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Japan 2009- Tokyo Part 1 - Vox Audita Perrit, Literra Scripta Manet.... — LiveJournal
The heard word is lost, the written letter remains...
Japan 2009- Tokyo Part 1
Finally have done the first lot of photos from the first week I spent in Tokyo. You can find them here.

I flew into Narita at about 7 in the evening. Everything was very prompt, getting through immigration and getting my suitcase was a pretty quick process, which was good. Got my money changed, bought a ticket for the Shinkansen into Tokyo and a Suica, which is Tokyo's equivalent of our Go Card (the card where you touch on and off when you're taking the train/bus). Shinkansen did not depart until 8:30, and after getting into Tokyo station around 9:30, I then had to navigate the subway system to my hotel in Akasaka, which wasn't too hard. It was when I left the subway that I ended up getting a little bit lost, argh. Spent a bit of time checking the maps in my Lonely Planet guide, but I found the place quickly enough. I was settled in by 10:30, though I didn't get to sleep until after 11- the rice pillows took a bit of getting used to!

I spent my first morning in Tokyo at the Imperial Palace gardens, which were lovely- saw some of the cherry blossoms there! And then the SD card on my camera ran out of space, so that's why there aren't anymore Sunday photos after that. Spent the rest of the day getting lost around the place, and ended up missing lunch because I couldn't find a Citibank ATM to take my card to get more cash out- eventually got my bearings in the Ginza and found one in the afternoon. Ended my day in Omote-Sando with some souvenir shopping in Oriental Bazaar and dinner in a Thai restaurant. It was a cold and wet day, but I didn't expect Tokyo to be warm- if you're going there in March/April, pack warm clothes!

Took a trip out to Akihabara's Electric Town to buy some larger SD cards for my camera. Saw many bargain electronics stores but managed to restrain myself and leave the area with just the SD cards. From there I went onto Shibuya, where I tracked down the area's branch of Mandarake, the anime/manga chain. Picked up some dvds for friends there and had lunch. I then spent a bit more time getting lost around Tokyo station in search of an internet cafe, before giving up and heading to Chiyoda to see the Yasakuni Shrine. I finished the day by going into Tokyo's dollmaking district near Asakusa to find a present for my goddaughter Emma. Many pretty and expensive dolls there.

I spent most of the day in the Ginza shopping- visited the four floor Hakuhinkan Toy Park in search of little gifts for my nieces and nephews, and then Ito-Ya, a large stationary store where I agonized over what to buy Libby. Lunch was a very hot bowl of soba noodles- and yes, slurping is expected (which works for me since I'm a noisy eater anyway -_-;). I then ventured to Ueno to visit Ueno-koen and see more cherry blossoms. Lots and lots of people there, they basically rent out tarps under the trees for you and your family/friends to sit on and have your picnic. Quite a large homeless population and there are feral cats around the place too. I didn't spend too much time there, but I went back the next day to take more photos of the cherry blossoms, which were so beautiful. In my search for dinner near the hotel, I found a Turkish restaurant and ended up eating there- the meal was expensive, but it was very nice food and fast service.

Went back to Ueno today, but the weather was pretty miserable. It was cold and rainy, so I visited Tokyo's National Museum and then the Museum of Western Art. The National Museum was fantastic- I saw an exhibition of Buddhist art and their collection of antiquities is incredible. Took quite a few photos of the antiquities there (one of those rare museums where photography is permitted, though some objects were not allowed to be photographed), but they're not in the gallery (most of them I took for the benefit of my friends who work in UQ's R.D. Milns museum)- if anyone does want to see them, I will upload some on request. The Museum of Western Art was holding an exhibition of paintings from the Louvre. It was absolutely packed with people, but it didn't take too much away from what I saw. Some Impressionist paintings were on display, and a couple of renaissance renditions of Saint Francis of Assisi that I really liked.

The weather meant that I didn't hang around on the streets too much. I ended up back in Omote-Sando/Harajuku and visited another massive toystore, Kiddyland. I bought a few little gifts there for friends/nieces/nephews. The big display when I was there was Japan's newest toy phenomenon- Mameshiba, which kind of translates as bean-dog. The YouTube video of the ads below will explain the appeal, I'm sure.

This was my last full day in Tokyo. Despite not having a map of the area, I went out to Nakano (one of the outer suburbs) and found the larger flagship Mandarake store there, which was three floors of anime/manga geekery. Any of the anime I didn't find in the Shibuya store, I found here. I also went back to the Ginza to find the hotel I would be staying in when I came back from Kyoto, and bought a Shinkansen ticket for Osaka the following day. You can buy the Shinkansen tickets from a ticket office but I used the machines, which had English instructions. You can pay by cash or credit card on the machines, but the machine will only take Japan-issued cards.

Overall Impressions

Tokyo is a pretty fantastic place to travel around on your own. I felt very safe, though I didn't really go out too late at night. Most nights I tried to be back at my hotel by 7 o'clock, and I'd use the rest of the evening to collect my thoughts and consider where I wanted to go the next day- I didn't really plan my day-to-day itinerary but flipped through my LP Japan guide and decided where was most convenient to go next. Really, there is so much to do there, no one's going to get bored.

The food is fantastic, obviously. I didn't eat Japanese food the whole time, there were a couple of Italian and Indian restaurants that also were good, cheap feeds. The hardest parts of the day were when I would walk up and down the streets trying to pick which restaurant to eat lunch or dinner at!

Getting around the city is pretty damn easy- the subway routes are all colour-coded and the stations numbered. It's just when you leave the subway that you're bound to get lost. Make sure you leave the station through the right exit- most stations have many exits, along with yellow signs that tell you what landmarks you'll find when you go through which exit- and don't expect to rely on street numbers, because most buildings/houses don't have them. I spent a lot of time getting lost and then trying to re-trace my steps- I'm absolutely hopeless with directions but in the end I got to the places I wanted to. And once I got my bearings in a particular area (Ginza, Shibuya, Ueno, etc.), I got around pretty effortlessly. I don't think I ever waited more than five minutes for a train either, which made a nice change from the transport situation here in Brisbane. Rush hour was busy, but I never saw any station guards pushing people onto the train or anything. I think I spent more money on transport than anything else- my Suica card got topped up once every two days, and the Shinkansen tickets are generally not cheap, since they're the fastest services.

Spent many of my evenings after dinner LOLing at Japanese television. Some channels have news and cartoons on in primetime, but American series were rare- the only one I saw was Ugly Betty, which was dubbed into Japanese. They like their soapies over there too, especially samurai costume dramas. But the main staple on primetime Japanese tv is gameshows. And no one gameshow is ever the same, but they often feature the same celebrities as contestants- normal people don't seem to go on quiz shows over there, only actors/pop idols/comedians/models do. Some of them are Q&A setups, and some of them are really silly stunt/prank shows like our Hole in the Wall or It's a Knockout. I was never entirely sure what was going on (my Japanese is nowhere near good enough), but it all ended up being funny in the end. One of the celebrities that popped up a lot was Nocchi, who is Japan's Barack Obama impersonator (like 90% of the rest of the world, Japan loves Obama). Obviously he doesn't look much like Obama (but he does have the ears that stick out and spends a lot of time tanning so he can have dark skin), but he's got his expressions and mannerisms down to an art. Spends a lot of time shouting 'Yes we can!' too.

My hotel (Toshi Center) was pretty good too. The room was small, but I wasn't bothered by that. I initially wanted to stay in the Ginza, but Akasaka ended up being the best area to stay in, as the two nearby subway stations had five different routes between them, which took me a lot of places and didn't require many changeovers.

There'll be more on Tokyo when I post about my second stay there after coming back from Kyoto...

Current Mood: accomplished accomplished
Current Music: Tzu- Mondays

1 comment or Leave a comment
dragonflysakura From: dragonflysakura Date: May 6th, 2009 07:58 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm homesick! Keep writing - it's really great to read about your experiences (haha - I never finished my own...I know). And you saw FLOWERING cherry blossoms! I'm so jealous...
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