Tag Archive for japan

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:


---------------
乾杯!

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.


---------------
乾杯!

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.


---------------
乾杯!

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:


---------------
乾杯!

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:


---------------
乾杯!

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:


---------------
乾杯!

Tokyo, Japan: Day 3

We got up a bit later than the previous days. We wanted to rest up since our feet were hurting so much from yesterday. After breakfast, we took the train to Akihabara again but this time we went to an the arcade (Sega Club). There were 2 buildings for it. The first one we went to was a bit dirty and sketchy. Next to it, was the new one. It seemed more friendly. The lighting was a lot better. Arcades are organized very well in Japan – each floor is dedicated to a specific category of game. Crane games were all together on one floor, then another floor had shooting games, and another had fighting games. Each of those Sega Club buildings had 6 floors each. Gamer paradise 🙂 We did manage to play a few games. I played Street Fighter IV in the sketchy building. Daniel played some mecha game that never seemed to end. We both played Virtua Fighter 5 (verion C – whatever that means!). We also played Ghost Squad (shooting game) and Tanks Tanks Tanks together. Oh, and I played some Tetris game with huge joysticks (rofl). Photography was prohibited but I was able to ninja a few for your viewing pleasure. Of course, I don’t have any time to put them up now, but keep an eye out for them later when I post all of my pics up. Almost every arcade machine had a seat so you are comfortable and will stay and play.

After the arcade, we went to have a late lunch. There was a cart vendor (from Turkey?) selling beef and chicken kabob pitas. I thought it was decent, but the onion was overwhelming me.

After lunch, we took the train to Hamamatsucho station and went to Pokemon Center. It was packed with little kids and their parents! A couple kids from TKD wanted me to get them something from the store so we were on a hunt for their requested Pokemon plushes. We were able to find them. I also picked up a Wobbuffet plush and Daniel got me a Pikachu plush that when you turned it inside out, it became a pokeball 🙂 I also got a new keychain to replace the one Daniel got me on his trip from last year.

After the Pokemon craziness, we were tired so we headed back to the hotel. When we got to the Shimbashi station, we saw a book market outside the station so we decided to check it out. We actually didn’t really check it out – we kind of looked at it as we walked by it. We discovered a smaller version of Yodobashi Camera store (in Akibahara) so we went there instead. Surprisingly, one of the employees came and tried to make small talk with us. He asked where we were from and talked about the weather.

After exploring the 6 floor building and not buying anything, we decided it was really time to head back to the room. After the brief break, we went to a ramen shop in the Shiodome City Center building for dinner. I got edamame for an appetizer. It was a pleasant surprise when they brought it out; it was steaming hot! I’m not used to hot edamame. Normally at Minado’s, it’s cold and not too salty (like it should be). The ramen was decent but the pork that came with it was too fatty for me.

Eriko (my TKD friend that lives in Tokyo) had left me a message on Facebook saying she got us tickets to the Ghibli Museum for tomorrow (Thu afternoon). I called her later in the night on Skype to work out the details.


---------------
乾杯!

Tokyo, Japan: Day 2

Today, we went to Roppongi Hills first. We saw Maman, the gigantic spider sculpture, and then walked around the plaza. As we made our way towards the park outside, we noticed a distant view of Tokyo Tower. It was a bit chilly and windy out, so when we got outside, we ducked into the TV Asahi building. I guess it’s a TV station here. There was a small little shop that sold shirts, pencils, keychains, stickers, hats from Asahi TV shows.

There were a lot of people taking pictures of the sakura (cherry blossoms). The park had a nice little pond as well. After the park, we ducked back into the underground plaza for some lunch. We ate at a Korean place named “a Cave”. I didn’t like it very much. I got some Thai fried chicken thing with brown rice and potato salad. The chicken and potato salad were okay but I hated the rice.

After lunch, we jumped on the train to Ueno Koen. As we entered the park, we were greeted by a big crowd, watching a street performer. He wasn’t very entertaining. After watching for a couple minutes, we moved on to the rest of the park. There were lots of people picnicking and walking around, enjoying the sunny (but chilly at times) day.

Our feet were hurting again so we took a break on a nearby bench infront of a shrine. People rang a bell before they entered it. After a few minutes, we walked around some more and saw another street performer. This guy was much more entertaining than the first. He was more lively and had a funny haircut. We watched him for such a long time, I think my feet were numb from standing on the hard concrete ground (in my VFFs). Even though he was fun to watch, as soon as his performance was over, we didn’t hang around except to give him some money at the end of his performance.

We decided to go to Tokyo Tower for the sunset so we hopped on the train for a short while. It was about a 10 minute walk from the station to the tower. The weather was great and we could see everything. There were 2 observation floors. The second (higher) floor required an extra admission fee. The skies were clear so we were able to see Mt. Fuji, sort of 🙂 We were able to see the new Tokyo Tower construction as well. After doing all the viewing, we headed downstairs and checked out the overlook window.

It was just about dinner time, so we headed downstairs to the McDonalds and shared a cheeseburger and some fries for a small snack. We sat for a while since our feet were killing us. Then, we thought it’d be best to eat dinner somewhere close by (some noodle shop in the tower lobby) then just take the train and go straight back to the hotel.

My feet have never hurt so much in my life!


---------------
乾杯!

Tokyo, Japan: Day 1

This morning we went to breakfast upstairs in the Executive Lounge of the Conrad Hotel. We had a mix of fruits and meats (ham, pastrami, bacon). It was really good – all of the fruits seemed really fresh and ripe. After breakfast, we took the JR train for 1 stop (to Hamamatsucho) to go to the Pokemon Center. When we arrived, we discovered that it did not open until 11:00 (we got there around 10:00). So, we left and decided to take the train to Akihabara.

We went into SoftBank to try to get Daniel’s old Japanese phone to activate. The store employee explained that it was too old to use. We tried to buy a new, cheap one but she said she can’t sell phones to tourists staying less than 90 days. Disappointed, we left and explored the Yodobashi Camera store. It was 7 floors (I think) of electronics. Each floor was a different category, like cameras (obviously), pc/mac and parts, TVs, printing accessories (cartridges, paper, etc), video games (my favorite), home and beauty care, etc. We skipped the top floor; it was golf stuff.

We had shabu shabu for lunch in the Yodobashi Camera store. It was buffet style for noodles and veggies but not the meat (although it was a generous portion anyway). It was good but the broth was nothing but boiling water. That really ruined it for me. I’m used to Little Q style hot pot where the broth is a delicious black bone chicken (there are other flavors as well) flavor. Even the broth we use for hot pot at home was better.

After lunch, we decided to take the train back to the hotel for a break. On the way, we detoured to the Sony Building since it was close by. It was a showcase building which is really cool. The first thing we saw was a 3D hologram display. It was really awesome!! You can walk around the display (which had 2 cute little characters in it) and your perspective matched your position (if you were behind the display, you would be looking at the characters’ back side; if you were to the right or left of the display, you would be looking at the characters’ sides).

After the Sony Building, we took the train back to the hotel. We got off at Shimbashi station. During our walk back to the hotel, we stopped in a convenient store called AM/PM and picked up a couple salmon onigiri (rice balls) for a snack. When we got back to the hotel room, we ate the onigiri and took a long nap. We didn’t wake up for a good 5 hours. It was just after 9:30pm that we got up and ready to grab dinner somewhere. We ended up just eating at a Thai place in the Shiodome building (same building as the hotel). The Conrad Hotel is actually on the upper floors of the Shiodome building so luckily we didn’t have to go too far for dinner as we were super tired.

After dinner, we came back to the room and gave Eriko (my TKD friend that lives in Tokyo) a call. We were trying to work out plans to go to the Ghibli Museum, in Mitaka, this week. After the call, we played with our cameras a bit and took some night photos of the Tokyo bay. We have a great view of it from our window 🙂

I’ll be taking lots of pics on this trip but I won’t have time to edit them and upload them with any of the blog posts I’ll be writing. Photos will be posted separately… quite a bit later after the trip but I might be able to get a few photos up from time to time!

Like this one from our 36th floor bay view hotel room:


---------------
乾杯!

Things to do & see in Japan (upcoming trip: April 2010)


---------------
乾杯!