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Shibuya in a typhoon ...

Please excuse the lack of recent updates; I've been recovering from the worldcon in Yokohama by indulging in gratuitous tourism. Japan is, indeed, pretty weird, and my wife's been getting to use the Japanese lessons she's been taking for the past couple of years (she's a language geek: I'm sadly monolingual).

Yesterday — still staying in Yokohama — we headed up into the hills to Hakone, where we ascended about 550 metres on a remarkable 1930s high-altitude railway (taking slopes of up to 1 in 10 and making several switchbacks). Then we spent most of the afternoon in the Yunessun spa, which boasts something like 23 different bathing experiences (from the hot springs to the flumes by way of a coffee-flavoured pool and a whole bunch of other stuff besides). Very much a tourist experience, but fun — and given we've had temperatures up to 31 degrees and 80% relative humidity for the past week, feeling clean (in the way you can only get after several hours of bathing) is really good. On the way back we stopped to go up the Landmark Tower (274 metres to the observation deck -- lower than the Empire State Building, but not by much) and failed to see Mount Fuji, mostly because of it being (a) nighttime and (b) foggy.

Foggy? Well, the weather forecast may have something to do with that. Typhoon Fitow has been gathering force for a couple of days, and today it's making landfall ... on Tokyo. We checked out of Yokohama this morning, caught a series of trains to our next hotel (near Shinjuku, in Tokyo), dropped our bags, and went exploring. Hint: if you're going to explore downtown Tokyo, and there's a typhoon warning out, take an umbrella and be prepared to have fun getting back to your hotel if you leave things too late! Exploration came to an end around 6pm, as the increasingly gusty squalls and cloudbursts began to get worse, and on our way home the station information boards began displaying lists of service interruptions. It's not a powerful typhoon, but a typhoon by any other name is a hurricane (in the Pacific). It shut down the Shinkanesen and many of the commuter lines, and right now it's rattling the triple-glazed window half a metre in front of my nose, booming and rumbling outside and throwing sprays of rain at my face.

The plan for tomorrow (if Typhoon Fitow leaves us alone) is to visit Puroland, which is to Hello Kitty as Disneyworld is to the rodent prince. Then we hit Akhibara, before zipping along to Kyoto. Tourism is an exhausting business!




If you get a chance, take the train up to Nikyo (I think that's how they romanize the name). It's this absolutely beautiful temple complex up in the mountains northwest of Tokyo. My wife and I did a day trip there on our honeymoon back when, and I still remember how gorgeous the ancient temples and the forest and the mountain looked.

Just take your time reading the bus signs so you don't get on the wrong bus and end up taking an extra couple mile long hike through the mountains, okay?


1: Nikko is the correct spelling. The bus issue is a fair point but if fit you can walk there.

How to get there - this seems accurate: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3805.html

Also IIRC the bus you need goes not only past the shrines but also up to Chuzenjiko and Yumoto onsen. This may be what is marked on the signs although from memory the folks in the station were used to idiots showing up and asking "where's the bus?" in English


Rudy Rucker described a visit to Puroland in an old "SF Eye" article. Didn't sound much like the Magic Kingdom.


Sounds like you're having a great time.

I have a question for you. I was just taking a look at Mt. Fuji on Google Maps and it's streaked with orange with no snow on top. I've only ever seen it snow capped and the resolution is too low to tell what the orange colouration is.

Any idea why it's orange?


Dang! Japan is most definitely in my personal top three of desired holiday destinations, second only to New Zealand. Sounds like a blast!


"Puroland"? Amusingly, that's a cognate with Pakistan; "Land of Purity", which handily is also an acronym for PunjAb, KashmIr, Sindh, and (B)aluchisTAN.

As soon as Ms 10% and Nawaz 30% Sharia's jets swoop in, it's going to be hello kitty for Musharraf..


I used to know an anarchist astronmer in Belfast, who told me that visiting Japan was the nearest you can get to going to another planet. Sounds like he may have been right.

Anyway, I just thought I'd drop by and join the other candidates for the Order of the Brown Nose by heaping fulsome praise on the Jennifer Morgue, which I read last week.

Here's to plenty more Laundry novels, so long as they're killed off before the formula goes stale.


Tokyo certainly does suck when there's a typhoon. Unless you work here and get the day off early, which is at least nice.

There's a hot spring or spa out near Hakone where you can get your flesh fully exfoliated by a massive swarm of tiny dead-skin-eating fish. Sadly this information probably comes to you too late to try out that particular strange Japanese experience (though I think it's Chinese, originally.)

If you're still in Kyoto, you might want to consider the Bloody Temple (sadly, although I speak Japanese now I couldn't when I went there and thus, can't remember the Japanese name). The tour's Japanese-only, and it's small and not too well known. What it mostly has to recommend it is that it was built with the floor of a castle where 300 samurai, surrounded and vastly outnumbered, committed simultaneous seppeuku. You can still see the handprints and the outlines of bodies.


Matt (8), Yonessun is the place with the fish. We gave it a miss due to enormous queues.


I moved to Japan a month ago myself, and was able to spend a week in Tokyo before coming up north. If your still in Tokyo, be sure to spend a night in Shinjuku, or if your brave, Kabuki-cho!


"Yonessun is the place with the fish"

Dang, I didn't know that!

I've just come back. If you're still out there I hope that the weather has improved. Nikko was spectacular, but a complete washout and on September 12th, Tokyo appeared to experience a monsoon.

And what am I going to do about my Shinkansen addiction...