Japan Trip 2008 – Day 9 8/12/08

31 12 2008
The Animate store in Ikebukuro

The Animate store in Ikebukuro

Left the hotel at 9.45am to collect my daily read of the Yomiuri Times newspaper from Tochomae subway station en route to Shinjuku. My first destination of the day was somewhere where I’d been disappointed with last time – Ikebukuro. Hopefully I’d be able to find some interesting things to do here this morning. Ikebukuro by the way is 2nd only to Shinjuku as the busiest train station in Tokyo.

Kawaii! Japanese kids on a schooltrip.

Kawaii! Japanese kids on a schooltrip.

Made my way over to the Sunshine 60 building which has been built over a former prison and is said to be haunted. I paid to see the aquarium on the 10th floor and the observatory which was in another building. The aquarium was OK, nothing special. The observatory though was far better. If not for the smog blotting the landscape the views would have been perfect. After finishing up here I had to have a look inside the Animate store a couple of minutes walk away from Sunshine 60. Across the road from the store, a group of kindergarten kiddies with their teachers were going on a trip. I adore Japanese kids. So quiet and polite not like the screaming monsters you get in this country. Walking in pairs and hand in hand (boy/girl) it was a cute sight to see. It always surprises me to see children as young as 4 or 5 going on the train and subway on their own. That’s what I like about Japan – the relative safeness of the country. You’re very unlikely to see young kids travelling on their own where I live for obvious safety reasons.

An anime DVD being advertised on a building in Akiba

Fate/Unlimited Codes being advertised on a building in Akiba

The various shops on chuo dori in Akihabara

The various shops on chuo dori in Akihabara

Next up was Akihabara. The first place for me to go and see was the hallowed turf of the AKB48 theater on the 8th floor but it was closed today. Typical! On the 7th floor saw a maid cafe and nearly banged my head on the wall as I was gawping at a stunning maid and not looking where I was going. I did have a quick stroll around the various floors of Don Quixote and the shops on Chuo Dori but didn’t buy anything. I nearly bought Acchan’s 2009 calendar but seeing as I’ve got Horikitty’s and the AKB48 weekly one I didn’t bother. I’d also been thinking of buying the new Nintendo DSi which came out in November but after seeing the prices here I decided not to. Was accosted by many maids handing out flyers to their cafes. Jeez, some of them are incredibly beautiful.

Crazy Shrine Maidens anime

Crazy Shrine Maidens anime

The view that awaits as you take the Electric Town exit at Akihabara Station

The view that awaits as you take the Electric Town exit at Akihabara Station

During the evening went to take some night photos around Tokyo Dome City. Very frustrated with the camera – can’t get the settings right. The photos didn’t come out quite as I’d planned so I was cursing a lot about that. Wonderful illuminations around the area though.

Xmas lights near the Tokyo Dome

Xmas lights near the Tokyo Dome

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building was lit up in it’s olympic colors tonight and throughout the week.

The TMGB in it's olympic colors

The TMGB in it's olympic colors





Happy New Year!

31 12 2008

In a few hours time in Japan, the 59th NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen spectacular will be underway so for those watching it live I hope you enjoy the show. Unfortunately as I’m out for the day I’ll miss it.

May I wish all the people that visit this site a very Happy New Year and hope that 2009 brings you happiness and success.





Latest Japanese Movies I’ve Seen Part 3

30 12 2008

Five fantastic Japanese movies I’ve seen lately with trailers attached:

Turtles Swim Faster Than Expected – any comedy featuring Juri Ueno is bound to be a winner and this certainly lived up to my expectation. It’s really funny, witty and bound to make you laugh.

Meatball Machine – this experimental splatterfest is wild and over the top about parasitical aliens taking over humans as hosts just so that they can fight each other. Some gross out special effects included! Asian extreme fans will love it

Smile – starring the lovely Rosa Keto. Runs along the lines of The Mighty Ducks about an ice hockey team that go from being zeroes to heroes.

Chanbara Beauty – Based on the video game. Bikini clad Aya and her 2 companions, one of which is a gun toting chick roam zombie infested lands searching to kill the mad scientist who started the outbreak and Aya’s evil little sister Saki who helps him. A nice little nod to Kill Bill in the movie with a ball and chain wielding zombie schoolgirl.

Sky High – Fantasy flick by Ryuhei Kitamura who made the excellent Versus.





Japan Trip 2008 – Day 8 7/12/08

29 12 2008
Hakone Yumoto

Hakone Yumoto

Yet another trip out of Tokyo as I went to the onsen spring resort of Hakone. I decided for some strange reason not to take the far easier way of getting to Hakone by taking the “Romance Car” from Shinjuku to Hakone Yumoto and instead went to Tokyo station and took the Tokaido Shinkansen to Odawara and then a slower train to Hakone Yumoto. The old mountain resort nestled in a valley has undeniably beautiful views  all around it and is called “the gateway to Hakone”. Most people visiting here today were old people and all were going to nearby onsens. My friend had mentioned there was a foot onsen near the station but I failed to see one so after walking around town for a while I decided to push further up the mountain.

The main street of Hakone Yumoto

The main street of Hakone Yumoto

From Hakone Yumoto, the train takes you on a leisurely 40 minute trip through picturesque woodlands to Gora. During the trip the train makes several switchbacks, that is it can’t turn in several places so it reverses back in order to take the track up or down the mountain. If you so wish you can get off at several stations before reaching Gora and one which may interest some although I didn’t go there was the Picasso Open Air Museum which has some modern sculptures in the grounds.

Odawakuni

Owadakuni

I made the mistake of not taking a coat with me today as during the past 7 days it’s been warm although the Japanese people have wrapped themselves up like it’s freezing. Gora was cold with a bitterly cold breeze and I was shivering but once I got on the funicular railway train which was going 700 metres up to Sounzsan I warmed up again.

Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji

From there, a scenic cable car (or ropeway as the Japanese call it) ride to Owadakuni and the volcanic sulphur springs. I was riding in a car with several old ladies and a young American couple. As the car went over a small clip, the dramatic view of Mount Fuji came into view and the oldies started to shout and holler. It was like they were having an orgasm! The view of the mountain though was awe inspiring. As it was a clear day the mountain was in it’s full splendour – the classic snow capped dome in it’s glory. It took my breath away.

Sulphuric steam vent

Sulphuric steam vent

Owadakuni was full of tourists and most were heading on the nature trail to see the steam vents that were abundant here. I decided to do the same and at the end of the trail you can try the local speciality – black eggs! I’m not really an egg man but I just had to try one. They’re ordinary chicken eggs but they’re cooked in the hot bubbling suplhuric waters hence why their color turn black. Eating one is supposed to add 7 years to your life. To be honest after cracking the black shell around it it tasted no different to an ordinary egg. It did warm me up inside though. The stink around the stall where they sell the eggs wasn’t very nice and they do warn you not to breathe in a lot of the fumes so I didn’t hang around too long.

The area where you ate your black egg

The area where you ate your black egg

Owadakuni was the end of the line for me as going on to Lake Ashi was too damn expensive so I took a slow journey back to Shinjuku. Nearly fell asleep on the train. At Shinjuku, went back to the Odakyu Food Hall but my 2 favorite cake shop girls weren’t serving tonight. Disappointed with that, hoping for some more banter with them!

The cable car approaching Odawakuni station

The cable car approaching Owadakuni station

Back at the hotel and on the TV there was a good music show showcasing the best selling artists of 2008 who were singing live. One thing I noticed was the difference in behaviour between Ayumi Hamasaki and Koda Kumi who were sitting together. Ayu looked thoroughly miserable and didn’t look like she wanted to be there whilst Kumi was smiling and looked to be enjoying herself. The only time I saw Ayu smile was when DJ Ozma came on the show. You could see Ayu and Kumi giggling away in the background like a couple of schoolgirls!





Songs I Liked During My Holiday

28 12 2008

I heard quite a lot of good tunes in Japan this month but these are the ones I enjoyed the most:

Shuchishin – Yowamushi Santa. This male trio regularly appear on Fuji’ TV’s quiz show Hexagon II. They mostly goof about and give stupid answers to the questions asked. They created this group specifically for the show just like the female version called Pabo.

Exile – Last Christmas. The Japanese version of the classic Wham hit.

Ayumi Hamasaki – Days. Another great song by Ayu.

Miho Fukuhara – Love~Winter Song~. This is probably the song I loved listening to the most during my holiday in Japan. I really like this tune.

and finally we have Beni Arashino although she simply calls herself Beni these days with her latest single Mou Nido To

Hope you enjoy the PV’s





Japan Trip 2008 – Day 7 6/12/08

27 12 2008
Looking towards Ameyoko from Ueno Park

Looking towards Ameyoko from Ueno Park

Started the day off by going to Nippori specifically to see the large Yanaka cemetery and the surrounding neighborhood which was untouched by the 1923 earthquake. There was a funeral going on there so I gave the mourners a wide berth so they could get on with their grief. A nice little walk around the area. Briefly went to Ueno Park but seeing as I’ve always been there on every trip I was only here to take some photos.

Ueno Park

Ueno Park

During my ramble around Ameyoko I started browsing through the incredible mobile phones they’ve got there in a shop when 2 beautiful young female shop assistants came up to me thinking I was about to buy one. I told them I wasn’t in English then as I was turning away to leave I heard them call me kawaii. I could easily have turned around and embarrased them by saying I understand them but I didn’t. They were totally gorgeous those two! A shame I didn’t take their photo really.

This red bibbed fox is the guardian of the Inari shrine

Red bibbed foxes like this one is commonly seen at Inari shrines

It was nearing mid afternoon so with my wallet on fire I went to Nakano. I’d been itching to go there since Day 1 to buy something in Nakano Broadway. First went to the shop Utahime Dome to buy No Sleeves’ Relax and AKB48’s last single Oogoe Diamond. Also got some unofficial idol photos before realising that a better shop Trio 2 was nearby on the 3rd floor and full of idol stuff to buy. Went there immediately and thought to myself this is my kind of place. A lot of H!P and AKB48 items were on hand here. Trawled through all of the H!P items.

The Southern Terrace Xmas Illuminations

The Southern Terrace Xmas Illuminations

Christmas Penguins!

Christmas Penguins!

Although tempted to buy some H!P t-shirts all I took was a picture of Maimi and Risako. What I was really after was AKB48 photos and here I got a lot to choose from. Grabbed many piccies of Acchan, Takamina, Tomochin, Sayaka, Nonti and Mayuyu. Also took the October edition of BLT magazine with 3 of the AKB48 girls on the cover. I’d spent nearly an hour going through some stuff and whilst my wallet hadn’t been raped buying a lot I’d be coming back for more over the coming week or so. I popped my head into the various Mandarake shops but didn’t buy anything from them.

An elephant made of lights at Takashimya Times Square

An elephant made of lights at Takashimya Times Square

In the evening took some nighttime shots around Shinjuku especially around the Southern Terrace of the station where the xmas illuminations were in full effect. The ones over at Takashimiya Times Square were also quite nice. The results of my photos weren’t that good due to the crappy tripod I had and not really sure what I was doing with the camera. It’s a bit  fiddly with the controls. After I finished that went down to the Odakyu Food Hall for some grub. Plenty of choices here but in the end I opted for some chicken and tonkatsu. I must be lucky today as I had another 2 lovely young female shop assistants serve me at a cake shop and call me kawaii.

The road heading towards the ALTA screen and the East exit of Shinjuku station

The road heading towards the ALTA screen and the East exit of Shinjuku station

South exit of Shinjuku station

South exit of Shinjuku station

If there’s one thing I like about being here it’s the attention you get by the local women. I just love it when they say nice things about me!

Shinjuku at night

Shinjuku at night

Tomorrow I’d be going to Hakone.





Japan Trip 2008 – Day 6 5/12/08

27 12 2008

Sorry for the short entry today. I’ll make up for it with the next one.

This morning I went off from Tokyo into Saitama for the railway museum on the Keihin Tohoku line from Ueno. It’s a large good museum charting the history of trains in Japan from the mid 1800’s showing how they got their first trains from the UK. It’s ironic now that Japan has surpassed my country with their cleaner, faster and more efficient trains. UK trains are a disgrace!

The turntable with an old steam engine

The turntable with an old steam engine. Notice the kids on the left covering their ears before the whistle was blown.

Lots of schoolchildren were around and they were looking at me in awe with their mouths open like they’d never seen a foreigner before. So wide eyed and innocent – they have no idea what’s ahead of them in life. I spend around 2 hours here looking inside the old engines and carriages they used to have. In the middle of the floor was a turntable where a steam engine was being whirled around. The whistle was blown occasionally which scared the kids.

Some of the trains on display on the museum floor

Some of the trains on display on the museum floor

My next port of call was to see Saitama Super Arena – the scene of many triumphant Hello Project concerts and where I had been hoping to see Namie Amuro tomorrow night but my friend couldn’t get tickets for her gig. Looks so impressive from the outside. By the time I’d arrived at the arena the weather had changed dramatically. A strong wind was blowing and it was raining quite hard. I could have gone to see the John Lennon museum but Saori was supposed to be taking me there next week.

Saitama Super Arena

Saitama Super Arena

A quiet day for me really and during the evening I was busily working away preparing a report on unagi meals (eel) for my friend’s company. I didn’t really mind doing it.