Back in Tokyo

While it was nice to relax out in Nojiri, I’m very happy to be back in Tokyo and all of its modern conveniences. Spent the day just wandering around and surprisingly figured out the trains and didn’t get too lost. It was sunny, humid and hot and I can’t imagine how my Seattle friends would fare here.

Took the train (which is about a block from my hotel) to Tokyo Station. They recently refurbished the brick facade and unfortunately due to the sun and my awful photography skills, the pictures aren’t that great, but I’ll post anyway for visuals.


Tokyo Station 

From Tokyo Station I headed to the Imperial Palace. The buildings are not open to the public, but there are places where you can see the gardens and some of the buildings. An Australian swimmer in the Olympics in 1964 took a swim in the moat and caused a scandal.


Nijubashi Bridge




After the palace got back on a train and headed to Shinjuku Station, which has been called the world’s busiest railway station, handling more than 2 million passengers every day! Shinjuku is a large entertainment, business and shopping area in Tokyo and has many of the tallest skyscrapers in Tokyo.


For most of the afternoon I just strolled around and walked into a few buildings that had neat looking architectural designs and then to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.

Kokusai Forum, which is similar to a convention center. The inside was amazing and looked like a metal skeletal structure.


View of Kokusai Forum looking up

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The following were taken from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building from the observation deck on the 45th floor. The building is 243 meters tall.


One of the very few green spots in Tokyo

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Brochure sign


Mode Design School building in the background, looks like a cocoon

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Sumitomo building looking up at the kaleidoscope ceiling. Stole the photo from the internet because mine turned out pretty crappy.

Sumitomo building looking up at the kaleidoscope ceiling. Stole the photo from the internet because mine turned out pretty crappy.

I started the day early around 8:30am and had to finally head back around 3:30pm because walking in the heat and humidity just wore me out. Finished the day with pancakes filled with maple syrup and took a shower and nap before FINALLY meeting up with my coworker Ardie who was in China the past 10 days. The plan was to spend most of my time here with her, however plans changed and now I’m seeing her for less than 24 hours. We head to Jichi University Hospital tomorrow to visit the pediatric intensive care unit.


train platform


Package pancakes with maple syrup on the inside. How they aren’t soggy is a mystery to me.


Things that go bump in the night

Met with Lang and Shigeko yesterday afternoon to work on the data we both have collected and to prepare for our visit to the pediatric intensive care unit at Jichi Hosptial. Didn’t leave until 8pm and had to walk back uin the hill in the dark. So many creepy bugs and all the moths headed straight for my flashlight.

Woke up twice in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and of course there were hoppers in the outhouse.  Then around 4am heard something crawling around in the bedroom.  It might be a mouse. I can’t tell where it is but am hoping its in the walls and not under my bed.

I’m proud if myself for toughing it out here for so long and not having a total freak out, but am so ready to be done with nature. Even if it means enduring the brutal heat and humidity of Tokyo.

Today is my last full day here and I leave tomorrow afternoon for Tokyo. 










Plastic Food Displays

They’re still pretty common everywhere and it’s crazy to think there are factories devoted to creating such pieces.  However, it is sometimes helpful to see what you are getting before you order, especially for those of us who do not read Japanese. Other times even though you can see it, it’s still difficult to tell exactly what it is.Image



The famous Japanese haiku poet Issa lived nearby.  We drove by the storehouse he lived in when his house burnt down.




After experiencing nature out here, his haikus seem fitting.


Mosquito at my ear-

does he think

I’m deaf?


Even with insects-

some can sing, 

some can’t.


My neighbors are so great. I asked them about a woodblock museum in Matsumoto and since they have never been, planned a day trip for us to head out there on Thursday.  It’s about 100km from Nojiri and is out of the mountains in a valley which made for lots of sun and humid heat (I’m going to melt in Tokyo).

The museum was amazing and had so many different original prints back from the 1500’s. It’s an intense and very detailed process where the artist draws and image and then a carver cuts the image out on a block of wood and involves a ton of different carvings for each color. Below are just a few of the prints, quality not so great since I was taking the photos with a non flash through glass. Every little detail from the hair, to the tiny prints on the kimonos and the carpets is carved.




It was very cool and I ended up purchasing a print that reminded me of this area with farmers in the rice paddies. It’s  a reproduction of the original artist and carver, but was still made with the traditional carving and printing techniques, not just printed by a machine. It’s so damp here at Nojiri, I hope the paper hasn’t gotten damaged.

We then visited Matsumoto castle, which was more of a war fortress used by samurai and all though beautifully constructed and well planned out for war, no battle ever took place here.


Note the cell phone tower in the background. Once again the contrast between old and new.


View looking out from inside the castle


Some of the stairs were much steeper than this

And the day was ended by a trip to the onsen, a bath followed by a soak in the hot springs. They say you never feel as clean as you do after a trip to the onsen, and maybe it’s because I’m out in the wilderness, but it sure feels that way.


So the other tricky thing with an outhouse is how to feel clean after a few days.


This is the shower room attached to the outhouse at my cabin. As you can see there is a washing machine, golf clubs, and I’m guessing tons of bugs. Not exactly the set up to feel clean after a few days of not bathing.




So the neighbors that have taken me in have offered use of their facilities anytime. Much, much better. It’s inside, they have a tub, and it’s clean. Very thankful for this.



So to bathe, you sit on the little stool and use the ladle to scoop water out of the bathtub into the little wooden bowl and you basically scrub yourself down. There are no hot water heaters, so when you are ready to rinse, you take the shower hose in the bucket, which has been filled with hot water from the stove and rinse off. If you are lucky, like I was yesterday the tub has been filled with hot water already so after you wash, you can soak in the tub.

It’s considered a no no in Japan to get soap or shampoo in the bathtub. It’s for soaking, not cleaning.


Drove out towards Togakushi mountain one day.  The area is known for their soba (buckwheat) and so many products, the most famous being the soba noodles are made out here. I’ve seen them use it in cookies, ice cream, and tea just to name a few. Happened to be there at the right time to see the dough being rolled.Image


There is also an upper, middle, and lower shrine, however due to the rain we were only able to make it to the middle one and part of the way to the lower one.

Some of the shrines and the big trees date back to the 16th or 17th century.