Friday, 9 April 2010

Friday 9th April [Tokyo]

Flickr set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fractos/sets/72157623816182678/

late night blogging

Was fueled last night, writing about all that had happened by many Suntory beers, and these weird giant cheesey-puff things which come in all these different flavours. Quite like the teriyaki flavour. Do not have the chocolate one. It's just wrong. Oh, and Fanta Grape kicks ass.

asakusa - kawaii shopping

Really nice weather today, not too hot, wind not too chilly. The Senso-ji temple in Asakusa looked fantastic and it was great to wander through again and take photos. I managed to go into the temple itself today and the decoration is so rich and beautiful. There are some amazing paintings on the roof including the dragon that is recreated in the massive construction shroud around the temple. After taking photos there, I found some of the nice craft shops just off the main areas and found some kawaii presents for a couple of friends, and some postcards! Getting postage stamps is going to be an adventure just by itself, I can tell.

nearly getting to imperial gardens, central tokyo

And it turns out that the gardens are closed on Fridays, so all for the good. That part of the city is so corporate, it's like Canada square in London, I guess, except less Cockneys. Half way there was a really nice, contemporary plaza with fountains and water channels and sculpture and shit. I can't believe I just said that.

mitaka and ghibli museum (going low)

It was time then to go to Mitaka and the Ghibli museum, and Mitaka is gorgeous. A really weird mix of natural, peaceful river and woodland, and built-up suburbia. Maybe it is suburbia? The Studio Ghibli museum is amazing and abstract. Sadly, they don't allow photography inside (oh so ironic since half the exhibition is made up of animation and projection technology). I went in to have my voucher swapped for a clip of 3 frames from an animation. I'm not sure which one, I'll try and identify it another time. Then went in to the gorgeous atrium that shows off the various interconnected bits of the building. I went into the first room which contained a set of really clever exhibits showing zoetropes, including a massive glass cabinet containing a rotunda of 3d models that they animated by strobing an exterior light. Really bloody clever. Immediately after that going into an animated short film about a girl going camping. Really cool cartoon, but the old projector that is used strobes quite badly, which pretty much makes you feel ill. Speaking of which, I got to the café and was really starting to feel unwell. I went inside not realising that there was a queue sat in the area outside, and had a confused conversation with one of the waitresses, eventually having to back out saying it didn't matter. There was a hot dog stand around the corner and I realised that what was happening was that my blood sugar had dipped really badly, leaving me confused and unwell in a particular kind of way that is quite horrible. As soon as I ate the food and had some orange juice I felt completely fixed. I must watch out for that. Eating noodles at breakfast misses out important bits of nutrients that I need.

Then, I went back into the museum and really enjoyed going around the rest of the place. The fantastically detailed workshop rooms, the painstaking exhibition showing the making of an animated film. The shop was completely rammed full of people buying all kinds of things, and I found a couple of things to get as presents, myself. Once out of there (and I was glad to be out of there), I went up on the roof to see the iron robot that watches over the property. After that, I made my way back to Mitaka station and on the Rapid Chuo line back to Tokyo and then back to the hostel.

asakusa - finally finding an ATM that works

You have no idea how worried I've been about being faced by a cash machine that has no English on it and seems to spit out every card that you try and feed it. The secret, it turns out, is post offices. They have a big, friendly button saying "ENGLISH GUIDE", and are kitted out to use VISA, etc. Thank fuck. Bit happier now that there's a bit of noteage in my wallet ;)

meeting up at hachiko, shibuya with zoe, phil and shin

I pretty much had to leave then to reach Shibuya station, where I was due to meet a friend of mine from Chorlton and her fella, Phil. Travelling from Ueno Park to Shibuya was one of the nastiest journeys I've done so far as it was a complete crush and I was still feeling a bit crap from the afternoon. Once at Shibuya station, which is huge and ridiculous (2 million people a day go through it!), I managed to get there half an hour early and that turned out to be just enough time to make it to the agreed meeting spot! There's a bronze statue of a dog called Hachiko at one of the entrances (though the Rough Guide to Japan places it at a slightly different area, fucking cheers!) Hachiko was a dog owned by a guy who used to leave him at the station each day. Hachiko would wait for its master until he came out of the station again. When the man died, Hachiko would wait at the same spot each day for years afterwards. It's so sad. Now, the statue is a traditional meeting point for hundreds of Japanese, ready to go out on the town in Shibuya. The place itself is insane. It's that part of Tokyo you may have seen where there are 10 storey high video adverts, huge neon signs, activity everywhere, and that crossing where the whole road comes to a standstill to let people cross all the roads at once. It's totally chaotic. I managed to meet up with my friend Zoe ok and then we met up with her boyfriend, Phil and his Japanese friend Shin. Both really sound people :)

Shin was our guide for the night, and led us onto a bar called Pink Cow near Shibuya station. It had a really dark entrance way, but once you opened the door at the bottom of the pitch black steps, you were in an underground bar area, with DJs and live musicians playing electronica, and, weirdly, a huge population of foreigners, mostly British or American. There were Japanese there, but having an Australian barman was just a little rubbish. We finished our beers, waited while Shin got some baked sweet potato from a passing van (it was delicious) and headed off to a "more Japanese" place nearer the station... And it was, it really was. A full Izukaya with partitioned rooms for people to eat, and very very Japanese menu (no English at all, so Shin was our translator and ordered our food too!) We had a selection of little dishes at first, prawn, crab ("with guts", said Shin), squid ("with guys mixed up") and another crab thing ("does that have guts with it?"  "no, only a little" "right...").  The prawn thing turned out to be delicious, but the main attraction was the gorgeous sake, fried pork and sushi we were served. Absolutely outstanding. Shin's great and I fully intend to return the honour he did us of paying for our meal when he visits Manchester.

transit back to asakusa, fitting in (helped by sake)

The train back to Ueno and Asakusa was interesting. I started to feel like I was fitting in as opposed to being a complete tourist. I guess that A) it was the sake, and B) you pick up the right behaviour from being around on the trains for a while. If you're on the train, you play with your mobile, and you don't wait for the English translation of your destination to come up before you take your position at the right set of doors to open. Really enjoyed it. I made it back to the hostel after going to a 7-11 store, as I was sure that I'd need some crisps or something on top of all that rich food. That really paid off. Currently, I'm sitting in the lounge on my second beer and feeling a lot less queesey.

I've a bit of a worry in that I don't have a place to stay on Saturday night. There was no room at the hostel but I am booked in for Sunday and Monday night, having decided to do Nikko as a day trip from Tokyo instead of finding a hostel over there. It's about a 1.5 hour trip each way so that works a bit better since there isn't that much to see according to the people I've spoken to. I've got a few options for Saturday, as a backstop measure, I could go to one of the love hotel round the corner (not a chance), a capsule hotel (tempting), renting a room in an internet cafe (also tempting), or the Austrians from the hostel said that they were planning to go out to a club that night. Which reminds me - it will be Saturday night and I kind of said that I fancied going out to Roppongi and hitting the bars maybe. Also, it's Zoe's boyfriend's birthday, so they might be out and about that evening. If they are and can meet up, they'll let me know. Oh well, as long as I don't end up in the love hotel, all is well :)

loud, obnoxious amerikajin and his mates, all of which I want to kill. They're playing FIFA behind me and shouting, even though warned that it's past
2am.  Tempting to smack them on the back of the head if it happens again.

The above placeholder kind of says it all. What a twat.

Right, that's me done for today, will try and get this stuff up to Flickr, too. Didn't take enough photos when in Shibuya as my camera battery was starting to run down!  Shame on me.

~aFx