Saturday, August 19, 2006   01:25

Traveling to Tokyo

17.8 Anon Traveler's comments on previous post while taking shinkansen train to Tokyo

When we arrived to Osaka, the first thing embracing us was a hot humid air. After first shock it all became quite manageable though, and luckily all public transportations are air conditioned. My personal goal for the first day was to learn a bit about how japanese transportation works and to set my personal clock to japanese time. I was a positively suprised how well this worked out.

Not falling asleep was kinda an issue in the evening, but we somehow managed to stay awake until 23:00 japanese time. Basically we just had to stay awake two days in a row with only a little nap in between. Well, the doctor who treats you does that all the time so it shouldn't be an issue for travelers either. Having vending machines with cold drinks available on just about every street corner - almost instantly when needing a drink was also a good help. It was well worth the effort - now waking up at 8AM felt like waking up in the morning.

Also we were able to familiarize ourselves on the japanese railway sign system and to complete the trial, visiting Kyoto bonfires during our first evening in Japan. Sounds simple, but there were many steps to be solved before we could see any bonfire and still come back to our hotel at Osaka..

People are very kind to foreign travelers, they seem to try their best to help us and are very honest. One lady run after me because the change I had been given was 3 yen short. I have no idea how they even noticed that afterwards - 3 yen totals to about 2 euro cents..

It is now raining for the first time during our japan trip and luckily we are still moving with the train, hopefully it stops before we arrive to Tokyo.

-- Anon traveler

Photos from shinkansen
(by Hans)

Police officers standing guard at the shinkansen station in Osaka. Security was tighter than normal to prevent terrorist attacks according to official signs placed around the public transportation.

Hikari shinkansen - the one we traveled from Osaka to Tokyo with. We bought Obentos (pre-packed lunch boxes) from the station to take with us to shinkansen, and just made it in time.

Inside a shinkansen. There's two rows of chairs on the left, and three on the right. The chair pairs on the left side can unlolcked with a foot pedal and turned around to form groups of four facing chairs.

-- Hans


Uploaded 18.8 from our ryokan in Tokyo.

Friday, August 18, 2006   23:24

First Impressions


It was raining in Helsinki after several weeks of warm Finnish summer when we left, nice traveling weather.

Finnairs Helsinki-Osaka plane was Moomin themed.

We flew over siberia during the night, and saw the flames from the oil wells in the Ural mountains. In the morning we arrived at the Kansai international airport, and were greeted by a tropically humid and warm (+30 celsius) weather.

The Kansai international airport is built on a gigantic man made island, which is slowly sinking into the ocean. The inside of the airport was high-ceilinged and vividly colored.

When we stepped out of the terminal we discovered it had been air conditioned - the outside was humid and hot. The air was filled with the loud noises from the cicada insects in the trees growing among the buildings.

Our first impression of Japanese suburb layout while traveling from the airport to Osaka was chaotic - compared to Finnish land usage planning there seemed to be every kind of structures mixed in haphazard fashion, intersected with narrow quiet local roads, and with train tracks running above on elevated tracks. Fields, golf shooting places, local industry, canals, high rise buildings, and tightly packed private residental houses followed on each other.

A canal crossing the landscape.

After obtaining our Japan rail passes we headed towards Osaka, searching for our hotel. We misread the instructions however, and ended up two stations to far. We were surprised by the helpfulness of the locals, as we were asking for directions, they phoned our hotel, figured out the location, and a man guided us to the railway station to the right track. He forgot to return the paper with the map to our hotel though, so we tried to navigate to it from memory. The hotel receptionist must have seen us walk past though, because she ran up to us before we got too lost.

The Shin-Osaka station - where our hotel was not located.

Lost in Osaka - among strange creatures.

The hotel rooms are nice (western style and small but clean and comfortable), although the stairwell is interesting - it opens right out to open air protected only by metal bars. There's also a coin operated laundromat on our floor.

Laundromat in hotel stairwell.

Top of the stairwell at our hotel - a practical place for drying laundry.

View from the stairwell.

Speaking of coin operated automats, there are drink vending machines almost everywhere, and they are useful too, as people need to drink much in the heat and humidity.

Fire Festival

After relaxing in our rooms, we headed towards the Fire festival in Kyoto.

Girls in kimonos on the way to the fire festival and using their mobile phones.

The watching place was located at the juncture of two rivers. Stepping stones had been laid out across them, creating a fun bridge.

As the darkness started to fall, more and more people gathered to wait for several large fire installations representing different kanji to be lighted.

The first kanji being lit. It is composed of many wooden fires located on a hilltop facing the city.

As the fires were lit the crowd got excited, raising a lighting storm of camera flashes.

On the way back on the stepping stones.

Afterwards we headed home, picking up some hamburgers from Mac Donalds on the way. Shinkansen from Kyoto to our place in Osaka took only 15 minutes.

All in all the prices were very cheap (by Finnish standards), metro tickets are about one to two euros, and we ate a light but nice meal on noodles for three euros. The drinks from the vending machines are about 80 cents. Restaurants are usually advertising their meals with previews outside their shops. In the picture is the noodle place we ate at.

Now we'll try to get some sleep. We'll upload this when we find WLAN. Tomorrow we'll head towards Tokyo.

-- Hans


Uploaded on Friday 18.8 from our ryokan in Tokyo.

Monday, August 14, 2006   19:15

Learning Katakana

I was learning katakana the programmer way, and spent the weekend coding PocketSensei, a Java midlet for mobile devices that helps you learn katakana.

-- Hans