Monday, September 23, 2013

Which way to Tokyo?

We arrived in Tokyo 3 times but you know what they say...third time is a charm and it was for us coz this time we were there to least for 10 days.

The first time we arrived, we'd come all the way from Mexico and we only stayed there for 3 days, however, it was just enough to get a good first impression of the country...or, of Tokyo to be more precise. I wrote about it here and posted some photos from then over here. The second time we arrived, we came straight from Hanawa, in the Fukushima Prefecture, stayed there for one day and one night and then left again.

The third time, we were done with all of our traveling around Japan and we decided to leave the best for the end, Tokyo that is. This time I was happy about 2 things mainly: 1) I was finally going to really get a chance to see Tokyo and 2) I wasn't gonna have to move around with my huge and heavy backpack for 10 days -now that for me, was bliss! This time around we stayed in Asakusa, a neighborhood in the north of Tokyo, at the beginning it seemed a bit far as the first 2 times we stayed way closer to the city center so it was easier to move around, but our place was very well connected so I got used to it really fast.

Sumida River, part of our new 'hood
This time, we arrived from Hiroshima on Monday and the plan was to just rest as we had been doing the workcamp thing and all that traveling and never really got around to rest properly, so chilling in bed for the day sounded great to me; however, a guy we met at the workcamp (Shu) offered to meet us that evening to hang out and well, who am I to say no to a fun hang out in Tokyo, right? So, out we went and goodbye chillin' day lol

After not being able to find each other in the super busy Akihabara Station (during rush hour) for about half an hour, we finally did! Shu asked if we wanted to go to a Neko Cafe (Cat Cafe), to which my reply was an absolute "No.", I mean, I'm not really into cats...or animals for that matter and, somehow, the idea of going to have coffee while surrounded by cats wasn't very appealing to me. But, apparently, Shu was REALLY into the Neko Cafe and insisted we went, as he said "for the experience" (HIS, of course!) and he made a deal, if we didn't like it, then we wouldn't have to pay and he would instead, so we were in! We arrived to the Cafe and after leaving our shoes outside, we had to wash our hands first (so we didn't get the fellow cats dirty or anything), then we went in and bumped into a bunch of lazy cats laying on the floor just chillin' -must be a tough job being a cat in a Neko Cafe! We then went downstairs, where we could sit and be surrounded by even more cats! Cats there aren't really what I'd call friendly, they only go to you if you have food or if you rub their belly non-stop, which is what Shu did immediately after falling in love with a cat...or was it the other way around? (he rubbed and then fell in love? not sure!) Anyway, he seemed to really be enjoying himself around the cats, needless to say, I didn't lol So yeah, he kept his word and paid the 10 dollars entrance fee for each of us.

1. Shu playing chilled cat.
2. Shu, his new cat love and us.
3. Shu and his cat love.

After the Neko Cafe we went to get dinner at some Japanese place, I don't really remember the name but food was good. Then Shu said he'd show us a night view of the city from the heights of Shibuya, so we started walking around...a lot, until we found Korea Town (which we weren't looking for, obviously lol) and then I decided to ask where we were actually going, and he said "The Metropolitan Government Building", which is NOT in Shibuya, but in Shinjuku! haha and we'd been there already so we actually knew how to get there, so we finally found our way and got there. We had been there during daytime so it was cool to also see the night view, a city can really transform from day to night.
The Metropolitan Government Building
Views were great but, once more*, I wasn't impressed, I mean, it really looked cool but I'm a city girl, I'm used to these kind of views and as much as I love them, I don't get too impressed by them coz in the end, all the big cities look very similar from the heights, especially at night; so Shu was a bit disappointed I wasn't fainting from the impression, or excitement or anything, he probably thought there was something wrong with me...until I explained myself. Anyway, I'm glad we went there and saw Tokyo by night from the heights so, thank you Shu! It was a perfect end to the night -loved it!

*I say "once more" because our friend K Jin was also surprised that we weren't impressed with the Shibuya Crossing, being that -if not all- most foreigners are.

The next day we went to the Skytree Building and hung out there as it is really big and has a lot of stores and really cool food mart and all. We also did a bit of shopping at UniQlo (UniqRo for Japanese hehe) -I didn't know it was Japanese until Shu mentioned it and he said it was cheaper there because of that, so -naturally- I went.
Tokyo Skytree

Wednesday was a long-awaited day as Tokyo Disney was in sight. Now, yes, I know I am an adult and shouldn't really be that excited about Disney and whatever, BUT, I had never been to any Disney in my entire life and well, this wasn't just any Disney, it was Tokyo Disney -I've always wanted to go to this one and Euro Disney lol So hell yeah, I was excited! I had to get up really early as everyone said arriving early was the best thing to do and we arrived to the park around 8:30am or so, so it was pretty good although it was already kinda crowded. Just being there made me happy though, it was actually fun, especially going with Gisela, we were like kids in, well, Disneyland! lol 

Lines were MASSIVELY LONG (140 min-wait and so on O.o) so we didn't do as many rides as we would of liked, but the ones we did were cool enough and we saw the Water Show (it has a name but I forgot it) and ate a Turkey Leg (WTF, I know! but it seemed to be the most popular snack at the park), why not? I also had a Churro (love them and that one was actually decent-tasting). We also got to meet some of the classic Disney characters such as the Mice from Cinderella, Minnie, Bernardo + Bianca, Chip + Dale, Goofy, Daisy and even some Princesses such as Cinderella and SnowWhite, whom I must admit was disappointed at as they're Western princesses, opposed to Japanese ones, which I thought they should be but oh well, somebody told me it was because Asians believe princesses are supposed to be Westerns, I guess it's a cultural thing and it'd be a good topic for discussion...but not now. Suffice it to say, I would have been happier if they had been Japanese/Asian. The point is, I did have a great time and I loved it, although I'm not sure I'd go back lol As old as I am, I no longer have the energy of a kid for such places. 

Tokyo Disnleyland!

Next day we slept in a bit and then went to Shinjuku -definitely one of my favorite neighborhoods in Tokyo!- to hang out and have dinner. There's just so much to see and do there that you just don't get bored, plus, there's Yodobashi Camera, my personal paradise! I wanted to get a new cam, the Mamiya RZ67 Pro IID...nothing too specific lol but it was a bit outta my budget...for now; if life is good though, I hope I can go back and get it for Christmas. You can also go to a Game Center and lose your time (and money) with the fun games they have -pretty entertaining! lol Another thing you can do in Shinjuku (and, well, all around Tokyo actually) is Purikura! I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here before but if you've seen my Twitter/Facebook, you know what it is and how much I LOVE it! Haha In Japan, Purikura is what they call the photo booths there, however, they're not just your average photo booths where you go in, do silly faces and that's it, hell no, Purikura is so much more than that! First, they have images showing/suggesting you which poses to make, then, you get to choose the style/design you want and you can decorate it, plus, it makes you look really funny and with HUGE eyes -which, as you may know, is one of the things Japanese are totally obsessed about! I loved it so much I'm like obsessed with it now and while in Japan, I wanted to do Purikura every chance I got -coz that's what girls do! haha

Fun Fact: Maï told me the name Purikura actually comes from the words "Picture Club", which if you say with a Japanese accent, turns into what now everyone knows as Purikura.

Hanging out in Shinjuku

On Thursday, we went back to Shinjuku but to the other side of it as we were looking for something specific: The Earthdom. It is a venue where a band I REALLY wanted to see was going to play and I wanted to get the tickets on the pre-sale so we went on looking for the place, which was pretty well hidden in a basement, so after a long while, we found it, I got my ticket and was happy about it. Then we just hung around the place and did nothing in particular but chill. 
Next day we hung out in our own neighborhood, which -as I already mentioned- was Asakusa, where you can visit Kaminarimon, which is the outer of two large entrance gates that ultimately leads to the Sensō-ji Temple. The place is nice to walk around, though is crowded with tourists and under the hammering heat and humidity of Tokyo's summer, you don't really feel like hanging there for too long. So, we went straight to the Temple, were there for a little while and then picked up a little sheet with out luck printed on it. You have to put in a coin in a thing they have there (sorry, don't know the name), then you get a cylinder with sticks inside, you shake it and take out one stick, which has like a number written in it, then, based on the number you get, you open up a drawer with the same number and pick up a sheet from there and that's your luck. I got it really good, so I was all happy.

Kaminarimon, Asakusa
Sensō-ji Temple

Rickshaw driver in Asakusa

My luck!

The band I really wanted to see was The 5,6,7,8's, you might remember them as the band of Japanese women all dressed in yellow who played -shoeless- on Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill (one of my favorite movies ever!) during the big showdown at The House of Blue Leaves...if you don't know what I'm talking about, just forget it; however, if you do...congrats, you're a really cool person and might understand why I was so eager to see them live. I actually emailed the band when I was back in Mexico asking about shows in Japan as nothing was showing on their official website, to my surprise, they actually replied (while I was flying Mexico City-Tokyo) and told me they were having a show in Tokyo on the 30th and that they hoped to see me there -I was totally psyched about both, the response and the show! To make a long story short, I found out the deets, went to get the ticket and on Friday went to see them for only 2,500¥ (about 25 dls). The venue was quite small and very European I must add (like underground, sort of dirty, sticky floors and all that), but it was cool for me coz that meant I could see the band very closely and, indeed, I was right in front of them!

They're now 3 middle-aged (maybe a bit older?) women who, for their age, totally know how to rock a stage. I LOVED the whole show, knew many of the songs and got to meet (talk to) them personally, which brings me one degree closer to Tarantino and, obviously, Uma Thurman haha It was all pretty cool and I had a total blast, it was one of the things I knew I really wanted to do before arriving in Japan.

The 5,6,7,8's Live @ The Earthdom

Then, our first weekend in Tokyo came and it was time to hit Harajuku, a lot of the locals had told me they didn't like it very much and that it was actually a boring place to go but well, being a tourist and all, I had to go and so I did. Turns out, the locals were right, it is a boring place. I mean yeah, you can buy a lot of useless stuff, but then again, you can do so all over town. You can also eat a Cone Crepe but, to be honest, they're pre-made and kinda chewy and well, crepes aren't supposed to be chewey lol I didn't get to see weird things or Otaku, cosplayers, or weirdos in general (other than what you normally see all around the city)...nothing like that, so it wasn't really a lot of fun or anything.


After realizing Harajuku wasn't too much fun, we headed to Shibuya (another one of my favorite places in Tokyo) as we had to catch a movie: Sadako 3D (Sadako is the girl from "The Ring" movie, the Japanese version, of course) we were really excited about it, I know I'm talking about a horror movie and that I'm such a pussy when it comes to horror films (especially Japanese ones) but hey, whatever, we really wanted to see it so we were anxious about it lol Plus, I'm (was?) used to go to the movies -at least- once a week and it had been like 4 weeks without going so I was going a bit crazy. Going to the movies in Japan is, well, like doing pretty much anything in Japan: EXPENSIVE! Particularly, if the movie you're watching is in 3D. Each ticket was 1,800¥ for the movie AND 400¥ for the 3D glasses (which in a normal theater, they lend you for free, at least they do in Mx, FYI), which comes to a total of 2,200¥ each (about 22 dls), plus you know, your popcorn and whatever you fancy from the candy store. Still, it was something we had planned and we really wanted to do, so whatever, YOLO! Haha BTW, the movie is not that good and its not scary at all, but they have this awesome interacting thing they do with mobile phones, they ask you to synchronize (or whatever) your phone and you get cool stuff throughout the whole movie; like, if a phone in the movie rings, yours rings as well and you can hear the person on the other side, then they also send you creepy/scary images/pictures/videos...a lot of fun stuff, which I guess makes the million-dollar ticket well worth it. It was another great Japanese experience.

After the movie, we were just hanging out at Starbucks, which has one of the best views of the (in)famous Shibuya Crossing, so it's great for chilling, people-watching and photos, though truly it isn't that impressive...not if you've crossed Eje Central and Madero in Mx City -seriously!

Shibuya Crossing

One of the reasons we were chillin' at Starbucks was that we had to meet a friend at 7pm (or so) for dinner and stuff. So, we met our (Korean) friend K Jin at Hachiko's Statue, yes, the dog from that super sappy Harrison Ford movie (for you Westerners), in case you didn't know, it is a true story and it happened in Japan. Anyway, our friend -like I said- is from Korea but lives in Japan...because of "the love"...or so she says lol jk She lives with her Japanese boyfriend and left Korea around 2008-2009 (ha!). So, we went for dinner to a place right there in Shibuya where they serve Shabu-Shabu, which is thinly sliced beef boiled in water basically (Vietnamese food), and they give you options to make your stew, it was good and actually cheap, we paid only around 3,000¥ (about 30 dls) for the 3 of us! After dinner we wanted to do something else but the options in Shibuya are not very varied so we ended up going for the classic: Karaoke! But first -of course-, a much needed (yes, needed!) stop at the Purikura was made. Then, we did Karaoke and although it wasn't as fun as my previous experience in the Hanawa Karaoke it was fun enough, though REALLY expensive, the total came up to 6,000¥ (about 60 dls.) for only one hour! Obviously K Jin was much better at it than us because, well, she's Korean; they go to Karaoke (Norebang in Korea) for their 1-year birthday parties (or maybe not)! lol

Hanging out in Shibuya

We decided to take Sunday off and it was the first day we were actually able to take (almost completely, as we had to do laundry -ugh!) off. We only went out to get food and that was it, we slept in and chilled at the hostel the rest of the day. It was long overdue and I totally enjoyed it.

Next day was the start of our second week in Tokyo and we still had plenty to see. We headed off to Akihabara, which is known as the electronics district, as well as the paradise for Otaku (manga freaks) and Hentai (pervs). There are many Maid Cafes, which are some sort of cosplay restaurants where waitresses are dressed in maid costumes and act as servants, they treat customers as masters (and mistresses, though is not that common for women to go there) in a private home, rather than as café patrons. Even though it's much of a "guy thing", I was actually curious about them...until they told me that for 1) they're very expensive and 2) you have to order by doing weird signals to the maids (waitresses) or else, they won't serve you; that pretty much killed my curiosity. I was particularly looking for a thing called "sound drop", which is like a little Tamagochi (I'm sure you remember those little thingos) but with special sounds, so I was looking for the Super Mario Bros. ones, and I found them so I was super happy haha I got the one with the "speed star" and the one with "the coin" (I still use them, in case you were wondering). We also bought some pressies for some of our friends back in Mexico and while walking, we were asked to give an interview for TBS (Japanese Network) about our trip in Japan. I normally would have said no but well, I was in a good mood, they asked nicely, it's Japan and YOLO! lol So they asked a bunch of questions and said the show will air (only in Japan) on October -in case you're interested in watching what's gonna be like 45 seconds of us being awkward on camera.

1. A Square in Akihabara. 2. Maid Cafe. 3. Building in Akihabara.
4. Another building. 5. The TBS interviewers.

On Tuesday, we hung out some more in Asakusa, where -I didn't mention earlier but- the Asahi Building is located. Asahi is Japan's #1 Beer...or so their advertising says and I completely believe them, not for nothing it is my favorite Japanese beer. So, one of my favorite Asakusa landscapes was the Asahi Building and the Tokyo Skytree along with some other buildings, which all combined look pretty good, either day or night, sunshine or cloudy.

Asakusa's Landscape

In the evening we headed off to Akasaka, another Tokyo district, where we were meeting K Jin (yes, again...but it's ok coz she's funny and not many Koreans are!) for a last hang out before leaving for, not her. We went to a bar to get a drink and had a really good time, which was  perfect for our last night in Tokyo...and Japan, in general.

One of the things I enjoyed in Tokyo more than I thought I would was the Subway, I'd always heard how crowded it is and how crazy it can get, so much that they have guards pushing people in with tubes or whatever, that all sounded crazy to me and -again- I come from a really crazy place; truth is, the Tokyo subway is much, much better than they led me to believe. For starters, it's really not that crowded, it's super clean, it doesn't smell, people is incredibly polite (they are educated enough to let people out before going in), it's fast and efficient and, of course, expensive but I really like it and it's really not that difficult to use (as the Seoul subway system, but that's a topic for another post), it's well connected to the whole city and a lot of stations have free wi-fi!

The Tokyo Subway

The expensive but pretty taxis in Tokyo.

Not sure if you can tell by this post but I LOVED Tokyo! Being a City girl,  I obviously love big cities in general, but Tokyo is definitely a Top 3 (quite close to Paris!). it is a place that has everything for every taste, it's beautiful, mostly modern, people is amazing (even if they don't do it from their hearts but to keep appearances), it's really safe (which I really appreciate in a place, being that my hometown isn't too safe) and well, I could almost live there...except, I don't speak Japanese. I honestly cannot wait to go back!

Asakusa from our Rooftop

No comments:

Post a Comment