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Monday, 7 July 2014

Only D Brave - Onsen and Ice sculptures

Only D Brave presents 7th day of the 500 30@30 challenge! 

Currently Happening

Can you believe it? It has been a week already!   Well I'm sure you can believe it but I can’t! It has gone by so quickly.  So for Day 7 of this challenge what have I learnt so far?  Well one of the things is that weekends are definitely easier to write the blog.  On the weekdays time spent in front of the computer for work means I'm not as motivated to sit behind a computer and blog.  

11 January 2011

In the Onsen

So I woke up morning nice and early on the morning of the Friday 11th and went to have my bath.  The bath/showers turned out to be an Onsen.  Onsens are Japanese hot spring public communal baths.  The water is heated and is treated with minerals.    These minerals are supposed to be give both skin and health benefits.   It is mandatory to be completely naked in the baths.  Public displays of my own nudity don’t sit right with me.  1) I don’t see the need to ever be naked in public. 2) People that are comfortable being clothless invariably want to engage in conversation with you.  You may want to call me a prude but I don’t think there is ever a time in public where you should be naked and talking chit chat.   3) Being a foreigner in Japan of the black persuasion I know that all eyes are gonna be on me.  I say naked but you are allowed to take with you a flannel that barely covers one side of your body so you are left with the choice of having your butt exposed or your jewels exposed.  The early rise was planned to avoid such awkwardness.  So I entered the Onsen and…. not a soul was around.  Excellent!  So I followed the Onsen routine.  First thing you do is have a shower, you can’t enter an  Onsen dirty, so you need to take a  shower.  Then I went into the mineral filled hot water, chilled for 5 minutes, then hopped back out and finished off with another shower.  Process was seamless and painless.  I was ready to start the day!

The 62rd Sapporo Snow Festival!

The annual Sapporo Snow Festival is a week-long event held on the Japanese island of Hokkaido.  I believe I had mentioned in previous blog updates that I wasn't too keen on leaving Fukuoka.  I had become comfortable with life there and coupled with the ridiculously expensive flight to Hokkaido it did cross my mind if I had made the right decision.   However when I arrived in Hokkaido, seeing how hauntingly beautiful Sapporo was at night I knew I had made the right choice.   The Sapporo festival was split across three sites.  Susukino, Odori Park and Tsudome.  Since Susukino was spitting distance from my hotel I thought I would check that out first.

The Ice sculptures part of the festival was based in Susukino.  I nicknamed this area ice town!  I was stunned by the quality and details of the ice sculptures.  These included owls, goldfish, dragons and castles.  They even had pokemon and one of my personal favourites,  a  Gundam sculpture, with eyes that lit up sugoiiiii!!! These sculptures were actually awesome!

  I found a little time to record a little snippet of my time with the ice sculptures.

Japanese Word of the day - yawarakai -soft

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Only D Brave - Capsule Hotel in Hokkaido!

Day 6 of Only D Brave 500 word  30 @ 30 challenge

Currently Happening

Just finished watching the Men's Wimbledon Tennis final!  Normally im on the tennis hardcore however this year it has taking a back seat wayyyyyyyy back to the World Cup.  If the footie was on today I may not have caught any tennis at all.   It was a cracking final between Roger Federer vs Novac Djokovic. Federer won the first set, Djokovic came back and won set two and three. A couple of consecutive breaks by both players in the fourth set gave Djokovic championship point. Federer broke Djokovic serve twice to bring it into the 5th set and final set.  It was a bridge too far for Federer and after a couple of breaks and break backs, Djokovic won the final game 6-4. It was an excellent match of tennis from two titans of the game.

10th February 2011

Capsule Hotel Check in

So after the struggle of locating the place, I was finally at my accommodation for the next couple of days, the Capsule Inn Sapporo!  My previous frustration quickly turned into excitement!  Even before I had reached Japan I had heard about the Japanese capsule hotel system.  Japan has this knack of miniaturising objects and making the most of limited space.  Capsule hotels are an example of this.  Like Ronseal it does what it says on the tin.  Capsule hotels have small capsule shaped rooms that you spend the night in. 

As mentioned before I was so excited that I was finally going to experience this!  I went to the check-in desk and they confirmed my reservation. I breathed a silent sigh of relief, it would not have been funny if it turned out I was in the wrong place like when I first hit Fukuoka 2 months ago.
So while checking in I was asked to pick a locker to put my shoes in.  Once my shoes was locked up I had to give the key to the desk and in turn they gave me another locker key which corresponded to a locker in the basement and my capsule number.  The premise was that your shoes was held as a deposit, while you was inside the hotel you would walk bare feet or with socks on, if you wanted to visit outside the hotel you would hand in your room locker key in exchange for your footwear.  For a land that is known for its cutting edge technology, this was a simple but effective system.

The room lockers were in the basement.  Width wise the lockers were extremely small, only 22 cm.  There was no chance it was fitting my backpack let alone my suitcase.  I was able to leave my suitcase out in reception so I decided to take the following approach. I removed all the valuables and three days of clothes from my suitcase and left the suitcase in thereception.  I put all the clothes in the locker plus valuables that i couldn’t keep on my person except the laptop and Ipad.   Everything else I placed in my back pack and took with me to the capsule.
For this hotel there were 5 floors of capsules each with a communal area. Floors 2-3 and 5-6 had about 40 individual capsules.  The fourth floor had capsules for at least two persons.  

As is the Japanese way the capsules were small but economical in using space.  There were no locks on the capsule, just a blind which you would shut when sleeping.  This is the reason for the locker in the basement to keep valuable safe.  

Inside the capsule is a mattress and bed sheets, a light switch, a mirror, a radio, TV and an alarm.  Everything you would need for an overnight stay.  I found it was quite spacious for person if the main aim is to just sleep.

However long you stay, you have to check out at 10 am morning and return after pm if you staying more than one night. I'm guessing it gives the staff time to clean capsules and the communal areas.  If you decided not to check out, or you oversleep, you pay an extra 1000 yen.

Japanese Word of the day - Kanojo -girlfriend

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Only D Brave - Hokkaido revisited

Only D Brave is back on the last day of the World Cup Quarter final... Brasilll Brasilll. Day 5 of the 500 word challenge.

Currently Happening

If you didn't know the football World Cup is on. It’s been a cracking bunch of games so far! There has been a bunch of goals, teams disregarding reputation and playing without fear.
I don’t know if it’s because the gap in football hierarchy has got smaller, or that its taking place in the spiritual home of football but it has been one to remember.  I have watched part of every game and have treated to drama and excitement.  It’s a shame that it will soon come to an end.

10th February 2011

Welcome to Hokkaido city!
And what an introduction to Hokkaido. From Chitose airport I took an express train to Sapporo JR terminal. First thing that surprised me was that it was snowing. Coming that it was Sapporo's 62nd snow festival it really shouldn't have shocked me since the clue is in the title.  However I guess the little snow in Fukuoka, combined with spring like weather and less reports of snow causing havoc in the UK made me think that snowy days were gone.  Armed with 4 layers of clothes (since I didn't have any items that could be truly deemed as winter garments) I stepped outside to (only d) brave the winter night!  And what a sight I saw.  My breath was taken away( and not because of the cold). Sapporo was hauntingly beautiful at night.  I honestly thought this could have been the set for batman 2 featuring the penguin or a Tim Burton movie. The sky had an amazing purplish stroke chocolate brown tint to it, the aftermath of the sun setting mixed with the swirling snow affect ( well that's what I thought)the ground a duvet of white snow and the layout of building tall big and akin to the American block system.   It really had a Gotham city look to it. On this Japan journey, this was the first new city I intentionally planned to visit.  You can read about the first new unintentional city here

Not as smooth sailing
 However attractive this was, it did not make best conditions to cart 40 KG of luggage around.  Google maps said it would take 18mins walk from the station.  Given my aversion to cabs home and abroad, this seemed ideal.  What google and I hadn't taken into account was the snow factor.  Lugging 40 KG of luggage through about 6 inches of snow was very hard work.  Even though I was pulling the suitcase along, snow would build up between myself and the back of the suitcase forcing me to stop every so often to clear the snow.  Also the floor was a mixture of snow slush and ice. Keeping balance was an effort!  The four layers of thermal, t-shirt, hoodie Uniglo jacket + scarf kept my torso warm and the long johns was sooo necessary.

It took about 30 mins to get to the place where I thought my accommodation should be.  But as with my journey of Japan things do not go according to plan! Yes I couldn't find my accomodation.  I had acquired a map at the train station which clearly had my hotel marked on it and I followed the map to a tee. Walk past Odori park - check. Tsuyata should be on the opposite side of the road that you are on - check you should see a parco on your side- check. The hotel is the block after the hotel - not check!  I asked a couple of Japanese people if they knew where the hotel was and if they could read the map, however none had a clue and their map reading skills were a lot to be desired, one suggestion would have taken me back to the station! So I decided to walk around the block just to make sure. As I was parallel to the place I thought the hotel should be I spotted a taxi driver cleaning the snow of his car. I politely in Japanese said excuse me do you know where this hotel was.  He said that he didn't understand.  So I put my luggage down and started to pull out my map to show him.  I asked again excuse me but the guy continued to scrape his car.  I said it a bit louder and he moved to the other side of the car. I moved towards him just to make sure he could hear me and the buffoon got in his car and drove off! Now if I hadn't mentioned it before the Japanese are super polite.  They even have different levels of politeness which is mind boggling.  However they also can be extremely rude. Not the type of swearing at you rude, but rather treat you as you are beneath them.  Fortunately I haven't experienced much of the rude behaviour so far. I went round the corner and saw an Australian guy outside a karaoke place.  I asked him if he knew where the hotel was and he didn't have a clue but he did suggest I ask inside.  I asked the lady at the counter who was a lot more helpful than the taxi driver.  She didn't know where the hotel was but she had an idea and found a colleague to confirm this.  The colleague took a look at the map and beckoned me to follow him.  30 seconds later I was at the hotel!  The irony of it all was that the hotel was exactly outside the spot I had asked the taxi driver where the hotel was!!! I thanked the karaoke for his kindness and went into my hotel - the Capsule Hotel Sapporo!

Japanese Word of the day - Tomorokoshi -Corn

Friday, 4 July 2014

Only D Brave multiplied by 2! Chapter 2

Only D Brave is back with the second of the Double headers .  Its Day 4 on the 500 word challenge leggo

Currently Happening

I am currently in an eccentric and partying mood.  However with my injury I can’t shake a leg … or can I…? In a FB group I was challenged to do the candy dance with crutches.  Well  someone imagined me doing the Electric slide ( to give it its proper title) in crutches and I in true Only D Brave fashion accepted it as a challenge.  So here it is, Only D Brave, doing the candy dance.. in crutches .  I can be such a crazy sometimes.

10th February 2011

Time to leave!
Woke up quite early and finished off packing and tidying.  Still couldn't believe I was leaving this fair city, just as the weather was getting warmer, spring was approaching and I had got into a nice daily routine.  It was tempting to stay  oh yes it was! However I reminded myself that there was more of Japan to see and the Only D brave roadshow must go on!  When I arrived in Japan  my main luggage weighed 29 KG which was fine for being just under the 32KG Emirates limit but I was unsure if it would be ok for the flight to my next destination Hokkaido.  Just to note travel in Japan is even more expensive in the UK if you don't book in advance.  My flight to Hokkaido cost over £300 and that was only one way!! Train costs around the same and even booking in advance is still pricey.   

Said my goodbyes to the staff at my accommodation who, in Japanese, said that whenever I'm in Fukuoka to please come back and stay in their rooms, which I most definitely will.  They have been like an adoptive family to me.  Even though I have limited Japanese and they limited English, we have been able to converse and developed a nice bond with them. 

After the goodbyes I made my way to the airport.  Thought I would save some cash by first taking the bus to Hakata station and then the subway to the airport  but it turned out it would have been cheaper and quicker if I just used the subway in Tenjin (where I was staying) . 
Got to the airport two hours early and went to check in. Had to put suitcase through an X-ray machine which highlighted I had 2 lighters ( in fact I had 3 - presents from the owner of Fasika restaurant ) I didn't not know but apparently you can only take one lighter as hand luggage and none in your checked in luggage.  I swear it’s the other way round in the UK.  Alas I had to say bye bye to two lighters.  With the iPad I had saved my flight itinerary details as well as directions to my hotel, train times which negated the need for me to print out paper. The iPad is a gift I never asked for but boy is it handy! 

Japan is known for efficiency but i was amazed by the length of time from when check in closed and the flight took off.  In the UK maximum time is 1 hour before flight is scheduled to take off.  In Japan it was 15 mins for internal flights... yes 15!!!  I had arrived in plenty of time but it’s nice to know that it is possible to pull a last check- in.

So long my friend..

As I was boarding the plane i looked back and said a final au revoir!  I know it seems like I'm going on about it but I really had a fantastic time in Fukuoka and I will miss la Fukuokians la familia.  Special shout outs and thanks to all who got me presents and i'm already plotting my next trip back there.  Flight was pretty standard.  Nothing special to not other than it was quite packed.  I guess a lot of people were going to the Snow Festival as well.

Japanese Word of the day - Kumotta - Cloudy