Posted on September 29, 2016
To make a long story short, I got my iPhone back! If you’re ever going to lose your phone in a city of 4 million people, make sure that city is in Japan. Somehow, even with my cellular data turned off, and my volume turned off, I was able to retrieve it. Most of the credit, however, goes to Erick Benitez, the owner of the Airbnb place we rented last week. He’s who I emailed once I realized my phone was missing, since he’s the only person I currently know who lives in Japan and is fluent in English and Japanese. For some unknown reason, when we took a taxi from Osaka Station to the Hard Rock Cafe in Osaka, I kept the receipt. That, and Erick’s help, were what saved me. Using the information on the receipt, which lists the cab number, Erick was able to call the cab company and ask them to contact the driver and have him look in his cab for my phone. When he first inquired, a few hours after I’d lost the phone, the driver said he didn’t see a phone in his cab. I went to bed that night thinking it was lost forever, but I still wanted to go back to Osaka and look around the Hard Rock. All that next day, Tuesday it was, was spent in Osaka, either at the police station (filling out a report, which took 8 police to figure out 😁) or at the Hard Rock; but I still couldn’t find the phone. I emailed Erick again (thankfully, I still had my iPad) and asked him to try continually calling my number, since my voice-only roaming was turned on. Maybe the driver would hear the phone buzzing from wherever it had gotten stuck, and he’d see the local Japanese number on the screen and call that number back. And that’s exactly what happened! Apparently my phone had fallen into some kind of bag in the front seat, which is where I’d sat; I’m guessing the driver only looked around the back seat when he originally looked for it. I can’t believe the battery was still working, even though I had WiFi and Location Services both turned on. As soon as he found it, the driver called Erick, Erick emailed me, and I went back to Osaka and got my phone. Amazing.
So that was all a few days ago. It’s now Friday morning and we are back in Tokyo. Taking the Yamanote Line from Tokyo Station, it felt like coming home; Kyoto is a fine city but I’m completely lost there. Here are a bunch of photos from Kyoto, after the side trip we took to Himeji.
Nanzenji Temple was on my list of must-see temples so we went there on Wednesday. I must have lost my phone on Monday, which meant we went to Himeji that day and I must’ve lost my phone Monday night. The days are a blur but I know today is Friday and I know we spent yesterday packing up and leaving Kyoto, then coming back to Tokyo, so that must mean we went to Nanzenji on Wednesday. On the way there, walking in the rain, we stumbled upon Chion-in Temple. Like most of the temples in Kyoto, Chion-in is surrounded by forest and the misty weather made it feel like we were stepping back in time. Adjacent to the temple was a very large cemetery, marching its way up the hillside. As I was looking for the best angle to photograph all this, a huge bolt of lightning lit up the sky, followed almost immediately by a long, low roll of thunder. The skies opened up and we took shelter under the main entrance to the temple, a massive gate of old-growth timber. It rained for quite some time and we finally thought we’d better get moving or we’d never reach Nanzenji in time.
As it turned out, we didn’t. It was quite a long walk to Nanzenji, some 45 minutes, and most of it was uphill in the rain. Luckily, Kyoto is so beautiful, there was lots to see along the way. When we finally reached Nanzenji, and saw the hordes of people walking towards us, I knew we were too late to go inside. However, it was still stunning from the outside so we saw all we could until it was finally dark, at which point we caught a subway for one stop, grabbed some street food by the station, then splurged on a taxi to take us the rest of the way.
Posted on September 27, 2016
Himeji Castle is located in the heart of the Kansai region. I first visited Himeji back in 1997 and it was a cold and wet day. Later visits were always sunny and warm, which is the best way to see the castle, since it’s almost pure white and a deep blue sky in the background makes for great contrast. Our trip there yesterday yielded both results: it was rainy on our approach and sunny as we exited. It was so rainy on the walk from Himeji Eki (eki means station), I had to stop in a Family Mart and pick up three umbrellas. I opted for the clear ones, so we could hold them directly over our heads and shoulders and still see what was in front of us. As soon as we got to the castle grounds the rain stopped and those umbrellas became mini greenhouses, quickly heating up the air around our faces. It was still quite cloudy, and very humid, so the white castle got a bit lost in the sky behind it. Nonetheless we marched on, taking pictures all the way (because who knows when we’ll be back?). Once we got to the main entrance, it was full-on jungle hot so I hid the umbrellas on top of a bank of coin lockers — too high for all the locals to see — and we went in. Now here I must confess: I’d never seen most of the interior of the castle before. There are multiple places where visitors must remove their shoes and I’d always been wearing sandals; they wouldn’t let me in barefoot. I wore sandals yesterday, too, but I also brought along a pair of socks in my pocket, just so I could finally see the inside! What did I see as soon as I was inside? A bunch of dudes walking around barefoot…
So anyway, seeing the inside of the castle was amazing. I hadn’t realized how many steps there were! The stairs were almost vertical, and there were easily a dozen sets to climb, with each level getting smaller and smaller until we reached the top. By the time we got to the top floor, some two hundred feet above the courtyard, it was blazing hot and the view was stupendous. The sun had appeared and the whole castle popped out of the blue sky. Exiting, I had to re-shoot all the pictures I’d taken on the way in, since the backdrop was now much better. Here are a few photos. The first one was shot with my iPhone; I believe that’s the last photo I’ll ever take with that phone so I’m glad I emailed it to people and had a copy saved in my Sent Mail folder.
Posted on September 24, 2016
We are in the land of enchantment. After the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, which is a big part of why I love that city, it’s nice to be here in the laid back city of Kyoto. Also, for the first time since arriving in Japan, we saw blue sky yesterday! The Shinkansen was late leaving Tokyo Station due to heavy rain but when we passed through all the mountain tunnels and got near Kyoto, the sun was out. Stepping out of the train, the heat hit us like a wet blanket. It took some time to find the cab stand, and the cab driver almost couldn’t find the apartment, but he got us close enough that the photos of the building, provided by Airbnb, were enough to help us find it. The apartment is a five story walk up and we are in room 402. The view from the balcony is nice.
We’re staying in the Gion District, which is chock full of small wooden houses and narrow, lamp lit streets. Walking around last night, with a warm breeze in our faces, was awesome. The river that runs through the city (the Kamogawa?) is fronted on one side by block after block of restaurants, all of which have outdoor decks above the river. We spotted one that looked like it had an empty table and were soon seated outside where we eagerly awaited our first meal in Kyoto…Italian food. That one’s for you, dad!
Later in the afternoon, same day (Sunday, September 25th). After watching the Oregon game, live, this morning on the iPad and seeing the Ducks officially end their season after only four games, it was time to hit the trail. I wanted us to see Kiyomizu Temple, Kodaiji Temple, Yasaka Shrine and the Nanzenji Temple today; all of which are within walking distance of our apartment. It was super hot this morning, with the sun shining in the east and thunderheads building in the west, so I’m really glad I had plenty of Pocari Sweat (i.e., Japanese Gatorade). The walk to the first temple, Kiyomizu, took about 20 minutes, the last half of which was up a steep hill. I remember walking around with my dad in Kyoto, back in 1999, and we got lost in the hills. Those were the pre-Google days and we had fun being lost anyway, so it was cool. Today, since our apartment is so close to everything, it was pretty easy. The narrow little street leading up to Kiyomizu was aswarm with women and girls in full kimono; even some of the guys had them on. They were so ubiquitous, they occupied a lot of space on my camera’s memory cards. Here are a few photos.
So those are a handful of the way-too-many photos I took of women in kimono. Here are a few photos of the various temple. Right now I’m looking at the photos Jacob took with his iPhone 6 and his color rendition is way better than what my $4500 Canon (with lens) can produce. Cmon, Canon….
I will also post a few photos I shot with my own iPhone, all panos, a little later.
Here are the photos I took with my iPhone 5S:
Today is Tuesday, September 27. We went to Himeji Castle yesterday, and it was amazing, but then I lost my cell phone in Osaka last night and trying to find it has consumed me ever since so it may be awhile before I post again. On a side note, if anyone travels to Japan, and tries using their iPhone, here’s a crucial tip: don’t dial 001, followed by the country code, followed by the number. Instead, hold down the 0 on your phone for a couple seconds and a + sign will appear. That + sign takes the place of 001. Then you just dial your number, including the country code. For example, if you want to call somewhere in the States, it’s the + sign, followed by 1, followed by the number you want to call. If you’re calling somewhere in Japan, it’s the + sign, followed by 81, followed by the number (and remember, if you’re calling a Japanese number with a US phone, or from anywhere outside of Japan, don’t dial the 0 that is normally the first digit of any Japanese phone number).