June 5th, 2011

Matsumoto Castle

View From The Ground

Just got back from Japan. Short description of the affect in Tokyo and Kyoto from the recent disasters: next to none. In Kyoto there were the standard "ganbare Nihon" signs and collection boxes for disaster relief, but otherwise the only other affect is that there were distinctly fewer tourists. If one didn't know to look for signs of the recent disasters one would miss it completely, particularly if they're not fluent in Japanese.

Tokyo's a bit of a different story, due to the power crunch. First timers to Tokyo will notice nothing particular, though people who have been there before will notice differences everywhere that give a background feeling of endurance. Many escalators are shut down, Lights in all vending machines are off though the vending machines do still work. So much of the neon is turned off that going through Shibuya, Shinjuku and Akihabara at night was kind of creepy. There's just dark outside the train windows, with periodic lit streets. It's not unsafe, it's just so different from the usual from the norm that it stands out. Temperatures were decidedly warm when I was there, but not at summer heat level yet. Power consumption was between 70% - 90%. Either people will put up with melting all summer, or rolling blackouts will come back.

Oh, and Tokyo Tower is still listing slightly. The initial earthquake damage has been fixed, but if you look at it, it's obviously not fully straight yet.

Bottom line: Go to Japan. From a tourist perspective it's perfectly fine. And the folks there would appreciate the support.
My Widdle Bwain

Random Trip Comments

Current Pocky: Mint. Nummy, but did not blow my socks off.

Current Kit-Kat: Zunda. Yeah, I said that too. Normally you would have to go to the Tohoku to get it, as it's a regional specialty, but because of the disasters the company decided to share it nation-wide. They also donate 10 yen per box to disaster relief. Oh, and zunda is mashsed edamame. It's not bad as a Kit-Kat.

Ice creams:

- White Peach: nummy. Definitely very worthy
- Black candy: Delicious. Grab if you have the chance.
- Hydrangea: Yes, as in the flower. Tasty. Well worth the calories.

Also managed several favorites: shiso, sesame, melon

New things we tried:

Kansai Thru Pass: Made of win. We got the three-day pass, and used it to run out to Mt. Koya, a couple of places in southern Nara prefecture, and bopping around Osaka and Kyoto. The three days do not need to be consecutive, and it's incredibly easy to use, just feed the card through the ticket gate just like it was a regular pay ticket. We used it on the Kintetsu lines, the Osaka subway, the Kyoto City Bus all the way out to Ohara, all fine. It's a bit pricey if one isn't using a longer haul on one of the private railways, but it's great if one is.

Bikkuri Donkey, affectionately known as Ass Burger. Darn cool. Hamburger patties stuffed with things like cheese and potato salad. Pretty decently priced. We found one a short distance from the JR Tanbaguchi station that was awfully convenient.

Gusto: We'd tried pretty much the same, under the Skylark name. Still good. Breakfast buffet was nice, since it had veggies. The drink bar is wonderful, particularly the vanilla latte.

Saizeriya: Another family restaurant, similar to the previous two. It has a nice drink bar, and was perfectly nice. We'll certainly eat here again when presented with an opportunity.

I tried a sento, since our hotel didn't have a bath. Perfectly nice, not outrageously priced. (410 yen, when in the States one ends up paying well over two or three times more for basically the same stuff.)