Archive for April 21, 2010

MBTA rant

Today, on the train into work, I was standing next to a guy with a bag and a bike helmet clipped to it. He constantly turned – don’t know what he was looking at – hitting me each time; never appologized. Then at one point, he dropped his arm from the pole to grab a book out of his bag. And yes, in the process, he managed to slam his arm into mine; again without appologizing.

I spent the remaining time (standing next to him) trying to come up with the best technique to use on this douchebag should the perfect opportunity arise. I decided that a swift kick to the shin (or calf) or an accidental elbow to the kidneys would do the job nicely.

Alas, a seat freed up so I took it. I still continued to plot though.

oblivious to anyone around him

PS: I thought knifing him in the back would be fun too. Oh, wait, this is real life; not MW2…


Tokyo, Japan: Day 9

Today we went to the Apple Store in Ginza, hoping to play with the newly released Apple iPad. Apparently, it’s not out yet in Japan or something as we didn’t see it in the store. After Apple, we walked over towards the Imperial Gardens. We stopped at the water park and watched the water fountains for a while. There was a seashell fountain that was pretty cool.

After the break, we walked over to the wrong gate since Daniel forgot which gate people are allowed into. We saw a snake sunbathing on some rocks though. After we got a few shots of him, we headed over to Otemon gate (the correct one). We saw some swans, ducks, cormorants, and koi fish in the mote, as well as some weeping cherry trees along the banks.

Once we finally made it to the Otemon gate, we saw several guardhouses that were used by samurai. We also stopped for some waffle ice cream. We then headed off into the lower parts of the garden which included lots of flowers and a pond.

There were some people doing water paintings in the pond area. There were an abundance of cherry trees and bamboo. Behind the pond was a small waterfall. After the pond area, we ventured towards the upper parts of the garden. There was an octogon music hall for the Empress’s 60th birthday. There were bird designs on it. Across from the music hall was the old stone remnants of large watch tower that was built and burned in the 1600s. We were able to climb t o the top of it to enjoy views of both Tokyo and the garden grounds.

We walked back down into the garden area and into the bamboo forest. I had noticed before but we were still not able to figure out what the strings between each bamboo was for. It was almost like a fence so you can’t walk through the bamboo trees.

We tried to get more waffle ice cream from the other rest building but they seemed to have sold out since the freezers were completely empty but we saw people eating them. After we left the Imperial Gardens, we walked over to Tokyo Eki. Apparently, the Tokyo station building looks like a British type building. Too bad it was under renovation so I wasn’t able to see any of the building.

So we hopped on to go to Harajuku for some crepes but when we arrived, we went into Family Mart for some waffle ice cream first. We sat and people-watched for a while. There was a foreigner with a couple Japanese translators (mom and daughter?) talking to some cops. More and more cops showed up; eventually an ambulance arrived. We concluded that the foreigner was injured since we saw him limping a bit towards the amulance. The amublance eventually took off with him. That entertained us for a while.

We then noticed some dude with a white straw hat, black rim glasses and a lot of tattoos, recruiting girls at the same intersection we were people-watching at. We watched him work for a while. Eventually we decided to follow him but we finally lost him when he went down some side streets.

After stalking the straw hat, tattoo guy, we gave up on crepes since the waffle ice creams we had gave us tummy aches. We decides to walk to Shibuya to find some dinner. We stopped at a street vendor thad selling egg cakes. We ordered and paid for 12 but insisted on giving us extras. Some of them were stale but overall yummy. I think the stale ones were the ones that gave me a massiv stomach ache though.

We walked around Shibuya and went into a yen shop (dollar store) looking for onigiri molds but we came out empty-handed. We looked for an Italian place for dinner but didn’t find one so we decided to take the train back to Harajuku and try the “Italian Tomato”. We both had spaghetti with meat sauce; it was decent.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel for the night. When we were ready for bed, Daniel set up his camera once again with his new AC adapter from Yodobashi for his automated picture project (time lapse).

Here’s a couple of shots from the Imperial Gardens:

pond area with Koi fish:

the large watch tower with views of Tokyo:


Tokyo, Japan: Day 8

Another foggy morning in Tokyo. The photo project Daniel set up last night (automatically shooting 1 photo every minute all night) didn’t work so well. His battery died in the middle of the night. He decided he needed an AC adapter for his camera so we went to Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara to get one.

After spending a couple hours at Yodobashi Camera, we got a “super large” mixed fruit drink from Juicer Bar. The “super large” cup was smaller than a “small” cup from McDonald’s lol

Today was a short day.


Tokyo, Japan: Day 7

We hung out in the hotel room in the morning and headed out around lunch time. We picked up some onigiri at the AM/PM (convenient store) on the way to the train station.

When we arrived at Harajuku, we walked over to the bridge where (normally) all of the cosplayers hang out. Unfortunately, there weren’t really any at all.

We then headed off on the trail to Meiji Jingu Shrine. We detoured to the gift shop to pick up some chopsticks for my friend. Then we made our wat back to the trail. There were some wine casks from French vineyards on display. Daniel guessed that they were a gift and were blessed at the Shrine.

At the Shrine, we witnessed a few weddings. There was also a cherry tree that Daniel wanted to shoot but had to wait awhile for because some guy was standing in front of him, shooting a similar shot for a very long time. After the shot, we walked back to Harajuku.

There were still only a few cosplayers out. We spotted some breakdancers warming up but apparently the cops told them to shutt off their music so they didn’t really dance anymore. I would have liked to watch them.

We walked along the train station and headed over to Takeshita Dori. There was about a billion people all crammed on a small, narrow street, filled with fashion shops. It was literally a sea of people. When we finally made it to the end, we walked along the main street then back up the hill towards Harajuku station. I noticed that crepe shops are popular there.

After walking around in Harajuku, we rode the train to Shibuya to find food. We eventually found a place on the top floor of a women’s department store. It was a more expensive place. I was disappointed with the food though. I had an udon set and Daniel had a tempura shrimp bowl. Both meals came with pickled veggies (which I liked) and a small dessert (piece of orange, strawberry, and mango purée, over a sweet pudding or yogurt). The dessert was the best part of my meal. I nearly choked on it though. When I was taking my first bite of it, I got a whiff of the mango purée, thinking i was about yo bite into mango but instead, suddenly orange juice sprayed down my throat.

Oh and at some point before the udon meal, we walked through the food market in the basemen floor of another department store in Shibuya Eki. I got a corn fritter, stuffed it in my bag and didn’t eat it until later.

After eating at Shibuya, we took the Yamanote line back to the hotel. When we got back, I tried the corn fritter thing. It was… okay but I prefer my corn by itself, without any breading. Later in the night, we took a stroll down to AM/PM and picked up a couple waffle ice creams and an onigiri. We ate them in the room as we looked out at the Hama-rikyu Gardens.

The sakura in the park were lit up by lights. There were a lot of people looking and taking photos. Daniel set up his camera to take photos every minute all night.


Kyoto, Japan: Day 6

This morning we woke up around 6am and showered. We were aiming for the 7:30am Shinkansen (bullet train, kind of like the Accela but way faster). We decided to get breakfast upstairs in the Executive Lounge since we were not going to make the 7:30am train. We got fruits and meats as usual. It was nearing 7:45am when we finished breakfast and we weren’t going to make the 8:00am train either. They run about every half hour. We gathered up our stuff and headed for the train. We got off at Tokyo Eki (station) and jumped on the Shinkansen.

The Shinkansen bullet trains are awesome! The train staff will rotate the seats when the train reaches the end of the line because the train doesn’t turn around; it just goes the reverse direction. The staff also dust off the seats and clean the floors. Once we got on the 8:30am train to Kyoto, we were trying to find a two-seat aisle so we could be on the right side of the train to try to see Mt. Fuji. We were unsuccessful because a lot of single riders wanted their own window seats. We settled for a three-seat aisle. We weren’t able to see Mt. Fuji much if at all anyway. It was sort of hazy up there.

We arrived in Kyoto station before 12:00pm. We ate lunch at an udon noodle shop. Infront of the shop was a window with someone making udon noodles. Being tourists, we recorded a short video of it. Inside the noodle shop was really hot. It didn’t help that we had hot udon noodle soup either. The food was delicious. As we left the shop, we noticed that our butts were wet from sweating (lol).

After buying our all day bus pass, we joined the long line for the bus we needed to take to get to Kiyomizu-dera Temple. So finally we arrived there with a billion other people as well. We walked up a slight hill to get to the temple. Along the way, we passed many small shops selling tea cups and bowls. Apparently, that’s the cool thing in Kyoto. We also saw some people hitching a ride on a rickshaw.

The Kiyomizu-dera Temple was disappointing. I expected something spectular for some reason. Maybe I was more tired than anything from the commute to the temple. There were sooo many people there as well. I’ve learned that I don’t enjoy crowded places. Anyway – people dressed in grey, traditional clothing (uniforms?) marched along with a big dragon over their heads too. After all the walking around that temple, we treated ourselves to more walking. It was about 3:00pm so we thought we’d head to the Kinkaku-ji Temple.

As we walked back down the hilly street, we stopped at a small shop where I picked up some souvenirs (magnets) for friends and family. The bus ride over to Kinkaku-ji Temple tool forever! Some stops were like 5 shops down from the previous. We finally arrived at our bus stop at around 4:40pm (about 1.5 hr ride). We couldn’t wait to get off that bus. It was sooo packed!

We had to walk a few blocks to get the Kinkaku-ji Temple. We probably didn’t actually get our admission tickets until about 5:00pm and it was going to close at 5:30pm (we didn’t know). By the time we got there, the sun was setting. Perfect timing really. The golden temple was beautiful! It was surrounded by a lake so I got shots of the temple with it’s reflection as well. As we made our way around to the back, there was a Great Blue Heron standing on a mini island next to the temple. We were all taking pictures of it when the the temple staff started to ruh us to leave because they were closing. The good thing was that they rushed us all the way through the park so at least we got to see everything, instead of making us leave through the front entrance.

After visiting the Kinkaku-ji Temple, we took a bus back to Kyoto Eki. We picked up a couple bento boxes for dinner to eat on the Shinkansen ride back. We also got some sake onigiri (salmon rice balls) incase the bento boxes weren’t good/didn’t fill us up. We decided to grab drinks (a bottle of Lipton Peach Mango Tea and a bottle of water) and a snack as well.

Now, I’m going to take a nap. Hopefully we won’t sleep through the station we need to get off at 🙂

PS: I’ve been writing this blog entry from my iPhone while we’re on the bus and on the Shinkansen that way everything is still fresh in my mind.

Here are a couple shots from Kyoto:

Kiyomizu-dera Temple:

Kinkaku-ji Temple:


Tokyo, Japan: Day 5

We didn’t do a whole lot today. We got up late and it was a cloudy, chilly day. We went to Hama-rikyu Gardens, which is the park our hotel room overlooks. The park was pretty but it was a lot colder than expected. The Weather Channel app said it was 53 degrees and felt like 53 degrees even though there were winds of about 9mph. The real temperature was more like 40s!

We walked around for a while and got really hungry so we picked up some octopus balls at Funky’s Hot Dog Station, ironically, they didn’t sell any hot dogs at all. The octopus balls were bland and mushy; I didn’t like them very much although they were able to hold us over for a couple hours. We took pictures of the cherry blossoms, our hotel, the ponds, duck hunting stakeouts, the flower garden, etc. Overall, the park was great but our fingers were starting to get stiff and numb from the cold. After one last shot of us together with the sakura, we headed back to the hotel to warm up a bit.

Then we decided to go to a shop in the Shiodome building for udon. I think our waitress was new at the job and didn’t speak any English at all. For drinks, I wanted a lychee drink with orange and Daniel wanted a beer. What I ended up getting was orange juice and Daniel got a different brand beer than he wanted. We got two appetizers. Chicken wings and something on a stick. I enjoyed the chicken wings more. For the main course, I got curry udon and it was delicious! I hope we get to go back there.

Because we had skipped breakfast and lunch, we had a huge dinner but it still wasn’t enough (for me at least). Next door to the udon place was Choco Cro. It was a small little cafe with pastries. I ended up getting a strawberry boat and it was yummy!

Our hotel:


Tokyo, Japan: Day 4

My friend Eriko got us resident tickets to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. The tourist tickets were all sold out; I guess it’s really popular this time of year to go. We arrived at Mitaka Eki early so we got some lunch at the station. After lunch, we went downstairs and saw a convenient store and picked up a snack (dried cuttlefish). We finally saw Daniel’s “hyper pulp” orange juice by Sapporo. We’ve been looking all over for this drink. It’s a mandarin orange juice drink with lots of pulp. It’s really yummy!

As we were walking out of the station, Eriko was walking in and recognized me. We embraced and chatted as she led us through the Mitaka neighborhoods to the museum. She said she lived close by to the train station. After a 15-20 minute walk, we arrived at the museum. We were about 10 minutes early as our tickets were for 2pm. We walked around to the park behind the museum. There was a street performer there with a crowd gathered. The kids cheered him on as he made an impressive Minnie Mouse balloon.

Photography was prohibited inside the museum so we didn’t get any photos or videos of the inside. The structure of the building was very neat. A narrow spiral staircase was found in the middle of the lobby to get you from the first floor to the top floor. There were small doorways for kids to go through to get to the next room. When we got our information pamphlet, we also received a ticket (some kind of film) for a special viewing of a 25 minute animated short called “Looking for a Home“, written by Hayao Miyazaki. The film was to be enjoyed by everyone, no matter what language you spoke. There were no conversations in this film, just sounds… and all of the sound effects were done by people. The story was about a young girl, leaving home, traveling through the country. She would leave an apple for the spirits of each place she crossed. One was a river spirit, another was a house spirit.

After the film, we explored more of the museum. One room was a play area for kids. They played on a big, furry, Catbus! Kids were free to go in and out and on top of the Catbus. There was a long line of kids waiting for their turns. There were even susuwatari (dust bunnies or small house spirits) all over the place. We stopped in the museum gift shop for a small Catbus and Totoro plush. It was very crowded in there (like any place in Tokyo really). Outside of the museum, there is a spiral staircase that goes up top. Eventually we found out that it was outside of the Catbus playroom. Up there, was a huge android robot from Castle in the Sky. By huge, I mean it was ~20 feet high. People were waiting for their turns to take pictures with it. We also got our pictures taken with it. Walking through a pathway, we found a cube with mystery writing on it. I assume, it’s from the movie as well (I have yet to see it).

At some point inside the museum, a man came up to me and asked me about my VFFs. I wore the red ones and they are a very bold color. I let him know he can Google “Five Fingers” and he’ll find any and everything he wants to know about the shoes. Daniel and Eriko then realized the guy was talking to me, so we all engaged in a short conversation about our shoes. He wanted to know how it felt to walk around in them and what people did in the shoes. He was very interested, as are all people that come up to us 🙂

After the Ghibli Museum, Eriko took us through the Inokashira Park. There was an open field that she practices her Taekwondo forms in. I asked if people ever stopped to watch her and ask her about what she is doing. She said no, not really and people would only watch from far away as Japanese people are very shy. Eriko wanted a photo of her and I doing a Taekwondo pose since that park is her Dojang. The park was very quiet despite there being people there. As we walked, we passed a zoo that was closing for the day. Eriko told us there was a really old elephant living there, from WWII. Further through the park, there was a big pond, a shrine, several koi fish, a fountain and a bridge with lots of people on it. I suspect they were waiting for a boat ride through the pond.

Eriko led us through the park to Kichijoi where we walked through small, crowded streets, filled with lots of little shops. We ate dinner at a Korean place on the top floor of a Yodabashi Camera store. We all had dolsot bibimbap for dinner and it was delicious! After dinner, Eriko had to go to work, so she walked us through to the station and rode the train to Mitaka with us where she got off and we continued on to Tachikawa. Daniel thought there was a DDR arcade machine at the Sega Club there but there wasn’t so we got my favorite drink (Lipton Apple Tea) from a vending machine and headed back. The ride was long, maybe about 45 minutes so we fell asleep on the train like real commuters do.

Here’s a picture from the Inokashira Park: