Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "sixtease" journal:
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Day 20: Good Bye Japan|
I got up after 4 hours in bed and couldn't fall asleep any more. Basically the first thing that I did was going to Ochanomizu, where there is supposed to be an aglomeration of music instrument stores. After some doubts I found those shops. I was at a loose lookout for an acoustic seven-string. The result was that there is no acoustic seven-string in Tokyo to be bought. Most of the salespersons have even never seen one.
This surprised me greatly because if there is one company that pioneers mass-production of seven-strings, then it's Japan's Ibanez.
My enterprise wasn't vain though. I got my hands on the Music Man Majesty seven-string. Oh my goodness, what a monster of a guitar. If I had spare 3000 Euro with me, I would probably have grabbed it. I had been a bit skeptical about it like I am about all hyped expensive signature models but this one really got me.
I then had some food and went to see a place that I loved in my last trip to Tōkyō: the Yoyogi park. Its "free" (as in not sacred) part. It was a hard-to-describe time of absolute content and blessing. The weather was perfect, I was free of all needs and I kept meeting wonderful musicians playing around for joy or to gain audience. In between I sunbathed and this was the perfect conclusion of my journey.
I'm at the airport now. I didn't feel like taking photos today except one to document the weather.
As much as I have enjoyed these fantastic three weeks, I don't think I'll want to come back any time soon. I'm more than looking forward to see Vienna in the same relishing way like I did Ōsaka and Tōkyō and to see mountains and forests around me like I did Yakushima and Kumano kodō and last but not least, to share my moments with my family much much more than did with you my beloved Facebook friends.
Day 19: Meeting Friends|
There's nothing like good friends. I spent wonderful time with mine. And made some new ones. There was an exhibition of Japanese sake in a night club. Me and my two friends went there and tried a very varying palette of this delicacy. There were about ten exhibitors and each served at least three kinds. The differences in taste were very significant. There were also some pecularities like cloudy sake, sparkling sake, sake that looked like sperm but was actually with yoghurt and tasted surprisingly good...
This event lasted two hours and we met two more guys who joined us. We were all a bit tipsy and I thought this was the right time to do something originally Japanese that I haven't tried yet: Karaoke!
I managed to get everybody into it and we booked half an hour. To my dismay, we got a separate room. I was imagining a stage and people taking turns and you know, a feeling of a performance. But it turned out to be fun anyway. My companions were shier than me, and I'm almost sure they would not sing in such a setting. So like this, I could hear them and that was cool.
It was also pretty expensive. Almost five thousand Yen for 30 minutes in a tiny cell.
Tomorrow is my last day. I have my baggage ready... well almost ready, because tomorrow I'll buy perishable goods to take home. My host gave me an Ikea bag, I hope they won't have a problem with it at the airport.
Day 18: No Haunted Forest|
Today, I went to see Aokigahara. The infamous suicide forest haunted by countless furious demons. Well, today is Saturday and you know, these guys who committed suicide here probably didn't enjoy many free weekends, so they make up for it now. :-)
No, seriously, I didn't observe anything special about these woods, except that we found an old sign saying something along the lines of "Wait a minute. Is this the end of everything?"
It was really a nice walk in a very pleasant quiet forest, not unlike those in central Europe. I'm glad for that of course -- there are never enough pleasant forest walks, are there?
The way to the forest was unexpectedly long. The train took two hours and then a bus from the town of Kawaguchikō to the Aokigahara trailhead took another 30 minutes. I got up at 7 and got back at 6.
Then, it was all about food and sakē in Shinjuku. Good stuff.
Day 17: Bad Culture|
When preparing for my trip, I read about Shimokitazawa: An oasis of indie shops and clubs, a plethora of small live venues, and in general a laid black, organic neighborhood.
I paid a visit there today. It started like this: I walked into a bar and asked the bartender if there was live music around. He raised his eyebrow, replied with the question "rock?" and after my nod, he stated: "Yes. Many."
A minute later, he approached me with a hand-written list of places to check out.
The first one, "Shelter", had a DJ party tonight. Nothing for me.
The second, "Basement bar", had three bands. That was a candidate.
The third, "Three", had closed.
The fourth, "440", had a one-woman show titled "I sing". It actually attracted me the most because I was tired of loud music. But they demanded 3800¥, which I was too greedy to pay.
So I walked into the basement bar and I said nothing to the bartender because there was none there. Instead, there was a preparatory meeting of the bands, a quick rehearsal of an opening ceremony and in general, nothing meant for a random spectator.
Nobody said a word against me being there; however, I didn't feel welcome, so I asked when the party starts and left again. I went for a walk and came back exactly at seven, when the start was planned. They really were precise to seconds because in the moment I came, they raised (actually let fall of) the curtain.
I bought a beer and observed. There were two girls in those "cute" Japanese costumes. All the musicians from all three bands on stage and they performed an opening ceremony to the "late night party".
The audience was largely teenage and I couldn't really shrug off the same feeling that I don't belong. When the first band started playing, I understood why. This was apalling. Four young people, skillful musicians with equipment for tens of thousands of Euros... playing oversweetened love songs like we know them from the mass media.
I gave them three songs and then I escaped.
I walked all the way back to Shibuya and went to a random movie in a cinema. The thing is that the house where I'm staying is not exactly the cleanest and I don't like to spend much time here.
So yeah, this movie was called "Too Young to Die" and by the time I watched it, IMDB only knew of its trailer. I was apalled for the second time today. :-) Cheap tricks all the time, lame gags, cringeworthy storyline.
But it was packed with music and there were guitars everywhere, and I even recognized an actor (and I really don't know that many Japanese actors). In the end, it had its fun moments to be quite fair.
So yeah, tomorrow Aokigahara. I don't know if I should say I'm looking forward to it. But I'm curious to be sure.
Day 16: Warm welcome from Tōkyō|
Today was quite full of action again. Tōkyō showed me a nice face today. But first things first. I got up in Nagoya, in the Wasabi Guest House. I shouldn't omit to say that this hostel, given its low-end price, offers considerable luxury. You would be hard pressed to find another facility that gives you a bed for 2000¥ per night with a personal safe box, blu-ray player, free cosmetics, spacious toilets and hot drinks for free, to name some.
It wasn't hard saying good bye though. I boarded a Shinkansen to the capital and on my way, I noticed with terror that my AirBnB is only reserved from tomorrow. I wrote my host if I could check in earlier and they said OK. I could check in after 17:00.
I took a train from Tōkyō station to Shibuya, from where the house was supposed to be close, and which is a shopping district. I put my stuff into a coin locker and dived into shopping for things that I promised to bring to various people.
That said, I hate shopping. You could punish me by dragging me into a shopping mall. But well, a mission is a mission and I needed to spend those seven hours somehow anyway.
First of all, I found a terrific place for a lunch. I got my Japanese beef that I have already given up on, for 2500¥ with unlimited drinks, directly next to the Shibuya station in a fancy ambiente.
After some hopeless wandering around, wondering why there are only useless stupid shops around, my despair attracted the attention of a young man. He asked me the obligatory questions of my origin and travel and then he took me to a discount store with the broadest spectrum of wares where I could finally draw some checks on my to-buy list.
Finding the AirBnB was a bit complicated, mostly because of lack of navigation details and because Google Maps still doesn't get Japanese addresses right. Finally we found each other though and I started wondering what to do with the evening.
The coolest band I saw in Fandango in Ósaka recommended me the "reddo kurosu" club, which I mistakenly interpreted as the Red Cross. It was the Red Cloth. How could I be so silly? :-)
I went there, through some heavy heavy rain and was rewarded by an utterly strong musical experience. On stage was a four-piece band with a female singer/guitarist. They were cheerful, precise, heavy and above all, the singer put her soul into it. They were really a marvel to behold.
Comparison is a bitch, and so I couldn't resist but look down on the next band who actually played very well. They were a pseudo-British rock act. Kind of posers, if you want. But who is not, on stage? It was just... after the previous band they made the impression of a puppet theatre. I'm sure they loved the music they played but I gather, it's often better to be what you are instead of what you want to be.
There were three bands that night and the third one was much better that the second one. A lot of energy, perfect performance. Still pale compared to the first one though.
Oddly enough, the audience didn't seem to think the same as I did. I don't want to speculate about the reasons. I bought an album and I'll see how they are on recording. Much music is good live and horrible on CD.
On my way back home, under a bridge in front of the Shinjuku station, there was the fourth band of this evening. A completely unexpected act, Samurai Rock'n'Roll band with a clone of Elvis Presley as frontman and a mundane looking woman on drums. The frontman did some acrobatic stunts too and they were very cute. A crowd formed around them and even a police man was watching.
You impressed me today, Tōkyō.
Day 15: Nagoya, unexpectedly|
This was supposed to be my last day of the Kumano pilgrimage. I wanted at least to spend it in the countryside. A bus took me from Hongū to Shingū and I didn't think too long whether to stay or not. Small cities are the worst of both worlds: unnatural and no fun either.
I noticed, however, that there is a village on the way toward Tōkyō, where there is a suspicious aglomeration of lodgings.
I left the train at the nearest station and spent about 50 minutes walking up there. The village was deserted. Almost no living creatures around except plants. I guess this is what most Japanese rural areas look like, nowadays.
Unfortunately, I only found one of the alleged lodgings to be open and they demanded draconic 15000¥ for one night.
I turned around and went back to the railway station. It was getting late and I didn't want to risk, so I went all the way to where the train meets the Shinkansen to Tōkyō: Nagoya.
I was lucky the hostel near the station had a bed for me.
I wanted to hear some live music but I was too late. They start soon and end soon as well around here. Well, hopefully, I'll make up for it in the coming days.
Day 14: Stuck in Hongū|
Not much to say about today. I walked the vicinity a bit and then I started reading a book. :-) I'm looking forward to going further, really.
Oh, by the way, I was in the wrong room yesterday in the onsen after all. Today, I made up for it. There were even other people! I don't have pictures this time though. Thought they may not like to be photographed while naked. :-)
Day 13: Way to Hongū|
After the unparalleled dinner yesterday, the meek breakfast consisting of two pieces of pastry, yoghurt and some fruits felt a bit disappointing. But at least, I could walk lightly. I managed to take a picture with the owner. This is what he looks like:
The trek was nice but long. I hurt all over. Here are some pictures of it.
Finally, I arrived at Hongū after 9 hours of walking. It took some effort but finally I found the place where my stay was reserved. The man spoke fluent English, although his written English is a catastrophe. He is a kind of riddle to me. He has been very helpful in every way possible yet he feels creepy somehow. I have a whole house for myself tonight, including an equipped kitchen. He brought me oil from his café, so I don't have to buy any. I asked him if there was a public phone around, to reserve my accommodation in Koguchi for tomorrow. He said he'd call there. Then he said he did and they are all full.
Everywhere I've been on this pilgrimage, there were very few people and empty or closed facilities. So his statement surprised me. I decided to stay for two nights and take a boat to Shingū the day after tomorrow, which was my plan B to walking to Koguchi and then Shingū.
So anyways, in this village, pretty much everything closes at around 5. I found a supermarket nearby, though, that has till 7. I bought the smallest, still too big packs of vegetables and cooked for myself for the first time since I've been in Japan. It looks like I have enough stuff for at least three meals, so that goes well with staying one more night.
The guy recommended an onsen nearby for just 200¥. They are open until 8. I went there and, dear goodness, this place is even creepier! It was like an abandoned government bureau or something, with just a crooked old man sitting at the reception. In disbelief that I'm in the right place, I asked if there was an onsen around. The old man told me it was here and asked for 200¥.
I went through a labyrinth of dark narrow hallways, tried peeking into various doors until I found one with an empty bath (empty meaning no water inside). I thought I must be wrong and tried looking further but then I just filled the bath and entered. Here a pic for you to illustrate the atmosphere:
I'm not sure this is the place where I want to spend another day but obviously the fate is going to have it so. Well, so be it.
Day 12: Way to Chikatsuyu|
I said good bye to Ósaka from a train to Kii-Tanabe in the morning.
In Tanabe, I took a pretty long bus ride and arrived at Takijiri, Written as 滝尻. That would, if I not be mistaken, mean waterfall ass. Well, whatever.
I walked the well marked path. I met like four people altogether. It was lonely, quiet and very very humid. I arrived at Chikatsuyu, where my lodging was reserved, before 17:00.
When I was deciding, what lodging to take in this forsaken village, where not even DoCoMo has any coverage, I had the option between a rather expensive onsen hotel and a minshuku for half the price. I tought, what the hell, I'm not looking for luxury, and went for the cheaper minshuku. Ironically, this is the place where you can eat the best Japanese food ever. My comparison is limited, true, but within it, all those famous and infamous restaurants in all the cities pale compared to this place, where they make their own plum wine (Goodness!), miso, dashi and pretty much everything else. The fish I was served were caught in the river just outside of the window.
I ate so much that it dissolved my thoughts of taking a bus to shorten tomorrow's trek, I need to burn this energy. :-)
So yeah, tomorrow 25 kilometers ahead of me. It should be fine.
Oh, by the way, they also had an onsen. It was my first time in one. It's just hot bath, pretty much. :-) But very pleasant. Also the owner is a super nice older guy with a young spirit and fire in his eyes. It's always a joy to meet such people.
I took a walk from the hostel to Tennōji and met some unexpected sights. Not necessarily beautiful in the common sense.
There's not much to say of Tennōji itself except that it's a big park with some attractions in it, but curiously they seem to be quite racistic there against dogs and for cats.
I thought of joining the Ōsaka pub crawl, so I went to the meeting spot. On the way, I had some more interesting views.
The pub crawl itself had stunning 70 announced parttakers. It was just too big and after one beer and some chatter with the mostly American peers, and before even being asked to pay, I realized I just don't want to do it and I left.
I'm actually glad I'll have some rest before I depart for the Kumano kodō pilgrimage tomorrow in the morning.
By the way, I found out I was completely wrong planning that pilgrimage, at least its start. It starts in the town Tanabe but the station Tanabe is in Ōsaka and there is no station Tanabe in Tanabe but instead, in Tanabe is the station Kii-Tanabe. Confusing? Well, I'm glad I found out before taking a subway to Tanabe in Ōsaka and wondering where the pilgrim's path begins. :-)
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