While I’m waiting to hear what people would like to see more of on my blog, I figured that I’d finally get around to posting some pics from my Japan trip in June. Well, here they are (the first week anyways).
Somehow I managed to pack everything I needed for a month in this little piece of luggage, and I put that in a larger piece of luggage. Obviously, I was expecting to bring a LOT of stuff back home (and I did). By the end of the trip, both of these bags were full, along with a backpack that I brought as a carry-on.
I flew Air Canada direct from Calgary to Vancouver. While AC is known for not having the best of service, I managed to get tickets for half the price that other airlines were offering because of a special promotion. Here was the first meal of the flight. The rice was horrible, but the chicken and dessert were pretty good.
It seems that AC has implemented something new since the last time I flew with them: special lights to help you adjust to the new timezone. When it’s time to sleep, the lights change colour from white to orange to blue to violet before finally turning off (to simulate a sunset). When it’s time to get up, they do the same thing but with slightly different colours in reverse order. The pic below is of a “sunrise” on the plane. As a note, since we were flying west, the sun was actually up for the entire flight.
Here is my first glimpse of the Japanese countryside. This was taken while I was on the Narita Express, which takes you from Narita airport into Tokyo.
It was evening by the time my friends and I found our apartments. We were all tired and hungry from the flight so we decided to head out to eat and ended up at a place called Jonathan’s. For those of you who don’t know, Jonathan’s is an “American” restaurant in Japan. Ironic huh? We fly all the way across the Pacific and the first thing we eat is food that we can get back home. After dinner, I bought some Pocari Sweat from a vending machine. It tasted gross, but I was thirsty so I didn’t care.
The next day we went out exploring to see what was around our neighbourhood. Below is a shot I took at the intersection of Chuo-dori and Kasuga-dori. Any hardcore otaku out there may remember that Chuo-dori is the main street of Akiba. This intersection is several blocks north of Akiba, near Ueno.
Well, instead of following Chuo-dori into Akiba, we decided to go the other way to Ueno Park. Along the way, I saw this ad for AKB48. Little did I know that this would be the first of hundreds (or maybe thousands?) of AKB48 ads I saw promoting the release of their newest single.
I can’t remember what this temple was called, but it’s right near Ueno Park (which was just behind me when I took this pic). Behind the temple you can see a building that I think was part of the University of Tokyo.
My first glimpse of Japanese wildlife: a pigeon and a turtle.
This is the entrance to the temple.
I really liked this poster, it’s so cute. I have no clue what it’s about though.
At the time, there was some kind of Bonsai tree exhibit going on in Ueno Park. This old guy that heard us speaking English pointed out one tree that was over 150 years old. I took a whole bunch of pics so I can’t remember which one it was, but here’s a bunch of them on display:
This is the flame of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Ueno Park. Apparently they took a fire from each city and put them together, then stuck it in this dove thingy. I know it’s hard to see, but there is a flame in there.
Those of you that read Chibified may remember seeing a rather interesting temple that AS took a picture of. Well, I went several months later and surprisingly it’s still there. I wonder how long it takes to do renovations for temples.
Next we headed over to the University of Tokyo, which is right next to Ueno Park. I found a couple statues of two German guys on campus. I’m assuming they founded the University or something like that.
This is the famous clock tower that anyone who read/watched Love Hina will remember. Does anyone else think that the white van in front looks a lot like Seta’s van? coincidence? I think not!
Afterwards, we decided it would be a good idea to get some rental cellphones so we stopped by a Softbank store. They told us that they didn’t have any and that we should check out Don Quixote or Yodobashi Camera instead. We were pretty happy to now have a good reason to go to Akiba so off we went. After walking past some porno shops, we found Don Quixote, which is recognizable through that blue penguin mascot and all the AKB48 signs everywhere.
Unfortunately, Don Quixote was sold out of rental phones, so we headed over to Yodobashi Camera instead. We didn’t have much luck here either as we couldn’t find a single person that spoke English. Everyone we spoke to made an “X” with their arms or hands, indicating that they either didn’t want to or couldn’t talk to us.
Failing to find any rental phones, we decided to just do without them. We spent the rest of the evening browsing through all the electronics at Yodobashi. The morning after, we headed over to Odaiba and our first stop there was the Tokyo Big Sight, home of many anime-related conventions.
Like the name suggests, this place is big. Nohing was going on that day though so it was empty except for a few people that worked there.
Right next to Tokyo Big Sight was a giant hand saw in the ground. I think it’s supposed to be some kind of art, but if it is, I don’t understand it.
One interesting place I’m sure will grab a lot of peoples’ attention is the SEGA Joypolis in Odaiba. It’s basically a large indoor amusement park within the Decks shopping mall. They have a few rides, SEGA arcade machines, and the ever-popular ufo catchers.
Some of you may reconize the building in the picture below from some popular shows. It’s the headquarters for Fuji TV, which brought shows like Dragonball to audiences across Japan. The big sphere is an observation deck and souvenier shop.
Moving on, I can’t remember what building this was in, but they had some robots and other cool stuff on display. I think Japan finally has the right idea with the last model in this series. I wonder what the HRP-5 model will look like.
This sunset was taken from the observation deck of the Telekom Center Building. It’s basically at the back of Odaiba so you can see the whole island, plus Tokyo in the distance.
The sun sets incredibly fast in Japan compared to where I live. It was cool to see all of the lights start to turn on. Here you can see Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge lit up (just to the left of the Fuji TV building).
To the right of the above pictures is the famous Odaiba ferris wheel. Some of the lights were burnt out, but it was still pretty to watch.
Here’s a shot from outside while I was walking back towards Joypolis. In the middle you can see Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge again. To the right you’ll see something you might not have expected: the statue of liberty!
The rest of the evening was spent at Joypolis before heading back to the apartments for some rest. Early the next day we had to make our way to a bus station to meet our Mt. Fuji tour group. Once we were on the bus, I just went back to sleep since I was so tired. An hour later we arrived at the base of Mt. Fuji, and I must say it’s an amazing sight.
All of the mountains where I live are pointed and jaggy so Mt. Fuji is the first I’ve seen that looked so smooth. The view was perfect except that there were a couple clouds covering the summit. We only got about 20 minutes at the base before the bus headed up the mountain (or I should say volcano) to the 5th station, which is the highest you can go by bus. Here there were a bunch of souvenier shops and tourists.
Our tour also included a cruise along Lake Ashi, which is near Mt. Fuji. Everyone says it’s really beautiful, but we have a ton of lakes like these in Canada so I’m used to them.
We took a ropeway to the top of a nearby mountain to see the view of the entire lake. Unfortunately, there was this fog hanging over everything so it was a bit difficult to see.
For a price of $120, I thought the tour was decent. It was a bit rushed, but if we spent more time just looking at things, we would’ve missed a bunch of other stuff. When we arrived back in Tokyo, we were dropped off in Shinjuku. I saw this cool-looking building which says “Mode Hal Iko” on it. Apparently it’s a combination of 3 different schools or something. I didn’t know this at the time so I didn’t go in, but now I wish I did because I’ve never seen a skyscraper used a school before. The rest of the night was rather uneventful with just some wandering around before heading back.
After a few days eating nothing but rice + meat/seafood, we decided to go check out the Tsukiji Fish Market and grab some fruits and vegetables while we were there. Surprisingly, the place didn’t smell very bad, but that was because most things were frozen and the place is wide open. I saw almost everything you could think of that lives in the ocean there.
We spent a good part of the morning looking at all the different things at the market, then we went to the Pokemon center. I bought a few plushies here, but I was upset that they didn’t have any Mew plushies without any chains attached to it. If you visit this place though, make sure you get inside as soon as possible, because outside is an anti-loitering device that emits this high frequency sound that’ll drive you insane.
Next we visited the Ebisu Garden, a place where you can get some beer :)
This was the view from the top of one of the buildings in the area. I was amazed at all the buildings, they literally go on for as far as the eye can see. It’s drastically different from my city where no matter where you are, it looks like a forest. Buildings here are short and the city plants trees everywhere so you need to be flying to actually see the city.
This is back down at the Ebisu Garden.
Underneath the garden was the entrance to the Yebisu Beer museum. It was neat to see all the history of Yebisu beer. I was sick at the time so alcohol wasn’t a good idea for me, but my friends said the beer here was good.
After the beer museum, we visited the Teien Art Museum. The place was beautiful, but there were lots of mosquitos flying around. Luckily, there are also fish like the one in this picture eating the mosquitos.
They had a traditional Japanese tea house out on display too.
It was around 5pm when we finished up at the art museum so we decided to check out the famous Shibuya crossing that’s always shown on tv. The intersection was huge, and like I expected, it was crowded as well. I ran into a couple of other tourists who were taking pictures while crossing the crossing too ^.^
A bunch of young and hip stores radiate outwards from the crossing in all directions.
One of the things I’ve been wondering for a long time was what was in that building with the numbers 109 on it. I’ve seen it on several shows but they never seem to go inside so I decided to check it out.
I walked inside the building and looked at the directory, and this was what I found (sorry for the blurry pic):
All 10 floors were ladies wear. When I realized what the building was, I looked around and noticed that there were no guys anywhere, except for the security guard that was looking at me suspiciously ^.^; Well, I didn’t want to be thought of as some kind of pervert so I left as quickly as I could. Since this day was full of so much exploring, we decided to take the next day easy and just explore someplace close to our apartments: Akihabara. Below you can see the line-up at the Gundam Cafe. If you want some morning Gundam coffee, you’re going to have to wait for a long time.
The Gundam Cafe is across the street from the UDX building, which houses the Tokyo Anime Center. Inside you’ll find overpriced merchandise and life-sized dolls like these ones.
This is back outside in Akiba.
Along with anime, manga, and games, Akiba also has stores that sell a bunch of random electronics and parts. I thought things here would be cheap, but they looked the same price as things at Radioshack.
Of course, being in Akiba, I had to visit Tenchou’s store, Animate. There were lots of goodies here and I was very tempted to empty my wallet.
This was the last picture I took of Akiba that day before I went into buying mode. I’m not going to tell you how much I spent that day, but it was the single most expensive day of my trip.
That basically sums up what I did for the first week of my trip. In my next trip post I’ll cover week 2 in the Kyoto and Osaka area.