Friday, 30 November 2012

Lost In Translation

You join us for the final part of our trip around Japan

In case you missed them

Battle Royale - Japan (part 2)

Fire, castles and singed temples
For all its wonderful temples, shrines and castles I can’t help think that some of the World Heritage sites in Japan are a bit of a fraud……Certainly a controversial statement but before you get all huffy and defensive, let me expand my thoughts. Almost without fail, as we either read about or were told by the guides, all these wonderful buildings have been burnt down on an alarmingly regular basis. At each re-build they seemed to have shrunk in size as well….Sounds a bit like the fisherman who claims to have caught a huge fish but sadly it got away before he had time to show it to anyone.  It got to the point where my first question to any  of the guides was “So when did this building last burn down?” The result is that I discovered many of these ancient buildings are actually younger than me…..Blimey, if I was only slightly better put together I could probably register myself as a World Heritage site.

Now, I can just about understand the temples and shrines being made of wood - despite the amount of smoking that goes on in Japan.  It might also explain the passion Japan has for raw food.  I can imagine the conversation going on up and down Japan –

Mum - “What shall we have for dinner?”  

Rest of the family - “Please can we have something hot?”

Mum - “Not today, I can’t face having to move again this week”

The odd thing is a number of the temples seemed to have annual cleaning rituals, involving oversized torches carried by  miniature Monks  who have to single-handily run around the temple complex until either the torch burns out or the temple catches fire….

Then there are the castles….. why on earth would you build your castle of wood?  Unless of course you had a stone wall agreement with any opponents that, during battles, no naked flames would be allowed on the field of play and soldiers on both sides must be very careful during fag breaks…. The reports of regularly re-built castles tells us that either the agreement wasn't reached or if it was, it was frequently broken…..  

The fire precautions left
a lot to be desired.... 
Free Tours
After our Nikko experience (6 hours to see a waterfall) things got a lot better with the Goodwill tours of Japan. If anything, we suffered from “over-service” with our guides – who were so enthusiastic and proud of their cities and towns they were determined to cram in as much as possible – starting off early – normally around 9am and taking us through  until around 5pm – even subtle hints that  it would be nice for a coffee break didn’t seem to hit home.  I tried to slow down the pace by taking lots of pictures, while Mrs B was like a small child scraping her heels and practically lying on the ground in a rigid form claiming “I can’t go on – just leave me here to die”. To little avail, the relentless pace to get us cultured-up, if anything, increased …. So not only do we now know lots about Japan we are also super fit……or would be if only we weren't so damned exhausted….. 
Mrs B just about still standing
and one of our guides....

That's her "I just want a cup of tea
but not green tea face...."
As a break from normal hotels when we reached Kanazawa I had booked us a couple of nights in a Ryokan (which is high on most lists of must do’s on a Japanese trip).  A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn where you get the chance to sleep on the floor and have no furniture other than a very low table and some cushions.  From the outside my selection of ryokan looked like a real winner with the bonus that it was set in the heart of Kanazawa…. Being BlackLOG things quickly went downhill when we entered the establishment.  It looked like it had last been decorated in the 1970’s – lots of Formica and worn out sofas in the shared lounge.  Things picked up slightly when I discovered they had free Wi-Fi (very traditional) and a TV in the room (not that we ever watched anything much on Japanese TV as they had no English speaking channels – how disgraceful is that).  After that, things went terminal. When I booked I knew that there was no en-suite bathrooms and we would have to suffer the joys of shared facilities – what I didn’t realise was that there were only two bathrooms in the entire place (one for men and one for women), covering around 12 rooms for guests plus the family running the Ryokan – potentially 26 people. Convicted murderers get better bathroom odds ….. The bathing facilities were described as being an Onsen (a hot spring bath) but it turned out to be just a small sunken bath in which you are not actually allowed to clean yourself.  As my Italian friend Gina reminded me – don’t forget to wash before you get into the bath…..

Fake Geisha's
I was delighted when we reached Kyoto to see so many Geisha's wandering the streets, offering great photo opportunities…..I should have guessed it was all too easy. I got speaking to some of the “ Geisha's” only to discover it was like a day trip for them – with the girls taking the opportunity to play dress-up for the day…. It’s a bit like thinking you have captured some rare exotic animal in your lens which turns out to be a domestic pet with a slightly exotic hairstyle. 

Top tip for working out if it is a real or fake Geisha

If it is dark and there is an older man on her arm - probabaly Geisha
if it is light and no older man - probabaly fake Geisha

Please note this is a guide and not 100% accurate I would
not bet your Sammuri sword on it yet alone mine....  
The kindness of strangers
While in Kenroku-en, Kanazawa (One of Japan’s finest gardens) we got caught in a rain shower and by the time we had been dismissed from our tour of the garden, we were absolutely drenched.  We dived into a little restaurant for lunch and found ourselves being towel dried (OK, not strictly true but one of the waitresses did indeed come across with a couple of towels – much more welcoming than the traditional British welcome – “Clear off we don’t want xxxxxxx  ). Then as we made our way out they furnished us with an umbrella each – just how nice was that?  May be they were just making sure we didn’t drip all over the next establishment we visited…..

Mrs B’s sense of direction
One thing was very noticeable on this trip  - Mrs B’s sense of direction is getting worse – I was astonished at the number of times Mrs B exited somewhere and shot off in the wrong direction. I blame her recent use of a car satnav for finally destroying any sense of direction that she once may have had. I’ve noticed trails of bread crumbs leading to the edge of our bed but had put that down to some late night snacking….   

A first for me
While waiting for a train I managed to get told off by a platform – Yep you read that correctly, the platform.  How crazy is this country?  The platform obviously felt I was getting too close to the edge….Did it think I was going to jump and was concerned I might singlehandedly destroy the excellent time keeping record of the entire network…. ?     

So that’s it, the end of our trip.  No gadgets purchased, which was a surprise to me and no doubt a delight for Mrs B. Japan is a fascinating country, although a bit more westernised than we had expected – that said we had stuck to a fairly traditional tourist path. The people we met and talked to were almost without question friendly and helpful and we certainly both felt safe.  I would like to go back some day as we didn't get down to Hiroshima or to see the snow monkeys bathing in the hot springs. Both of those were on my wish list but distance (as good as the trains are there is only so much time you want to spend on one) and the wrong time of year (the monkeys only take to the hot water when the temperature dips) worked against us.  The reports of the skiing in Japan are very tempting – some of the resorts actually include a relaxing onsen in the lift ticket price – It’s not clear though if the snow monkeys get to join us in the onsen as I suspect they aren’t daft enough to spend the day hurtling down a mountain with oversized planks strapped to their legs.

Next week -  my second concert photo pass and I get thrown in the Pit.....

Photo Finish 

This week you can find Mrs B
through the round window.... 
 Kenroku-en garden, Kanazawa
Kenroku-en garden, Kanazawa
A rare exotic animal or a Geisha  domestic
pet getting an exotic hairstyle ....  
"An old fashioned till in a wonderful little cafe in Kyoto"
One of approx 1200 deer in Nara-Koen park 
Once considered messengers of the gods - now 
a national treasure - so I didn't get to eat them.
Who wouldn't want to drink this...

Well me for one, I prefer to just pour it over me... 
Sacred lamps in Nara - If I
understood it correctly it was like
ancient advertising. Business would donate
money and have a  lamp  dedicated to them
at a temple and be rewarded with 
prosperity - probably for the temple .  
Less sacred lamps in Nara
Oh look another arty leaf shot - do tell me if you get
bored of them.....
Monument in Nara
It's a bird - if someone knows what type
feel free to let me know....

until then I'm going with
A Japanese great crested tree dweller
- in my world it captures small children 
and helps eradicate unnecessary noise...  
Golden Hall of Kinkaku - Ji - Kyoto
Vermillion shrine gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha - Kyoto
Mrs B 
Fushimi Inari Taisha- Kyoto

Tune in Next week for some Ant Music...


  1. Absolutely Fantastic! Certainly a holiday to remember.We first discovered "Canned" Japanese green tea in the Muji No Name shop in London in the 1990's. Penny thought is would be nice. She was however very very wrong. I thought at tghe time that was why it was sold through a no brand shop.

    1. I can confirm that a good time was certainly had by all - As for Green Tea, it is my belief that it is only slightly less toxic than ricin...Was the purchase made during Penny's terrorise old ladies period…

  2. Love your arty leaf pics and the garden photos are just stunning.
    Shame about the hot spring monkeys but at least it gives you an excuse to go back one day.

    1. Why thank you Mynx, always nice to get positive feedback.

      As you the hot spring monkeys will wait for another trip....

  3. I’ve never been so I could be wrong ... but ... I think it’s a ‘Japanese Varied Tit’. Try doing a Google image search – don’t miss out the ‘Varied’ or Mrs B might wonder what the hell you’re looking at!
    Sounds like you had an interesting time in Japan – I enjoyed reading about your adventure. Hope you’re both ok.

    All the best


    1. Thanks Carl , I concur (surprisingly easy once I have a name to check out). As ever you have saved me from making a great tit of myself….finding it particularly hard to keep my Blogging mojo going at the moment – Too much happening makes it difficult to firstly find the time and secondly sorting the chaff from the wheat….

      Other than my Blogger block, we are both doing well, although Nicky tells me I owe her a relaxing holiday after Japan….So I’m probably going to take her Skiing…..Sometimes I don’t know why she puts up with me….

      I managed to pick up my second Photo pass for a concert this week – this time for Adam Ant – I got a couple of (in my opinion) cracking shots which will appear next week. If only he was considered wildlife I might have had a chance at getting some pictures in next year’s the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year

      Hope everything is going well in Norfolk

  4. Told off by a platform? I thought the London Underground had that covered: "Mind the gap."
    Which I think should really be: "Mind the gap. Dumbass."


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