we had been meaning to take a day trip from tokyo for a while but somehow kept having to put it off. finally we decided to go to niko, a town about 2 hours north of tokyo by train. we had to get up really early since it was a bit far, and unfortunately had managed to only get like 4 hours of sleep. ouch. but we were determined, so we went anyways. we accidenatlly forgot the train directions at home, so we ended up taking the wrong route and it took an hour longer to get there than it should have. niko was so amazing though! it’s in the middle of this huge cedar forest and seeing all these magnificent temples in this beautiful setting made them even more tranquil and beautiful. oh, one cool thing that i never before knew was that the monkeys you always see w/ the “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil”.. those actually originated here!
we checked out a couple of temples and then wandered over to this place called the abyss. it is near this really cool river that carves its way through rocks leaving the rocks in intresting formations. near the river, there is a path lined w/ buddhas that are supposed to be protectors of children’s souls.
we spent a bunch of time in tokyu hands one day. it’s a cool japanese store that sells everything under the sun. one thing i thought was really crazy was some of the bizarre beauty products. straps that you wrap around your legs at night to make you less bow-legged. crazy masks that help shrink your face. little things you put in your mouth to stretch out your mouth and make it bigger. so odd!!
need to shrink your face?
maybe you just need to shrink everything?
need a wider mouth?
exercise machine for your dog
the japanese have invented a square watermelon. yup, it’s true. japanese refrigerators are really small and shoving a huge oval shaped fruit takes up too much space and isnt really the right fit for a fridge. so they invented a technique of growing square ones. we’ve been searching for these things ever since we got to japan, and finally, we found one. it looked so crazy. apparently they cost like 300$!!! ouch!!
speaking of fruit, pretty much all of japanese fruit is hella expensive. we wandered through a grocery store one day and looked at some prices. we were totally shocked!! i couldnt belive some of the prices we saw!!
more than 10 bucks for a tiny basket of raspberries
more than 13 bucks for a rather small watermelon
84 bucks for a cantelope
russian visa hell
after japan, the next country on our list is russia. but going to russia is difficult. there’s all sorts of red tape and bullshit you have to go through. we ended up spending an insane amount of time, energy, and money to figure out our russia situation. first off, to get a visa, you need to get an invitation from someone in the country. you cant just go to russia uninvited. now that the USSR has crumbled, this invitation has become pretty much just a formality. you just pay some organization or hotel in the country to send you an invite. we were hoping to apply for our visas before the weekend, so we paid an extra 90$ each to get the invites rushed. when we were emailed the invites, we called the embassy only to find out that it was a russian holiday and that the embassy was closed for a 4 day weekend. great, we just wasted 180$ for nothing.
tuesday rolls around and we go to the embassy. the line is huge. hours are from 9am to 12:30. we wait for 2 hours and the place closes. great. we come back the following day. we’re not sure when the next ferry to russia is and we dont want to miss it, so we pay to have our visas rushed too. 100$ each. after leaving the embassy, we check the schedule. damn. ferry doesnt leave for 1.5 weeks. we just wasted more money for nothing. eventualy, we pick up our visas. phew.. we didnt get denied. we call the ferry place to arange tickets. crap!! the ferry is full and the next one doesnt leave till mid july. crap!! so now what? do we pay all the money it costs for airline tickets? plus, our visa starts on the 20th and you can only get a visa for 30 days, but we cant get into russia till almost a week later. will we even have enough time to get across the biggest country in the world?? so screwed. so, basically our situation really sucked. sure, part of it was poor planning and preparedness on our part. but part of it was a bunch of stupid red tape on russias part. ugh.
the last several days in tokyo were spent in internet hell. pretty much everyday we were online for hours and hours. whether it was dealing w/ the russian visa thing, searching for flights, searching for hotels, comparing prices etc. it was such a pain in the ass, and it was sucky that so much of the last few days we had were wasted doing that.
randall had introduced us to two of his friends : laughlin and hikaru. both of them live in the bay area and are friends with hella people we know, so it’s surprising that we had never run into them before, but i guess shit happens. anyways, it was really cool to hang out with them, and we kicked it w/ them several times even after randall left. it was sucky to eventually have to part ways, but oh well, that’s the law of being on the road.
it was also really sad to say goodbye to japan. i had really really enjoyed my time there. such a great country. if i would ever want to live temporarily in a place, that would be it. the people there were just so nice and welcoming. the food was awesome. the sights were awesome. the technology was awesome. everything just kind of came together perfectly. the only problem of course was the huge price tag. we ended up spending over a month there which is longer than we have spent in any other country so far other than india. 2.5 weeks of that was in tokyo, which is the longest we’ve stayed in any city so far other than mcleod ganj. it definitely felt kinda like home by the end. *sigh*…
well… now, it’s off to russia!!