Friday, 9 May 2014

A day out in Daiba

It has mostly been glorious spring weather. We caught the subway to Odaiba a couple of weekends back and cycled home via parts of Odaiba I'm no so familiar with and over the Rainbow Bridge. Odaiba is reclaimed land, built in the mid 1800s with a battery to defend Japan from foreign incursion.  I don't have a picture of it in this set, but it's ironic, given its history that Odaiba now has a replica Statue of Liberty on the foreshore.  Unlike the statue in New York which looks out to the sea, welcoming those who have travelled the seas to arrive, the one in Odaiba looks int to the land, not out to the travellers (not even towards Haneda!) It's quite apt really.
Odaiba is a mix of the sterile with the arcane. It's a relic of the Bubble Economy with some truly out there buildings. Wandering around there are quirks and in some kind of way charm as well.  Taking a trip there, it's worth taking a bit of a wander. Like much of Tokyo, you can expect the unexpected.


Yume no Hashi (bridge of dreams) between Ariake and Palette town.
Tokyo Baycourt Hotel. It's pretty sterile looking but there's
quite a bit of greenery either side.

The ferris wheel near Palatte Town

Can greenery be sterile?

Odaiba is a young people's playground.
Lots of people dressed up to do photo shoots of themselves...
There seemed to be more dressed up / cos play people
here that you'd usually find in Harajuku.

October Fest in April... hmmm..
A German friend assures me that there are
beer festivals in April, though they're not
called Oktoberfest..

Gundam outside Diver City.
I wonder about the proliferation of these kind of outlet shops.
The average Tokyo abode is not very big.. where do people
put their stuff...

The back of the Fuji building

A liberty flame built in conjunction with the French.
 I guess it matches the statue of liberty
on the waterfront there... I find the monuments to liberty
a bit puzzling really. It's not like Japan has a great history
of encouraging the pursuit of liberty.
Across the car park to the Maritime Museum

I didn't see the caption for this. I am guessing it
is supposed to be something about scales of justice
but it looks like something out of Sharia law
picture book explanation.

As part of its defence system, Odaiba had a battery outcrop.
The remains of it can still be seen in a delightfully
green and peaceful headland from Odaiba proper.

A random citizen chilling out 

Remains of the cannon battery
A very peaceful escape from the madding crowds of Daiba proper

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Golden Week ( 3 ) Gunma: Yokokawa & Chosunokashira

With the short Golden Week a trip to Akita was unfeasible. As a last minute plan I booked a kokumin shukusha -  literally I guess "citizens' accommodation".  Kokumin shukusha are scattered about the country and are run by either local governments or affiliated with national parks.  We've stayed in them a couple of times before in Chiba and Iwate, and there's something both charmingly retro and ideological.  We often joke about Japan being a communist country and in someways the kokumin shukusha  epitomizes it.  
Much like a minshuku the rooms tend to be Japanese style - tatami  & futons,  and have common bathrooms. The food is strictly Japanese style and doesn't pander to taste preferences.  Thou shalt eat fish, though shalt have rice, there shalt be pickles.  In spring there will be mountain vegetables; there will be sashimi and tempura and some kind of meat for dinner.  
There's a quaint nostalgia in having government recreation areas; a benevolent government giving permission to the masses to go back to nature & relax. The  first kokumin shukusha  dates back to 1956, a time when Japan was on the up. The economy was recovering from the war and the idea of mass international travel for pleasure was unheard of.   Time away in the countryside, communing with nature is an ideal way to recharge the batteries.

We had done no research & a bushwalk around the local area turned into a more adventurous expedition than expected.

The kokumin shukusha Uramyogi
Well signposted walking paths

Steps at the beginning to lull visitors into a false sense of security
that this was going to be how it was.

The mountain  in the distance should have been a clue.

And this.. (Mt Myogi)

But the track was well marked with yellow paint
and signs

Beautiful foliage that would be stunning come autumn.

Chains to climb up the steep rockface

Beautiful spring flowers on the way up
In a few places there was running stream water, (not quite here - the water went
 both above and underground naturally) just as well since we didn't
take any with us... Hiro took his chances with dehydration over dysentery.
I have a "stomach of iron" tetsubara and had no hesitation drinking it.

More chains...

A sign clearly showing the way to the kokumin shukusha,
the station and a hike to a waterfall 2 hours along the ridge.

Yellow crosses warning not to take this route.
I didn't tempt fate.

A little stone shelter. If you look closely you
can see a sake cup on the left.  It was the only
thing resembling a shrine on the mountain.  Maybe in
olden times it wasn't a mountain people had much reason to go up.

Beautiful!  Mt Asama with snow in the background.

If you look closely, there is a man on that rock eating his lunch.
We climbed to there.

hard core ropes.

We could have climbed to the very top, but were content with staying on the ledge one below.

It was a tough climb, but a beautiful view. The people on the ledge were a father and daughter. She
was probably  10 and had remarkable resilience and an amazingly positive attitude to climbing.

Magnificent - Mt Myogi

Mountain azaleas, elegant and understated.
They lack the tartiness of their urban cousins.
I was using Hiro's mobile to take these since I forgot my
charging cable... Unfortunately this picture in particular
does no justice to the subject.

Safely arrived back to the kokumin shukusha.
It was good fortune & not good managment...

Walking map of the area at the station

Walking map at the station

More walking suggestions
    Taxi prices  to local attractions inluding Karuizawa station, the kokumin shukusha,
    and Myogi Jinja.
THe station. Yokokawa is the terminal station of the
Shin'etsu line.  The noodles next door were particularly good (and cheap).
I've had a tip from Allrite that the Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park in Yokokawa is worth
visiting.  It's definitely an area worth going back to.

Golden week(end) (2) to Gunma via Nagano

The first two days of GW were spent in domestic mundanities; Saturday cycling to Ameyoko to buy SE Asian ingredients that I'd run out of and on Sun a planned trip to Kameido Tenshin to check out the wisteria there was trumped by investigating alternatives to the company accommodation where we live... sigh.. It won't be difficult to find somewhere better quality, but to find somewhere in a more convenient location that's affordable,  has sunlight and won't be worth nothing in ten years is a monumental task.

Monday & Tues were a reprieve: biking to Gunma via Nagano.  Hiro had studied up the route and we took the Chuo expressway to Chino & the "Venus Line" through Tateshina, a place famous as the location of second houses of Tokyo people wanting respite from the Tokyo summer.   It was immediately obvious that it was a different climate zone with blossoms lining the river banks.

Blossoms and a foreboding sky.

Bishamonten @ Shokouji 聖光寺 in Tateshina

Sakura at Shoukouji

The front somewhat different looking

It was cold and there were few people sitting down for hanami parties.

View from the Venus Line

Lake Shirabakawa - too cold be out on the lake. 

My battery died not long after this, but we made our way on a round about road and arrived in Gunma for dinner.