Japan Spring Trip 2010 – Day 14

17 04 2010

The dreaded final day had arrived. Went off to HMV Shibuya to try the AKB48 lottery. I couldn’t believe my luck when I won a ticket to meet and shake hands with the group but the only downside was the date to meet them is April 24th and I’ll be back home then. To say I was pissed off was an understatement, I really wasn’t happy about it. It’s probably the only chance I’ll get to meet them and I’m not there.

Roppongi Hills

Afterwards I did a lot of aimless walking from Shibuya all the way back to Shinjuku through Harajuku and Yoyogi and the rains came down too. I bought an umbrella but the damn thing caught a gust of wind and was destroyed. Summed up my day so far!! Paid a final visit to Trio2 in Nakano and bought the AKB48 NHK 2009 Concert DVD which contains MaiMai’s graduation. It was rather expensive but worth it.

Maid Cafes

Back to the hotel for a quick change and then out at 4pm to Nishi Kokubunji for one final bash with my best friend. When I arrived at her place, an old friend of hers whom I hadn’t seen since December 2008 was there. It was good to see her again. It was a bit of a shock to see that she was now pregnant and getting ready to marry on the 18th April. She left at 6pm when her boyfriend picked her up.

Akiba Ads

At 7pm we headed to Kokubunji to an okonomiyaki restaurant. I’ve never tried one before but I’ve got to say it was beautiful to eat. An ex-colleague of my best friend joined us. A typical Japanese salaryman who works for QVC Japan. He was a good laugh and said he would take me to a kyabakura (hostess club) the next time I was over. Plenty of lively talk and drink for the rest of the evening. I even had a load of sake to drink. I’d tried sake on my first trip in 2006 and hated it but that’s because it was cheap crap from the conbini. The sake I drank tonight was excellent and went down very well. I think my best friend was worried about me as I was just downing the stuff like crazy. She said I was supposed to sip it but I can’t sip a drink. It’s best to get it down the hatch and have another!

Arashi ad - Shibuya Station

As it neared midnight I knew I had to get back to Shinjuku and try and have some sleep before my flight in the morning so with a heavy heart I had to say goodbye to my best friend once more at the train station. I swear these goodbyes get harder each time I do it so with a big hug and a promise to come back soon I hopped on the train and waved to her as she stood on the platform. I was a bit tearful, I really don’t want to say goodbye to her again. I just have to move to Tokyo to live. I really would miss her company badly. Arrived back at my hotel at 12.40am but did not get to sleep until 2am.

I woke up at 5am, very tired, slightly drunk and started packing my stuff. It was touch and go whether my suitcase would close and my carry on bag was heavy as hell with all the CD’s and DVD’s that I’d bought but eventually everything turned out fine. It was a beautiful morning in Tokyo and at 7.15am checked out and walked all the way to Shinjuku Station to take in the surroundings for one final time on this trip. At 8.02am the Narita Express pulled out of Shinjuku Station and my trip was over. The 14 days had flown by and it just wasn’t enough for me. It had been a really good trip with plenty of new experiences such as going to the onsen, my first hanami party, meeting new friends and trying out new and different food – and all this thanks to my best friend who is such a wonderful person. I can’t thank her enough for making my trip so enjoyable.

So when’s my next trip going to be – it depends on whether my best friend marries in October or not. If she doesn’t then it’ll be December/January and this time for a whole month. My friend has suggested that I rent an apartment close to where she lives and she’ll act as my guarantor which is really nice of her. It’s a great idea. It’ll be cheaper than staying in a hotel and I’ll get a chance to see how it would feel to actually live in Tokyo in my own place. It’s something I’m looking forward to doing so roll on October or December. I’m so bored already back home.

Japan Spring Trip 2010 – Day 13

16 04 2010

Today I was determined to find the school used in the filming of Majisuka Gakuen so with a satellite photo printed out I hoofed it back to Hogikubo on a warm sunny day. As I’d been here before I had an inkling from looking at the satellite photo where the school was this time. As I wound my way up a long winding uphill path I finally came across the school. It was a shame I could not enter the grounds itself as the gates were locked and it looked like there was some workers doing something inside the building probably renovation. The school is not used anymore for teaching. A man who was passing asked me what I was doing taking photos of the school so I told him it was to do with AKB48 filming here. He seemed to understand and continued on his journey. If only I’d have arrived here when they were filming the dorama I might have had an outside chance of seeing the girls.

Mogusudai Elementary School aka Maji High

Once finished here I buggered off back to Shibuya to buy the new 2nd best album by AKB48. A large truck was driving by advertising the CD and there was a good sized billboard poster on a building too. As part of buying the CD there was a chance tomorrow and another 2 days to take part in a lottery to meet and shake hands with AKB48 in the store. This I would definitely do!

Hogikubo taken from a path near Maji High

During the evening I joined my best friend and her friend in Kichijoji to see a unique concert by 3 talented musicians in a small intimate bar. The 3 guys (one on piano, the other on violin and the final one on guitar) were sensational and it was very enjoyable to listen to them. Being the only gaijin there I was spotted immediately so for a lot of the concert I was the center of attention by the guys who were asking me questions such as what’s your favorite movie and what’s my favorite Ghibli movie? They wanted to improve a little bit of their limited English. The 40 strong audience were contantly looking at me as I interacted with the trio. It was great fun and I don’t think my best friend and her friend would have had no attention whatsoever if I wasn’t there with them. After the concert ended, the guys mingled with the audience and of course they were delighted to see a gaijin face there. They asked when I would be coming back next to see them. I told them depending on whether my best friend marries I could be back in October. When my best friend commented that I was looking for a Japanese wife the trio’s female manager/agent suddenly perked up and shouted “ME! ME!” and blowed some kisses for me which was funny. She also wants me to come back and visit in October which of course I will as tonight was fantastic.

Afterwards we went to a standing room only bar to have a few drinks and grab something to eat. I caught the train at 12.15am and landed back in my hotel at 12.50am. Tomorrow was my final day and I didn’t really want to go home.

A Japanese Winter warmer - Nikuman (pork, onion inside a bun)

Japan Spring Trip 2010 – Day 11 and 12

15 04 2010

DAY 11

Today was Hanami Day but before I could join in with the festivities I went to Harajuku as it was a Sunday. It was packed to the rafters there. The era of the cosplayers, gothic lolitas and other tribes mingling on Harajuku Bridge that I had seen when I first came here in 2006 definitely seems to be over now. There was nobody on the bridge except for tourists. I had to pay a visit to the now empty Hello!Project shop. It’s strange not seeing it there anymore. I didn’t enjoy fighting through the crowds on Takeshita Dori so after a brief visit to Kiddy Land on Omotesando I left for Yoyogi’s Book-Off and then to Ueno Park to see the sakura there. It was amazing and there was so many people around with hanami parties all around the trees.

Ueno Park

At 12.15pm I headed off for my own hanami party in the park at Nishi-Kokubunji. Met up with my best friend, her boyfriend who I was meeting for the 1st time and her friend. We went over to the conbini to pick up some food and booze before going to the park. I even tried my first taiyaki (fish shaped snack with red bean paste inside) which was delicious. The park wasn’t exactly packed but there was many families there and I suppose the cold weather today didn’t help things. My best friend had bought a badminton set for us to have fun with which we did. After a couple of hours at the park we retired to my best friend’s place with a bottle of champagne and wine. Both girls cooked myself and my best friend’s boyfriend a lovely meal. We talked for a couple of hours until I left my best friend to be with her boyfriend and went with her friend for a bout of karaoke which was great fun before coming back to Shinjuku by midnight. It had been a really good day and I had enjoyed my very first hanami. I want to do it again someday.

Hanami Party

One of my favorite drinks on the trip - vodka Cola Shock

DAY 12

A thoroughly miserable day – raining on and off for most of the day. Went to Akiba to trawl through the shops there and bought 2 t-shirts (one K-On and the other was Strike Witches). Also visited the Tokyo Anime Museum at the UDX Center. A small but interesting museum. The special exhibition was on the master thief Lupin III and all the stuff he’s been in including the new TV special that aired in February.

The urge to visit Nakano came over me again so off I went on my 3rd trip to Trio 2. Bought a couple of items there.

In the evening after popping over to Shibuya I went back to Nishi Kokubunji to have a bit of a chinwag and drink some alcohol with my best friend. A good deep conversation which I always enjoy with her. It doesn’t matter if it’s just messing about or having a lively debate about something I’m guaranteed to have a great time with her – I guess that’s why she’s my best friend.

Landed back in Shinjuku at 12.45am – a little bit worse for wear. The Chu-Hi and Cola Shock cans are lethal to drink and I found that cans have much higher alcohol content than what I’m used to in the UK!

Japan Spring Trip 2010 – Day 9 and 10

13 04 2010


It was off to Asakusa today to see the construction of the new Tokyo Sky Tree building at Nariharibashi on the Toei Asakusa line. Already last week it had surpassed the height of Tokyo Tower by a couple of  metres (338m) to become the highest structure in Japan. Such a pity it was raining hard this morning but the building looks so impressive. I’m really looking forward to going up the building once it opens to the public in Spring 2012.

Tokyo Sky Tree

It wasn’t really a day to do anything outside due to the crap weather so took off to Yoyogi’s Book-Off where I bought Zard’s Golden Best 15th Anniversary album. After trawling through the shop I went on my 3rd visit to Trio2 in Nakano where I got a couple of Sumire Sato/Tomochin photos plus 2 AKB48 DVD’s (Team K 3rd and 4th stage) and SKE48’s Team S 2nd stage DVD.

Fuji TV HQ steps, Odaiba

In the evening I went down to Odaiba to get my night shots. The rain had finally cleared but it still fairly cloudy.

DAY 10

A bit of a bust day for me as I was off to Mogusudai to try and find the school used by AKB48 in their dorama Majisuka Gakuen. The journey to Hogikubo on the Keio Line via the Tama Monorail was straight forward but trying to find the school was quite difficult. It didn’t help that the Google Earth map I had printed out had been forgotten at the hotel. In the end I said “sod this” and buggered off back to Shinjuku. The train became a bit of a crush as the stops came closer to Shinjuku and with more people coming onboard. I would come back again to Hogikubo before the trip was over with the map and find it.

I tried an interesting new drink today – Suntory’s Chocolate Sparkling Water. It tasted exactly as if you were eating a bar of chocolate expect this was a drink instead.

During another rain filled evening I ventured to Ueno’s Yotsimuya shop to see if there was anything interesting to buy there. Apart from a SAW movie keyring I didn’t buy anything.

Japan Spring Trip 2010 – Day 8

12 04 2010

A packed day began with a trip on the Oedo Line subway from Tochomae to Ryogoku to visit the Kanto Earthquake Memorial Museum dedicated to the victims that perished in the 1923 disaster. Exhibits there include items recovered after the quake and pictures showing the huge devastation that occurred. Interesting place and it’s free to enter too.

I was supposed to visit the Fukugawa Edo museum but it’s closed until July so I headed to Kiyosumi Gardens to get some Japanese study time with a couple of books I’d taken with me on my holiday. It was so peaceful here and a newly married couple were taking their photos there.

Kiyosumi Gardens

Then it was onto a Majisuka Gakuen location hunt specifically where Takamina’s character dies. Having found some instructions from a forum on where to find the place it was fairly easy to locate. Maybe I should have placed some flowers at the spot where Minami dies!!! I think the homeless person there would have looked at me pretty strange if I’d done that!

The place where Minami dies in Majisuka Gakuen

My next place to visit today was in Roppongi Hills – the Mori Tower. I’ve been inside the observation platform in the tower before but not on the roof – The Sky Deck. Here you can have a 360 degree view of all of Tokyo outside. As it was such a nice day the views were fairly good apart from the smog. I also visited the art museum on the 54th floor which was cool.

Mori Tower Sky Deck

During the evening I was supposed to go to Odaiba for night time shots but screwed up. Why I went all the way to Shinagawa and not Shimbashi for the Yurikamome line I’ll never know but it was getting late and I couldn’t be bothered to go back to Shimbashi so I hung out in Shinjuku instead.

Shinjuku From The Sky Deck

Japan Spring Tour 2010 – Day 7

11 04 2010

No touristy things happening today as it was a shopping day for AKB48 stuff starting in their home area of Akiba. As I was nearing the Don Quixote building there was a big big line of fans for what I assume was something to do with a special AKB48 concert (I think CK on his blog explains better what the queue was all about). Bought the new Queen & Elizabeth single Love Wars (2 CD’s – Version A & C) and got a nice large poster with them too. I’d been looking for plastic wallets that can hold 9 idol pictures to store all the pictures I buy but all I could find was the ones for trading cards only. Very annoying for me.

Fans line up for something to do with AKB48

I went back to Shibuya afterwards to take more photos and shopping. Bought Koda Kumi’s Driving Hits 2 CD album.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso

In the evening I went down to Kachidoki on the Oedo line subway and to the Sumidagawa terrace on the banks of the Sumida River. It was peaceful and so beautiful by the river with the bridge all lit up and across the water the buildings including Tokyo Tower in the distance was shining away. Then I was off to Suidobashi and to take some night time shots around the Tokyo Dome.

Tomorrow I would be visiting a location used for Majisuka Gakuen.

Japan Spring Trip 2010 – Day 5 and 6

11 04 2010


Checked out of the Riverside Hotel at 10:30am and headed down to the river by the hotel for a stroll and a chance to clear my head from all of the alcohol of the previous night. I eventually headed into the centre of Kumamoto for a chance to check out the city centre. There was nothing really of significance here so I went to the bus terminal to go to the airport though I was a bit early going there as my flight wasn’t leaving until 3.50pm but seeing as I had no idea how long it would take me by bus to go there and there could be some delays with traffic I thought I’d get there early just in case.

In fact it took around 50 mins and there was no delays. I arrived at the airport at around 12.30pm. Typically I got a call from my best friend asking where I was so that we could hang out for a little while but seeing as I was at the airport I couldn’t go back. Besides I would see her again after she gets back to Tokyo tomorrow.

The flight left on time to reach Haneda Airport at 5:15pm. It’s just a shame that I landed right in the middle of rush hour as when I transferred over to the Yamanote line in Hamamatsucho the train was packed to the rafters. I didn’t really do anything special in the evening as I was so tired so just went to the local conbini, grabbed some food and crashed out early. It was extremely cold and blustery in Tokyo compared to the warm weather in Kumamoto. Later I would find out that the wind would injure several people in the city.


Today I headed to Ochanomizu to check out the Japan Football Museum which was built after the 2002 World Cup. I thought it was a very interesting place which charts the history of the J-League and the World Cup. A really good place to go if you’re a football fan. After finishing up here I had an urge again to go to Nakano so that’s what I did and bought more piccies from the Trio2 store and some unofficial photos from another store Utahime Dome. I didn’t really do anything much except look around the various shops in Nakano Broadway.

Ochanomizu Station with a Chuo Line train arriving

During the evening I went on my first visit on this trip to Shibuya to see what was happening there. There’s a lot of promotion for AKB48’s 2nd album going on in the HMV store and after buying SKE48’s album and JASMINE’s single This Is Not A Game I received a booklet saying something about a lottery which will happen if you buy the 2nd Best Album in the store. According to my best friend, there was a chance to meet and greet some of the members if you’re lucky in this lottery. This lottery I would definitely have to try but that was 1 week away.