Apart From Dreams in the City of Dreams, Tokyo
Monday, 06 December 2010 07:34
DSC_0851We slowly went out passing through the wide gate of Tokyo Central Station. Finally, we reached famous Japanese capital but we didn't have any place to sleep. The only opportunity was the internet and book cafes which were open for 24 hours. We started to wander around the streets with our backpacks. Glittered streets were hosting the guests seeking for fun on saturday night but we were walking in the streets as a contradiction, the only thing we need was sleep not fun. Our backpacks were getting heavier as time went by. We were getting desperate and looking at the banks while we saw a store looking similar to what we look for. A manga cafe on the sixth floor of a building. We went upstairs in a fast way and told what we need to the receptionist only in two words and moves;"internet, sleep". We were in the right place,  the last two empty cabins were ours anymore. We walked through the coridors with many manga books on the shelves. There were a pair of shoes in front of each cabin. The doors of two empty cabins were open, a television, a computer and two futons were in. We finally found a place to sleep...

These kind of cabins are very common in Tokyo and they are open for 24 hours. The customers are mostly the ones who missed the last train or the ones who wants some privacy, some of them read books while some of them surfing on internet. These kind of places are like shelters of privacy for the Japanese who work all the day long.

DSC_0907The Greater Tokyo is a giant metropol with a population of 34 million including the suburbs and it has a unique culture compared to other cities in Japan. Tokyo is the capital of a country with 75 % surrounded by mountains and people living here pays for this by wotking a lot. That's why most of the people on the subway are either sleeping or reading books, in short they spend it for themselves. No need to say that the remaning is busy with mobile phones.

It is not so hard to observe how geohraphical limits effect the live in Tokyo. The available land is limited, agriculture and stockbreeding are not very possible. The main material of food are seafoods which seems like biggest advantage of Japan being an archipeliago in the middle of the ocean. Life is extremely expensive. Many stuff belonging to Tokyo can be linked to this expensive life. Most of the people live in little houses, they spend most of their time by working. They have 5 days of vacation in summer while only 3 in winter. The greatest suicide rate in the world is in Japan, is it a coincidence ? We also did our best to get protected for this expensive life. We spent a night in capsules which can be defined as little rooms only one can fit in horizantally. They are also very famous around Tokyo. In fact this kind of places are really reasonable, a similar one to be opened in Istanbul may make good money.

DSC_1031Another way of protection for the expensive life was to use the 100 Yen stores which we mentioned before. We went to these
stores for shopping and cooked our own food... Ok, Ismail cooked and I washed the dishes. Of course cooking our own food doesn't mean that we didn't go to the Turkish restaurant located in one of the well-known places of Tokyo, Shibuya. We met a Turkish guy who moved to Japan six years ago and who is now a cook in a Japanese restaurant. Having a Japanese restaurant with this Turkish head chef is also another good idea. I should also keep this in mind. Of course we also tasted sushi. We went to a sushi restaurant with a huge table surrounded by revolving platform around the table. The cooks are in the middle and prepare the sushi there. The customers can select any type of sushi from the platform. The cooks were surprised when we ate 5 plates of sushi while all the customers eat only 2 or 3 but it's ok. By the way, this is another good idea, I whould also keep this in mind.

DSC_0948The most attractive thing about Tokyo are the glittering streets and the crowd and the best place to observe this is Shibuya. The famous Shibuya Crossing with tens of people crossing the streets each three minutes and the fashion center of young girls, Shibuya 109 are also here... No, we didn't go there, why should we go ? The stores of well-known coffee and fast-food chains are good examples of the American influence in Japan. This was one of the most surprising things for us. The other important areas of the city are Roppongi with shopping centers and nightlife, Ginza with glittering streets and also hosting Sony Building where you can see very new models, Asakusa with its historical identity and Shinjuku with its huge train station which is visited around 2 million people everyday and known as the biggest and most crowded train station in the world. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building with a great view on floor 45 is also close to Shinjuku. The view is without fee. The only thing should be done is not to get lost in train station.

The manga culture in Japan needs a brand new paragraph, or let's call it manga madness. Akihabara is the center of this madness. It has the 6 floored video game stores as well as many electronical device stores. The other important details about Akihabara are the maid cafes, where the waitresses are dressed and behave like a maid and manga comic stores. The manga comics which are spreaded all around the world from Japan and which have leading characters with big eyes contrary to Japanese people are very popular here. The popularity of these imaginary characters that can do whatever they want in the books among quite and helpful Japanese community is really weird. Are they looking for their desired personality in those books ?

DSC_1361One of our favorite places in Tokyo is the Tsukiji Fish Market. This market is known as the biggest fish market in the world and managed by Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The connection between fishers, wholesalers, restaurant owners and fish consumers are controlled in this center. The market has an own identity, many different types of fish from all around the world, stores transfered to sons by fathers, the decrypted language among the market people and the interesting little trucks that are invented here with wide steering wheels and only one front tier are some good examples for this identity. This place is known as the only place where you can hit a by a vehicle. One of the most attractive events in the market is the tuna auction held daily at 05:30. The tuna fishes brought by the fishers are put in rows in the ground, each given a number and then the auction starts after the wholesalers observe the fish by touching or tasting. The wholesalers buy the fish in a funny auction and then then starts working on the fish in order to pass it through to their own customer as soon as they can, in other words as fresh as they can. Fresh fish is very important to Japanese people. A special method is even invented in Tsukiji in order to keep the fish as much as fresh until it arrives to the customer. The method is killing the partially in short, the nerve system of the fish is destroyed so it can't move. It sounds like brutality to us and many people but service quality which means fresh fish is much more important here. There is a temple for the dead sea creatures in the market which also serves to consciences of people working there. The line in front of the sushi restaurants at 06:00 is also a sign of people's desire for fresh fish. We lost our way while looking for the auction early in the morning and found ourselves in the middle of the wholesalers which is actually forbidden to visitors. That was a way to watch everything happening there, it seems we were lucky.

By the way, we had a chance to apply for the Chinese visa required for our next stop and we again realized that visa application procedures are much more easier abroad than Turkey. No bank account documentation, no reservation, no company documents. Again, a photograph and a trip ticket were enough to obtain the visa. I regret that we applied for some visas before starting the trip, we paid a lot for them. It was much better to apply all on the way.

DSC_1638We also had some daily trips around Tokyo. Kamakura famous with the temples and the natural beauties next to Pacific Ocean and Hakone to see the best view of Mount Fuji were two of them. We couldn't see Mount Fuji because of the clouds but we were so close to the mountain. We felt like seeing it... Ok,ok, we couldn't see anything ve all day was a complete failure. We were also getting late for the bus to Osaka because of it. It may be interesting for the Japanese people in the subway to see two foreigners rushing with backpacks, but it only means getting tired and breathing difficultly to us.

Right now, we are having the first night in the ferry that will take us to Shanghai in 45 hours. The weather in Japan was great while we were there but it's time to go to south for hotter weather. Our ship keeps sailing in the wavy Japanese inner sea passing under the bridges that connect main island Honshu to inner island Shinsoku one by one. We will keep sailing in Pacific Ocean tomorrow.

By the way, I feel like it's a great idea to open a sushi restaurant managed by the Turkish cook we met and including a revolving platform. Second floor will be a manga comic store, the third one will be a capsule hotel and the name will be Başka Türlü Bir Şey Entertainment and Life Center, sounds great...
Autumn in Japan, Kyoto
Tuesday, 30 November 2010 06:51
DSC_0530We entered through the large wooden door opened into the street. As we approach to the temple, bells and chanting voices coming from inside became more accurate. Smoke of the incense in the middle of the courtyard had begun to burn my throat slightly. At that time I stood and looked around. The maple tree leaves completely turned into red colour were gliding in the garden accompanied with the chant of the monk. We received the news of autumn in Japan's mystical city this time.

DSC_0235In recent years the name of the city is mentioned with an international agreement, Kyoto protocol. However, after this trip different ideas will take its place in my mind. Temples, Zen gardens, autumn colors, gold fish and Geishas ... Insistince of Henry L. Stimson who was former U.S. secretary of war during Roosvelt administration protected Kyoto from being destroyed in the 2. world war bombings. Therefore, Kyoto can be considered as Japan's historical and cultural capital. As an evidence 14 sites of the world heritage list exist in this city. In addition to protected history there are many modern structures in the city. Kyoto train station is not only a regular station, it is also a good example for a modern architecture. The city is surrounded by mountains and there are many temples located on the lower sides of the hills. It is also possible to see many temples in the downtown. Yasaka shrine illuminated by many lanterns in the night time is one of them.

DSC_0437Spring which is famous with cherry blossoms and the autumn are the best times for visiting the city. In autumn observing the trees turning into red and yellow colours is amazing. Therefore the number of domestic and foreign tourists were quite much. There are hundreds of temples and shrines in Kyoto and many of them are located by the road called as philospher path. We took this narrow way on a sunny autumn day and we have been to most famous ones as well as the small ones. Some of the temples in the city belong to Zen philosophy. Zen is a school of Buddishm's one of two main branches called as Mahayana. While practicing Zen monks try to discover the Buddha-nature within themselves by meditation and they try to be a enlightened Buddha. The field consisting of small stones and have a unique geometrical shape is called as Zen gardens in these temples. It is not possible to see many Buddha statues in the Zen temples unlike other temples.

DSC_0373Kyoto is also famous with its Geishas. Geishas are not prostitutes, they are entertainers. They play, sing and dance. It is possible to recognize them by the white paint on their faces and their traditional clothes called kimono. In Gion district the ponto-cho point is known as geisha area and we were able to see several geishas in this area as well but we didn't want to disturb them by taking their pictures.

As in other Japanese cities in Kyoto first ranks in the food list consists of sea products. As we walked through the food market in the city center we figured out the big difference between Japanese cuisine and Turkish cuisine. But that couldn't keep us away from eating raw fish called as sashimi. Sashami is different from sushi and it is not served with rice.

DSC_0615We mostly meet with Turkish people in every city we visit which makes us happy. The rule didn't change for Kyoto. During our visit to Kiyomizu-dera temple Turkish sounds we heard made us meet with couple Cem and Başak. The conversation started in the temple was followed by a dinner meeting the next day. We wish Cem a easy military service.

The city just does not consist of historical places for sure. There is also a life going on in the city. We had the chance to observe this typical Japanese city life by means of couchsurfing. We spent several nights on the futon beds lied on tatami in a small Japanese house. Although we moved to a hostel for last days we were not able to find any accommodation in the whole city for a saturday night in Kyoto. There is no vacancy even in close cities like Osaka, Nara even Tokyo. Anyway we already took the train to Tokyo which will last for two and half hours. We still didn't know where we would spend the night...
Note: You can reach Kyoto album from Photos menu.
From Glittering Streets to Deep in History, Osaka & Nara
Tuesday, 23 November 2010 21:07
DSC_1022We are moving along the crowd and the neon lights around are glittering. This neighborhood is known as Dotombori and the alleways are like a labyrinth, lights are everywhere. I raise my head upwards and notice that there are hundreds of cafes, bars and restaurants on the upper floors of the high buildings. I have a look at the crowd meanwhile, some of the people are on their 20's, they are soigne, cheerful and energetic.Both girls and boys are eye catching with their different styles. Remaining look tired and exhausted. Most of them have suits and ties, they are going back home after spending a few hours with friends at the end of a long, tiring day. We saw same kind of people in the subway before. These are the side effects of being hardworking, the well-known characteristic of Japanese people...

DSC_1003Osaka is one of the destroyed cities by U.S. Army during World War II. All of the historical values are destroyed within this period as well. Osaka has been rebuilt and redesigned through the years until now. This is the main cause of the huge streets and well-organized urban life. Osaka is now the second biggest city of Japan after Tokyo although it has been completely destroyed in World War II. In short, it can be defined as high skyscrappers, flamboyant business centers and Japanese people rushing in organized streets.

Japan focused on economical growth instead of physical one after the war with the help of U.S.A. and became second biggest economy in the world with the great support of hardworking and honest Japan society. Osaka is a great place to observe this situation. The city is a complete business city. It is so ordinary to see many people sleeping in the subway after getting tired at work and in school all the day. The ones who want to spend some time after work or school try to get maximum of it. Hence the night life in the city is very improved. The streets with shiny lights are full of people trying to relax after a long day.

DSC_0942Osaka is a coast city which is also good place to taste sea food, the basis of Japanese cuisine. Sea food is extremely important for this cuisine since the agriciultural lands are so limited. Apples are oranges are even sold with slices. We visited some local restaurants around and ate sushi and okonomiyaki, pancake with octopus. This is the time for aid in Turkey and people probably eat a lot of baklava and patties. So I am not quite sure which are more delicious, okonomiyaki or baklava ?

We also had a chance to observe Japanese daily life here. One interesting detail is 100-yen stores. Any item bought from the store costs 100 yen and it is a good alternative to overcome expensive life. We also saw many vending machines in every corner. There are so many of them and some drinks as well as cigarettes can be bought. And some observations about people; bicycle is very popular, we saw many people wearing suites and going to work with bikes. Besides people are very honest. They never take or use something that doesn't belong to them. A good example for me is to find my cap 3 days after I left it in the subway. Dont worry dear Ozlem, it is still with me.

DSC_1355We went to Nara, first Japanese capital in history after spending time in shiny Osaka. After a 45 minutes train journey, nature and history as well as deers were waiting for us in Nara. The city hosts World's biggest wooden building, Todai-ji Buddhist Temple and the deers are a part of the life in the city. They look so happy while eating biscuits given by the tourists. They are so famous, they even reside in the mascot of the city, a Buddha with deer horns. By the way, Todai-ji has been restored in 1709 after destroyed by a fire, it is 33 % smaller than the original size but it is still the biggest in the world. The statues in the entrance of the building who protects the Buddha according to Japanese traditions are also interesting. There were many students around as in all other historical places and museums in Japan. A group of them wanted to talk to us to practise their English. After getting prepared and checking their notes we had several questions consecutively.

DSC_1314- How are you ?
- Where are you from ?
- Do you know Hello Kitty ?

After leaving the temple, we moved forward in the forest. It is possible to see every color from green to red in the forest. Japan is great during autumn. Kasuga Grand Shinto Shrine is in the middle of the forest and looks fantastic with its red color and over 3000 lanterns. There weren't many tourists around, instead we saw some Japanese praying. We then learnt that it was time for Shichi-Go-San fest during which 3,5 and 7 year old kids wear their nice costumes and kimonos and pray for health. That was the reason why the little kids with kimonos were around with all their parents.

We already left 4 months in the journey, thousands of kilometres on the road behind and I celebrated my birthday yesterday in Japan. Again, many thanks to everyone who celebrated my birthday and the following is for myself...
By the way, you can reach all the photos from Osaka and Nara via RTW Photos link.
Happy Birthday Öcü
Monday, 22 November 2010 02:00
DSC_1020It was the first day of my career. I was not used to getting up early so I was sleepy also a little bit excited when I got to work. My friend Abdullah whom I know from school had already started in the same company just a week ago so he would help me in my first day. First he would show me my place in the company. While we were keeping on going he told me about a person: "Özcan, is sitting just next to you, he is a reliable guy."

That day none of us could know about this around the world trip but we had our first trip exactly that day with Özcan. At lunch time, from our cubicle to refectory. The journeys got longer after this short one. South America, Mongolia deserts, now we already reached to Pacific Ocean. Let's wait what we will see more. Happy birthday my travel mate.
It was the first day of my career. I was not used to getting up early so I was sleepy also a little bit excited when I got to work. My friend Abdullah whom I know from school had already started in the same company just a week ago so he would help me in my first day. First he would show me my place in the company. While we were keeping on going he told me about a person: "Özcan, is sitting just next to you, he is a reliable guy."

That day none of us could know about this around the world trip but we had our first trip exactly that day with Özcan. At lunch time, from our cubicle to refectory. The journeys got longer after this short one. Now we already reached to Pacific Ocean. Let's wait what we will see more. Happy birthday my travel mate.It was the first day of my career. I was not used to getting up early so I was sleepy also a little bit excited when I got to work. My friend Abdullah whom I know from school had already started in the same company just a week ago so he would help me in my first day. First he would show me my place in the company. While we were keeping on going he told me about a person: "Özcan, is sitting just next to you, he is a reliable guy."

That day none of us could know about this around the world trip but we had our first trip exactly that day with Özcan. At lunch time, from our cubicle to refectory. The journeys got longer after this short one. Now we already reached to Pacific Ocean. Let's wait what we will see more. Happy birthday my travel mate.
The City Where Humanity Lost, Hiroshima
Thursday, 18 November 2010 19:40
DSC_0546Miyoko (then 13) was a first-year student at First Municipal Girls High School. She was exposed to the bomb at her building demolition work site. Her body was never found, but her mother found this wooden sandal two months later. She recognized it by the straps that she had made herself using material from her kimono. The print of Miyoko's lef foot remains on the sandal.

Sadako Sasaki was exposed to the bomb at the age of two. After 10 years she has been diagnosed with leukemia related to radiation and taken to the Red Cross Hospital. Despite her pains she folded 1000 paper cranes to make her wishes come to true. She passed away before reaching this number...

DSC_0421Miyoko's and Sadako's short lives were told told in such a way in the Peace Memorial Museum at the Peace Memorial Park. These two young girls are only two of thousands of people who were exposed to the world's first atomic bomb in Hiroshima. Those people who even couldn't understand what was happening. The bomb was exploded in an altitude of 600 metres to apply the maximum affect. In the first second of the blast all lives in a 2 km of diameter was ended and in the end 200000 of people were died. People died from several reasons, %50 at the moment of the blast, %35 due to the temperature reached to 3000 C degrees, %5 initial radiation and %10 substantial radiation. People who had problems on their body due to radiation stayed away from society, they had difficulties for getting a job, people behaved differently to them. This new social group is called as "hibakusha" which means "affected from the blast". Today there are 71000 hibakushas living in Hiroshima and thousands are living in other parts of the country.

DSC_0519With Japan in an extremely weak position, the United States was considering the following ways of bringing the long war to an end. Invade the Japanese mainland, ask the Soviet Union to join the war against Japan or use the atomic bomb. The last one was much more feasible for the U.S in order to restrict Soviet Union influence besides the bomb would be used the first time in a real war and the exciting results for scientist would be possible for observing. And it happened, in 6th August 1945, at 08:15 am world's first atomic bomb called "Little Boy" was released. Hiroshima was selected as a target because they needed an urban area at least three miles in diameter for an accurate observation. There were no Allied prisoners in this city. The resuslts of the bomb was surprising even for the bomb developers.

DSC_0490A-bomb dome is the only structure standing in the city from that day. The rest of the city was all gone with the residents of the city. Hiroshima's name is always mentioned with the bomb however people from Hiroshima want it to be mentioned with the word peace anymore. That is why there is always a park, a statue or a museum called with this name in every corner of the re-built city. The city is against the nuclear armament, they are trying to inform the people in the Peace Museum by many medias. They show which country has how many nuclear weapons, and they try to tell peace is not possible without stopping these nuclear weapon developing. They try to tell how inhumane weapon is an atomic bomb by showing the melted tiles on the house roofs, even they let you touch them to feel it. Many students come to the city from other cities. They make ceremonies for the memory of the children died from the bomb in front of the child memorial. They sing songs for them, they leave the paper cranes folded with origami for the memory of Sadako. They wrote peace messages in the peace book at the museum. There is no enmity in this museum, they only mention about real peace. Even there is information criticizing Japan's past in this symbolic admission fee entry museum. Some students stop us in the Peace Park for a school homework. They ask our ideas about assuring the peace on the world. People from all over the world leave peace messages on the Peace flag in the park. We have a message from Turkey, "peace at home, peace at world".

DSC_0613Japan is distinguished from other countries for their religion which is called as Shinto. People live according to this belief when they are alive. After death they believe they become Buddhist and they have Buddhist funerals. Shinto sacred places are called as shrine and Buddhist places are called as temple. Basicly there are no statues in shrines and there is a huge entrance gate called as Torii gate. Itsukushima shrine based on the Miyajima island which is on the Inland Sea of Japan is one of the most interesting shrines in Japan. Torii gate of this shrine is in the middle of the sea and half of the shrine itself is also on a platform in the sea. Sea water comes inside the shrine but after the sunset the level of the sea is decreased and sea moves back slowly. People moslty wear traditional clothes called as kimano before coming to the shrines. They have some rituals such as washing hands, clapping hands and bowing during their pray. Wedding ceremonies are also made in the shrines. We were lucky there was a wedding ceremony at that time we were in this shrine. There are many free deers on the island also. These deers are considered as messenger of the God. These messengers are so friendly and they always ask you for food even they can eat documents in your hand by a sudden move. We didn't want our passports to be a lunch for a deer so we kept them safe.

DSC_0652We left our hostel room while our monk room mate were meditating on his bed. We will get the bullet train to get to Osaka as we did the same from getting Fukuoka to Hiroshima. These trains are called as Shinkansen which are fast trains in Japan. The front part of the train resembles a plane and they averagely go with a speed of 200 km/h. They are most common then planes in domestic transportation.

As we are in the city of peace we can not skip talking about Barış Manço, who is a both singer and a traveler. We were grown up with the TV programs he prepared. He was the first traveler we have seen in our childhood. More than 100 countries he visited and showed us on TV every week. He used to be a popular person in Japan also and he had many concerts here. We already sing his songs during our trip but we also wanted to remember him with his unique moustache. For some days we traveled the city like Barış Manço. Rest in Peace.
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