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Japan7 October 17

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Japan6 October 16

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Japan5 November 15

Korea2 March 15

Even More Trips

HongJapWan March 2014
Sichuan March 2013
Tokyo3 October 2012
China2 August 2012
Japwan March 2012
China November 2011
Korea September 2011
Taiwan March 2011
London3 June 2010
Japan May 2010
London2 February 2010
London September 2009
SE Asia December 2005

Japan and Hong Kong May 2010 - Page 1

Day 1 - Sunday, 2 May 2010

Adelaide to Tokyo

New trip, new blog format. If you dont like it bad luck. When you click on a thumbnail now it goes to the bigger version with exif data, and when you click the bigger version it goes back to where you clicked it from even if you had scrolled some way down the page full of boring text.
I like my new format a lot.

Before heading to Japan, I first have to head to Sydney, as theres no direct flights from the Adelaide farm village to Japan.
I make the Sydney flight every week, so this is really really boring.
But at least I can take all the bullshit test info out of this page whilst sitting in Adelaide waiting for my flight.

One thing I am looking forward to is dinner in the first class lounge at Sydney airport, I hear its really good but it is all 'designed by Neil Perry' and I think hes annoying.

Here I am, sitting in the transfer lounge in the Sydney domestic terminal waiting to go to the international terminal, due to our excellent airport design this requires a wait and a terrifying bus ride where people get thrown out of their seats.

Sydney Airport

The international first class lounge in Sydney airport didnt disappoint. I have never actually been before as on my last trip I went via Perth and the trip before that I went to the business lounge by mistake and couldnt be bothered moving.
The food is a la carte, they have a menu which you can see below but I heard one guy order what he felt like and they endeavoured to make it.
They also have a day spa thats free to use and im sure all the top shelf liquers and wines and things I dont like at all.

Before all that (yep, I went out of order already), I had to go to the tourist refund scheme office to get the GST and duty back on the camera I bought (you might notice the pictures are better quality, or not?).
This was an experience, as its hidden like you wouldnt believe and in the office are some nerds whos job it is to be as offensive as possible.
Still I got $60 back on my camera so its worth it, the idea of the scheme is if you are travelling within 30 days you can claim the tax back so that you purchase goods in Australia and not overseas.

The tourist refund scheme office is at the end of that hallway, past the toilets, down an alley, into an unmarked door, the government really does not want you claiming tax back!

Random photo of the main shopping area airside at Sydney airport, largely deserted at this time.

This is the entrance to the first class lounge, you go up an escalator, but its a living wall, quite impressive, all real plants and none of them were dead. Perhaps they replace them weekly? I touched the stuff they are planted into and it was wet and plastic feeling, so it uses some sort of technology. I might do my house in it.

I photographed the menu, in case anyone is bored enough to read it.

The bar area with the chefs preparing the meals in the background, remember everything in here, food, drink, day spa, massage whatever is free. Theres also some private rooms you need to book that are used by celebrities who dont want to be disturbed.

I chose pork in a chilli sauce, it was great, those are chunks of pork fillet, not meatballs made of ground pork.

A pretty boring and redundant view of the first class lounge. I will get bored of taking so many photos and typing about them soon enough, so for now enjoy the overkill.

Sydney to Tokyo on an A330

The flight was uneventful, flying time just on 9:30 according to the pilot. I have included the required pictures of the food and the plane below.
On the flight I watched the men who stare at goats, then I stared at the flight track map for about 6 hours but it did not die. Then I watched a documentary on The Satanic Verses (the Salman Rushdie book, not the other one) which was very interesting.
I had a bulkhead seat, the first seat in economy (no upgrades this time) and the plane was less than half full, there was no one else in my block and only one other person in my entire row of 8.

My dinner was some sort of chicken in a cream sauce. The mash pumpkin and snow pea things were really nice, more so than the chicken.

Breakfast is the standard breakfast qantas seems to offer which is pretty good, they also offered a japanese breakfast which was a salmon cake in rice or something, I figured I can get enough of that in Japan so enjoyed an english breakfast.

My plane after I got off it, on the ground at Narita in Tokyo (actually 80km outside of Tokyo).

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Day 2 - Monday, 3 May 2010

Welcome to Tokyo

The above couple of pictures are actually from Day 2, but thats ok, lets talk about the point from getting off the plane onwards.
Narita airport is looking a bit tired, a lot more like Heathrow than Singapore or Hong Kong. I guess Singapore and Hong Kong have to try really hard as they are mainly transit passengers only, so for most people their only opinion of the country comes from the airport.
Despite the shabbyness, I cleared immigration, got my bag, cleared customs, bought a bus ticket and got on the bus in record time. Smoothest airport exit ever.
This actually isnt great, as I was in the city by 8:30pm and cant check in until 2.
Still I head to the hotel and they are fine with looking after my bags, Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku, they seem to all speak great english btw.

I wandered around non stop, giving my toes an early workout, used multiple vending machines, bought a SUICA card, rode a train, walked in a park to a temple, was amazed at various shops etc. I will let the pictures do the talking below.

First impressions of Tokyo - its very clean, theres cleaners everywhere, and security guards with white gloves everywhere, police also.
It does not smell like Hong Kong and London, they have the sewerage system sorted out, and on that note there are free good quality public toilets everywhere.
Signage is often but not always in English.
The smog isnt too bad, but maybe my smog meter is still busted from smogpocalypse last time I was in Hong Kong.

My first of many vending machines, waiting for the bus (for all of 2 minutes) out the front of Narita. Its a holiday today, part of golden week, so the airport is very quiet.

Mock me now please, after dumping my bags at the hotel, the first place for coffee was starbucks. Having not slept all night I needed a coffee, it was actually cheap (this will be a theme, Japan is cheap with the current Australian dollar). I got what I wanted, but ordering skim or skinny milk provided a language challenge, but I think we got there in the end.

Some sort of large random building, no doubt I will include many of them also, probably more at night, I dont care if no one else likes them.

Heres the first train I bought, very simple to get a SUICA card (from a vending machine). It comes with credit on it, surprisingly you cant put more credit on it with a credit card you have to use cash. And on that note, 7-11 really does no longer accept master card for cash withdrawl (I tried), however citibank does, and though I havent tried it, Japan Post Bank is supposed to be ok also.

This is a random street in Harajuku, I didnt find where all the freaks hang out, so I will have to do more research and go back. I was there a bit early as well.

This is the entrance to a giant park in Harajuku, its really very large. I wandered around.

These are for making sake I think, some kind of booze.

When you get to the temple, people were pouring water over their heads from this thing, no idea why.

The temple, there was a big religious ceremony of some kind going on to ward off Godzilla or entice schoolgirls or something. All I know is there was a large crowd and plenty of signs saying no photos.

Some people have warned me about smokers in Japan smoking indoors and out and how disgusting it is (mainly my mother warned me of this, but some others). Anyway, I had read that times have changed, and so far I havent seen anywhere where you can smoke inside, and theres also lots of places like this where you cant smoke outside either. So I was right (as usual).

The Japanese Communist party pulled up in a bus with the loudest loud speakers I have ever encountered, I had to have my fingers in my ears. They also had a nazi salute thing going on for a while. The police assembled but nothing exciting happened other than I nearly went deaf when I took my fingers out of my ears to take the photo.

Heres my lunch, it cost about $10 in a proper sit down restaurant with waiters and whatever. I am not sure exactly what it was called, the menu was only in Japanese, but theres the dumplings on rice with the sauce, a salad, the miso soup and after this came the white jelly/custard style desert (sago? not sure). It was nice, the sauce was sweeter than I would like, and the dessert not as sweet as I would like, but I ate in a real japanese place with no english whatsoever on offer.

The next 3 pictures are from the food area in the basement of a big department store in Shinjuku station, I found this very impressive.

So impressive that I took multiple photos of it.

Last one! mmm cake.
Also in this center was Tokyu hands, which is like a homewares/hardware megastore with heaps of interesting stuff over 8 floors. I told them they dont know how to spell Tokyo properly.

Afternoon and Evening

Still getting my bearings I headed back out for more walking, and walk I did.
Found an even better food hall and got completely lost inside the train station.
I thought I might buy a spare memory card for my camera, but finally I found something expensive, a card that costs about $50 in australia is $80 australian here. You would think SD cards would be cheap in Japan? Perhaps I am looking in the wrong areas.
Quite a few interesting things happened whilst wandering around, the only one that didnt get photographed (and hence explained below) is all the guys offering me sex in the street. Now I assume they were pimps, but you never know, perhaps in Japan I am appealing to gay men!

A side alley started to fill up with smoke for no reason, I went to investigate, as best I could tell, someone was burning the steak/whale.

So I headed back into the underground, thinking that the smoke was nothing to worry about, but then I heard sirens.

Fearing another sarin nerve gas attack masterminded by a crippled religious nutter, I fled to the surface.
And all became clear, the fire was real, there were fire and police and whatever everywhere.

The hydrant tap things they use are gold plated in Japan.
Actually I have no clue if there was a fire at all or what all the drama was about.

So instead I started taking standard tourist shops of pretty lights.

Down there is the red light district, Kabukicho. Its mainly pachinko parlours but there are lots of 12 year old girls being attacked by tentacles if you look around.

I stood in the middle of the road to take this photo and a traffic cop blew his whistle with great fury, but what was I to do, the traffic was coming now anyway, and theres a road island.

Soon after a protest broke out, seems to be somewhat related to the communist party thing earlier. Amusingly it seems lots of people drive around in vans with loud speakers delivering their message. I really wish I knew what they were going on about.
Back to the protest, it seemed to me police outnumbered the protestors.

Another standard picture, if you click them you can see the exif data that tells you how long the exposure was and all sorts of other info that you arent interested in at all.

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Day 3 - Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Akihabara and Ueno

Another fine day in Tokyo, perfect weather. Its still a holiday like yesterday and tomorrow, all part of golden week. This means some places are very crowded and others not (apparently) but since I have only been here during golden week I have nothing to compare to.
I decided to head by train to Akihabara, which is on the far side of the Yamamote loop, which is the main JR line around Tokyo. This journey took about 30 minutes. I noticed that each train line has its own little tune that plays at the stations when the doors open and a trains coming etc. I imagine a lot of serious men in suits had to listen to all these happy little tunes and decide if they are happy enough and which line each one suits.

Akihabara was pretty awesome, despite yesterday thinking SD cards in Japan are very expensive, they are in fact not in Akihabara, with a 16GB card available for $30. I didnt actually buy one though.
The place is known as electric town and its all computer shops, computer games arcades, manga shops, and porn stores. Now these are pretty much all merged into huge stores that do all of them at once, so its not unusual for you to say find ipod sales, gundam wing toys, hello kitty, tentacle porn, pachinko machines, 3d televisions. All in one store.
The porn is on big tv's as well, and although I saw some signs saying you have to be over 18, there were plenty of kids about (I think its childrens day today, the reason for the holiday).

After Akihabara I went to Ueno, thats where everyone else was getting off the train so why not. Turns out this is where some huge nature park is, and there were over 9 million people trying to experience nature simultaneously so I opted not to. Perhaps I will come back another time when its not a holiday.
The Ueno station is a lot like Shinjuku, in that 10 different lines seem to go above, under, through or around the station. The area around the station was very crowded and a but less shiny and fancy than Shinjuka and Akihabara.

And now...onto the photos!

Akihabara, under the train line, club sega on the right, love merci (porn store) on the left.

Unlike yesterday I decided to try a Japanese coffee chain for breakfast, this one was called Dutour, and it was terrible, they didnt actually make the coffee it came out of an automatic machine like you would get in an airport lounge. Also the bread looking thing was very stale and I didnt eat most of it.

So dissapointed was I in the coffee, I decided a vending machine might be better, I expected what came out to be ice cold as they also had coke and water and whatever in the machine, but no, what came out was piping hot, too hot to hold. Also it was delicious. I suspect it has sweetened condensed milk in it so its probably really bad for you. Oh well its not like I wont walk it off.

Have you ever pictured Colonel Sanders as a samurai warrior? Well fear not, here he is, in all his awesomeness.

Inside a toy shop, and things are already starting to get a bit dicey, some of the figurines were girls with their underwear around their knees looking terrified, but then there was also regular toys like gundam and nintendo things.

And then you are in the porn section. Its censored in the regular strange Japanese way. If you dont know what I mean, dont ask.

This maid started posing for me even though I didnt have my camera out, so I obliged her, for her troubles she gave me a pamphlet advertising Samsung computers.
There are similar maids all over Akihabara, advertising just about everything, including maid cafes.

If you are familiar with youtube memes you have probably seen Maru. You will be pleased to know that he seems to have made money from his floor sliding antics and now advertises wimax services.

I stumbled upon a stage featuring amateur j-pop groups. Boring and stupid, until I noticed the main girl who spent most of her time centre stage singing wore a swine flu mask whilst singing. This takes it from being boring and stupid to being awesome.

There are flea markets in Japan, but they arent particularly interesting.

This is inside a games parlour, one of the dirtier ones, but theres a big tournament going on. The photo dissapoints but the crowd is much bigger and very very excited at whats going on. They were playing some sort of fighting game. Also in there are these huge pods you climb into and play some sort of team death match in mechs, theres a map at the end of each row where you can see whats going on that looks like command and conquer. But inside the pods its FPS.
A photo of these pods might have been helpful here....

An entire multi storey building devoted to manga.

The pedo bear turned up and japanese people started going crazy with cameras. I wasnt sure what was more ridiculous so I moved around where I could capture both.

The inside of a train on the Yamamote line, not particularly crowded, I would imagine you would feel a lot more crowded if you are small. As a fat white Australian I am substantially bigger than the average Japanese person.

So happy was I with my last vending machine coffee I decided to try another, this one came out ice cold, but was even better for it! Also these chocolate coated almond things are really great. Each costs about $1 Australian. Whoever said I wouldnt be able to survive in Tokyo on $100 a day (again my mother, who lived in Japan for many years), is clearly very wrong.


I thought I was staying in the busiest place in Tokyo by staying at Shinjuku. It may still prove to be that once people go back to work on Thursday, but until then Shibuya is twice as ridiculous as Shinjuku.
It seems a lot bigger as far as dazzling multi storey neon buildings goes, still with lots of departments stores, fancy food in the basement etc. But also a lot more streets of regular stores, arcades, back alleys, restaurants of every kind etc.
Theres also lots of flyovers between buildings, some of them very high up, not sure how to get to them! More importantly theres a heap of guitar stores, the biggest and most impressive I have ever seen. The prices were better than Australia but not enough for me to consider buying one now. Still if I lived in Japan, I have no doubt I would be in a lot of trouble through guitar purchasing.

The first of the multi storey guitar stores. Disappointingly the window has decals for fender and gibson, the worlds 2 crappiest guitar companies specialising in fake fotoflame guitars of designs now 60 years old. Or specialising in sueing for patent infringement, im not sure what their main business is these days....

....but inside its all awesome guitars, caparison, fernandes, music man, bc rich (including american custom neck thru ones I have only ever seen in pictures before, and they were cheap too! under $1000 australian), schechter, grassroots, edwards, jackson stars...ok I will stop now.

I had dinner at Sukiya, which is the main competitor to Yoshinoya. This is Japanese fast food, you sit down, order, and it appears within 30 seconds. Everything in front of me (beef bowl on rice, salad, miso, strange bread thing in sauce) cost about $5 Australian. I could not eat it all.

To give you an idea of the sort of place it is, theres an island up the middle you sit around, the people in the middle run up and down to bring the orders out. The condiments are plentiful, different chilli things powdered and fresh, pickled ginger, various other sauces and oils. You also get free ice tea as much as you want, which was very refreshing.

This is apparently the worlds busiest pedestrian crossing. Those people are all on the road, coming from all directions. If you click the picture you will see Darth Vader on one of the billboards with the caption 'Who is my boss'. I have no idea what that is all about but I am seeing it everywhere. I wonder if George Lucas gave permission?
The photo was handheld, 1/40, iso only on 250. Fast glass is awesome.

Here I am risking my fancy new camera, perched on a shaky overpass, left unattended, 20 metres above traffic. All so you can see my ugly head.

Inside another guitar store...

...the amps and effects floor is just as impressive. Some really top quality brands amongst that lot.

Waiting on the subway to go home I spotted this ad. Those are guys. Im sorry I missed them on the 4th of April. However I am now inspired to wear my hair like that. If its cool in Japan it must be just a matter of time before its cool in Australia. I can be ahead of the trend instead of 10 years behind...finally!

The vending machine on the right is a new kind. Seems to have disposable coffee cups in it. Its too late for me to have a coffee but I have loads of change (when you must use cash for everything that happens).

I picked this strawberry thing, assuming it would have no coffee. I also assumed it would be a hot beverage. How wrong I was, again. Its actually a frozen strawberry slushy type of thing.

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There is now a page 2, GO THERE 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