A Travellerspoint blog

A month on

rain 16 °C

Its been nearly a month since I last wrote, which might possibly mean that people have given up checking this. But I shall write anyway, and tell you all to come read.

I have been at British Hills a month now and feel right at home, I think the next 6 months will fly on by. There has been a bit of turbulence, where I have been unsure that I made the right decision, but as it stands now, all is good. And I know that if that were to change, I would just go back to Tokyo, I would have to give a months notice here anyway, so that would give me time to plan.

I have mostly been working in the refectory 8-10 hours a day depending on how busy it is. At weekend it is very busy, we have had several weddings and public holidays so its been packed in the refectory. I work most evenings, and then either the morning or afternoon depending on which shift I'm on. Most days we have a buffet three times a day, often there is school groups in who have this, and some of the private guests will have it for breakfast and lunch. But in the evening the private guests will often have a service menu, ranging from about 20quid for starter, soup, main and dessert up to 45quid for 2 starters, soup, fish, sorbet, main and flambe for dessert. Within a week I was waiting on my own service tables. Which was actually easier than I thought. The challenge then came the other day when I had 3 tables to wait on with 3 different menus and arriving at 2 different times. But it actually flowed very well. And all customers went away satisfied. There is talk of me doing the flambe myself one day, so i will keep you posted on that.

The uniform that I have to wear is black trousers, white shirt, black waistcoat and bow tie. I feel like an fool but at least im not the only fool!

Like i said we have had several weddings, and for this we must wear an even more foolish looking white jacket with gold shoulder things. They are a nightmare to serve because no one stays in their seat and we have to get like 7 courses through them in a couple of hours! Also it involves a lot of preparation, moving tables and setting them etc. Then we have to have them all moved back in time for dinner when we have to set up all the service tables also. last Saturday was particularly nightmarish, a wedding followed by i think 21 service tables and buffet for 80 odd.

I have been on a couple of outings with some of the others, when we haev had the same days off. Last week we went to Utsunomiya, which was ok. Did some shopping during the day, well browsed because im trying not to waste my money. I did buy myself a watch though, because mind was playing up. I decided to go for something fun, so I bought a Sesame Street watch, which just fits and im also allergic to! But hopefully it will pass!

in the evening we we to an all you can eat and drink for 2 hours. I tried some rather disgusting foods such as tounge and like chicken skin or something. Now good. But the rest of the food was and i got my moneys worth of drinks. We then went to an irish bar, where i stupidly drank a pint of Guinness. Needless to say i was sick! We were planning on staying over night, but we couldn't find anywhere good to go, or anywhere to sleep so we ended up catching the last train home and getting picked up by Noriko after she finished work.

the other trip, i just got back from visiting Tokyo again. The 6 of us girls went to Disneyland. We didn't arrive until 1pm because we had to get the 9am bus down the mountain before getting the train for a couple of hours. It was very busy because monday had been a public holiday and the schools also had off the tuesday! Just our luck! As we weer approaching the ticket office, the speakers were telling us that ticket sales had closed for the day and would not reopen until 4pm!!!! Luckily we got there and got in ok. Queues were enormous and we ended up queuing a couple of hours for Space mountain first. We then took a wonder around the park and stopped to watch the parade. It was a special Halloween one. from here we queued for another couple of hours to go on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Which has been updated this year in light of the films being made. So the film was based on the ride which is now based on the film!! I guess they have done it to all of them. basically just putting Jack Sparrow around the place. By the time we came out of here the evening parade was going on. We did some shopping, and sat and watched the light parade, followed by fireworks. Standard Disney parades. We left the park at 9pm. Satisfied that the rides aren't amazing anyway, unlike alton towers, you go more for the atmosphere of disney.

By 1030 we reached Shibuya, and I returned to the shabu shabu place I had been to on my second night in japan. Again having all you can eat and drink for 90minutes. After this we went to a night club and danced the night away. At about 3am we retired to an internet cafe. In individual booths we sat/slept in our reclining chairs, eating free ice cream and drinks until 8am. Only cost 1200yen (about 6pounds!) so cheaper than a hostel.

In the morning we had planned to shop for a couple of hours and then catch the 11am bus back to Shirakawa, however we couldn't find out where to get the bus from and the shops didn't open until 10am. So instead we took the train and arrived in Shirakawa earlier then planned. the bus back to British hills wasn't for another hour so we did a little shopping, however because we had not booked the bus it didn't wait for us and we missed it, leaving us stranded at the bus station for 3 hours until the next bus came. A shower and some food, followed by writing this and i am ready for bed!!! Photos to come on facebook!!!

Posted by leiasj 10:08 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Cold Mountain

rain 20 °C
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I realize that it has been a while since I last updated this. Not because I haven't had internet access, in fact I know have free internet whenever i want, but I have started to settle into a routine now. So things aren't quite as action packed!

So last Monday, I did have a busy day. And I actually may struggle to remember all that I did, but here goes. In the morning I went to Asakusa, to see a temple called Senso-ji. Once again it was raining! The walk to the temple from the station is via Nakamise-dori, which was full of touristy things to buy, however I have to restrain myself a lot more then when i was in Africa, because things will have to be sent home... or wherever someone is that can receive it, since "home" will be empty for a year. The temple was very interesting and it was interesting to see how the different people visiting it reacted. Generally westerners were taking lots of photos, (myself included) and enjoying the experience. Whereas for the Japanese people it was more of a spiritual experience. The temple is, but don't quote me on this, the oldest in Tokyo. according to legend it enshrines a golden iamge of Kannon (the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy) which was miraculousl fished out of the enarby Sumida-gawa by two fishermen in AD 628. The image has remained in the same spot since, but the present temple only dates from 1950. You cannot see the image, but people still worship at the top of the stairs. I followed suit, and paid 100yen to have my fortune told. After depositing the money I shook out a stick from a box, I then found the corresponding draw and abstracted my fortune sheet. I was not good news, I will have bad fortune in all areas of my life apparently! Thanks. At the bottom of the stairs was a incense cauldron which people rubbed the smoke from over themselves as it bestows health.

From here I returned to Ueno park to visited some of the statues, shrines etc that I missed the previous time through inexperience and tired feet. First statue I saw was the Saigo Takamori statue of a samurai walking his dog. By far my favorite statue EVER. Behind this was the tomb of Shogi-tai soldiers. who fought against the emperor in 1868 (sounds like Star Wars). I then went across to Benten-do, a temple on an island surrounded by a lily filled lake. Then onto the Benzaiten temple, which wasn't a very good temple really. And I don't think many people even noticed it there. I then found a Buddha. Having been destoryed a couple of times by earthquakes, it now stands in a wall. On to another shrine, this one called Toshogu, dedicated to Tokugawa leyasu. I then stumbled upon the flame of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which after the USA dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, a young man went in search of his uncle and found a flame still burning months after the event, he bought the flame back to Hoshino-mara to remember his uncle and resentment towards the USA. Over the years its meaning has come to be a call for the abolishment of nuclear weapons and for peace. The same flame has been burning for 60+ years and has been transferred as far as NYC. Last stop in Ueno was the Kaneiji temple, which you couldn't go very close to but it was a pretty good temple.

I walked down from Ueno to Akihabara, otherwise known as electric city. This is the place to buy all your electrical goods because the place is full of stores, and you can haggle with them a bit. Not needing anything electrical, I didn't spend long here. I was however trying to find a suitable pair of trousers and shirt for my new job. This proved to be quite a mission, although it was here that I found Uni Qlo which did have something suitable at a reasonable price. However, being a dumb ass I did not buy them.

From here I took the train to Shinjuku, to try once again to find the Government building to go up for a good view of the city. Success! It was quite cloudy, as i have come to expect here. So I could not see as far as Mt Fuji. But still a decent view of the city, and cost me nowt.

I tried to find the shops that I had seen when doing my walking tour of Shinjuku, however I once again go lost in the abyss of the station. Things aren't simple here. The trains are privatized which which results in much confusion even amongst locals. So after wondering aimlessly for a while I just got back on a train to Shibuya. I tried to find a uni qlo here, but to no avail because the website was only in Japanese! I wondered up to Harajuka to try and find a shop, but apart from some semi suitable second hand shirts and mens trousers everything was too funky for British Hills. Perfect if I was actually going shopping mind.

Time passing, and I met Alex and Chris for dinner in Shibuya. We had shabu-shabu again, but in a different place that wasn't all you can eat. Was still pretty tasty. After this we went to a pub for some drinks.

I arranged to meet Alex to go to the sumo on tuesday. However with him having to travel across the city, i wasited for him for nearly and hour and gave up and went by myself to the stadium. Luckily the tickets we got (the cheapest) meant we could sit anywhere, and with us attending in the morning when no one else was there it was easy for us to spot each other across the stadium. So in the morning are the lower ranks, and things run pretty quickly. The place fills up around 4pm and it becomes more of a show and takes longer for each bout. Around lunchtime I needed a break from Sumo and also needed to buy my clothes still so I went back to Akihabara and bought those that I had seen in uni qlo.

The next morning, I finally left the hotel, to go and live at another hotel! I had to go to Tokyo station with all my things, and catch the train to Shin-Shirakawa. I was paranoid about how long it would take me to get there, and catching the right train so that the bus would be there to pick me up from the station. So I actually ended up catching an earlier train and had to wait at the station for an hour. I would have had to wait for longer because the information on the British Hills website was out of date But instead a car came to pick me up. From Shin-Shirakawa the hotel is 40 minutes UP a mountain. I later found out that the guy who picked me up had the previous week crashed the car because he has glaucoma in one eye!

I arrived at my new abode and immediately met some of the people I would be living and working with. Everyone here is very friendly. I was shown to my room, being bigger then my room at home and my uni room. And i don't even have my crap here to fill it so it is easy to keep tidy! I was then given a guided tour and saw all the amazing facilities they have here. The english speaking staff here on working holiday visas like myself are contained in one building, like uni halls. We have a kitchen, living room and computer room. But with a staff canteen that provides us with free food the kitchen is barely used.

I am working in the refractory, which is working out pretty good. Turns out I make a very good waitress. After just a couple of days I had my own tables to wait on. There is always people around to ask for help, and like I said everyone is friendly so they are happy to help out.

The types of people that we serve vary. We have large school groups who are here to learn English, and are taught by the teachers here. They also learn things like calligraphy and cooking scones. These groups usually have the buffet that we have. We also have couples or families who just come for a day visit or overnight. Same with businesses. These might have the buffet, for one or two of the meals in a day, but might have one meal of service. These meals range from about 3000 yen to 10000, which is like 40-50pounds! This is like 7 courses of fancy food including flambe. At the weekend we also had a couple of weddings here they have a western service in the chapel.

Most evenings after work everyone meets in the pub. We get 50% off the drinks which brings them down to British prices for us. But also we are allowed to have our own bottles behind the bar and just pay for mixers. You could even have your own of those.

Yesterday was my birthday and my first day off. So with Kathryn I went down the mountain to Shirakawa. Its pretty basic but you can get everything you need there. Except I couldn't get a watch. But i did get some shoes for work. sine the onces that were comfortable enough for D and A were killing my feet after 8 hours waitressing. I found a random pair that had been left by previous staff to wear for the next couple of days. Shoe shopping was a little difficult because i wanted something comfortable and also in my size. western feet are much bigger then Japanese womens feet. So I ended up buying some black converse, which hopefully look smart enough. I also bought some cheese candy, which is amazing! although they don't really do cheese here. But this bag is full of individually wrapped pieces of cheese like sweets! amazing! Kathryn treated me to a chocolatey dessert for my birthday and we return back to British Hills.

In the evening we played snooker for a little while and then went to the pub. I ended up having 3 shots of tequila given to me, which I surprisingly managed to stomach considering i wasn't drunk. And i wasnt hung over for my 7am shift this morning. As opposed to the previous night when I drank beer, cider, jim beam, red wine and vodka! The girls had arranged balloons and a cake from the tea rooms for me which was a lovely suprise.

Today I had tried out the swimming pool, sauna and jacuzzi. I felt like i had my own private pool because no one else was in there, jsut a camera watching me in reception which was kinda creepy. Off to work again in 2 hours. Hoping to have my own tables to wait on again.

Photos at-

Posted by leiasj 15:29 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

tired feet

quite different to happy feet

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Saturday I decided to be a proper tourist, especially as I was planning to move out of Tokyo soon with a job, but more on that later, So i got up early and went to the Tsuiji fish market for 7am! It was interesting to see the catch for the day. Except I dont really like sea food, as the previous nights experience should emphasize. There was lots of fish that was so fresh it was still swimming!

After 30mins walking around I was fished out. So decided to take a walk into centre tokyo. I had planned to go to the Sony building to check out the new technology, but with it being so damned early, the building wasnt open, and i wasn't going to wait 4 hours for it to open. So I kept walking and saw Godzilla! there was also a huge queue outside this theater, which i'm not sure what it was about but the women seemed very excited about it!
I walked on to Hibiya park which was nice enough, but not as good as the Imperial palace park right next to it, so i went there instead for longer.

The palace itself is only open twice a year, once on the emporers birthday (23rd Dec) and also on the 2nd january. But the gardens are pretty cool themselves, lots of little buildings such as those the samauri hung out in waiting for an attak and a music hall. Also got some good views oft he skyline with the park in the foreground.

I was going to walk up through electric city onto ueno. but my feet and legs had had enough so i just took the train to ueno and left electric city for another day! In ueno park i visited the national museum which was quite interesting, even though i needed to rest my feet and didnt feel like walking up and down all the stairs!

ON my return to the hotel i went via Shibuya (well its not on the way but the internet is cheaper). So then i found out that i have got a job at British Hills that I wanted doing waitressing and possibly bar work. Its a hotel resort where people (particularly the wealthy and school/university students) can experience britain and practive their english. So no need for me to learn japanese like most hospitality work in Tokyo would have me do. I have a 6 months contract there after which i will get a bonus. So i will be using the bonus to change my travel dates so that once i have done my 6 months i can spend all the money i will have earnt travellnig around japan, down to Osaka and Kyoto. Tokyo is about 2 1/2 hours from the hotel but if i get my 2 days off a week together I can go to tokyo. And also i get 7 days paid holiday so maybe i could travel to Tokyo then also. Food and accomodation is free, and i get 50% off drinks at the bar! So although the wage equates to 4pounds an hour i have very few expenses so it works out about the same wage as a teaching job in Tokyo would pay and i would much rather do this work! i dont think i have the patience for teaching! In my space time i plan to teach myself some japanese, and think about getting lessons.

So on Sunday, the JAWHM had arranged for us to attend the Asunaro Association Festival. Still not sure waht it was exactly. the first hour seemed to be a bit of an anual business meeting for the association, patting each other on the back for a great year. But I knwo no japanese so it could have been anything. Needless to say i was getting very bored. then some guy came out and played some russian guitar!! very weird!

things got much better after that. we went downstairs where a japanese buffet was laid out, i avoided anything that might have tentacles hiding in it! and we had some beer. there was more entertainment that had more of a japanese theme. One guy did some paper cutting. he was barely paying attention to what he was cutting and yet managed to produce this wonderful geisha cutout. i was taking a photo and he gave me one to keep. he continued to cut temples, samauri, and a koala for an australian guy! Another guy was making animal lollies, and made me a monkey, not becase I was born i the year of the monkey, but because i like monkeys!!! far nicer than rat one! After this i sat down on a mat and some women in kimonos bought me this weird sweat thing and some green tea, which was quite tasty, it is better hot then cold like i had last time.

After this the guy who runs JAWHM took us on the sea bus over to Odaiba, which i learnt got its name from the canon that they fired from the island at the americans when they invaded. We didnt do much here except have a drink but it was nice to go somewhere i wouldnt have thought to go otherwise. And that brings me to Shibuya again where i am at my regular internet cafe. will not be ordering any food mind!!!

Posted by leiasj 19:17 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

cruising the red light district

by accident

overcast 29 °C
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So i've been here 4 nights now and I've been very busy!

SInce I last wrote I went on a Japanese style night out with the woman who picked us up from the airport and some of her friends. Started with a traditional meal of shabu-shabu which involves a split pot of 2 soups in the middle of your table, one is spicy the other is mostly just water. You then add your veggies to cook slowly, then you add some thinly sliced meat and sloosh it around, it suposedly makes a shabu-shabu sound! Was very tasty anyway, and it was all you can eat and drink in 2 hours so we had our moneys worth. After this we went for karaoke. Not the down your pub kind, but proper Japanese karaoke. The 8 of us went into this booth (well small room because we were a big group) then you search through an enormous catalogue to find the songs that you want to sing. We got accoustomed to some Japanese music first by the others singing that. Then me and Alex had to take a turn so we sang Wonderwall, later we sang Rock DJ. It was certainly an interesting experience, but also quite expensive,so it probably won't be a regular activity for me. The envening ended with a trip to one of the photo booths in an arcade of them. It was a bizarre experience, lots of sounds and shouting from the machine. The 8 of us crammed in and posed several times. Then we came out and used the machine next to it to draw on the photos. There are lots of little animations to choose from and you can write on them also. We printed them off and got about 5 different photos each.

The next day we went off to the JAWHM office again for more job searching. Not very interesting. But from this I went for a job interview for a teaching job. I got it without even trying or wanting it, but something to go for a while as I wait for other replies. That night we went out for dinner again and I had a spicy noodle soup dish.

Thursday I spent 2 hours teaching 2 Japanese women english. It was alright, but with having no inclination to ever be a teacher, it wasn't exhilerating. Afterwards I met Alex at Shibuya and we walked up to Harajuka. It would be better if I could afford to shop because there was some really cool things. But it was still a nice area to go to. We did miss a temple nearby, but there are plenty of others to visit. Typhoon was coming in so we retreated to the hotel and spent the evening there. Had some chow mein for dinner, which was average.

Friday morning I went back to the JAWHM office again. Just searching around on the internet for jobs again. In the afternoon I took myself off to Shinjuku for a walking tour recommended by Lonely Planet. I came out of the train station the wrong entrance but found my way to the first location ok. Was just a huge video screen really, but looks typically Japanesey. Then walked along the street and missed the next 2 point because I didnt realise that this random bookshop was on the 7th floor of a building. Not much interest there anyway. Found an art deco department store. More interesting was the shrine that it took me to. Though it looked pretty run down. Then down some ally'swith small local pubs, and into the red light district. Well I was supposed to walk the outskirts but I accidently took a wrong turn and went through it. The maps here are crap, and if the streets are labelled they are in writing rather than script, same with the train stations which is not helpful! Finished the tour, anyway, and decided to explore the other side of the train station looking for the Pentax forum to see some new cameras and the government building to go up and see across Tokyo. I walked for an hour and only found them when I was utterly lost and on my way back to the station because I had to go teach. Never mind, the Pentax forum wasn't in that building anymore anyway.

Spent 2 hours trying to teach children. Then came to this snazzy internet cafe which is much cheaper than the hostel. Jut ordered some food online, and when it came I managed to eat some of it, but whilst it looked tasty in the menu, balls of potato with some little tenticles inside covered with bbq sauce is NOT tasty! I had even used an online translator to work out what it might be that I was ordering. I did eat a couple tho! And the free drinks come in handy to wash it down! Should get back to the hostel now.xxx

Posted by leiasj 20:58 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Real Gap are a bunch of *******

insert any expletive!

rain 30 °C
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A bunch of con artists is what they are!

Had a reasonably good flight over, except for the on-demand tv not really working. But I do get 25pounds off my next flight because of it.

Arrived and was met at the airport by a 'representative' from real gap. There was supposed to be 3 of us on the flight but one guy went AWOL. And had to wait for a later flight to arrive with another person on it. Eventually the three of us workers and the 'representative' took the train to the hotel. Subway system doesn't seem too bad to navigate. A few more lines than the London one, and some stations only have the symbols and not the writing which makes life more difficult.

Got to the hotel and only one of us had a booking! Eventually they found us rooms, but then we have to keep moving rooms each day as different ones become available. Went out for Sushi and a drink with the 2 guys that I arrived with. Found a very expensive bar!

Woke this morning and made our way across to "Real gap's office" over here. Turns out the Japan Association for Working Holiday Makers, knows nothing about Real Gap sending us here. It is not Real Gaps offices over here, but a totally independant service! Which only costs 1000yen. So we are left wondering why we have paid Real Gap somuch for 4 nights accomodation, that they cant even book properly, and a few phone calls. Needless to say I will using the phone card they gave me to air my concerns that they are con artists. I can only imagine that their staff car park is full of Mercs and BMWs!
Off out for drinks and dinner again tonight with the "representative" who picked us up from the airport, and try and work out where she fits in all of this!!

Posted by leiasj 15:21 Archived in Japan Comments (3)

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