About Us

Contact Us


2001 Archives

First Chapters
World Travel
September Issue
October Issue
November Issue
December Issue
Feb 02 Issue
April 02 Issue
May 02 Issue
June02 Issue
July02 Issue

Mandy Mand in Japan - Summer Hols in Okinawa
and Tokyo
Sadly, you're not supposed to stare or even look at the monkeys...

This month I've had a liddle companion who flew all the way from blighty to help me get up to all sorts of merry mischief making - hurray. So lets start from the very beginning because to quote Julie Andrews - 'It's a very good place to start'
Part one:
If you managed to survive my last rambled World Cup special you may have remembered at the bottom I mentioned going on me hols for a few days.
Destination - Okinawa - a small Island off the coast of Japan which has only just recently been given back by America although, in spite of this, 80% of inhabitants on the Island are in actual fact - American...Army boys to be precise - yayyyyy!

The Island is a perfect paradise with beautiful white sandy beaches peppered with palm trees. The life guards are almost black in colour due to spending most of their time lazing around in the sunshine listening to hip hop with pretty hardcore lyrics blasted out throughout the tannoys.
It was actually quite amusing to see liddle old grannies, babies and kids splashing around happily in the pool whilst some guy was hip hopping out the 'F' word in almost every sentence. I guess its a good job some folk don't understand English! The whole atmosphere in Okinawa is so much more laid back compared to mainland Japan. Hotel Staff wear Hawaiian shirts, buses turn up when they want to and traditional Okinawan music is hauntingly beautiful.

I'ts also a popular destination for young married couples with sproglets. Babies are the 'in' thing this summer - every dad is holding one (Lois Vuitton bag in the other). Whilst I spent lazy days drooling over the cute babies in the pool with floppy hat and bathers (the baby - not me) my flatmate, I later discovered was busy drooling over the dads - who - like their sprogs - were equally as cute!
So off to sunsoaked beaches we flew for four glorious days of lazing on the beach, drifting aimlessly out to see in a beautiful pea green boat, dozing on a hammock, sunset strolls, soothing massages, scrumptious food and generally winding down from the stressful everyday life of teaching English.

Well that was the plan!!! What actually happened was that we spent the first two days getting hideously sunburnt until we resembled something like two oversized very pink lobsters having difficulty walking. On the third day we decided to take it easy by staying out of the sun in order to give our poor skins a break.

Actually - we had no choice as Typhoon number 5 decided to hit the Island. Hurrah!! typhoon tastic! This was my first ever typhoon and something I really wouldn`t want to experience again in a hurry. Boats, benches, peddle bikes and sun beds were all tied to trees to prevent them blowing away. Most of the holidaymakers we had flown in with had scarpered early leaving the hotel somewhat of a ghost town.

Fortunately we had American Army TV and radio to keep us sane and in touch with the latest typhoon news It was touch and go as to whether we would actually make it home in one piece as all flights were cancelled. We therefore spent the entire 4th day of our hols sitting in the airport waiting for a plane to take us back to the mainland.

The Japanese people put on a special concert at the airport for us with traditional Okinawan music and dancing. There was even a gold dragon running around scaring all the liddle kids which was nice! We were given free food vouchers and so after nine solid hours of waiting and eating the entire salad bar we finally got a flight home though the taking off part was a little hairy to say the least -major turbulance.

Back on dry and typhoon free land (for the moment anyhow!) it was only a matter of days before Paul from Blighty flew over to stay for two weeks.

Armed with 100 million hair products which I had requested from Boots (poor thing even got stopped and questioned at customs over it!!) I managed to get some time off work to get in a bit of sightseeing as well as show off my fantastic Japanese speaking skills.......well..'`thank you' and 'goodbye' is a pretty good start! From then on it was sign language all the way - hurray!

We visited some old Japanese castles - 'himeji-jo' which is beautiful on the outside and wooden on the inside with a very grumpy old guy who shouted at us for not taking our shoes off. I guess the poor slipper attendant didn't really have much else to do so we went along with it and climbed millions of stairs to to the top of the castle. The view was pretty spectacular and overlooked the whole of Himeji - moats and all.

Another castle we visited was 'Osaka-Jo' which - would you believe - has elevators on the inside! They think of everything these folk - yay!

We visited various Japanese temples, had fun in Universal Studios Japanland and climbed up Monkey mountain in Arashiyama, where, with a bit of luck, you get to hang out with the chimps. Sadly, you're not supposed to stare or even look at the monkeys as I guess the poor guys have got a bit of an insecurity complex going on - either that or they were having a bad hair day.

Anyway,from the top of the montain you got a fantastic view overlooking Kyoto, which is my favourite part of Japan, and at the bottom of the mountain is a beautiful river where you can ride in a boat or laugh at the local fisherman who squat in the middle of the lake to fish - its a pretty bizarre yet wonderful sight!

On Sunday night - which is by rule, the Nova teacher's big night out, as everyone finishes early -
I introduced Paul to the local beer garden which is on the roof of a major department store (13th floor - ooer!). You eat and drink as much as you like for a mere price of roughly 15 quid but it closes at 9.30pm so by the time you`ve downed as many white wines tumblers and pints of Chu Hi`s (equivalent of alcopops) as you possibly can in order to get your money`s worth - 9.30 is not a pretty sight! but hey the evenings not over yet, as its then off to Kareoke for another two hours of drinking and singing as much as you can.

By the time we had finished drowning our singing talentless sorrows with old Rick Astley favourites and '`we will rock you' numbers we were in a pretty messy state! I completely forgot what town I was in and consequently missed the last train home.

Think I remember wailing down the phone to a friend panicking as to how we would get home until she kindly pointed out that I only lived just 5 minutes down the road and could easily catch a cab!
Initiative skills and compass reading brownie badges would have been certainly ripped from my camp blanket as I had completely lost all knowledge of who I was, where I was or even what country I was in - for some unknown reason - I found myself speaking fluent Greek to the train guard - crazy talk!

You will be relieved to know however that we managed to make it home in one drunken piece and stay away from gutters - but that's another story!!
So thats just a few wee snippets of the month so far this summer but don`t think you`ve got away lightly - as there`s more to come - yayyyy!!


We caught the bullet train otherwise known as the 'Shinkansen' (fastest train in the whole wide world - whooosh!!) up to Tokyo which only took a record breaking faster than the speed of light whopping 3 hours - yayyyy!!.
From Tokyo station we headed to a city called Asakusa which was to be our base for the next couple of days.

Tokyo is made up of cities within a city if you get what I mean and has sooo many people. In one city - Shinjuku over 2 million people pass through the station every day - thats more than the population of Manchester. It certainly makes you feel very small - eek!
We started the day up bright and early at 8.00am - a time which I had convinced myself was just a myth but soon discovered that it actually does exist - arrgghh!!
First stop - Tsukiji - to see the famous fish market.
Unfortunately we missed it! It begins at 5.30am (that ones definitely a myth) so by the time we arrived - everyone had packed up left a sign saying 'gone fishing' an all - gutted - in a fish gutting type of way.

Oh well! - soon cheered up when we got to another city called Ginza for a spot of shopping. Wandered into 'Tiffanys' where the entire shop staff, all immaculately dressed, bowed in unison and remained in that position for the entire length of our wander round the store. It wasn't until we walked out of the shop that they stopped, relaxed, and got out the vacuum cleaner to hoover up our flip flop prints on the carpet - honestly.

Fell in love with a beautiful pair of sapphire earrings for just six thousand quid - bargain.
Unfortunately we were on a tight schedule and it looked like customers had to be taken into an interrogation room before they bought, so we decided to give it a miss as time was ticking by. They looked pretty cheap anyway - sigh! Next stop - Shibuya - the land of love hotels! Located on a hill top a wacky assortment of hotels rent their rooms out by the hour and cater for all your fantasy requirements.

From gothic cathedrals to Turkish temples, outer space, floating aquariums, dodgem cars, disco kitsch, the wild west and a huge swimming pool the hotels are tourist attractions in themselves.
You can wander in and out of each hotel checking out the various rooms on offer which are displayed in a photograph format on the wall of the foyer. As the Japanese are very shy and modest creatures, booking the rooms is a very discreet process. Simply select the room you want and press the appropriate button located near the pic. From there the light on the pic goes out. If the light is off it means its already in use. A little old lady sitting behind a small net curtained window hands you a key and payment is made at the end of your stay.

Discretion in Japan is the keyword here hence the number of vending machines selling beer, cigarettes, porn mags, sex toys and schoolgirl knickers. Japanese people tend to shy away from confrontation which is why love hotels and vending machines are the perfect answer for these remarkable shy business men folk in this sadly disturbing yet ever popular sex industry. (my old university tutor is gonna kill me - have used the word `shy` three times and its only cos I`m having trouble thinking of another word - sorry Sam - will try harder!)

Next stop, Shinjuku where we took an elevator up to the 45th observatory floor. From here you can see the whole of Tokyo including Mt Fuji on a clear day. The view was pretty fantastic and even more so when we found a restaurant on the 29th floor in the building next door.
As sunset drew in - Tokyo came alive! Dark grey concrete buildings were adorned with a dazzling assortment of bright neon lights and the ugly grey buildings transformed themselves into a beautiful world of illumination - the Tokyo I had always imagined.

We ended the day in Roppongi which is backpackers paradise. Door men (all Australian) jump at any western backpacker (carrying Lonely planet guide books - its a dead giveaway) that crosses their path and pull the usual stunts to drag them into their bar where EVERYONE is western!
It actually made quite a nice change to sit and relax in a bar without having to worry about your arrigatoes and konbanwas! I guess this place has made me realise that sometimes you can have it too good and can easily become ungrateful for what you've got, i.e ability to speak English.

Last stop was a Motown bar where we watched the oddest of western men paired up with very beautiful Japanese women desperate to find a geigin girlfriend - the story is all too familiar in Japan. On our third day we explored Asakusa which was our base for our stay. In Asakusa stood a beautiful old traditional temple, Senso-ji, also known as Asakusa Kannon-do, which was guarded at the entrance gate by two giant devilishly evil scary guys kept in cages.

They are statues incase you were wandering and in desparate need of a good dust! The temple was much more like the Japan I love. A beautiful long shopping arcade painted in red and decorated with lanterns and all sorts of greenery led up to the temple entrance.
Admittedly the shops were pure Japanese tourist tat selling essential take home gifts like miniature plastic temples, fans, chopsticks, lanternes and even fake wigs to wear with your Kimonos. There was even a man selling pasta who was actually sitting in his counter with smelly feet ON the pasta - mmmmm!! delicious!

Couldn`t quite believe this beautiful temple stood right amongst the busy tourist mecca of Tokyo as it felt like a different world entirely. The only real giveaway was the fact that nearly everyone there were western and it was photo tastic - hurray!! From Asakusa (are you guys still reading- we decided to leave the mad world of Tokyo behind us and head to the mountains for a spot of solitude and relaxation. We caught the Shinkansen (whooooosh!) from Tokyo station and headed west to Odawara in Hakone - the land of Mount Fuji san.

Here we checked into a beautiful guest house in the middle of the mountains complete with natural hot spa. The spa is a kind of hot jacuzzi without the bubbles and when I say hot - I mean hot as the water comes directly from the volcanic mountains above.

Hot spas, or Onsens as they are more comonly known in Japan are extremely popular as a weekend activity for many Japanese familes. They can be found scattered all over the country and it's an incredible feeling especially on a cold day as your whole body is immersed in this tremendous heat whilst a cool breeze blows soothingly across your head and shoulders. Armed with towels, camera, tins of beer and choccies we opted for a midnight dip and went star gazing.

Sadly no stars and the water was so hot that it took half an hour to dip your big toe in! By the time we had managed to bravely plunge ourselves into the scalding hot waters beneath - our choccies had melted and skin turned the colour of a beetroot but it was certainly a fiery experience!! So on to Mt Fuji. For a good view of this active volcano - which the Japanese believe will errupt anyday now - you'rr supposed to get up bright and early at 5.00am. Bugger that! Sadly by the time we went in search of the great mountain in the sky, clouds had covered it but hey! - we knew it was around here somewhere and ther was plenty more fun to be had - such as taking a ropeway (4km cable car ride) up to a very smelly mountain top called Owadakani.

`A volcanic cauldron of steam bubbling mud and mysterious smells` said the book. Actually it smelt of egg - and badly!! Once you've killed all senses in your nose whilst staggering to the the top - people are then mad enough to sit and tuck into a feast of eggs which are cooked in the mud. Surely the smell is enough to put you off eggs for life nevermind eat them! Not being able to stand the smell for oooch lets say 3 minutes - we pegged it as fast as we could (have never seen Paul move so fast!) and hopped onto a bus which took us to Lake Ashi. The scenery was breathtaking and in true Japanese style, amongst all this wonderful natural beauty stood a bright red gawdy pirate ship - pure Peter Pan styley.

Not sure how the pirate ship related to bubbling hot volcano springs and lush green mountains but hey this is Japan - the land of cute kitsch! I resisted the urge to put on an eye patch and shout `oooh are me earties!` and instead, took in the magnificent view before making our way back to Kobe! Tokyo certainly is a fascinating place full of excitement with something going on at every street corner and down every dark alleyway - go with an open mind and you never know what you might find. It can also be a little too much at times. Being a bit of a country bumpkin me, I think that if Nova had sent me to Tokyo to work then I would have cried - its pretty overwhelming In comparison.

Kobe, where I live, is just that little bit smaller and the people are much more friendlier.
They spend that little bit more extra time on you and will hapily stop to help you without trying to show off their pretty lousy English speaking abilities. Kobe is also near the sea which is perfect especially now the weather is soooo hot! We`re hitting an average of 36/37 almost every day and it's a little bizarre because, due to air conditioning being blasted through every train, building and subway, its actually hotter outside than it is in! You have to go outside to warm up - huh??!!
August is the hottest month and also a very special month for just a couple of reasons;
1)Its firework festival tastic ness! Street parties are taking place everywhere with kids dressed up in ukattas (summer kimonos), lanterns are lit, beer is drunk, singing and dancing making it one big party!!
2) Another good excuse for a party (you know whats coming!!!!) is that Mandy Manbd hits the fab age of 26 this month on the 12th of August - hurray!!! birthday tastic! (Happy Birthday from Hacksx)
Will be having a party in our local hairdressing salon. Yep! - you read right!!! Hairdressing parties are all the rage over here, shampoo, conditioner, mousse, lather, wax and all - its gonna be quite a hair raising experience - ho ho. The only problem is that my birthday falls right in the middle of `Obon` - a festival where everyone goes home to visit family graves and remember the dead. It's a pretty spiritual affair but - hurray!! my birthday will most certainly be high in spirits - spirits of the alcoholic variety that is!

Will report back with all the drunk and debauched gossip next month. in the meantime have fun, stay out of trouble, have a drink or two on me for the 12th and stay away from bad egg jokes - or I`ll crack another another one - ho ho ho.
Loads of love and cuddles from Mandy Mand xx
N.B Mandy Mand is currently being treated for bad joke and cheesy pun syndrome due to the dramatic heat which is affecting her brain and causing her hair to turn blonde - a dose of heat mags and special K bars should fix it - thanks for your patience in this matter )

© Mandy Mand 2002

World Cup Fever Continues
Japanese soccer hooligans went crazy and threw themselves off the famous Totomi bridge into a river in the middle of Osaka

you MUST have at least one Louis Vuitton bag, a Tiffany's necklace
and of course that essential pink sparkly phone!

I realised that wearing a black and white polka dot lace thong was not the best move!

From Hollywood to Dollywood
The Japanese folk looked on in horror - tragic thing was that these weren't actually hooligans but English teachers from Australia

More about Japan in Hacktreks

< Back to Index
< Reply to this Article

© Hackwriters 2002