Day 1 - 初めて、東京！
I have to start with the flight, which itself was interesting. The big screens with the usual flight info were showing live feed from a camera outside the aircraft. We saw the runway from a totally different angle: the lights were white as the plane cruised along and turned to a whole new set of pink as the plane got ready for take-off. We both saw and felt ourselves soaring into the night skies!
By the time I reached Ryokan Kangetsu, it was already late morning. After a short rest, I set off for Shinjuku from where I would embark on a trip to see an old friend: Kitty-chan!
The entrance area was rather hazy and dark. It was only when I went further in to explore that I found that everything was simply delightfully dreamy and lovely! The shows were fantasy tales of love and friendship and the people at the park were almost as cute as Kitty herself :)
The main gate at night. No idea what "puro" stands for..
1) I love the tiny play with the blue flower fairy Florence who befriended Kitty and Daniel. The way Kitty sulked when her family trip was cancelled made me feel like hugging her :o
2) Being alone gave me the right to do stupid things. In fact being on the road already gave me the right to be silly! Eg, taking silly pictures..
Kitty loo.. Making faces.. More later..
3) There were a multitude of cute things in Kitty House that only Kitty and girls would use, including a kitty-face bathtub and an enviable princess bedroom. Oh, there was a study too - Kitty is a smart girl ok, there were Shakespearean leather bounds on the shelves, goodness..
4) She held my hand!
What a warm feeling.. I was so touched :)
5) The shop must be the largest I've seen. Spent an hour there just browsing and bought only three small items :p
Now to end day one, I have something to say to all the guys who went to Japan and told me that Japanese girls are better looking than SG girls, even though it might just be because they take greater effort to dress up etc: the same could be said for guys! Man, I saw no less than 150 men in dark suits on my very first day and most of them looked damn cool! Don't forget that I reached Tokyo city only past noon and spent four hours in Kitty land.. So moral of the story: 人靠衣装!
Day 2 - Tokyo Bay
I had a nice rest (read: woke up late) and leisurely made my way to Odaiba, which is at Tokyo bay. The Yurikamome train I took gave a fantastic view of Rainbow Bridge.
Decks was this major shopping mall with one floor - 台場一丁目商店街 - dedicated to the Odaiba streets around Showa 30, about 1956. Very interesting shops and eateries abound! Then something really embarrassing happened: I had okonomiyaki, said gochisousamadeshita and walked off - without paying!! It was some ten steps before I remembered and rushed back, to be met halfway by the shop assistant ~.~
Note the last picture showing entrance to toilets. The curtain actually said something like “tidal hot water”?!
1) Mediage complex with a Sony showroom - cool! - and World of Coca Cola above its cineplex
2) Fuji TV! Took a pict with the mascot :)
3) Toyota Mega Web at Palette Town: I had a go at the Gran Turismo 4 simulator machine. Man! It was so difficult! Think I’ll stick to PS2 :p
I didn’t expect to spend so much time at Odaiba but I did. By the time I got to Daien-ji in Meguro, it was almost closed and after a few pictures, the keeper had to ask me to go so he could close the gates.
So I went to Shibuya.
Damn crowded! I took a few pictures outside the JR station and walked onto the streets for no more than half an hour, which included a gyudon dinner. Then I couldn’t take it and left the place! Oh, took a picture of Shibuya 109, which, I heard from Na later, was a rather hip place with interesting characters. Hmmm, next trip!
I was changing trains from Yamanote line to Keihin-Tohoku line on the way back when I noticed that within the ticket gates of the interchange station, there were actually many food and souvenir stalls and even restaurants! If only SG MRT stations have such stations, then waiting for people would not be such a chore.. Bought some Japanese confectionery and headed for home.
Enjoying my late dessert: the fifth mochi was in my mouth. Maybe tummy..
Day 3 - long walks
First stop was Shinjuku. I was to repeat my visits at least two more times after this.
Following the walking tour in my guide book, I went first to the Shinjuku Centre Building in West Shinjuku. The sole purpose was to get to the observatory port on the 53rd floor. Nice la, but so is any other such outlooks :p
The next stop was the Shinjuku Mitsui building which contained a Pentax Forum where I had much fun playing with powerful cameras and lenses. Oh, don’t know why but though this wasn’t the best one on display, I had a lot of fun with it - OptioX.
The Sumitomo building offered yet another observatory platform, didn’t bother with pictures this time. But the next one, the dual complex of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices, I took quite a number of pictures and spent a fair bit of time roaming the gallery, perhaps cos it’s the brightest gallery of all. Supposedly, you could see Mt Fuji from the west window on a clear day. It was, unfortunately, damn cloudy that day.. But I had a tiny surprise: a bit of pink far below.. Sakura!
I popped down asap and found two trees in full bloom, shadowing a group of people having BBQ on what I later found to be the typical blue canvas for hanami.
The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring East Shinjuku, including the red light district of Kabikicho and a glimpse at the Kinokuniya building, a full eight storeys with lifts serviced by lift ladies, a rare sight now. I didn’t manage to go to the huge Isetan and Takashimaya cos it was getting late and I wished to get to Harujuku.
My camera was running low on batt at Meiji-Jingu at Harajuku. Bumped into a wedding; the ceremony had ended but the group was taking pictures outside.
The cos-play-zoku on the Meiji-Jingu bridge was nothing short of interesting but my camera battery decided to die there.. Managed only a photo with two girls and another with a girl passing by in a kimono, not a cos-play but many stopped her for a shot anyway.
The cos-play-zoku, so young!
And the passer-by clad in kimono
On the way down Omote-Sando, I was approached by two separate guys who started talking to me in Japanese - they were among the first of about 3,000 people who mistook me for a Japanese. What did they say? Couldn’t understand! But I don’t suppose it’s anything bad, perhaps some advertising.. Anyway the first guy was pretty friendly, started walking and chatting with me in part English, part Japanese when he realised I was not Japanese, and wished me a happy stay in Tokyo :)
That evening, I scalded my tongue with tempura soba, marking the beginning of a long bitter battle with ulcers, sighs..
Day 4 - 箱根行き！
It was peak time when I took the train to Shinjuku, where I was supposed to take the Odakyu rail to Hakone. The morning trains were so packed with commuters I was totally squashed and balancing awkwardly. The Shinjuku station itself was worse, I’d never seen such crowds! They never seemed to cease and I had to inch my way to the ticket window.
My minshuku was Kappa Tengoku, 6660¥ pppn including dinner and breakfast. I left immediately after checking in to make the trip around the Hakone national park area. The first stop was the Hakone Open Air Museum. I heard it was good and it was! Spent 2-3hours there. Some notable exhibits below, including silly bits of course:
I like this: “Unidos”, a Spanish piece meaning embrace
Had to laugh when I saw the title: “Girl with cock”! Ok, mf is bad..
This evoked similar feelings I had at Auschwitz: “Rupture”
Tall tower.. Did lazy mf climb?
Yes she did! See the picture she took from up there:
Not enough proof? Here goes another..
It was a cold day, the foot bath looked very inviting even at 65°C!
I thought this was funny, can check out his balls on the other side :p
This is fun, use it to disguise embarrassing noises in the loo
A train ride brought me to Gora where I hopped on to a cable car, which was in fact what I would usually refer to as a train on a slope. That was an enlightening ride: met a Caucasian woman who was telling me she couldn’t get used to the tremors yet. I was like, what tremors? Apparently, the tremors the night before were strong enough to shake her hotel. Then I realised.. I felt them too! But I didn’t realize what the shaking was about as I was on the way to dreamland and it was raining that night so I had this image of being in Aunt Josephine’s (Lemony Snicket) house on a cliff and there was a storm that was rattling my house..! Eh..
Anyway, that led to Sounzan station where the ropeway began - this ropeway was in fact our idea of a cable car! The first stop was Owakudani station, where I brought these strange stuff cooked in the volcanic region, hence the colour..
A time-check told me I had only enough time to buy the eggs at Owakudani, else I couldn’t make it for dinner at the minshuku. So it’s a pity I didn’t get to walk to the ancient crater of Kamiyama though the sulphuric fumes were already getting to me.
A longer cable car ride (and three eggs!) later, I arrived at Togendai, one tip of Lake Ashi. I caught the boat to Hakone-Machi, saw a sign that led to somewhere where I could possibly catch a glimpse of Mt Fuji, before boarding the bus bound for Hakona-Yumoto, where my minshuku was.
The rush wasn’t a waste, really. Just look at the spread of food for dinner and breakfast the next day!
They prepared my futon while I was having dinner. I had a nice time relaxing in the in-house onsen before doing some stupid things in my room that night..
Happy from onsen
Nah, just took off the coat.. Still sweet :)
Um, and as crazy as ever! Gaaar!
Day 5 - Miki-chan!
Too lazy to go all the way to the crater but I had to revisit Hakone-Machi. A bus took me there in 40min via a different route from Mon so I took in a different scenery. But what awaited me was even better. Let’s take it a step at a time..
The first stop was to the Hakone Shrine. I didn’t find it particularly interesting but it looked good with its bright red against a general backdrop of green and brown pin trees. The dragon sprouts water for visitors to purify themselves before they enter the hall. The red gate is one of many but this one faces the lake and I went all the way down and well, took stupid photos..
Made my way back to pier along the lake and talked to various anglers; there were so many of them but this one was the friendliest. Practised my Japanese with him, quite proud of myself heh heh!
Next stop was Narukawa Art Museum. Didn’t want to go in cos I was quite broke by then but a guy told me Mt Fuji was visible that day and the gallery in the museum offered the only clear view! Ok, 1100¥, so be it! And ジャンジャン！
I returned to Tokyo station via the famed shinkansen - man, was it fast! I had a late bento lunch on it too, yummy :) The Imperial Palace was closed to the public and by the time I reached there, only one part of the open grounds remained open.
mf and the Nijubashi (bridge - bashi/hashi means bridge)
Trivial: a Spanish group greeted me as I walked out towards Tokyo station. One cute member shouted out to me: bueno! I took a look, returned with a bueno, and the group cheered! Haha!
Gave Miki a call at the station and turned out that her office was just a stone throw away so we met at 530pm to have tea. So nice to see her again! It must have been two or three years?! But she looked as lovely as ever and her presence lighted up my solo trip. At 10pm, we met again at Shinagawa to have a late dinner at this yakitori bar, a really nice place but my camera went flat, urgh!
Talked a lot with her that day, our outlooks towards life, friendships and relationships. Oh, we both agreed on who’s the best looking guy among our common friends, heh, I’m supposed to go tell him haha! Will be funny :p
We took the last train back to her office after that to retrieve her suitcase before she sent me back in a cab. Damn ex! It reached 8000¥ by the time we found Chidoricho. Must have been five digits when it got to her place.. Gomen ne!
Day 6 - Disney Sea
Need I say more? :)
Almost as lovely as Kitty-chan
Was that Chip or Dale??
Oh oh I like this! This is of “goofy and gnoofyem” :p
I always like him :) (Psst: check out his chest - like wearing bra!)
And a cute sign greeted me when I was waiting for the mini roller coaster ride at the Mermaid Lagoon
Spent a good 6-7hours enjoying the various rides and performances. And I think I’ve had enough simulator rides for the year! Worthy of mention was the StormRider simulator; there was rain spray when the ship made a crash landing and the whole experience felt rather real, thrilling!
The cute Disney line brought me back to the JR Maihama station, from where I went back into the city area of Hamamatsucho for the Tokyo Tower. I’ve heard it wasn’t particularly fantastic. In fact from daytime photos of the tower, I wasn’t too keen. But there’s a pretty nice shrine - Zozoji - on the way so..
Turned out no shrine was open at night, sadly.. But the route was lined with cherry blossoms! The tower looked just like Eiffel Tower at night, orange and bright. Nothing too interesting for me but I thought it looked nice with the yozakura. May I explain that badly taken photo with a burnt-out batt..?
Day 7 - the best sushi
For the past few days, I was always woken by daylight at 5 or 6 plus, way before my alarm clock woke me. On this Thurs morning, I actually jumped up at 5am and caught the 6am train for town. It’s fish market day!
Actually I never liked to go to the wet market with Mother when I was young cos I was very afraid I might slip and fall in the fish area. But this time, I’ve heard pretty good reviews of the market walk..
Happily, I reached the Tsukiji market early enough at 715am. It looked busy enough, and the people showed no mercy as they plied through the narrow market streets with their motor carts; one guy pushed me a bit on my back when I didn’t back away enough for his cart to pass.
But generally the people were very nice to this nosey tourist (actually I prefer the term “traveller”) who kept asking what fish this and that were, if it was considered small or big, if it was alive, etc. In somewhat broken Japanese but surprisingly, they understood me! One ah peh asked me where I was from and an hour later, when he passed by me on my way to breakfast, he called out to me cheerily: Singapore!
The cut portion at the bottom (right picture) was from a tuna like the one in the left picture. That was considered small. A big one would have a similar cut the size of the one at the top!
My fave (dead) fish, yummy..
I spent a happy hour roaming the central fish market before making my way to the external market where the famed Daiwa Sushi was. It was tough finding the way but the guard at the gate was very kind, he asked me to wait for him to finish a chore before bringing me to find the restaurant.
The central market; check out the unprocessed fish roe! The unagi sushi at Daiwa was the best I’ve ever, ever had - not in picture cos I was too busy devouring it :p
It was still very early when I got to Ginza, nothing was open yet so I roamed about aimlessly until 11am. I actually didn’t find Ginza particularly interesting.. But hey, check out the ubiquitous vending machines:
Oh, one thing about Japan/Tokyo that I like: they are very environmentally friendly. There are different bins for different rubbish. And although it can be difficult to find a bin on the streets, there is little litter cos people generally bring their rubbish home with them! This is civic consciousness. I’m afraid we still have a long way to go..
I was quite sian by the time I got to Kabukiza so I decided I should watch a single act. Turned out to be a costly mistake. I didn’t understand a word! Yes there were English guides for hire but I didn’t bother wasting money. Though I must say it was interesting just watching for the first 15min or so; the costumes, the singing, the instruments, incomprehensible phrases the audience were shouting. Only thing was that the act lasted for some 1.5hr. Well, at least I managed to rest my feet a little.
Returned to the ryokan early that day to have dessert from Arte Ebisu - yes, something to cheer me up cos by then the ulcer pain was getting to me. Took the chance to check out the ryokan, took some photos and used their facilities which included free massage chair and foot massage! Oooh…
The entrance, the 露天風呂, the shower area and the changing area of the bath. The indoor bath was warmer but not as pretty so no photos.
Day 8 - shopping
I think I’ve had enough sightseeing of Tokyo - it’s time for shopping, in heels :p Remembered passing by Daimaru at Tokyo station on Tues and it looked fantastic. So I headed there, but not before I stopped en route at Tokyu Kamata where I bought a nice top. Spent a lot of time roaming food halls of Daimaru, drooling as I walked along. The kimono halls were very nice, showcasing lovely kimono and accessories but they were all way ex.. Wish I could have one of those.. Tried some clothes but didn’t buy any more. And stopped trying after a while cos I was too lazy to take off my shoes to go into the fitting room!
My heels were killing me so again I returned to the ryokan early, this time with a salad from Daimaru. Massage chair again :p Also went around the immediate neighbourhood. Found a small park with kids playing the Japanese national game of baseball, under a sakura tree in full bloom, lovely..
Oh, my rojak dinner that evening, yakisoba and gyoza from the bento shop near the station. That must be my second or third beer in Tokyo but hey it’s diet :p
Day 9 - Na-chan!
Flight info from Narita website said Na’s flight arrived at 7am. Oops, I might be late in meeting her at the Keisei Ueno station so I rushed a bit, bringing along the sakura mochi and sake I bought the day before, for hanami :) Damn ex dessert at 210¥ per mochi but they looked lovely!
At Ueno park, ほら！
More sakura! With mf! And check out the sides where companies and families chopped the place with their butts or a placard bearing the company name..
Ok ok, just flowers now, no more mf..
There was a boulevard of food stalls. We bought a okonomiyaki to share. There was a fallen blossom on the table (no we didn’t pluck any!) so..
We next headed for Sensoji via Kaminarimon. There were tons of things to see, to buy, and to eat along the street between Kaminarimon and Sensoji. We bought some purses and ti kum!
The shop just outside Sensoji, but I have my Kitty charm from CW, Hup and Sito already
The shrine was littered with sakura trees
I asked for my fortune, but I forgot to wish for anything as I was shaking the thing.. Not sure if it’s still accurate..
Ok got mf’s face again but it’s with Na: we liked this tree!
And then we flew to Shinjuku for a while, where I took this photo of a banner outside some (sleazy?) shop :p
Harajuku was next on the list, Meiji-Jingu bridge was still bustling with performers though the cos-play-zoku were gone by then. Then, it was dinner at a tiny udon eatery in Hamamastucho, followed by drinks and yakitori at where Miki brought me to a few nights ago. Photos with Na cos my camera died again! May update this again..
Back to the ryokan at 11plus. We started with a shower at the indoor bath to warm up before going to the outdoor bath which was less warm. Very funny to see a friend butt naked; we haven’t been through NS, haha!
Day 10 - last day
We bought dango from the supermarket and went to a small park for breakfast and more hanami before leaving for Ueno to meet Miki for lunch. After I dumped my suitcase in a locker, Miki’s friend Masaki-san greeted us and told us that Miki would arrive soon. Then all four of us went to a cozy soba shop. After scalding my tongue on hot tempura soba, I decided to have cold soba instead, complete with, get this: soba icecream! A totally yummy meal! Miki had been too nice, spoiling us :)
We said bye-bye at Keisei Ueno station, knowing that soon we’ll meet again in SG when she comes for a friend’s wedding. Promised to bring her to Union :)
On the train to Narita, I realised I forgot to take a picture with Miki, ahhh! =(
After a mad last-minute DFS shopping, Na left for SG while I left Tokyo at 5pm Sun to reach SF 10am the same day. That would explain the jetlag I still feel right now!!! Thank goodness YX was there to fetch me.. If I still can’t sleep tonight, I’ll carry on with the less factual stuff of the trip..