Sunday, 17 June 2007

Tokyo

Okay, so I went to Tokyo and I came back and that was several weeks ago. Umm. I didn’t blog earlier because I was too busy watching Dr. Who, and then my computer died and I had to hook my little computer up to the internet and then I was busy. And lazy. Yeah. Well, anyway, I'm back.
Sumiko picked me up from my house at 5.40am the other Saturday ( the 2nd) and then we drove to the airport. The most direct road from here to the airport is an old, rarely used road from before the highway was made. It is very scenic, winding through the hills and following a part of the Omono river. The wild wisteria was blooming and so were some pink flowers which we couldn’t decide on the identity of. We had a nice decent flight and got to Haneda airport in Tokyo at about 8.30am. The weather was hot and sunny, like it was throughout our whole trip (the weather forecast had originally been for clouds and rain, so we were very lucky). We took the monorail into Tokyo and switched to the JR Yamanote line. We stopped to have breakfast in a café in Akihabara station before getting on another JR train and going to Asakusabashi. I wanted to go to Asakusabashi because there are a lot of bead shops there that sell very cheap stone beads. I bought my beads and then we travelled one stop down the line to Ryogoku to visit the Edo Tokyo Museum. It is a very good museum with many models of various sizes of things that could be found in Tokyo when it was called Edo before the Meiji Restoration at the beginning of the modern period. I won’t bore you with a list of the things I saw and learned, suffice it to say that I saw a lot, learned a lot and took many dark blurry pictures (photography is OK in that museum because everything is only reconstructions). I also got to see a Rakugo performance that was held at a stage inside the museum. Rakugo is a type of Japanese comedic act where someone sits on a cushion and tells amusing stories. It was the first time I had ever seen Rakugo so I don’t know if the performance I saw was a typical example. The guy spoke really fast, like a horse race commentator, and I was surprised to find that I could keep up with a lot of it.

We then caught the train out to Mitaka, and met Sumiko’s little sister who lives in Tokyo at the Ghibli bus stop. We went to the Ghibli museum together. Yay! We saw the short film ‘Mei to Konekobus’ (Mei and the Kittenbus) which is a continuation of the movie ‘Tonari no Totoro’ (My Neighbour Totoro). It was so cute! There were all sorts of Nekobusses and even a Nekotrain and a Nekospaceship. We ate lunch in the café located inside the museum, and then we went exploring. There are all sorts of things to be discovered in the museum; storyboards and cels, optical illusion models, random spiral staircases and picture galleries. No photography is allowed inside the building, but it is allowed in the roof garden.

I don’t want to say too much about what can be found inside the museum, because that is not the type of museum it is. It is a place of mystery and discovery. Either going and looking for yourself or, if you can’t go, wondering about what is in there is the best way to treat it.

We went to Shinjuku and checked into our hotel. The Washington hotel is a funny curvy shape and our rooms were tucked into this sine curve like part. Sumiko’s room was on the outer part of the curve and mine was on the inner, so my room was considerably smaller than hers even though we paid the same price. Whatever. My room was cute, and that’s more important than size. I am so turning Japanese, to be thinking like that.
The three of us went out to dinner at Chanko Dining Waka, a famous restaurant that sells the Sumo food I was talking about. It was delicious. There was nabe (stew) and a variety of other little dishes such as chicken wings and avocado and salmon on crackers. Very, very good, and so it should be, a famous restaurant in Shinjuku.
On Sunday Sumiko wasn’t busy after all so we went to the National Museum in Ueno together. We took one look at the queue to see the special Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition that is on now, and decided not to go. First we went into the Asian building and looked at many artefacts from Persia, China, Egypt, Iran and Korea. It was very interesting. At one stage I was looking at a pottery vessel from Egypt and I thought it said ‘7th century BC’ but then I realised it said ‘7th Millennium BC’ and I was blown away. It was much better made than I thought something of that time period would be. At about 1 o’clock we had lunch at a restaurant within the museum grounds. I had roast chicken with mushroom gravy. We then went into the main building. We didn’t have time to look at everything so we only went to see a few exhibits that we particularly wanted to see. We looked at the Beginning of Japanese Art, an exhibit that seemed to concentrate on Buddhist art; artefacts from Okinawa, Ukiyou-e prints, kimono, and Noh play robes and masks.
We then caught the subway to Asakusa. We were planning on riding the Himiko ferry but while we were in the queue waiting to get tickets, the tickets sold out. So sad. We met Sumiko’s sister again and had a look around Asakusa for a while. Then we caught a normal ferry to Hinode port and then rode the Yurikamome train over the Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba. We did a spot of shopping in Venus Fort (I bought some stuff at lush) and then we headed back to Shinjuku. We ate proper Korean Yakiniku where the meat gets wrapped in salad leaves with garlic before being eaten (so delicious) and then that was that for the day.
On Monday morning we checked out of the hotel and went to Hamamatsucho station (the station from which the monorail to Haneda airport leaves) and put our bags in coin lockers. Then we went our separate ways. Sumiko went to Kappabashi, a place that sells kitchenware. I went to Shibuya to visit the Apple Store. A very helpful Apple specialist answered all the questions I had. It was such a pleasure to get information from the source. I find that people who work in general electric stores or computer shops selling lots of different types of computers never know what they are talking about; they’re only sales people after all. But the specialist guy knew what he was talking about, and I heard everything I wanted to hear. I should also mention that I asked all the questions and heard all the answers in Japanese. The guy asked me if I preferred to speak in English or Japanese, I said both were OK, and he chose to use his native language. I had no problem, but maybe that is not all that big of an achievement since most computer terminology in Japanese is derived from English.
After going to the Apple Store I sort of stumbled into the Disney Store. Don’t quite know how that happened. I am now the proud owner of a Captain Jack Sparrow B5 notebook and a Little Mermaid plastic slip file. I still had quite a lot of time after I had finished in Shibuya so I hopped on the train to Harajuku and mooched around there, because there is nothing like mooching around in Harajuku to convince you that you are actually in Tokyo.
I went back to Hamamatsucho and met Sumiko and then we went to catch our airplane at Haneda. The wisteria and the other flowers were still blooming. We got back to Konoura at 7pm.
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