Totoro's rants

Totoro's rants

Day 7 : Osaka

JapanPosted by Totoro42Blue Tue, November 04, 2008 21:16:53
Placeholder (still with spelling errors)

Due to some technical problems Day 7 is after Day 8 smiley

Sayonnara Tokyo, Gimmond Hotel and free internet
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Yet another bad picture taken with my mobile phone, this time of one of my smaller breakfasts.


Konnichiwa Osaka, New Hankyo Hotel and 1000 Yen a day internet

Room
Temptation
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Lunch, probably eel
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Soup and some additional garnish.
Afterwards 2 slices of orange.

Chaotic and switch from left standing on the escalator to right!

Tourist information center

Hanshin department store

Yodobashi in Osaka

Evening 'dinner' from Freds
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Day 8 : Osaka - Osaka Castle, Kita

JapanPosted by Totoro42Blue Tue, November 04, 2008 15:02:31
Placeholder - not finished

Got to walk a lot a lot

Osakajokoen Station: (Osaka Castle Area)
Around Osaka castle which is a really nice area, much so than the car infested area around the Emperor's Palace in Tokyo. There is only shell left of the castle, the insides are pure modern:-( There are some red coloured leaves in Osaka, so that makes up for the Nikko disaster.
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T-shirt from Osaka Castle
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Lunch was spaghetti with meat sauce, I know I know, but we had a choice between waiting to eat, McDonalds or Subway - we were in a bussiness area where Japanese food seemed to be out of fashion. Dinner was ok, but my stomach was a bit worried after that.

The Floating Garden Observatory: (Kita Area)
Then went home to the 'two towers' building where there is an observatory we wanted to go up in as it was really sunny (and hot) today. What I had forgot was that the lift is with glass on all sides and I have a real fear of heights! That was not so good, then the last stretch is an escalator across the open space between the 2 buildings startting from 45th floor, again with glass on both sides! I stared down at the escalator and wondered how I was going to get down again. The view on the observatoryt deck was splendid as was the one on top of the building. Osaka really looks nice. Fortunately the trip down went smoothly, I obviously had resigned myself to die falling from a great height so it did not matter anymore, instead I took pictures on the way down :-)
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Umeda:
A small rest and to Yodobashi.

Then out again to buy some cakes, again this is a woman's thing in Japan, the 2 guys behind the counter were very young and ... very gayish. My 2 small cakes were individually packed into 2 plastic cases and a wet-napkin was provided as well.
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Dinner
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Day 6 : Tokyo - Shibuya

JapanPosted by Totoro42Blue Sun, November 02, 2008 05:34:15
Todays breakfast was shared with the Sendai 89ers which it seems is a Japanese basketball team. After the breakfast I decided to go to Shibuya to do my last shopping in Tokyo before leaving tomorrow.

Went to Tokyo Hands, but unfortunately did not find anything worthwhile to shop and quickly became tired of all the people and noise in Shibuya, that combined with the fact that I was really tired after the intensive walking for the last two days. So I decided to go back to the hotel around 2 in the afternoon and get a nap.
Blog ImageThe nap turned quite extensive. After that I had a quick 7-11 sandwich lunch with a Dr. Pepper, which have a Halloween theme at the moment.

In the evening when we went out to find something to eat we quickly realized that all the restaurants had closed, so we ended up with the unthinkable McDonal meal again.

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Day 5 : Nikko

JapanPosted by Totoro42Blue Fri, October 31, 2008 20:19:12
Although I should have learned the lesson from last year when we went to Kyoto on a weekendday, we decided to go to Nikko on a Saturday, and I learned the lesson once more and with gusto.

To get to Nikko, one has to take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Utsunomiya Station. Well we got on the wrong track and ended up taking an express to Ueno Station, as I assumed (correctly) that it would be easier for us to find the right Shinkansen bound for Utsunomiya Station, on that much smaller station. Arriving at Ueno and unsure whether it would be difficult to get seats on the unreserved parts of the trains (at this hour there seemed only to be either reserved or unreserved trains), we went to the ticket office to reserve some seats. This was the first time I was lost with the young woman at the counter as she spoke close to no English, fortunately a supervisor was close by and we managed to reserve some seats on the next Shinkansen.

Then having enjoyed a comfortable 40+ minute train trip to Utsunomiya Station, we there proceeded to the very small train to Nikko (only 2 small cars) which was filled up, we had managed to squeeze in quickly so we got 2 seats. After a slghtly bumpy 50 minute or so ride we then arrived at JR Nikko Station.

The previous night I had done some surfing and jotted down how to get to Nikko, how to get to the shrines (where the tourist information center was), what to see and what to eat. Well, arriving at Nikko it all seemed a bit chaotic, with limited signs for helping one around. We managed to to the tourist information center, which was close by at a different companys railway station. Note that JR is really not the best choice to get to Nikko from Tokyo, but as we had a JR Railway Pass, it was a no-brainer to use JR to get there, although it was a bit more bothersome. At the center we got a rather large and somewhat thin and flimsy map (there was a slight wind) which we studied and decided to take the scenic route along the river (which in retrospect was a bad choice, one should take the direct route to the site and then the scenic on the way back), which was not marked by any pedestrian signs in any way. What was worse was that the river bed is currently being worked on, so although the river was nice (and small) it was overshadowed by the machinery and other stuff spead around the side of the river bed. The scenic mountains on this side of Nikko had unfortunately been dotted with human intrusion, masts, roads and buildings. So this route can not really be recommended in any way.

As we got close to the shrine and temple area, we unfortunately also got close to a lot of cars. There were cars jamming the small roads in the area, making it slightly hazardeous to walk along the side of the ro.ad, and really not enjoyable to breathe. After a lot of map studying (again we had made the wrong choice and were actually getting to the place through the backway) we finally, with the help of a friendly English speaking monk to find the most 'important' site, the Toshogu shrine. As it was Saturday it was filled with people.
At some point we gave up to see more, but at least I got my obligatory picture of the three monkeys. If one decides to see just one shrine or temple in Nikko, the Toshogu shrine is definitely not a bad choice.

On our way away from the shrine we ran into a souvenir shop, and I ended up up with buying a nice cherry coloured Kokeshi doll as well as a hand-carved (and signed) set of the three monkeys from the 2 nice ladies in the shop, who got quite enthusiastically when I told them I was from Denmark.

We continued to wander a bit around, but really felt we had had our fill of shrines and temples for today and tried to look for some nature. But although we found a car-less and discreete road walking a couple of hundred meters up the mountain did not bring anything other than a slightly more scenic view with less human interference but there was still some.

It was getting late and we were getting hungry so we sort of choose the first restauant we ran into, and managed to choose probably the only one in all Nikko where nobody spoke any English, This is normally not a problem, cause one can use a few words and point and get the meaning across. But in this case the waiter needed to bring across that the kitchen did not reopen until 3 oclock. I sort of got that quickly, but it was impossible for me to bring across that I had understood. Fortunately a young lady at the neighbouring table had some rudimentary English and could translate. This meant we had to wit half-n-hour for the food.
Blog ImageI had ordered some Curry Rice which came after the promised half-hour. It was really nice and very spicy (and looked much much better than the picture ended up above) , something I needed as it was starting to get cold and we had quite a walk ahead of us back to the station.

After a long and cold (the sun was setting) walk along the direct route, which everybody seemed to be taking, We arrived at the station just in time to jump aboard the 2 car train, this team without getting seats though so we had to stand for the 50 or so minute ride.

Arriving at Utsunomiya Station we reserved some tickets on the Shinkansen back to Tokyo (although it turned out that there now where unreserved sections on the train as well) and had the usual smooth Shinkansen ride back. In retrospeck I would say, go for the nature in Nikko, taka bus there and if more time is available visit a shrine or temple. Regretably we made the other choice and had no more energy (and it was way too late) to go and enjoy the nature in Nikko.

After nearly two hours of rest we then went to Akihabara where a little power shopping was done, I got several USB accessories including a small mouse to be used with Maka (my netbook laptop which I have brought with me) and some puzzles. This time around I seem to by mostly gifts and very little for myself, hm.

Most restaurants seemed to have closed and as we were tired anyway, something was bought at the local 7-11 and home we went.

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Day 4 : Tokyo - Shimbashi, Roppongi, Shibuya

JapanPosted by Totoro42Blue Fri, October 31, 2008 08:58:07
After my hearty breakfast (I need to take a picture of this) with a little mountain of scrambled eggs, a couple of meat balls, half a dozen fish sticks and half a dozen of sausages together with a glass of orange juice, and then finishing it off with a bun with strawberry or orange marmelade. At least I have stopped being hungry after eating that. The first couple of days I was still hungry after the breakfast of this size.

My travel companions suggested a walk to Roppongi Hills from the closest JR railway station and from there on to Shibuya to do some shopping. Now my travel companion can sorta be called a half-luddite, he believes strongly in the use of ones own legs instead of more convenient transportation like trains or cars in a big city. This all good and well, but Tokyo is a *big* city and it takes quite a walk to make 'small' distances and then there is the little detail of cars. There are a lot of cars in Tokyo, and the 'long' stretches between the different parts of the city is really only ideal for driving in a car (or by train). Walking the distance will bring a quite large number of inconvinient substances from the air into ones lungs. But hey gotta try something once at least.

Getting off at Shimbashi, which we estimated that according to the map was the closest station to Roppongi, we started walking toward what we assume was Roppongi. After several map consultations we finally found our direction towards it.

Shimbashi is (I am sorry but this it the truth I believe) not the most interesting part of Tokyo, actually I was not able to find anything worthwhile to see there.
Blog ImageThe above was a temple in the shadow of a tall building, which seemed not to serve primarily as a religious site, but much more important as a smoking area. You can see a few people in the picture smoking, but actually most were sitting along the fences just outside the picture frame.

When we reached Roppongi we continued onwards to Roppongi Hills.
Blog ImageWhere one of the famous spiders are.
Blog ImageFunny enough its body even was full of 'eggs'.
Blog ImageWe bought tickets to the observation deck on the 45th floor (I think it was). Below is the view of among other things the Tokyo Tower.
Blog ImageUnfortunately the sun had not quite broken through, so visibility was not the best. In the observation area it was possible to buy something called Watta Juice, I choose the Power version (=anti-ageing) with wildberries and green tea, but rather than being a juice it tasted more like a 300ml smoothie. But a rather nice one indeed, if I ever come back I will definitely have a juice again.
Blog ImageAlthough visibility was not the best, I of course ended up taking a lot of pictures anyway.
We then continued up to the helicopter deck or skydeck where we were on top of the building in the open air. Which was quite exciting and interesting, and the air was really good up there as well.
Blog ImageJust below the tower was a small, very small park, which had a really artificial look to it. But it was a green area.
Blog ImageHaving seen all we wanted to see in Roppongi Hills, we then continued on our masochistic journey across Tokyo, now walking towards Shibuya along what was a highway. Again the problem is that the alternative would be a longer zig-zagging walk along small roads with an additional potential bonus feature to get lost. So we laboured on towards what we believed to be Shibuya.
Blog ImageThe above picture actually shows the area just to the south-west of the railway station in Shibuya. We did not know that at this point and had a little fun walking around a hotel trying to interpret the signs that directed us towards the station. What we did not understand at this point was that it was actually still a bit of a walk.

Finally after finding the a well-known landmark (at least by us) in Shibuya, the Hachiko Square, we decided to find something to eat, and went for the McDonalds close to the square (Yeah, I know). My travel companion obviously in need for some specific dipping for his fries, tried with his best Texas accent imitation to order remoulade with his fries (he admitted later on he had no clue what it was called in English so he sorted of tried to make it sound English - or in this case American). Of course you cannot get that in Japan, but he got some lemon dip, which actually is quite good with fries. Actually remoulade is called that in English speaking countries as well, invented in France it is otherwise mostly known in the Scandinavian (DenmarkI countries.

After the long walk and the exclusive lunch, I tried to do at least some shopping. First went to Tokyo Hands and bought and assorted set of Studio Ghibli inspired key rings, fridge magnets and so on. A little mushroom also became part of the shopping. Now being tired from the long walk, I gave up after 2 - 3 floors and went back towards Hachiko square, passing a woman's department store, which I really did not feel like visiting in my sweaty state (I am still in need to look for some specifics there). My usual DVD-CD store in the corner building at the square I had to give up on as well. I decided to simply make it back to the hotel for some rest.

In the evening we went to a local (very local) restaurant and I ordered some pork with come cold noodles, salad and the usual side dish of miso soup and rice. I forgot to take a picture of this. The sauce was quite spicy and nice, and the dish was actually quite okay, something I would retry in the future.

After that we went back to the hotel where I proceeded to spend the night coughing up substances breathed in during the day or at least trying to. Well it was not that bad to spent a day in Tokyo on primarily foot.

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Day 3 : Tokyo - Komagome

JapanPosted by Totoro42Blue Thu, October 30, 2008 01:08:42
Disaster strikes! A large group, 20+, of Danes arrived yesterday evening, and this morning at the breakfast tables they were practically crawling all over the place. When I go half-way around the world, the last people I want to meet are Danes, so goodbye Gimmond Hotel, this will be the last time. I had in fact already found another hotel for this trip, but due to circumstances I choose to go for the safe option (and known place) this time again. My bad.

I decided to revisit (for the third time as I now have visited every time I have in Japan) the Rikugien Garden near Komagome station. The other two times had been late in the afternoon and this would be the first time visiting it before noon.

Rikugien Garden was built by Yoshiyasu Yanagisawa, a favorite of the fifth Shogun Tunayoshi Tokugawa, as his villa in 1702. It is a Daimyo style garden called a Kaiyuu pond garden with hills and ponds.

I enjoy the mixture of water and trees, small and large, bright and darker. There are lots and lots of photo opportunities all over the garden. Being there at a different time of day made some of the places quite different especially the 'ghost pond' seemed much more dark than in the late afternoon where parts of it is brightened by the sun. It feels like a very romantic place and a place I really would like to enjoy with someone close.
Inside the garden is a small open Tea House, and one of the things I have been looking forward to since last year was to enjoy a cup of tea there. Unfortunately when I got there it was filled with a small group of slightly noisy American tourists and most of the locals seemed to have fled, so did I. I walked a bit more around and when I saw (from the other side of the pond, thanks to a nice zoom lens on my camera) that they were leaving, I decided to go back and fullfill my dream.
Blog ImageWhen I came back to the house it had already started to fill up with both young and older women, but I managed to grab a part of a bench and ordered a set of, what seemed the standard choice, Green Tea with Sweets.
Blog ImageSo in the shadow, it was around noon and getting quite warm, I enjoyed the foamy light green tea among the quiet chit-chat of the local women (I was the only man there) and a nice very sweet sweet, which had to be seperated into at least 5 parts to be eaten. It was all like I had imagined.

Afterwards I walked around to the exit, got hit on the forehead by a stone from a edge cutter (there was a man walking beside it with a heavy iron panel to protect guests from such occurrences, but when the edge cutter moved away some stones seemed to fly above the protection) giving me slight headache later on, but nothing serious. And nothing to remove the enjoyment I had from revisiting he Rikugien Garden again.

At the exit of Rikugien garden I saw that it was only a 20 minute walk to Kyu Furukawa garden at the other side of the station so I decided that I want to have a look at that one as well.

The area around Komagome station can best be described as a suburb. At the station is a Little Mermaid bakery and coming out of Rikugien garden I saw this German inspired 'Eating' bakery car.
Blog ImageUnfortunately I felt a bit quisy and the beginning of a slight headache otherwise there would have been amble possibility to try out the local Bento boxes or Sushi boxes or other of the local food. All of which looked quite interesting. I definitely want to try to buy a Bento box this time.
Blog ImageAfter a 20 minute or so walk I arrived at Kyu Furukawa Garden, which means former Furukawa Garden. In the garden is a western style house built in the Taisho period by Dr. Josiah Conder(1852~1920). There is a traditional Japanese style garden with a pond, and on the slope between the hill and the Japanese garden, there is a nice western style garden full of flowers such as roses, azaleas, etc.
Blog ImageThere was a slightly battered house cat as well, who had lost part of his (probably) tail, but definitely felt quite at home at the house, and ignored that I was taking pictures of him sunbathing.
Blog ImageThe traditional Japanese styled pond garden with its selection of beautiful lamps.
Blog ImageThe water seemed to lack a bit of flow, but there were koy fish, turtles as well as ducks enjoying the pond.
Blog ImageThe Western styled part of the garden with view of the house.
Blog ImageIt is not quite as nice as Rikugien garden, but it was well worth the visit and contained a nice little walk. The public toilet on the premise was squeaky clean, and it still continues to amaze me that most of the public toilets I run into in Japan are so clean (and non-smelly) even though they are free. That would be impossible in Denmark.

I was now getting tired, the stomach felt odd and the headache had become obtrussive so I decided to head home around mid-afternoon.

But on the way back I decided to pay the local PoroRoca supermarket a visit, so I dont leave all my candy, cookie, drink money at the local 7-11.
Blog ImageFor around 1800 Yen I got the above loot, including what I believe are a couple of 4 mochi sweets (in the center). Only strawberry Pocky's though, the supermarket did not have the orange-flavoured ones that the local 7-11 has.

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Day 2 : Tokyo - Shinjuku, Shibuya

JapanPosted by Totoro42Blue Wed, October 29, 2008 10:08:45
I really missed the toilets in Japan. I have become reacquainted with the one in Gimmond Hotel again.smiley

I am always hungry. I took a big plate with scrambled eggs, cocktail sausages, meat balls, fish sticksand still felt hungry afterwards. Had some bread with jam, and ended up still feeling slightly peckish when I left - because well I could not be eating breakfast forever.

We had decided to start the day with a quiet walk in a park, specifically Shinjuku's Gyoen National Garden. The last time I visited it was during spring, when the cherry trees had just started to blossom, this can be read about here.

We walked to Tokyo Central, getting lost a couple of times in the process:-) But when we finally got there it was still rush hour so the trains were pretty filled up, not congested though. Arriving at Shinjuku the sun was shining and it was pretty hot, so off with the armless fleece and a t-shirt only was more than enough (actually shorts would have been nice as well).

It seems to be mushroom season? As there were school classes with young children that were running around collecting things from the ground or maybe it was just a nature day for them.
The koy fish were as curious and hungry as last time, only one colourful koy in the whole bunch though. A lot of elderly locals were out (like last time) painting trees and landscapes. After something like a nearly 2 hour walk, it is a big garden, I simply had to sit down at a bench near the exit for 20 minutes or so to regain some stanima to continue. And the bloody ravens were really annoying with their craw-craw'ing.

It was now lunch time to we went to the Takashimaya shopping center to find a restaurant. But initially there did not seem to be any at all, although I so vividly remembered to have eaten there previously. But after some search we found out that all the restaurants were at the 13th floor, so up we went. After a quick browse, we then decided on the very first one we saw, which was in fact a cake restaurant called Carmel, so it had only two warm dishes for lunch to choose from (but they caught my interest).

I had what turned out to be a delicious Omelette with chicken rice , which was a omelette wrapped around chicken rice with tomato styled sauce, together with some really freshly pessed orange juice.
Blog ImageAs it had primarily cakes, its customers were mostly women of all ages, with a single male companion here and there. It was a small place with room for probably around only 20ish people. Real comfy place, if I get the chance I will be back there for some cake (they looked really nice as well) someday.

We then decided to go to the observatory in the twin towers of the Tokyo Government Buildings.
Blog ImageFortunately they are tall buldings so one can sort of navigate after them.
Blog ImageAfter some initial confusion (lesson learned - look down there might be useful information on the floor where one needs to go to get to the observatory on 45th floor - in this case we needed to go down one floor to get to the elevator that went there) and quick luggage control by an official, we were then allowed to enter the elevator for the 45th floor, we had chosen the South tower, which turned out right as Tokyo to the north of Shinjuku is pretty flat compared to the tall buildings to the south.
Blog ImageUnfortunately the observatory is not quite good in respect to taking pictures as there are windows all the way around and the reflections from the windows in the back are clearly visible. But it was a pretty nice view which can be recommended. There was an environmental conscious building exhibition there as well and I got hitched to fill out a questionnaire about my impressions and got a six-pack of post-cards of my own choice for the effort. The souvenir shop definitely had the highest class of souvenirs I have yet seen on my trips to Japan, I did not buy anything though, regret that a bit in afterthought.

We then took a quick side trip to Shibuya so my travel companion could get a feel for the place.We went to Hachiko crossing, into my favorite cd-dvd shop at the corner and up a side street (by Cafe Danmark, which notably has no English descriptions of what they have) and by Tokyo Hands (will be visiting that tomorrow for shopping) and then back to the station and back to the Hotel.

After some relaxation time I went to Akihabara, only to Yodobashi-Akiba though, to study prices and buy a all-round to Japanese power connector as well as a headset, with ear plugs and small microphone on the wire (I had borrowed one for the trip, but I thought I might need for the future - oh, well,I needed to buy something gadgetry!).
Blog ImageOn the way back to the hotel we decided we were too tired to go to a restaurant so we took some take-away McDonalds (slightly embarrasing), a Teriyaki Burger which was nice and a File-o-Fish Burger, that was very very dry.

And of course I am writing this at 2 in the night as I woke up for my usual required snack, as I have stocked up on 2 sandwiches and rice triangle (with a filling I dont know what is) for this purpose.

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Day 1 : Tokyo

JapanPosted by Totoro42Blue Tue, October 28, 2008 17:10:49
After having used a direct SAS flight from Copenhagen to Narita (Tokyo) the last 2 times, the opportunity arose (because it is basically half price of the SAS ticket) to fly to Kansai Airport (Osaka) with Finnair instead this time. Unfortunately this means a longer travelling time as it requires a stopover in Helsinki, and as we wanted to go to Tokyo as well, there is an additional 3 hours Shinkansen train travelling time after arrival in Osaka.

Well the flight from Copenhagen to Helsinki was pretty eventless altough the flight number was 666 (number of the beast) and we sat on row 13. The start was a bit omnious though as it was very very hot (warming up for hellsmiley) in the airplane as we boarded, it became cool though as the plane took to the air. On arrival in Helsinki (not a very big airport) the Osaka flight was already announced as delayed though, so it became a 2 hour wait in Helsinki.

The Finnair flight was in a Boeing MD11 (sorry, crappy aircraft, 3-4-2 seating arrangement in economy and only shared video screens) which had the 'feel' of low-budget air service. Except not being able to sleep again (got the only couple in the plane who needed to have the lights on and talk all through the 'night' behind us), but fortunately they showed 'Incredible Hulk' (sorry a bit boring, liked the first version better, 'Shaolin Girl' only so-so (but at least something nice to look at) and 'Bee Season (why did they make this movie?), so there was some distraction. Got the center seat, not a good one when one has slight physical issues which require some toilet attention occasionally (by the way only 3 toilets for the whole economy section - are Boeing planes crappy and badly designed or what? - so there was basically always a queue!). Otherwise Finnair provides quite a nice and cheap air service, food was actually better than what SAS provides on the same long route.

Arriving at Kansai Airport (the one built in the water, did not have the energy to take out my camera but there were some really nice photo opportunities, definitely need to try to take some pictures on the way back), the fingerprinting and phototaking went smoothely. Only a slight problem at customs as I had to unlock and open suitcase for inspection (The customs officer asked if I was travelling together with anyone, I pointed him out, she took one look and demanded I open my suitcase - yeah he looks suspect), but that went quickly. Then proceeded to get JR Railway pass, reservations from Kansai Airport to Shin-Osaka and from there on the Hiraki Shinkansen to Tokyo with arrival at 15:10 local time. Had of course forgot which route to take on the Yamanote line to get to Kanda station, but guessed right. Got confused slightly after Kanda, but found Gimmond Hotel quickly enough.

The hotel had changed from wireless connection to wired connection and I had of course forgot my network cable, so an excuse to go shopping in Akihabara (although had intended to do so anyway).

But first went to the local 7-11 to get some supplies.
Blog ImageThe Pocky MIKAN with orange flavour are really nice! Must buy a supply to bring home. The Ghana chocolate is nice and creamy (not too much though). The sandwiches ended up being Tuesday evening dinner as we were too tired to bother to go out and eat on our way home from Akihabara.

Went to Yodobashi-Akiba to buy a network cable, which is a challenge in itself to find there as anyone who knows the size of the place will know. Well with some directions found and bought and it was unfortunately the only thing that I bought today. Had some look at some prices of cameras and iTouch, but it seems rather expensive with the current 16 to 1 exchange rate to the Danish krone, not sure if there is much to save buying cameras and electronics in Japan if they are available in Denmark anyhow. Then took a quick browse down Chuo Dori in Akihabara and went home to sleep. Finally.

And woke up around midnight again for a snack or two. Had fortunately also bought something to drink.
Blog ImageBlendy being the usual milk-coffee combination (which I like), whereas the Kirin had a very nutty-creamy taste, where the judgement is still open.

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