Flight to Narita sucked. At least the checkin guy at Brisbane hadn't charged me for my 6 kg of excess baggage. (Actually 12kg, but you get 5kg free excess) It was meant to $69.84 PER KILO!
But Narita didn't suck. Narita was awesome. After finding an ATM that took my card, I found out that they only give out 10,000 yen notes. Yay, $120 AUD being the smallest note that comes out. (It's also the biggest Japanese note) Went and got a ticket for the train, after reassuring the lovely guy at airport information that I wouldn't miss my flight. He had been telling me where the train station was, and where ATMs had been.
Rode the train, pretty sure that I'd gotten on the right one. Not all the trains stop at narita, a lot of them rush by for Tokyo and co. More joy following my nose out of the train station, and trying to correlate my little brochure with the real world. Japanese signage everywhere. Started walking, confidence is key. Quite a sight, it really is different here. It's really cold, and really early, and the shops are mostly all shut, some are just starting to open up for the day, roller doors clanking up.
There are school kids walking around, the girls are only in skirts and socks. Big coats, but short skirts nonetheless. They don't seem to be shivering too much. After walking a good 500m or so, I came to a sign in English. It stands out like a sore thumb. It says I'm going the right way :)
The Shinshoji Temple complex, my destination, is awesome. Again here, vendors were just getting set up for the day, and upstairs, there was only a couple of people picking up garbge and sweeping the gravel. You can see a pagoda on top of a hill, at the top of some super steep steps, and it's pretty enough, Very surreal location, carved inscriptions on blocks everywhere, really neat. Then you find another set of super steep steps out the back, and you come up to a huge sqare with temple after temple. Massive places, and lavishly decorated pagodas. Some of these had signage in English as well, but most were signed in Japanese.
After sticking my head into a few of them, including one with a set of the complete writings of buddha, mounted on a wheel that could be spun, (granting you the blessings equal to a complete reading of scripture) I headed off into the park behind the complex. Or I thought it was a separate park. It was aactually just part of the complex. A rabbit warren of tracks, leading past statues, figurines, engraved stone slabs, all hidden amongst the trees. Peeking through the trees I spied yet another temple, and headed off to visit it.
This one was huge, with fountains and pools at it's base, and huge stone steps leading up to it. Exquisitely decorated inside. I walked around a bit more, and then decided it was time to start heading back. I got some sushi and pasty from shops by the train station, and then hopped back on the train, feeling like a hardened veteran now. Even if I did have to watch someone use the ticket machine first to work out how to use it. :)
This flight was much better. Got to see Mt Fuji and the mountains of Japan, then packice forming off the Siberian coast. Then immense desolate Siberia. Which seemed to consist entirely of snow covered plains, and enormous frozen rivers. Rivers rivers and more rivers, all heavily braided and meandering. Eventually we came over Western Russia, and Denmark and northern Germany, which were covered in dense farmland, and finally on to Britain. Saw tower bridge and a castle from the plane, and then braved yet another strange countries transport system. This time it was in english though, so barely worth mentioning :)
You're going the right way
Streets are funny.
More tight streets
Magic vending machine food
By the first pagoda
Back down the steep steps to the first pagoda