Summer 2008 Roundup

Yep, it’s been a while. In this post, we round up events from the summer and fall of 2008. Lots of pictures!

So the summer has come and gone, and boy was it a hot one in Tokyo. Now winter’s upon us, and it’s still pretty warm. Quite unseasonably warm, the locals say.

Let’s have a look at what’s happened since June, shall we?

In July we checked out Kawagoe, a little town north of Tokyo. We began with a visit to an American-style diner that served great burgers. Unfortunately, these burgers made me miss two days of work. But they were delicious.

In the evening we went to the BayStars/Giants game at the Tokyo dome. This was actually our first baseball game in Japan, and our first exposure to the baseball “spirit” the fans show game in, game out.

Pictures from Kawagoe and the Giants game are online.

A couple weekends later we headed to Yokohama for one of the first fireworks displays of the season. In Japan, fireworks displays are held regularly throughout the summer, and lots of people come out to watch. Everyone brings a blanket or tarp and picnic food and beer. Many are dressed in the traditional yukata. The fireworks are great too, lasting about an hour. It was probably an ad for the summertime fireworks that Shux saw in late 2007 that led us to Yokohama for New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Pictures from the fireworks display are also online.

August came and went, and in September we took some time off work and headed west to check out western Honshu. We stopped by Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Himeji, Hiroshima and Miyajima island. Along the way we ate excellent food, saw tons of cool temples, old Japan in Kyoto, and more Japanese baseball. Great time.

Pictures from the trip are — you guessed it — online.

After that we’ve just been working and otherwise spending time exploring Tokyo and area. One Sunday we headed to Yoyogi Park to hang with the rockabillies. We met up with Yuki, Shux’s friend from long ago. We also caught the last regular season game the Yakult Swallows played, after which three guys retired in a teary ceremony.

We had plans to do paragliding close to Mount Fuji. The rain looked threatening, but we still started our trip early on to make it to the paragliding place on time for our flights. On the way, we received a call that, due to the heavy rain at the site, all flights were off. Our thirst for adventure was not to be thwarted, though, as we changed our plans to drive down the Izu Peninsula to Shimoda instead. It was a long drive, and after eating some of the freshest sushi ever we didn’t get much time to visit the town, but it turned out to be a fun trip nonetheless.

We also visited Mount Takao, not too far from Tokyo. The summit became very popular in the last year or so after it was mentioned in the Michelin guide for some reason. From the summit, which is easy to get to, we were treated with a nice vew of Mount Fuji:

Mt. Fuji from Mt. Takao

Mt. Fuji from Mt. Takao

When Shux’s coworker was in Tokyo for a business trip, we went to Hakone for a day. It was a long weekend, and a hugely popular destination for many Tokyoites. We spent lots of time waiting in line for the bus, for the train, for the cablecar, and just barely caught our train back into the city. It was all worth it, though, for some nice sunset views:

Sunset in Hakone

Sunset in Hakone with Mt. Fuji

Sunset in Hakone with Mt. Fuji

Since then we’ve been doing shopping, getting ready for Christmas in Canada. Can’t wait!

Welcome to 2008

We welcome 2008 in Yokohama, pay our respects in Kamakura, and enjoy fried bananas with curry in Ueno. With pictures!

The holidays came and went. Japan has public holidays December 31 through January 2, so I enjoyed a nice and relaxing break from work.

I wanted to see fireworks on New Year’s Eve. From what we read in our Japan guidebooks, the new year is celebrated at the temples, where bells are rung 108 times at midnight. But somewhere Shux found an advertisement for a 1300 firework show lasting from 11:30pm-12:05am on New Year’s Eve, held at Cosmo World in Yokohama. They would be launched with the ferris wheel as a backdrop. We decided to go.

So on December 31, we jumped on the train early in the morning to maximize the sightseeing in Yokohama. It was a nice day, but very chilly in the persistent wind. We took some pictures, did some shopping and caught I Am Legend. The movie cost too much.

Then we parked our butts on a bench in front of a mall so we could have a nice view of the ferris wheel. Anticipating huge crowds for such a spectacular display we grabbed our spot early. After a long wait in the cold, 11:30 finally came… and went. No fireworks. Then 11:45, still nothing. Finally, at midnight the fireworks started. Thinking they would be grand and last for 30 minutes, I didn’t take pictures right away, waiting for the big finale. It came way too soon, at 12:04. What a let down.

Cosmo World ferris wheel

On January 2 we headed to Kamakura to visit the temples. We lined up with everyone else to see the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. It took a while. Afterwards we walked the town, checking out the open stores and trying some street food. Then we headed to the Zeniarai Benten Shrine where we washed some money. Set in a cave, this Shrine has a cool atmosphere. Check out our Kamakura photos.

Towards the end of our break we headed to Ueno to walk around and check out bike town. The highlight here was putting on bibs to eat curry noodles with fried bananas — a surprisingly delicious combination. Yum!

Cosmo World ferris wheel