Monthly Archives: February 2009

Kyoto san

Kyoto is the most beautiful place you can imagine. However, it is not a place that slaps you in the face with its charm. It is hidden and reveals itself to you in bite sized chunks over time.

Last night I walked along a creek path that runs parallel to the main river. At first it was along an old factory area and gradually it opened up into Gion district and all the buzzle of that area. I stopped at little cafe, efish. They made american style food like clam chouder and BLTs. They served it with wine. The river flowed by the window. They also had an english language school on the premises. The setting was Kyoto style.

The next evening I ate the Kansai pancake special, okomenyaki at a small place in Gion I’d been to before with Hitomi and friends in 2004. It hadn’t changed and the food ………. oiishi des

Making plans for Matsue today, might be a bit of a tricky travel plan to get to there and Hagi, should be fun though.


Art and Craft

William Morris and the Art and Craft movement has a big following here in Japan judging by the crowds at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art today.

There is much in common I think with Japanese art styles and that movement. The idea of simplicity, design and beauty are common in the works produced by Japanese and promoted by Morris and the Art and Craft movement.

So I’m heading off south tomorrow Wednesday looking to forward to the Okayama / Matsue regions.

Taking a spell

Long days of travelling from place to place meant I really needed a break. So I decided to stay put in Tokyo before heading south again.

Today it rained all day here, it was pleasantvto watch. The night is a mild cold temp of 5 degrees.

I’m in Ueno currently, it’s cheap and central to many of cities that make up Tokyo and best of all it can be accessed on the Yamonote Line using the JR pass.

I’m thinking of spending a few days I Kyoto before heading to Matsue. I’ll see.I’ve lost a post somewhere too, by sure what happened, nework conjestion I think.

Over and out world of webers.

Saturday night (almost) live in Tokyo

Hi world. It’s Saturday night and I’m staying “home” in Chidori-cho Tokyo, cause I’m getting up early in the morning to go to another plum garden. This time out in the country somewhere. I’ll be going with my union friends from here.

Last night there was a celebration dinner for a victory in court for a victim of asbestos exposure. The party was attended by over a 100 people from the union movement, labour lawyers,medical specialists and community organisations who have campaigned for justice for those victims.

It as a great night and it showed me the same struggles are happening everywhere in the world. Much the same type of people pitch in to help too.

Aferwards we headed off for a bit karoking in a bar somewhere in Yokohama. That was fun too but think we may gave drunk a little too much.

Today the pace changed altogether. I spent 5 hours learning the art of Tea Ceremony. Wow that is an exacting science for sure. I enjoyed it though. Afterwards out for sushie at a local place with the TC people.

Now returning back to Ryokan Kangetsu to watch The Bill if such a thing is on! Goodnight everyone

Laneways leading to………….

The General Union in Japan represents workers who don’t fall into the coverage of other unions. It’s a community union that has about 700 members in Japan, mostly in Osaka and Tokyo.

Charles Weathers, an American acedemic living in Osaka introduced me to Ian Raines an Organiser with the General Union. Ian has lived in Japan for 18 years, working as an english teacher.

He’s Australian and worked in a bank in Australia before going to Uni and doing teacher training. He came here on the way to Europe and has never left. He got actively involved with the union when the Nova languge centre went broke and the General Umion helped workers recover lost entitlements.

Ian has had to learn the organising craft on the run but he seems to be having success in a hostile environment.

He did primary teaching a Wiley Park Primary in Sydney and like me his dad was born in Lakemba and his falmily lived there many years.

The three of us had an interesting chat over dinner and drinks went our separate ways. It’s funny these little laneways in life that lead people to different worlds and places.

Osaka Joe

A real pillow is what I’ve craved since I arrived here in Japan and maybe a Melbourne coffee. The coffee is improving but it still has a way to go to my taste.

I’ve got a great room, compact but it has a 3/4 double bed, and a real pillow!
The Walls are the finished concrete surface with boltholes and formwork marks. Beautiful warm morning sunlight.

Osaka is freezing at the moment, I’ve put the thermals on and all. Gloves and scarf weather it is with a cold and biting wind.

The Umeda Sky Building is called by some a space age “Arc de Triomphe”, I don’t think its that. I walked around its bold shape this morning. From one side the building is plain a but then the side facing shinensen side you see the arch. I’ve seen it from the shinensen before and am pleased to be this close.
It is dramatic.

There is a great landscape garden on one side with veges growing, rice and tea planted. Then there is the windswept space below the arch which in inhabited by the homeless and smokers, both groups forced from their workplaces by change.

The maze under the station is amazing take a wrong turn and you’re on your way you know not where. Shopping malls and plazas to make shoppers weep and me freak – Take me to the surface now! Hop a JR and travel the surface circuit. Figuring out where I am and hopping off to see the plum trees in bloom at Osaka Castle.

Everybody is out to see the plum trees business men in black, teenagers, elderly couples and mums with happy kids.

People look close up to the blossom and look for something that only nihon-jin can see. It’s a mystery, I have an idea but not a full understanding.

But then schoolkids are the same the world over. Why is it they need to walk through the cars on trains, changing carriages and looking for what?Happens in Sydney and Osaka.

The average joe is much the same wherever you go. Osaka Joe is no different.

So what does petrol cost in Japan?

Heading for Takamatsu this morning from Takashima by Express Train. I left Nisha-Iya this morning before 6:00AM to hook up with this train at 10:27AM.

Driving the Japanese roads is a real experience. The speed limit is 50kph and as you pass through a town Koboke for example it might drop to 40kph. Often the houses in those little village towns have there front door within a metre of the road. So you don’t want to driving fast.

On the mountain roads it was mostly single lane and you had to use the mirrors on the side of the road to see if there was any traffic coming.

So what comes the other way?

Log trucks of course. So you have to reverse and find a spot to tuck into while the log truck passes.p

I didn’t hit any traffic till about 15 km out of Takashima. It wasn’t much but I had to fill up with petrol so I found a place that fills it for you, old style!

The price was ¥97.14 per litre. What’s that in A$ ? About $1.93 per litre ?

This is my first long distance train in Japan this time, it’s not a long trip is very comfortable.

………………….arrived Takakatsu at 11:30AM and by mid-day I had handed in Japan Rail (JR) exchange order, got my JR pass, booked some future tickets and was on the Marine Sunliner bound for Okayama and Osaka.

At sea level along the coast it was snowing! Looked great, the fluffy light snow flakes just floating down. Magic!

Then across the inland sea on that massive bridge towards Okayama.

Shinkensen waits for no man…. Almost missed it at Okayama because I was at wrong end of train when it pulled in. Anyway all is cool now, I’m on board and doing 295kph! Bound for Shin-Osaka where I’ll get a local train to Osaka and find my not to be missed hotel, The Landmark Hotel. Be there for 3 nights.

It’s been a big day for travel. I’ll be glad to put my feet up and have a bath in a country where there is heaps of water.