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Archive for August, 2009

Konnichiwa! So I made this blog to talk about my first (but not last!) trip to Japan. I figure it’s probably the easiest way for me to talk about it. First off, I should say that I’ve wanted to go to Japan for a loooong time and finally had the chance to go. It was a solo trip and I stayed mostly in Tokyo, but went to a few places right outside of Tokyo as well. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did experiencing it! Well, on with the show!

The plane! The plane!

The plane! The plane!

Day 0 – traveling

My airline of choice was Continental. Actually it was really my only choice because they were the only nonstop flight to Japan. The flight itself wasn’t too bad. I had a window seat so that I could sleep against the window and also so that no one would climb over me to go to the bathroom. I was also able to get the front row of the economy class (bulk head seat) so I had lots of leg room. That, I think, really helped with the 13 hour trip.

I don’t think there were a lot of people on the plane. The front was obviously filled but I’m not sure about the back. When I checked-in online there were a lot of empty seats to choose from.

I spent most of the flight watching anime and listening to JPop and of course, sleeping! It was a pretty smooth flight so I got a good couple of hours sleep. Oh, for dinner I had grilled sterling silver sirloin steak with Japanese curry sauce, steamed rice, carrots, celery and pearl onions. Then after waking up I had chicken teriyaki on steamed white rice with mixed vegetables. It wasn’t bad considering it was in a prepackaged box.

Day 1 – Hotel Lobby

After traveling 27 hours into the future, I’ve finally arrived in Japan! First order of business was to pick up my luggage and then go through immigration and customs. This actually didn’t take as long as I thought it would. Probably because I was traveling alone and was near the front of the plane. Luggage came out relatively quickly and immigration and customs went smoothly. After all that, I had to go purchase my Narita Express (N’EX) train ticket and SUICA card. SUICA is basically like a MetroCard except it works like a proximity badge. You just wave it over the card reader in the turnstile and head right through. It’s great for anyone visiting Japan, especially if you’re not traveling to multiple cities. I could have gotten a JR Pass, which would have allowed me to ride any JR operated train for free. But after looking up all the fares of the trains I was going to take, getting a JR Pass would have cost me twice as much. If I was going to take the shinkansen to Kyoto and back, then it would probably be worth it.

From the airport to Tokyo took about 2 hours. I stayed at the Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku which is just about 2 blocks away from Shinjuku station, one of the busiest stations in Tokyo. The hotel itself was pretty nice. The room was very small, though. But that’s pretty much typical with every Japanese hotel. I didn’t come to Japan for the hotels anyway so I didn’t really care.

Tiny hotel room

Tiny hotel room

By the time I got settled in it was pretty late. I had enough time to get some cash from an ATM, grab some yummy yakitori, and take a quick look around before heading back to the hotel. There were a few things I noticed about Tokyo, and I guess Japan in general, during my quick stroll. The first is all the vending machines. I had heard about it before coming to Japan but was still surprised at seeing them practically everywhere. And unlike in the U.S. where the prices in vending machines are way over priced, prices in Japan are pretty much the same as in convenience stores. Another thing I noticed was that practically everyone obeys the crosswalk sign. Even if there are no cars in sight, no one will cross the street if the sign is red, which was unbelievable to me.

UPDATE: I remembered a few other little things that kind of surprised me. Every single restaurant provides a wet nap for you! Including fast food restaurants like McDonalds. They really are quite hygienic over there. You may have heard that people there wear surgical masks, not to keep from getting sick, but because they are the ones that are sick and don’t want to spread it to other people. And one other MAJOR thing I noticed was when I was in an elevator and I pushed the close door button…the doors actually close!

Typical vending machine

Typical vending machine

Day 2 – Passion

I spent most of today in the heart of Tokyo. First stop was the Imperial Palace East Garden. The garden (obviously from the name) is on the eastern side of the Imperial Palace. You could visit the Imperial Palace itself but you need to schedule an appointment. The entire Palace area, including the garden, is surrounded by a moat that’s filled with huge carp and geese and turtles! The garden itself was pretty nice. The highlight is probably the Japanese pond area with the lovely landscape.

Basking in the sun

Basking in the sun

Pond at the East Gardens

Pond at the East Gardens

Next stop was the otaku capital of world: Akihabara, a.k.a. Akiba, a.k.a. Electric Town. This is the place to go for electronics, toys, games, and anime. I didn’t have anything particular in mind to buy so I did a lot of window shopping. After a quick look around it was time for lunch. I already knew where I was going for lunch before I even arrived in Japan. It was at a little place called @home café. It’s a “special” kind of café. The kind where the waitresses dress up in maid outfits. These maid cafés are actually all over Akiba. Unfortunately, they don’t allow you to take pictures inside the café. Instead they charge you ¥500 to have your picture taken with one of the maids. And I gotta say…it was worth every Yen :). After lunch, I looked around Akiba some more, bought a few things, and then headed off to my next stop…

Akihabara

Akihabara

Ginza. The 5th Avenue of Tokyo. Where you can look at a bunch of stuff that you can’t afford. And that’s pretty much what I did. I did buy some really tasty baumkuchen at the Matsuzakaya department building. I then went to the basement of the Mitsukoshi building. It was just wall to wall full of snacks and desserts. Cakes, cookies, chocolates, gelees and a bunch of other tasty looking foods. A lot of it looked like it was from Europe though. After that I got hungry and it was time for a delicious tempura dinner.

Looks so good. Wish I bought some!

Looks so good. Wish I bought some!

Day 3 – Simple and Clean

Today was a pretty fun day. First, I woke up at 4 AM so that I could get to Tsukiji Fish Market and watch them sell huge pieces of tuna. It’s actually more interesting than it sounds. Watching them auction off a $10,000 piece of tuna every few minute is quite a thing to see! And if you want to have the freshest sushi, Tsukiji is where you want to go. I went to get a sushi breakfast at a place called Sushi Dai. Like most of the restaurants within the Fish Market area, it was really small; it could only fit like 10 or so people at a time. But It was also one of the more popular restaurants. So popular that it took around 45 minutes at 6AM just to get a seat! And the sushi definitely lived up to the hype! It was soooo good! And I think it was about ¥2,700 for 7 pieces which isn’t bad considering you’re getting some of the freshest sushi ever. After an incredibly delicious sushi breakfast, I headed off to Odaiba.

Tons of tuna

Tons of tuna

So fresh, so good!

So fresh, so good!

Odaiba was a lot of fun. There are plenty of things to see and do, at least for me anyway. I saw Asimo at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation and some other neat little science stuff including a replica of a part of the International Space Station. Afterwards, I headed over to Palette Town to see Venus Fort, MegaWeb, and the giant Ferris Wheel. Venus Fort is supposed to be modeled after Venice. Personally I think it looks like Caesar’s Palace in Vegas. There isn’t much to do there except more shopping so I just walked right through and headed to MegaWeb.

Me and Asimo

Me and Asimo

Caesar's...I mean Venus Fort

Caesar's...I mean Venus Fort

MegaWeb is basically a Toyota showroom but they show cars from their past as well as some cool looking concept cars. They also had some games and rides too. One ride was an electronically driven electric car that took you around the building. Meh. You could also test drive one of their many Toyota cars on this pre-determined course. One of the games they had was a safety simulator where they tested how well you drove but also on how far you drove in a set amount of time.

The highlight of MegaWeb

The highlight of MegaWeb

Right outside MegaWeb was the huge Ferris wheel. I wanted to ride it later at night but lost track of time and couldn’t. Oh well…next time. And next to the Ferris wheel was a huge arcade with an emphasis on multiplayer games. This place made me wish I had some people with me. There was this one game that seemed a little out of place. You can actually fish for goldfish in this large tank. Not sure what the rules are or what you win but just seemed really weird.

The fishing for goldfish arcade game

The fishing for goldfish arcade game

Panda ride???

Panda ride???

Next up was Joypolis in Decks Tokyo Beach. They describe Joypolis as an indoor amusement park. It’s got 3 floors of rides and games. It costs ¥500 to enter but then you’d have to pay for each individual ride. You can also buy a day pass or a night pass and not have to pay for each ride. I arrived late enough to buy a night pass for ¥2,500. The first ride I got on was called Spin Bullet. It’s basically a mini roller coaster that also spins you around. At one point it actually takes you outside of the building into this plexiglass enclosed area where everyone can see you. It was a fun ride. Another ride was called Halfpipe Canyon. Two riders stand on this snowboard and the ride starts swinging the board side to side on the halfpipe. When the riders reach the top of the halfpipe, they can hit panels with their feet that causes the board to spin. It looked really wild! Speaking of wild, there were other rides called Wild Wing, Wild Jungle Brothers, and Wild River Splash, where you “ride” and airplane, jeep, and raft, respectively. These were the kind of rides where you sit in front of a large screen and the platform you’re sitting on shakes and rocks around. There’s a pre-recorded guide that talks to you over the loud speakers but obviously in Japanese so I had no idea he was saying. But essentially for all 3 rides, something goes wrong and your vehicle goes off course and a “wild” ride ensues. There were a bunch of other rides that would take a while for me to describe so you can read about them here: http://tokyo-joypolis.com/english/index.html.

When it started to get dark I headed over to Odaiba Park. For the time being, the main reason to go to Odaiba Park is to see the giant 1:1 Gundam mech that was built there! That thing is huge! It was pretty cool to see too. There were a lot of people there, just to see this thing. After taking my fill of pictures, I called it a night.

Japan's defense to North Korea

Japan's defense to North Korea

Day 4 – Deep River

Deciding to take a break from the big city I headed up to a place called Nikko. It’s about a 2 hour train ride north of Tokyo. Nikko is a place for people who enjoy nature and the traditional side of Japan. Basically a complete opposite of Tokyo. There are a number of shrines and temples around the main area of Nikko which were very nice. The detail in the wood carvings on the shrines was amazing. I also got to see the sacred horse and the mausoleum of a famous shogun. But the highlight for me was heading over to the Okunikko area. The road leading to that area is a very winding road with several sharp turns. I headed up to the Yumoto Onsen area and saw Yudaki Falls. It was a beautiful thing to see, slightly offset by the fly fisherman standing at the base of the falls.

Yudaki Falls

Yudaki Falls

From Yudaki Falls started the Senjogahara Plateau Nature Trail. The entire trail is about a two and a half hour hike that follows along the Yukawa River. The trail was incredibly peaceful. Nothing but the sounds of the river, birds…and huge bugs. Luckily they weren’t the biting kind; just the annoying, buzz around your ear kind. This is the first time I’ve gone a long hike and I’m glad I made this my first. Not only did it have some beautiful scenery but almost the entire trail was on a boarded path. It made things a lot easier and I’m sure my feet would have hurt a lot more if it wasn’t. The trail goes through Senjogahara Plateau which is this wide open area with nothing but grass and you can see all the surrounding mountains. It was quite a sight. I also got to see a wild deer eating grass, which was cool.

Senjogahara Plateau

Senjogahara Plateau

What are you looking at?!

What are you looking at?!

As I headed down the trail some more the river started getting more rapid. Eventually the river went to Ryuzu Falls. It isn’t like other waterfalls where it drops straight down. This one had a bit of a slope to it but it was still just as amazing. From there I got on a bus to Lake Chuzenji and got to see another waterfall, Kegon Falls. This one was the most impressive of the three.

Ryuzu Falls

Ryuzu Falls

Kegon Falls

Kegon Falls

By now it was time to head back to the train station and back to Tokyo. This was definitely a very peaceful and relaxing, but also tiring, side trip. It was nice getting out of Tokyo for a day.

Day 5 – Sanctuary

I had also spent most of this day outside of Tokyo in a very rural city called Kamakura.

Kamakura is an hour outside of Tokyo. It’s kind of the Kyoto of eastern Japan. It’s got lots of temples and shrines located throughout the city. I got to see a couple of the more popular ones. The first temple was Hasedera. The first thing you see entering the grounds is a nice little pond with fish and lily pads. There was also a small cave that had these statues that looked like they were made right out of the wall. At the top of a set of stairs was Hase Temple itself. Inside the temple was a large statue of a goddess. Outside of the temple was a great view of the entire city.

Hase Temple

Hase Temple

View of Kamakura from Hase Temple

View of Kamakura from Hase Temple

After Hasedera I walked over to Daibutsu. Daibutsu is the giant Buddha statue of Kamakura. It’s the second largest Buddha statue in all of Japan. It was quite impressive. For a small fee you can go and take a look inside the statue where they provide a brief description of its construction. Off to the side of the statue, hung on the wall, are supposedly the huge sandals of the Buddha.

Great Buddha

Great Buddha

Buddha's sandals

Buddha's sandals

Next I made stops at Hachimangu Shrine, Kenchoji Temple, and Engakuji Temple. At Hachimangu, there was actually a wedding going on. What kind of stood out was that it was between a white guy and a Japanese woman. Inside the shrine people were tossing coins against this wooden pedestal, clapping their hands, and then praying. Not really sure what the meaning of it was.

At Kenchoji Temple I saw a lovely Zen garden and the temple bell which is considered a national treasure. There were some very impressively large wooden buildings and structures.

At Engakuji were more shrines and temples that were just as impressive as the previous ones. It had its own temple bell that is also a national treasure. Engakuji offered some great views as well.

Peaceful Zen garden

Peaceful Zen garden

National treasure

National treasure

As the day started to wind down I headed back to Shinjuku and had dinner at a place called Jojoen, which was recommended to me (arigatou ソフィー ちゃん!). Jojoen is a yakiniku restaurant, meaning they bring you the raw meat and you cook it yourself on a grill at the table. I ordered a plate of beef and some curry udon. Thinking back I should have ordered some more beef cause it was really good! The udon wasn’t bad either. And for some background music there was a Japanese lady playing the xylophone. To finish off the meal I had a heart-shaped, green tea ice cream.

Do-it-yourself yakiniku. Tasty!

Do-it-yourself yakiniku. Tasty!

Day 6 – Tokyo NIGHTS

Another fun day (though I think I could say that for every day I’ve been here 🙂 ). Shibuya’s the place to go if you want to do a little shopping. Lots of department stores and various shops all around. I was able to buy a few souvenirs and check out a music store. Shibuya is probably best known for the large crosswalk right outside the train station where hundreds of people cross at a time. I got there pretty early in the day so the streets were relatively empty. You can get a good view of the crosswalk from the 2nd floor of the Starbucks that’s across the street from the train station. I had a Matcha (green tea) Frappuccino that was surprisingly really good. Also pretty well known in Shibuya is the statue of a dog named Hachiko. The story behind Hachiko is kind of a sad one so you might want to get a hanky. Hachiko would wait at the train station for his owner to return from work everyday. But then one day his owner suffered a stroke and passed away at work. Hachiko, however, would still wait everyday at the train station expecting his owner to return. He did this for years until he passed away as well. The statue at Shibuya station has become a popular meeting spot for people since practically everyone in Tokyo knows where it is.

Large crosswalk at Shibuya

Large crosswalk at Shibuya

Hachiko

Hachiko

After Shibuya I headed north to Harajuku to do a little more souvenir shopping. But before that, I went to a little crepe store and bought myself a deliciously refreshing chocolate ice cream/chocolate cake crepe. Boy was that good! I went over to Kiddy Land and bought some stuff for my younger cousins then went to Oriental Bazaar and bought some souvenirs for the older crowd. I also bought myself a nice yukata. After I was done with the shopping I headed back to the hotel to drop off the bags. But my day wasn’t done just yet.

Soooo good on a hot day

Soooo good on a hot day

I left my hotel and went to the western side of Shinjuku to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, or Tocho for short. I think Tocho is the tallest building in Tokyo. Tocho has two towers, each with an observatory on the 45th floor. You can get a great bird’s eye view of the city from up there. I went up to the south observatory and took some nice pictures. After taking up the view, there was one last place I wanted to shop at. Bear with me as I geek out a little. I walked over to the Square-Enix store, not too far from Tocho. If you don’t know, and I’m guessing most of you don’t, Square-Enix makes video games. Their store sells various character goods, CDs, games and a bunch of other stuff that you probably don’t understand so I’ll just end it with that.

Tocho

Tocho

View from the top of Tocho

View from the top of Tocho

Day 7 – One Night Magic

A little back story for today. I had actually planned to go climb Mt. Fuji at night so that I could watch the sunrise in the morning. The problem was that I had done so much walking the previous days that my feet and legs hurting so much that I knew I wouldn’t have made it to the top. If I had done this on the second or third day I probably could have done it. But at this point it would have been stupid and dangerous for me to even try. So sadly I didn’t go. Oh well, there’s always 3 years from now :).

So after some rescheduling I had my day set. For the morning I went to go get my inner otaku out :). West of Shinjuku lies Ghibli Museum. If you don’t know what Studio Ghibli is then stop reading this right now and go away. Your kind is not wanted here :P. If you’re still reading this then I’ll assume that you know about Studio Ghibli and are a fan of Hayao Miyazaki. I still remember watching my first Miyazaki film. It was Princess Mononoke and I was actually able to watch it at the theaters. To my surprise the theater was actually packed and there were a number of kids there too. I’m sure their parents weren’t expecting to see some of the more graphic scenes in the film! Hell it was the first time I saw an animated character’s head get cut off by an arrow! Though I think I can say that I owe Princess Mononoke for my anime otaku-ism. I saw a few things before that but Mononoke was just so amazing that I started looking for other anime. I probably would have never seen great shows like Cowboy Bebop (still my favorite!), Macross Plus, and GiTS: SAC. Anyways back to the museum…you have to pre-purchase your ticket before heading to the museum, which I actually did before even leaving the U.S. The museum itself is actually kind of small; if you rush through you could probably see everything in an hour, though I took my time and spent about 3 hours there. It really is a museum for people who are fans of Miyazaki. But it also had a section for people interested in how they made animation in the past using some very cool demos. Unfortunately they don’t allow pictures to be taken inside the museum but they don’t have that restriction outside so I took a lot of exterior shots. After doing some rather expensive shopping in there gift store I headed back to the hotel to clean up.

Ghibli Museum

Ghibli Museum

Robot from Castle in the Sky

Robot from Castle in the Sky

With half the day left I went to Roppongi. Roppongi has 2 relatively new shopping complexes. One is called Tokyo Midtown and the other is Roppongi Hills. Each has its own art museum but I skipped on those. I mainly took a look around the complexes and the surrounding area. When it got to dinner time I already had a place in mind to go eat. It’s a place called Sarashina Horii. I only knew about it because I saw it on TV (thanks Anthony Bourdain). Their specialty is soba noodles and once again, I have to say that it was delicious! I don’t think I ate anything in Japan that I didn’t like! After filling my stomach with soba, I headed over to Tokyo Tower. It’s basically the Eiffel Tower of Japan. You can ride the elevator to the top but it costs ¥1,420, which seemed a bit much to me so I only went half way up for half the cost. It looks great lit up red and blue at night.

Delicious soba at Sarashina Horii

Delicious soba at Sarashina Horii

Tokyo Tower lit up at night

Tokyo Tower lit up at night

Day 8 – COLORS

Since I had planned to be at the top of Mt. Fuji this morning, I had to figure someplace else to go to. I decided to go to Shinjuku Park. It was just a few blocks away and I thought I could just take it slow for today. Turns out it wasn’t so much of a breather for me. First problem was trying to find the entrance to the place. This wasn’t a typical park. You actually have to pay to enter it so it wasn’t an open area that you can walk right in. Unfortunately for me, I turned right when I should have turned left so I ended up walking all around the outside of the park before I found the entrance. Second problem was…it was closed! I then remembered that the day before was a holiday (Ocean day). And in Japan, parks, theme parks, landmarks and the like are open on national holidays but closed the next day. Kind of makes sense if you think about it. So after wasting about an hour or so I thought I’d just do a little shopping and then head back to the hotel and take a much needed rest.

Since I have a little bit of space here I thought I’d mention the Tokyo train system. It’s nothing like what it is over here. First of all, it is completely clean. Not a hint of urine anywhere! Second, every station is air conditioned. And for the subways it has to be because for certain subway lines you actually have to go several floors down in the station! Another thing I immediately noticed was that every train was on time. When I say on time I mean it’s never late but it’s never early either. It always arrives on the minute. And try to avoid rush hour, unless you enjoy feeling like a sardine.

Rush hour in Tokyo

Rush hour in Tokyo

Back to the main story, after resting up at the hotel I thought I’d go to the happiest place on earth! Or at least it’s next door neighbor. I went to Tokyo DisneySea, which is right next to Tokyo Disneyland. I decided to go to ‘sea’ instead of ‘land’ because ‘land’ seemed slightly more geared towards kids. DisneySea is looks really nice. They put a lot of effort into the details of everything. The first ride I went on was Journey to the Center of the Earth. It starts off slow but with loud sound effects. Then the last 5 seconds gets really fast with a drop that I was not expecting! Next up was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This was one of those sit and look rides. You sit in this “submarine” and look out through the portholes, all the while a story being told to you in Japanese. It was okay, but not something you go on multiple times. Next ride was StormRider. This was a theater-seating ride that shakes and tilts. Like the “Wild” rides in Joypolis, only larger. And again, the story was in Japanese, but it was still entertaining. Right next to StormRider is a ride called Aquatopia. It’s a ride on water. It follows a set path and at certain points it starts spinning you around. There were actually 2 courses you could go on; a dry course or a wet course. Since I didn’t have any spare clothes on me I opted for the dry course. I took a look over at the wet course and the only reason it’s called the wet course is because at one point a hose gets turned on you. Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same. The best ride I went on was the Indiana Jones ride. You sit in this jeep that takes you through a fixed path. It gets relatively quick while twisting and turning and even goes through this pitch black tunnel.

Aquatopia

Aquatopia

"Erupts" during BraviSEAmo

"Erupts" during BraviSEAmo

Oh and I have to mention the popcorn! There were several popcorn carts spread throughout the park, each selling a different flavor of popcorn. They had sea salt, black pepper, chocolate, strawberry, and curry. There may have been more but that’s all I saw. For me, sea salt tasted like regular salt so that was good. Black pepper, however, didn’t really appeal to me. And I usually like black pepper on my food but for some reason it didn’t taste right. Chocolate, obviously, was great! It seems like you can put chocolate on any snack and it makes it better. And surprisingly, strawberry was really good too! It was really just a strawberry flavored candy coating on the popcorn, but it was still good. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try curry.

Chocolate popcorn! Yum!

Chocolate popcorn! Yum!

As it got later at night it started to rain. But there was still one more thing I wanted to see before I left and that was BraviSEAmo! BraviSEAmo is a show they put on in their harbor area. It’s one big water, fire, and fireworks show, all in the water. The show actually starts off with Mickey on a boat speaking Japanese, which just sounded really weird. Anyways, the show was pretty spectacular! The pictures I took don’t do it justice. It needs to be seen in person.

Fire spirit setting fire to lake

Fire spirit setting fire to lake

Water spirit

Water spirit

Day 9 – Eclipse

Today was a pretty special day. Special in that something was going to happen that doesn’t happen often. A solar eclipse passed over parts of Japan this day. I didn’t really plan on this at first. I didn’t even know this was going to happen until 2 months ago. Just a happy coincidence. The only unfortunate thing was that the Tokyo area was only getting a partial eclipse and it turned out to be a cloudy day. Luckily, every now and again, some thin clouds passed through the sky so that I could just barely see the sun. I did all of my eclipse watching in a city south of Tokyo called Yokohama.

Eclipse through the clouds

Eclipse through the clouds

Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan and it just so happened to be celebrating the 150th anniversary of it opening its port to the world. They had a couple of events going on relating to their anniversary but it was nothing to write home about. And it was all in Japanese so I didn’t learn much about the history of the city. There were plenty of other things to see there. I strolled through Yamashita Park, which is right next to the ocean. Got a nice ocean breeze coming in. Near the end of the park was Marine Tower. You can go up the tower and get a nice view of the harbor and city. Came back down and walked through Motomachi (lots of expensive name brand stores) and headed towards Chinatown. It was mainly shops and restaurants one after the other. I bought a couple of snacks and took the train back to Minato Mirai. The Minato Mirai area has an amusement park called Cosmo World and one of the tallest buildings in Japan, Landmark Tower. The amusement park had a couple of fun rides and various games to play. They had a whole bunch of claw games. I was able to win myself a box of Kit Kats :). There was even a roller coaster that at one point has you heading into a tunnel underground! They also had one of the largest Ferris wheels in the world. And I should take this time to point out this strange fascination/obsession with photo booths. Almost every single arcade I went to has a couple of these booths around, usually being used by Japanese girls. I guess they think it’s very kawaii!

Vanish rollercoaster

Vanish rollercoaster

Cosmo World Ferris wheel at night

Cosmo World Ferris wheel at night

For dinner I took the train to Shin-Yokohama and went to the Ramen Museum. Yes, they have a museum for ramen, albeit a small one. They had a history of ramen and the tools they used to make ramen in the past. If you wanted to try some ramen yourself, you’d head into the basement of the museum where they recreated a section of 1950’s Tokyo. There were multiple restaurants and I got to try 2 of them. And you know my response already…wow was that good ramen!

Replica of 1950's Tokyo in Ramen Museum

Replica of 1950's Tokyo in Ramen Museum

Day 10 – Flavor of Life

This was museum hopping day. The first museum was located within Ueno Park. The park itself was pretty big. Big enough to have its own zoo. Though I skipped the zoo because of various people saying it wasn’t that great. The park also has a lot of cherry blossoms and is one of the more popular spots to go when they bloom in the spring. The museum I went to was the National Science Museum. It had your typical flora and fauna exhibit. Then getting into some aviation, automobile, printing, and space. They also had a hands-on science experiment area dealing mostly with physics stuff. It was pretty cool. There was a dinosaur and fossils area as well. The next museum was located in Ryogoku. The Edo-Tokyo Museum dealt mainly with the history of Tokyo. I learned a lot about Tokyo’s history there, from it’s farming days to modern times. I spent a good few hours there.

Japanese armor

Japanese armor

Aritfacts from the 7.9 earthquake in 1923

Aritfacts from the 7.9 earthquake in 1923

Since today was my last night in Japan I thought I’d treat myself to a nice dinner. And one of the best restaurants I kept reading about was Kozue, located in the Park Hyatt hotel. This was going to be my one big splurge in Japan and boy was it a splurge! The food was good but I think I learned that the really fancy restaurants just aren’t for me. I guess I prefer something more simple. But like I said, the food was still pretty good so if you’re looking for a fancy meal, great atmosphere, and a great view from the 40th floor of the Park Hyatt hotel, you may appreciate Kozue more than I did.

Day 11 – Apple and Cinnamon

This is it. Last day in Japan. Obviously I couldn’t do much since I had to check out of the hotel by 11:00 and had a 4:35 PM plane to catch. I spent that morning packing all my clothes and souvenirs.

This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time. As I said at the beginning of this, I’ve wanted to go to Japan for a while now and I wasn’t disappointed. Actually the one thing that I’m disappointed about was not being able to go up Mt. Fuji, but I’m already thinking about coming back in the summer of 2012 and it’ll be the first thing I do. I originally planned to go to Kyoto as well but figured I’d make it easier for myself since it was my first time to Japan and I was going by myself. But to make up for this, I’m already planning on going back next spring, just in time for cherry blossom season.

I hope you were able to get a sense of how much fun I had in Japan and maybe even got you thinking into going yourself. If you are thinking of going and have questions about Japan, feel free to ask me.

Oh, and if you’ve read this far and are wondering about the weird titles for each day, don’t give it a second thought. I’m just amusing myself :).

Oh, if anyone’s reading this, please leave a comment. Arigatou gozaimasu!

じゃあ また!

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