So those of you who know, my brother writes the World Wide Webishpere blog, which can be found in my links section to the right. He’s been out there for a good couple of years now and ive been lucky enough to go out and visit him on a number of occasions. This past trip was my 4th trip th the land of the rising sun. I will admit that prior to him going out there, Japan never really appeared on my radar of places to go and visit. However since he went out it gave me the excuse to go, and wow what an amazing country. I urge anyone, in the strongest possible terms, if you ever get the chance go to Japan, you wont be disappointed! If you are a regular reader of his blog you will know he came back to the UK, with his girlfriend – Yuko, for Christmas last year. By all accounts he and Yuko had a great time, except when it came time to go home. At this point Yuko became ill and was no able to travel, so another two weeks were spent in the UK. This meant Paul had used up pretty much all of his leave for this year. He did however have Golden Week, this is a grouping of public holidays that many Japanese companies will often allow their employees and extended break. So the scene was set, id go over to Japan to join Paul for a short break over Golden Week. So 4 days in Japan and 3 days travelling, this is what The Angry Budgie got up to over in the East.
The first full day in Japan was spent visiting Niigata, this is the largest city in the Niigata prefecture (Japanese version of a county) where Paul lives. So an hour’s car ride on the rather excellent Japanese motorway system saw us arrive in a rather warm Niigata. Its quite amazing how many cube shaped cars are on the roads in Japan. Along with 4x4 Nissan Micra’s and Honda Jazz’s! To be honest I don’t see the fascination, yes there small and economical but…..it’s a cube! About as aesthetically pleasing as a cinder block! While in Niigata we met up with Haruna who is one of Paul’s old workmates. Very nice lady and, as most Japanese women are, very small! We went for lunch at a Milan themed sports bar and had a rather nice Fired Chicken curry on rice dish! Yum yum! After that we had a leisurely walk, across the Agano River, to the Next 21 building. This afforded fantastic views of the city and the sea. Best thing – it was free! You could clearly see the Big Swan stadium and the mountains running down the spine of Japan. It was in Niigata that we managed to find someone with taste, a fellow Alfasti driving a lovely white Alfa Spider Veloce.
The second full day was spent at the beach in Kashiwazaki, many people don’t know Kashi has one but it’s a very nice sandy beach. Running from the Big Red Bridge and Lovers Point all the way up the coast to the Kashiwazaki Nuclear Power Plant! Not that, that should deter any potential swimmers! After a quick dash to the supermarket to buy essential snack provisions, we also picked up a bucket and spade, hey when on the beach etc…! Once at the beach we settled down to relax and have some fun! I proceeded to fill my time constructing my fist sand castle in many many years, and to be honest I was damn proud of my efforts! Paul did join in, in constructing various sand based things, but Yuko decided against it and sunbathed while playing with Gonta! We pretty much spent the whole afternoon/early evening at the beach. Only leaving as the sun had set and it started getting cold. None the less a good day was had! As evident by Gonta sticking his head out the car window (isn’t that the happiest our K9 friends can be?) and breaking wind on me! Thanks Gonta!
So to the last full day in Kashiwazaki, an early start today! One of Yuko’s friends, Yuko, was picking us up and taking us, with her daughters to a craft fair in Gunma prefecture. This involved a two hour car ride through some beautiful scenery, including an 11km tunnel! Once in Gunma prefecture it quickly became apparent what the main activity was. There were so many hotels and ski lifts! Not much snow, but obvious that once it came, this is where Japan came to ski! This craft fair was more like a craft village, it was a collection of house that all offered various traditional craft activities. We were there for the Washi paper making, this involved getting a wooden frame with a mesh base and sieving some gloopy stringy mixture through it. This would form the basis of the paper, you were then left to decorate the gloop as you saw fit. Once all done, the paper would be left to dry for a couple of days before it set. Once that activity was over we drove a couple of minutes further to the Glass making factory and museum near by. Bet you can’t guess what we did here! That’s right we had a go at making some glass! I chose to make a mug with dimples! So, in an intensely hot factory, doing something H+S would have a hernia over in this country, I was instructed in how to make a glass. It was so much fun, don’t know if it was due to my instructor speaking no English and me speaking no Japanese! But hey we did it! After all that we moved to a different room and Paul had a go at some sand blasting! Basically you choose your glass/mug, tape various shapes/words to it and blast it with a load of sand, leaving you with a glass with a frosted effect! Much fun!
Monday saw my last full day in Japan, after a leisurely morning spent having breakfast, catching up on some forum and Facebook activity and packing. Lunchtime came and we trundled off to Nagaoka to get my Shinkansen and Narita Express tickets. Those purchased we had some lunch and a quick wander through the streets of Nagaoka. Nice little town but did not get to see much of it! Time came to get my train, so farewell’s were said and bang on time the Shinkansen rolled in and whisked me off to Tokyo at 150mph. Managed to grab a few z’ds as my 16 car double deck train sped smoothly to Tokyo. Once in Tokyo I had half an hour to catch my NEX train to the airport and with it my hotel for the night. Now I know you may well know that trains in Japan are 99.99999% on time. Im pretty sure my NEX train was in that tiny majority that was late! Hey 4 minutes is late in Japan! Never the less within an hour and a half I was resting in my room at the Hilton Narita enjoying a lovely bacon cheeseburger! With over 20hours of flying the next day an early night was in order! So that was pretty much it really, Tuesday morning saw the first of my two flights to get home and they went off very nicely in the end! Only a quick visit to Japan but a good one none the less!