If you missed my anniversary announcement, be sure to check it out and if you want to win a cute (second hand/no box) figure be sure to enter the give-away.
Thanks to everyone who joined me in celebrating the blog’s third birthday. Keep your eyes open over the weekend for a look at the year on the blog as well as setting some new goals for the fourth year.
This is going to be a fairly short summary of the final week in Japan, mostly because I am insanely tired after travelling back. Trains, waiting in airports, overnight flights, more waiting and I still have a long drive to get home, but the trip was worth it. Next week I’ll be trying to resume daily posting as usual and I’m looking forward to catching up on the spring anime so look forward to first impression posts.
Okay, the final days were mostly about doing some final shopping and grabbing a few souvenirs for people back home but we did do an overnight trip to Yokohama (even though it is pretty much right next door to Tokyo). Totally worth it. We had a fairly good deal on a hotel room and then when we checked in they moved us into a nicer room with a much better view so all and all nothing to complain about.
What I loved about walking around Yokohama, other than the constant sea-breeze, were the number of street performers around. Singers, dancers, musicians, fire eaters, baton twirlers, guys who twist balloons into weird shapes, and, my personal favourite, the hula-hoop guy were literally everywhere as we walked around and it was always fun to stop and watch them for awhile.
The food was also really, really good but if you’ve followed my trip so far I doubt you are surprised I enjoyed the food. Actually, my biggest issue is that the majority of the shopping centres have a heavy number of western food chains and actually finding Japanese food takes a bit more of a walk which was a bit weird.
We visited the Cup Noodle Museum, which is actually kind of interesting, though nothing in it explains why it has three exclamation marks at the start of the word ‘cup’ in its signage. If you happen to have kids they do a great workshop where they make their own cup-ramen and watching the many kids participating it was clear it was great fun. For adults there’s a room displaying all the different cups and flavours the cup noodles have come in, a brief film that explains the history, and then some exhibits and timelines that show the history of cup noodles. The film is even in basic enough Japanese that I understood most of it (yay, I understand stuff aimed at six year olds), though if you have no Japanese skills they do offer you an audio translation to listen to while the film is on.
Anyway, the dock is beautiful to walk along, there’s plenty of great gardens, lots of shops, and generally it was great fun.
I also took a day trip to Kawagoe to see more traditional style buildings and it was really fun walking through the district though getting photos is really hard between traffic and tourists. Still, if you want to see more traditional Japanese buildings or if you just want to spend a day shopping and shrine visiting, it is a great place to visit. It took me about an hour and a half to get there by train but I spent the majority of the day there and had plenty to do.
Seriously, I was really happy to get to go to Japan this year. I made some great memories, I have plenty of photos that I need to sort through now that I’m home, and while I’m going to be super busy getting back into my usual routine, I’m really glad I took the opportunity to go. Next time I go to Japan I definitely have to go to one of the other islands and at some point I will need to actually win something in one of the UFO catchers because I am still pretty terrible at them.
Thanks everyone who has enjoyed following along with my travels and as I said, I’ll hopefully be back to anime reviewing next week.
The last couple of days I’ve mostly been wandering about on my own while waiting for my friend to finish at work. As a result I’ve taken a small break from the bigger tourist sites and have mostly been meandering about in various districts just seeing what is there. The standard approach is get off at a train station and just walk until I run out of things to look at and then use my phone to navigate to the nearest station to wherever I’ve ended up. It is an interesting way to get a feel for the day to day rather than just seeing the same chain stores that dominate most tourist areas.
But I haven’t totally gotten off the beaten track. I did wander around Ginza for a day and walked through Harujuku after visiting the shrine and going to Government Building 1 and using the observation deck where we met this really nice volunteer guide who gave us a history lesson on the architects of the buildings in the area, some of the features of some of the sites, and a bit of history about how Tokyo developed as a region. Nice guy, lots of videos on his phone to show details like a fold out helicopter pad that was attached to the building opposite and the inflation of the Egg roof. Considering he isn’t a paid guide he was incredibly informative as he showed us the sites.
However, a trip to Nakano was really great as well as I found a plush Little Fox from Natsume and a small Natori figure that I just had to have (also a giant Nyanko pillow that I walked away from if only because it would not have fit in my bag).
Then again, it is all about the food. And yes, I’ve eaten a lot of it. Notable meals include the ramen. Yeah, I didn’t even manage to eat half of it because it was massive, but it was absolutely delicious. Ordering was easier than normal because it was one of those places where you use the ticket machine to place your order and then just hand the ticket over when you enter the shop (and there were lots of pictures to help where my lack of kanji knowledge became apparent). However, inside they then ask you a whole series of option questions about the noodles and what not and I will admit I couldn’t follow. I ended up having to get them to write the question down so I could sit and translate it but ultimately I managed to get some great food so probably worth the effort.
I found on previous trips and this one that ordering ramen is incredibly intimidating. The vast majority of ramen places have no English on their menu (which is fine) but a lot don’t even have pictures or any kind of visual. Some just have the different dishes listed vertically along a wall and there’s a lot of kanji. There’s also a sense that you need to order quickly and so it is a bit of a struggle (admittedly, there are more chain type restaurants you could go to and order ramen with less pressure if you really wanted to). I also always feel bad because I cannot eat a whole serve of ramen in one sitting even if I skip lunch. It is just too much food piled into the bowl.
Anyway, outside of ramen, we hit a yakitori place that is part of a chain, but the restaurant we went to is under the train line near Ginza. There’s some great food places there and I strongly recommend a walk along the train line from Shimbashi heading toward Ginza because you will find some really fantastic places to eat. Not to mention, the atmosphere of low ceiling and periodic table shaking as a train passes overhead is just kind of fun.
The place we ate charged 300 yen just for sitting at the table per person but that came with unlimited bowls of cabbage. Fortunately, it was a very tourist friendly place because there are some nights when you are tired and don’t want to struggle with a language barrier. They had an entirely English menu that they brought over for us without us asking with the Japanese written underneath so ordering was as simple as point at what you want and let the waiter read it. I will admit, we may have severely over eaten by the time we were done but it was so incredibly worth it.
Anyway, my friend is about to get three days off work so we are going to be out and about and I’m pretty sure we’re doing an overnight trip somewhere and then I’m pretty much done because I’ll be having to start preparing to fly home which is kind of sad but at the same time I feel I’ve done most of what I wanted to in Tokyo this time. There’s still the kitchen street to hit up and I want to spend a bit longer in some of the gardens but mostly I’m happy that I’ve been where I want to go.
Wow, I feel like I’ve not sat still in days (that isn’t true given I had a couple of hours on the Shinkansen down to Kyoto and back again) and I am feeling super tired and yet still wanting to get out and go. There’s just so much to see and do while in Japan and even though I’ve been here before there’s so many places I’ve yet to see and places I’d love to get back to.
Okay, so since the last update I have hit Akihabara. I spent nearly six hours wandering around the area and even that wasn’t enough. I actually left not because I ran out of time but because I’d pretty much exhausted my designated budget for that part of the trip and staying any longer would have been hazardous to my ability to eat for the rest of the trip (and if you’ve been following me on Twitter you know that I am enjoying my food here).
So yes, I found treasure. And while I’ll take my time unboxing and taking some photos of it when I get home for now I’m keeping things firmly wrapped up so they survive the trip home. That said, the two main figures I got were both second hand and reboxed in the first place but it did make them infinitely more affordable. Ciel from Black Butler and Asuna from Sword Art Online will be making the trip home from Japan with me this time, and a third character who I am keeping under wraps because I plan on doing a give away for my blog anniversary so watch that space.
Animate was also visited and I got myself a pencil case from Dakaichi, a Natsume acrylic stand, Banana Fish post cards, and a Platelet key chain. All and all, very happy with my wanderings except that one of the last shops I was visiting had an entire Natsume case filled with Nyanko and beautiful figures of almost all the main characters. Even the smallest ones however were just that little bit too pricey for their size and so I had to settle for the photo and the memory. Plus, I already grabbed figures of Natsume and Reiko last time I was in Japan. Fortunately, I did get some really cute Nyanko-Sensei stickers out of a vending machine later in Shibuya and I’m still looking out for an affordable plush Nyanko to join the one I got last year at Supernova.
Anyway, after the shopping was done I had to hop a Shinkansen to Kyoto which meant of course a bento dinner on the train. No photo unfortunately because I was starved and it was delicious so waiting for photography just wasn’t an option.
With my one day in Kyoto, my friend and I hit the major tourist spots. I am going to firmly suggest that if you ever intend to go to the Fushimi Inari Shrine you go early. We arrived there at 7:30 in the morning and it was already difficult to get photos without other people in them. By the time we were finished (just after 12), it was mass chaos at the main shrine with tour groups, school groups and just people clustered everywhere. The only problem with going early is very few of the shops and food booths are open so stop at a convenience store on the way and grab some onigiri to eat on the go. By the time you come back everything will be open and you can grab some tasty skewers, corn, or pretty much anything to eat and then browse the souvenirs.
Also, where comfortable shoes and be ready for a hike. It isn’t a long distance by any means, but the time signs are misleading. When it says ten minutes to the summit what it means is approximately an hour if you stop for a moderate number of photos and if you have usual human stamina and need to take a couple of short stops because of the steps (keep in mind I go hiking for holidays semi-regularly and enjoy it so I’m not really that out of shape though my persistent cough probably was making the stairs a bit harder to take than normal). Then of course there’s the trip back. Also, other tourists are going to stop right in front of you without warning, or do random poses for their own photos and you just kind of have to deal with it. Fortunately the closer to the summit you get the less people there are.
I really loved walking around the shrine and exploring all the side paths and little shops along the way. It was great fun. The one thing that I would actually put as a negative is the persistent announcement over the loud speakers about not making eye-contact with wild boars or monkeys. It is really hard to enjoy a quiet and contemplative moment on a mountain when you have the same message blaring at you in multiple languages pretty much continuously.
I’d still recommend visiting.
After the shrine we hopped the train over to Arashiyama and checked out the bamboo path, a bunch of shrines, lots of tourist shops, the river, a scenic look out, and finally we headed over to the monkey park (oh my god more stairs – I was reminded well and truly that I was not over my cold when I had to stop the third time on this path to catch my breath). Totally worth it though. The monkeys are super cute.
Plus, and this is the real reason I’d recommend it, you get an absolutely brilliant view of Kyoto from the monkey park. Truly gorgeous.
I didn’t go into the cage and feed the monkeys but I did have fun standing above it and watching the other tourists in the cage reaching out with scraps of food and seeing the monkeys crawling over the outside swiping at them. There’s something amusing about the idea of putting the humans in the cage while the monkeys are freely roaming about the outside.
Anyway, after all of that we hit a fairly quiet cafe for dinner. The next morning we decided to splurge a little on breakfast and hit up a buffet at one of the hotels that was on the top ten list of places to eat breakfast in Kyoto. So worth it serving both Japanese and Western food and a huge selection.
Another shinkansen ride back to Tokyo before hitting Shibuya for the afternoon and evening. Of course that means pictures of people scrambling on a crossing. By the way, the Animate in Shibuya actually had more Natsume items than the one in Akihabara. I also picked up some manga volumes in Japanese to do some translation practice with when I have free time (I know, free time isn’t something I come across very often).
We finished the day with a visit to an arcade that is themed like it is from some post-apocalyptic novel in Kawasaki before going for train sushi.
Seriously need more hours in a day and I really need to get rid of this cold because after all of that running around I’m pretty run-down and needed to have a chill out day before I get going again tomorrow. Big plans ahead and plenty more to see.
Hopefully I’ll update in a couple more days and have some more fun moments to share.
I’m continuing my travels, though I will admit, the dreaded cold hit me pretty hard yesterday and given it was pouring rain all day I opted to not wander around Akihabara and instead took a bit of a rest and went to some local bookshops and cafes to just kind of relax. I do however intend to hop a train over to Akihabara just as soon as I finish drafting this update as it is not raining today and I’m feeling pretty good. If you missed my first update check it out here.
That said, I did spend the day before wandering about and spent the better part of the afternoon in Ueno. While waiting for my friend to finish work I went into the museum and absolutely fell in love with the building. There’s something about buildings that are used for museums. They are so old looking (even if they’ve been renovated) and the high ceilings, hard floors, really nice stair cases, little alcoves and large gallery rooms all just call out to me. There’s also the subdued lighting most museums opt for which I find quite relaxing and the fact that people are generally fairly quiet in museums. They are a lovely place to spend a few quiet hours even before you look at the exhibits.
I will say that you need to get there early enough to go into the gardens because they are gorgeous. They close the garden at 4 even though the museum is open until 5, and so I only had a little bit of time in the gardens before I had to leave but I’m really glad I got to go in. As for the museum, I loved going through the building that had the Chinese exhibits, particularly the calligraphy section but once I got over to the building housing the Japanese exhibits I was just blown away by some of the displays.
Given I didn’t have a lot of time I didn’t pay the extra to go into he current special exhibit which is a shame because it looked kind of cool, but there was more than enough for me to look at just in the main section and I didn’t get to everything before I had to go.
Still, can’t complain about leaving the museum when I got to walk down the avenue looking at the cherry blossoms. Admittedly, they are on their last legs and you could kind of tell, but given I didn’t think they’d still be out at all when I arrived I’m thrilled that there were flowers to look at.
The food stalls were also really fun and I could have eaten literally everything. Unfortunately, we were in a little bit of a rush because we wanted to do that cliche tourist thing and take a paddle boat out onto the lake to look at the blossoms. And of course we wanted it to be swan shaped because why not.
I’m just going to point out the steering mechanisms in those boats are absolute rubbish so collisions are almost inevitable. That said, you can get right up next to the blossoms and really, given we were the last possible time slot for the day, the sun was setting and it was just silly fun.
Bit of shopping and walking around the area for a few hours before heading back to the apartment and it was just kind of a perfect day. Then I got sick, but I kind of expected that. I live in the middle of nowhere with very few people coming and going. I get sick every time I travel and I’ve kind of just accepted that. Still, today I am mostly recovered and ready to go so the plan is to hit Akihabara and then prepare for a trip down to Kyoto.
I probably won’t update again until after that but in the meanwhile I hope everyone is well and sorry I haven’t read all that many blog posts in the last few days.
So I haven’t posted on my blog in two days. That’s the first time in nearly three years I haven’t had a post go out. Honestly though, I think this is a good opportunity for me to take a little bit of a break and when I return home get back into my schedule.
The flight went smoothly enough from Brisbane to Japan with a very brief stop in Korea. The biggest issue being the delay at BNE meant that my one hour to get through security and to my connection turned into 25 minutes and of course the connecting flight was at the far end. I made it barely a minute before boarding began and was very happy to sink back into my economy class chair and fall asleep for the final leg of the flight.
If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you know I spent most of yesterday just kind of wandering around Odaiba. It was very fun in an aimless kind of way and kept me mostly out of the rain. In the evening we stopped by Tokyo Station to sort out some tickets because in a couple of days I’m taking an overnight trip down to Kyoto.
Probably my highlight from yesterday was finding a gatcha machine that had key chains from Run With The Wind in it. Of course I fed it my coins and it gave me Musa. I was tempted to try again but then the UFO catcher with Sakura from Cardcaptor caught my eye. It certainly did a good job of cleaning out my change and did not yield its prize. Going to be honest, I just kind of suck. I did however have a few rounds of space invaders while in the arcade and that was just pure fun.
Today, I’ve had an early breakfast before my friend has had to brave rush hour on the trains to get to work and we’re meeting up later to go look at some blossoms and do the silly tourist things that tourists do. I’m killing some time back at the apartment because nothing opens until 10 or 11 anyway so I’d rather save my feet and walking for when there are things open but I’m going to meander around the local shopping district and see what I can find before slowly making my way toward Ueno.
All and all, I’m having a great time and looking forward to what the next couple of days bring.
This is going to be a super quick post and mostly is just an announcement that in two weeks I am going to be heading off to Tokyo!
As you can guess, I’m super excited about this.
Now mostly I’m getting to go to Japan because someone I know has been over there the last few months for work and I’m visiting (not that it would take much to convince me to go to Japan). As a result I’ll pretty much be staying in Tokyo for the couple of weeks I am there other than the occasional day trip elsewhere.
Still, I absolutely love Tokyo and I’m really determined to spend some time exploring it this visit and maybe visit some of the less touristy places when I’ve got the time to wander about.
What does it mean for the blog?
Well, I don’t really know. With the Winter season ending right before I leave I don’t know if I’ll start reviewing the Spring anime until I get back (unless the internet connection I end up with over there is better than I’m expecting in which case business as usual).
I’ll have some prepared posts that will go out but given how behind I’ve been in my normal posting, unlike previous trips away, I haven’t prepared daily posts in my absence.
I am hoping to update with some very cool photos of my trip while I’m away. Though that will depend on the internet again.
That said, I’m not letting it stress me. I’m really going to have fun on this trip and if I can’t maintain reviews while I’m away then I will catch up when I get back. Hopefully readers will understand and hopefully I’ll still be able to read blogs and post updates.
So that’s all from me and I’ve got two weeks to brush up on some basic Japanese, pack my bags, and then I’m off.
By the way, did I mention I’m super excited?!!!! (Yes, multiple exclamation points excited.)