The Monkey Tracker

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Japan - Saga 1 of 2

This entire year there has been a trend of serious disasters everywhere that we go. Here's the list so far:

Mexico - Large scale drug war
USA - Economy crashing, government bankrupt
Canada - Hockey riots
England - More riots
Greece - More economy crashing & riots
Cyprus - Surrounded by Turkish battleships over oil discovery
Egypt - Mass protests & anarchy
Kenya - Officially at war with Somalia

This brings us to Japan and their tragic tsunami & nuclear crisis earlier this year. We nearly cancelled our Japan leg because of this disaster but it turned out to be an amazing country and a highlight of the year. We researched it on and sifted though government food testing stats. We concluded that the country was safe, however, we shouldn´t drink any green tea which had a few positive radioactive results country wide.

Our first impression of Japan as we arrived in Tokyo was of awesomeness. These people were far more welcoming and friendly than they were in Hong Kong. Everything is extremely clean and we discovered that many people wearing face masks in public areas were not doing so because of pollution, but out of courtesy if they had the common cold or flu.

Japan has a whole army of 'Hoy Hoy' guys who were always ready to assist lost or confused looking tourists like us.

Everything was well ordered in this society i.e trains timed to the second, signage, shops, traffic and pedestrians. When ever something got out of order within an instant a Hoy Hoy man would appear. In a blur of finger pointing and 'Hoy Hoy' noises, all order would conveniently be restored.

With the assistance of the friendly hoy hoy staff we negotiated with the complicated train system and made it to the Asakusa Smile hostel. We went out to an amazing sushi train restaurant and checked out an ancient temple.

Along the way back we found a games arcade just the way we imagined, what with the flashing lights, crazy noises and cute stuffed animals. 'Japan invented that shit!'. This became a common saying of ours for the next month as it applied everywhere. There's heaps of stuff we like back home that Japan invented. Pokemon, dragonball Z, tamagochis, hot girls with killer legs wearing skirts, maaaaaaan, they invented that shit!! you see them doing anything whatsoever in a fashion better than westerners, yep, thats because they invented it.


Yep.. Japan invented that shit :D
At the smile Asakusa hostel bar we met super friendly locals Hikari, Saki, Miyako and Sara from China.  If you ever go to Tokyo we highly recommend you stay at the Asakusa smile hostel:



Saki left, Miyako right

Lara from Spain

That monkey gets all the luck..
^.^ Hikari and Rhafiki <3
It's probably worth noting that Japan are an extremely disciplined and hard working race relative to western societies. In Japan no workers will NOT go home until the boss is finished working. It is also common for many people only to have 3 holidays a year. When you tell them you are staying in Japan for 10 days they cannot believe you got so much time off work. It is sad in one way, but it explains how they built up such a 1st class country given their large population.

Japan is know for being expensive but we quickly found the dirtbag option at the local 100 yen Lawsons shop. You can get anything for 100 yen ($1.25), all sorts of wierd pre-packaged meals, exotic seafood's, endless arrays of sushi and crazy biscuit ice creams.

When you are in a Lawsons it feels like you are literally inside a Pokemon gameboy game. There's flashy lights, cute beepy noises going off in every direction, attractive girls in strange attire and a bunch of strange energy potion's for sale.

All of this stuff is also readily available in the super vending machines strategically located EVERYWHERE. In fact in front of some restaurants is a vending machine, you choose your meal, it spits out a number on a tab and you go inside the restaurant to the counter and get your dinner. Ingenious.

We really had no idea what to do in Japan at first. A photo posted on our facebook page by George Ioannou (Steves Dad) provided the first idea. Snow Monkeys!!! This arbitrary mission to see the snow monkeys lead to the discovery of Nagano, Shibu Onsen and a local guide named Zeno. If you go to Japan you must visit this region.


If you go to Japan check out Zeno's webpage. We can't thank Zeno enough for the help he gave us. He knows alot about the Shibu Onsen area and is happy to provide advice and tours. His tours are extremely convenient and well priced. This is Zeno's web page:

We left Tokyo for our rendezvous with the famous Zeno. Using our handy Japan Rail pass we boarded the Shinkansen (bullet train) and headed west at some 300km/hr. We arrived on shedule to the very second. Japan invented that shit!

Zeno took us up into the mountains to see an ancient temple in amongst a forest of cedar trees.

We then went to a real Ninja village. The sole reason for this visit can be traced back to my (Beric's) childhood obsession with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Real Ninja's are sitll in existence and train at this place.

The next stop was an exclusive tour of one of the best Bonsai gardens in the world. It is no tourist arrtaction but infact a lucrative buisness and Zeno had the inside connection to get us in. This garden featured the oldest two bonsai trees in existence:


These were at least 600 years old and passed down from generation to generation in one family. Some of the trees were worth in excess of $300,000 each and it was a huge privilege to see them.

This guy from Canada was doing like a 5 year apprenticeship in learning how to look after the bonsai's:


The last stop on our adventure was a Saki brewery. We tasted a variety of Saki's. Not to be confused with our lovely friend Saki from Tokyo.

That night we stayed in a traditional Japanese Ryokan in the Shibu Onsen Village which Zeno helped organise. It was autumn in the village and very lovely site to see after all the concrete in Tokyo.

There are many Ryokan's to stay at but the best is Matsuya. This is the link to their site:
The owners were extremly kind and take great care of their guests. The hospitality they gave was above any other payed accomodation we have ever seen in the world. This Ryokan is very traditional and surrounded by temples and natural hot springs so you will get a real taste of Japanese culture.

The room was made from paper, we slept on the floor and shoes were absolutely forbidden. Steve and I experienced their first naked Japanese hot spring. More on these naked spa's in Saga 2.

Whilst staying in the Shibu Onsen region we ate lots of traditional Japanese food. I gotta say, Japanese food is easily one my favourite food's I have had around the world. Healthy and tasty!

In the Ryokan I (Beric) met his match with a fangel dangle highly advanced toilet:

<< insert creepy violin noise, RI RI RIN RIN, RU RU RU RU RU >>

I  sat down to go to the toilet, just like any other time in my life. However, this time was different. There was this crazy control thing with a bunch of buttons all labeled in Japanese. There was no toilet paper to be seen so when the time came to wipe I pressed the button with the image that appeared to symbolise but cheeks being squirted water.

ARRGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! I got the shock of my life man! This thing was super high pressured and the nozzle was precisely aimed at close proximety for maximum effect. Reminded me of a gerny. I literally scream out loud and started laughing uncontrolable. I couldn't turn this thing off. In attempt to relieve the laughter I sat forward monentarily and thing thing sprayed right up on the the roof. I had to do something quick, I hit a few more buttons and after some time it stopped.

The next mission was to flush. I took a gamble with a strange lever tucked around the side. To my astonishment the toilet flushed and a tap started flowing from above the toilet. This open stream of water went straight into a bowl with a hole on top of the toilet. These japanese people are ingenious! The water used for refilling the toilet is utilsed with a second purpose as a tap for washing your hands.

The second night we stayed at a the Yudanak Rhyoken. The owners here were also lovely and drove us all over to see the local tourist sites at no expense:
Yudanaka Yamanouchi-Town Shimotakaigun

We went up into the mountains to see the infamous snow monkeys. These monkeyes are unique in that they are the only ones in the world to habbitate in such a cold location. The main reason they are able to survive there is because of a series of natural hot springs. The crazy monkeys sit around like kings in this springs. They are completly wild and you don't always get to see them. When we fist arrived there were no monkeys to be seen for a while and then out of no where they all came tearing down from the hills and surrounded us. There's no fences and these cheeky buggers will steal your stuff if you turn your back.



(natural giser)

I was getting some close up shots of this big monkey. The monkey didn't take kindly. I was staring at it through the lense. In a flash it sprung right towards right at my face ad punched me in the side of the head. My reaction during this snap event was to hold down the shutter button so I actually captured a shot before and after the smack down:

Peaceful one moment

Yep he punched me good

I got the message..

You can watch these monkeys for many hours without getting bored. Their behaviours are very interesting what with all the fighting and mating. The alpha monkeys with the huge red ball sacks basically prance and around and beat the crap out of any monkey that doesnt scatter when they come close. Reminds me of high school. To end the shibu onsen adveture I went and sat naked in a natural hot spring on a big hill and watched the sun set over the autum hills. Nomad and Steve didn't come. They weren't overly keen on the naked spa thing. I'm starting to question how confident they are with their own sexuallity.

Next morning went to a town called Osaka to stay with some good friends of ours Satoko, Chisato, Samo and Toshiaki . From there we went back to Tokyo and hung out with Hikary. Hikary was kind enough to give us a tour of Tokyo.

Stay tuned, This will all be covered in the next blog Saga!

Can Goku hang on? will the battle be over?
or will plaent Namek explode and Freezers wrath continue to destroy our universe!!



  1. I enjoyed reading your story to the max! Thank you for sharing :) I'm planing a trip to nagano around April. wish me luck~

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