Goodbye, family!

So we arrived in Sendai, my home, sweet temporary home. It was sunny enough, but the Italian latitude made itself known, in spite of the sun’s pleasant demeanor.

I checked in my family (the hotel was thankfully not far from the station), and left them to their own device for what I promised would be an hour, while I went to put away my big suitcase in my dorm room. Not surprisingly, that hour had passed before I had even arrived, and another forty minutes passed as I made my way back. Chilled by the drop in temperature, I found my equally chilled relatives by the side of the road. Or at least by the side of the Disney store. They were hungry, and so was I. They were up for cheap dining, and so was I.

  
The next day would be the only full day here, so we set out to make the most of it. In other words, we took the sightseeing bus to the tourist spots around town. Our, two at least. Our first stop was the museum of history, almost completely empty of people. All the better for us, no? We even took a nice little walk outside before entering.

   



Counting up the trail, we eventually made it to Sendai castle, or at least what remains of it. As I told you a long long time ago, during my first visit to the castle site, it is something of a journey back in time. And this time, we were actually able to meet the man himself! Date Masamune was there, along with one of his trusted retainers, happily posing for pictures, and quite in character telling us to upload them too Facebook! Ah, times past… We’re not so different after all.

  

No that’s not the samurai founder of Sendai. That’s just my cousin.

We continued our sightseeing trip by journeying onwards to my campus grounds, and, going inside, meet none other than my teacher! I had certainly not expected her to be there, but it was a fun surprise, and a great opportunity to introduce my family. (Unavoidable, rather, since they were walking right behind me). We all chatted for a bit, before moving on to our separate things. That meant eating, for the four of us.

No trip to Sendai is complete without a visit to the shopping street, and while none of us bought anything there, we did spend a lot of money at the various coin operated claws in one of the gaming arcades. I turned out to be quite good at it!

  

A big Pringles can contain two normal sized Pringles cans, as well as a handful of chocolates, meant a good night for me! And the selfie stick came in handy the very next day!

Almost but not quite running late, we managed to get on the last train arriving at the airport before check-in closed. At eight in the morning, we gathered together for one last picture!

  

And so, the three who managed to come visit this time made their way through the security check, and, in a way, out of my life once again.

It as difficult at times, doing my best to show the finest side of Japan, especially since most of my own time here had been spent in a classroom. But I had a lot of fun, and got the chance to do things I might not have done otherwise. So, for that I thank you, family! I’m looking forward to doing my best guiding around whoever comes next!

Until then!
 

Annonser

To Tokyo and back

The train ride from Osaka to Tokyo marked the second time on the Shinkansen for me, and, obviously, the first for my father and the others. Taking two and a half hours, it was quite long, and being unable to connect to the Wi-Fi network supposedly available on board, quite grueling for some members of the entourage (at least that is my guess), who spent most of the journey napping sweetly in their seats.

Having finally overcome the usual hardships of finding stations, lines, and platforms, we arrived at Sengakuji station some time later than anticipated, and were immediately faced with a new hardship: that of finding the hotel. This turned out to be not so hardshippy at all, since the hotel my cousin was booked to stay art was located across the street from the station exit. The rest of us were not so lucky. The road was easy enough to remember, being pretty much straight, but long enough to tire of before even braving it once. Our hotels were located about 30 minutes apart, but, thankfully, with the train station roughly in the middle. We checked in, and went out to dinner. Italian. One party sized pitcher of beer and garlic toast for all!

  
 
After returning to our separate hotels afterwards, a discussing about whether or not we should go out for some karaoke or not broke out. Two of us eventually went out, not for karaoke, but too some other touristy bar or pub. Can you guess who?

The first half of the next day was to be spent in a little part of town known as Akihabara. You know it. The electronic paradise for gamers, gaming memorabilia collectors, and game center enthusiasts! 

   
 
My favorite part was of course the midday closing of the main road, allowing all to stroll freely without fear of becoming mush! 

 

Next, we headed over to Shibuya (my idea of course!), and checked out some of the many shops. But not before taking these epic photos of course!

   

This is without a doubt on if the most important photo ops in a persons life!

 

 And the famous crossing was not so bad either!
Best of all, I (finally!) bought myself some true wafuku, but sadly not finishing the entire set of the up to date samurai. But at least I got the haori

 
 The two party people spent the night signing to each other, while me and Ström senior returned to the hotel for an early night. Unfortunately, the weather conditions could not have been worse for our planned trips the next day, but we were determined to make due. The Tsukiji fish market is probably far more attractive when viewed in sunshine, but it was still fascinating. Of course, no-one wanted (read: was even close to be able) to get up in the middle of the night and somehow find their way out there in order to see the famous auction at five in the morning, but it was still absolutely a worthwhile experience! My cousin agrees!

  
The next stop was the famed Sky Tree, where we could get a great view of a very cloudy Tokyo. It would certainly have been absolutely breathtaking on a clear day, but I was quite impressed by the clouds slowly floating past the windows. Besides, I managed to get a pretty kewl shot of my brother against what little light there was outside.

   
 

Now, since I have no doubt that you are completely uninterested in hearing about the four of us spending 20 000 ¥ on sausage and beer, I’ll show you instead these pictures taken in the Moomin-themed cafe we went to before that little splurge. Way cuter! (^ω^)

   

  


So, after this remains only to tell of Sendai, and all that happened here. Unless I lose interest completely, you’ll be reading about that soon!
  

Moving on

 
Let’s continue our journey, shall we?
We returned to Kyoto the very next day, a cool and quite windy, but occasionally sunny day. We set off a couple of hours before noon, and as such were feeling a bit peckish upon arrival. So, naturally, we went for burgers, fries, and shakes. Yum. But, even at the Lotteria we were treated with the utmost politeness, and the young man behind the counter was very co-operative when it came to dealing with the crisscrossed menu choices of my troublesome family. For teriyaki burgers? No. One teriyaki burger set, one cheese and bacon burger set, and two shrimp burgers (no sets), along with two vanilla milkshakes. Sigh. Ah well, at least it filled our stomachs.

Radiating with post-lunch energy, we got on the bus for Kiomizu-dera, a bus positively packed with people, and not the easiest vehicle to smoothly board, ride and exit for a bunch of six-footers. At least not when it’s filled with five-year footers who want to get off at the next stop. Every next stop. But it was worth it! Kiomizu-dera is beautiful, and I was just as impressed this time, as I was the first time I visited it (which was a years and a half ago, and the renovations are still going on!). And I’m guessing all these people were too!

  

Ok, that doesn’t like a massive crowd of temple-goers, but trust me when I say the temple was add packed as the bus we just got off! So finding a somewhat empty spot in which to snap a shot proved to be quite the task, but I directed my cousin masterfully, wouldn’t you agree?

  

And the sights were just as amazing this time!

  
By the way, I’m glad I’m able to understand enough Japanese to inform my companions of the contents of signs and such! Otherwise, who would’ve known how much money to put in the box, in order to burn the incense guilt free?

  
So our temple visit ended happily! Nobody wanted to try the Lover’s theWall between the stones (none of us at least… But the Norwegians right next to us were braver! Or perhaps more interested in finding true love. Even so, the young woman who were led by here friend is going to need some help, even with that…)

We took some time to walk around the streets, looking in the many little souvenir shops lining them. My dad got himself a Kyoto t-shirt, as well as a wind chime, and I fulfilled my year-long dream of buying a hachi-maki, the headband you see below. I also got a Kyoto dialect-themed deck of cards, with each displaying a word in Kyoto-ben, along with an example sentence, as well as its meaning in standard Japanese. Do you know what our means? I do! Thanks to my fifty two new teachers!

Next time I’ll be resuming the tale with our stay in Tokyo. Until then!

I’m still here

But my father, brother and cousin are not. They left Sendai yesterday morning, in order to spend one last day in Osaka, and smoothly return to Sweden via Tokyo. While I could get all weepy about that, I’d rather spare you readers from any such emotional exposé, and instead tell you about our last joyful time together for now.

I believe I last told you about our visit to the Kama pub in Osaka, so let’s pick up the story from there. 

On the morning of our third day together in Japan, we had only to follow through on the previously made plans. So, again we made our way to Osaka station. But this time, it was not in order to shop or eat. This time were meeting up with Ayaka and her mother Naoko. Yup. Family meets family! I’m sure many of you have already seen the pictures on Facebook, but please look again! They’ll make a great companion piece to this post!

I introduced my father, my brother, and my cousin to them both, and everybody looked quite happy to meet, albeit a bit nervous. Eric was handed his gift, accepted it humbly, and we spent some time chatting (about the late David Bowie once boarding the same Osaka-Kyoto train we were about to take, among other things), and then hopped on the train which had just arrived. 

We could count ourselves lucky to be able to visit the places we did. First, we made our way to one of those narrow little streets found all over Kyoto, and rang the doorbell of a very traditional-looking house. Naoko’s friends greeted us into their traditional home, filled with decorations and rare Japanese items of all kinds, and we were shown around, hearing tales of samurai lineage, and decorative dolls, and varieties of kimono. 

   
    
 

We were given tea and cookies to enjoy in the traditional pantry, while hearing about – and trying for ourselves! – tôsenkyô, a game hailing from the Edo era, the goal of which is to throw a handheld fan at a target placed a meter or so away, and taking note of the positions in which the knocked down target and the fan end up on the ground. I shouldn’t brag, but  did fairly well – of the four of us, perhaps even best, along with my father. The visit ended with an impromptu jam session I the small recording studio located on the second floor, and after being given a small but very beautiful gift of a traditional looking con case, we headed out for lunch.

 

It was, of course, Japanese styled! Me and my brother chose the shabu-shabu experience (me for the second time, my brother for the first), and my father and cousin had tonkatsu. Oh, and some of us had sashimi as well! Along with the ice cream dessert, it made for a truly delicious dining experience! 

After lunch we had planned to visit Kiomizu-dera, but as time had run away from us slightly, we opted instead to have a look around the many, many souvenir shops in the vicinity. I don’t believe anybody bought anything this day, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. And our next experience of traditional Japan was even more so! We made our way past a large group of Norwegians, and into a tea house. What we were going to do was be shown the traditional tea ceremony (actually, a shortened version of it, as the real thing takes several hours), and then try it ourselves! And lo and behold, our instructor was none other than Auntie Keiko, tea master and my aunt-in-law!  

 
Sadly, I don’t think I shall make much of a tea master myself, as I couldn’t quite master the whipping technique. My maccha lacked much, if not all, of the foam required for a whipping to be considered successful. 

 

This, of course, did not put a damper on the experience itself, and I was very happy to finally meet Ayaka’s aunt. 

Finally, all six of us – me, my brother and father and cousin, along with Ayaka and her mother – walked through a lively and uplit Kyoto, until we arrived at our last stop for the day: an izakaya, a traditional Japanese eating-and-drinking establishment. A little bit later, we were joined by Ayaka’s father as well, making the two families almost complete, save for my own mother. We all had a wonderful time, and I’m really glad we could all finally meet! For roughly two hours we ate and drank (my brother’s verdict regarding sake: the is nothing quite like it in Sweden!), and celebrated our first meeting. Time went much too fast. And so, we boarded the train to Osaka together, and said our goodbyes as we arrived at Umeda station. But it wasn’t the last we saw of Kyoto, for the very next day me and my people went back, and checked out the temple we had had no time for the day before. Tell you all about it later!

Ta!

Sayōnara Ōsaka — hajimemashite Tōkyō!

You guessed it — recently I’ve been way too busy to giv much attention to my poor old blog. The reason is, of course, my traveling and tripping around Ōsaka and Kyōto! Oh, that Kristoffer…he’s back in Ōsaka again? Didn’t he just leave? Why, yes, dear hypothetical questioner, I did in fact ‘just’ leave Ōsaka — and I’ve been waiting impatiently to return. The reasons are plenty, one better than the other. Ōsaka is a great city, Kyōto even better. My love lives in the area, and I will meet her and her family. And, on top of these fortunate whims of fate and well–planned enterprise, another reason to return has presented itself in the last few months. And that reason is my family. In Ōsaka. And Kyōto — and Tōkyō! And finally in Sendai. 

I greeted them at KIX, roughly ninety minutes after our agreed upon time, due to an oversight by yours truly. If you’re the one doing the booking of hotels, always be sure to give the address to whoever suffers a fifteen-hour flight just to spend a week with you! That’s the least one can do, right? Yeah, somehow I forgot to do that, leaving my poor brother stuck in customs, not knowing what to write to please the stern officer breathing down his neck. Enter my cousin! (And perhaps a subconscious/evidence-of-future-divining-ability with me — I had I fact given my cousin the address of the hotel I booked for him — lucky, lucky!). He jotted down the name of his hotel, and they were allowed, finally, to enter Japan proper!

We hopped on the one–hour rapid-train bound for Umeda, and chatted the journey away. This, of course, after a certain two had had their (lung-) fill of ashes and tar. 

In complete accordance with my expectations, we were too early for check-in, but the hotel staff were kind enough to allow us to store our luggage for the time being. So, after repeating the procedure at my cousin’s hotel (which was very conveniently located only ten minutes away), we made our way back to a restaurant  we had passed by earlier. Takeout okonomiyaki. Mums! We sat down on a rock wall I Utsubo park, and the recent arrivals enjoyed their first lunch break in Japan. By the time I’m writing this, two are gone, out for drinks, and what with all three having spent an entire evening on their own in Dōtonbori, they’re already Japan veterans!

  
That’s my dad behind me. Sorry, that’s the best picture I could get in the park. Unless you want to see my brother waving a garbage bag in my face. Which you don’t. But look below, and you’ll see my cousin and brother enjoying tempura that same evening!

  

The next day was spent enduring the rain, scurrying from subways to shops to game centers. I enjoyed the musical games, where the goal is to hit buttons or images on a screen in rhyth with the (loud!) music playing. I realized I wasn’t very good at it, but at least I wasn’t bored! And neither were my relatives (save perhaps for my father, who didn’t play a single game). 

That night we were warmly welcomed at a pub some distance away from the bustling downtown area. Seated right in front of a small stage, we enjoyed drinks and a live jazz band. After be holding their skills, I’m underwhelmed even by the description ‘mind-bogglingly amazing’ — it just doesn’t do their arms and fingers justice!

   
 

One of the proprietors asked us to leave a message on the wall before leaving. Who knows who will be able to decipher it, and when — we wrote them in Swedish after all. Check out KAMA Pub on Facebook — and you just might be able to spot us in the crowd!

I’m tired now, and I’m going to need a good nights sleep if I’m to rise at eight tomorrow. I’ll update with part2 of our Kansai visit when I next have enou free time. 

じゃ!

Off again, soon enough!

The time has come to once again take my temporary leave of the city I’ve come to call my home. And so soon! Yes, I feel as though I’ve just returned — landed, as it were — from my most recent excursion to the Kansai Area, and already it’s time to go back down there. I’m not complaining, though. Surely I will look differently upon the Osaka which has become something of a second (or perhaps ”third” is more appropriate; I’ve not lived there as anything other than a tourist, and shall not do so this time) home to me, as I will travel with different company this time. Not only that; I will also travel heavily burdened by the responsibility of being a ”guide” or ”travel leader”. I haven’t got much doubt about it: this role will force me to look for things I’ve not looked for before. 

The company I’m talking about is my family—or part of it, anyway. Tomorrow morning, at 09:55, my father, brother, and oldest cousin will land at KIX, wearied by a ten–or–so hour flight, and he jet lag which inevitably comes with it. I promise I will catch their sunniest sides, as I rush toward them, camera a-flashing. I don’t yet know what plans they have made, apart from my cousin’s wish that we visit Dōtonbori, and pose with the famous Gilco man. I suspect this is a spot which makes for a better experience if visited at night, however, leaving the day slot still wide open. 

Ten days from today we will separate. Ten days from tomorrow they will make a kikoku, as it is locally called: a return to their own country. All kinds of fun things will be done during these days, I’m sure (in fact, on one of the days things are planned which will be entirely new to me, as well!), and I will do my best to report continuously! I’m sure you Swedes who remain in Sweden will be eager to find out as much as possible as soon as possible!

I’ll leave you with that for now. Hopefully it will make your stomachs as butterfly-y as that of the ones taking of from Arlanda in less than 90 minutes!

Spring

The snow that fell so intensely a month ago has all but melted away. The sun is shining from a sky free from clouds, and beneath it, every little creature of damp darkness hurriedly scurries away, to hide in the never looked upon cracks and crevices of of our minds’ oft unvisited regions. February brings Spring, earlier than I’m used to.

Today is the twelfth, and I will be leaving Sendai for two weeks, spending one in Osaka, and the second in Takarazuka. I am in no hurry yet, as I’m scheduled to be on the flight departing at 20:10, giving me plenty of time to pack, eat lunch, make my way to the station, and from there to the airport. I did most of my packing earlier today, and, even as of 14:05, still have some left to do. I need not be at the airport until around 19:00, however, so I have been taking it fairly easy yesterday and today, spending most of my time reading and youtubeing.
Wednesday was a busy day, at least by my standards. Around 10:00 I began making my way down to what has become a central meeting spot for participants in get–togethers and events (at least those involving me): the Disney store. After a not so long wait, the rest of the crew showed up, and, americans, asians and europeans, we made our way to a nearby karaokekan for some musical enjoyment of the highest degree. It was my second time singing karaoke in Japan, and my longest session ever. For roughly six hours we sang between us well over a hundred songs in three languages, all the while utilizing the open drink bar (or, rather, soda machines) to our hearts’ content. Beatles, the Eagles, Elton John and Eminem were some of my artists of choice, and while I won’t be accepting any awards anytime soon, I suppose I did well enough for an everyday group like the seven of us. I haven’t been listening to Eminem for some time now, and I chose Mockingbird on a pure whim…at lest I managed to get most of the second verse right!
Then, a little after 17:00, the seven of us made our way to the other meeting spot of choice for the confirmed Sendai meeter–upper: the stained glass in Sendai station. With the Japanese students we connected with there, our exchange–students’–circle (or club) was complete, and we set off for the restaurant where we were to spend the next two and a half hours, eating and drinking all we could of okonomiyaki and melon soda. I believe I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll just remind you again: okonomiyaki is definitely one of my favorite dishes of all time. So, an all–you–can–eat evening in a DIY okonomiyaki restaurant was certainly a welcome experience.

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And now, I’m looking forward to my long spring break, and all that will happen during it. See you on April 11th, school!