Archive | October 2012

Stuttgart, Deutschland!

So Justin and I spent last weekend in Stuttgart, Germany for a concert (Heidenfest 2012 tour). We got there Friday afternoon and walked around a bit and found our hotel and the concert venue. Then we met up with Kevin Stockwell for dinner and drinks. On Saturday we walked around our neighborhood of Wangen and eventually went to the concert. Great concert! We went particularly for the headliner Wintersun (an absolute favorite of both of ours), but also Finntroll and Korpiklaani…think melodic death/folk metal from Scandinavia. There were some other bands, Eisregen, Varg, and less interesting Trollfest and Krampus. So at this metal fest we heard the usual band instruments, plus cow bells, tambourines, violins, bagpipes, accordions, and a saxophone…metal is surprisingly well rounded =).

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Here are some tracks from the bands if you are interested:

Another image added to the hidden animals post:


Japan Time

Konnichiwa! Justin and I are back from our 10 day trip in Japan. We visited Tokyo, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Sanga Ryoken hot springs in Kurogawa, Mt. Fuji and the five lakes, and lots of little stops here and there on train layovers. We did all kinds of stereotypical Japanese things, such as seeing 40 foot Buddha, visiting lots of temples, eating sushi, drinking sake, eating the poisonous fugu fish (puffer fish), playing in arcades, hot springing, climbing Mt. Fuji (almost), and karaoke-ing. Also, the topography of Japan is really mountainous, so there were lots of great views from the many trains we took.

My favorite parts of the trip were spending two days in the Mt. Fuji area and going to the Ghibli museum. Also, the giant 40 ft. Buddha and the temples in Kamakura were also cool, neat town.

Miyazaki is like the Disney of Japan. His studio is called the Ghibli studio, and the museum we went to was called the Ghibli museum. I recommend everyone watch some of the animated films the Miyazaki/Ghibli team makes, my favorites are Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. I could not take pictures in there so I’ve borrowed some from the internet.

Mt. Fuji is HUGE, in case you didn’t know. We spent two days in the area. The first day we bused to the base of Mt. Fuji, went in the ice cave (brrr), and hiked through the Aokigahara forest, aka the “Sea of Trees”, aka the suicide forest. From Wikipedia, “The forest contains a number of rocky, icy caverns, a few of which are popular tourist destinations. Due to the wind-blocking density of the trees and an absence of wildlife, the forest is known for being exceptionally quiet.” I’ll vouch for the exceptionally quiet part…no birds, no rustling in the leaves, only the occasional cricket. “The forest has a historic association with demons in Japanese mythology and is a popular place for suicides; 54 committed the act in 2010, despite numerous signs, in Japanese and English, urging people to reconsider their actions.” I’ll also vouch to those signs. There are a few signs in the forest as well pointing in various directions to show you where to go to stay on whichever path you are on. They were all purposefully broken, which added to the isolated feel of the place. It was neat not being sure if you were on a path or not; very neat trees roots, vines, and rocks to look at and wander aimlessly through. We made it out of our path just in time, once the sun set behind one of the mountains it was pitch black and would have been impossible to find a way out…not to mention the sides of the “trail” tend to fall off into rocky ditches, so we got lucky.

Day two of our Fuji time we took a ski lift to a viewing platform overlooking the lakes and Mt. Fuji. In one of the pictures you can see the tip of Mt. Fuji peaking out through the clouds. After our viewing we took a bus to the “5th station” where people start their hikes to the top from. It’s part way up the dormant volcano where the forest ends and the bare peak begins. The path started out wide and mildly uphill, then it switched to a zig zag partially constructed path and much more uphill, to rocky, climb with your hands, majorly uphill zig zags. Climbing season is in July and August only, so there were hardly any people hiking, which was nice. They are working on rebuilding the path up, so it made it extra difficult to get up, as we had to climb over partially constructed stairs. The ground is like charcoal bits and sand. Therefore, the ground moves under your feet when you step, making it even harder to climb. Once the path is complete I presume the climb to the top will be much easier. We made it a few zig zags past the 7th station (10 is the peak). A lady on her way down said we were about 2 hours from the top. But we had to turn around to catch the last bus back to town. We were getting pretty tuckered, so we were okay with it. It was really neat climbing through the clouds. At a certain point the air got really cold, which was also neat. If anyone wants to climb Mt. Fuji in the future, I’d recommend wearing hiking boots (the tread on both our sneakers is gone now) and also grip gloves, for when you climb up the rocks. Also, most people go half way up, stay in a little cabin-type place overnight and finish the second day…granted those are only open in July and August.

Justin’s favorite parts were the hot springs and eating the clouds on Mt. Fuji. One day we trained from Tokyo to Hiroshima. We strolled through the park there and went to the museum, which was surprisingly interesting. They had charred and blasted remnants of things and even some cysts (caused by the blast) removed from a girl on display. After Hiroshima we trained to a nearby town famous for fugu fish, which was not too bad. I did end up getting sick shortly after dinner. I thought I was just allergic to fugu fish, because I felt like I had the flu, the same feeling I get after eating cashews, but 10x worse. Justin thinks I might have just gotten a little poisoned. Who knows! Anyways, that night we stayed in a hotel that named their business rooms after the planets, which made me think of Sailor Moon, which obviously is awesome.

The next day we trained and bused to Kurogawa. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere on a mountain side was the Sanga Ryoken hot springs. It was a very traditional Japanese hot springs. We got a sizable room upgrade which included a private hot spring bath outside our room (like a wild hot tub). We assume we got the upgrade because the other Japanese guests would feel uncomfortable with an American sharing a public hot spring with them, which is a-okay with us…nicest discrimination ever! The next day we missed our bus back to the train station, so we hitch hiked with a couple vacationing from Tokyo exploring the area. They drove us 45 minutes…nice, eh?

That’s all the main highlights of our trip…or at least all I can think of at the moment. Sayonara!

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Added a new hidden animal to the Hidden Animals post…