Posts in "Japan"
for your information...
with less than one week till we wrap up our unforgettable trip, i thought you may all like to know a bit about the sleepy little village that we are ending our trip in.

at the base of mount annupuri is niseko, a small and intimate town packed to the brim with australians,, all hoping to get their annual powder fix at one of the worlds top ski and snowboarding destinations.

with chalets, lodges, cafes and restaurants all a stones throw, or short bus ride, away - it really is a winter wonderland. our accommodation, while not the greatest, has all the basics we need, and we have taken to cooking in the evenings and watching movies.

the snow is the best, kurt or i have ever had. between us both we have hit canada, new zealand and australian ski fields and nothing compares to what we have stumbled across here in north japan. we though hakuba was amazing but its still no comparison to niseko.

we have hit the snow everyday, literally. not had a rest day since arriving and have pushed through the pain. with the thought of fresh, waist high powder beckoning every morning, it's hard not to have snow-stoke all day and all night.

tomorrow is australia day and with there being easily three times as many australians around than japanese, we are looking forward to the festivities and hope you all have a wonderful one back at home.

pics. a mixed bag of niseko; our hostel, night skiing, main village, the loved up couple, jamee jump jump jumping away and kurt playing dress up at the supermarket.

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...
we are officially over living out of a backpack for six months. the novelty has well and truly worn off. i have begun slyly booting my backpack on occasion and kurt now lovingly refers to his as a 'smell crack pack'. the change from lugging summer gear to winter gear has seen our packs take on new shapes, mine is now quiet curvaceous while kurts will some days be extremely tall, or skinny, or both. we now have less than two weeks until we touch down on australian soil, however there are enough aussies in niseko for us to feel like we are already at home.

osaka was interesting... and had a very different vibe to that of other japanese cities. it is very much a working industrial city where the people are constantly on the move, and not overall that friendly, but still obligingly hospitable when it came to us needing help. we hit up the food markets and had some wonderfully creative local dishes, toured down town, hit up the osaka aquarium and took to the sky at the umeda sky tower. it was, as i said, an interesting experience however it won't be high on our return-to list, unless we opt to fly out of their international airport.

(the journey from osaka to niseko was exhausting. a nine hour overnight bus trip to shinjuku, two local trains to the airport, a two hour flight to hokkido and then a three hour bus to hirafu. it wad a sleepless thirty plus hours that was made a little better by a stop at mcdonalds where we indulged in an ebi-tempura prawn burger, double-decker texas beef and bacon burger, fries, cokes and oreo mcflurries. hungry much?)

back to the soon as we made it through the cloud cover we could see how niesko gained it's reputation as the second snowiest resort in the world. the land here in north japan is white. blanketed fluffy and white with endless snow. it was snowing when we landed on the plane and has literally not stopped since. apparently is had been snowing non stop, for the past 11 days, variation-ally (light, moderate and heavy). we hit the slopes today for a few hours and all i can say at this point is that we are in a powder playground. we couldn't have wished for a more epic ending to our six month trip...

pics. osaka food markets (local puffer fish and spider crabs), some local fly-girls busting a move at the osaka train station, the osaka aquarium, the view of osaka from the sky tower and flying in through the clouds.

vending machine nation...
no matter where you are in japan, there is never a vending machine more than 50 meters away. if your thirsty or hungry you need never fear - there is always a vending machine near. you might be walking down a traditional cobble stone street surrounded by wooden houses and zen gardens, pacing through the city or sitting on a train passing through a station that buried in complete snow. these magical electric boxes that cater for your every need and are literally everywhere you look. the reason i opted to mention this is that after our half day walking tour of kyoto today, through the traditional lantern lit streets, they did somewhat obscure the landscape and made me think that perhaps there is a right place and wrong place for them. while i continue to ponder this conundrum let me fill you in on our past few days...

after taking the cheapest and longest option we could from hakuba to kyoto (five local trains, one which we missed) our eight hour train trip ended in a cute little guesthouse that saw us in a traditional japanese room. for those of you who don't know what that means; we are sleeping on grass mats on the ground. i will add however that because it's winter, we get a thin mattress and insanely warm blankets and it's surprisingly comfortable. our first day saw us take on and conquer the nishiki food market where we sampled italian style tuna sashimi, smoked eel, sushi and home made kobe beef steamed buns. it's reputation as kyotos weird food market did not disappoint and we had a wonderful time browsing the lanes, watching vendors sell their produce, observing old biddies buying their groceries and seeing some wacky foods.

day two took us on a picnic to the kyoto botanical gardens, a stroll around the Kyoto imperial palace, to one of kyotos oldest shrines where we were lucky enough to see a cherry tree coming into blossom early and then to gion, where we did some geisha spotting (without luck) and wondered the traditional cobble stoned streets. today, as previously mentioned, we went on the lonely planet guides suggested half day walking tour and saw the kyoto one might imagine (think memoirs of a geisha). we wandered through temples and shrines, through parks and gardens lined with carp ponds and japanese maples and saw kyotos largest cherry tree. we are off to osaka tomorrow and havent had as much time here as we would have liked, needless to say, we have left things to see and do for next time...

pics. nishiki food markets and a mix from our time in kyoto.

konichiwa y'all...
too say we have had an amazing japanese experience is an understatement and we have only checked off two of the five stops on our itinerary. since my last post we have visited the tsukiji fish markets and gained entry to restricted areas, enjoyed the sunset in tokyo bay while eating ebi-tempura mcdonalds burgers, enjoyed steamed buns roadside with mt. fuji in the distance and had five amazing days in the snow. i can now officially say we are "living the dream".

bound for hakuba, we hopped on the bus at shinjuku and waved goodbye to tokyo. the four and a half hour bus ride was spectacular as we wound through the japanese alps, passing mount fuji on our way. as the bus slowly emptied, we carried on to the very last stop and had finally arrived in hakuba village. what greeted us was an amazing, beautiful and picturesque town covered in snow - also home to the nagano 1998 winter olympic games. our time spent here has been indescribable and we really have been lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time with two days of sunshine and two days of snow.

our great hosts, chloe and ben, have shown us an amazing time and we were able to say thanks by running the bar attached to their resturant last night for a few laughs. today we rode powder until our hearts were content (and the visibility got to poor) with the lovely jenna, so doherty and parker clans - eat your hearts out.

pics. tokyo bay, fish markets, mt fuji, kurt on our first day in the snow and hakuba.

green tea, harajuku girls, sushi, sake and new years in tokyo...
japan. is. amazing. well, what we have seen so far - and that's a whole bunch. from arriving and navigating our way through tokyo's busiest subway station at peak hour with our backpacks to eating strawberry and whipped cream crepes next to lolita-styled harajuku girls on harajuku lane, we have certainly done our dash in this town.

painting the town red on new years eve, we started at a trditional japanese resturant amoungst shibuyas young and trendy crowd. with all you can drink (anything on the menu) for 500 yen per hour, we were lucky enough to have a couple of locals in our group, so we were able to sample different flavoured sakes, local brews and fizzy sweet drinks. we then tackled shibuya crossing, japans busiest, in a rush to get to tokyo tower for count down. unluckily for us the two trains and cab ride didn't get us there in time and we spent midnight in a taxi, in a traffic jam. not to worry though as our group of 10 solidered on and we ended up having an amazing night in roppongi hills tokyo drift style...

our big night was followed by a big day to the imperial palace gardens and senso-ji temple for new years day prayers and to make a wish. with the wonderful and bubbley jenna in toe, we spent the following day picnicing in harajuku park and ginza for a look around the sony building for the latest and greatest in electronics. yesterday we headed to akihabara, tokyo's electric town where geeks were out in force and bargins could be had. it was a fantastic mixture of stores and black markets. after quickly popping into a maid cafe, we opted for a vending maching lunch and headed to the hub, english pub for pizza and beers in the evening.

tokyo, a welcome change from the grey depression of china is full of colour, life and lights. beauty is everywhere you look and the balance between tradition and modernity is perfect. the japanese way seems so appropiate making them appear leaps and bounds in front of other countries. case in point, today we headed to the sporting goods district, an area where every single sporting good you could ever imagine lined the streets and store upon store. it's fantastic. if your looking for something in particular you chose your neighbourhood. fashion is harajuku, electronics are akihabara, luxury in ginza and the red light district is in shinjuku etc. and i wont even start on the food. but the sushi really is out of this world.

with one more day in tokyo, tomorrow will see us rise early to visit the tsukiji fish market (the worlds biggest seafood market), hit shinjuku for lunch and head to tokyo-bay for an evening view of the city. we will then be taking a detour to hakuba and snowboarding for a few unexpected days in the japanese alps with jenna and co. before heading south to kyoto and osaka, so stay posted.

pics. new years eve, the imperial palace, taking to the tokyo streets, make a wish, electronics, jenna on the comute and kurt enjoying a crepe in harajuku