Wednesday, 25 July 2012


On July 8th I took a trip to Kamakura, which is in Kanagawa prefecture, south of Tokyo. It was my longest trip yet, 1.5-2 hours in total including changes (plus an accident where I got on a train going in completely the wrong direction -_-).

I planned out a route before hand to take in most of the city. From Kita-kamakura station I walked up the Daibutsu hiking trail, about 4km from near the station up to the Daibutsu, which is a giant Buddha statue. The hike wasn't too bad, it was swelteringly hot which wasn't too pleasant but it was an enjoyable route with lots and lots of greenery to enjoy.

About halfway up the trail is the Zeniarai Benten shrine, where people wash their money in the belief that it will double in value. There were also lots of hydrangeas in bloom along the way which were very pretty. After a few more kilometres, I arrived at the Daibutsu. For 200 yen, you can go in and see it, and it was definitely a very impressive piece of art. Unfortunately the sun was so hot I couldn't stay to look at it for long ^_^

After that I caught the train back to Kamakura station. The train there is a private company, and it's like a mix between a train and a tram. At the station, I caught the bus (for the first time here) to another temple I had wanted to visit, Hokokuji. There, you pay a few hundred yen to go into the bamboo garden, which was possibly the best bit of the whole day. It was only small, but very peaceful and I may have taken far too many photos of bamboo...

On the way back I stopped off at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine, which was very busy due to some kind of festival happening that evening, and they had lots of ribbons out decorating various poles and signs.

I'm pleased I visited Kamakura, as it was a different experience to the norm of Tokyo and I was glad I managed to get so much done in a day trip plus get a good bit of exercise ^_^

Sunday, 15 July 2012

University food.

One of my favourite things about Dokkyo is its cafeteria. It's a massive dining hall where they serve up mostly hot food for very low prices; everything on the regular menu is up to 400 yen, about £3.20.

They do a range of Japanese dishes such as curry, donburi (rice and egg with toppings), salads, noodles. One of the most cost effective meals is the Dokkyo Lunch, which is rice, lettuce, some meat and vegetables and a side dish which changes (korokke, spring roll, fish), for only 260 yen o_o .There is also the 'event menu' which changes by day. It's usually 400 yen and something which is different to the usual things on offer.

One of the event menus I had was 'Olympics' themed (this meant nothing). It was a chicken katsu dish with rice and tomato sauce. Tomatoes are pricey here so the opportunity to have tomato is a tasty one. Another time I had spicy korean rice, with tomato and cheese (another commodity).

A korokke donburi (note the generous serving of peas) and a curry:

Despite the scarcity of vegetables in the dishes, they are yummy and filling and so so cheap and I am going to miss having something like this right next to lectures.

Thursday, 5 July 2012


This last post will just be a round-up of the smaller trips we made whilst Dan was here.

The day after Dan got here we went to Akihabara and experienced... it. We nommed on some treats from Vie de France, played in the arcades and had a general wander around. We also went to Mr. Donut and had bright green melon soda. Another day we went back and we went to Book Off, a discount book shop near the station. It was in the evening, and the floors with manga on just had people standing shoulder to shoulder openly reading them across all the shelves, all ages and genders. Would have been a good photo opportunity if I didn't feel so self-conscious about taking photos like that ^_^

Another day we headed to Laketown, which is a giant shopping complex not far from here in Koshigaya. There's a display duck outside which we took photos with and a pet shop which had baby kittehs and puppies and I had to practically be physically dragged away lest I spent all day in there oohing. Laketown is absolutely massive and a little confusing, so we just perused the shops, tried to find interesting flavoured Kit-kats and bought a Daruma drop toy from a slightly odd shop that sold sweets and toys. We had lunch at Saizeriya, where I couldn't get over how cheap and not bad the wine was and I had an arrabiata that wasn't very spicy but still nice all the same.

Finally, the day before Dan left we went to Ueno and to the park. We watched some baseball that was going on whilst eating some snacks from Daiso. Then we had a walk around the lake and decided to get a pedal boat, which was fun :3 We then found an amazing pizza place in the middle of a department shop which was also cheap and quite a find considering.

On Sunday morning we got up super early to take Dan to the airport :( It wasn't as hard as in Spain as I know I will be back soon and that is exciting :3 I am having a great time here and it will be hard to leave, but I am also anxious to get back and see friends and family and live in Cardiff and be with Dan. I think that's a normal balance ^_~

Harajuku/Shibuya/Tokyo Tower.

On the 22nd Dan & I took a visit to Harajuku, Shibuya and Tokyo Tower. They're all relatively close together so we decided to visit all three in one evening. I had a test in the morning at the university, and the last two have a special atmosphere when it's dark, so we headed out later in the day.

First of all we took the train to Harajuku (for the second time). We went clothes shopping and Dan bought me some nice things ^_^ We then wandered towards Omotesando and I took Dan to a creperie that I had been to before. It does savoury and sweet crepes at the side of the road and is delicious. Dan had kiwi and strawberry icecream.

We then walked down the main street towards Shibuya. It's about a 15 minute walk and by this time it was getting dark and as it was a Friday night there was a really nice feeling about the place generally. We walked past a pair of guys playing a cover of Tamacun by Rodrigo and Gabriela which made things even more awesome.

We didn't do much at Shibuya; we were mainly there to people-watch, see the Hachiko statue by the station and make the crossing (which we did several times in order to take a video too). It was pretty bustling with people at this point. We then headed down into the metro and travelled to our final stop, Tokyo Tower.

The station we went to was about a 10-15 minute walk away, there was no need for a map as the tower was all lit up and gigantic in the near distance. We decided not to go up to the observation deck but we had a look around the inside.  It was definitely worth going at night.

Asakusa/Sky Tree

On the 20th we went to Asakusa. This was my 4th visit, but I was happy to go again. Plus this was the first time that it wasn't raining, which was nice... We saw the temple and the pagoda and the stalls. Then we headed back round to get some lunch.

We ate at a fairly typical Japanese restaurant. There is a ticket machine near the door, you pay and get a ticket and take it to the counter, and within minutes they have the food ready, which you take to a seat along the side. The seats are bar style, designed so you're in and out within a short space of time. More than one person came in, ate, and left whilst we were being, apparently, quite leisurely. I had some noodles and Dan had a curry. After that we got a small pot of icecream from nearby to sample some of the more interesting flavours of Baskin Robbins (love potion?)

After that we walked to the Sky Tree. It opened about 1.5 months ago, and is the 2nd tallest building in the world. At the time tickets to access the observation deck were still reserved and probably horrendously expensive. However they have a whole shopping area at the base of the tower which was interesting to walk around and very, very busy.

It was quite surreal to walk from the relatively traditional area of Asakusa across the river to the Sky Tree. It's quite dizzying how massive it, and the complex around it, is. They've even renamed a train station nearby after it. Worth a visit even if you don't go up to the top.

Exploring in Saitama.

From the 15th to the 24th of June Dan came to visit :3 It was a lovely long visit and so I had to split it into 4 parts.

On the 18th we travelled to an area around Tokorozawa in Saitama. We wanted to get away from the city and find somewhere green to walk around. After many train changes (and a taiyaki snack at one station) we ended up at Hachikokuyama Park, which covers an area over the two prefectures of Saitama and Tokyo. It was a beautiful green space and such a contrast to what I've been used to since being here. The area is supposedly the inspiration for the Ghibli film My Neighbour Totoro too :3

After walking around the park we walked towards Seibu-en where there is an amusement park that looks half-abandoned... but isn't. We kept walking round and found a lake and another smaller park area. The weather was pretty sweltering so we topped up on water and walked to the nearby train station. 

After a short train ride we went to Seibu kyujo-mae station. Just outside is a massive dome which I believe houses baseball matches. At first we didn't think there was much about, but after perusing one of the more confusing maps we've seen in a while we headed out from the station area, and found an abandoned amusement... area of some kind. There was something to do with dinosaurs too but we really didn't know what. 

We tried the other direction and stumbled upon an amazing area with a shrine, a pagoda and various smaller buildings, a wooded area with bamboo and some steps with dragons for handrails... It was similar to Asakusa but not so touristy and much more green, and as there were only 2 or 3 people around it was lovely and peaceful.

A day out from the city to explore some greenery was wonderful and so so relaxing. Finding areas like this is difficult but not impossible, and despite the various trains we had to catch to get there, it was relatively close by and cheap for a day trip.

Mum and Paul visit Part Two.

Saturday 26th was my 21st birthday. In the morning we headed to Akihabara, intending to go to a cat café, but were disappointed when we found out it was fully booked until 3pm -_- We stopped at a café for a drink, and I opened my cards which Mum had bought with her. We had a bit of a wander and found a flea market that was going on at the time nearby. A girl was dressed as a vocaloid and dancing, apparently to sell tea, not sure though. We had some pizza for lunch (Mum and Paul are vegetarian and finding food here which doesn't have random bits of meat and fish slipped in is easier said than done).

After that we headed back for a nap, we had done a lot of walking up until then. Then for tea we went with Laura to Matsubaradanchi in search of a curry house I had read about online. We couldn't find it but we found another place instead nearby so that did just fine. Laura gave me my presents from the her and the others, including a packet of tortilla wraps (hideously expensive here) and a cat plushie ^_^ We ordered our curries, but unfortunately Mum and Paul's came with tiny bits of meat floating in the sauce. I asked the waitress and luckily they said it was fine to remake it without. Lucky really, although Mum couldn't understand why they had put meat in the vegetable curry...

After that we headed back to the hotel room for some celebratory whiskey and lemonade, snacks and some J-dorama, which was some kind of Sherlock-Holmes-with-cat thing. Headed home and called my Dad on Skype, then promptly fell asleep.

On the Sunday, we went to Otemachi, pretty much right in the centre of Tokyo, to visit the Imperial Gardens. It's all tall buildings and wide roads in that area, but the gardens were an amazing break from all of that. Plus it's free to get in! They had a variety of different styles of garden, lakes and mini bridges and old buildings set over a large area. It was very hot that day and there wasn't much shade so walking round was a little tough, but it's definitely a great place to visit in the area. We relaxed the rest of the day, and on Monday I saw them off at the station where I didn't have to catch the direct train to the airport to save some money, and I figured it was difficult to go wrong at that point ^_~ After that they headed onwards on their little jaunt around this part of the globe, heading to New Zealand and then Singapore before going back home to a slightly annoyed kitty.

Really it was a very short trip but we managed to pack a lot in, perhaps to the detriment of our feet. It was nice to have visitors over my birthday again and to see family though. It made me realise how quickly things were going though when Mum said it would only be about 9 weeks until I saw them again o_o