A Travellerspoint blog


Toyohashi is for Lovers

small-ish town, japan

For the Lunar New Year holiday (and coincidentally, Valentine's Day) I went to visit my friend Matty J in Toyohashi, about an hour away from Nagoya. This was my 4th trip to the Land of the Rising Sun and I enjoyed it just as much, if not more, this time around.

I had just a brief amount of time after flying into Nagoya then taking the train to the main area. After I bought my JR ticket to Toyohashi, I set my ipod down on the ticket counter...I think I had about 30 things in my hand. What am I, a rookie? I've been backpacking by myself for the better part of 6 years and yet I made quite the amateur mistake. After frantically checking all of my bags, it occurred to me that I was in JAPAN and should probably check the ticket counter just in case. Sure enough, the man behind the counter went into the back room and came back with my ipod, telling me to "Be more careful." Crisis averted.

Nagoya building.

And another (I have to give my camera's lomo style setting full credit for how this turned out).


I hauled it to Atsuta Shrine (the 2nd-most sacred in all of Japan) just in time for sunset. The amazingly beautiful roosters were pecking all about.

Shrine at dusk.

I had really miscalculated my travel time, especially just barely missing the subway and having to wait for the next one. I had to be that "ugly American" and push my way through rush-hour foot traffic (people for as far as the eye could see) and then sprint to the JR platform to make my train to Toyohashi in order to make it there in time to meet Matty as he got off of work. And I just made it!

Cautionary tale. I don't know...would it be worth it to look this cute?

Toyohashi is well known for chikuwa. Apparently, it's not just for eatin'.

Matty took me to his favorite yakitori place, which was DELICIOUS. SO DELICIOUS. Omg. Japanese food.

Edamame for an appetizer.

Chicken heart yakitori. Surprisingly awesome.

Bacon-wrapped mushrooms. DELICIOUS.

After, we went to his friend Mune's bar, Bar Rosie. Then we proceeded to drink jager bombs (in honor of Jersey Shore...I wish I could say that I was kidding) like we were 21. It got messy. We took a taxi home, my first time in one in Japan. They have automatic doors. And the driver was incredibly polite, unlike many of the creeps in Korea. The next morning was not enjoyable. Until I rallied and we went for ramen. Real, Japanese ramen.

Delicious! But....$10! But...I didn't pay! Matt's really sweet lady-friend, Hiroko paid for lunch.

Then she took us to the Toyokawa Inari Shrine, well-known for its red-bibbed stone foxes everywhere.

Matt and Hiroko reading their fortunes. I think mine said I would come into some money. That has yet to come true.
This place looked like the setting of a fairytale.
The famous stone foxes. We learned that the red bibs are meant to protect them from evil, not just a messy dinner.

Lady with hand-protectors from the cold.


That night, we went to eat more yakitori. I liked this place. They used sake crates for seats.

Matt's friend Mune. Smiling. Candid.

Oh, Matt.

Head and all. Delicious.

Japan cat band. I bet they can really wail.

Downtown Toyohashi on a Sunday:

Fascinating. $20 for a cantaloupe.
But! $1 for a Mexican avocado!

Best Valentine's ever! Matty cooked me dinner!

Was totally bummed to leave Japan and Matty, but I had an amazing time. And whatever...Chicago is only 2 hours from South Bend so I'll see you in a few months, Matty!

Posted by lrbergen 07:08 Archived in Japan Comments (0)


the future is here.

Information Robot for Canal City shopping mall in Fukuoka, Japan.

Posted by lrbergen 19:23 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Photo of the Day

this is what's up

I've decided that since I rarely have more than 20 minutes of Internet at a time, I'm going to do what many others have done before me and post a picture of the day. Hopefully I will keep this up.

So for Monday, March 26, 2007:


Taken on the subway in Osaka, Japan.

The ever-growing tie! BEWARE! (what could this possibly be advertising? thoughts? suggestions?)

Posted by lrbergen 21:34 Archived in Japan Tagged photography Comments (0)

Lunar New Year

from the oppressed to the oppressor...

So...I did it! Thursday was our last day of our crappy intensive session and we were taken out for Mexican food and karaoke, and informed that we were given a bonus for the session! Woopee!

But that's not the reason I'm writing. Friday-Monday was Lunar New Year vacation! Woopee again! So Friday morning I headed for Incheon pretty early and got to Osaka around 3:30, took the OCAT bus to Namba and waited around to meet my friend from SMC, Cassie and her boyfriend Giordan. They took me to Umeda to Hep Five department store to look around and shop while we waited for her Japanese friends. We got to ride the 20-minute long ferris wheel on top of the store that went mind-numbingly slow.


Then we went to one of the little side streets, a shopping street with restaurants, karaoke bars, and game rooms. I tried my hand at the claw machines, but about 1200 yen ($12) later, nothing so I quit. I was so close, I tell you!

We met Cassie's friends Yukari, Yuko, and Yuki (trust me, even more confusing than it looks) and went to a cool little restaurant for drinks and dinner. This restaurant was full of nooks and crannies and you sit on the floor but the space under the table is sunken so you have somewhere to put your legs.

We paid about 400 yen a person to reserve the table and we had a 2 hour time limit to drink as much as we could for 1500 yen a person, plus we got some little assorted appetizers such as takoyaki (balls of squid) and raw tuna. Delicious. Cassie's friends were really fun and funny and we drank and ate and laughed. We moved on to another bar after that because it was Yuko's boyfriend, Yoshi's birthday. Along the way, we passed strange and interesting sights.

Yukari and I really deep down feel sorry for this octopus, which will become takoyaki one day.

And I met some friends of my own. The drinking Japanese raccoon brought us together.

And a dragon invites passersby to come sing karaoke.

More to drink, more to eat, more craziness.
Cassie, Yuki, me, Yuko and Yukari at the second restaurant.

We called it a night around midnight because we needed to catch the subway. Also everyone was pretty tired.

Saturday Cassie decided to call off work and come with me to Kyoto. We first headed to Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Temple. Uh...it was nice. I wasn't really all that taken with it, but it was cool to see.

While we were there, it snowed a little bit. It was pretty warm in Osaka but colder in Kyoto. We then shopped for a minute and then got on a bus, crowded, nay packed with people to go to Gion.
I had wanted to go to Gion because of reading "Memoirs of a Geisha." Gion was historically the geisha district, but has dropped off quite a bit. Now it is very rare to see any geisha unless you shell out a few hundred dollars. I guess I was expecting rows of old teahouses, but Gion is actually very modern and full of shops.


Cassie and I eventually found a street full of old teahouses, but unfortunately we didn't see any geisha.

Cassie and I at one end of the street.

We were hungry so we wandered into a restaurant, thinking they actually had food. It was a teahouse, however, and so we split a dessert of green tea and vanilla ice cream, wafers, and a lot of other stuff we mostly didn't know what it was.
But our waitress was really sweet and spoke English. I told her she was very pretty and she said so was I. Awww.

We then headed back to Osaka where Giordan had dinner waiting for us. I taught Cassie how to play kongi (Korean jacks) and we just mostly hung around and went to bed early. I watched several episodes of "Desperate Housewives" because Cassie had a bunch of tapes and I couldn't sleep. So I got my fix of American TV for the weekend.

To be continued in the next...

Posted by lrbergen 17:57 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Lunar New Year part deux

more from the land of the rising sun

Sunday morning I headed back to Kyoto, to a different district called Arashiyama, known mostly for its scenic qualities and temples. It's full of tourists, mostly Japanese, and my guidebook said it becomes quite full during cherry blossom season and fall when the leaves change. I mostly just wanted to see a bamboo forest, so I took a suggested walking tour that my guidebook recommended. Thank God for guidebooks.


A waterway near the train station.

Statues near the side of the road.

Bamboo forest! This was way more beautiful than the picture suggests. It was much cooler in it and the air was crisp and clean, a very nice break from the smog and pollution of the big cities in Japan and Korea.


A Shinto cemetery near Tenryu-ji, a temple.

More bamboo. You're actually being spared, I left out a lot of these pics as I have about 10 of just bamboo.

A house on the path.

Another cemetery.

I came upon Okochi Sanso, the house of an old Japanese silent-film actor. He built this house here because of its serene surroundings and kept beautiful gardens. It was 1000 yen ($10) to get in, but was well worth it for the views of Kyoto and the green tea and cake I received afterwards.

In the garden

The actor who lived here.

His actual living quarters.


The mountains behind the house.

And a view of Kyoto from the shrine he built. Again, you're being spared because I have about 5 of these.

After I left there, I continued on with mostly nothing much to see. It was very peaceful, with very few people and nature and temples surrounding me. Corny it sounds, but...it's true I guess.

A pottery store in the middle of nowhere.

A sign for yet another temple.

I doubled back and ate a lunch of...I don't know what the Japanese is, but it was buckwheat noodles with seaweed in broth with a side of tofu. It was so-so, not really my cup of tea. Although I did get tea with it so...I don't know. I spent about 6 hours in Arashiyama, walking and taking pictures. I finally headed back around 5 pm because it was getting late and dark and cold.
The train station.

I got back to Osaka around 6 and went back to Cassie and Giordan's apartment. It was decided that I would go look around Shinsaibashi and Amerika-mura (America village), which are both known mostly for shopping and people in outrageous fashion, and then we would meet for dinner.
One of the side streets.

A lantern/robot. I thought it was clever at least.

And a mural in Amerika-mura.

A fashion victim on the subway.

We ate at some restaurant and I ate some stuff which I have no idea what it was called but it did the trick. Again, we went to bed pretty early after I packed and then woke up early and headed to Shinsaibashi for some last-minute shopping and SUSHI! I don't know if you all know, but I have a love affair with sushi. Unfortunately, Cassie doesn't like it so Giordan and I went while she was at work.

The restaurant had the conveyor belt where you take what looks good and pay by the plate. So for about $10, I got full on delicious authentic Japanese sushi.
Then Giordan took me to the bus station and I went to the airport, my plane was on time, and in no time I was back in Korea. My friend Scott informed me that one of our teachers decided to just leave without telling anyone. But now we have a new teacher so everything's all good.

Sorry I wasn't more thorough, but...that was basically it! I got to see Gion and a bamboo forest, which was pretty much about all I wanted to see.
And now a final thought:
Japan was really great. The people were incredibly polite, the streets were very clean and the subway was quiet (no eating, drinking, or talking on the phone!) Everything was automated (ticket machines in the subway and train stations) and they drive on the left side of the road. People ride bikes EVERYWHERE...there are rows upon rows of bikes lining the street. However, everything was VERY expensive and my friend Cassie doesn't really get the same benefits as we do living in a cheap country. So, while Japan was a nice place to visit, I wouldn't want to live there. I think maybe Korea is the opposite: it's a nice place to live, but I wouldn't want to visit.

Posted by lrbergen 23:23 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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