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Friday, December 11, 2009


Yesterday, we arrived in Hakodate by an express train called the super hakucho (swan). On the train trip on the way we went on the longest tunnel in the world by train under the water about 240 metres for 23.3 kilometres. It was quite scary going under it knowing you were underwater. Once we were out of the tunnel there was snow on the ground which was exciting but the train kept going because we hadn't reached Hakodate yet. When we arrived in Hakodate however there was no snow. When we arrived we went for a look around and had some lunch. Dad and I had curry and gyoza for lunch. Then we went to a cable car which took us up a mountain that had lots of snow on it. I really enjoyed playing in the snow and making a snowman - something that I don't remember ever making before. Then we came back and checked into the hotel which is called Toyoko Inn. We then went to a beautiful outdoor onsen and went to our Italian buffet dinner feeling very relaxed. The buffet food was very nice and we were some of the only people in the dining place so we felt like we had it to ourselves. Then we went home and sank down on our comfortable beds and went to sleep.
By L

Yuki Daruma

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Disney Sea!

Disney Sea!

On Tuesday we got up from our very comfortable beds at approx. 7:40 to get to breakfast at 8:30. Breakfast was really nice at the Ryokan and all Japanese food. On Tuesday, I was really excited because we were going to Disney Sea (Disney land except next to the sea and with better rides!). Dad wasn’t coming with us to Disney Sea because he was going to organise something for next year at a Japanese school. We left the Ryokan at 9:30 and got onto a train to the Disney Resort station. Disney had their own mono rail line so after we got to the station we had to go on their mono rail to get to Disney Sea. All the stations were Disney Land, Disney Resort and Disney Sea. When we got to Disney Sea J and I went to a French bakery type of place and we had a couple of pastry things with a drink. Then, we went on a boat trip to the other side of the theme park (Disney Sea was quite big). When we got off on the other side, there was a ride called Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. We decided we might as well go on it as it was just where we were. When we got in the line was HUGE!! We must have waited at least 45 minutes to get into the ride. When we were on the ride, it was very jerky and quite scary. It was really fun though. Then, we went into a place called Ariels playground with an under the sea theme which was cute. We went on a few rides there and I went on a good rollercoaster by myself. Then we decided to get some lunch and we found a good hotdog stand selling hot dogs. I bought a drink and then we went to a small café where I bought an ice-cream and J bought a hot chocolate. Then a parade started on the water and I went to look at it. It was SO loud!!! There was music blasting out of the speakers on high! Then Dad arrived, and J left

"Starbucks" はどこ???

On Monday, we didn’t have a very busy day but we did lots of shopping. First we went to a place Asakusa which had heaps of little souvenir shops. I bought a little key ring from outside one shop and after I bought the key ring, the lady in the shop literally pushed me into the shop so I could keep looking in the shop. She was pushing me quite hard and I wasn’t rude enough to push her back, so as soon as I got into the shop I walked out a different way. Then, we went to get a coffee/hot chocolate for afternoon tea at starbucks and I learnt how to ask in Japanese: スターバクスはどこですか。That means ‘where is starbucks?’ I also had a sausage roll (which they called a sausage pie).
After that, we went to Akihabara, where we bought G something which I wont write in case he reads this. There were lots of technology stores around where we were which were interesting to look at but strangely dressed up girls on every corner. They were wearing maids dresses and other weird things advertising café’s.
Then, we went to an internet café which was when we last updated this blog. It stank of smoke (the internet café, not the blog!) because there were people smoking there which was disgusting. Then we went to a small tempura place for lunch which was very nice tempura. We shared 1 plate because we weren’t very hungry!
That night was Dads night off taking the boys to dinner so we could go where we liked. First we went for dinner early at an Italian place which was delicious- if not very small! We had gnocchi and a small salad and shared them. I had ginger ale and dad had wine. Then we went to a really nice shop place called Tokyu Hands (ときゅうはんず). It had 8 levels all themed and interesting. We bought some stuff for people which we wont write about in case….
Then we went home and Dad posted a couple of coat-hangers and we went to bed on time for a change!!

Monday, December 07, 2009


Yesterday we arrived in Tokyo at lunch time and got lunch as soon as we arrived. The teachers got lost on the way back to our meeting place, but luckily everyone else found their way back to the train station and all the students were waiting for us when we arrived a few minutes late. We met up with our friends Kiyo and Tetsu and Ria and they took us to the Meiji Shrine, Harajuku, Omotesando and Shibuya! (by L)

The Meiji Shrine was amazing, with a Korean wedding, a Japanese wedding and all these kids dressed up for Shichi-Go-San Festival! Then one of the boys got a nose bleed in the middle of it all! A very bad one, luckily someone had some water to clean the ground up...
I (Gwyn) have never seen Harajuku so busy, it was literally wall to wall people. We had to work to get from one end of Takeshita dori to the other, but we made time to get an incredible crepe on the way, I had cream, ice-cream and peach. L had chocolate ice cream, cream and thats all.

Shibuya was also V busy, but we stopped to talk to our hosts, while the boys walked around tiring themselves out. A traditional ofuro never felt so good, at the end of the day - L and I are convinced that the Ryokan traditional guesthouse is far better than Japanese hotels! We have a private garden and veranda on our room... Cheers to all, G and L.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


Today, we caught the fast train to Nara in the morning. We all had train tickets with allocated seats! It was raining all day, so when we got to Nara, we all bought umbrellas for ourselves. We walked through the absolutely packed with deer deer park. We then went to Todai-ji Temple, the largest wooden building in the world. It used to be bigger, but it burnt down and got rebuilt again - smaller - but still the largest building in the world. There was a lot of incense and candles there. Inside, there was a hole which would 'enlighten' you if you crawled through it. I crawled through it but got a bit stuck on the way because I went in headfirst. I managed to get through in the end.
By L

fears... of swine flu and...

Fears of swine flu - evident in Japan from the groups of students we saw today with face masks on. Later at Kiyomizudera, at the fountain which everyone wants to drink - of pure water - the cups they were using were being instantly purified by use of ultraviolet rays!

Still, having a great time - December not as cold as I thought as yet - but I could be speaking too soon!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Winter Japan

I've only experienced Japan in winter twice, both times whilst we were living there between 1998 and 2000. I'm pretty sure we didn't travel either, so this year is really going to be a revelation. We're off on Tuesday morning, to arrive in Japan about 9pm that night...

Our trip is going to start off in Kyoto for 5 days, including a couple of day trips to Himeji and Hiroshima. Hiroshima is the farthest south we'll venture, and then we'll head north. Three days in Tokyo, followed by Hachinohe (Aomori prefecture), Hakodate and Sapporo. I'm expecting by this stage to get out the scarf, gloves, and thermals. Most times when I've gone to Japan, its been mid summer, sweaty, Tshirts, shorts and summer festival season.

L and I are going this time, after I took G last year - it'll be fun for L to tag along I think, along with 12 students from school and another teacher.

Onsens will be the order of the day, something to warm us up, after braving the cold. At the top here is a photo of us at a most memorable onsen in our time in Japan - with friends - fun! Apparently the onsens of the north are renowned, so hopefully we'll be able to get to them up north. A brother in law of a teacher at our school happens to be a Professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute, so I'm pretty excited that he'll organise a talk with an hibakusha (Atom bomb survivor) in Hiroshima. It'll be a chance for us Aussies to hear another side of the war to Anzac Day and Gallipoli. Also, K in Tokyo has organised two friends to meet us and take us around Harajuku, Shibuya, Yoyogi park on a Sunday - Kakkoii!!

I'm meeting a Principal in Tokyo for lunch, while my students go ahead to Disneyland... hoping to set up some sort of exchange, which has eluded us for a while.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Flu tracker

Here you go, a flu tracker, to keep track of how virulent that piggy flu is... Look, Australia's got 666 cases - but most of them are in Victoria, where I live...! Its not that bad really.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

'tween mountain and beach

I would recommend this campsite, between Mt Maunganui and the beach, we could watch sheep grazing, crazy guys jumping off the mountain on hang gliders during the afternoon and as late a 8.30pm in the dark, and walk across to the surf beach when we felt like it.

The bonus was the saltwater pools, on the other side, which warmed us up after an afternoon in the surf.
The top one is our photo, after our walk this morning to the top of this volcano.
Having decided this was a better place to spend our last day in NZ, we moseyed our way through a final day, and then headed up to Auckland in time to check in to a place close to the airport for our 4am start tomorrow!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Isn't this just as long as Welsh words?

The Maori 'thermal' village we visited today. We were planning originally to visit the buried village as well, which has been called NZ's pompeii, but decided against it in the end, on the basis of general prices in Rotorua, and our fast disappearing funds!

This is a shot of the geothermal forces at work in Taupo... G warming himself nicely. This was probably 20 minutes walk from our caravan park.

Our bath at the caravan park, scalds a bit on entry, we are also staying on thermal ground, just so that our backs stay warm during the night - you would have thought most caravan parks would offer this service in the 21st century?

Anyway, they also do pretty well with the showers, though the steam is a bit off putting!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Made it up Mt. Taranaki two days ago and found snow, to L and G's delight! Does it look a bit like Mt Fuji? Less people and less rubbish, though!

Easter in Aotorea - we tried to find a church, and found 5 churches. Eventually we went to the Anglican (with the Methodists) and heard 'in the name of the F,S and S' in Maori.

By the way, here is a photo of our lunch in our hotel we stayed in in Wellington.


Friday, April 10, 2009

More photos from Wellington

Okay, so here we were today, next to Wellington harbour, quite a stunning view isn't it. Right next to us, at this point, were about 10 girls and guys, who were taking turns jumping off a diving board, about 5 metres off the water. A fairly cool day you would have thought to jump in, with a top of 14 degrees, but at least they'd waited until the warmest time of the day. You probably can't see it, but in the background behind L and G are a whole lot of snow covered mountains, which gradually came out from behind cloud.

The waterfront has skateboarders, bikers, tourists and a massive building called the Te Papa Tongarewa, an impressive museum, which you definitely need more than a half day (which we had) to see. Some of the best bits are about earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanos, which for some reason, us Oztralians don't take much notice of.

Anyway, later, we met this friendly gent, who was only too pleased to let G have a pat of his dog.

Tomorrow, we head for Mt Taranaki, a volcano (of course). Not sure when our next internet access will be available - this cafe offering in Wellington has been too convenient. We could get used to adding to the cacophony by skyping from our pub where we're eating our irish stew!


We realised this morning, that for G and I, NZ is the first country we've gone to out of Australia that still has

English as a common language. All of us are starting to see some commonalities and some big differences between NZ and Oz. Flying in last night at about 5pm NZ time, we had an amazing view of the northern part of the South Island mountain ranges, which we saw this morning at a cartographer was a part of a 'relatively new' mountain range, due to the fault line, which goes right up NZ, and is especially pronounced on the SI. Snow capped peaks are not a common sight for us aussies.

The cable car this morning was beautiful, and up the top of the mountain, we read the narrative from Mark, and reflected on Good Friday, which must have been so different to a sunny Wellington day, especially if there was an eclipse, and three hours of darkness. Though cold here, the sun makes it feel warmer than it is. By Easter Sunday, we're hoping to be up to Mt Taranaki on the west coast. This'll probably make it harder to blog etc., but we'll see how we go.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

NZ here we come...

If you were looking at this picture of the North Island of NZ, what would stand out for you and what would you want to see? There is a big lake in the middle and a massive pimple of a volcano on the Western side. These are my must sees next week when we take off to NZ.

Starting from the south and working towards the north, our plan is to tackle the North Island and to do it justice. Probably difficult to do it justice in 7 days, but anyway! Yes, I've heard of the mud beach in the north - probably also a must do with 2 kids, Rotorua and so forth and if we have time, we'll venture north of Auckland to the Bay of Isles... More to follow! (Back to parent teacher interviews!!)