Japan #9

Sort of our honeymoon! A three-week long trip, tiring but fulfilling.

  • Day 19 – Eating around Tokyo

    A relaxed but busy day of… eating. We spent a lot of time building social bonds, not much to show in photos haha.

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    Liquor is SO damn cheap here. I mean it’s probably not great, but cheapness is a virtue of its own
    Famous katsu place in Akiba
    A hedgehog and owl cafe
    Back at another izakaya for dinner, this time at a friend’s recommendation (near where she lives)
    We went to Denny’s across the road afterwards to scratch that dessert itch
    Okay it was mostly MY dessert itch…
  • Day 18 – Back to Tokyo

    It’s a long day of travel today, back to Nagano station, then from there to Tokyo.

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    Breakfast at the ryokan. This place is so damn cosy, I could stay there endlessly
    Himechin river..? 🤔
    The staff are really generous and give us a lift to the nearest major station. This saves us an extra transit leg and a lot of time, we were so grateful for this!
    On the way out we stopped to get a nice view over the area, we’re not that far from some of the old Winter Olympic venues
    First shots on the Fuji Superia Premium 400. I dunno, I feel the like scan probably isn’t doing it justice. I forget what lens I used but this should’ve been a slam dunk for the camera – tonnes of light, speedy film, infinite depth of field from an aperture around f/5.6 or f/8, there’s no excuse to not be tack-sharp
    It’s a while until our shinkansen departs, so there’s time to drop off our bags and get some lunch!
    This is a much better way to remember which locker you picked
    I mostly like Kobeya because of their cute uniforms, but the pastries are good too
    Back at the hotel, I’m sorely tempted to buy a ridiculous and expensive pizza
    Prawn bisque in a can, I just… don’t know
  • Day 17 – Snow monkeys at Jigokudani Onsen

    We have a bit of a trek today, and it is well and truly snowing now. After breakfast we take the bus to the base of the Jigokudani trail, then you have to make the remaining 1.6km on foot. It’s not that far but the snow slows you down a lot. The path is wide enough for about 1.5 people most of the time, thankfully there’s not too many tourists today.

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    I’m really glad that we’re well prepared for this, we have plenty of warm clothing and good boots for the snow
    The end of the trail leads to a small village, then the onsen pools are just a little further ahead and up some steep stairs
    This playful little one kept running back and forth between some rocks and this tree branch
    This is more of the Tri-X, I’m pleased with today’s shots as well
    You can’t quite discern it but there’s a lot of phototographers in the background, it seems this is a pretty popular photography destination. I guess I’m one of them now
    When they’re not in the pools, they’re mostly sitting around looking cold
    Changing film out here wasn’t well advised but I didn’t have a choice
    These daruma are made with a toy somewhat akin to a jaffle iron
    Town mascot for Shibu Onsen I guess?
    This is the biggest ryokan in town!
    The menu at the little place we had dinner, really someone’s home that they happen to open as a restaurant
    Super duper questionable electrical work

    Tonight we decided to try a different izakaya, we got word of a place a couple blocks away called Izakaya Chokkun, named after the owner I think. It’s much livelier and is clearly the hangout of choice for expats and the like. There’s lots of photos on the walls, and visitors have autographed pretty much every blank space on the walls, which is really cool.

    The owner is a real larrikin and loves talking, it’s a very cosy and comfy little place. Like the place we tried last night, the whole billing this is pretty vague. Chokkun goes a step further and doesn’t bother having a menu either – he can make pretty much any usual izakaya food, and you can ask for something specific. But he’d really rather you didn’t, and just eat whatever he feels like making. 😂

    By the time we were done we’d ordered a few beers, some fried chicken, and some sake, and that was 2500 yen for the whole lot. I like this place.

  • Day 16 – Yudanaka

    We’re on the way to Yudanaka, an onsen town not that far from Nagano. Nagano was the venue for the 1998 Winter Olympics, so we know the snow will be nice at this time of year. Yudanaka is also famous for its snow monkeys, which love to hang around and bath in the natural onsen pools. We arrive a bit before it starts getting dark, and settle in to our room at the ryokan.

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    What a homie. An absolute bro
    This is the mascot for Nagano Station, Asahi Sakura. She’s part of the Tetsudou Musume (Railway Girls) project by Tomytec, they sell figures and little bits of merch for each station/line that they represent
    One of the inns has this adorable set of terraria hanging out the front
    Yudanaka maintains an old-town vibe and the main strip with all the inns is shared use for pedestrians and cars. That’s why you can stroll up the road and find nice little things like this out the front of some businesses
    A long time ago when I first came Japan we visited Miasa Pokapoka Land. I’d love to go there again, it was a nice little hotel in the middle of nowhere
    You can tell that the snow monkeys are a popular attraction, they even have branded rail cars for the route
    Darth is probably on his way to an onsen
    Not every ryokan has its own onsen, but ours has access to someone else’s onsen, you just have to make a booking. They even have a shuttle service to take to you and from the onsen, it’s a private booking so we have the place all to ourselves for an hour or so. It’s up the hill a bit so we also have a fantastic view out over the town
    It’s snowing pretty solidly by the time it gets dark
    Peeled, cut, and cooked just for us when we got there

    Adrian and I went out to see what the nightlife is like after dinner. It’s a small town but we heard there’s a couple of izakaya nearby that serve people. We’re used to eating dinner a bit later, so we were still hungry before it was time to go to sleep.

    We couldn’t be bothered to rug up so we went for the closer option, a little place just down the hill. I think there was only one or two other people there, but it was cosy and we could get a beer, so that was enough for us. For all the times I’ve been to Japan before, I don’t think I’ve had this “proper” izakaya experience before. It’s not so much that you run up a bill while you’re there buying food and drinks, it’s more that you’re paying for your time there.

    We stayed there for maybe an hour or an hour and a half, had a couple drinks, and some chips that the oba-san prepared from scratch for us. We made small talk and it was nice, I forget how much it was but I think we paid a couple thousand yen each or something.

    Which is a lot, objectively speaking, but that’s not really the point. I think you’re meant to go there with a bunch of friends, have a good time, and while away the hours eating and drinking. At the end of the night you all pay some amount that vaguely represents how much you consumed, and everyone’s happy. You can think of it as rewarding a big night, because you know they can afford to give you a volume-discount on liquor…

  • Day 15 – Ine

    We’ve visiting the village of Ine today, in the far north of Kyoto prefecture. Its main claim to fame is the houses built right onto the waterfront, called Funaya. It’s like living right on top of your boathouse, which makes sense because Ine is an old fishing town.

    The population has been shrinking steadily over time, probably owing to its remoteness and lack of accessibility – we had to drive here because there’s no trains, and the nearest stations are at least 10km away.

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    Local fish for lunch, at the restaurant waaaay up the hill from the waterfront
    Not sure if it’s still true, but the signs say that Ine is/was one of the three biggest fishing grounds in all of Japan. I can believe it, there’s a lotta boats here!
    The buildings on the right are funaya
    Now that Elena’s back in Kyoto again, we met up with her to go take some photos. For a road trip like this, the more the merrier!
    This is Fuji Pro 400H, one of my favourite films I’ve tried so far. As seems to be happening more and more, it’s discontinued now -_-
    Being so quiet, it was blessedly easy to just stand around on the middle of the road and take photos
    Some of the funaya around the bay
    Shot on Kodak Tri-X, at least this one isn’t going away anytime soon. I’d need to see some big prints or scans to appreciate the results, but I think I like it for a b/w film
    I think these two are mascots for local produce, but I’m not exactly sure what. Some sort of beans, judging by the hair accessories
    Black soybeans..? That’s what I’m getting from their website, http://ajim.info/
    It’s a dog run, aka. bring your dog here and let them do the zoomies!
    Back in Kyoto for the night, we had okonomiyaki at a restaurant in a big department store food court
    Pie Face is truly everywhere, wow
  • Day 14 – Arashiyama bamboo forest

    Arashiyama is one of the places that you visit for that Old Japan vibe, and you’ve surely seen its bamboo pathway in pictures before. Arashiyama is a very touristy area, which is fine by us because we want to do touristy things today.

    The first of which is kimono rental. There’s quite a few places offering it, no surprise, so we picked one that seems good. The store is tiny and didn’t have room for anyone extra to go in and gawk, but their wares are good. You pay a bit more for the nicer options but it’s definitely worth it – the material quality is nicer, and the designs are more elegant.

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    Beeeeg train station
    I couldn’t tell what this is from the outside, but google tells me it’s an orgel (music box) museum. Guido Reuge was apparently an esteemed Swiss orgel maker, and this is his collection.
    A very nice design, and a good midpoint between youthfulness and refinement
    Alex was keen so he got one too. Very suitable.
    The recognisable bit of the bamboo forest. It was pretty busy so we couldn’t take many photos here
    We got out of the middle of town, to walk along the bank of the Katsura river and take photos
    Huuuge dryers! I honestly don’t know what you need such large dryers for, unless restaurants are bringing their linen here or something
    Easily big enough to sit in!
    This blows my mind, it’s a washer and dryer purely for sneakers.

    I finished off the Delta 3200 yesterday, so I loaded up Fuji PRO 400H today for Arashiyama. It’s a nice film that shoots well, and the colours are perfect for this sort of portraiture. A bit muted but nothing you can’t adjust to your tastes later on.

    This coin laundry is right on the corner next to the Airbnb house we’re staying at. It’s kind of a novelty to me because these practically don’t exist for me back home. I went and dropped in a small load of washing so it could be done by the time we’re done with dinner.

  • Day 13 – New Years Day in Kyoto

    We all have a well-deserved sleep in and go out for traditional new year activities. Shimogamo shrine is a bit of a trek north, but we want to go there because it’s the major shrine for this sort of thing, being close to the old imperial castle. As expected there’s a lot of visitors, but it’s not crowded which is nice.

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    Got the Delta 3200 loaded back into the camera, after a lot of hassle getting the film leader back out of the cassette. That’s Alex’s Bessa R2A in the frame
    High speed film is really not the best for portraiture, but it does the job.
    Could’ve been a lot worse, given that the sun was barely above the horizon at this point, and there’s a lot of tree cover overhead sucking up the light
    We hung around the river taking some photos for Michelle, she needs some professional profile pics to use
    Are YOU actions inconveniencing someone?? We turned this into a running joke for the rest of the trip, but I do really like this aspect of Japanese culture. They’re just a lot better about not being in other people’s way.
    I don’t know what a Hoboclim is, but it’s pretty tasty