Well. That was fun. I’m not posting a final video because nobody is really watching. I didn’t exactly get an audience, but I had fun and learned how hard it is to plan, shoot, and edit videos all while travelling alone. Maybe I’ll do another one someday in some other part of the world, but that’s it for now.
I am in Hiroshima now. You’ve of course heard of that one thing that happened here, but that was a while ago. Today it’s a bustling city with a lot of promising dots on the map. Tomorrow I’ll see what kind of trouble I can find here. This poll is for where to go the day after that.
1. Tour Shikoku.
Shikoku is the little figure-eight-shaped island wedged partly between Honshu and Kyushu. It’s rural, mountainous, sparsely populated, and definitely less traveled. There are a number of towns with little historical neighborhoods and restored castles or there are a number of places for a good hike (I’d like to conquer a mountain somewhere before I’m done over here). It looks like there’s only one train on and off the island, though plenty of boats I’m sure. I think little Shikoku is going to be a longshot in this poll, but at least it will always be the easiest place to start in Shogun 2.
2. Urban Kyushu.
Kyushu is the big southwest island dripping down off the rest of Japan. An urban Kyushu vote means that I’ll go to Fukuoka (the largest city, on the North coast) and head from there towards Nagasaki. Nagasaki is of course known for that other thing that also happened a while go, but it’s got cool stuff going for it too. For example, there’s a crazy abandoned island and an active volcano nearby. Personally, I would get a little kick out of going to Dejima, the only place in Japan open to Europeans for over 250 years, even though there’s really nothing left of the old trading port.
3. Rural Kyushu.
A vote for rural Kyushu, on the other hand, means I’ll take the bullet train right to the end of the line in Kagoshima (the Southern end of Kyushu) and head up the east coast looking for secluded country adventures. There’s a scenic volcanic mountain range, a famous mythological gorge (Amaterasu, the sun goddess, once locked herself away in a cave there because her little brother was being annoying), not to mention the hot spring capital of Japan, Beppu. Incidentally, one of my heroes was born in a small town on the east coast of Kyushu. It’s Fukuzawa Yukichi, the Ben Franklin of Japan, who dedicated his life to introducing western liberalism to his countrymen in the late 1800s. He’s still on the ¥10,000 bill today. What a boss.
This poll is closed.
Ok, everybody. Here’s the deal. My original plan may have been ambitious, but I think I would’ve kept pretty close to it had I not gotten sick. I’m coming out of it now though, and I want to get back on track. With that in mind, I left Kanazawa, came down to Kyoto, and posted a rather raw video of all that.
The next poll is for activities in Kyoto. This city was home to the Imperial court for over a millennium. There are literally more famous temples, castles, gardens, and palaces to see here than I could possibly get to even if I didn’t go anywhere else for the rest of the trip. There’s so many that I’m not even going to try to see them all. I would rather see as many different regions of the country as I can. I will give you a chance later to overrule me and keep me here, but for now I have chosen 7 possible day trips to fit into my currently planned 3 more days in the Kyoto/Osaka area. Each IP gets 3 votes (I haven’t checked but I assume it doesn’t let you put all 3 into one option). When I wake up in about 12 hours I will plan my day around the one with highest votes, and so on for the following two days, but the actual poll won’t close or change each day. Abuse it however you want.
So here’s the choices:
The Golden Pavilion is a Zen temple in North Kyoto whose upper stories are entirely coated in gold leaf. It is also set in a large traditional garden, with of course a number of somewhat less famous temples in the area. I’ll be sure to swing by Shimogamo shrine on my way up, since my favorite anime (Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei or “Tatami Galaxy”) was set in that neighborhood.
A large and very old Buddhist temple in the hills East of the city. It is known for its large veranda with a view of Kyoto, and for the traditional construction methods (supposedly there isn’t a nail in the place). It’s also a nice area for a stroll through the woods, and it’s the closest thing on this list to place I’m staying.
Another famous, beautiful religious site, this one South of the city center. I put it on this list specifically because Satoshi, the super nice dude who gave me a ride up in Fukui, recommended it. He called it a “place of power” if I recall correctly. Sounds good to me.
Gekkeikan, one of the biggest producers of sake and plum wine (and according to wikipedia one of the oldest companies in the world), has a museum on the historic production process of sake, as well as a tasting room and shop of course. I think this is the only thing on this list that isn’t a World Heritage Site, but on the other hand if you don’t vote for it you are a communist.
Yet another storied, ancient, impossibly gorgeous shrine. This one is particularly known for a network of paths completely covered by thousands of torii (those red wooden gates Japanese shrines are famous for). I would sort of pass through downtown Kyoto to get there.
Himeji is actually a town a couple of hours West by train. The castle there is the most thoroughly restored and maintained feudal castle in Japan. Just look at any picture of that place. Dang.
Nara is the original, oldest capital of Japan, a short way south of here. The Imperial court moved away to escape the encroaching power of all the growing Buddhist temple communities (looking at all the temples in Kyoto, I don’t think it worked so well), and it’s still full of historical sites. A particular draw for tourists apparently are the tame (and formerly sacred) deer in the park.
So there you go. Hard choices, I think. Good thing I don’t have to make them. I would probably just flip coins…
EDIT (25 May): Blasted out two things today. Here’s a video.
This poll is closed.
So I’m slow now. I caught a Japanese cold on my way out of Tokyo. I spent about half of yesterday blowing my nose loudly on trains, just because I know they hate that. Now I’m in Kanazawa and I’m holing up for the day taking pills (as far as I can tell there’s no cough syrup here), drinking tea, and making a couple more videos. For continuity’s sake, here’s a poll:
What should I do about this cold tomorrow?
1. Pray it away.
I’ll go to as many local shrines (of the traditional polytheistic religion, Shinto) and temples (Buddhist) as I can stomach in a day. I don’t know if the Shinto gods care about gaijin (foreigners), but Buddha’s a pretty international guy. Eh, he’d probably just say it’s karma for some bullshit I did in a previous life. Stupid fatalism.
Also, the most famous temple in town is Myoryuji, the so-called “Ninja Temple” because it had a bunch of traps for intruders built into it.
2. Get drunk on the beach.
I don’t think it would actually help, but I could really use a drink. I feel like I’m missing out on one of the best things about Japan: absolutely no open container laws. I would love to have a tall Sapporo in hand on a beach, as well as on the train ride there and back.
3. Find an onsen.
A hot spring, that is. I’m sure there’s a few around; they’re everywhere in Japan. And if you’re thinking “Are you sure you should be getting into a public bath when you’re spewing cold germs everywhere?” then my answer is “Probably not, but those fucking salarymen in Tokyo shouldn’t be going to work and taking public transportation when they have whatever form of Japanese wasting sickness they gave to me, so I’m just paying it forward.” Seriously, Japan. Take your fucking sick days.
4. Relax in a garden.
It’s called Kenrokuen, and apparently it’s a big deal. People say it’s one of the most beautiful in Japan, though people say lots of stupid stuff sometimes too. It’s a bit too late for the cherry blossoms, but there’s plenty of other flowers out still. I am pretty high strung right now for being on a vacation; maybe that would calm me down.
This poll is closed.
I am in Tokyo and my first poll is closed. The winner (by 1 vote): Kanazawa! As soon as I finish up with this blogging business I’ll hop on a train for Fuji and see what I find around Aokigahara. The next poll will go up once I make it to Kanazawa tonight or tomorrow (my time, not yours).
For now I’ll leave you with a portrait of Emperor Meiji, who assumed direct control of the country when the Shogunate was overthrown in the 1870’s. Under his rule, Japan rapidly industrialized and became a major military power, defeating China and Russia in separate wars. Apparently, I wasn’t supposed to take this picture; jerkass museums.
Hello! This is a travel blog. I am going to Japan, and I am crowd-sourcing my itinerary to the internet. Starting May 15th, I will go wherever you send me for 3 weeks. Once a day (or as often as possible) I will post a video and a new poll.
Here’s where you vote! Go ahead; decide which bullet train I should take. I’m feeling lucky.
1. Tohoku to Sendai
Sendai is the largest city in Northern Honshu, the main island of Japan. It was founded by the legendary Date Masamune in 1600. Many historical sites in the area are associated with the Date clan (including Masamune’s tomb). The most famous local dish is gyutan (beef tongue), which I would love to try. Also, the nearby Matsushima islands are considered to be one of the most iconically beautiful places in Japan.
Sendai has the unfortunate distinction of being the sister-city of Riverside, CA.
2. Joetsu to Niigata
Niigata is a large-ish city on the western coast, just across from Sado island. Honestly, I’m not sure what I would find there, but that can be fun too! I’m not on this trip just to stay on the beaten path. There is a small castle in the city, and not too far away is Kasugayama Castle, which was the home of another famous Sengoku warrior, Uesugi Kenshin.
3. Hokuriku to Kanazawa
Kanazawa was the home of the very rich Maeda clan during the Tokugawa era (roughly 1600 to the mid-1800s). Unlike most Japanese cities, it wasn’t fire bombed by the US during WW2, so there’s a lot more traditional architecture here, including the old geisha district. The region is also particularly famous for its seafood (including sushi, of course).
4. Tokaido to Nagoya
The 3 great unifiers of Japan, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, all got their start in the area of Nagoya. It later became an industrial hub and major port, but the place is still littered with history. In particular, I would love to see the Tokugawa Art Museum, which contains the private collection of the local branch of the Tokugawa clan. Not far away to the south is Ise, home to the most sacred Shinto shrines, and the Kyoto/Osaka area is of course further down the same train line.
I’ve had a special request that I go to Aokigahara Forest, on the northwest slope of Mt Fuji. You may have heard of it as “suicide forest,” but it is also an exceptionally beautiful place with views of Fuji and several famous caves. Since it’s not too far out of the way, if you send me to Nagoya OR Kanazawa, I’ll take a detour around the North side of Fuji-san first.
This poll is closed.
This is my travel blog.
Starting May 15th (2015 for the time travelers out there), I will be backpacking through Japan. Every day (or as often as I can manage), I will post a video on my Youtube channel and a poll here. If you want me to go somewhere, just stop by here and vote for it. I will go wherever you people send me, and have a kickass time there.