Tokyo Farewell

The wind from Mt. Fuji
I put it on the fan.
Here, the souvenir from Edo.

Basho Matsuo


There are two kinds of toilets in Japan, Japanese style and Western style. Many of the Western style toilets are just like the ones I use at home. However the Japanese have developed a new generation of technologically improved toilets controlled by touch controls. In Starbucks they had a toilet which had a heated seat, bidet and dryer. In the Sony building and in Disney they had “stream music” which played loudly whilst you were using the loo…

Lake Ashi

I have been told that one of the most beautiful sites in Japan is the reflection of Mt. Fuji in Lake Ashi, Hakone. What I wasn’t told was how rare a sight this is. I’ve been to Hakone three times now and I’ve never even glimpsed Fuji. This time Typhoon Phanfone was to blame.

Daimonji Okuribi Festival

Tonight we went to see the Daimonji Okuribi Festival (Farewell Fire Festival), which is a traditional o-bon event in Kyoto. Five fires, shaped as kanji characters and symbols, are set on five mountainsides. They burn from east to west in the shape of the characters, “dai”, “myo”, “ho”, a boat, and a torii gate. The event cannot be seen from the streets because of the number of high-rise buildings so we watched the fires burn from a roof of a nearby hotel.

Poor Service

We were served dinner tonight by a grumpy waitress. At home this wouldn’t be considered a strange thing but it is the first time that the service we have received in Japan has not been excellent. The waitress still served us quickly, brought us iced water when we arrived and even tidied up our shoes (we had to take our shoes off before we could sit down at the table and we still haven’t worked out where we are supposed to set them) but she looked like she wanted to be somewhere else.

I haven’t been able to work out why the service in Japan is so good compared to the service we receive at home. In some places it has been even better than the service I have received at expensive restaurants in America. Maybe by the end of the holiday I will have worked it out.


We went to see Todaiji Temple today. I took loads of pictures including some in black and white using Fuji Neopan 1600. It’s quite dark inside the temple and tripods are not allowed. Andrew was quite surprised at my choice of film. But then I was quite surprised at his attitude towards using high speed black and white film. He doesn’t like grainy pictures and thinks that since we can now get colour film why bother with black and white? Philistine!

Guiding Lights

Tonight the people of Nara had lined the streets with candle lanterns to guide the spirits of their dead ancestors.

Cacidas and Katydids

We spent the morning at Osaka Castle. Andrew wasn’t impressed but I thought it was quite beautiful and I was glad that we had taken the time out to go and see it. On the way back to the train station I spotted some very large insects. I had been listening to them for days (they make more noise than some birds) but I had never seen one before. Think I could do without every seeing another one again.

Hurry Up And Wait

Universal Studios has implemented a system called “Universal Express” that allows you to get a ticket in advance for a popular attraction. It’s a good idea as there can be a two hour wait for some of the rides. We only managed to get an Express ticket for the Jurassic Park ride. The park was so busy that the tickets we got at 11 o’clock in the morning were for going on the ride sometime between 18:10 and 19:10!


The fireworks dispay at Universal Studios was cancelled because of problems with gunpowder. To make up for this unfortunate event all soft drinks were free in the park after 5.00 pm.


War is the work of man. War is destruction of human life. War is death. To remember the past is to commit oneself to the future. To remember Hiroshima is to abhor nuclear war. To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace.

Pope John Paul II, Feb 25th, 1981

Business Hotel

Today we arrived at Osaka. We are staying in a business hotel. I’m quite glad that this is the only one we will be staying in during this trip. I have never been in one before and I wasn’t really impressed. The western style rooms are dowdy and small. Small I was expecting – this is Japan after all – but dowdy isn’t good.

One strange thing the room did have was a TV with a coin slot. If you wanted to watch the TV it cost 100 Yen for 60 minutes. If you wanted to watch the porn channel it cost 600 Yen for 60 minutes. Quite an ingenious way to ensure that your viewing habits never appear on a hotel receipt.

Climb Every Mountain

He who climbs Mt. Fuji once is a wise man: he who climbs it twice is a fool

Marty climbed Mt. Fuji last night for the second time.

Piped Music

We were walking through Yanaka last night and I realised that I could hear Hawaiian music. I found this a bit strange, since I’m in Japan, but I thought it was probably one of the smalls vendors getting into the summer mood. I was wrong. The music was’t connected to one store, rather it was being played a series of outdoor speakers throughout the whole area!


We spent all day today at Disney’s new resort in Japan: Tokyo Disney Sea. I can’t begin to imagine how much works goes into building a resort like this. Every piece of furniture, every plant, every stone was skillfully crafted to blend in with each distinct park theme. I didn’t think that the park had as strong a Disney feel as some of the others but it still had loads of shops selling more Disney paraphernalia than anyone could ever need, a Mermaid Lagoon section based on The Little Mermaid, and an Arabian section themed around Aladdin. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that there were not so many Disney characters present in the park (I think in the 10 hours or so that we were there I only say one Mickey Mouse and one Donald Duck) and sections of the park with themes like “American Waterfront” and “Mediterranean Harbour” didn’t have any obvious disney connection.

One thing that made the day stand out was the excitable and almost child like wonder of the Japenese who found fun in everything.

Not in Kansas Anymore

Marty and I have arrived in Japan! Narita airport is clean and quite easy to navigate – the ladies who work at the airport waving their arms and pointing in the correct direction helped. It was even easy to find the correct train to take us to our ryokan. The train journey took about an hour. When we bought tickets for the train we were given allocated seats! Now maybe this is common in other countries but I’ve never come across this at home. There is even a correct place to queue for each train car. The train was air conditioned, clean and each seat had a table (airplane style where this is attached to the chair in front) and a foot rest. There was also an area in each train car where soft drinks could be purchased from vending machines.

I’ve been in Japan before but I had forgotten that it was a place of contrasts. When we left the airport the landscape was dotted with wooden houses and elderly people working in the fields. It looked like we where in the countryside apart from the low hanging cables that dominated the view from the train. Soon we were travelling through areas were evey available space seemed to contain either a house or a vending machine and as we got closer to our destination the buildings got taller and more solid looking. When we arrived in the city, a place of high rise buildings and hanging lights, I noticed a group of woman walking slowly down the street wearing pastel coloured dresses and carrying a lace parasol in one hand and paper fan in the other – looking as if they should have been about to attend a Victorian summer picnic when in reality they were probably walking to the train station.


Welcome to Annex Katsutaro Ryokan,full of history and culture amid unsurpassed natural scenery.

The ryokan is great. The futon is much more comfortable than then bed in the hotel in Vienna and the room is really clean. We have air conditioning, a fridge, television, hair dryer, a private western style bathroon and (the reason Marty booked the place) an internet connection in the room.

However, I wouldn’t go so far as to describe convenience stores and food outlets as “unsurpassed natuarl scenery”.


I don’t think that the the business lounge in Vienna is as good as the ones in Heathrow but it does provide computers with Internet access – which has to be a plus point. I have never used a German style keyboard before and I’m finding it quite awkward. I was expecting the punctuation to be in different places and I was expecting there to be additional characters such as “

Stallman is right!

Finally, after what seems like years of planning we are on our way to Japan!

I have done quite a lot of travelling over the past fews years and still haven’t learnt that packing on the night before I am going away is stressful and that it is possible to get ready days in advance. The other thing I haven’t learned is to at least leave work early the day before I’m going away.

It’s 6.15am, I’m in the BMI Diamond Club lounge but I want to be in bed and Marty has just started into one of his many “Stallman is right” rants. Do you think he’ll notice if I fall asleep?

O Vienna

Marty and I have arrived in Vienna! We had thought about going in to Vienna to take a look around but I think we will probably spend the afternoon in the hotel sleeping.

Our hotel room is tacky. Actually, the whole hotel is tacky and sticky – the air conditioning doesn’t seem to be working but it was only a two minute walk from the airport.

I Love Books

I have only brought three books with me. Three books seemed to be enough when I had to try to find room to pack these in my rucksack last night. If I had thought about this I would have realised that three books is never enough. I like to read. I read about three books per week. This is during an normal week when I work and have other commitments. If I’m not working I can easily go through a book a day. I’m going to be away for more than three weeks – how could I ever have thought that three books we enough?

I’m a compulsive reader. The sort of person who gets so desparate to read that I’ve caught myself reading the backs of shampoo bottles. I’m already more than half-way through one of my books. I have this fear that it will be finished soon. Everytime I pick it up I think to myself “20 pages, I’ll just read another 20 pages”.

Marty has just offered to let me read through the linux kernel source code. This is not the sort of reading that I like to do. He has also told me that there is a bookshop in the airport that sells some English books. Once we get to Japan hopefully we will be so busy that I won’t have time to read.


So, we are having airport food for dinner – pizza with basil and tinned mushrooms (we could have had hotel food but the hotel is scary). We keep telling ourselves that we would have gone into Vienna today if we hadn’t have slept for only two hours last night. Likely story.