A Travellerspoint blog

Flea Market and Disney

snow -2 °C

Only two things on the agenda today, pretty simple really. We walk to Suidobashi station and catch the multiple connections to the Keiyo line. At Tokyo station, this means an 800m walk from the Yamanote line to the Keiyo line. We have had many occasions where the simple line map shows two lines interchanging at a station, only to find that means a 600m walk to the connection, in some cases being thrown out onto the street, as there are a number of different train companies around Tokyo.
We head to the flea market at Tomiokahachimangu Shrine to the east of Tokyo. There is a fascinating array of all sorts of stuff at the market which people can obviously sell on. There are people selling bits of jade, movie posters, sword bosses, pottery, coins, pins, used kimonos and yakutas, prints and all sorts of other odds and sods. It is fascinating, we pick up beads, coins and a votive tablet – I liked a small piece of jade but I thought the 5000Y asking price was a bit steep. We head on our way, picking up some sushi (surprise) and finding some cans of pancake drink (surprise, surprise) to keep us going. Next visit is the big one - we are going to see the Mouse.
At Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine

At Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine

I know it is the weekend but an online predictor said there would not be many people there today. Which just goes to show you cannot trust every thing you read on line – really! I would have also thought the weather – clear but cold, 7/0 degrees would keep the crowds down. No such luck – don’t come on a weekend if you can help it.
Started as always with Star Tours, funny hearing it all in Japanese. A bit of dithering on G’s part saw us wandering around until we ran into Roger Rabbit’s Car-toon, a new one by me and with only a 20 minute wait. By the time we had decided what we wanted to do all the Fast Pass slots for the day had been allocated so we had to wait it out in all the queues. So we went on The raceway and then to Splash Mountain. Next G wanted to go for a paddle in the canoes, which proved to be a mistake as the man two in front proved to be a shoveller, nor a paddler. As a result, all four rows of people behind him copped a soaking. G ended up with a wet leg and glove, which at these temperatures quickly made him very cold. To warm up we went into the queue for Pirates of the Caribbean, one of the shortest for the day. This is themed a lot more on the movie than others we have seen.
Just after the splash

Just after the splash

Next we grabbed a bit of crappy food, and as we sat outside eating it, it SNOWED in Disneyland! To warm up we cuddled up with a few hundred of closest friends in another line. My decision to wear 2 jumpers, hat and gloves was paying off. I was hoping the queues would start to dwindle with the snow or with the sunset, disappointed on both counts. We finished off with Monsters inc, Buzz Lightyear and I managed to get G on Space Mountain, which he loved. By now it was getting late so we headed for home.
It's snowing at Disneyland!!

It's snowing at Disneyland!!

We stopped off for dinner in our sushi restaurant, had another good eat there. Managed to find a vending machine with pancake drink on the way back, so G was happy. Started organising for the next day.
A fine feed of sushi

A fine feed of sushi

Posted by lostagain 06:46 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

No Giant Pandas and the Meiji shrine

sunny 2 °C

Up late this morning – some later than others.
We started the day by heading out to Ueno Park. Again it was clear and crisp with the sun shining. First stop was the Toshogu shrine in the park, where we see the first signs of real homelessness in Tokyo, with an area, neatly described by cones and barriers, where homeless people had set up there blue tarp shelters.Prayer tablets, Tosho-gu shrine

Prayer tablets, Tosho-gu shrine

Toshogu was our first Shinto shrine, has a good colonnade leading to it, and the Hiroshima – Nagasaki flame memorial to remind people to battle for the abolition of nuclear weapons. The shrine itself is behind tarps, and only a picture can be seen.
We head into the zoo next, and get a surprise – THERE ARE NO GIANT PANDAS IN TOKYO ZOO. Not that anyone mentions the fact until you get to the front window. The last one died nearly 3 years ago, a fact our guide book does not mention even a 2010 edition. We have gone this far so we are heading in anyway. The animal enclosures here are not too big, and some of the animals look severely depressed – the bison being a standout. It may also be the temperature – I don’t feel like being outside when it is 2 degrees either. We have lunch at the canteen, which is reasonable prices, and has a good volume of rice, so there is fuel for the day ahead. We scout out the most popular of the animals and do a quick tour. We see the lemurs who manage to jump away each time I try to take a photo. Last of all are the RED pandas, who are restricted to a small interior cage at the back of the giraffes, and they seem a little stir crazy.
No pandas at Ueno Zoo, but plenty of Gorillas

No pandas at Ueno Zoo, but plenty of Gorillas

A quick walk gets us to the Metro and off at Harajuku. Here we head over to the Meiji shrine. We enjoy the majestic cedar walk, admittedly with a few thousand other people. The massive torii to get through each of the areas are very impressive. They are each at least 12 m tall, and a reminder of how the Emperor Meiji was regarded. It must be noted that most of the historical structures in Tokyo are recreations after the bombings at the end of WW2 razed most of the city, but they have tried to be faithful to the original in most cases, with some modifications to materials used.
The shrine has a large flag stoned courtyard surrounded by a covered walkway where are posted many prayers and poems. There are some huge trees, and a large prayer wall where prayers can be written on tablets and posted for the priests to chant to heaven for you. On one side of the courtyard there is a wide expanse of stairs leading up to the inner shrine, and this is as far as we can get. Here, people make their prayers, and clap their hands to get the gods’ attention. The shrine continues beyond, but disappears into the gloom.
While we are there a traditional wedding party is led through the courtyard by some priests, looking very solemn for the occasion. The procession was very slow and deliberate, with the priests turning around when they reached the far side. A few words were spoken and then the priests scarpered, leaving the wedding party looking a bit stunned. We left soon afterthis, making our way back to Harajuku.
This is where the teens hang out and is where there are outrageous fashions on show. Well, it is supposed to be, today is just a crush, with more than its fair share of foreigners. We are getting nothing out of it, so off down a side street, but I get us lost and it is only G’s good sense of direction that gets us out as the sun sets.
Traditional Wedding, Meiji Shrine

Traditional Wedding, Meiji Shrine

I have a couple of wishes, so we head off across the city. Find what I am looking for, a bike shop! But they do not have any Japanese language cycling tops for me to souvenir. Disappointed, we head on down the road for another look for models as the other day was a washout. This time I manage to decipher my own notes to get us close, but G finds the shop. Inside Leonardo’s is an Aladdin’s cave of out of production kits, and I finally find a kit I have desired since I first saw it decades ago – a 1/12 Honda F1 from the 60’s, and it is cheap – especially with the 30% off sale today only. Somehow I restrain myself and I do not leave with shopping trolleys full of models.
Shopped out, we get home and have a hot bath before heading out to dinner. A recommended restaurant is closed, so we get cheap and cheerful instead.

Posted by lostagain 06:40 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Fish Markets and around

not early though

sunny 4 °C

In the morning I am up earlier than G, but we are still not organised when the serving lady arrives with our traditional four course breakfast. This is eaten kneeling at special little tables , with miso soup, boiling tofu, pickled vegies, fruit and green tea.Japanese breakfast

Japanese breakfast

In the morning, we pick up an all day Metro pass and head to Tsukiji fish market. Today the sky is blue and the air is crisp. We are not here as the early birds, but then we don’t want to catch worms. We wander around all the areas, with these little electric three wheeled carts running here there and everywhere taking orders back and forth. Through the market there is every sort of sea borne food type you have and have never imagined on display. For all that the market did not smell much given the amount of produce and traffic – however I am sure it is different in the middle of summer when they would be rushing to get it all over and done with a lot earlier in the day.Tsukiji fish markets

Tsukiji fish markets

We head out of the market and have sushi for lunch at Daiwa Zushi. This is the second longest queue, only 20 minutes or so. One good move while we waited, the stall across the way was selling cheap knitted gloves at 100Y a pair – just what we needed. Here we have their set menu, no doubt the tourist standard (3500Y each). There is no doubt though the fish is really good, although G could not go for the prawn or the squid, and did not enjoy the sea urchin. He did have a bonus tuna to make up for it. In the same time frame as last night we consumed 6 times the price of sushi, but I know which one I would head back for.At Diawa Zushi

At Diawa Zushi

Heading out of the market we got to see some of the knife merchants in action. These guys make sashimi knives up to one and a half metres long for getting into the big tuna. Some of the special knives can cost over 150,000Y!
From here we took the metro up to Kappabashi, the catering supply area where G got some chopsticks as a souvenir. This is where they sell all the plastic display food, which is way more expensive than the real thing. Fun to look at though.
Next we fulfilled G’s wishes and headed out to Adiaba a modern area on reclaimed land to the south of Tokyo to go to the Venus Fort Mall and Click brick, the Lego centre. Sunset over the monorail Adiaba

Sunset over the monorail Adiaba

Here G is confronted with the conundrum of whether to buy a Republic Assault Ship or save it for other stuff later on. He had the will power to say no, but would not leave the store for a while as he played around with the bricks they leave out.In his element, Adiaba Click brick

In his element, Adiaba Click brick

After a few more stores were checked, we headed back to home. G picked out a place for dinner where they served (suprise) sushi, and we were treated to a very nice meal, and most importantly, G got to choose what he wanted. He was very happy and the price very reasonable – an all around winner.
Home late for a late sleep and a sleep in.

Posted by lostagain 15:53 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Across to Tokyo

love the bullet train

all seasons in one day 0 °C

In the morning it is again snowing nicely to remind us of what we will be missing out on. Most of the packing is already done before breakfast, so we have a leisurely time of it. We say our farewells to other guests and staff, then down to the bus station for the trip to Nagano. This time I am awake through the trip, and it isvery picturesque under all the snow. I am sure the locals who have to get through it every day do not appreciate it that way. It is still snowing heavily as we leave Hakuba and head south down the valley. We go through a few tunnels and come out in brilliant sunshine on the other side. In the approaches to Nagano we have to take off jackets and jumpers it is so warm in the bus. In Nagano there is no more snow than when we left.
Shinkansen tickets are arranged on our JR East passes and we are off to Tokyo. Once we get past Karuizawa there are just scraps of snow on the ground and the whole area is in brilliant sunshine – chalk and cheese to a few hours earlier. Halfway to Tokyo they are even planting vegetables in the fields. Not that G notices, he is on the iPod playing games. It's pelting down snow across the mountains

It's pelting down snow across the mountains

We have to change trains a couple of times from Tokyo to get to Suidobashi. Here we catch a Prius taxi – love the automatic passenger doors. He takes us direct to the door of our Ryokan, Homeikan. Here is a traditional Japanese inn, with shoes off at the door and into indoor slippers. Communal baths (segregated) and common toilets reflect how it used to be. We book in for breakfast and then head out for the afternoon.
We use our JR East pass to get to Akihabara and have a look around electric town. G is frustrated about the lack of understanding of the electronics side as he is itching to by something. I am too, but there is not much in the way of model shops that I have been researching – turns out later I am in the wrong place.Akihabara night

Akihabara night

We head into a sushi train and have some of the worst sushi it has been my misfortune to taste. Back to the ryokan for sleep.Ready for sleep

Ready for sleep

Posted by lostagain 15:27 Archived in Japan Tagged trains Comments (0)

Last day on snow

that can't be good

snow -7 °C

Suffering the sads this morning for two reasons: late to bed and last day on the snow. Another filling breakfast while we watch a good snowfall coming down. Rush getting organised, and as we come out of the hotel, G goes arse over on the icy steps whacking his elbow as he comes down. We check out the damage, cannot feel anything and the pain fades soon. Head down to the Iwatake bus just on time. But the bus just isn’t on time, so we wait for ten minutes while my helmet fills with snow. Our everyday breakfast view

Our everyday breakfast view

With the snow coming down, it is difficult to see much up the top,but we have a good loosener down the mountain. We do a number of runs, finding patches of powder here and there, and a few jumps to amuse ourselves. We head over to the small snow park here where G does his stuff on the bench and lands the air at the end nicely. What I miss is him coming a cropper on one of the jumps, but he pulls up okay. After a few runs through the park we head back to the bottom for lunch. Habitually I do not eat up high because the cost is high too, however at Iwatake the 360 restaurant is about the same price as the base of the mountain.
No problemo

No problemo

Well fed, we head up on the gondola again, and head over the back to where we played earlier in the week. We have a few runs down the black run, enjoying making our own tracks in the deep powder. G enjoys it even more as the deep stuff trips me up. We do some more runs on the easier run, then G asks to go back to the black, so I can video him in the powder. As we trek across, G trips and lands heavily on his elbow. We finish the run, but G is in discomfort from the two falls. We go to the caf and strip back to have a look at the elbow. There is a bruise, but nothing seems damaged. This has knocked G a bit and we call it a day a bit early and head back to catch the bus.
Sadly give our hire equipment back, and return to the hotel. Our hostess is very solicitous to make sure G is alright. He cannot be too bad, as he borrows their toboggan and spends the next hour playing in the snow.Now this is dangerous

Now this is dangerous

We have a quick soak in the onsen, before heading back to the Hakuba Hutte for dinner again. It is good, dependable food, and the ende mame is great. I wonder if they do accommodation too? We could not be bothered moving so we sit chatting for a while. We decide to go home the back way. Thing is, we don’t know where the back way s from this end, so G guides us around in the dark on a barely visible path which peters out a couple of times. Back at the ranch, I do some more washing while G plays on Wi Fi again. To bed late, but no skiing tomorrow.

Posted by lostagain 15:23 Archived in Japan Tagged skiing Comments (0)

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