Category Archives: Photo Gallery

Nerf, McDonalds, and a Potjiekos Pot Delivery (2015-12-22) Photo Gallery 01 FEB 2016

The girls and I found ourselves with a LOT of time to kill the first couple of weeks following my knee operation – stuck at home and with no Chantelle in sight! (December is super busy for the guest house as you might imagine!)

I am therefore not entirely surprised that we invented a lot of silly games during this period – with more than just a few involving blasting things with the Nerf Strongarm dart gun that I had received as part of a Hasbro blogger drop a month or so earlier!

IMG_20151222_095753 jessica lotter with her nerf strongarm gun

(Note the defeated ponies in the background – Jess had to go in pretty close to pull off those shots!)

Anyway, it was ten days in following the operation and I needed to see Dr. Hardcastle for a wound checkup, my first outing away from the house since the start of December!

Pleasingly, the visit to the doctor’s offices went swimmingly well, though the doctor did plant the idea of ice cream into Jessica’s head on the way out – meaning that a trip through to the cool air-conditioned Waterstone McDonalds was now on the cards, much to Chantelle’s dismay!

IMG_20151222_121500 chantelle lotter with the girls in mcdonalds

A little while later, with Chantelle now back at work and the three of us chilling at home once more, I was surprised to get a shout from a courier guy, telling me that he was on his way in order to drop off a package for me.

Ooh, very exciting indeed!

IMG_20151222_160035 mystery wrapped present from gumtree and oglivy

The mystery box that arrived with the van was pretty large (and heavy!), and seeing as I couldn’t yet walk, the Oglivy delivery guy very helpfully brought the package inside and set it down on the kitchen counter for me.

Needless to say, at this point both Jessica and Emily were literally bursting with curiosity!

IMG_20151222_160656 emily and jessica lotter opening mystery present box from gumtree

I let the girls get to work, and pretty soon they had shredded away enough of the packaging to reveal the box’s content – a solid cast iron, already oiled, potjiekos pot!

IMG_20151222_160950 emily and jessica lotter opening mystery present box from gumtree

What an awesome and unexpected surprise gift from Gumtree and Oglivy! (Though that said, I’m not sure I actually did any work for either during 2015?).

IMG_20151222_161317 gumtree gift of a cast iron potjiekos pot

Of course, Jessica and Emily were not impressed with this at all. They had been hoping for something a little bit more plastic and a whole lot more interesting to play with – so they busied themselves with laying out the long strips of bubble wrap and running backwards and forwards over it for entertainment instead!

IMG_20151222_162248 emily and jessica girls running on bubblewrap

But of course, my good mood couldn’t last forever you know.

A little while later, the house became a little too quiet for my liking, and so hobbling around on investigation, I came across this bemused little face in the braai room!

IMG_20151222_165012 naughty emily caught in the act of making a floury mess

Sigh. Dusting flour and toddlers don’t mix.

Anyway, the point is that I now own a big black potjiekos pot – the first one that I’ve ever owned in my life. Which means that now I guess I had better try my hand at cooking up some proper potjiekos in the near future! :)

Japan 2014 – 47 A Bus Trip back to Tokyo Narita Airport (2014-10-13) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 29 DEC 2015

So, with a ride up a mountain and a wedding done right, our two week holiday in the magnificent country that is Japan had finally come to an end.

All that was left were a few last visits with the newly extended Brown family, before Ryan and I packed our bags and joined Hester and Terry on the highway bus back to Toyko (a particularly long trip!), where our flight out of Narita Airport would happily be waiting for us.

(Unselfishly, Terrance and Yuko also made the long drive to Tokyo with us – eager to say good bye to the tiny South African contingent that had come up for their big day, and at the same time probably to ensure that nothing went wrong our final adventure in the Land of the Rising Sun!)

IMG_20141013_125632 terrance and yuko brown on a highway bus trip back to narita airport

The trip back to Cape Town was long but uneventful. We flew once again with Emirates, stopping over at Dubai International Airport as they do, before winging our way back to sunny South Africa.

Ryan of course struggled, which makes sense considering how squashed he is sitting next to me, but I enjoyed a good flight home, taking in plenty of movies and thinking back rather fondly on what had been a truly awesome trip.

10371988_707022269380931_3723184591114517497_n at narita airport - brothers lotter

My first ever overseas trip had gone smoothly in every aspect, with no hiccups and no bad experiences to tarnish the memory whatsoever.  The country is a perfect blend of modern and ancient, has all the technology someone like me marvels at, is clean, safe and easy to get around in, and the people courteous and almost never in your way – and these observations still hold true for me more than a year on (i.e. when I at last got around to writing all these posts!).

Of course, I owe big thanks to Terrance for his friendship and his time taken out to show us the ropes, Yuko for all her effort in making sure that we had accommodation and the the routes all worked out, and an even more massive thanks to my brother Ryan, without whom this trip simply wouldn’t have happened.

So on that note, thank you to each and every one of you! :)

craig lotter, ryan lotter, yuko omiya, terrance brown in komagane japan 2014

Japan has always been a place that I wanted to visit ever since I was a child, and now that I’ve been there, it is definitely a place that I want to return to – and next time definitely with Chantelle in tow!

Japan 2014 – 46 Komagane – Terrance and Yuko Brown’s Wedding Day (2014-10-12) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 28 DEC 2015

Finally, after nearly two weeks of sightseeing in Japan, the real reason for Ryan and I being in the country was at last upon us.

Amazingly, our smart clothes that had journeyed with us still looked reasonably smart, which was a good thing considering the fact that in Japan, weddings are usually quite a smart affair.

The day had arrived. Longtime friend Terrance was to marry the girl of his dreams, Yuko.

IMG_20141012_104800 yuko and terrance brown wedding pamphlet, komagane, japan

We were ferried to Komagane from Ina by Yuko’s father, who we had now met a handful of times over the course of the last couple of days – a tricky venture considering the fact that he doesn’t have any English and we have no Japanese.

However, we made it to the hotel together with Hester and Terry (Terrance’s parents) with plenty of time to spare, and we were ushered to a room where we were to wait with any other arriving family before being allowed into another room where the two families would get to see Yuko and Terrance in their traditional wedding outfits and be introduced to one another.

IMG_20141012_113405 yuko, terrance, terry and hester brown and the wedding, komagane, japan

The wedding ceremony itself was short and sweet, and hilariously, the first thing to go wrong on our entire Japanese trip went and happened at the ceremony itself – the lady priest forgot an important symbolic step of the ceremony!

IMG_20141012_114218 yuko and terrance brown getting married, komagane, japan

Luckily she remembered it on the way out, and so the entire guest contingent was ushered to the outside courtyard where Yuko and Terrance once again made a grand appearance and completed their ceremony to the cheers of everyone there!

(And by cheers, I do of course mean strict silence, with jubilation strictly happening once the go ahead was given. Very, very disciplined the Japanese.)

IMG_20141012_120012 terrance and yuko wedding segment, komagane, japan

Naturally, it was an absolutely awesome experience and such a privilege that Ryan and I could be there to witness Terrance and Yuko’s big day!

IMG_20141012_121557 ryan and craig lotter, with yuko and terrance brown at their wedding, komagane, japan

Of course, no wedding can be complete without a big reception (even if there isn’t really any dancing at a Japanese wedding), and we were seated down in a beautifully decorated room for a series of speeches and of course food.

Lots and lots of food – seven courses if I remember correctly!

(NOTE: Chantelle is absolutely furious that I took one single photo of all that interesting Japanese cuisine!)

IMG_20141012_123146 wedding food at terrance and yuko's wedding in komagane, japan

(Also, Terrance had kindly seated Ryan and myself with some of his colleagues from one of the schools that he had previously taught at, meaning that two or three of the ladies had some English at their disposal, which in turn meant that some decent conversations were actually possible for a change!)

IMG_20141012_133545 ryan and craig lotter, with yuko and terrance brown at their wedding, komagane, japan

We had a lovely time at a lovely wedding for a lovely couple.

In other words, a better end to our two week long holiday in Japan we could not have asked for! :)

Japan 2014 – 45 Under Mt. Komagatake of the Chuo Alps – Suganodai Outdoor Recreation Area (2014-10-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 27 DEC 2015

So having enjoyed the spectacular views of the Chuo Alps thanks to the fantastic Komagatake Ropeway on our last free day before Yuko and Terrance’s wedding, we reluctantly made our way back down the mountain, endured the tricky bus trip back to the starting point in Komagane (tricky because of all the hairpins, combined with the small seats and thus my crushing of Ryan every few seconds), and then relaxed by taking in the views and fresh air by strolling around the tranquil Suganodai Outdoor Recreation Area for a bit .

IMG_20141011_130759 ryan lotter at suganodai outdoor recreation area, komagane

This park has a lot of outdoor views to enjoy, and we found ourselves ambling through the forest walk, enjoying crossing the gorgeous but rather unsteady bridge, spotting beautiful Japanese dogs (which up until now, wasn’t something that we saw very often at all!), and believe it or not, stumbling across some beautifully cared for Volkswagen Beetles of all cars in the process!

IMG_20141011_130351 volkswagen beetle spotted at suganodai outdoor recreation area

Who would have guessed?

IMG_20141011_131531 forest at suganodai outdoor recreation area, komagane

Eventually we called it a day on our solo outing to Komagane (it was a Sunday and we didn’t want to risk missing the train!), and once again we successfully navigated our way back to Ina.

There we strolled around the town for a bit, ducked into the odd shop or two, browsed through a second hand store which made us feel like we were back at home in a Cash Crusaders, and then somehow stumbled into a very large adult store which stocked way more weird pornographic material than one could ever believe possible under a single roof!

We did however find a place that offered food to our liking – i.e. meat – and so we rounded off our evening in Ina with a meal at Cafe Gusto! (Or at least, I think that’s what Terrance translated our logo snapshot that we sent to him to…)

Japan 2014 – 44 Taking the Komagatake Ropeway to ascend Mount Komagatake in Komagane (2014-10-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 26 DEC 2015

Our two week long Japanese sightseeing trip was rapidly coming to an end now. With one day to go to the big day of Yuko and Terrance’s wedding, Ryan and I decided to spend our last day as tourists by taking the Komagatake Ropeway up the local mountain and see a bit of the famous Chuo Alps.

IMG_20141011_111031 craig lotter on mount komagatake of the chuo alps, komagane, japan

To get there we first needed to navigate from Ina to Komagane via train, slightly trickier than in the big cities because out here no English language signage is available.

Nevertheless, we managed easily enough (really, it’s essential to hire a data modem for the duration of your trip – an invaluable tool in this day and age!), and once in Komagane, we made our way up to the bus station where we were able to procure our tickets (an expensive outing mind you) up to the cableway station without too many hiccups.

DSC07894 taking the komagatake ropeway up mount komagatake of the chuo alps, komagane, japan

First opened in 1967 (refurbished in 2014 – lucky us, best timing ever!), the Komagatake Ropeway was Japan’s first ever mountain ropeway, and climbs Mount Kisokoma, running up to the Senjojiki Cirque which is directly below Mount Hokendake.

Its summit station is noted as being the highest in terms of altitude cableway station in the country, coming in at an altitude of 2,611.5 m.

(In other words, the views of the Chuo Alps are simply beyond spectacular!)

DSC07899 the komagatake ropeway up mount komagatake of the chuo alps, komagane, japan

Autumn was starting to hit its stride, meaning that the scenic forests on the way up were all starting to turn various shades of orange and red, making for a fiery spectacle on the way up, whilst at the top the landscape was a lot more barren, with loads of beautifully fragile Japanese mountain foliage on display.

DSC07909 vegetation on mount komagatake of the chuo alps, komagane, japan

Of course, that high up the air was pretty crisp and very cold – not that it bothered us South African blokes mind you – shorts and t-shirts all the way! (Much to the amusement of the other mountain travelers in case you were wondering!)

DSC07914 walking up mount komagatake of the chuo alps, komagane, japan

An absolute treat of an excursion and definitely a recommended pit-stop if you ever find yourself travelling through the Kiso Valley and Komagane in particular!

Oh, and of course, Ryan’s stuffed pig got his photo taken as well:

IMG_20141011_102640 ryan lotter on mount komagatake of the chuo alps, komagane, japan

Related Link: Komagatake Ropeway

Japan 2014 – 43 Pizza at Good Life Cafe in Iida City, Nagano (2014-10-10) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 25 DEC 2015

We were lucky to be able to spend a day alone with Terrance before the wedding, and having already enjoyed some morning activities that included smacking baseballs at a batting cage in Ina, he next took us for a spin in his delightful new car to show us his daily commute to the school that he teaches at.

IMG_20141010_132036 terrance brown's car parked at good life cafe in Iida, nagano, japan

It’s a long drive, but with beautiful mountain countryside scenery wherever you look, one can’t really complain! However, it wasn’t just scenery or a school that he wanted us to see, instead, his ace up the sleeve was a stop in Iida, more specifically, a stop at a little place called Good Life Cafe.

IMG_20141010_132030 ryan lotter and terrance brown at good life cafe in Iida, nagano, japan

The unassuming Good Life Cafe is a pizza and pasta restaurant run by Bobby Shipley, and is said to be the only genuine New York style pizza place in the entire Nagano prefecture!

In other words, if you want good pizza, then you go to Good Life Cafe.

IMG_20141010_134812 best pizza ever at good life cafe in Iida, nagano, japan

Their menu is fantastic, the pizzas are indescribably good, and washing it down with some good Japanese spirits and beer – well, what more could you ask for?!

Not that we were finished with the tourist experiences yet mind you. After an enjoyable drive back to Komagane, a visit with his soon to be parent-in-laws (which is tricky given that neither Ryan nor I speak Japanese), the next stop for us was our very first ever visit to a proper Japanese onsen (hot spring bath).

(Note: Because everyone is naked, I have no photos of this awesome evening experience – just in case you are wondering about the distinct lack of photographic evidence!)

In truth, the bath experience was really enjoyable – relaxing and leaving your feeling like a million bucks afterwards – even if you kind of have to get over the fact that you are completely naked in a room full of naked strangers, all rather intrigued because as a foreigner you kind of stick out like a sore thumb. (Thankfully though, a decade of Virgin Active gym had me more or less okay with this! :P)

Right. So only photos of the pizza in the gallery then…

Related Link: Good Life Cafe

Japan 2014 – 42 A Baseball Batting Cage, the Arcade, and lots of Ice-cream in Ina! (2014-10-10) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 25 DEC 2015

Following a day of driving around the Kiso Valley, doing tourist things like viewing a historic post town, seeing a samurai museum, and partaking in the area’s specialty, soba noodles, the next day was to be a complete change of pace as Ryan and I got to spend a rare day alone with the groom-to-be.

So we went to hit a few baseballs.

IMG_20141010_100352 batting cage at we love baseball batting stadium, ina, japan

Baseball is very popular in Japan – hugely so – meaning that we weren’t particularly surprised to find a batting cage in small little Ina (where we currently were based).

All three of us had played baseball together as boys, and so we were pretty keen to have a go at swinging the bat as adults. I certainly have never been to a batting cage before, so it was a pretty cool experience.

IMG_20141010_105332 ryan lotter in batting cage at we love baseball batting stadium, ina, japan

We started off with the slower pitches, and quickly worked our way up, where I’m pleased to say I actually managed to get quite a few hints in, even at high speed. Loads of fun!

(Top speed that we faced off against? 120 km/h! I’m impressed just saying that!)

IMG_20141010_110832 ryan lotter and terrance brown dance evolution at games arcade, ina, japan

Adjoined to the batting cage was a games arcade, and Terrance was pretty keen to get Ryan in on some rhythm games – which amazingly Ryan gave into! The arcade machines in Japan (as we had already seen in Tokyo) are amazing, and some quite complicated, and so we spent quite a bit of time wandering about the games area.

Also, how in the world can you say no to a game of air hockey?!?

IMG_20141010_114449 ryan lotter air hockey battle at games arcade, ina, japan

We did some window shopping at a mall nearby, browsed a sports store, and most important of all, tucked into some delicious Baskin-Robbins ice cream – which has kind of been my thing all trip long! :)

IMG_20141010_120040 terrance brown and ryan lotter eating baskin robbins ice cream in ina, japan

Next up. A drive to a very special pizza place…

Japan 2014 – 41 Yoshinaka Yakata Museum in Miyanokoshi (2014-10-09) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 24 DEC 2015

Stomachs full following our soba noodles at Zcobo, the next stop on our day out with Yuko and the Brown family was a leisurely (more or less, thanks to some wrong turns and narrow town streets) drive through to the town of Miyanokoshi, where Yuko was very keen for us to visit the Yoshinaka Yakata Museum – important because of her ancestral link to the Minamoto clan.

(Ryan and I were just excited that at last we were going to encounter some samurai exhibits!)

IMG_20141009_150054 tomoe gozen with minamoto no yoshinaka at the yoshinaka yakata museum in miyanokoshi

The first thing that greets you as you enter the grounds of the museum is a striking bronze statue of the great Kiso Yoshinaka with the legendary Tomoe Gozen standing guard next to him.

IMG_20141009_151747 view of the grounds of the yoshinaka yakata museum in miyanokoshi, japan

Popularised in the epic Tale of the Heike, Minamoto no Yoshinaka (better known as Kiso Yoshinaka) was a famous shogun and war hero that fought during the Genpei War (1180-1185) which was the culmination of the struggle between the Taira (aka Heike) and Minamoto (aka Genji) clans for control of Japan at the end of the 12th century.

His army defeated the Taira army on numerous occasions and eventually drove them out of Kyoto, only to finally perish at the hands of his own clan in battle, after his plotting to setup a separate government came to light.

IMG_20141009_150734 samurai armour and drum at the yoshinaka yakata museum in miyanokoshi, japan

(Tomoe Gozen also features heavily in the displays, she being Japan’s most famous female samurai, with many legends proclaiming her brilliance in battle.)

The small museum does a great job at telling Kiso Yoshinaka’s tale through murals, reliefs, costumes and dolls – though luckily for us we had Yuko on hand for translation because this certainly isn’t intended as a museum for tourists!

IMG_20141009_151113 kiso yoshinaka story murals at the yoshinaka yakata museum in miyanokoshi, japan

Very much an interesting look into the samurai history of the area, and if you have a Japanese-speaking guide, then worth a recommendation.

Related Link: Minamoto no Yoshinaka | Tomoe Gozen

Japan 2014 – 40 Nagano Soba Noodles at Zcobo (2014-10-09) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 24 DEC 2015

Still in the mountains of Kiso Valley, Nagano, following our walk about the heritage town Narai-juku, we next enjoyed a scenic drive to Zcobo, a fancy restaurant completely tucked away in the mountain forest.

IMG_20141009_130931 mountain forest at zcobo restaurant, nagano, japan

Soba is the Japanese name for buckwheat and is also synonymous with a type of thin noodle made from buckwheat flour. Soba noodles are served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soup.

Nagano prides itself on having the best soba noodles in the whole of Japan, and as such Yuko was eager for us to try this rather famous dish of theirs!

IMG_20141009_131006 terrance brown and ryan lotter at zcobo restaurant, nagano, japan

The restaurant is a bit of a gem actually, completely isolated and set in the middle of a mountain forest. The furnishings are modern and welcoming, and after relying on Yuko and Terrance to pick out some dishes for us from the Japanese menu (which surprisingly, didn’t have pictures – unusual for Japan, where seeing the food that you are to order is a bit of a thing. Or at least, I don’t remember these menus having pictures. It’s been a while, so I could be wrong.), we eagerly received our vaunted soba noodles.

IMG_20141009_133258 soba noodles at zcobo restaurant, nagano, japan

At this point I have to be honest. The cold, buckwheat noodles were not something that I particularly enjoyed, and I didn’t get very far into my big bowl of noodles. (That said, I’m a simple South African man who seldom likes anything that isn’t meat and potatoes. So I take the blame for this one!)

However, the experience itself was great, and now at least I can say I’ve eaten Japan’s famous soba noodles. (Needless to say, Chantelle is quite jealous).

Related Link: Soba Noodles

Japan 2014 – 39 Narai-juku, the Japanese Heritage Post Town (2014-10-09) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 23 DEC 2015

After a good night in Ina, followed by a quick stroll around town in the morning, Ryan and I were picked up by Yuko and Terrance, who were to be our tour guides for the day. With them was Hester and Terry, Terrance’s parents, who also happened to be on holiday in Japan for the wedding period.

IMG_20141009_113926 brown family at narai-juku heritage post town, nagano, japan

The first destination for the day was to be the famous post town of Narai-juku, a nationally-designated architectural preservation site which basically means that the town is being kept such that it looks exactly like it did back in the Edo Period (between 1603 and 1868).

DSC07840 at narai-juku heritage post town, nagano, japan

During the Edo Period, Narai-jujku marked the half way point between Kyoto and Edo to travelers along the Nakasendo Route. It was the most wealthy post town of the Kiso Valley (as well as the most elevated along the route), and was sometimes referred to as “Narai of a Thousand Houses”.

(This becomes quite apparent when you look at the sheer number of preserved houses compared to other similar post towns along the route.)

DSC07842 steam locomotive display at narai-juku heritage post town, nagano, japan

The drive out there from Ina is quite scenic, the majestic wooded mountains making for landscape that isn’t something I’m familiar with, and on arrival you are greeted by a massive steam locomotive (on display), and handed a rather informative little pamphlet.

DSC07844 wooden buildings at narai-juku heritage post town, nagano, japan

The little town (ignoring the tiny cars parked along the main road) is a fantastic look back at the architecture of the era, and there are loads of bustling curio shops stretching from start to finish of the preserved building strip.

Shrines, marker stones, wells, pretty flowers, curios – basically there was more than enough things of interest to make for a genuinely pleasant excursion.

IMG_20141009_111246 ryan lotter, terrance brown and yuko at narai-juku heritage post town, nagano, japan

(Also, I bought two beautiful red polished, small wooden bowls – a trademark technique of the area – which happened to be the first keepsakes that I actually bothered buying on this rather fantastic holiday believe it or not!)

IMG_20141009_120914 shrine at narai-juku heritage post town, nagano, japan

Oh, and with all the new people to take photos of, I got perhaps slightly camera trigger happy:

Oh, and we got to spot another comically endowed Tanuki garden ornament, which was by far my favourite little character on this whole trip! :)

IMG_20141009_112117 tanuki with pumpkin at narai-juku heritage post town, nagano, japan

Related Link: Narai-juku

Japan 2014 – 38 A Stroll around Ina, Nagano (2014-10-09) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 23 DEC 2015

Having enjoyed a fun evening out in Ina, Ryan and I woke up with a little bit of time to kill before we were to be picked up by Yuko and Terrance for an outing.

In other words, out we went for a short stroll around our immediate area!

DSC07828 modern art dragon sculpture in ina, japan

Ina is of course a completely different kettle of fish compared to the big modern city of Tokyo and the culturally rich Kyoto, and as such there was of course a lot less interesting things to be seen.

DSC07887 nude lady statue outside of ina train station, japan

Smaller buildings, more countryside, fewer landmarks – still, even out here their seeming penchant for old bronze statues of naked ladies seemed intact… :P

Related Link: Ina | Things to Do in Ina

Japan 2014 – 37 From Kyoto to Ina (and throw in Karaoke and an Izakaya) (2014-10-08) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 23 DEC 2015

Heading into our third leg of the holiday (the first being Tokyo/Yokohama, followed by Kyoto), we were now to travel to Ina, a small city in the Nagano Prefecture which is near to Komangane where the big wedding (and reason for the trip) was to be held.

Having successfully navigated a high speed train from Kyoto to Nagoya, we had hopped off, seen a sight, and then successfully navigated our way to the Meitetsu Bus Center.

IMG_20141008_153341 ryan and craig lotter on the bus and on our way to ina, japan

Ryan’s happiness at being featured on the Hamish and Andy podcast (he had just finished taking their call), soon dissipated at the realization that he would be squashed in a bus next to me for the next couple of hours (something he was slowly but surely kind of getting used to over the duration of this trip!).

IMG_20141008_165553 highway rest stop on the bus trip to ina, japan

As comfortable as the bus trip was (for me, not poor squashed Ryan), it was a lengthy highway bound journey and sights or no sights, we were pretty happy when the stopover to stretch our legs happened.

(That said, neither of us wanted to risk being left behind by the bus, so we didn’t stray particularly far!)

IMG_20141008_165516 highway rest stop on the bus trip to ina, japan

The countryside was slowly giving way to the stunning wooded central alps region, and the last half of the highway bus trip was particularly pretty, though Ryan and I had to keep our wits about us because we needed to listen/lookout for our scheduled stop, the in the middle of nowhere Komangane IC Highway stop.

(Not that there was any reason to worry though. Just as everything had been running super smooth since the start of our trip, we didn’t muck this one up either.)

IMG_20141008_192451 terrance brown and yuko eating izakaya food

At the highway stop, Yuko and Terrance were patiently waiting for us and our luggage, and after a happy reunion, we were ferried away towards Ina, where the next adventure was to be trying to find our hidden away in the backstreets accommodation, the old Ina-chuo Hotel.

As it turned out, luckily Yuko and Terrance were on hand for the check-in, because unlike at Kyoto (where the younger staff member could actually speak a bit of English), this hotel is run by a very, very old Japanese couple – meaning that other than the occasional smile, nod, shrug, or look of confusion, Ryan and I were complete and utterly unable to communicate with our hosts!

IMG_20141008_195039 enjoying izakaya food in ina, japan

Bags unpacked, we were then immediately whisked away to a local izakaya, with Yuko and Terrance eager for us to drink some sake and partake in some proper Japanese food – not the fast food that Ryan and I had up to now been living off of. (So sue us, neither Ryan nor I am adventurous when it comes to food, and we certainly weren’t there on a gastronomy holiday!)

[Note: An izakaya is essentially a type of informal Japanese drinking establishment that serves food to accompany the drinks, acting as casual places for after-work drinking. So kind of like a pub or tavern, but also not quite.]

A super fun, and properly authentic Japanese experience for Ryan and myself then!

IMG_20141008_212938 craig lotter attempts karaoke in ina, japan

Not that Yuko and Terrance were quite finished with the two of us just yet. After enjoying some food and drink, we next drove around the small Ina looking for a karaoke shop that might still be open this late on a week night.

Sadly for Ryan, they found one, and soon the four of us were belting out one bad song after the other. Ryan hated it, but I loved it. You have to karaoke when you are in Japan because they certainly seem to know how to do it!

With that, the evening drew to a close, and Ryan and I were returned to our rather spacious (in Japanese hotel terms) room at the Ina-Chuo Hotel. The furnishings were ancient (but in working condition), and as our trip was proving, the less modern were were going, the more space we were getting.

Which I kind of liked.

Related Link: Ina | Komagane

Japan 2014 – 36 From Nagoya TV Tower back to the Meitetsu Bus Center (and Nana-chan!) (2014-10-08) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 22 DEC 2015

I’m not entirely sure why I’m posting these photos separate from the photos taken on the walk to Nagoya TV Tower and then the photos taken at Nagoya TV Tower. Nevertheless, I do have a separate folder for these, so if you have to know, these were all taken on the long walk from Nagoya TV Tower to the Meitetsu Bus Center.

DSC07797 walking through hisaya odori park, nagoya, japan

Starting from Hisaya Odori Park, Ryan and I made our way back towards the Nagoya Station area (taking a different route of course), with our goal being the Meitetsu Department Store (and Bus Center), where we would be catching a bus to Ina.

DSC07810 maserati showroom in nagoya, japan

Along the way we crossed a river, saw some pretty cool buildings, and took our time walking past a Maserati dealership, kind of the last expected thing we thought we would see in Nagoya.

DSC07813 river in nagoya, japan

With time to spare, we reached the Meitetsu Building, did a spot of shop browsing (so, so many levels of high-end stores, and boy, are CDs and DVDs expensive over there!), and then took a couple of photos under the famous Nana-chan, a massive white mannequin that gets a new look every month and acts as a popular meeting spot for people in Nagoya.

DSC07822 fashionable nana-chan mannequin outside meitetsu bus center, nagoya japan

Yup, and then it was time to try and figure out how to find our bus (which is tricky given the massive size of the building), all while Ryan anxiously waited on his phone call from Hamish and Andy (which apparently are a reasonably well known podcast pair?).

If you have to know, his phone call went well. (And we found our bus.)

Related Link: Meitetsu Bus Center

 

Japan 2014 – 35 A jaunt up the Nagoya TV Tower (2014-10-08) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 22 DEC 2015

Having enjoyed a scenic stroll along the streets of central Nagoya (while we were waiting for our bus transfer), we eventually reached Hisaya Odori Park where the object of our mission resides – Nagoya TV Tower.

IMG_20141008_111835 outside the nagoya tv tower, nagoya japan

Nagoya TV Tower is the oldest TV tower in Japan, completed in 1954 (and bearing quite the resemblance to the Eiffel Tower!). The tower is 180 metres high, and has two main observation decks at the heights of 90 metres (the indoor Sky Deck) and 100 metres (the outdoor Sky Balcony).

The tower also includes a restaurant and gallery at 30 metres.

DSC07800 inside the nagoya tv tower, nagoya japan

(Neat fact: Nagoya TV Tower keeps getting destroyed in Godzilla movies. In 1964 Mothra vs. Godzilla, Godzilla beat Mothra with it, whilst in the 1992 remake, Battra took down the tower during its attack on Nagoya!)

DSC07802 aerial view of nagoya, japan, from the nagoya tv tower

Although obviously not nearly as high as some of the other observation decks we had already visited whilst in Japan (e.g. Tokyo Tower, Landmark Tower, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, and Kyoto Tower), we still got some pretty awesome views of this pretty city – and the outdoor viewing deck was an particularly enjoyable (refreshing) experience.

IMG_20141008_113911 ryan lotter inside the nagoya tv tower, nagoya japan

As it turns out, Nagoya TV Tower also happens to be quite a popular spot for weddings and wedding photos, hence the Promise Heart:

DSC07798 promise heart inside the nagoya tv tower, nagoya japan

So, with our impromptu sight seeing trip now complete, we grabbed some refreshments from a vending machine and hit the road back towards the Meitetsu Bus Center to catch our ride…

Related Link: Nagoya TV Tower

Japan 2014 – 34 Walk from Nagoya Station to the Nagoya TV Tower! (2014-10-08) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 21 DEC 2015

So having stayed in Yokohama whilst visiting Tokyo, then moving on to Kyoto via bullet train, time had now come to move on to the third and final leg of our journey – a stay in Ina, a small city situated in the Nagano prefecture.

However, without a direct rail route to get there, Ryan and I was to take a shinkansen (bullet train) to Nagoya, where we would then catch a bus and travel to the Komagane highway bus stop where we would be picked up by Terrance and Yuko and then ferried to our Ina accommodation via their car.

Eh, simple enough.

DSC07755 architecture along the streets of najoya, japan

Nagoya in case you are wondering is Japan’s fourth largest city in terms of population, and with the headquarters of Toyota being situated nearby, well, you can expect a pretty well off and modern city.

Having successfully arrived at the huge train terminal via train, Ryan and I found ourselves a few hours to spare, and eager not to waste any of our time in Japan, we immediately started walking, setting our sights on the Nagoya TV Tower as a suitable destination.

DSC07758 public telephone booth on the streets of najoya, japan

Nagoya is a beautiful city, and the street that we happened to be marching down was littered with public art everywhere you looked. Beautiful sculptures, statues and architecture certainly was the order of the day.

DSC07768 bicycles and a girl along the streets of najoya, japan
A particularly interesting sight that we stumbled on was the Sky-Boat Ferris Wheel, which believe it or not, is attached to the side of a shopping center! (Sunshine Sakae in case you want to look it up.)

DSC07785 ferris wheel attached to building in nagoya

Eventually we stumbled into the pleasant Hisaya Odori Park, with the sight of the Nagoya TV Tower looming largely in front of us…

Related Link: Nagoya | Nagoya Travel Guide