Tuesday 23 October 2012

Weird sandwiches, bizarre hotels and more people than I have ever seen before!

1st and 2nd of August.

Oh my, the previous day’s practise with my new camera was all for now.  Let’s just hope that the controls are under my understanding…  For a trip to Niigata was on the cards.  Why, for some impressive fireworks.  We were booked onto a tour bus and had to meet in Tokyo with the guide for another shinkansen ride to the hotel.

So, a we made our way to Tokyo, allowing me more chances to take some happy snaps with my new camera!!
With the miniature mode on of course!


Once again, food on the train.  This time though, I found some sandwiches!.. It would seem that all sandwiches (or サンド - sando in Japanese) have their crusts cut off.  Plush!


Look at that, for your information, I have a Pastrami Beef and a (wait for it) Cream Cheese Berry!!   Perhaps not so starnge sound like that, but it was different to what I thought it would be!

The Pastrami one looks normal enough, but the cream cheese berry was something else!!!  It has berries (check), cheese in a slice form (check) and Cream (as in whipped).  Not quite what I was expecting, which was a berry cheesecake thing in a sandwich.  It was most definitely a new experience, I have never had whipped cream in a sandwich before (funny that…) but there you go.

Another pic to show the, inventiveness of this sandwich and the awesome Engrish on the packet!  Woo!  I love Engrish!


The better half went for a more traditional Japanese salad.  It even came with a soft boiled egg in a separate container!


A rather unexciting super fast train ride later…  I didn’t even have a good view from the window, being low down.


Yup, my window was at platform height.  Since most of the track for the shinkansen is surrounded by barriers, I couldn’t see much at all.

Once off the train, we then had a bus ride which lasted a while to get to the hotel.  It was getting late in the day and we only had a half hour to drop our stuff off before jumping back on the bus to head off to the fireworks place, which would take an hour or so to get to.  This might seem like an excessively long trip, but as you will see later, it was probably the best that could have been done at the time…

The hotel was a curious place, when I first laid eyes on it, I was somewhat taken aback. 

Look at that building.  A weird kind of Swedish design or something?  I think with the size of the building, the brown cross panelling is just a bit too much.  Once again, this is a Ski resort during winter it comes complete with an onsen and rotenburo as well.  Where the fireworks are held, Niigata, is a well known ski town.

No time for a quick bathe, back on the buss to the fireworks!  I had plenty of leg space, being the only baka gaijin on the tour.


Getting there a little late (luckily, as well planned by our tour director) we got off the parked bus and as we had a half  hour to kill went off to the shops that were near by.  I was shocked.  Firstly by the incredible amount of tour buses and secondly by the incredible amount of people.  I kid you not, imagine a packed car park at a shopping centre during Christmas, swap the cars for huge tour buses and that is what it was like.  The director told us that his company alone had 6,500 customers for this one day.  And that was only ONE tour company!!!!!

So the shops were naturally packed.  Probably the busiest time of year for them as they weren’t anything special, we made our way back and met up with the others to find our reserved spot.

Once through the bus-park (it wasn’t a car park, that’s for sure) I was again shocked by the incredible amount of people.  Probably more people than I have ever seen in one area in MY LIFE! 

BEHOLD!!  This would have been a 360 panoramic shot if I could have been bothered linking them together.


People from horizon to horizon, and some over the hill, from bridge to bridge.  ZOMG!

Testing the powers of my zoom!


The circled bit in the second photo is the section that I zoomed in on in the first!  HOLY CRAP!

As the evening moved along, we were blessed by a little bit of nature’s wonder!  A full moon arose, providing a beautiful red circle to precede the fireworks.  The moon continued to light the way throughout the whole fireworks session!  truly it was an amazing night!

Of course it’s red due to the junk in the atmosphere, but it is pretty.  AS it got higher, it got brighter and some cloud cover added more atmosphere to the uh, atmosphere…  (<.<)  (>.>)


It’s gonna be a goooood night!!

Oh and the sunset was pretty too!


A little while later, the Fireworks started.  It was well done, I have to say, they spanned 2 hours and we had a list of what was going to be on display and there was an M.C doing the advertising and such like as needed.  Behold some of the pictures.

Or, most of my pictures.

Phew, what a lotta piccies.  Of particular interest was the Pokemon sponsored section, which had a Pikachu firework.  It exploded and kind of resembled Pikachu’s face.  Hmm, why doesn’t Pikachu come up with a spell check line when I type it?


The final barrage of fireworks was pretty good, although it peaked a bit earlier, so our guide had us up after “The Phoenix” and we were making our way to the bus.  As were quite a few other people…


Chaotic shots as we left and made our way to…

The car park.  we jumped on the bus and was out of the car park in about 10 minutes!  However, once on the road, we were stuck at some traffic lights as we crawled up the street, that took about half an hour or a bit more but once we made it through, it was clear sailing all the way back to the hotel.

Which was fortunate, the fireworks finished at 9 pm, we got moving at about 10ish and back to the hotel at 11pm.  our guide informed us at the toilet stop (Approx 10.30) that other buses hadn’t even moved from the car park!!  A bit before we arrived back and some of them were on their way, so about an hour behind us!  I am glad we headed out early! 

That gave us some good time to make use of the hotel’s onsen facilities without being hassled by hundreds of others who have the same idea…  So a nice bath later and it was time to hit the sack.  The room wasn’t bad, but you could tell it was a bit old, it had beds and a tatami section where you could roll out your own futon if you wanted.  the only real downer was quite a severe one for me.  I am not sure of it was meant to be a non-smoking room, but it certainly smelled of cigarette smoke.  The placement of an ash tray on the table kind of makes me think that it becomes a non-smoker’s room when a non-smoker is in there…  It made my throat feel really skanky and made me feel quite crappy in the morning.

That marked the beginning of my flu.

And naturally, the yukata wasn’t big enough for me.  I think this makes 3 out of 3 hotels that didn’t have a large enough Yukata…

The next day was a buffet breakfast, with somewhat mediocre food.  The buns felt a bit stale and if you didn’t feel like a Japanese breakfast your options were pretty much limited to mini sausages, scrambled eggs and coffee.  It was all a bit confusing in placement as well, I ended up pouring green tea onto my not-great-tea teabag…  I did scoff down a fair few sausages and eggs though.  They were nice.

The morning heralded the chance to take some shots of the lobby of the hotel.  Crazy.  All that panelling was a bit much for my tastes.


A few pictures of the grounds as we left on the bus.  A couple of years ago, the main road leading up to the hotel got flooded and washed out the road!  It seems they are only just finishing up the repairs now!  Yowsers!


The post fireworks day consisted of free-time running around Niigata.  Which is something I was looking forward to.  The guide mentioned a number of places with tasty soba and it seemed the rest of my companions on the buss would end up doing a food tour…  We opted to head up this ropeway for some nice scenery and gardens, which involved a bit of walking through the streets, which is what I like.

Miniature mode rears its head again.

Up the ropeway and the view was amazing!!


Holy!  Wow!  Juts wow!

It was a fairly hot day, well not so much hot, but humid and with no or very little cloud cover you really felt it.  Surprisingly it was noticeably cooler  at the top of the mountain.  Which was a great relief!  The mountain had a fair few people rolling around and it was very pretty.


There were flowers and an incredibly clear little lake with Salamanders (possibly) in it as well as a lot of tadpoles.  Of course, I was testing the abilities of my camera too.



There was a rock garden as well.


And it’s at this point the batteries in my camera ran out….

So I borrowed the better half’s.


The water in the taps here was so fresh feeling.  Nice and cool.  It was warm up the mountain and it was up here that I learnt of the joys of a wet towel resting on your neck for heat relief.  Very handy!

What an incredible spot!  It was very beautiful.  And so after taking the little local bus they had up there (which got VERY full) we headed back down.


Bye bye….

Once we got back to street level, we decided to have some ice cream.  So we dropped in to a place and ordered.  Icecream filled strawberries, Kakikoori (ice shavings with syrup), green tea ice cream and I ordered an Azuki cafe ore, but had a normal cafe ore delivered.  The amount of times I have ordered a drink in Japan and gotten something else is incredible, the worse being at Burger King, ordering an “orenji jusu” ( orange juice) with my meal and receiving a cola (ko-ra).  When I order my drinks now, I am very conscious of pronunciation and I thought I VERY clearly said Azuki…  But there you go.

Strawberries, KakiKoori
Green tea Icecream (Super Yummy!!) and normal cafe ore (iced)

Hmm, my Azuki (red bean) cafe ore.  Azuki are down the bottom.  And yes, I was able to keep the first cafe ore too!  So I shared that with my travel companions!

We then headed back and I think it was about time to catch the train home.  We nabbed some more obento for the shinkansen ride back to Tokyo.


Man, Japanese Obento (lunch box) are amazing.  Mine is on the left, sealed.  I will go through it layer by layer…

Paper cover is off.  The chopsticks are resting on the top,under the wrapper.  Or are they?  See that white circle in the corner by my finger in #2?  That’s a little sticky spot to keep the chopsticks in place.

Take the lid off and a sachet of wasabi paste is there, sitting over some paper to help seal the container.   Take off the lid,  and look at what’s underneath!  Pickles, mushroom, shredded crab and rice.  All this for about 900 yen.  And it was yummy too!

The rest of the trip was fairly plain.  I had to take my new camera back to the shop as the viewfinder screen had a dead pixel.  They swapped it for a new one!  Oh yeah.  Non of this ‘cluster of dead pixels’ rubbish that I faced with my TV.  How’s that for service?  It was a long round trip though, I also picked up a new tripod too.  Ha ha ha!

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