Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

Our second full day in Tokyo was easy to decide where we would go! Akihabara, the mecca of anime, manga, electronics, and otaku alike and a place we would visit alot during our trip to Tokyo. Before we could enjoy Akiba I neede to make a pitstop first!
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Pokemon Center!!!!!!
I was so like a kid in a candy store! My only regret was being that it was only my second day I wasn’t ready to commit to any purchases yet and due to running out of time in the end we never made it back but alas a must do on our trip in 2015!Definately worth the visit for any Pokemon fan.
On to Akihabara!There are many exits form the Akiba station you can take but no matter which one you use you will be taken aback by the amazing energy and buildings that are as far as the eyes can see (Especially beautiful at night!)
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I was mesmerized by the lush green trees that lined the streets, they seriously looked fake!

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As i said throughout are trip we visited Akiba numerous times and it never got boring, seriously though we barely scatched the surface too as there is so much to see and do from shops, eateries, game centers, and pachinko parlors to name a few but here are some of my favorites.

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Of course! There are only two (this one is the original)

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Not necessarily the best meal I would have but had to do it none the less!
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It was so hard to fit this all in one pic. This place was amazing, it put all Western electronic retailers to shame!

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Literal rows of Gashapon inside Yodobashi
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The true life of Akiba emerged as the day turned into night!
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Each floor was a different shop and its also home to the Good Smile Cafe, I would later realize that one of the shops inside would prove to be one of the best rental box stores in Akiba (great place to find otaku goodies that individuals are selling).

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During my trip I learned that UFO catchers are dangerous!
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Gem found down a narrow side street.

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Best pachinko parlor!

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Super Potato (retro gaming mecca)

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Even the stairs are better in Tokyo!

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Everyone always sais that after such a long flight you will have a horrible case of jet lag, that was my biggest concern, that once we had arrived, the first few days would be ruined, that we would waste our first days in this amazing city! But I couldnt help it, jet lag who? I was here, in Tokyo, and it seemed like I was waking up not on the other side of the world, but at home, where I belonged. There was no exhausted sensation, no I need more sleep, no feeling like I am in a haze or any other horrible thing I had heard happen to so many others, I popped awake at an obscenely early hour that first day, ready, ready for all the intense experiences and excited squeals (there would be many) that awaited me.
What to do, that was a difficult question, what to do on our first day? With all that I wanted to accomplish while we were there picking what we did that first day was hard, I knew I didn’t want to rush, I knew that I wanted to take in every second of the day and leave nothing to waste and I knew this would happen. When we were planning/investigating for our trip I got this fantastic travel journal which I wanted to fill with all the amazing places and things I wanted us to do, and that was exactly what I did (I was still working on it on the flight over). My biggest thing though was that I didn’t want it to be an actual itinerary, I wanted to be able to wake up each day and open up the book and say, where do we want to go today? I also wanted it to be a living/ breathing entity that I updated as we lived through our adventure. So needless to say that first what do we want to do today was definitely a difficult question to answer! We decided that the best thing was to get a good look at the surroundings of where we would be living for almost 3 weeks. As I mentioned in my last post we had decided to stay in Odaiba (Tokyo Bay) which all through our trip and even as I write this now I truly believe was an absolutely fantastic decision!
Odaiba is a group of artificial islands that actually date back to the time of the shogun and they sit in Tokyo Bay, the current structures that inhabit these islands are definitely very modern and are more catered to a tourist or business destination. There is so much to do there and definitely worth a day of adventuring. But lets be honest the reason that we decided to stay there is 60 feet tall and fabulous! Im talking about the 1/1 scale model of RX-78-2 Gundam that was erected a little over a year ago at Diver City! Diver City is a huge shopping compound that was built around the same time they erected Gundam, it is five storeys of a huge variety of shops, western and not. For us though it was so all about Gundam, as it also houses one of only 2 Gundam Cafe’s in Tokyo as well as the Gundam Front and Gundam experience. For those of you that might not know what Gundam is (you definitely should though), Mobile Suit Gundam is an animated series that began in 1979 and has become a cultural phenomenon and has seen huge amounts of success and evolving into movies, figures, plastic model kits, and the collectors dream/nightmare!
The day was slightly windy and overcast so we decided to walk to Diver City which was about a 30 min stroll from our hotel. As we stepped outside of our hotel one of the first sites that greeted us was what is known to most as “Tokyo Big Sight”, this mammoth compound is actually a convention center where all types of conferences and events are held and home to one of the biggest annual anime extravaganzas that Tokyo has, which we just missed of course. Being that Odaiba is a group of artificial islands all made very close together their are numerous bridges connecting them, the one we had to cross is called “Dream Bridge” and let me say that is exactly what it is! This bridge is a mammoth concrete and steel pedestrian only bridge with beautiful details, light, and framework all around. When we were planning our trip we used Google Earth to check out all the hotels we were considering and when we were investigating our chosen hotel we saw this amazing bridge that appeared that we would have to cross to make our way to Gundam, so you can imagine my squeal of delight as I walked up to the “Dream Bridge and saw that it was the exact same marvel that I had seen from space (it was especially beautiful at night)!
You can honestly just spend a day walking around Odaiba and just enjoying your surroundings because as you go every section has its own theme and thus the landscape, structures and colors change to match, whether its Palette Town that is the home of Venus Fort (think The Venetian for anyone that has been to Vegas), or Aqua City that sits along the water and has a mini Statue of Liberty beside it as well as being the home of Sega Joypolis, or our most exciting destination of the day Diver City, everything around you changes as you go and the greenery was spectacular. All along our walk was a variety of gardens, fountains, and intricate benches where you can take a moment and stop to marvel at the scenery before you. That was, I have to say one of the things that struck me the most about Tokyo, no matter where we went, or how busy or congested that area was there was always nature sprouting out within the concrete jungle so that you can stop and remind yourself to enjoy life and unlike in America that was exactly what people were doing. From the salary man to the older or younger “Tokyoites” all seemed to find a moment in their day to enjoy the peace and beauty in their surroundings.
As we neared Diver City there was a small ascension in our path and right at the crest of it I saw it, Gundam (for all the Gundam fans I think I will be doing a separate post because there was just so much that it deserves one all for itself). There were a few times on this adventure that I found myself getting choked up and having to force back the tears (the first was when our plane touched down at Haneda airport) and it was happening again. You have to understand we are huge Gundam fans and have spent many an hour building our Gunpla (plastic model kits) and watched every moment as they erected this life size amazingness so to be standing in front of it and staring up with my mouth wide open (Im sure I looked hilarious), the fact that I was there, in person, and if it wasn’t for the fact that he was roped off I could actually touch him was almost a liitle to much for this “otaku” to handle. This trip would be full of several moments like this for me and just simply recounting this now makes me sigh with how much I miss Tokyo! Once I was able to focus on anything else I squealed with delight to see the Gundam Cafe was just about 50 feet away so as I started walking towards it to get what would be the first of many “Haro Latte’s” (I am obsessed with Haro) I realized that right out front of the cafe was a row of Gashapon (small vending machines of goodness/evil), nothing that you have ever experienced before will prepare you for these amazing little devils and if you are anything like me will soon discover that you need to have a completely seperate fund set aside for this little addiction and addicted we became having to stop and check out every row and end up with a small tote bag full of them by the end of our adventures! So here, on my first day in Tokyo I enjoyed a “Haro Latte”, my first Gashapon (who is still my fav.), and the sight of Gundam RX-78-2, and it was amazing!IMG_0164

Tokyo Diaries, Episode 2

Posted: July 6, 2013 in Japan
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We had landed, I had actually touched down in Tokyo’s Haneda aiport. I wanted to jump up and down for joy, I wanted to shout and dance but alas that was not to be so I played it out in my mind, including a happy dance and prepared myself for what would be the most life/ soul changing experience!
As we began our disembarking I realized we were not getting off the plane into a normal tunnel that connected you to the terminal, we were getting off right alongside it, my first chance to breath Japanese air. The air that hit me was cool, crisp and to my surprise clean (I was standing next to a jumbo jet in the middle of an airport after-all), how was that even possible? We were then led into a cute little mini bus and driven the 200 feet to the terminal were we did as all good Tokyoites do and got in line patiently to the left to await the escalator. For those of you that have never visited before it will seem quite strange that everyone is going to the left but as you make your way around the city you will realize how respectful and efficient it is (or you can be a horrid tourist and be completely oblivious to your surroundings and stand in the middle), however this new realization did take us a minute to fully absorb as our American tendencies wanted to creep back to the surface a few times.
Pleasantly immigrations and customs were completely painless, we had been super prepared for the worst and made sure we were totally organized down to all of our things being in convenient little packs, bags, and compartments. Fingerprinting, picture, a few questions and done, you get more scrutiny walking down the street in the US with a video game T-shirt on! Then finally we were done and ready to begin our adventure, at this point it was past 11pm and we had until midnight to get to our hotel or be stuck paying the insane cost of a taxi (after the trains stop the taxi costs can almost double), this was awesome, we were in a foreign city, with an unknown transportation system and had to get all the way to Tokyo Bay from the airport in less than an hour. Suffice it to say we didn’t make it but who cares I was in Tokyo! We had to make a quick pitstop in the smoking room of Handea (which for myself not a priority, but my poor significant other had just gone 16+ hours without a cigarette quite painlessly, so how could I say no). Smoking for the most part is not allowed in Tokyo but they have a very large smoking population so they have established smoking rooms, boxes, and sections, all over the city (even in places that you would never imagine) and I became obsessed with taking pictures of all of the smoking places we would see throughout our trip.
Once we were ready to try our luck with the rails I asked an amazingly sweet information counter clerk a couple of questions to ensure my ideas had been correct and that the plan that I had created back in the US would work, she confirmed my thoughts and gave me a cute little transportation map and sent us on our way (funny, I had several versions of this map already, including a digital one on our ipad, but this one went with me everywhere and I didn’t have the heart to toss it until I had returned to the states, it had by that time definitely seen better days). We had made it out of the airport complex and to the station that would lead us to another station and were taking an escalator down when I like a child was so mesmerized by my surroundings that I let go of my suitcase and oh my, it went tumbling down (like right out of a cartoon) making the loudest noises in this completely quiet and thankfully empty building. Although no one else aside from my other half had witnessed this atrocity I was totally mortified, I not even a few hours in Tokyo had shattered my quiet surroundings with echoed thuds! I didn’t have too much time to reflect on my blunder as we were rushing to catch the “shuden” (last train), alas we didn’t make it, we quite literally had just missed it by minutes, we even had a “salary man” rush by us with the “shark fin” hand that we would discover later meant move aside!
Since we had missed the “shuden” our only option was to get a taxi, now this would normally be easy and don’t get me wrong it is but there is the slight panic in my head at this moment that what if I say something offensive or ask him to take us to the wrong place, huge misconception is that alot of Japanese speak English although most know several words what I discovered was the biggest challenge is the pronunciation, there are certain sounds in our alphabet that are unknown to them and although they use alot of romaji (japanese spelt using the english alphabet) alot of times the way pronounce it is very different. As I walked up to the taxi the side door just popped open all by itself and the sweetest older white gloved gentlemens face appeared before me, he kindly accepted my less than fluent Japanese and escorted us on our way to Odaiba (Tokyo Bay). This choice of place to stay might seem odd as its not in the city proper, however these amazing artificially made islands (made to keep the “black ships” away in the time of the Shogun) had a 60ft tall glory that would grace our eyes every day! Our kindly white gloved gentlemen deposited us safely in what would be our home for the next 17 days. Finally we had made it, we where here in Tokyo, surrounded by all the things I had only been able to see in someone else’s pictures, now they were going to be my pictures!

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For anyone that has flown a long distance you can attest that it is extremely exhausting sitting in a flying sardine can. As you can tell I am not the biggest lover of air travel but I was willing to embark on an 18+ hour adventure to reach my destination, Tokyo! When I say 18+ hours that really doesn’t even come close to explaining it, obviously your adventure really begins the four hours before you have to be at the airport not to mention if your significant other is a “Lets plan for all the worst possible things that could happen” kind of person. So you can only imagine from that statement that my journey began five hours before my plane was supposed to take off, then there is the layover if you were unable to get a direct flight which is the majority of people traveling from the US, if you don’t live in California or NY, so here I am 9 hours into my trip and I haven’t even boarded the plane to Tokyo! Finally the moment comes and I am shocked… everyone was lining up, they were actually lining up to get on the plane! Patiently, quietly, lining up to board a 14 hour flight, this was the first of many experiences that I would have that made me know “Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore” and now that I am back and its all said and done my heart and soul are screaming for more. Once we boarded the plane and got through the worst part for me in a flight, the takeoff, I had time to really absorb my surroundings. The plane was very quiet, well as quiet as a 777 could be but that would not be the first time that I was taken aback by the lack of human sound. The flight was surprisingly pleasant aside from the lack of space, if you get all of the things you would need for the flight, electronics, toiletry bag, blanket, and pillow before you even sit down then you wont have to struggle and possibly elbow or throw something accidentally at an innocent bystander just to be able to get what you desperately have to have. Interestingly the food that was served throughout the flight was great! Shocking I know to say that airplane food not from first class or business class was actually good but it was and let me tell you boy do they feed you, I guess they figure it will keep you occupied if you cant sleep cuz every four hours the flight attendants would be passing by with drinks, food, snacks, galore. The other shocking thing was the flight path, being the cautious flier that I am I already knew that we would be flying far up over the US into Canada and Alaska. The part that I hadnt taken into account was the perpetual daylight that we experienced, throughought the entire flight we never hit night until we touched down at Haneda in Tokyo, at one point halfway through the flight I bravely opened the blind to what I did not expect was the most amazing sight of a snowy crest of sun filled mountains that I will possibly ever see (until my next trip to Tokyo, atleast). Then finally 14 hours later, no my entire lifetime later and I had landed, in Tokyo, the place that I have dreamed of for so long, what adventures were awaiting me, what misconceptions would be shattered, how would I be forever changed, I couldnt wait to find out!

Awhile ago I posted that I would be taking a much anticipated trip to Tokyo, well Im back. You might be saying to yourselves Whoa, we missed four months of prep… The last few months leading up to the trip were hectic and frenzied and honestly I was very much living in the moment and enjoying every second of life that was taking me to a destination that I have been dreaming of for a long time! Now that I have returned I will be taking you along for the journey as I relive the most soul lifting experiences that I have had so far in my life. Stay tuned for upcoming posts…IMG_1200

Countdown to Japan (Part 1)

Posted: February 12, 2013 in Japan
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There’s just about four more months left until my intended trip to Japan and I am starting to be on panic mode. If you have read my Destination Japan post you know that this has been a dream of mine for quite some time now and I can just start to see it’s reality along the horizon. Enter panic mode, I still have so much to do, passports, research, planning, prepping, and any other synonym you can find in a Thesaurus when you are planning a trip of a lifetime.

At this point my brain is on overload and I needed a place to put all of my destination plans and ideas, although I am of the digital age and own an array of goodies that I could use, I recently found a Moleskine city journal of Tokyo online, there is something about the consciousness of physically writing something down that inspired me, the feel and smell of the leather that made me hunt down something that has been out of print for several years. Although other versions (cities) of this journal are fairly easy to find, mine the one I wanted was not found anywhere unless I was willing to pay what I felt was an exhorbatant amount of money. Finally I found it and am currently awaiting its arrival, rather painfully I might add as it could take up to 2 weeks!
For anyone that is planning a trip and wants to keep themselves organized and doesn’t want to miss out on the possible wonders your destination has to offer these journals are very well done and laid out, they have numerous cities available and quite a few are rather cheap.
But I caution you, don’t let your journal/book be your sole guide, look up and be a traveler and not just a tourist!

Hachiko the Akita

Posted: February 12, 2013 in Japan
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Have you ever heard the story of a faithful four legged friend named Hackiko?

In 1924 a professor at the University of Tokyo took in an Akita as his canine companion. Throughout their life together Hackiko faithfully met his owner everyday at Shibuya Station after his work day had ended. One unfortunate day in May of 1925 his master did not arrive, the professor had past away while at the university earlier that day. Eventhough his master never returned after that fateful day Hackiko continued his routine, everyday waiting for his friend that would never return. For the next nine years Hachiko maintained his daily vigil at the station sometimes not returning home for several days. So strong was the dedication to his deceased master that for the rest of his life he never missed a day of waiting. During these nine years many commuters learned of his story and would bring food and treats and in 1934 they erected a bronze statue of Hachiko that is still there today (the current statue is a reproduction done in 1948 as the original was recycled for the war effort). In March of 1935 Hachiko passed away and his remains are at the National Science Museum of Japan, and the exact place where he would wait every day has been immoralized with two bronze paw prints representing his undying faithfulness. To this day a ceremony is held in April in honor of this amazing creature.
If only we could all know the immense love that was shown in this story. Hachiko’s statue is on the tops of my list for my trip to Japan this year.