travelling to Kansai. The Giants are really a team to hate. They've got the Japanese Barry Bonds, and his name is Kiyohara, but he can't run, apparently.

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Atomic Bomb park. Lots of foreigners, as the picture shows. A very nicely done memorial, gives the chills, as it was the exact same spot directly above where the Atomic Bomb exploded (which went on to completely destroy the area 1 or 2 kilometers around it).

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Got lost in Nagasaki. It's a shame I didn't take more pictures of the area I got "lost" in. Was one of the highlights of this trip. I wanted to get lost somewhere. It's a great feeling. Like being stuck in some sort of movie set on a sunny afternoon after school. Kids playing hide and seek. Passerbys carrying groceries back to their home. People selling food in place up the hill where nobody ever walks about.

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Most beautiful views of Japan in my head are rice fields in the summer. Not quite summer yet, but April in Kyushu, is June in the rest of Japan. Taken at dusk, while on the train back to Hakata from Nagasaki.

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Found a sort of Totoro shop, within a souvenirs/Hello Kitty shop on the hillside road going down Grover Garden in Nagasaki (the Westerners' settlement in South East Nagasaki, beyond the Dutch slope).

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Nights in Hakata. I thought I would've had time to see downtown Fukuoka-Hakata, the "Tenjin" neighborhood, or that Canal City shopping mall. Instead, went to Kinko's to get ripped off for 1260 yens for an hour of Internet. >_>

(The rest tomorrow, because the guests want to sleep)

I improved my self-pic-taking technique. No more closeups of my greasy face. No sir. Every pic of myself (except the sakura one in the Kyoto entry - the old man walking by pitied me as I tried using the bush behind as my improvised tripod >_>) is taken with the timer. I'm so good.

Well, ok, I was six days away from Tokyo. Being in vacation, I forget which day is weekday or weekend. It's really bleh to try to keep track. I know that next week is my interview. That's really scary. One week, and I almost didn't prepare, besides flipping through my articles on the 12-hour trans-Pacific flight. Gneh, really stresses me out.

Been learning a great deal with myself. I am not a social hermit, when faced with the situation. I mean, I've always been kind of average when it comes to meeting people - not the crazy Uri-style outgoing, but still, I can draw conversation from something, when that something exists. Drives me to be on my own, and loneliness is an ambivalent feeling after all.

Don't forget the videos. Uncompressed, but I'll deal with that when I have my own computer again. Super scriptable.

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On the sea front, southeast of Tokyo, there's the Tsukiji market, where you can auction for fish early in the morning, 5AM-ish (got there at 11AM, bleh).

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Kamakura was last week, same day I went to the market. I forgot what day it was, but it was a weekday, and seemed crowded enough (not from this pic, but maybe from the ones taken in the small merchant alleys) that I was happy it wasn't a weekend day. That's a row of sakuras, less the blossoms. I can just imagine how pretty it gets at night...

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Pacific Ocean, at last. This was the first time I touched it, now that I think of it.

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Yokohama has this Chinatown with restaurants that costs relatively like Japanese restaurants in Montreal.

(going sushi with tante Ghyslaine, will continue this tomorrow morning...)

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It was Canada Day yesterday, so there were shows throughout the day. Caught the lunchtime show, quite by chance, as the Expo Dome was near the exit to the Piccolo gondola towards the South of the park. I sat next to the reserved section where a group of Canadians, normally holding fort at the Canada pavillon, I suppose, was sitting. So far away from home, and seeing/hearing Canadians, that's a heart-warmer for sure. There were Corneille and Alanis Morissette with a preview of their evening show (comes Alanis, who updates her lyrics to Ironic to the new Canadian reality, "It’s meeting the man of my dreams / And then meeting his beautiful husband").

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And I went to the Mountain of Dreams, in the Corporate Zone, where I saw an exhibit directed by Mamoru Oshii. A floor with TV screens, and rows of cloth towers with fish heads around the arena, a soundtrack like Innocence, and a figure of what seems like a robotified Ashura. (There were videos too in the pics collection - all this is of course illegal, and a matter of time until someone asks me to take it down... -_-)

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Earlier, I was at Satsuki and Mei's house. Was the only foreigner, until I bumped into my roomate at the youth hostel, who happened to be walking in there (I saw him twice that day - it's not hard spotting Westerners - but I so blend in), and invited him along on my ticket for the house. The lady guide told me there were only 20 foreigners or so visiting the house since the start of the Expo last week. But there were mounds of Japanese, and it's apparently full until the end of April (basically for the whole period there were seats available ... in Japan they have to sign up via a ticketing system at Lawson convenience stores, and for overseas visitors, they need to mail a letter to the Expo people, like a month in advance from when they plan to go to the Expo... I hope they change this policy, it's really impeding on everyone's chances.

Yuki - JOY

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Check in the recommendations folder. The first track is really good. The second track "Joy" was the first single, and I believe topped the Oricon in February. Really jpop-cute (it's a pleonasm) album.

Osaka-jo

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I was in downtown Osaka a few moments ago. Did obligatory stop at the Osaka Castle to take a lot of pictures. What started off as a cold cloudy morning, became a bright sunny day after 11AM. Back at the Shin-Osaka youth hostel for a bit, before catching the Shinkansen for Nagoya, final destination of this Japanese tour (And what I am looking forward to the most - I've 15,000-20,000yens budgeted for burning over there, heh.

Osaka and Kyoto

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Woaw, did Kyoto, sorta. Went earlier, because couldn't sleep anymore. One of the guys I'm sharing the room with snores. So, I passed through the night only thanks to my walkman (it's the best trick ever - figured it out from what I did on the plane :D).

The sakuras have flowered! Well, this time for real, but only a portion of them actually. Anyways, I posted the pics, they're in the PM collection for Kyoto.

Feel tired. I made an effort to buy some healthy food (fruits) in the past three days, because eating rice and seaweed all the time might be good for the waistline, but not quite for the taint of your face.

Am preparing to go to Nagoya for the Expo. Will be doing a last round of postcarding. Most of you will already have a first one from one of the cities I visited. So, I also figured a postcard from the Expo would be even cooler. :D

So... I posted the pictures on Tacos. It lacks trimming and organizing, but that's the best I can do. Now I can empty my camera and take pics at will in Kyoto and Nagoya. :D

If you know how to do it, would you mind copying my pictures to a local harddrive somewhere? I would feel more at peace, in case Titan/Tacos failed or something:

wget -np -nd -r http://home.sus.mcgill.ca/~csam/pictures/2005-04-ASIA/

Arigato gozaimasu!

Ced update

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The Internet at Kinko's is 200yens per 10 minutes. I'm going to die. And the computer I'm using is restricted. Kills me.

So I was in Hiroshima yesterday, Nagasaki today, Himeji, Kobe and Osaka tomorrow, and Kyoto on Sunday, and Nagoya (for the Expo) on Monday and Tuesday. Then back in Tokyo for the last two days...

I think this place is closing soon (it's like 10PM) so I'll have to leave... Doh. Write me some comments. I feel extremely lonely on my trip so far. It's really hard not to being able to tell my minute-by-minute awe... The pics are semi-uploaded temporarily on some other site, until I have a decent computer to use... Anyways. They're going to kick me out. Sumimasen.

Sports update

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The Yomiuri Giants are like the NY Yankees. Biggest payroll, and everyone likes to hate them. So they acquired Dan Miceli, who used to be a closer in the MLB for Houston I think. His team was leading the Hiroshima Carps by 2-1, but the dude gives up two homeruns in the 9th... 4-2 Carp. XD

Once more, into the recursion

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The sakura have semi-flowered. I won't be posting pics, but please refer to the whole collection. I'm too tired, and it's really tiresome (really) to select, reduce, comment on each picture like this. Catch me for dinner when I come back to Montreal. [There are also videos, which start with "MVI" and at the bottom of the listings)

So today I went to Kamakura. I saw one or two sakuras flowering. Nothing to get wet for however, but I took some pics. Hopefully will be more when I come back.

So I'm embarking on a 6-day trip to the West. Expect no pics at all, because I probably won't have full access to any computer.

Tokyo Nights

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I have to make it quick, because Tante Ghyslaine needs the computer.

In short, I went for a walk in Harajuku. Didn't find the Totoro shop but the ride was more than enriching. So much life in such little place. And young too. So you're in Harajuku either because you're younger than 25, or a tourist. :D

(To whom it concerns: there's a Totoro shop in two places, according to the Internet. One in Harajuku, and the other in ... Kamakura! - For the note, I've been planning to go to Kamakura anyways. So tomorrow morning, if I can wake up early enough, I'm visiting the Tsukiji fish market (because I'm a sushi sucker, and will hug a frozen tuna anytime), and then Kamakura by Shin to Yoko, and then a local to Kama. Good, I'm already starting to reduce my words like the Japanese - after starting to mumble random "Hai"s and "Eto/Ano". Anyways).

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Near Iidabashi is a commercial street, like many others, except that this neighborhood is one of French expats, and so the street actually has a few French specialties with an address on it. True creperie bretonne too. :D

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Small crowded merchant street straight ahead from the alternate exit to the Harajuku JR station. Young people, and Japanese hip-hop or heavy metal blasting away at you.

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I should've taken more pics of Harajuku... But I already felt extremely weird with my tripod and "conventional" outfit. This *is* Harajuku, after all. This was taken on the corner of Omotesando and Meiji Dori. Further East, the Omotesando portion competes quite nicely with Ginza in terms of posh chic (as a younger Ginza as well).

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I joke you not. This is Lebanese food! The place is located on Meiji Dori, north-west side of street, and a bit north from Omotesando. And it's called "Kebab Box J".

Pictures of Morioka, etc

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Ok, in order, here are some selected pics. Will probably not have the luxury to post as often in the days to come, since I'm leaving for Fukuoka. The problem is not finding Internet, the problem is rather to find a computer to which I can have full access (compact flash drive, pics resizing...).

Btw, you should really check the sidelinks for all the non-selected pics. At the very bottom, I also post videos (click and save, open with Windows Media Player or other movie viewing program - even if it's possibly not the right extension).

running.after.train.JPG
Running after the train, again. Caught this one by two minutes. With city trains in Tokyo, it's not a problem: you miss one, and the next arrives like five minutes after. :D But this is Murone (Uri's tiny village). You see us cutting to the pier, on the rail tracks. Living life dangerously eh.

onigri.JPG
The best snacks evar. They're ~120yens each. The better alternative to the pack of chip for the late afternoon hunger (or breakfast, as in this case). Balls of rice, filled with a mystery meat (or non-meat), to the non-Japanese speaker anyways.

lonely.planet.morioka.entry.JPG
Clickable!

junichiro.koizumi.elections.poster.JPG
In-your-face poster of Junichiro Koizumi. Elections were last fall, as far as I know. Bleh. And funnily, both candidates had slogans promoting new-ness. I guess that's their sort of cool. In Canada we fall for healthcare funding promises, and over there it's "newness". Whatever, b/c Junko has only been the hip Prime Minister to Japan, and not much of the rest.

o-bento.lunch.JPG
My lunch. I was wandering around the basement of a multi-floor department stores where the sort of food court was. This is rice, with a few cold Japanese things. ~600yens.

bank.cute.building.JPG
All the other buildings are ugly. Here, to confound you.

arcade.shops.JPG
Morioka's really cool for shopping. It's the prefectural capital of Iwate after all!

morioka.nights.JPG
Outside Morioka JR Station.

post.office.atm.JPG
I didn't totally understand how banks work in Japan, but you can apparently withdraw money from ATMs in post offices...

green.tea.frappuccino.JPG
A Green Tea Frappuccino from Starbucks. Also called "Matcha" frappucino in Japan. Only available in Starbucks coffeeshops in Asia, it was the forte of the Asia 2002 trip...

max.denkodo.electronics.JPG
Denkodo is an electronics chain thoughout Japan. The "Max" version is pretty big, bigger than "Super" Denkodo, but smaller than supershops found in Tokyo (like in Akihabara, and Ikebukuro, I'm venturing).

morioka.station.JPG
Morioka Station this morning...

tokyo.station.22.JPG
As you get off the train in Tokyo Station from Iwate (Tohoku Line, platform 22).

yoshinoya.fast-food.JPG
Yoshinoya is a fastfood chain in Japan specializing in Japanese junk food (udon, soba, tempura, curry rice, deep-fried patties, etc). Didn't eat there yet, but the orange is tempting (all-present in Hong Kong too, but didn't eat there last time...).

commercial.street.near.iidabashi.station.JPG
Commercial street near Iidabashi station. This area is populated with expats, it would seem. French, mostly.

Back to Tokyo

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Indeed back to Tokyo. Not very much to say, again lost in translation. I doubt I really want to say anything at this point. The Japanese language confuses me. It is frustrating to not be able to communicate. Is it how it is when you isolate yourself from other people? Solitary-among-crowd sort of deal?

I was thinking of going out for a walk in Tokyo, but I think I'll keep it for later, 5PM-ish. I've typically slept 5-7 hours per night since getting here, and not so much feeling it (I usually necessitate 9 hours to feel comfy). Maybe that the sort of rhythm I need to feel revigorated despite a flagrant lack of sleeping hours.

Morioka

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Now in Morioka, small city of Northern Japan, kinda feels like Sherbrooke, but a bit bigger I suppose (or not). It's very gray today. The clouds are grey. The water is grey. The buildings are grey. The trees are grey. It is a fun city to do by foot (I'm on my own today b/c Uri is at an intensive English class given to JETs staying for a second year - it's also a get-together for JETs in Iwate, the prefecture of Northeast Japan below the one at the Northern tip of Honshu. A bit cold too, since I don't have my dear gloves...

I got my Shinkansen tickets for tomorrow (Morioka-Tokyo) and Thursday (Tokyo-Hiroshima-Fukuoka/Hakata).

Ok, so again, for the whole collection, click the image on the sidebar...

I selected a few pics for lazy people (including myself, when I reflect back in a couple of years... sigh).

Edit: I struggled a bit with Uri's laptop and stupid Internet Explorer (*curses Microsoft*), and uploaded more pics...

mirror.self.near.ghyslaines.jpg
Streets are so narrow in some places that they've installed those mirrors up there. This one is accross the street from Tante Ghyslaine's appartment, where I'm living at when in Tokyo.

parking.lot.sign.jpg
Parking lot sign in Shinjuku. Because I'm a g33k. :D

cedric.shinjuku.clubs.neighborhood.jpg
That's me in (one of?) the hostess club areas of Shinjuku. Not recommendable after 9PM.

shinjuku.jpg
Shinjuku. Tokyo's built around the train network, and Shinjuku is one of the main stations on the Yamanote line, and also best-known for its municipal govt offices (one of the only places I could notice skyscrapers in Tokyo - sort of their version of La Defense), and red-light district.

mcdonalds.shinjuku.jpg
Ubiquitous in Japan, too.

hair.gel.pharmacy.jpg
Yea... Gatsby products. I had to spread out the previous bottle over two years. This time I'm stocking up before heading back to North America. ^^;

tokyo.view.from.tokyo.metro.govt.bldg.jpg
A view of Tokyo from the Metro Govt North tower in Shinjuku. I think this is looking North, towards Ikebukuro.

uris.car.jpg
Uri's lovely 11-year old Toyota Corsa. A car my size, so much my size that I'm hitting the roof when the car hits a (hypothetical) pothole. >_>

ichinoseki.outside.train.station.jpg
Outside of Ichinoseki Shinkansen station. A town the size of Drummondville, or even smaller, I'm only guessing.

lower.bodies.ced.uri.jpg
Funny pic. Ha-ha.

uni-qlo.cheap.clothes.jpg
Bought clothes in Japan! A chain called Uni-Qlo, which I didn't notice on my last visit (Uri says it's relatively new here). It's dirt cheap, like, cheaper than Montreal. I had a white zipper jacket (2900yens) and a green tee with a cool design (not quite Engrish like I wanted, but close enough - for 1000yens).

uni-qlo.inside.jpg
Inside Uni-Qlo, a few moments earlier...

group.pic.at.michiko-san.jpg
I was invited at Michiko-san (Uri's Japanese teacher) for dinner. Was an excuse to get the whole bunch together (locals learning English, foreigners learning Japanese...). Can't really phrase how enriching it was... Ano.. Eto... Oh well, it was the greatest stuff to meet people here (despite what I might've said before leaving).

nagasaki.atomic.bomb.pic.jpg
A newly-discovered picture of the atomic bomb being dropped on Nagasaki, taken by an uncle of Michiko-san. One of the only three existing pictures taken at ground level.

bed.at.uris.jpg
Japan might be one of the most industrialized places in the world, the envy of the world, technology-wise and the rest, says Uri, but Japanese have (or had) no concept whatsoever of urban planning. So, his house is not insulated. Water has to be turned off to prevent pipe freezing. I had to sleep with an electric blanket to prevent self-freezing (not really, ended up too hot). Etc, it's like HK, not as cold as Mtl, but gosh it's hard to keep warm.

kerosene.heater.jpg
...so this thing keeps houses warm. >_> Stops automatically during the night, and starts up again a few hours before waking up. Works with kerosene, so you can imagine the carbon monoxide produced by it. Anyways, death in Japan is a kinda romantic idea. ^^;

switch.magazine.jpg
Not some form of J-kiddie pr0n. It's Suzuki An, and Aoi Yu, who we all know (at least I did :D). This was the cover of the March 2004 issue, and I guess it was for their featuring in Iwai Shunji's short movie which I forgot the name. So story of two best friends, until one of them finds a guy. Yay. (For the record, Uri likes Suzuki An, but I like Aoi Yu better ('was in Lily Chou-Chou as well).)

Murone

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Got to Uri's village. There are more pics to be seen. Tomorrow we're visiting the countryside... I'm out of energy to talk about mine adventures. Oh well.

Pictures of first day

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The rest is on Tacos.

Chicago: Took it on our approach on O'Hare Int Aiport.
city.of.winds.jpg

Sea of people: in front of immigration.
immigration.narita.jpg

JR Pass.
jr.pass.jpg

The Iidabashi JR Station, near Tante Ghyslaine's place.
iidabashi.jr.station.jpg

Safe, kinda

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Lots of stuff to talk about, but I'm tired and sticky, er. Anyways.

Just to summarize about my current status. I'm at Tante Ghyslaine's (not a real aunt - rather my dad and everyone else's friend back in Mada) in what seems to be an expat enclave (there's the British Council and the Institut Franco-Japonais nearby - wouldn't be surprised if the Goethe Institute was close too ^^;), and super cool/pricey neighborhood. They made tuna for me. And I had a glass of Hokkaido milk. It's really Teh Shit I tell you.

Da Pictures

Anyways, whatever. There was also a 30% (whatever that means) slope to get to Tante Ghyslaine's, and I went against my mother's advice and did the Tokyo Station stretch in train and walking. Makes for better pics, and better stories. I love adventure. I just totally wish there was a partner in crime to have them with. Sigh, and this is a big regret, you all know it by now (and I'm so low inhib - haven't slept for real for like 48 hours?? I napped in the plane, but then there's this audibly unidentifiable old Asian guy who would shout random stuff in my back to wake me up. WTF?).

It's Friday evening now... I need to change MT's internal clock...

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