Brians Big Adventure

Jodie and I decided to do our own things today. While she went off exploring I washed and dried my clothes. Its starting to get cold here, so not a good idea to run out of clothes. Towels are not an acceptable item of clothing. Luckily the Ryokan had washers and dryers so wasn’t a big deal. While that was happening I did some internet surfing and mapped out a path of train stations to get me from our accomodation to the ‘electric city’ Akihabara.

I walked the few minutes to our local train station, Chidoricho, on the Ikegami train line. Bought the cheapest train pass available and then jumped on the right platform. I knew the name of the next station so I used that to work out which platform to get on. 11 stops later I got off at Gotanda station, which happened to be the end of the line. I put my train pass into the wonderful yellow ticket adjustment machine and it told me how much extra I had to pay. I took my new ticket and went to the gate to exit. Except the gates swung out and blocked my way and the gate beeped at me. Not a good beep. Bugger I’d done something wrong. I realised I’d try to go ‘into’ the JR train line (another company) instead of exiting the Tokyo Corp line instead. Walked 5m to the correct gate and walked out. Found the ticket booths for the JR train line and got a ticket and entered that part of the station. Then found the Yamanote Line and the right platform that would take me to Akihabara. That was another 9 stops. All up the trip took about an hour.

Walked around the Akihabara area looking at electronic stores (the area is famous for them). There were many backstreets with lots of electronic components for sale. I had no idea what most of them were, but if you were so inclined on building your own stuff it was a goldmine. I stopped at the McDonalds store for lunch and pointed my way through ordering a meal.

After lunch I got pricing a new Sanyo Xacti waterproof digital (movie) camera. Almost considered getting the local version as it was 100 dollars cheaper, but didn’t have any english menus. But decided I wanted the english so bought the international version.

Walked back to the train station and caught the train back to Gotanda. Got a bit lost there as I couldn’t find the correct line to transfer too. Luckily Jodie and I had been there last night so I sort of remembered where to go and eventually found it. Caught the train back the final 11 stops and made it back to the accomodation. See after only a few days with a guide you too can catch trains to places. And I’m worst person when it comes to directions. So if I can do it I’m sure others can much more easily.

In the evening Jodie and I caught the train back to Gotanda and walked around for a while before having dinner at Dennys. Jodie got a coffe at a StarBucks afterwards and we made our way back home. The weather tonight was cold again. I think winter is definitely coming to Japan.

Tokyo Salsa Nights

Today we went to an older part of Japan called ‘Kawagoe’. The train ride was pretty quite and at one stage I think we were actually the only two people on the entire train, not just our carriage. The buildings there are older in style. It used to be called a ‘castle town’. It was freezing cold. Not sure if that was because it was just a cold day, or because we were further north. But it was uncomfortably cold at times. We actually took a wrong turn at one stage but a nice lady asked us if we needed directions, and apparently we did. But she put us back on track. I did argue that if we’d kept going the wrong way we would have known it eventually, as there was a river in front of us. If your feet feel wet, stop and backtrack.

Shrine in Kawagoe
Shrine in Kawagoe
Shrine in Kawagoe
Streets of Kawagoe
Streets of Kawagoe
Streets of Kawagoe – older style buildings
Streets of Kawagoe - older style buildings
Streets of Kawagoe - older style buildings
Shrine
Shrine
Bell tower in Kawagoe
Bell tower in Kawagoe

I’ve noticed the cool public parking system (one of them) that they have here. The cars park in the lot and a plate is raised to stop the car from being able to be driven away. The owner pays their fare at the machine nearby the the plate goes down so they can drive away. I just found this neat.
Parking System

The long train ride got us back to our accomodation at about 5pm. We quickly got changed and headed out again. We went to a Roppongi, an area frequented by foreigners, to go to a salsa lesson. We found the place where the lesson was going to be easily. But as we waited outside, a guy named Ammi came out and started talking to us. He was a teacher and was running a salsa class in a few minutes ‘in english’! at another location. I preferred that then rather trying to fumble my way through a Japanese lesson. So we followed him to a nearby place where he held his class. The bar was one with the drug smoking pipes that those more adventurous than me have had experienced (hey my Mum might read this blog). But that was on the other side of the room and we took up the little floor space on the other side. Completely free of passive smoking. Ammi taught us some weird line dance, which was fun (not salsa). We then did some basic salsa turns and then some rueda. He was a really good teacher and could dance the girls part as easily as the mens. After the class we went downstairs to a club and did a couple of dances. We didnt stay long as both Jodie and I were getting tired and sick from all the smoke (normal smoke now). Probably got back to the room about 11pm.

Tokyo Museum

We caught the train to the Ryogoku station and walked to the Edo-Tokyo Museum. For the regular readers of this blog you should know my spelling is terrible at the best of times. So its best to assume I’m spelling the Japanese names incorrectly from the start. Museum cost 600 yen and we walked around for an hour or two looking at all the exhibits. I really enjoyed some of the old prints; several hundred years old and still vibrant and colourful.

Models
Old prints
Costumes

After the museum we walked to the nearby Sumo arena but it was closed for the day. No sumo 🙁

We caught the train to Minani-Gyotoku to where Jodie used to live. We walked around a bit so she could see her old neighbourhood. Then it was on to Funabashi station where we walked to the ‘100 yen store’. Everything in the store, all six floors, sold for 100 yen ($1). Lunch was a McDonalds before heading back to the Ryokan to rest.

In the evening we went to Kamata and found a Dennys (yes, the American restaurant) and had dinner there.

General sights:
General street with fall leaves on trees
Japanese street
Japanese McDonalds, and sideways traffic lights
Japanese McDonalds
Bikes bikes and more bikes…
Bike bikes and more bikes
Man coming out of ticket vending machine
Man coming out of ticket vending machine

Japan day 2

I had a bad night sleep last night. My tummy was upset so didn’t get much sleep. Was feeling a bit poorly in the morning so we travelled slowly but got better as the day went on.

We caught the train to Kamata and had a simple toast breakfast in a cafe. Then we caught the train to Harajuku and walked down Takashita Dori (Street) which is famous for people being a bit ‘different’ in Japan.

Shops in Harajuku region

I think we were a bit too early to see the really interesting people though as it was still fairly quite. Lots of the shops sold punk/goth clothes, and yet, some of them sold really dress up nice stuff. A real mix.

Clothes shop in Harajuku

There was even a pet clothes store so you can dress up your best friend (your dog).

Jodie with Crazy rabbit statue.
Jodie and Crazy rabbit statue in Harajuku

We caught the train to Omote Sando and walked around for a while.

Ordinary street photo.
Street in Omote Sando
Pet dogs dressed up by their owner (perhaps from clothes from the Harajuku store…)
Funny Dogs

Then we met Jodie’s Japanese friend Hide for lunch.
Jodie & Hide

Jodie used to tutor him in English when she lived here. His English was really good (much much much better than my Japanese).

After lunch we walked along the shops and went into one called Oriental Bazaar which sold a lot of Japanese souvenir stuff. We also went into a toy store called Kiddy Land which was several floors of kids toys. We continued walking down the street and got back to the Harajuku district.

Near the Harajuku train station there is a huge park with a Shrine in it called Meiji Jingu (Imperial Shrine). We spent some time walking around the park and Shrine.
Jodie at entrance to Shrine
Park around Shrine
Women in traditional clothes
Shrine
Personal prayers left by people

While we were there we saw a traditional Japanese Wedding taking place.
Japanese Wedding

Afterwards we caught the train to Shibuya. There is an intersection there that is unbelievably busy with people crossing the street. On one of the buildings near the intersection there is a huge TV and as people were crossing the street they displayed a camera view of the intersection. Jodie and I crossed and appeared right in the middle of the TV, we even waved. Those around us must have thought us nuts. We got some drinks in a StarBucks right near the street looking down and watched the people crossing the street.

Crowd crossing the street

I started feeling unwell so we decided to head back to the Ryoken again and call it a day.

EarthQuake!

I experienced my first earthquake tonight! We were in our room at the Ryoken and the room started to shake. Not a lot. But enough so you could feel the vibrations. Only lasted a few seconds and I had no idea what it was. But Jodie told me that it definitely was an earthquake. Apparently Japan has them all the time. Must be godzilla walking around…