Monday, 28 September 2009


Hello again

Last Thursday we headed south to Okinawa for 3 nights. One of the main reasons we chose Okinawa was to visit Aki, our Japanese tutor in Australia (until she met an Aussie boy in Japan and moved back!)

Typical of Tokyo it was an easy trip to Haneda airport, which is quite close to our place in Oimachi. However once we landed the transportation options were less varied. We had decided to hire a car on a few recommendations (Lonely Planet included!), so picked up our car from the airport with little to no understanding of what was going on.

Thursday evening we decided to hit the town of Naha where we were staying, and had a bit of a night eating and drinking around the well known Kokusai-dori (the main drag)

Due to Thursday nights activities we decided to have a leisurely start on Friday. After much pondering we settled on a drive about 70 km up the coast to a popular aquarium and marine park. The drive sounded scenic and relaxing, after all we had our rented Suzuki with GPS (although it was all in Japanese). So we set off and after about half an hour of traffic thought "won`t it be nice to get out of the city and traffic?"

Well we waited... and waited... in total the drive took over 2.5 hours! The drive wasn`t all bad but you can imagine how we felt after our 2.5 to 3 hour drive in what seemed like Sunday drivers traffic (oh yes they are everywhere!) Well drive aside, the aquarium was quite impressive. Due to the lateness of our departure by the time we wandered down to the aquarium entrance, we found we had some luck in that there was an after 4pm discount! It wasn`t long til 4, and noticing a dolphin pool close by we wandered over and were right in time for their free afternoon show. What luck the slow traffic had achieved for us - after all you have to look on the bright side of these things don`t you? Needless to say, the dolphin show was lots of fun. Oh and have we mentioned yet that Okinawa is darn hot?

Anyway here are a couple of photos.
Us out at dinner Thursday night, the place we were at had beers for 100yen as long as you ordered food (which is super cheap), the beer was shit, but we had fun.

After our lovely drive waiting for the dolphins

A porpoise (yes we know we said dolphin, but they did have them too honest)
The massive tank at the aquarium, there were 2 or 3 whale sharks, you can see one to the right.

Well Friday night we had arranged to have dinner with Aki and her partner Adam (to which we were unfortunately late because the drive back took just about as long as the drive up even though we found an expressway). They took us to a great little restaurant that was close to their apartment (which also happened to be quite close to our hotel!) With local knowledge behind her Aki ordered a great selection of food which never stopped coming. Luckily for us neither did the good local beer and the local spirit awamori (which similar to shochu). It was fantastic!

After too much driving the day before we decided to take a ferry ride on Saturday to one of the quieter islands where we could do some snorkellng and see the sights that Okinawa is famous for. We decided on Zamami which was about 2 hours ferry away. PM: It wasn`t the most enjoyable trip for me as I was feeling a little... under the weather let`s say.

Well Zamami delivered on the views and the snorkeling, although it was very hot... did we mention it gets hot in Okinawa?!
JH: The snorkeling was amazing - it was one of the first times I had my contact lenses in so couldn`t believe how much detail I could see! Definitely the most exciting fish we came across was a parrotfish (we think!) that was chomping on big bits of coral with its massive rabbit-like teeth. It was all fun & games though until it turned in our direction and I freaked out a bit imagining it taking a large chunk out of my arm!

After a pretty long day we had more dinner plans - Aki and Adam invited us over for a bbq at their apartment. We were being very spoilt and once again had a fantastic night, even getting a few Japan tips. Below are some more pics.

Us with Aki out at dinner.
Aki and Paul, with the 30 year old awamori and one of the waiters brought over so we could try!
Us at the beach on Zamami just before jumping in for some snorkeling.

The beach where we snorkeled.

Not sure what this sign was meant to say, but somewhere along the lines the meaning was lost in the translation - hopefully you can make out what it says.

Well that is it until next time, sorry for such a long blog but there was a lot to update.

PM: For those Astro Boy fans there is a 3D animation movie coming out in Tokyo next month! I am hoping there are English options (though I may go and see it anyway!)

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Sumo and Tokyo Bay cruise

Well on Saturday we went to the Sumo at Ryogoku. It was day 7 of the tournament and we were eager spectators. There were 8 of in total, Paul, Joss, Natalie our housemate, 2 friends from London, Piumi and Matt and 3 of Nat's workmates.

Now the rules of sumo seem pretty simple, push, shove or employ whatever method at your disposal to get the large chunk of a man opposite you out of the ring (dohyo) or onto the ground - before the same happens to you. However a fair bit of the time is taken up by the ritual around this and trying to put your opponent off. Now to give you an idea of this process, we will try to describe it below:

The Sumo's enter ring, bow, throw salt, look like they are taking position ready to wrestle, but at the last minute one may get up, essentially faking out. Then each wrestler moves to their corner in a kind of waddle, throws some more salt, then takes position again to start the fight... or not. This part is greatly entertaining to the crowd, including us, and they get really into it. Of course that is not to take away from the excitement of the fight itself. They are often very short, and together with the lead up are very exciting. Over the course of the day each fighter has only one fight and we saw in excess of 30 such fights (not including the amateurs at the start of the day).

PM: Now although this seems exciting enough, it also seemed like a good idea to add a little spice by betting on selected matches with anyone willing to have a go. Somehow I came out on top, and everyone else decided they didn't want to play anymore!

Anyway below are a few pics from the day.
Us in the stadium, we weren't sitting this close, but whilst it was quiet were able to get up close to the dohyo.

The skinny guy (well all things are relative aren't they?) was a paid sumo wrestler and won this bout with his agility. Although it seems improbable that he could move up into the higher pro ranks.
This large fella is a Bulagarian (the hairy chest made him stand out somewhat) and was a former Olympic wrestler, but turned to the world of Sumo. He was unbeaten in the tournament up until this match, when he unfortunately ended up eating clay.

Now, although the Sumo itself was a very full and exciting day, we also had planned a cruise on Tokyo Bay in the evening. It was a lot of fun, with over 2000 people crammed onto a rather large vessel, here are some nice pics.
Us with Nat, our flatmateUs with Matt and Piumi
Jocelyn with Tokyo in the background.

Well that is all for now, we are off to Okinawa this Thursday where we hope to get a few tips on how to add a few years to our life.

Friday, 18 September 2009

First Few Days

Hi everyone

Well sorry for the delay, but we have had a busy first few days finding our way around our new hometown Oimachi (大井町 ), and setting up our new home. Although we arrived to a pretty good set up, our sleeping arrangements have been a little … basic. We ordered a new futon from our new favourite shop, OK second favourite shop - our favourite is the huge Daiso shops where you can buy just about anything for 105 yen. Think 2 dollar shop on a massive scale, with goods you would actually want to own - and laid out better, actually come to think of it, it is nothing like those crappy 2 dollar shops.

We have found a few nice restaurants and bars close by, including a couple of tiny 6 seater bars that are at the end of our street, we have only been in one so far. The old couple there were very friendly, we will return!

Here are a few pics:
Our street

The cool little bar at the end of the street

More of our area

PM: Me carrying the new futon home, lucky it came in 2 bits.

We have also done some exploring (between shopping for curtains and other essentials!) of Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku (PM: yep I keep getting them all confused ) and Akihabara. Catching the metro around is a lot of fun, although so far we have managed to avoid being squished in too much.

Us at Shibuya

On Wednesday, after registering as aliens (PM:and let me tell u, I cannot understand a word people are saying here so I might as well be) we went into Shibuya and Tower records, a 7 story music and book store, although mostly it is music. We think this may actually become Paul’s new favourite store, hopefully they have a loyalty card (oh everywhere has loyalty cards, we are going to be the most loyal shoppers around). Today & yesterday we have been just hanging around, getting some much needed rest and sorting out our room. This weekend will be busy with Sumo, a cruise and visiting friends, will have an update post after the weekend.

We have to run, we have friends coming to stay and we are meeting them at the station, stay tuned for more blog posts, they will be a bit more regular in future now that we are all set up.