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JAPAN | Excursionists

The Japanese Toilet Seat

Now, don’t get me started on the Japanese toilet seat!! 

Well, ok, I will anyway…..they are EVERYWHERE !!

NOT just in the fancy hotels, but in restaurants, train stations, bus stations, department stores, I read somewhere that 70% of Japanese HOMES have them too !

Now, it’s not JUST that they are heated and that in itself is a wonderful thing, the remarkable thing is that they have an inbuilt bidet with a little arm that pops out and sprays various bits ( does give you a fright if you are not expecting it ! ) AND the most elaborate ones even have a hot air dryer, so you never have to use toilet paper again ! Just think of how much you could save on toilet paper alone !


I noticed that they were for sale in the duty free department stores in Akihabara, ( electric town), I’m curious about how many tourists buy one to take home, could be very interesting explaining these to customs !

Nagano by Bullet

I got my Japan Rail Pass today which allows me to travel anywhere in Japan by rail so I wasted no time in jumping onto a bullet train, something I’ve been wanting to do since we arrived !

Where to go?

Well, it was a case of sticking a pin in a map and seeing what it lands on ! It landed on a city called Nagano, which I discovered was the host town of the 1998 Winter Olympics !

SO, right across Japan to the other side I go!

The bullet train is wonderful, it’ SO fast you almost feel you about to take off, I travelled about 260 kilometres in just under an hour and a half !

It’s very relaxing to just watch the world go by and the because you are going SO fast the scenery changes very quickly from the built up city scape to exotic countryside !

I didn’t stay in Nagano for very long, just an hour’s walk around then a quick turn around back on the bullet !!

Plenty of time to browse through the ‘train shop’ magazine, and look what I found:

Ian Poulter hat for
Japanese golfers ??
Much healthier train food than the
crisps and nuts we get in the UK !

Walking Tokyo

My day yesterday was spent….walking! With a few metro trips thrown in of course but I must have walked miles, just soaking up the atmosphere of the city !

I started off at the Imperial Palace Gardens, very peaceful and extreme well manicured as you might imagine ! Fell in love with the most beautiful, ancient wall hanging in one of the Palace art galleries, it’s not the best of photos but you can see how the white flowers blend in to the clouds perfectly !

After a looooong walk through the Tokyo National Garden, metro to Akihabara which is ‘electric city’ in Tokyo, full of the latest gadgets, robots etc, a geek heaven actually.

Another metro ride to an old part of the city for a peaceful walk along the river.

Quite a long day, but lots of fun !!

Tokyo Inner Fish Market

Visited the Tokyo Fish Market today, the Inner Market where tourists are not REALLY supposed to go. Missed the famous tuna auctions though, not surprising as they normally take place at 5 am  but there was still PLENTY going on.

It was fabulous to see a traditional part of Japanese daily life in much the way it has gone on for years and years !

Lots of photos below, went on after the market to a ‘sushi making’ lesson so watch out those at home , you will no doubt be my guinea pigs !

Mount Fuji and Volcanic Fissures

Mount Fuji and a visit to the Mount Komagatake Ropeway to the summit where volcanic gasses are leaking out of the mountainside creating ‘hot springs’. The smell of the gasses was incredibly strong, sulphur mostly although there were warning signs pointing out the dangers of the gasses for those with asthma, luckily we didn’t stay there too long.

One of my favourite photos is this one where you can just glimpse Mount Fuji through all the volcanic gasses.

The man in the photo is actually dunking a wire basket full of eggs so that they cook in the hot springs water, apparently the ‘older’ generation like to visit the hot springs to eat the eggs, believing it will give them another few years of life and health!

The eggs turn black in the water, hmmmm….just didn’t fancy eating one somehow !


First Authentic Japanese Sushi

We didn’t waste much time before trying out the ‘real thing’ in a sushi restaurant in Tokyo and have now  discovered just HOW different authentic sushi is to the ‘westernised’ version we have in the UK. There was NO ‘California’ roll, NO ‘Dragon’ roll, just pure sushi,basically LOTS and LOTS of totally raw fish.

I have to admit that my favourites in the UK are the California rolls with LOTS of soy sauce and wasabi but I must say that the ‘authentic’ sushi experience WAS fantastic !

So, the way it works is this…….

We sat at a long counter, as in the UK BUT, the main difference is we had our own chef ! Once we had ordered, our plates were laid out immaculately !

The chef then prepared each piece  of sushi in front of us and placed it precisely in the centre of the plate with a description of the fish and how it was prepared. Then, he stood back and waited for us to finish before preparing exquisitely,  the next piece !

Now, with regard to the wasabli and soy sauce that I usually plaster my sushi with, he VERY delicately painted on a thin coating of soy sauce on some pieces  with a tiny smidgeon of wasabi on others, with a very firm suggestion as he arranged them on our plates, ‘NO extra soy sauce with this !

It WAS a very special meal and I ate fish I’d barely even heard off, even raw king crab. VERY tasty actually!

This sushi restaurant was recommended to us by our hotel as being on of the most authentic where ‘all the locals’ go , it was a great recommendation although she did omit to mention that it is virtually impossible to find. We walked in circles trying to find it and at one point must have  looked SO lost , poring over a street map which was half in Japanese,  that one lovely Japanese man virtually ripped the map out of my hands with his enthusiasm in wanting to help!

This was just one more example of how incredibly helpful and friendly the japanese people are. It was only a few minutes earlier that one man had gently pointed out that my shoelace was undone, before bowing and quietly going on his way!

Eventually,we found the restaurant with the help of another lovely Japanese man, who, once he had pointed us in what he THOUGHT was the right direction, came RUNNING to find us to tell us he’d made a mistake and led us by the hand until he’d found it for us.

Not ENTIRELY our fault we couldn’t find it as we had been expecting a little restaurant at floor level, this one was on the 6th floor of a building with the sign in tiny Japanese writing so no wonder we had been going round in silly circles !

Anyway, to cut a LONG story short, it was a great find and lots of fun !

Am I really like an electronics store ?

Not sure whether to be offended or not when, after deciding that my hand luggage needed to be checked, the airport security guy said ” Crikey’ it’s like an electronics store in here ! ”

Well, I KNOW I don’t travel THAT light, but………



FUKUSHIMA: Japanese engineers raced to prevent a meltdown at a stricken nuclear plant today, as rescuers scrambled to help millions left without food, water or heating by a devastating earthquake and tsunami.

A second explosion rocked the Fukushima nuclear complex yesterday and rapidly failing water levels exposed fuel rods in another reactor, but the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said the crisis was unlikely to turn into another Chernobyl.

Rescue workers combed the tsunami-battered region north of Tokyo, where officials say at least 10,000 people were killed in the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that followed it.

“It’s a scene from hell, absolutely nightmarish,” said Patrick Fuller of the International Red Cross Federation from the northeastern coastal town of Otsuchi.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan has dubbed the multiple disasters Japan’s worst crisis since the Second World War and, with the financial costs estimated at up to $180 billion, analysts said it could tip the world’s third biggest economy back into recession.

The big fear at the Fukushima complex, 240km north of Tokyo, is of a major radiation leak. The complex has seen explosions at two of its reactors on Saturday and yesterday, which sent a huge plume of smoke billowing above the plant.

The worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 has drawn criticism that authorities were ill-prepared and revived debate in many countries about the safety of atomic power.

Switzerland put on hold some approvals for nuclear power plants and Germany said it was scrapping a plan to extend the life of its nuclear power stations. The White House said US President Barack Obama remained committed to nuclear energy.

International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano said the reactor vessels of nuclear power plants affected by the disaster remained intact and, so far, the amount of radiation that had been released was limited.

“Japanese authorities are working as hard as they can, under extremely difficult circumstances, to stabilise the nuclear power plants and ensure safety,” Amano said, adding at a news conference later that it was “unlikely that the accident would develop” like Chernobyl.

The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), said fuel rods at the No 2 reactor were fully exposed. This could lead to the rods melting down.

The rods, normally surrounded by cooling water, were partially exposed earlier after the engine-powered pump pouring in this water ran out of fuel. Tepco said it was preparing to pump more cooling water on the rods.

There were earlier partial meltdowns of the fuel rods at both the No 1 and the No 3 reactors, where the explosions had occurred. A Tepco official said the situation in the No 2 reactor was even worse than in the other units.

A meltdown raises the risk of damage to the reactor vessel and a possible radioactive leak.

“If cooling water is not returned, the core should melt in a matter of hours,” said Edwin Lyman, senior scientist for global security programmes at the Union of Concerned Scientists which lobbies for stronger security and safety measures at nuclear plants.

Crucially, officials said the thick walls around the radioactive cores of the damaged reactors appeared to be intact after the earlier hydrogen blast.

But the government warned those still in the 20-km evacuation zone to stay indoors.

Nonetheless, US warships and planes helping with relief efforts moved away from the coast temporarily because of low-level radiation. The US Seventh Fleet described the move as precautionary.

South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines said they would test Japanese food imports for radiation.

France’s ASN nuclear safety authority said the accident could be classified as a level 5 or 6 on the international scale of 1 to 7, putting it on a par with the 1979 US Three Mile Island meltdown, higher than the Japanese authorities’ rating.

Japan Tsunami







THE tsunami unleashed by the killer earthquake off Japan raced across the Pacific Ocean at 500mph, the speed of a jumbo jet.

As far away as Chile – 10,000 miles across the Pacific – coastal residents were advised to get to higher ground.

The quake – 8.9 on the Richter scale and the sixth biggest ever recorded – was more powerful than any nuclear weapon.

It caused a huge rupture in the seabed, about 250 miles long, and sent a vast wave storming westwards to batter Japan, another headed south to Indonesia and yet another surged eastwards towards Hawaii and California.

Seismologist Alice Walker of the British Geological Survey said it was 8,000 times more powerful than the quake that killed so many in New Zealand earlier this year.

She said: “The seabed was moved up between two and 10 metres. This triggered the tsunami which travelled at the speed of a jumbo jet, at 500mph.

“This meant you could predict when it was going to reach Hawaii and Vancouver Island.”

Dr Alex Densmore, of the Department of Geography and Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience at Durham University, said: “The total energy release is equivalent to about 6,700 gigatons of TNT or 6.7 million megatons – far greater than any nuclear weapon.”

Japan is especially vulnerable as it sits on the north-west edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a 25,000-mile series of faults.

Along this huge fault line some of the most powerful natural events in history happened, including Krakatoa, the Indonesia volcano that erupted in 1883, killing 40,000 and producing the loudest sound ever, heard 3,000 miles away.

The BGS head of seismic hazard, Dr Roger Musson, said: “The cause of this quake is that the Pacific Plate, which is one of the largest of the tectonic plates that makes up the crust of the Earth, is plunging deep underneath Japan.

“It’s being pushed down and it can’t slide down smoothly, so it sticks. It sticks for tens of years and then eventually it breaks and buckles.”

The huge volume of water that is displaced then can create enormous waves going out from the epicentre. But as tsunamis reach shallow water they slow down to about 15mph, said Ms Walker.

“They can either crash in as a wall of water or give an early warning by sucking water from the shore out to sea before pounding the coastline.”

But even at 15mph, the waves are deadly. “It is too fast for you to outrun it,” she warned. “ If you are on the beach when it hits, it will be too late to flee.”



Pictures from the earthquake in Japan, they have to be seen to be believed !

Disaster in Japan

An energy map provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
shows the intensity of the tsunami in the Pacific Ocean caused by the magnitude
8.9 earthquake which struck Japan on March 11, 2011
Tsunami Wave Height

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami as it happened March 11th 2011