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!