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Took me long enough.....Japan part 3! - Vox Audita Perrit, Literra Scripta Manet....
The heard word is lost, the written letter remains...
Took me long enough.....Japan part 3!
I can't believe it's taken me nearly two months to write all this down. I suck. ;p Enjoy, though! Pictures here.


Today I went to the Odaiba/Tokyo Bay area for more touristy-things. My first stop was the National Museum of Science and Innovation. It is the home to one of Honda's ASIMO robots, so I went there to explore the AI floor and watch ASIMO's ten minute floor show. It was a lot of fun- lots of kids around and some pretty trippy stuff. Loved the section on space travel and astronomy too, speaking as an astronomy geek. Ended up having lunch at a fast-food joint next to the museum since I was hungry- food was slightly dodgy but still filling.

After lunch I visited a sento (Japanese bathhouse) that was about five minutes away from the museum, the Ooedo Onsen. When I got over my initial self-consciousness (and the fear that my bathing etiquette was way off mark- having read about the proper etiquette, I don't think I did anything wrong), it was very relaxing and quite nice given the cold weather- the water was extremely hot and nice to sit in. The rest of the onsen was a bit touristy- usual souvenir shops and the like and I probably paid a little too much, but it was still fantastic- on the train back to Shimbashi station I felt very relaxed and contented. From Shimbashi I went back to Ueno, and revisited the National Museum to see an exhibition of Cartier jewellery and some of the exhibitions I missed on my first visit.


It was Palm Sunday, so I attended mass at St. Mary's Cathedral in the suburb of Edogawabashi. I thought I'd have trouble finding it, but I walked up the right street and then the great monolith that is the belltower came out of nowhere. Having the translation with me, it was good being able to follow the liturgy and be able to give the responses in Japanese. I was able to follow the hymns too, which was great. The cathedral is a beautiful building- very different from the churches I saw in Italy, but still an interesting place to explore and photograph.

Went back into the Ginza for lunch, and went on a fruitless search for a new watch in the department stores. When I didn't turn anything up, I decided to head to Roppongi to visit Tokyo Tower. The views were fantastic, but I'm not sure it was worth the time spent queueing or the money. :/ I wandered around for a little while after that- explored Roppongi Hills (one of the largest department stores in Japan) and had a very interesting sushi dinner at a little restaurant- I also found Gonpachi, restaurant that served as the House of Blue Leaves for Kill Bill! Didn't eat there though, as it was quite expensive.


Got up nice and early to go to Tokyo station to work out a plan of action for the day of departure- I wasn't sure whether I wanted to leave my luggage with the hotel for the day or put it in a luggage locker at the station (my flight was in the evening). Decided to leave it at the hotel, since lockers large enough to take my suitcase were sparse and I wouldn't have to pay to leave it at the hotel. Checked my e-mail at the free internet cafe and then went back to the station to catch the JR Line out to Mitaka- I was going to the Ghibli Museum!

This was easily one of my favourite parts of the whole trip- the Ghibli Museum is a showcase of the works of Hayao Miyazaki- he produced 'My Neighbour Totoro', 'Spirited Away', 'Princess Mononoke' and loads of other instantly recogniseable anime feature films. Got there nice and early and caught a screening of 'Mei and the Kittenbus' (a spinoff short from Totoro) and then pretty much explored every corner of the place. Photography isn't permitted inside the building, so you'll have to take my word when I say that the place is just magical and anyone who loves anime should visit (but you will have to arrange tickets before you arrive in Japan- do it through JTB)! Also the cafe there has terrific food- had a very filling tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet) sandwich and sponge cake for lunch.

I walked through Inokoshira Park on my way to the train station- the sakura were still in blossom, and it made a nice beginning to the afternoon. Continued on my fruitless search for a new watch- visited quite a few places in Ikebukuro and Asakusa and didn't find what I was looking for. Ended the day at the Hie Jinja shrine in Akasaka, where I wrote a prayer for Maryke on a wooden plaque to hang with hundreds of others.


The last day. Checked out around ten and had the hotel mind my luggage for most of the day. I wasn't quite sure of what to do, so I went back to my trusty LP and decided on a trip over to Senso-Ji, a large Buddhist temple in Asakusa. Temple precinct was full of souvenir stalls and tourists, but was still rather impressive. After lunch, I just....wandered for a while? I guess I dawdled a bit trying to plot my next move. I tracked down an art shop in Uehara that sells the artwork and designs of Takashi Murakami, one of my favourite Japanese artists (he designed the cover of Kanye West's 'Graduation' album and the singles from it)- bought a book of his prints and a few other things there. By this point, I think I had exhausted Tokyo- there were just no other places that I could think to go with the time I had left (at this stage, around two hours)!

After picking up my luggage and taking the subway to Tokyo station, I went into the shinkansen terminal and checked out some souvenir shops to kill time. It took an hour to get out to Narita, and I arrived two hours before the flight. I couldn't believe it when I got to the check-in counter for Jetstar- there was no one there! It took me five minutes from the time I arrived at the airport until I had checked into my flight. I don't know whether it's a testament to Japanese efficiency- the rest of the check-in area was just about empty too, so I think it must've been off-peak time. Anyway, tripped off to a tempura dinner in the food court, bought some culinary goodies to take home (I avoided buying food to take home for most of the trip, just so it would be relatively fresh when I brought it back), changed my money and then went through security and customs.

The only hiccup after that (in fact, maybe the only thing that went wrong for me during the whole trip) was that my flight home was delayed by two hours- supposed to take off at 8:30pm, ended up leaving 10:30pm. We were taxiing down the runway when a loud bang came from one of the engines, which resulted in the plane trundling back to the terminal- it turned out that one of the ice valves wasn't open or something similar. Anyway, I got back safely, if a little tired since I've never been able to sleep on planes.


I'll definitely be going back! I would like to revisit the Kansai area and explore there more thoroughly, and then travel up north- I'd like to visit Nagano and maybe Hokkaido. Having gone during a very busy time of year (flower viewing season), next time I'll probably try and go during an off-peak period, though I'd like to go and see snow in my travels there if I can.

Would I do anything different? No, though I would probably try and avoid wasting time by getting lost- I daresay my bearings will be better the next time I visit Tokyo. I've also mentioned my frustrations at spending only three days in Kyoto- will definitely spend more time there next time!

I'm not sure where I want to go overseas next, though I'm hoping to travel in January. I've considered returning to Japan then, but I'm also considering Hong Kong/Macau- it would be a short trip if that was the case- Asian countries appeal to me in a way because they generally don't involve long-haul flights and the time differences aren't drastic so there isn't too much jetlag involved. Part of me is absolutely itching to return to Italy as well, but that requires more planning than I'm prepared to do presently, argh. Greece might also be on the agenda too- my older sister and I talked about going there a few years ago but didn't because of my honours commitments. Decisions, decisions!

Current Mood: accomplished accomplished

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