JAPAN TRIP 2006
Ronin Travelers Trip Log

I will do all I can to update this page everyday with some excerpts of the daily activities and adventrues of the RONIN travelers.

Please check back regularly.

October 18th, 2006

Well we finally arrived here and it is great.

The people are very helpful and polite and one of the first things that you will notice is the extremely high level of organization and cleanliness.

After departing Kelowna at 4:00 am on the 17th, driving to Vancouver, eating at an all-you-can-eat sushi house, and flying for 9 hours and 40 minutes, we arrived in Japan at the Narita airport at 5:45 pm on October the 18th "yeah we left at 3:05 pm the 17th and arrived on the 18th, only 9 hours and 40 minutes later."

October 19th, 2006

Having eaten Italian food in a Japanese restaurant, slept like logs at the very comfortable and friendly Khaosan Tokyo Annex. We are now ready to conquer Japan, or will it be the other way around?

Its is now 5:28 am and we are all up and ready to get going.

I am sure, by a few of the reactions that there are a couple of the Ronin who have not been up at this time very often in their lives, (mind you it is 2:30 pm on the 18th back home and if you tell them that they seem to perk up).

We are about to set out on a historical journey in an area called Asakusa. As we wondered the streets last night like masterless individuals, we did stumble upon some really cool shrines, temples and statues. So we are off to see those first thing.

Pictures will have to follow as there is no way I can seem to read the Japanese operating systems on the computer, well enough to find them once I have downloaded them.

The time is now 9:29 pm and we are in for the evening.

The days events saw us walking the entire historical district of Asakusa and then some.

The sights at Asakusas grandest sight, Senso-ji Temple, the oldest temple in Japan, were fantastic along with the shopping stalls and  huge lantern at the Kaminarimon Gate. Senso-ji was founded in the 7th century, not only before Tokyo was Edo, but before Edo was a glimmer of an idea.

We were recommended to go eat at an all-you-can eat Sukiyaki House, but once we arrived and the host put eyes on us, the restaurant was suddenly too full to accomodate us, probably due to the fears that we are so much bigger than them in all ways, that we may eat them into the poor house.

We were honored by some monks at the Matsuchiyama Shoden with an invitation into their Shrine to not only see it up close and take pictures but they also posed with us in a group photo.

I learned today of the last stand of the "Real" Last Samurai, Saigo Takamori (1827 - 1877), so maybe our adventure will take us in his direction.

Some of the guys have gone off to bed already as 5:00 am does come early.

October 20, 2006

5:28 am and we are all getting ready for another full day of activities in the Tokyo area.

Asakusa will see us for the last time right now and the final sightseeing along with the simple but strange familiarity of this area will all but be replaced with that of the new chaprter of adventure awaiting us in Tokyo City.

Already we have grasped a bit of of a handle on the train and subway systems and are able to navigate them with some ease. Nothing in my long months of reaserach could prepare me for the spaghetti like maze that is the Japan Rail System.

11:00 pm and we are all really beat, tons of walking and a trip to Tokyo Disney saw us put on about twice the walking distance of yesterday.

YEAH, Tokyo Disney, thats right, we were there.

So what can I say, the days events were a huge success and now we are all off to bed.

See you tomorrow.

October 21, 2006

Its 7:13 am now and we are all well rested but did sleep in a bit longer than we wanted to. We have no idea where we will be staying tonight, but the direction of travel is going to be fun.

We are truely Ronin, with only a fundamental plan as to the next days events but always with direction and purpose.

Today we are going off to Ueno to see the sights and then to Sengakuji, which is the burial place of the 47 Ronin. Our final destination may be Nagoya as we will be doing some training on Sunday in Kasugai.

Right now the most important thing for us is to get some food. So we are off on another chapter of the saga in the adventures of the Ronin Travelers.

Things didn`t work out exactly as planned today so I am updating it on Sunday night.

Well it sort of goes like this:

We did make it to Ueno and saw the Ueno park and a shrine, we watched a bit of a very competative, kids baseball game and also saw the memorial of the Ueno battle and the grounds it was fought on.

I managed to catch up to a rather fast moving Sumo wrestler and got my picture with him.

Half way around the world on the Ronin travelers adventure we found ourselves homeless, with nothing to worry about but where to sleep. All attempts to locate lodging failed due to the final travels of the season so improvisation prevailed. We slept briefly on the train from Tokyo to Nagoya but that was cut short due to the train being a Shinkansen (bullet train) and traveling at 280 km/hour as well as the unfortunate missing of the last shinkansen to Nagoya. Benches in the train station in Oduwara became our beds for 3 hours (bringing back memories from my childhood in Bordeaux, France) then we went to the Nagoya area which allowed us to sleep on the train for 3 hours.

We then ended up in Kasugai, Kelownas sister city, and now we are in Kyoto.

October 22, 2006

HAPPY BIRTHDAY COLIN

Arriving in Nagoya at 6:00am, we found the streets dead and it didn`t take too long to locate one of the historical attractions and trek to it.

Nagoya castle kept us entertained until noon when we made our way back to the train station.

Kasugai, Kelownas' sister city was our next stop and boy was it nice there for the parts that we saw.

Kasugai is mostly a place that is desired to live in, but we didn`t find any historical sights there so we ate lunch and moved on to Kyoto.

Kyoto at 5:00pm on the day of the Jidai Matsuri, or Autumn Festival is very busy, and again we found that our place to stay was not available.

We asked around at information booths and finally decided to walk to a couple of places that I had called to see if a personal presence would open up doors. We bumped into other travelers who tried to direct us to the locations that they were either staying at or knowlegable of.

Luckily we stopped at one Inn, at the same time as an older lady came riding up on her bike.

Now here we are 6 of us, backpacks in tow and standing in the dark in street no wider that a single car and looking more like an alley. The lady that had riden up on her bike went inside the Inn and then with a bit of question and answer, we were being lead along several streets to a location that she knew of to get us a room.

Man did we score on the coolest room in Kyoto. a traditional INN with tatami mat for floors and beds, a table in the middle of the room where your legs go under while you sleep, and a traditional bath house along with Yukata robes to wear as soon as you arrive. 

We did a bit of scouting around in the downtown area and found that we are actually right across the street from the Imperial Palace, which we will explore tomorrow. But tonight we will go to the Kyoto tower.

One strange thing........we haven`t had sushi yet.

October 23, 2006

The Inn is great we are getting treated like gods.

WOW, I think today was the day of walking.

We got up at around 8:00 am and out by about 10:00 am, laundry had to be done and put out to dry or some of the guys would be smelling a bit too ripe for their own good, or that of others.

We saw the Higsahi-Honganji Temple in central Kyoto, the Imperial Palace, (but will be touring it tomorrow), and the Electronic Ghetto.

The temples and shrines do take some time to go through but there could easily be several months spent just exploring within Kyoto alone and still be able to find new things to see.

The walking today was done mostly in the rain, but most of the guys were too proud and manly to grab an umbrella, unlike Randy who got one from the Police station. Umbrellas are left everywhere around here and are to be taken and used at will. The rain went off and on for most of the day but still it was t-shirt and shorts weather.

I met up with some people and they turned out to be from Seattle, here to perform in an Embu (demonstration) for their style of Iaido, in Fuji City. After a very friendly and lenghty conversation, I was invtied to attend the Embu and Shodan Shinsa (grading).

The electronics ghetto is an area where electronics are sold but there are no deals to be had at all. The prices of some things are not only the same as at home but at times even more expensive.The real electronics district is in Ikihabarra, so we will go there when we are in Tokyo again.

October 24, 2006

7:00 am

Off to the Imperial Palace we go, you have to get permission even to get into the Palace grounds, but I got us permission to get into the Palce itself and tour around inside.

The next stop will be the Silver Pavillion, a Samurai castle.

The Noji-ji Castle will be the next intended visit.

With the Fushimari Inari Taisha being the final intended stop of the day making it a really late night for all of us, but it will be well worth it.

Ronin Log, 10:56 pm:

The days events went as follows, (1) The Kyoto Imperial Palace (2) the Silver Pavillion (3) the Gold Pavillion (actually made of gold)  (4) the Fushimari Inari Taisha. But no Nijo-Jo Castle, that will have to wait till tomorrow.

I found an all you can eat restaurant that served Thai food, and Amerigo, Jory and myself, had lunch there while the rest of the guiys chilled for a bit in the sun at the Lawsons Station. Man is my head ever red and sunburned.

The Imperial Palace was really something to marvel especially when you think back to the days and times in which it was being used. The grounds were very beautiful and well maintained with grooomed rock gardens and huge koi filled ponds.

The Silver Pavillion is not really silver but called by this name so as not to be confused with the Gold Pavillion. The treck to the silver pavillion was long and tiring as we figure it would be easier than taking the bus or train, wrong idea. The road leading up to the Pavillion entrance was so narrow that it had to be pedestrian traffic only, and allowed us to truely feel the way a samurai wearing his swords would have felt while walking up to the shrine and pavillion. 

The Gold Pavillion, is actually made of gold, and you have to imagine a huge structure that is gold and shines very brightly in the sun.

October 25, 2006

Off the Hiroshima we go, where we will be seeing the A-Dome, the Memorial of Ground Zero and the War Museum.

To the ferry we will go and then to the island of Miyajima to be able to see the infamous Torii, the big red gate in the ocean.

We were up and out the door to catch the 7:45 am Shinkansen Bullet train to Hiroshima. It took us about 2.75 hours, traveling at 285 kilometeres and hour, to get to Hiroshima and start our adventures.

The first place we went was to the ferry to go across to the island of Miyajima to see the Torii, the big red famous gate in the ocean. There were deer running freely in the streets and rows of shops on narrow streets. We ate fish cakes and sweets cookies, saw the Torii and the temple, then boarded the ferry for our return trip in the big city of Hiroshima. 

Back on the ferry then to the train and back into the city to the Peace Memorial Park and the Museum.

Once we got into the city of Hiroshima, I found that we had more time than expected so we decided to take advantage of the close proximity of the Hiroshima castle and go visit it.

The feelings and the history that you feel when you see the whole grounds that make up the Peace Park and Museum possess too much emotion and content to place here. But I will quote Jory by saying ...It was very disturbing.....

Be proud you are Canadian.

We lost Amerigo somewhere at the castle but when we arrived back at the Inn, he was already there, so it all worked out ok.

October 26, 2006

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SIMON

Today we will leave Kyoto for Tokyo.

Today we finished up the sight-seeing in Kyoto, with the Nijo-jo Castle. The first impression you get of this castle is the true understanding and uses of perimeter fortification, as well as the levels to which it was made more and more difficult to be attacked and penetrated by the enemy. 

We were surprised by a visit to the castle by Mrs. Sakai, the Chita Inn owner, who decided to give us a bit of a guided tour and drive us around in her car to save us time so we could get more done before having to catch the train into Tokyo.

Back to the Inn we went where Mrs. Sakai then took us out for sushi as a departure gift and celebration.

We departed on the 3:00pm shinkansen to Tokyo, with rest and anticipation on our minds, we eagerly awaited the adventures of Tokyo City.

It is now 6:00pm and we have arrived in the district of Saitama, in the town of Nishi-Kawaguchi, deep in the city of Tokyo.

Internet has been a bit of a hassle lately, and in a country with such advanced technologies, we think that it would be easy and that everyone would have a new computer. The new Hostle has a pay as you go computer that can barely access the internet and is as slow as molasses in the winter time. SO I go to rent a computer at an internet cafe everytime I come across one.

BE happy you live in a great country where everything is plentyful.