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Japan7 October 17

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HongJapWan March 2014
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Japwan March 2012
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London3 June 2010
Japan May 2010
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Japan and Hong Kong May 2010 - Page 2

Day 4 - Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Ginza, Ikebukuro

Another fine day, have had really good luck with the weather so far. Pollution starting to become apparent though, which is a side effect of fine weather.
It is also the last day of golden week, which means tomorrow people go back to work.

In the morning I headed to Ginza, which was on a different train line, with different tunes, it was also on the metro which is different to the metropolitan, JR and subway lines and the various private lines. Thankfully with a suica card it doesnt matter anymore. What it does mean is it goes underground so you dont get to see anything out of the window.

When I got off at Ginza station it was a bit underwhelming, it was also pretty much deserted at 9am. I am generally too early everywhere, but today I am really early as nothing is open.
I found the main street with all the fancy brand shops, not sure of the appeal really as they are mostly European shops, and theres a lot of European (or more specifically Russian) people wandering about. There is also a lot of tour busses full of Gaijan (whitey) and amusingly, an obnoxious American stepped off one, complete with multiple fanny packs, baseball cap, obesity, he said loudly 'I dont see what the appeal is of this place, its just like New York but with funny writing', he then looked to his left (stay with me here), saw no oncoming traffic and stepped out on the road with his camera, with his back to the traffic which drives on the left here. He was almost killed and the driver of a small truck thing yelled something including the word GAIJAN!!! The American looked terribly embarassed, said something about how he forgot these fools drive on the wrong side of the road and got back on the bus.

I wandered around a lot and some sort of marching band contest was going on (see pics), I also had coffee out of a machine at family mart, and ate some take away sushi that was pretty good.

I decided that Ginza wasnt for me, or wasnt for me at 10am anyway, so I got on the train and headed to Ikebukuro, which was much more interesting.
Its another mega shopping district but seems a bit more Japanese flavoured than Shinjuku and Shibuya for example. No European brands to be seen. There were lots of signs pointing to Sunshine City so I headed that way with the crowd, through alleyways of Pachinko places and karaoke bars. When you get to Sunshine city you are initially confused as its an escelator with a huge line heading underground, with pictures of fish and planets. I headed down and discovered that it is nothing more than a shopping mall that features an aquarium and planetarium, both of which had lines stretching for days.

Anyone still reading at this point? 2 weird things happened on the train, A girl had a bag full of stuff that fell over and it was rolling around the floor, so I helped her pick it up, which did not please her at all, despite my apologies for helping her, she ran away into the next carriage!
Then later the train was empty enough for me to have a seat, eventually it filled up and I offered my seat to a lady, and she refused and gave me some sort of lecture, so the seat remained empty. I wonder what ettiquitte rules I have broken by being helpful.

Finally, I have a new favourite drink, Calpis Soda, which is a white milky colored ion replacement drink thats also carbonated, very refreshing.

This is the main street in Ginza (well theres a few main streets), I am not convinced anyone buys stuff from along here, seems to be for window shopping, then go buy it from some place cheaper. Even starbucks doubles their price for coffee in this area.

This bunny type creature was doing a dance routine to a boom box out the front of the toy store before it opened. I considered doing a video because it was pretty ridiculous, but I didnt, so a picture is all you get.

Crazy kit kats are real, here you have wasabi, soy sauce, intense roast soybean, among others. I wish they were available as a single bar, I am not about to buy an entire box of soy sauce kit kats to try.

Like all stores, the toy store was 10 storeys high with a restaurant on the 9th floor and a live performance space on the top. Near the top I played slot car racing which was great fun. Cost about $2 for 10 minutes. I crashed badly once, the car went flying right off the track, the attendants applauded this.

Some sort of giant cosplay event was forming in the backstreets.

Turns out it was a marching band competition, not sure what for, I saw a sign saying 'willow festival', pretty sure this was set to go for a few hours based on the lines of marching bands in the back streets, meanwhile traffic was out of luck.

This is in Ikebukuro, the interesting thing here is the giant monolith building poking up for no reason. Its enormous and seems to only have windows about once every 10 storeys. What could it be for? Do lasers come out of the windows to destroy godzilla?

A typical street in Ikebukuro, the signs on the lamp post are for sunshine city.

On the roof of a 12 storey electronics shop (top 2 floors were restaurants), is 5 a side soccer. I had no idea, I just kept going up the stairs and ended up on the roof. The people playing soccer seemed concerned by my presence.

Tokyo Metropolitan Building, Roppongi

One of the main tourist attractions in Tokyo is the free viewing floor on the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building. I took a photo of this when I arrived but today I am going to go up it. I thought I might have to line up for ages, the internet suggests this would be the case, but when I got there it was so quiet I thought it was closed.
I walk in the door, its pretty dark in the lobby, its only then you appreciate how huge the floorspace of the building is. I spot some security guys and wander over, theres no line at all, you get in the lift, it has one button for the 45th floor.
Once you are at the top it is pretty impressive, but its a shame about the smog. It seems I attract smog wherever I go. The atrium is huge and theres a number of tourist shops selling crap, and about 30 vending machines, same price as on the ground.
I have to wait a while for it to start to get dark, so I venture off to find the bathroom, which is quite a distance through dark concrete hallways.
Now, this is the second time this has happened, but in Japan its not unusual for a girl to be in the bathroom cleaning it. If I was the only guy in the bathroom I might have thought you are supposed to come back later, but no, they are all using the urinals, so when in Rome....Only this girl really has no shame, as shes on hands and knees cleaning between the urinals, I thought she was going to clean my shoes.

After the building experience I headed to Roppongi, which is where most white people hang out. This is a strange place, its even cleaner than the other areas of Tokyo, its really not crowded at all, but then theres black african guys trying to give you cards to bars where girls try and convince you to go to a love hotel where a black guy informs you that you now owe about a million yen. I dont mind these guys talking to me and trying to give me a card or whatever, but a couple of them grabbed me, which is an asshole move.

There really wasnt anywhere interesting in Roppongi to eat, so I decided to walk back to Shibuya, which took about an hour, and my feet are suffering for it.
Had a nice dinner in Shibuya but the pictures below can tell that story.

The Tokyo Metropolitan building is two towers but its one huge one for about half the height.

The typical skyline shots, enjoy the smog.

Despite all the best camera brands being Japanese (actually every camera brand?), a lot of Japanese people are clueless about how to use cameras. One guy has a full on expensive looking tripod, various lenses on his huge DSLR that has every add on like battery packs and the biggest flash I ever saw, hes got his whole family up there with him and hes taking photos behind glass with his huge flash firing. He seemed really dissapointed with the results.

I sat my little camera on the case against the glass and set the timer, and a number of people then followed my lead with lots of oohs and aahs.

Roppongi, stock standard shot of the lights of the area.

Tokyos copy of the eiffel tower off in the distance.

The hard rock cafe is off in a back street and is deserted. I saw another one some place and it was also deserted. I think the photo is great though.

There are lots of nice cars in Tokyo, nearly as many as London, so I dont bother taking photos, but then when you see an Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, you have to take a photo. These are not available in Australia.

For dinner I went to Pepper Lunch in Shibuya, theres one of these on George Street in Sydney but I have not eaten there. At the Sydney one you do not pay a vending machine though.
I have realised the advantage of having a vending machine inside a restaurant, your minimum wage staff never get to handle money. Hence they have no ability to rip you off if you happen to own the business.

The setup is a lot like last night.

Dinner arrives raw on a sizzling plate so you can cook it yourself to your liking. Its pretty delicious, the pepper sauces are very nice as well. The rice goes nice and crispy as it keeps cooking as you eat. For 680 yen its about $7.50, so pretty good value I think.

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Day 5 - Thursday, 6 May 2010

Ueno Park, Musems and Zoo.

First of all, London museums are far better than Tokyo museums, at least the ones I went to in Tokyo so far one of which is supposed to be the biggest and fanciest.
The other thing is that Tokyo museums are not free, in London they all are.
There is however a book you can buy for about $20 that has vouchers for all museums and various other attractions in Tokyo (including the zoo). It is called the Grutt book, Good for Rouond Tokyo Ticket of Museum, I have purchased this, I have yet to read it but theres over 60 things it gets you into.

First up was the Tokyo National Museum, which is apparently the biggest and the best. It was pretty dissapointing with most of it closed down or roped off, the gardens over grown with weeds and the large pond area looked in complete disrepair and you werent actually allowed outside to look at it. The exhibits themselves were calligraphy scrolls, swords (which were the best bit), samurai outfits, kimonos and pottery.

Next, and only a few hundred metres away, was the Ueno Zoo. This was not too bad, most of the enclosures were dated and it was of a similar size to the Adelaide zoo, but since after buying the Grutt book it was free, its pretty decent value, and has a monorail. See below for a few pictures, I tried to not bore everyone with 100 monkey photos.

Final museum of the day was the Science museum, theres a few of these in Tokyo, this one is more of a natural history museum. This was the best part of the day, and had the most amazing cinema thing I have ever seen. You get shut into a pitch black room standing on a glass walkway, inside a fairly large sphere. The movie is then projected on every part of the sphere at once, this is a far more convincing 3d effect than anything I have ever seen. There were 2 movies, one about dinosaurs which had some fairly crap graphics but girls were screaming as dinosaurs ran past, and then one of the history of the universe that had amazing graphics. I was dodging meteors as they flew past.
The rest of this museum was pretty good as well, pretty much all the signs are Japanese only, and unless you are prepared to walk up and more importantly down stairwells you wouldnt realise it goes 3 floors underground and that theres a roof herb garden with a great view.

My feet are now in a terrible state, Im going to have to google for ancient oriental treatments, perhaps I need to go to a foot restoration clinic, I see them advertised a lot in dark alleys.

This mornings coffee was from Tully's near yoyogi station. I have no idea if Tully's is a brand imported from elsewhere or not, but the coffee was fine. The weird triangle scone thing however was so stale I think it was baked some time prior to world war 2.
There seemed to be a large number of guys in suits in this place who were set up for the day, with laptops, newspapers, pen, paper, phones etc. all on the tiny coffee table.

Most of you would know that Japan has space age tehnological toilets, the one in my hotel has 3 buttons that do various things to you, this one in the coffee shop however has an LCD and a lot more buttons. None of which flush the toilet, I stood looking afraid to press any of them, but then the toilet flushed itself and the lid went down. Crisis averted.

The main building of the Tokyo National Museum, note the crappy grounds, to the right is a new cheap looking pre formed concrete building thats yet to open. To the left are some other cheap buildings that are mostly closed off and empty.

The pond in Ueno park. This was pretty dissapointing as well, lots of it was full of weeds. The Adelaide botanic gardens is far nicer. There are however interesting homeless people sleeping in Ueno park, apprently they are quite famous as there was a decision to evict them but Tokyo people protested to let them stay. Or maybe I have that confused with another park.

The entrance to the zoo. Its been my life long dream to see a giant panda. I have travelled half way across the world instead of 1.5km from my house (Adelaide also has pandas).

Oh no! The pandas are all dead. Zoos closed, panda died.
Actually I knew that before going, but judging by the number of very apologetic signs all over the panda themed zoo, most people do not know the pandas are all dead before arriving.

There are however 2 polar bears, the enclosure seems a bit crappy for them, not as nice as the seaworld enclosure on the Gold Coast which I also visited, the pictures should be on this site somewhere.

The elephant enclosure is too small. It is a little surprising that just a piece of wire keeps them in, If I was that elephant I would just walk out, dragging all the wire and poles holding the wire up with me.

Have you ever had ice cream from a vending machine? I have.

Heres proof of ice cream eating, the only reason I had an ice cream is because there was a machine offering one. Theres no way I would have one normally.

Which doesnt explain why I had a crappy hot dog, because that came from a kiosk and was as good as it looks (terrible). By the way, in Tokyo you can have a hot dog with or without bread. If you are on the atkins diet you can get just the saussage on a stick, and people still run a line of ketchup and mustard along the saussage. I think you need the bread to disguise the horrible taste of the saussage myself.

I like a monorail, one of the best features of this zoo is that it has a monorail, which I rode on. How do you get a job as monorail driver?

Last zoo photos, I have seen penguins in Australian zoos, and they are football sized, and good for kicking. These penguins however are nearly as tall as me!

The inside of the science museum. the displays are all of a high quality like this. The sphere movie theatre I described above has signs everywhere saying no photos, so I didnt take one sorry!

I found out what happened to the pandas from the nearby zoo when they died.

Surprisingly little effort was put into mounting this blue whale. The nose is literally holding it up on the concrete. Its like it was on some sort of other stand and fell off.

Food in Kabukicho

First an update on the feet situation. I decided to drain my various blisters, using the sharp corner of a pair of tweezers. Im sure they will redevelop, so fear not photos will be forthcoming on the next draining.
This seems to work though, as my toes feel much better.
I decided to head out around my hotel this evening, as it was quite late when I left. Also I ate a lot of crappy food today, so dinner should be something healthy, at least that was the plan.
I looked in some chemists (drug stores) for foot treatment things, and there seems to be these expensive sprays for your feet that are like antiseptic foot hardening products. They arent just foot deoderant as I saw those also, these things come in black fancy packaging and cost like $10. But all the writing on the box is Japanese and the 3 places I went to no one spoke a word of english, more research required.

After chemist failure I played some video games, including mario kart with 5 other dudes, I didnt come last, then I found my favourite dessert (before dinner), then I had my best dinner yet.

I walked the opposite way from my hotel, and found an entirely new area of bright flashing lights. By now all these photos are starting to look the same I am sure.

If you read everything I put on the internet, you will have seen these things in Hong Kong on my previous trip, and at the Adelaide Central Market. I rate this one as on par with Adelaide but inferior to Hong Kong. They are filled with custard or red bean paste. Tonight I had custard. I am sure they are really very bad for you, the dough is like a pancake, only very thick.

Dinner was at Don Don, when I arrived there was a hidden table around the corner at the back, and it seemed to be a lot of young yakuza type guys there with fancy hair and sunglasses on inside etc. Similar guys were all up and down the street tonight, unlike the last few days which were holidays. I guess Yakuza only control the red light districts on working nights, perhaps Kabukicho caters mainly for Japanese workers.
Anyway, they seemed slightly annoyed at my presence, but too late I had sat down. They left soon after.

This is a charcoal barbecue place where you cook your own.
I pointed at the menu and got some beef, corn and eggplant. The guy slices the beef while you wait, and sprinkles various spices on it and its splashed wish some kind of flavoured oil, as are the vegetables.
Inside the flaming bowl is very hot charcoal, the whole place fills with smoke as I cooked my meal.
It was delicious though, a bit of a financial splurge compared to other nights as it cost nearly $10 Australian.

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Day 6 - Friday, 7 May 2010

Asakusa, boat ride.

Today I headed out to the old part of Tokyo called Asakusa, which looks quite far on the train map but is only about 30 minutes. Never really having to wait for a train makes any trip pretty fast, they really do come every 2 minutes on every line all day every day as far as I can tell. Theres no such thing as a schedule.
Asakusa is where a series of small old temples, a huge temple under construction and various temples that are recreations of other temples exist, theres also a nearby rollercoaster, a pre school, and a tourist trap area full of white people buying japanese fans made in china. There were more white people here than anywhere else.
The actual large temple is really dissapointing, it is being overhauled and covered in plastic sheets, but I think its made of steel and concrete, the smaller temples and statues around it seem genuine.

After burning some incense and praising the buddha, I wandered down to the water, and decided to take a boat. I wandered into what appeared to be the tunnel to the wharf/pier and ended up in an underground bicycle park. The actual entrance to the pier was being reconstructed, so instead you have to walk through a park and down a narrow stairwell, this was quite an adventure, see below for more details.

The boat ride was pretty uninspiring, there are some smaller canals that run off the sides but theres not much to see. Theres bridges every 100 metres but they are very plain and boring.
Once I got off I ended up at a station where Shinkansen were running above ground, I have to plan to go on one because they look fantastic.

Before today I thought the custard sandwhich things I like only came in round form. Japan has improved on this and they now come shaped as a fish. They taste the same, I have no idea why you would want your sweet treat to appear like a fish.

Tourist zone, beware, cheap goods posing as religious relics abound.

The main gate, note sailor moon schoolgirl outfits.

Here I am, having achieved enlightenment. Turns out this temple is part of a pre school, since theres a swing set just behind me.

You have probably seen plastic food before, its everywhere here, someone decided you need a different plastic example for every flavour of ice cream available. My japanese has improved greatly since I arrived and I can now read it fluently, some of the flavours are tuna, fish roe, sour bean curd, dried sardine, pork bits, sheep, spinach with wood fungus and vanilla.

Another part of the temple, the thing on top is surely a mobile phone antenna?

The nazi party has infiltrated the temple scene and placed swastikas on everything.

Inside the big temple, are you allowed to take photos? Other people are.

The roof was the most impressive bit, last temple picture I promise!

There were a number of nice gardens in the general area.

They even have rickshaws around here, but they are chrome plated luxury rickshaws.

Here on the right is the famous golden turd building, and on the left the new tower under construction.

As I mentioned above, I got on a boat, it was pretty deserted.

I preferred to stand at the back in the open air.

Now for the full boat story. Like everything else you buy your ticket from a vending machine. There is no English of any kind at this machine, so I pressed buttons randomly until it asked me to insert some money (about $8). That was a reasonable price so I did that and out came my ticket.
I had no idea where this was going or even if I was going to line up at the right place, so once I joined a line I spied some other peoples tickets and they had the same symbols on them.
Once on board I didnt know when I was supposed to get off, I had lost site of the people whos ticket I saw previously, this boat could have been going to anywhere, some deserted industrial area, another island of Japan, North Korea, I really had no idea.
I got off where most other people seemed to and no one checked my ticket.

On the way home I got off a station early and walked the rest of the way, which brought me to Cafe Lolita.

Its Raining

Short update tonight because like the title says, its raining. I did still wander around and splash in the puddles, but when absolutely everyone besides me has an umbrella, and is only 5 feet tall, theres a high risk of being blinded. I hate umbrellas.
I had a bento box for dinner which is pretty boring, but I did have some intereting junk food.

Oh yeah, everyone that asked for contents so they can find the right crap on the right crappy page, you got what you asked for. I employed ancient html techniques called anchor references, last used in mosaic, it probably wont work on an ipad.

So many people have umbrellas that every entrance to every store has a machine that automatically puts your wet umbrella in a plastic bag, so it can stay wet all day and rot.

Here we have some bizzarre corn snacks that are delicious. They do not tast like corn chips at all (although I think they are made from corn). Instead they taste like actual corn on the cob with lots of butter, absolutely delicious.
Also, chocolate coated corn puffs. Yes just like those things people eat for breakfast. These are surprisingly low in calories.

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There is a page 3 now!


Day 1 - Sunday, 2 May 2010
  Adelaide to Tokyo
  Sydney Airport
  Sydney to Tokyo on an A330
Day 2 - Monday, 3 May 2010
  Welcome to Tokyo
  Afternoon and Evening
Day 3 - Tuesday, 4 May 2010
  Akihabara and Ueno
Day 4 - Wednesday, 5 May 2010
  Ginza, Ikebukuro
  Tokyo Metropolitan Building, Roppongi
Day 5 - Thursday, 6 May 2010
  Ueno Park, Musems and Zoo.
  Food in Kabukicho
Day 6 - Friday, 7 May 2010
  Asakusa, boat ride.
  Its Raining
Day 7 - Saturday, 8 May 2010
  Akihabara and Ginza by night
Day 8 - Sunday, 9 May 2010
  Imperial Palace, Guitar Street, Harajuku
  Dinner in Shinjuku
Day 9 - Monday, 10 May 2010
  Odaiba, Shopping in Shibuya
Day 10 - Tuesday, 11 May 2010
  Edo Museum, Shopping in Ikebukuro, Cats
  Last night in Japan
Day 11 - Wednesday, 12 May 2010
  Flying to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific
  Welcome to Hong Kong
Day 12 - Thursday, 11 May 2010
  Sha Tin and Mong Kok
  Big Buildings, Star Ferry
Day 13 - Friday, 12 May 2010
  Dinner in Causeway Bay
Day 14 - Saturday, 13 May 2010
  Walked up the Peak
  Shopping in Mong Kok
Day 15 - Sunday, 14 May 2010
  Last night in Hong Kong
Day 16 - Monday, 15 May 2010
  Last day in Hong Kong
  Hong Kong to Sydney
Day 17 - Tuesday, 16 May 2010
  Holiday over