Saturday, September 18, 2010

Gettin' Na'ked and Hitting Up Old School Kyoto

Week 10 of the momentous trip started off rather slowly, with a couple of lazy days and sleeping in, no work. The usual. It's a hard life living in Japan, I tell you! On Tuesday, we thought we'd broaden our taste horizons and went to a traditional Ramen restaurant. Carly went for the 'make it yourself ramen', while I chose the regular Pork Ramen, with side dishes of Chicken Gyoza (like a dumpling thing with vegetables) and Tori Karaage (my favourite! which is basically Japanese style fried chicken in a special coating and sauce). Carly liked the glass of free water she got, but that was about it. I have to agree, it wasn't the best ramen I've ever had, but the Karaage was good as usual!

My Entrees and Ramen

Carly's 'Make it yourself ramen'

After ramen, when we were back in our room. I came upon another frog on the window and, to Carly's dismay, took it upon myself to clear our table, climb out the window onto the air-conditioner and with my trusty Tomcat torch in one hand, I swiftly caught the frog in my other hand. I then forgot that frogs do indeed jump, no matter how wet and sticky they feel. So as I brought it into the room, I had only just got down off the table when it jumped onto my bed, then straight across onto Carly's. She was not impressed at all. Luckily, it was caught before it made any impact onto her body and I was banished to the smoking room next door for my froggy photographic escapades. To all the righteous animal lovers out there, I only kept him for a couple of minutes before putting him back in the air-conditioner mouldy water puddle that was his home, outside out window.

No other eventful things happened until Thursday. D-Day. Or should I say No Pants day. It was Onsen time! Miho and Mai were taking us to SpaWorld! First stop was Level 8 - The Pool, and can I just say, it was so much better than Nagai park - because this pool had water slides!

The indoor pool was basically a big loop, with the main slides running above it into the middle. Everyone slowly drifted along together in the small current, which led us under a waterfall and a fake cave, followed by sprinklers, then a bubble onslaught as you come out. It made it a lot more entertaining rather than just swimming around in the one spot, and kept everyone moving. There were a couple of exits from the pool loop, one of which being the entrance to the slides after you get past the bubbles.

Each slide was $3 a ride. First up was the slide on the left - a fast tunnel, with a steep drop, then a 70% vert ramp that you go up...and sends you flying backwards into the pool. I went with Mai, and Carly with Miho - who we heard scream the whole way down after we had hit the bottom! We went around the loop again, and on the next slide - switching partners - we were sent into a funnel that we spun around in about 4 times before being dropped backwards into a tunnel and back out into the pool. We swam for a little longer before hopping into the outside pool, which turned out to be more like boiling water, and not so much a pool. So we cooled back down in the inner pool, then hopped out and made out way back down to Level 4, where we were given some rather sexy dresses to throw over our bathers.

Once dressed to impress, we headed down to Level 3 for an overly expensive lunch - $8 for the equivalent of a Medium Macca’s Fries and a Small Coke. We were disheartened to find that the guys’ outfits were a lot better than ours – as they were decked out in long blue t-shirts and over-the-knee shorts. Once lunch was over, it was time to get back up to Level 4 and strip off. Throwing the ugly dresses in the bins, we were given a small orange towel, and baring all we headed into European Onsen town! Each onsen was themed from a country, and we started out in Greece, with the tall pillars surrounding us.

Spain was a little cooler, and had fish swimming around in tanks right next to the two onsen. We then moved onto Finland, and found their Onsen to be almost minus degrees, we didn’t go in, and instead hopped in the ‘cooler’ sauna. There was nothing cool about the sauna other than it made your face feel like you were in an oven.

Next, we moved outside to Mexico and sat in the hottest onsen they had on offer. It burned. A lot. It felt like you were Lobster being boiled alive. However, this is apparently good for you. I was quite happy when Carly found the waterfall on the outside of it was in fact cold water and we could cool our faces down a bit from that. The herbal onsen were next – some kind of lavender and something mix…helps you calm down apparently, then a milk and honey onsen which was in a fake rock cave type thing with cool green lighting. The Salt Sauna came next, in which we literally covered ourselves in salt, and threw a little over our shoulders for good luck. Rinsing it off afterwards in the tiny shower just outside is a little awkward with 7 other naked people standing around you in the crowded space waiting to do the same thing. The showering at the end was odd…sitting down in front of a mirror – but it was entertaining to watch Carly accidently tip a wash bucket of ice cold water over herself and scream in horror. Feeling relaxed and refreshed, we then headed for home straight after, having completed our goal to Onsen at least once while we were in Japan.


Saturday we had our first trip to Kyoto with Chizuko and Miho. We were heading to the Golden Temple first, and after 2 hours of travelling, we finally reached our destination. Entering the temple gardens; Miho, Carly and myself rung the large bell and prayed before we entered. We made sure we hit it as hard as we could, and the sound resonated around the grounds from the force. We then learnt that you are meant to clap twice then lower your head in prayer with your hands together before leaving.

Moving into the Temple grounds, we were amazed by the sheer beauty that was the Golden Temple. It was a perfect sunny day, and the reflection of the temple was illuminated by the lake surrounding it.

The annoying thing is the amount of tourists that get in your way as you’re trying to take a decent photo, and the fact that you can’t actually enter the temple. Following the path around, we made our way up a path, past more small ponds and statues, and a few lucky coin bowls – if you can actually get it in. I didn’t, but Carly and Miho did.

Next, we came up to a very famous and very old traditional tea house, set on top of the hill. Once a group of 30 tourists congregated around it, it was impossible to actually see it, so we moved on.

There were plenty of overly priced souvenir and food shops down the last stretch of the path. Here we at least got a free tasting of Gold Flaked Green Tea – with real gold! It tasted…not so good…but it was free and reminded us of Beno’s good old German Wasser back home.

We stopped in the shade for lunch, as Chizuko had made us hotdogs, before moving on to our next destination. The sausages here are so strange – they are long, thin, spicy and a little fatty and don’t really taste like hotdog at all; but we ate them all the same. Hopping in a taxi, we made our way to Toei Uzumasa (also known as English Movie World) which is full of actors in training, large movie sets and entertaining shows.Through the entrance, there were all kinds of old movie posters, and ninja and samurai outfits and weaponry; as well as Japanese type Power Ranger and alien suits. They also had a few rooms done up like a 1960's era Japanese household which brought back a lot of memories for Chizuko from when she was growing up.

The first show we saw was a performance that was popular back in the Edo period done with sticks tied together and made into all different shapes - the one pictured is a bird; there was also boats, Buddha shrines, bridges and all sorts made out of them.

The next show was Samurai style Japanese fighting, which was only a small show before they taught people how to pretend fight with a Samurai sword.

The guy pictured above was quite funny, and also featured in the introduction video at the Haunted House we visited later on. Moving along we stumbled upon Godzilla's in the Mist...err...some random dinosaur thing in a pond? It came out of the water every ten minutes or so.

Leaving the large lizard behind, we came across some old style medicine bags that Carly found to be quite delicious.

They were so tasty, she decided to sell them to Miho in her shop.

We then came across what seemed to be some kind of waterfall with a shrine at the top.

Before long, some weird crazy Japanese music started playing as the waterfall started up and a crazed, toothy old man appeared at the top.

It freaked me out just a little...

Leaving the old man behind as we returned behind the rocks, we continued on to the Ninja show. Even though Carly and I didn't really understand what was going on, the acrobatic tricks and fighting were very entertaining. The main character - an old man who loved his long hair and went from sinister evil guy to a clever comedian. He was great!

After the show, we found a dress up place where Chizuko offered to get our photos done as a present. Getting excited, Carly chose a Geisha and I chose a Ninja. With about 4 people pulling and shoving clothes on us, we were dressed within seconds and already posing before the camera in what has to be one of the most conformed things my body has ever been positioned into. They were so strict, not a hair, finger or eyelash out of place. "No Smiling! Ninjas don't smile!" I was told rather abruptly. Unfortunately, the professional photos look horrid. So you get these ones instead:

Realising we only had an hour left before the place shut, we went and got some Melon Crush and Ice-Cream and moved on to the Haunted House. Miho was too scared to go in after hearing the screams from within, and not forgiving me for scaring her on the Jurassic Park ride in USJ. So Carly and I were on our own. We were by ourselves in a small room, with flickering lights and a video telling us what we could and couldn't do. Upon entering we were set back in the Edo period outside of an old house. Walking through the gardens, we heard eerie chimes, and entered into the house. People had been slaughtered on the ground, as we made our way through some of the rooms. The doors creaked with both of us pushing each other to go first. Around one corner was a dead geisha leaning up against a wall. I said it was fake, and walked past it easily first, Carly was not so lucky as the dead girl lept into action behind her making us scream and head for the room. More dead bodies, that you almost had to step over. We went up a bridge, that started swinging when you walked on it, then down a hall where the walls and ceiling collapsed on you. We were chased by dead samurai, before entering the last section where a guy nailed to the wall fell in front of you, and severed heads lay resting on the ground. For a haunted house, I was pretty impressed - they sure know how to get your heart pumping - even when you know it isn't real!

With the park closing shortly, we made our way through a fake village and over a bridge with some interpretive dance, before watching a ninja on a rope then leaving just in time before we were locked in.

We made our way back to an old style street in Kyoto, where we met 3 real Geisha! This is a rare sight, so we were very lucky...unfortunately they are quite rude and ignore you if you try and speak to them...with photos just being out of the questions. They are like movie stars in Kyoto. The last stop for the day was a large red temple and shrine area at the end of Kyoto's main street. Cleansing our hands, and saying a few prayers, we got some great pictures before finally heading home and collapsing into bed.

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