18.12.2011 - 16.01.2012 8 °C
2011's Christmas was an, er, different but thoroughly enjoyable one. A reunion with the Acorn crew on the run-up was great. Christmas Eve saw us at Takeshi's aunt's house for some Japanese family fun and too many drinks leading to a hungover, 'unique' Christmas breakfast. After the long train journey back home we were stuck for a food option due to my refusal to eat anything Japanese or cook... amusingly we got Macdonalds!!! I never eat McDs so to be eating it on Xmas Day was funny. We opened our fabulous presents from each other and the wonderfully thoughtful people here and in England before heading to Shima's for a relaxed take-out pizza and beer party. After stopping off for a city cafe coffee and chatting to England, we rocked a three hour karaoke session. We finished the day with a few beers in a local friend's bar. Only in Japan.
Our New Year trip was definitely one to remember. Using Japan's December (aimed at students) cheap train ticket we took seven hours of local trains to snowy Hida-Takayama. Oh, how beauuuuutiful it was! A small, historic town with great food. The second day, we took the bus to Shin-hotaka onsen town where we got the cable-car to the top of a freeeezing cold, snowy mountain for (apparently) spectacular views of the vast expanse of the Japan Alps. But it was snowing. We saw NOTHING. After a half way point rotemburo we descended and the skies cleared completely. Grrrrr.
Cafe Moustache was great for a chill out and after a, not so great, free onsen we sadly headed back and cooked in the hostel kitchen. We moved on to world-heritage Shirakawa-gou the following day to see the snow-covered zassho thatched-roof houses. Breath-taking. Stunning. Just... wow.
The locals 'mow' their rooves:
Takeshi wanted to get closer:
A local shrine was featured in the anime 'Higashi no Naku Koro Ni' so many fans flock there to leave manga adorned ema (wooden plaques with wishes or prayers) and these two guys had taken a doll to photograph there!!!
We bussed to Kanazawa for a late arrival on New Years Eve to find that there was only one izakaya open to eat in. So eat we did before free soba noodles at the ryokan and a calm countdown in our room watching TV. NY Day found us in one of Japan's top three gardens- Kenrokuen- which was gorgeous. I was sad because there was no snow on the trees, which I had wanted more than anything, but it was still lovely. Then we wandered the castle site before the (mostly closed) chayamachi former-geisha area. Again, the only open eatery was the same as the previous night so we repeated the meal!
Before heading back we hit the impressive 21st Century Art Gallery. The long journey home was fine due to our buzzing about the trip.
And here we are in 2012, which is proving to be quite a huge year in the Kiki and Takeshi household. The preparations for coming to England are proving challenging and a rollercoaster but we are both very excited regardless. Unfortunately, the hideous UK Border Agency have decided that Takeshi won't be able to work in England for a while so we are planning to adjust to a more frugal lifestyle! Anyway, I should go and continue to plan.
My best wishes to you for a healthy, peaceful and positive 2012. I leave you with some J gems.
The joys of J medicine. They don't have tablets or capsules here. Why?
The classic winter toilet seat. These things are so unhygienic. Don't get me started...
A stellar error:
A J toilet cubicle's changing mat (sorry it's on the side..):