Journey to Karuzawa

Tuesday was pretty much a day of us travelling to karuzawa and hitting a few places along the way. 

Namely the Nikko national park that was on the route we were taking to karuzawa. 

We got to see some real natural beauty of the Japanese Alps and countryside. 

These photos were taken from a spot near lake chouzuji I believe, sorry can’t remember the exact name of it. But as you can see just having such a view of the land around us was a sight to behold.  

The weather started off nicer today, though it was a bit windy and it soon clouded over as we went down to where the waterfall and town is in the photo above. 

Fog completely covered the lake that we couldn’t see a damm thing around us. It was like the beginning of horror film, nice start to the day, then you get to town and the group separates. some do dumb things and go into the foggy lake and from arises an undead, creepy to some kind of mythical creature to start the play.

Eventually gets to one survivor who gets lucky and somehow kills the killer. Hey Hollywood just gave you an idea for a cliché film. I expect some payment for this 😋.

Anyways back to waterfall. 

We went down a 100 meters to get a closer view of the waterfall that is there. 



Just some of the shots I got of the fall. Sorry for my fingers blurring the sides, wasn’t easy getting the shots from the angles I wanted and it didn’t show up when I was aiming the picture. 

While we were at the waterfall we came across this particular creature. 

 For you people who like me grew up in he 90’s I’m sure you remember those talking furby dolls, well nostalgia crep up today. As we came across talking cat, good lord did the group get some laughs out of it. We spent at least 15 minutes talking to it saying hello. I just meowed at it since I thought it was only fair to talk in its own language 😄.  

Once we were done with the waterfall and the cat. We then had to go back to Nikko due to the route we wanted to take to Karuzawa being covered in snow 😫. Shame as the route is according to Steve ine if the nicest and most scenic routes in Japan. 

But no matter these things happen and you just have to roll with it. 

So we went back to Nikko, got lunch from the local Family Mart there (Family Mart is just one of many chains of convenience stores in Japan). 

 They are on most corners in Japan main towns and cities, but noticed some in the countryside as well. Useful for getting a sandwich and drink if you need one. 
It took us around 2 hours to get to Karuzawa by this route. But the weather cleared up quite nicely along the way. Allowing for me to get a few nice shots of the Japanese Alps. 



Sorry for the somewhat dark pictures, but the sun was quite low by the time these were taken. 

So got to our hotel in Karuzawa. We stayed at the cypress hotel, a western hotel that was nice. The room I got was like a small apartment with a fridge, cooker, sink etc. plus a nice bit of space as well. 

Tonight’s dinner was a seven course French food. Which included salad at the start, French baguette, nice posse (French fish), chicken at some point, really nice raspberry cake with chocolate to go with it. 

Well that’s it for the travel day to Karuzawa. Sorry it wasn’t very interesting, but we didn’t see much today and nothing that has much cultural or spiritual reverence like Nikko did. 

Next blog will be my day round Karuzawa, with some fab pictures and info to come your way. 




Day two of the group tour took us away from the urban landscape that we call Tokyo and we headed by private bus into the mountain area called Nikko. 

Which we got to after about an hour and a half. Once again the weather was pretty grey overall with some drizzle later on in the day. But this is to be expected when you are in the mountain areas of Japan. 

Once we got there we met with our guide for the day Ota-San, whose name I recognise from my info pack for my add on stuff. He and his wife who sadly wasn’t with him today will be taking me to see one of the few Samurai swordsmith left in the world on Sunday the 3rd of May. That’s probably going to be the highlight of my holiday. 

Ota san was a brilliant guide throughout the day, very insightful about nikko and the shrine temple we went to. Pretty hilarious as well which I think is always a great trait for a guide or tour leader to have. So we started off at the famous Shinkyo bridge that is a landmark of Nikko. 

The history of it as told to us by Ota-san was interesting. Namely that it took eight years for for to be built when it was back in the early seventeenth century by a priest called Shodo Shonin). 

How shoguns and the emperor would cross it in he centre, while their servants and normal people would cross it in the side or behind the two above if need be. There was a board on the bridge to protect it from people crossing directly on the surface of it. 

Due to the age of it.


Just some of the photos I took of the bridge. 

Once we were done with the bridge Ota-San took us up to our main destination of the day. Visiting the world heritage site of the shrine/temple for the Tokugawa shogun Tokugawa leyasu. This part I must say was one of the best parts I have done so far on my trip. 

As Ota-San gave out some interesting facts on japan in places, one of them I must admit I didn’t even know. That in the old feudal type system farmers made up at least 80% of the people in the caste type system that was in place. With the samurai and emperor etc at too, below were artisan and craftsman. 

Below them were traders, merchants etc, as Ota-San was a banker for some of his life. He would have been very low on the hierarchy and not treated so well by some samurai. 

We visited the currently being rebuilt temple that is just below the Tokugawa shrine. Of which holds much Shinto beliefs and information. With figures like the monk Tenkai whom was an adviser to leyasu during his later years. Some urban legend of the monk is that it was the warlord mitsuhide akechi that was Tenkai. That after the taiko Hideyoshi Toyatomi defeated him at Yamazaki after he betrayed Nobunaga at Honnoji temple.

He shaved his head and became a monk. Since it’s never been made clear if akechi was killed or not. I doubt this legend is true, but then many things in the senpoku period were a mystery, hence why I like it so much. 



These are some parts of the temple complex in Nikko, you can see how the materials used to build the place are of high quality and to befit the status of the first Tokugawa shogun and one of the most important people in Japanese history. 

We eventually made our way up to the main temple bit. This part sadly is a no photo bit. But the white and gold colour of it all really stands out and is really quite a wonder to look at and pray.

Ota-San whom I had a nice chat with during the day then invited me to demonstrate the proper way of bowing at the temple to test our knowledge of which ways to pray at either a Shinto or Buddhist place of worship.

For Shinto shrines it is Usually two blows, two claps of hands and another bow. For Buddhist temples it is usually one bow that you do. Some nice tips for you when you are at either a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple.

Shinto shrines are usually red toroji gates, Buddhist shrines or temples are usually more bigger and are more grandiose and have figures around it, compared to Shinto miminalistic style.

                 All of this can confuse even the Japanese at times since Shinto and Buddhism can get quite complex when it wants to be. Even I find it mind screwy at times, but fascinating all the same even though I’m hardly a religious person myself. 

Once we were finished with our afternoon at nikko shrine and taking in the full beauty of the forest around us in the drizzling weather. 

We made our way to the ryokan inn. That we were staying at for that night. 

All our stuff was there already in our assigned rooms. The place is called inn. 

A picture of my room and the surrounding area from my window. 

Tonight was a traditional kasahi meal that comes in seven sets. With food like shrimp and prawn. Sushi food, lots of soy sauce to dip food in, some radish here and there, nice beef at some point. Loads of fish and rice. And a load of other Japanese food to fill you right up. The best part, it’s Fab. 

But before that I treated myself to a very nice spring hot bath or onsen as it is called in Japan. 

That really helped to relax myself after a long day and just nice to relax in general. 

Now for those who are a little more apprehensive in doing it or scared of getting it wrong and doing a faux pas. InsideJapan blog has done a page just for this purpose. 

Here is the link

My advice definitely do it if you are in Japan once in your lifetime. 

Also got to wear a yukata today, always nice to wear one of those as well. Just remember to put the right side over the left. Simply cause of funeral and death rituals the Japanese do.

Finally to finish the fab night at the ryokan in nikko. Spent it on the floor beds they have. A bit hard it was this time around and had to toss a few times, but got enough rest for the next day. 

That covers everything tha happened on my day to Nikko. 

Next blog will cover my way to karuzawa with some fab photos of nikko national park coming up. 

Thanks as always for reading my blog. 

Oil simpson 88.

First tour day

Sorry for late posting, Nikko yesterday was so good and the ryokan place I stayed at left me little time to write. I aim to get a post up every other day from this point on not to rush myself.

Just wanted to give a short message at the start to apologise for using the term jap in earlier posts 😥. 

I was informed today of its insensitive nature. It relates to it being used negativity during ww2 by allied States. 

I had never realised it was an offensive term til someone on Facebook informed me today. Since this term gets used a lot on the Internet and I had always thought it was a harmless word. I have been corrected on that now.

From this point I will make all effort to avoid using the term. I hope I haven’t offended anyone using the term and it was not my intention to offend. I have also corrected the use of the word in earlier blog posts.

Now onto my post for my first group tour day. 

Weather was cloudy today and some spitting drizzle weather later on. But it wasn’t too cold or wet. Just grey overall 😕.

We started at 9:am in Asakusa where we are based at. Since I was here in 2010 the area has changed quite a bit. As from the picture from my room can show you. Not just the Tokyo skytree. 

A few new buildings have come up as well since I last came here and the place does look renovated now.

We then went down to where the river is near the Asashi brewery. It’s the building with the golden looking sperm. 


Once there we got there. The sumida river ride that takes you down to the Hama-rikyu gardens that is across from where the rainbow bridge is. 

Now I had done these experiences before in my first tour of Japan. But doing them again and seeing the beautiful gardens especially is a nice touch. Plus it allowed me to tell the other members of the group of the gardens and other little tips I know.



Got some late Sakura bloomers 😃.

Which is always nice.

We then went to the teahouse for some green tea. They served it with the wagashi sweets that I had a lesson on In the last blog post. This allowed me to mention to a few of the group members of what I learnt yesterday.

But Steve our glorious leader gave good insight to it as well that I had learnt as well.

Once we had finished seeing the gardens we made our way by taxi to the nearest train station in order to head to the Ueno market to check it out and have lunch.

I had a meal at a local place with tempura (fried) prawn with some rice. It was gorgeous forgit how much I love tempura food in Japan.

Then once lunch was done, Steve had to leave us to sort out jr rail passes, so we had the services of a guide named Chida I believe, meaning the word of wisdom in Japanese.

Who took us on a bus tour around Tokyo city. So we through akihabara, pass the imperial palace (only got to see the outer moat and trees 😩). As we made out way to the Meji Shrine. Another place that I have visited before.

Where Chida told the group all about how Japan uses Shintoism and Buddhism in there lives and how Japanese weddings can go down. There’s an old saying in japan of how your born a Shinto, wed as a Christian and die a Buddhist I believe is how the saying goes.

So we made our way up to the shrine and we got the lucky opportunity to witness a full Shinto wedding ceremony happening.


This is the photo I got of it at the shrine.

The Meji shrine is you can guess the shrine dedicated to the first Meji emperor that came to power in the late nineteenth century (around 1868) when the whole samurai feudal system was abolished and the emperor was put into power.

I didn’t take any pictures of it on Sunday due to having been there before and the inside again having a no camera policy.

The guide went on about how it stands out as a Shinto/Buddhist shrine. How you can tell a Shinto prayer place from a Buddhist one. Along with showing how to pray for a Shinto shrine. You throw a coin, bow twice, clap your hands together twice and then bow again.!

For a Buddhist temple it is if I can remember just bow once. Way to tell a Shinto shrine from a Buddhist temple is looking at the tori gates, usually big red looking objects you see near shrines. They can help tell you if the shrine or temple is Shinto, Buddhist or if your at nikko both.

Afterwards our guide gave us some interesting facts about Japan that I knew already. But for the less experienced visitors were very interesting facts. Namely that Japan’s land is made up of 70% of hills and mountains (though I remember reading an article saying it was 83% but the specifics of it all is subject to analysis).

How around one in five Japanese are over 60 and if the current trend continues it will be 1 in 3 Within the next 30 years. I hope Japan can find a way to deal with this issue. Since it has been causing them trouble for a few years now. Since a state can only handle so much in costs relating to it. Britain has this as a future issue as well. I imagine I will be working til I die simply cause more people will live to an old age and less young people are around to pay for a pension and to keep the system going.

Japan in the future may have to expand their very limited immigration system that they rely on to bring in people from the Philippines, China, Korea and Brazil in order to have some young people to care for the elderly and fund costs etc. but immigration as I know from Britain’s long debate around it has shown no easy solution is in sight.

Ok that’s enough on that.

Once Meji shrine was done we went back to the hotel and parted ways with the guide and the group for the evening. Own dinner that night and I just grabbed something from the local dining area. Just some noodles and fried food and went back to my room to write up my blog for the pervious day.

Okay that’s it is time. Sorry it has been as detailed, pictured and interesting as my last one but today was a much more quiet day and less interesting for me overall to write up on all that much.

Next blog post will be my visit to Nikko and staying in a Ryokan. That will be most fun😃.

Oli simpson 88.

Ghibli museum, Wagashi lesson and meeting the group day

The spirit of an artisan is similar to that of an craftsman or artist. Wagashi is something that is produced rapidly, and consumed by the end of the day. In other words, because Wagashi is not something that would remain for generations, it is not usually seen under the same light as a product of a craftsman or artist, at the end of the day we are not a culture ourselves; rather we support culture from the background. All we want to do is to make the world understand the decliciousness of Wagashi and anko” humble words spoken by  Chikara Mizukami.

Anko means red bean paste.

Another day of activities today in Tokyo.

This morning I went over to Mikita in order to pay my second visit to the Studio Ghibli by JR rapid Chuo line from Kanda station. This part of the journey was about 30 minutes long. Then a fifteen minute walk from the station to the museum. They do run a bus service from the station but it’s a hundred yen for one way and around 300 Yen for round the trip, that’s almost as much as it cost me to travel from Kanda to Mikita.

Plus the weather is usually nice and sunny and the park is nice enough to walk through.

Got to the museum for around 9:40am. As my ticket was for 10:00am entrance, they do different entry times, usually 10:00am, 12:00pm, 2:00pm and 4:00pm I believe. Easy enough to get tickets for it either aboard or in Japan. Aboard it’s usually a travel agent who sort it out. See the ghibli museum website for each country booking system.

In Japan you can buy tickets for the museum from Lawson’s convinient store.

Easy to spot one in most parts of Tokyo. Do note that tickets for the museum tend to sell out quite quick (especially during bank holidays that the Japanese have between April and July time) so my advise is to book your tickets before you arrive in Japan to be safe. Also book a bit later on in the day since 10:00am is quite busy.

Having been to the museum on my first trip to Japan back in 2010. I knew what to expect, the museum is still for the most part the same as it was back then. That isn’t a bad thing overall, but most people would probably want to do the place once. As there isn’t a huge amount to do there. It’s more of something to do in the morning or afternoon for an hour or two.

Also take note that you aren’t allowed to take pictures of stuff inside the building. They enforce this rule quite a bit, hence why I haven’t put up any photos inside of the museum. Since I chose to respect that rule, there are blogs where people have photoed the inside of he museum so check them out if you want to see the inside of the museum.

Another fact to note is that all the signs and information bits are in Japanese only. Shame as I would have liked to have seen what some of the info said. Especially for the special exhibition they had for the nutcracker and king mouse story they had on display.

However you are allowed to take pictures on the outside.



These were the shots I got from the outside. With the robot and cube from Laputa. Shame there isn’t more of this stuff at the museum.

Now for the inside of the museum. There is a threater where you get to watch one short animation film that’s about ten minutes long. This changes monthly I believe, last time I got a small sequel to my neighbour totoro with the youngest girl Mei meeting the grey creature again due to a small cat bus interacting with her.

This time I got a short film called House Hunting, there were no words spoken, just sound effects, quite clever and interesting to watch. But that’s what you get from Miyazaki himself. 

There is also a projectionlist room where they show different parts of moving objects, one has the robot above with birds, another the villain from sprited away, and another from my neighbour totoro. 

Along with a galaxy room of drawings and pictures from many Studio Ghibli films, including the later ones. Something that was lacking first time I went there so was happy about it. 

The special exhibition they had going on as I mentioned before the nutcracker and the mouse king, like quite a few of Studio Ghibli productions is from a western novel or children’s tale. Now the museum has set up some pictures of telling the story with wall of text next to them. 

But they have a puppet like but where if people turn the wheels below, the figures move as the bit has two armies fighting each other. I really liked how all of it was set up its a shame that it’s only in Japanese the text. As I think foreign visitors would love to know the context of the story. 

It’s definitely worth visiting Studio Ghibli at least once, even if your not a fan of their stuff. It’s a nice way of passing a free morning or afternoon. Though it is a bit of a travel to get there since Mikita is a bit out from central Tokyo. 

Now for the Wagashi lesson 😃. 

Just a quick info bit on Wagashi sweets. Wagashi sweets are tea sweets, namely they are there to help make the tea better to drink. It isn’t like a dessert sweet, or something to eat like a dairy milk bar. There is quite a bit of how big of a role play to it when it comes to tea ceremonies. 

It hardens back to the days of when the samurai were around. It’s a master/servant type relation, and the way the chef I met today applies it to his work is very much latter in Japanese culture and history.

This experience I did today was quite different from what I have done in Japan before, it isn’t the usual tourist stuff. It’s quite a specialist experience. 

When I first saw it on InsideJapan experience page on their site. I thought they this would be an interesting thing to do, since Japanese tea sweets was something I had little knowledge of. 

Once Rachel my travel consultant got back to me about it, saying that it would be with a famous chef, one of the top five in the world. Then I was determined to do it. As I would find out this is a very Japanese experience, one that even the Japanese themselves would find interesting since it’s that deep in Japanese history and culture.

The Interpretors I had (Yuko Inamasu and her fellow worker whose name i have forgotten, sorry not good at remembering names 😔) themselves at times really found it quite insightful, especially when it came to some of the more history bits of the difference between Edo Wagashi and Kyoto Wagashi. 

They do quite a bit of this sort of experience so if you ever want or need someone to do interpretation or just offer you some great ways of seeing Japanese culture give her a call or check out her company website  I believe it is but google it to be safe. Named after a bird in Japan that means time, you can guess what the deeper meaning of it all is.

Now some info on the chef in question. His name is Chikara Mizukami. 


He has been making Wagashi sweets for over fourty years. Having found his shop in 1977. He has been sought after by some famous confectionary makers over the years such as Sadaharu Aoki and Jane-Charles Rochoux.

Now Chikara has quite a philosophy to the way he makes Wagashi sweets. Since there are to my surprise 72 seasons throughout the year. He will each season that changes every few weeks cater his making to each season that is ahead. As showed me in the book he is currently writing that outlines his style and way of making sweets. With the current one being Sakura sweets due to as you can guess the Sakura season.

Now one of the abilities of Chikara is that when each seasons come around he won’t just make the sweets, he will use the essence of Japanese cultures and traditions in order to make and showcase the seasons of sweets he is making.

So for example, on Valentine’s Day he took a poem from Hyakunin Isshu (a Classical Japanese anthology of one hundred Japanese waka by one hundred poets). That indirectly expresses the feeling of love, and visually realized it as a Wagashi looking like green petals with white powdered snow.

He also uses elements of influences from fine art and even architectural work. Even using influences from European artists like Monet. Chikara is a man who finds inspiration in all time periods. 

Some of the above came from info my travel consultant Rachel Rykala in my info pack for adds on she sent me. The rest from the man himself.

Now let’s talk about the lesson I had. Sorry for the long stuff above but the above can be helpful in understanding how my lesson went, as well as give a few details on a very Japanese custom most people in the west have never heard of. 

First we started off with Chikara talking and showing us (me and the Interpretors), the art of making Wagashi and showing how Edo style Wagashi and Kyoto style differ. With Edo style being direct in reflecting how the shogun and the samurai based there tended to interact and how they dealt with each in a way. 

While in Kyoto where the emperor was based for hundreds of years til when the emperor at the time moved to Edo. As the power was in a sense handed to them (Emperors for most of Japan’s history were divine figures not rulers), and the city become Tokyo (which means eastern capital). 

I’m sure you can tell which style the sweets are in the picture.

Then we got down to making some, starting with the direct style. As I found out it’s a lot harder than it looks. First you have to roll and flatten the white ball in both of your palm hands.

It’s so the pink/brown sweet bit will fit in it, so that with the upper part of your thumb (not the top thumb part itself but the upper bit of it) so that the White/brown part covers around it. It took forever for me to get that part, but thankfully Chikara was very patient and most helpful with me. Plus it was quite funny to have to get the golf balls out to learn it 😅. But it was very fun learning that bit overall and watching Chikara do it so easy, made me appreciate even more of the honour he was giving me that afternoon.

Then once that part was done, we then combined the White and pink parts together so the Wagashi sweet become the Sakura season. This part I also struggled with as again much harder then it looks to do. As you gave to hold it with four fingers and use your thumb to mush it together, to make it into the shape you see in the pictures above.



Once that is done and the ball is all together, then Chikara showed me how using a ruler type equipment press gently on the ball to make it into the five part shown in the sweet picture by pressing it downward way for direct. This part I did well and got right, so quite happy at that 😄.

For indirect style using the aid of a towel. He showed putting the sweet into it and holding it with here fingers at the bit where it is, you press it very gently onto the table to make it indirect style. I find it hard to press gently to anything due to how my hands are tend to be like namely rough and really sensitive. 

Me in deep thought and action 😏.

Finished it off by putting the yellow flower in too, this I did as well 😋. Don’t think you need to guess which ones are mine below.

Don’t think you have to guess which ones are mine 😋.

Now for the Sakura Wagashi style.

This one is more advanced.

This time was the use of the bean, and below us cut down bits of the sweet that makes up of the decoration of the Sakura Wagashi sweet.

Then the next step was Chikara using the bowl above (that’s made of horsehair and a mix of a few other things). To cut down the Sakura bits for the indirect style.

And with the aid of chopsticks showed me how by stuffing it around the combined ball you make the interest sweet leaving no parts uncovered.


All of this while holding the ball in your four fingers 😃.

Ta da the results of the our lesson. I felt I did Sakura style all right.

Chikara asked me why I chose to do this lesson. I told him that I felt it was because overall after reading his philosophy on making the sweets. How he approaches his craftsmanship with such a humble and insightful way, it was fascinating of learning from a person that has a very unique view and really relates to Japan’s rich culture and ideas. All the while making sweets deciduous and the tea even better.

Final thing we did was have a nice cup of green tea with the Wagashi. Now I tend to don’t do hot drinks in general, but I really wanted to see for myself the effects of Wagashi in tea. It really did help to make the tea even better, and I have had green tea before and it was nice. But the Wagashi really sweetens and enhances it so well. Though we are talking about a top chefs sweets here so take my words not too seriously.

To round off the lesson I had a photo taken with Chikara and his two apprentices he is currently teaching. They helped a bit throughout the lessons and the intreptors as well.

Then had a photo with the man in his shop called Ikouan based in Myogadani in Tokyo. Go to Myogadani station via maranochi line to get there. Don’t worry hadn’t forgotten giving my readers the place of where to try the Wagashi sweets.

After that he gave me some sweets and we bid farewell to each other.

The girls led me back to the station so I could get back to hotel in time to meet the group. as I said before they were fab throughout the lesson, sorry forgot to get a photo with them.

So got back to hotel by 7pm got my cowboy boots and hat on, and met the group.

Mostly English but two Americans, two Canadians I believe. Scottish couple and a guy from Portugal to round it all. All of them part from the guy from Portugal are retirement age but they all seem nice so far, mostly talked to the Scottish couple and Luis the guy from Portugal. Scottish couple haven’t got round to knowing their names yet and of the other tour people apart from a few like judith, Mary I believe and Bill I think along with Steve our tour leader.

After introductions were done  we head out for dinner to local place. Where we had grilled food done that include,used tayaki fish if I remember right. Prawn, grilled chicken. Peppers,rice cakes and other food as well. Big meal.

Yeah these foods above.

Once that was done most went back while me Steve and Luis went out to the bars for a few drinks (I kept to juices being a tee total), met some nice Japanese people and two Aussie girls in the first place, second was a small quirky place with nice Victorian chairs. Learned Steve comes from Southampton and his parents live where i did in hedge end when I lived there as a kid.

Met some cool Japanese people while I was there wishes I had more time to get to know them but was really exhausted by that point and needed sleep.

Long blog post this time. But that’s mainly cause the Wagashi lesson was so good and had much to tell for that.

Hope you have enjoyed reading this blog chapter and get to try Wagashi sweets and know a bit about the sweets and its purpose in japanese culture and tradition.

Edit 20/04/15 made some corrections I spotted this morning. Had proofread it last night but I was tired and I am doing this blog off my iPad app for WordPress as well and can’t see any word proof check on it. If I make any mistakes let me know. Also put in proper link to Toki website.

Oli simpson


Manga class day InsideJapan holiday blog by oil simpson88


Blimey that’s a fat white lad there. Oh waits that’s me 😃.

Manga class day today, so after breakfast (which was a nice mix of Rice Krispies, egg, bacon sausages garlic toast and croissants). 

I met my Japanese guide for the day Ayano Endo. She was very nice and knowledgeable about a lot of things and it was very enjoyable chatting to her about a lot of topics and subjects about manga and anime, as well as comparing Japan and Britain with each other. 

Plus she was able to translate everything though I did speak a bit of Japanese in places really basic stuff, but they really appreciated it when I did.

Since English can be a hard language for Japanese people to grasp for a number of reasons, I.E due to their language not having a syntax for the L word and having a lot of r syntax to their language. Which as Ayano related to when she was on a exchange program in Canada where it took her five times for a Canadian to understand her request for water, and that was due to someone she knew there teaching her the British English way of saying it. Fault is more on the Canadian person since she said it fine to me in her Japanese tone way. 

We also had an interesting discussion on accents in both England and Japan. As like England japan has regional dialog and people from Osaka and Kansai region can sound different than people from Tokyo. Like how people from say Newcastle sound different than someone from London can sound. As most japs in anime use Tokyo accents due to some feeling they will be mocked or not understood if they used Kansai or other area accents.

She plans to go back to uni and study quite a bit on Japanese tourism subjects, mix of anime and Manga I.E its influences aboard, Japanese social structures and other topics so she can learn more stuff and increase her range of knowledge.


She was older than I thought, 35 when I asked her after guessing it for a minute or two. This pic was taken at akihabara where she dropped me off once manga class was done. 

Took us round about 40 minutes to get to the Managa animation class in Yokohama, we were early so we went into a Family mart store and had a chat about the manga section they tend to have in Japanese convenience stores, the sort they have and as well about why Japan does a lot of mascots and how it compares to the west etc (we did this a lot today since we liked how it was to measure Japan and Britain with each other and how similar the two can be at times). 

Once it was time we went to the manga class. 


Got there met the teacher who is called Ikuo Matsuda, who has been teaching for over 30 years of drawing manga after learning from Mikiya Mochizuki (he did the manga Wild 7 from the 60’s 70’s have heard of it but never read it so older manga fans may know of it). 

So met the class for today only a few students who introduced myself to. They were quite shy especially the one on the far right, she basically whispered her introduction. From what Ikuo told me they don’t get many western people that come to the class, mostly Americans but recently more English people are coming to the class to visit. Recent one was some author I think surname melly something from camebridge.

So got down to the lesson, where Ikuo taught me about the way drawings are done in manga, the different genres of it that I knew already, what sort of pens are used etc. I chose to use what is called the spoon pen, simply cause it’s shaped like a spoon. 


Started by doing lines with the pen, not as easy as it seems by the picture, had to do thin lines, thick lines and squibbly lines and sometimes a mix of all three. Got used to it quickly enough and I think Ikuo-sensi was impressed by how I grasped it. The guide was especially but this was her first time doing this. 

She had a go but found it hard to do. 

Then I was given a choice of tracing over some anime sketches chose Naruto one since that one looked good to do. 


I actually reminded myself today of that joke in chasing Amy where Jason Lee character is heckled for being a tracer (even though what he does is actually quite important to the drawing process). It’s tricky drawing within the lines and the times your supposed to do a sketch mark I could hardly do it due to me being not quite good at doing that sort of thing with a pen. 


The blob bits are the result of my sketch marks at times. Whoops 😔. 

Then we had lunch, which surprised me as I wasn’t expecting that, just a miso soup and egg and ham sandwich but it was very nice of Ikuo to get me and Ayano lunch.

Then I did what is called the colouring process which is colouring in the bits marked by Ikuo with the black marker pen he gave me. Where first I did the outside lines, then I coloured the rest of it in. 


The results of my attempts. Not too bad eh 😏. 

We then did was is called the screen tone process. It’s called that as what it is adding a design or pattern to the background of the drawing, whether it’s lines, poka dots you name it. It starts with first choosing the background, then you outline the but where the background will go, doing it bigger than outline the colour section. 

Then you cut the background but over the chosen area with a chopboard and cutting knife. Then you peel off the unwanted bids and make sure it will stick on with a tissue and afterwards a flatter ruler type object. 

Now some info on Ikuo, mentioned before he learnt under Mikiya Mochizuki. He has also spent years working at the Yoyogi animation school (that’s where my manga class was originally going to take place until the Japanese inside japan staff suggested Ikuo instead, good decision I feel). Til 2011 when he opened up his own school. He has done lectures aboard in Italy where there is a number of manga fans over there. In Sweden and last year for the Managa workshop in Kenya at the Japanese embassy. 

He is also a big Beatles fan, playing hey Jude in the background via jazz, he also has done a 50 manga page of going to a Paul McCartney concert, 


He even gave me photocopies of the story and of another piece of his own work of drawings autograph as well with them. Really made my day that, along with letting me keep my stuff I did in the class as well. 


Me and Ikuo-sensei in a photo.

Once the screen tone was done the lesson was finished. So got the class photo done, the other man very nicely gave everyone a donut which was quite nice. 

Then I asked Ayano to take me to akihabara since I wanted to see the place. 

We parted ways there but not before we gave each other a small gift. I gave her some fruit pastels and she gave me a volume of Naruto. Chapters from part one from 136 to 141 the parts where the third hokage dies, gaaura is defeated and Itachi shows up for the first time. In Japanese of course but the gift was very thoughtful and she added a nice message in jap on the back as well.

Here are some of the sights in akihabara. Nice enough place with lots of shops and arcades. Went into a few of both but didn’t spend any money. 



 That’s everything I did today. 

Tomorrow I am doing a wagashi lesson with Mr. Chukara Mizukami. Japanese sweet tea in the afternoon, morning will be studio ghibli museum but I have done that before so not much to say for that. 

Thanks for checking out my blog, hope it has been enjoyable and interesting to read so far. 

Edit 18/04/15: Made some corrections that I spotted just now. Bloody IPad auto correct. 

Oliver Simpson


First day back in Tokyo InsideJapan holiday blog

So arrived at Haneda airport this morning after twelve-hour flight from Heathrow (connection flight was from Manchester to Heathrow was late but flight to Haneda went very smoothly.

Slept a bit in the plane but me never being able to sleep much in daytime led to only a few hours of sleep overall. The amount of times I have dozed off today I can’t keep track.

Once i got to hotel thanks to inside Japan sending a driver to pick me up, who at first I thought was a woman til I got a better look at him 😅, oh some of the lads in Tokyo are prettier than the women and there are some fine-looking women I can tell you that for sure 😊.

Steve my tour leader met me and gave me the sheet of what’s happening when tour starts on Saturday. Along with giving me the travel card for the subways and jr main lines. So went to Ueno straight away to partly kill time til I kill time til I  image image  imageimage

These are my favourite pictures I took with my iPad today. There were some things I couldn’t take a photo of and I chose to respect that decision by the Japanese.

 I could check into Asakusa  view hotel in the Asakusa district in Tokyo.

imageHe seems nice and laid back. Looking forward to seeing how he does the tour.

But out mainly so I could go to the National Tokyo museum

imageas I missed out in that last time due to public holiday that took place at the time. Only costed around 600 yen to do so well worth the price. Got to see ancient relics, especially samurai armour and swords, amazing how the Japanese  have kept them in fine condition despite some of them being centuries or even a millienuim old. There was also nice sections on the Ainu and the Kingdom of ryoku (sorry forgotten the name of it) along with bits of Chinese and other Asian history as well. Though all of it ancient and certainty not modern bits to be seen that’s for sure.

Once Museum was done checked into my room. Space is limited but that is to be expected from how the Japanese use their space in general. But the view I have got from my room is well worth it. Plus shower is nice as well which is good since I really needed that good shower after all the traveling I have done this week!

Had a kip and then it was time to do my activity of the day. Going to the Robot restaurant in Shinjuku. Was easy enough to find once I got out of Shinjuku station. I was reminded today of how daunting it can be going there. So many people pass through it as you are. 4 million a day use that train station. I ain’t afraid of crowds. But it’s so easy to get lost in that place if you don’t know where you are going.

Got there paid for it. Started around six and lasted 100 minutes including breaks and selling booze and popcorn etc during the acts. The show overall was very fun and enjoyable to see. Over the top, cheesy and very very Japanese. But it all still works because of the effort the performers put into their work and also in how they built and designed the robots and other stage equipment used in the production of it. The best way to describe it is saying it’s like a power rangers show live. Hell one segment so reminded me of mighty morphin power powers which I loved as a kid that u couldn’t help but love it.

It had lots of lasers, robots of course. Had a rip off of Kung Fu panda. And of course plenty of beautiful women to admire and enjoy watching. Heck I even saw some of the women in the audience eyeing a good look at them. They were that gorgeous though i find most Japanese women beautiful anyway so my opinion is very biased.

Though I noticed two gents in the other side of the room where they did the show, the one with glasses look disgusted throughout it all think he was there to discuss business with the Japanese  who took them there, not the best impression to make eh 😄.

I was front row with no meal due to them being poor according to InsideJapan so if you found them alright then you could inform InsideJapan of that fact. There were some bits I thought they could have cut outside they seemed to interrupt he flow of it all and felt disjointed from the rest of the show. These were when the girls came out as bandleaders and dressing up as a super girls as well. Also the techno dance but as well while more fitting seemed there to pad things out.

They weren’t bad but they felt fillerish and weren’t interesting to watch I feel. Though it was a pleasure to see map girls like that. Oh yes a fine pleasure, but I averted looking for the most part at the more interesting parts.  


These are some of the many photos I took while seeing the shoo. Sorry some of the photos are not good quality. I phones tend not to be the most reliable camera. Plus taking a photo and watching something isn’t the easiest to do.

Wep that’s everything for today.

Tomorrow I shall be taking a manga class. Can the teachers do the impossible? Can they get me able to draw something more than a stick figure. Find out tomorrow for the latest reveals.

Oli simpson

The view of Tokyo from my room. The sky tree in all of its glory.

Sorry about the above colour lines I proofread it in site then put it on app when pictures weren’t aligning right. Will avoid this in the future.



Inside Japan holiday blog by Oliver simpson 

This will be a blog of my trip to Japan from Wednesday 15th April to Wednesday 6th May. I will go through day by day of which places I go to, what I do and what my thoughts are etc. 

This holiday was booked and planned via InsideJapan tours company with travel consultant Rachel Rykala being top notch in arranging and booking my itinerary, giving some fab suggestions and feedback to my own ideas as well. I highly recommend them as a company to book your holiday to Japan. Their service and insight of Japan is second to none.


Here is a link to their site

They also have a blog as well that provides some useful tips and interesting thoughts and stories as well. Here is the link for that blog

I hope you enjoy reading my blog and it gives you a bit of insight. As well as inspiration of seeing Japan for yourself. 

Oliver Simpson