For those reading who don't know me, or have forgotten my name, I am Neil Gordon and I intend to keep this blog up to date with my travel activities in Japan - taking place from mid July 2010 till some time in January 2011.
I'm English and am interested in the Japanese culture and language, as well as computers and technology.
The blog name neiltanken is simply my name + 探検 (tanken) - which means expedition.


Team Moscow reunite!

I went to Ueno to meet the people I became aquainted with at the airoport in Moscow again.

Shinobazu no Ike lake - There are a lot of lotuses.
We visited the Hanazono Inari shrine, which is within the park.
Hanazono Inari shrine - I was told it was known for 'matchmaking' couples, but I couldn't seem to confirm this on the internet later.

We had an extravagant meal in a chinese restaurant called 'Toh Ten Koh'.
Good view of Ueno park. It's also possible to see Sky Tree from here.

The view from the hotel window.

After the meal, one of the group had to leave for work.
We then went to Ameyoko market, where a further two of the group left to see Akihabara. Apparently they are going to check out a maid cafe.
The remaining 3 of us looked around Ameyoko.

We then returned to Ueno park and entered the Science musium within the grounds.
We watched a "360 degree video" about "Mantle and Earth's changes" and "The sea's food chain".
The experience felt a bit like floating, and it was very interesting.
The musium had various displays about earthquakes, and also fossils of various dinosaurs and plants.

On the train home, one of the signals on the line got hit by lightning. After waiting a long time in the train, I had to go back again in a differrent train and go home by a differrent route.
I arrived several hours later than I had expected.


Akiba again!

I went to Akiabara with someone I met on internet chat today. (hereon HK-san)
We got maps from a girl dressed up as a maid and went to eat ramen. Which was really delicious.
Apparently HK-san is a regular customer to a nekokissaten (cat cafe), so I decided to enter the store with him.
There were about 8 cats, and you pay for the amount of time you want to pet them.
I bought some green tea and petted the cats a bit. I was also shown a photo collection by one of the staff, showing the cats as they grew up.
After that we went around various shops, with a focus on figurine shops.
We also went to a Book Off and after gathering up varios manga I wanted I spent a little short of 100 pounds.
Thanks to the amount I spent, nationwide postage became free, so I made them send the manga to Yosuke's house.
We checked out a few more shops then headed home.

I ate a "homoben" (short for Hotto Motto packed lunch) unajuu (eel on rice with a sweet sauce)
Unajuu - Really delicious.


Distant relative

I found outthe other day that I have a distant Canadian relative in Japan (from here on J-san)
I went and met him in Narimasu today.
After promissing to meet the people J-san is currently working with in the evening, I went to Akihabara.
I used most of my time in the SEGA and TAITO arcades.
The UFO catchers were impossible (for me).
I tried various other games, but te one I found most interresting was a rhythmn game - Hatsune Miku Diva Project.
There is a piece of software called Hatsune Miku which uses a synthesised voice and regular people use it to create songs.
A compilation of these songs is being used in this game.
There's also a PSP version, making me want a PSP slightly.
I headed for J-san's place of work at 6, but I got a bit lost and ended up about 40 minutes late.
He introduced me to 5 CG designers. Everyone readly introduced themselves.
I appologised for being late, introduced myself and expained I do amature translation.
After that I sat in on a MAYA (software for creating 3D models and moving them with physics simulation etc) lesson they were doing and after that went to a nearby Izakaya (bar).
The were all great people, and one even gave me his business card and said he'd show me around Akihabara if our schedules match up on a day off.
J-san got on my train back with me and we got to talk a bit more.
I'd like to meet him again if I get the chance.
He seemed like someone who would be very fun to work with.


Nothing particularly special today...

I mostly lazed around, but I decided to make fish and chips for dinner today.
We wentto the fishmonger we met at the festival, but they had already started closing the store.
Even so, after we greeted them and explained what we wanted they still got us some cod out of the freezer. I was really greatful.

So, the fish and chips in question...
It looks good, and tasted nice too.
Yosuke said it was tasty.
That was all today!



Today I went to Yokohama and met for the first time with someone I came to know on mixi (Japanese facebook like thing)
I'll call him K-san from here on.
K-san is an official guide for the 88 temple pilgrimage and has apparently walked the island 5 times so far.
He said he will be able to walk about the first week of the pilgriage together with me.
He showed me around Yokohama today.
After greeting him, we got a map from the information building and walked to see the sail ship Nipponmaru.
Some members of the public who had volunteered were opening the sails.
Yokohama's Landmark Tower

Minato No. 1 Bridge - steam trains used to cross this carrying cargo

After crossing it, we went to the red brick warehouse.
It was made as a bonded warehouse. It's now composed of lots of shops.

We went inside and checked out the shops.
We next went to the NYK(Nippon Yuusen Kaisha - Japan Mail Steamer) Maritime museum.

(If I understand correctly)
The government run Kyoudou Un'yu shipping company and Yataro Iwasaki's Mitsubishi Zaibatsu were competing and furiously slashing prices in the shipping business.
In 1885 when Yataro died, the government feared both companies would collapse amidst the Meiji Restoration and forced a merger.
It was the NYK which was created through this merger.

We next went to a rest area by Yamashita park, and I talked to K-san about the 88 temple pilgrimage.
He bought along his Byakue and Wagesa (the white robe and stole) and showed me briefly how to wear them.
He also gave me some useful pamphlets about walking Shikoku and one about Hokkaidou.

We left the rest area and walked through Yamashita park to the boat Hikawamaru.
Part of Yamashita park
The luxury liner Hikawamaru - presently a museum

I walked around the boat while listening to K-san's explanations.
Accoridng to K-san, Japanese boats normally have a Kamidana (household shrine)

Finally I got him to take me to see a Shinto shrine which was nearby.
Ise Yama Koudai Jinguu
After reading wikipedia, I found that this shrine was moved here from Ise in 1870 so that the main Ise shrine could be worshipped from afar. The reason to do this was to secure a place for the Shinto religion here after the port was opened to foreign culture such as christianity.

We also visited a nearby buddhist temple.
K-san recited some sutra here. It was quite something. I wonder if I'll be able to remember this sort of thing as I visit the Shikoku temples.

We then ate preprepared meals from a convenience store and talked for a while. I also promissed to contact him before entering Shikoku so we could arrange to meet.


Lantern Festival - Tenousama

Had instant noodles for breakfast, then departed to see the festival floats (Dashi).
The festival's purpose is to petition the gods for a good harvest.
Each town had their own float, and they went down the street to gather in front of the station.

A video I took showing the Omikoshi (portable shrine, the god being entertained by the festival rides this) and teh Dashi (the entertainment, floats) leaving the station area.

A child wearing an Otamen mask was dancing.

There was also a lion dance (Shishimai) to the accompanyment of festival music. I think this is also to pray for a good harvest.

Oinarisama (a fox which is meant to be the incarnation of the god of grains) was dancing on one of the floats. I think this was also to pray for a good harvest.

The floats patrol the local streets after leaving the station area, but at this point Yosuke and I left to have lunch at a ramen restaurant.

Hiyashi Butashabu Tsukemen and sesame sauce. - basically a cooled noodle meal with pork where you dip the noodles etc ii the sauce before eating.

It was delicious and refreshing.

Next we headed to a local shrine Washinomiya jinja.

A short way before reaching our destination we came across some children practicing taiko druming for an upcoming festival this weekend.

When we reached the Washinomiya shrine carpark, there were a lot of Itasha (painful + car put together in 1 word, usedto refer to cars where the owner has plastered the paintwork with anime related charactors etc)
This possibly unusual mixture of a religious site and modern animation is due to the fact Washinomiya shrine was used in the setting for a very popular animation called "Lucky Star"
Of course I took pictures!

Left: Hatsune Miku  Right: Hiiragi Kagami

The gate into the shrine grounds (Torii)

We entered the grounds through the Torii and greeted the gentleman sitting in the storage area for a oprtable shrine. He told us that the portable shrine would be brought back soon so we might want to stay to see it.

After entering the grounds and walking straight down, we came to the Ema (wooden tags with an image on 1 side and a wish/prayer on the other) that visitors had made. There were a lot of Ema with anime charactors on them.

There was a large ring in front of the main shrine called "Chi no Wa", and by passing through it in the correct way you can "purify" yourself before payer at the shrine.

As the kind man had told us, the Omikoshi returned.

After this we stopped of at yosuke's place again. After eating dinner and lazing about we missed the change over of the floats from dolls to lanterns.

Dinner - Gyuudon (beef cooked in a sauce and onions on top of a bowl of rice)

However, we still saw the most heated part at the end of the festival.

The town's floats gathered at a crossroad and put on a display of rotating and pretending to bump into each other.

While we were watching the floats, a local fishmonger who'se shop we were standing outside, greeted us.
Apparently every year the curtains (which have been around since the 1800s) on the floats need some degree of repair and maintanance - which several local businesses - this fishmonger included - get together and pay for.
They een showed us their certificates for the contribution.
I have a plan to make fish and chips (a very british sort of thing) for Yosuke, and with this we decided we'd like to get the fish from this fishmonger.