My three week trip to Japan was mostly improvised. I didn't know what was going on more than a couple days in advance, except for one or two reservations made before departing for the trip.
Flying into Tokyo was uneventlful. Wandered around for a bit and went to bed early to catch the Shinkansen for Kyoto.
The Shinkansen (bullet train) is pretty unreal, especially with the JR rail pass, which gives you unlimited train travel. With the right timing you can flash it at the station gate and be on a train across the country in under a minute.
Most of my time in Kyoto was spent meandering. Was adjusting to some minor jet lag, and getting the feel for the important things: how to use a ramen machine, trying all the vending machine options, etc…
While there I spent the night in a 9hours capsule hotel. Capsule hotels are generally for drunken business men, but this one is geared towards backpackers and tends to be booked solid a few days in advanced. $30/night, pretty great option for solo travel.
Scoped out some temples, then hopped the train to Takamatsu.
Was susprised to cross this massive series of four bridges between the Okayama and Kagawa prefectures. Took around 20 minutes to cross.
While in Takamatsu I stayed at the Kinco guesthouse. The owner, some friends and I went to a local natural hot springs (onsen) that night owned by the architect who designed the interior of the guesthouse. He also designed the onsen.
Caught the first ferry boat out of Takamatsu to the island of Naoshima, which is known for several contemporary art museums and installations.
Unfortunately it was raining the day I went. Traversing between museums meant being stuck in crampt, croweded busses with loud, damp European tourists. Typically you'd rent a bike and pedal around the island, taking breaks between museums.
Koyasan is home to Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism and the largest cemetery in Japan, and a lot of temples. I stayed at Koyasan Guesthouse Kokuu. Called it an early night and woke up at 5 to hear some chanting in a temple.
After two nights in Koyasan I headed to Nara.
The purpose of visiting Nara, beyond simply going, was to catch Taylor Deupree of 12k Records perform at the opening night of Sonihouse, a venue showcasing speakers designed and constructed by Manpei Tsurubayashi and Anna Hasegawa.
The sound was amazing and the music was good. Afterwards a dinner was prepared by Volver which was mad delicious.
It turned out that there was a national holiday that Monday, and half of Japan was visiting Nara to see the fall foliage in the park, which made locating accomidations very hard. Lucked out and found something *very* last minute.
The next day was spent meandering around Nara, frolicing with deer, feeling the onset of temple fatigue and eating the best toro sashimi on the planet.
After a quick stop in Osaka I headed to Nagoya to catch some rest on the way to Tokyo, but not before first visiting Kawagara. It's a quiet town south of Tokyo, popular with surfing, and has a real nice onsen near the beach.
Grabbed some food at this spot basically located on the train tracks before heading to the local onsen.
Back in Tokyo I booked an apartment through AirBnb for five days. Let me settle in a little bit. Met up with some friends and did a set for Dublab.jp, which will be archived and available to listen to in around a month.
Did the tourist thing and hit up some of the obvious museums and sights.
Also caught a glimpse of the Nagakin Capsules by Kisho Kurokawa, the primary example of Metabolist architecture. Was pretty wild seeing this in person.
After a few nights in Tokyo I caught the train up to Sapporo, on the north island Haikkado.
After a few nights in Tokyo I caught the train up to Sapporo, on the north island Haikkado. It's around a 10 hour train ride from Tokyo, but I managed to mess up and get on a small local train in the wrong direction. Turns out it ran every two hours. Shit.
Still was fun. Part of the trip involved the longest/deepest undersea tunnel. Sapporo is a sleepy town compared to Tokyo. The day was pretty mellow as I was tired from late nights in Tokyo.
Had some coffee and planned to go on a hike, but the ski lift was closed for maintnence. I wanted to get some altitude, and it turned out there was a lift to the top of the ski jump used in the 1972 Winter Olympics. Why not.
The next day I woke up early and headed over to Moerenuma Park, the last large-scale work by Isamu Noguchi.
It was snowing the whole afternoon, alternating between snow showers and full on blizzard. The light was unreal.
The park is built upon an old landfill. An agreement was made before the landfill was opened that it'd be turned into public space once full. Added to the whole experience.
Inside the glass pyramid you could rent skis or snow shoes, but becuase there hadn't been enough accumulation in the season they provided rubber boots, which did the trick.
After two days in Sapporo I headed south to Sendai—about halfway to Tokyo. To get from Sapporo to [town name] I took one of the last remaining sleeper trains in Japan. This is going to be replaced soon by a Shinkansen—these old trains are a dying breed. That lazy doxond tho.
The last few days in Tokyo were pretty low key. Mostly went to parks, bookstores and ate lots of food.
I did catch a couple shows, one of which was Alva Noto, who I've been wanting to see forever. Catching him in Japan was special. Sound systems in Japan are unparelleled, ha.
That's about it. As I'm writing this sentence we're around 45 minutes out of LAX. Good timing.