Around Tokyo Part 2: Tokyo Tower, Meiji Temple, Niigata, Shinjuku, Harajuku, Omotesando Hills, Shibuya, and Disney Resorts
November 23, 2013 § Leave a comment
I am very fortunate to have a good friend living in Tokyo because she and her husband were able to tour me around the famous spots in Tokyo. I listed the spots I’ve visited on the rest of my stay in Japan below.
1. Tokyo Tower
Before the Skytree was built, the Tokyo Tower was one of highest TV towers in Tokyo. I thought that a higher structure such as the Skytree would affect this old tower’s popularity but upon seeing it, I realized that it has its own special appeal that still attract a lot of tourists. Initially, it would remind you of Paris’ Eiffel Tower and consequently, a romantic vibe arises. Up the tower, I saw Tokyo’s shining city lights: blinking reds, colorful LEDs of companies, mellow mood lights from nearby restaurants–the city is so alive and it just engulfed me. I felt like a speck of dust in this huge city, trying to find where the city lights would end on the horizon. Whenever I go on trips, I always take a moment to pause, take it all in, feel the place, and try to keep a strong memory of that feeling in my head. When I was up the Tokyo Tower, I did just that. It’s a pity I wasn’t holding somebody’s hand. Ooops, let’s not get soft.
2. Disney Resorts Tokyo
My friends and I spent two days in the Disney Resorts because it’s divided into Disneyland and Disney Sea theme parks. We had to move from our Shinjuku hotel to a Disney Hotel, which is a bus ride away from the theme parks. I wasn’t particularly ecstatic about the setup because I didn’t want to spend two days in a theme park. I’m more of a stroll and explore kind of person so I thought two days was a waste. I could have spent that one day just walking around Tokyo. However, the theme park experience wasn’t bad at all. Disney never disappoints, except for Hong Kong (smirk).
We spent our first day at Disneyland. It was neither exceptionally big, nor disappointingly small. It was big enough to tire me out at the end of the day. It’s catered for the younger kids because there’s not a lot of adventure rides that I’d go crazy about. However, it was a good place to take photos and sightsee. A good ride from that part of the park is the Space Mountain (but it made my neck hurt after).
I enjoyed Disney Sea way better than Disneyland. It had a lot of fun rides/attractions and it featured Agrabah and Atlantis, places from my favorite Disney movies! When I saw Agrabah’s structure, I was literally spazzing while (sort of) forcing my friends to go there right away. Disney Sea was also a lot bigger than Disneyland. It had a big open space for water performances and it looks like a place you’d only see in Europe. I loved it. We took a lot of exciting rides including Indiana Jones, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
3. Niigata Prefecture via Bullet Train (Shinkansen)
We also visited the Niigata Prefecture, which is located north of the Tokyo Prefecture. This place is famous for its ski resorts. My friends and I took the Shinkansen/Bullet Train for two hours to arrive there. Doesn’t it look so badass?
It was my first time to touch and play with snow so it was quite an exciting experience as well. In this part of Japan, you would see rural qualities that are absent in Tokyo. I saw traditional houses, low-rise apartments and hotels, traditional restaurants, and small box cars Japanese people love to use.
4. Meiji Temple
My friend Sashico and her husband, Takehiro, were so kind to take me to the famous Meiji Temple. It’s just around Shibuya area and I was really amazed that a place of such historical value could be in the middle of a very busy city. Before going inside, there’s a washing spot just outside the temple gate. I was told that people who go in should clean their hands first.
We were so lucky to have witnessed a traditional Japanese wedding, which occurred in the temple during our visit. My friend said I was very lucky because for the longest time she’s been in Japan, it’s also her first time to witness such! She told me that traditional Japanese weddings are more expensive than white weddings because the fee for Meiji Temple alone is so expensive. I noticed that the bridal train was relatively smaller than what I would imagine an expensive wedding to be. I believe this was one of the highlights in my Japan trip because it’s such a rare experience!
Lucky us, there were two weddings! *Pats myself on the back*
Sashico told me that Gindaco has one of the best tasting takoyakis around Tokyo. She didn’t pass the opportunity to buy one for me. I ordered cheese-flavored takoyakis and it was really delicious!
5. Harajuku / Takeshita Street
When Sashico told me she’ll take me to Harajuku, I got so excited because I know I could see wierd Japanese fashion there. I’m not particularly a fan of wearing weird fashion pieces but it would be awesome if I saw some Lolita girls or cosplayers. At about 4 in the afternoon, the Takeshita Street was really crowded.
6. Omotesando Hills
One place that I really adored in Tokyo would have to be Omotesando Hills. This road has a wide array of buildings with amazing architecture. Building upon building, you’ll see an engaging appeal that would just make you look and say ‘Ah, now that’s a pretty bulding.’ It’s not a budget friendly place so I wouldn’t even dare spend anything here. It’s just a nice place if you’re into architecture or design.
And finally, Shibuya. What can I say? Shibuya is what I’ve always imagined Tokyo to be like. It has the crowd, the LED lights, the squiggly Japanese words on billboards, and malls that I have pictured in my head. This is Tokyo at its busiest. We dropped by Shibuya 109, which is an entire building only for women’s apparell. Crazy, I know!
Here are some shots we took while walking around Shinjuku.
7. Chiba University, Chiba Prefecture
Last but not the least, here’s a few shots from Chiba University. After all, it’s the main reason why I went to Tokyo anyway. This was taken just after I presented my conference paper. 🙂 The blooming Cherryblossoms were a great icing on the cake!
Japan is a wonderful place and I wish I could visit again, hopefully with my family. Next time, I would love to visit Kyoto so I could be emerged in the old Japan culture. For people who are planning to visit Japan, I say save up, and enjoy! Arigato gozaimazu!
March 22, 2013 § 2 Comments
It’s been a few days since I’ve arrived from Japan. To be honest, I have a pile of school works to finish before I head back to the Philippines for the Holy week (Spring break!), which is less than a week from now. Despite my ‘busy’ schedule however, I can’t really find myself to do my school tasks simply because I’m not in the mood. So let’s just say I’m waiting for my good and hardworking mood to stop by. *wink* Usually, when I want to relax, I draw some random illustrations or in some cases (like now), I blog. I just thought I could share some experiences I’ve had when I visited Japan. For this post, I’m going to tell you guys about my day trip to the Tokyo Skytree and Asakusa area.
1. Tokyo Skytree
My friends and I had our first stop at the Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー). It’s the newest and highest television and broadcast tower in Tokyo (beating Tokyo Tower). It is located in the Sumida City Ward, not too far from Asakusa.
How to get there: (Credits to http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3064.html)
The entrance to the Tokyo Skytree is on the 4th floor of Tokyo Skytree Town, which spans the area between Tokyo Skytree Station (formerly known as Narihirabashi Station) on the Tobu Isesaki Line, and Oshiage Station on the Asakusa Subway Line, Hanzomon Subway Line and Keisei Oshiage Line. Alternatively, it is a 20 minute walk across the Sumida River from Asakusa.
Tokyo Skytree can also be reached by direct buses from Tokyo Station (30 minutes, 500 yen one way, 3 buses/hour), Ueno Station (30 minutes, 200 yen, 4 buses/hour), Tokyo Disney Resort (45-55 minutes, 500 yen, 1 bus/hour) and Haneda Airport (50-70 minutes, 900 yen, 1 bus/hour).
In our case, we took the train from Shinjuku to the Tokyo Skytree Station.
Operating Hours: 8:00 to 22:00; No closing days
Fees: 2000 yen (first observatory), 3000 yen (first and second observatories), A 500 yen service fee is charged for time specific advance reservations.
The Tokyo Skytree has two observation decks, the 350m and the 450m. My friends and I went for the 350 meter high observation deck, or the Tembo deck. It’s composed of 3 floors: the highest floor has huge glass windows for a good 360 degree panoramic view of the city; the middle floor has some shops and restaurants; while the lowest floor has another observation deck with see-through floors.
The 450 meter high observation deck, or the Tembo Gallery is dubbed “The world’s highest skywalk”, with a spiral ramp encircling the upper portion of the tower. At night, you can the light spinning around it. I initially thought it was a spaceship! Unfortunately, I was not able to experience this deck because my friends and I chose to buy tickets for the lower deck. Tokyo Skytree’s height almost doubles that of Macau Tower (The observation deck of which, I’ve also visited), but at 350 meters above the ground, I did not feel so high up as I’ve felt when I was in Macau’s 360 degree cafe. I think it’s because Tokyo’s grounds are filled with high buildings to begin with, while Macau Tower is basically surrounded by flat ground. Also, the elevator that took us to the Tembo deck was so cool. Although it’s not a see-through elevator (that would be cooler!), you could see the speed of travel and the height of the tower you’re passing on a screen. Here are some photos:
We were so lucky to witness a few Sakura trees blooming because it’s too early at that time. Normally, the Sakura season starts late March to April. For lunch, my friends and I decided to eat in a restaurant nearby the Tokyo Skytree. It’s just around the corner of the street when you turn left from the main exit. It really sucks because I was not able to get the Japanese name of the restaurant. My friends are Taiwanese and they can read Kanji (Chinese characters), so they don’t really need to know how to say the name the Japanese way. In fact, they keep saying Dong-jing in reference to Tokyo. So that’s basically why I don’t know the Japanese name of the shop– I’m not forced to know it. I know, it sucks. Anyway, if any of you can read the Kanji and can tell me what this store’s name is, that would be nice.
My friend ordered this Tempura set, looks delicious right? (1,200 Yen)
Meanwhile, I ordered Katsudon. Its size is just right for my appetite. (900 Yen)
After our sumptuous lunch, my friends and I decided to walk towards Asakusa area. It’s about 20 minutes away from the Tokyo Skytree. We crossed the Sakurabashi bridge passing over the Sumida-gawa river. The bridge was quite a view in itself too, with its vivid red-colored panels. Can you see the Tokyo Skytree?
After passing the Sakurabashi bridge, we entered the Asakusa area. Here, we were able to see the Asakusa market and Sensoji Temple. Historically, the Asakusa area used to be a site for Kabuki Theaters; it was also some sort of a red light district back in the Edo Period. But even before actually getting to the Asakusa Temple proper, my attention was caught by some Japanese men dressed in some sort of traditional Japanese attire (not the Yukata though) with bands on their forehead and a flat, fabric, ninja-like footwear. It’s no surprise that they would attract some attention because they’re quite loud for regular Japanese passers by. Later on, I realized that they were calling for customers to ride their rickshaw tour service. It’s a 30-minute Asakusa tour while riding the rickshaw. Did you know that the term rickshaw actually came from the Japanese word ‘jinriksha’ which means a ‘man powered vehicle’? Cool, right? Sometime later, I saw one rickshaw tourguide in action. He was talking (comically telling a story in a loud voice) while pulling the rickshaw with two people onboard. I just thought to myself that I can’t bear letting someone carry my weight, I felt quite sad to think so. I’m weird like that. The photos below include the main gate to the Sensoji Temple, as well as some shots of the Asakusa market.
The Asakusa market is really interesting. Here, you can avail of souvenir items for some friends. I saw a lot of traditional outfits, footwears, fans, foods, decors, etc. In fact, a friend of mine who had been there last year has asked me to buy him the fabric, ninja-like footwear from Asakusa. If I had more time, I would have tried to look for some traditional Japanese pieces. Unfortunately, I did not have so much time to spare so I just took some photos of the crowd (Sorry friend!).
3. Sensoji Temple
The photos below show the Sensoji Temple. The Pagoda looks cool doesn’t it?
For dinner, we headed back to the Shinjuku area to look for some restaurants. We were in the mood for some Sashimi so we went to this small shop near Kabuki-cho. From what I recall, this dinner was the cheapest one that we had (with the exception of McDonald’s Shaka Shaka Chicken, that’s a different story).
That concludes my trip to the Tokyo Skytree and Asakusa area. I hope I did not forget to put in the details and I hope some information here can help you in your future travels. More posts about my Japan trip soon!
Credits for the photos: Chen Yu Cheng
March 16, 2013 § 3 Comments
Studio Ghibli has been famous around the world for its unique and interesting animation and storytelling style. It has produced various animated movies such as: Princess Mononoke, Ponyo On The Cliff By the Sea, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, and it’s award winning film, Spirited Away (the setting of which was inspired by a place called Jiufen in Taiwan). Being from the creative field, I really appreciate watching films from Studio Ghibli because they are inspiring. I am a huge fan of their visual treatment and creative direction. If you’re not familiar with Studio Ghibli or Hayao Miyazaki, allow me to show you a trailer of one of their films. This is from Howl’s Moving Castle, my favorite Ghibli film so far.
Honestly, I didn’t even know that Studio Ghibli has a museum. The idea of visiting the place was solely my adviser’s. She’s quite cool when it comes to art stuff; I also like her art style. She was also the one who took care of ordering our tickets since it’s difficult to procure. If you’re interested in vising the museum, here’s what you need to know:
1. You cannot purchase the ticket on location, or on the same day. Everything should be booked in advance.
2. If you live abroad, Ghibli has agency partners that can provide tickets. Similarly, it should be ordered in advance because tickets are limited per day.
3. People living in Japan can avail of the tickets in Lawson stores. It’s like their own version of 7-11, Family Mart, or Ministop.
4. The ticket costs 1,000 Yen.
For more info, you can visit their website.
In getting to the location, it actually depends on where you’re coming from. In our case, our hotel was in Shinjuku so we took the JR Chuo line from there. Here’s a more detailed information on how to get to the museum, How to go to Ghibli Museum.
Here are some information about the museum’s operation:
Operating hours: 10:00am – 6:00pm
Closed every Tuesdays.
On the day that we visited, my companions and I had to stay outside the museum for a while because we were too early. Good thing the museum is located inside a park called the Inokashira Park (Inokashirakoen). Since we flew in early March, the spring season was only starting so there were more bare trees that fully blossomed ones. It looked more like fall/winter, actually. Good thing I was able to see some legit fully blossomed Cherry Blossoms (Sakura), but I’ll tell you about that in another post. Here’s are some photos of the park.
Before 10am, there was already a long queue in front of the museum gate. There were a lot of children, as well as young adults, and foreigners. Unfortunately, guests CAN NOT take photos of what’s inside the museum, and I think I know why. It would lose its magic if photos of the place are seen by non-visitors. You really have to see and experience the place for yourself. I actually like the motto of the place printed on their leaflet, it says “Let’s lose our way together”. To me, it’s such a wonderful thing to do. The rule is to get lost in the place (hence, no detailed map) and discover doors, exists, and small things. Being there is like being transported to Ghibli film where everything is magical and interesting. There’s always a place that you want to see and discover. There’s always that staircase or small door that makes you wonder what’s on the other side.
Because I could not take photos inside, I only managed to take photos of the museum’s facade. Here are some of them:
The photo above is a character from the Ghibli film, Laputa, Castle in the Sky. I know it sounds vulgar if you’re familiar with Spanish, but yes, that’s the title. I haven’t watched this film so I was wondering what this character’s name was. My Japanese friend then told me that they merely call them ‘Robot Soldiers’. Personally, I think the character is adorable.
The structure of the museum itself looks like it’s from one of the Ghibli fims doesn’t it? It’s so amazing.
The photo above is the leaflet (there’s an English version) and a short film ticket with a few animation frames. It’s like a portion of an actual Ghibli film as a remembrance!
So this is the first (of many) post from my trip to Tokyo a few days ago. I hope I can be as detailed as I can in the upcoming ones since I did not do much of the planning on the trip. Looking forward to sharing more new experiences here! ‘Til next time!
January 8, 2012 § 4 Comments
Hello 2012! Happy New Year to everyone, especially to my subscribers! I feel ecstatic to make my first post this year. This post is special to me because: first, it’s my first time to spend the New Year outside my country, and secondly, I got to experience parts of Taipei that I have not been to.
My friends from YZU invited me to spend the new year with them, which I gladly agreed to. The plan was to go to Beitou and have a hotspring bath. Before getting to Beitou, we decided to have a bit of food tripping in Shilin Night Market.
1. Shilin Night Market
I really like Shilin because it’s a very lively place; you can have endless choices of foods to try. We availed a lot of foods including fried stuff from this Japanese stall. We ordered a skewered fried mushrooms, tomatoes, banana w/ chocolate, etc.
After eating baozi (meat-filled bun), fried pita-like flour, egg, and cheese, and a few other more street foods, I went inside a fashion shop because I wanted to pay for a yellow beanie that I saw on display. As my friends and I went inside, we saw this cute, mild, and huggable St. Bernard! He was so adorable.
It’s not my first time in Shilin. Last September 2010, I have visited Shilin Night Market with my family and some friends. Back then, the new Shilin Market (shown below) was not yet present. It’s a structure that housed some clothing, toys, and food vendors. Since it’s relatively new, not all the spots inside were filled yet.
2. Beitou Hotspring
It’s both funny and unfortunate that my friends and I missed seeing the fireworks at midnight to welcome 2012. It was because we were inside the car on our way to Beitou when the countdown happened. We were tuned in on a radio program and we were counting down inside the car, trying hard to look outside for a sight of some fireworks.
We had a few choices on the spring resorts we’re going to; unfortunately, the first 2 were all full. Apparently, New Year’s Eve is a good time for them to hit hotspring baths. Needless to say, the cold winter makes one to want to dip in hot water too. The photo below is the third spot on our list. Unlike the first 2 we planned on visiting, it was a public bath. It did not house rooms or private areas for certain groups to have all on their own. Imagine the dread I felt when they told me we had to come in completely naked. Yes, naked. The males and females had separate baths, but either way, it was initially very awkward for me.
Entrance fee: 200 NTD
This was a shot I took as I explored the nearby establishments around the hotspring bath. It’s like an old Japanese street with food establishments. The overall ambience of the place is very soothing.
We spent the night in one of my friends’ house in Beitou. I felt happy to meet her parents and to have some fun inside the house with the group. We played cards until 6 in the morning and woke up late in the afternoon the very next day. That next day, we decided to explore Taipei before heading back to our school which is in Toayuan county.
3. Yang Ming Shan (Yang Ming Mountain)
Seeing the view from the mountain is very relaxing. It was bitterly cold and windy that night we came but I still found the view wonderful. My friends said that if the weather was better, the view is more beautiful.
Having gone through a dizzying descent from Yang Ming Shan, we arrived at Tianmu. My friends told me there are people who set up their own stalls and sell their own things every weekend. Some of them are 2nd hand, some are the things they make themselves. I found it very amusing.
After going around the shops, we decided to have a good New Year’s meal. They wanted something expensive since it’s the New Year. I really love how my friends love eating. I think I eat a lot but all of them beat me at it! That being said, we chose to dine in a Korean restaurant, which is also in Tianmu.
It’s my first time to encounter this dish (shown below). Sadly, I do not know its name since it’s written in Chinese. I have been eating Korean foods in the Philippines and in Korea but I have not tried this dish before that day. The lady who managed the shop cooked it in front of us and it was very delicious. She says the food that they offer in the restaurant were MSG free. All the flavors that they created were from fruits like apples, etc. I was amazed it was possible to do that.
We loved the Korean dish so much we decided to eat it again, this time for my last dinner before heading home here in the Philippines for the winter break. I really appreciate how my Taiwanese friends are taking care of me and making me feel welcome. Oh, I miss them already!
December 29, 2011 § Leave a comment
Christmas away from home was a challenge that I faced last weekend. Celebration of the Yuletide season in Taiwan is very different from the Philippines where it’s celebrated from the “ber” months until around mid January. Christmas in the Philippines is really something that foreign people should experience. I tried not to dwell on thinking that I’d have a sad Christmas here because it won’t be of help to my situation anyway. It was a good thing my cousin and I decided to go to Taipei on Christmas day to go shopping and just spend the day having a bit of fun.
We boarded the MRT Blue (Bannan) line and alighted at the Zhongshao Fuxing Station. Here, we roamed various malls, including Sogo, K-Mall and Shinkong Mitsukoshi. Inside K-Mall, we found a spot called Gundam Base Taipei. In front of the area, you will see 3 huge models of gundams. I am not very familiar with all their names but I thought they looked so cool so I had to take photos. Here are some of them:
Apart from the 3 big models, there are also glass shelves which encases plenty of other gundam models. On the other half of the place, boxed models, coloring supplies for the models, and other toys are displayed too.
Outside Sogo, a number of people were crowding around this cute golden retriever in a reindeer costume. I thought he was really cute and behaved sitting there, biting on a basket. I feel a little sad for him though because it’s so cold outside and he had to pose like that. I bet the crowed got him a little anxious or stressed.
I am not really planning to post this here because it’s not really a planned destination to feature but I feel that I need to share even small coincidental discoveries such as this one here in this blog. Also, it’s near 2011’s end, I thought it would be better if I make one more post before 2012.
I am planning to visit Taipei this coming new year and try out the hotsprings in Beitou. I will update this blog about that too. Happy holidays!
November 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
Before I arrived in Taiwan, I wasn’t really aware of how the Taiwanese people view and accept art. I had absolutely no clue. As I visit different places here, I became fond of observing art, mostly in the streets and train stations. Just along the MRT stations in Taipei, I have seen various installation art and mixed media art from various local artists. I was envious of the exposure these artists have compared to the artists from my home. I hope someday local artists from the Philippines, would get that kind of appreciation and exposure, just for the sake of art.
I have shared this sentiment because of a spontaneous visit my cousin and I had which reminded me so much or art and creativity. I was actually dress hunting along Ximenting when my cousin noticed this red brick building. It looked different amidst all the buildings and malls surrounding it in Ximen area. Being the curious girls we were, we decided to go inside and check it out.
How to get there: Board the MRT Bannan Line to Ximen Station
Info: The Red House, a Western-style red-brick octagonal structure in Taipei’s Ximen space built in 1908, is Taiwan’s first public market and the most well preserved class III historical site. Designed by Kondo Juro, a western-styled architect in the prefectural civil engineering office at the time, the market entrance, incorporating both octagonal and cruciform shapes, was paralleled by no other in the east and west. The market entrance also took on the ‘eight trigrams (bagua) design considered boldly creative then. Octagon Building, Cruciform Building, and the adjacent South-North Square are now collectively known as ‘The Red House.’ http://www.redhouse.org.tw/info_en.html
The Red House has established itself as a major location for the development of cultural and creative industry in the West End of Taipei City, given the 4 million-plus visits it has registered for the more than 1,000 arts- and literature-themed events it hosted throughout 2009. In 2010, the Red House launched, in its Cruciform Building, the Cradle of Cultural Creative Dreamer that is dedicated to incubating creative brands. Offering an exhibition platform for the cultural and creative industry, the Center refreshes the history-rich Red House look by connecting its creative spaces with the century-old Octagon Building. http://www.redhouse.org.tw/info_en.html
There were various stalls installed outside the building where many interesting stuff were sold. Some of the interesting items I saw were colorful and transparent soaps, personalized shirts, and accessories.
When I went inside the Red House, I was reminded of Seoul’s Ssamziegil and Manila’s Cubao X. I felt the need to be creative come alive in me again. It feels so good!
November 5, 2011 § 2 Comments
A month ago, my friends and I decided to take a trip to Pingxi in New Taipei district. I was encouraged to go because I heard it’s a place famous for its paper lanterns. To be honest, I have never seen a paper lantern up close so I was pretty excited to actually hold and make one fly.
How to get there: Local Train (TRA) – we boarded in the Neili Station and went off Badu Station where we bought separate tickets to Pingxi.
Fooling around at Badu Station.
Our first train stop in the Pingxi area was the Jingtong Station. Here we visited the Lover’s Bridge and a small museum featuring old trains that used to pass there, mostly for mining.
Since the train only passes by every 30 minutes, visitors can have the liberty to step inside the train tracks and have a bit of picture taking. It’s really quite fun because the whole set-up gives a very non-modern mood.
The next train stop was the Pingxi Station. I enjoyed this station most because there’s a lot to see and explore. The old streets were particularly busy with stores and food stalls flocked with visitors.
There were a lot of stores that sell miniature and decorative lanterns. I was able to buy 2 pieces, something about education and reaching one’s dreams. Lanterns of these sizes are about 50-70 NTD each.
My friends and I decided to buy our own paper lantern. It costs 150NTD for the multi-colored type that we ordered. I was particularly shocked when I saw how big they were. I didn’t expect them to be that huge. We were given a set of brushes and black ink to write wishes on out lantern.
Recently I have learned about Taiwan travel stamps. These stamps are present on places where people usually visit. Last time when we visited Dasi Old Street, I saw a couple of stamps too. Because of that, I was encouraged to buy a passport type booklet so I can place stamps on it. Fortunately, Pingxi had a LOT of stamps, I think my booklet was used halfway already.
Hopefully, I can visit more places here in Taiwan soon!