Posted by: phoebz | August 29, 2008

Relaxing in Hakone

I first read in books (ok I admitted, manga) that Hakone is known as a local tourism destination for citizens of Tokyo and surrounding area. When they want to go relaxing in onsen, Hakone is the place.

In LP, it is mentioned as a unique destination, because to reach Hakone from Tokyo, people have to use different methods of transportation, for example bus, switchback train, bus and even pirate ship!

Since I got some days left before my visitor visa expires, I decided to go to Hakone. It’s totally adventurous, I have no idea how to actually get there until I ripped the pages on ‘Hakone’ from my LP Japan.

Then the next day, I started quite early, I took the subway to Tokyo station, and then get the ticket for Shinkansen. We had to take the Kodama shinkansen in order to go to Odawara.

Luckily this time the train wasn’t very full (it was in the middle of the week), and I got a seat where there was an elderly man sitting alone. I smiled at him and suddenly involved in another “tarzan, sign-language” conversation. He was heading to Hakone as well, that’s what he said. He said he would play golf with his buddies from work, before he was retired (at least that what I caught).

He asked me if I was from Tokyo (hell yeah..haha), I said no, indoneshia kara desu. He said wow that’s far. I grinned. And then he said his friend was supposed to come since he already bought the shinkansen ticket for two of them, but now it’s 2 minutes before departure and the friend was nowhere in sight.

Right before the train departed, the friend showed and apologetically greeted his friend. The ojiisan introduced me to the friend, who carried a bento and two beers with him. He then sat between us, and I tried to busied myself with my book.

I bought some breakfast and finished it quickly. I also had some drink. It took about 30 minutes when train stopped briefly in Odawara St. I said good bye to the two ojiisans.

In the train station I asked again if I wanted to go to Hakone, which train I should take. The staff of the station (wearing Odakyu uniform), pointed me to go the small gauge, and the train would be at the first lane. There is only one train there (kind of old, looked like it has served many years) with seating arrangement alongside the walls of the train. Two tourists have occupied the nearest seats to the controller’s compartment, so I took the next seat.

Nearby also there are two women, one obaasan and her daughter. They sat next to me. We let the window open. I had to wear my jacket, because once the switchback train started, the wind was quite chilly.

The train went on the railway along the side of hills with greeneries and some tunnels. The air was sure different from Tokyo. I really enjoyed it. Then we would pass some small towns with small apatos. And a bridge where the river flew far down beneath.

I also found out what they meant with switchback train. Because, the train would switch, on some point (not necessarily a station), and the head of the train would become the tail, means we would go backwards… through some different railway, I supposed. I haven’t really got the idea.

We stopped at a station. I think the name was Gora. And then I tried to get the ticket to continue to Hakone. But seems like the other people got somekind of pass.

The two women, the daughter asked if I had the day pass, I answered no, I took shinkansen (because I wouldn’t want to waste the JR Pass). She said I should get ticket first for cablecar.

Inside ticket booth, the staff spoke English, but to cut the painful process short, I just said I wanted a one day pass. It costed me about 4,000 yen which was probably worth the hassle of asking every time, while I could just flip the pass and the staff will let me get away.

Surprisingly enough (and very uncomfortably) the two ladies were still standing near the cable car waiting for me. Oh, how nice of them. I said to them it’s ok not to wait, but somehow me traveling alone has brought up the pity in them. Am I really that pathetic? He he.. I felt fine so far.

THe two women said “Ikimasho!” and I followed them, since they were so kind and waited for me (and the cable car hasn’t departed anyway), so we went together. They let me sit in front (because I think they have been here quite many times), so I could enjoy the view. I felt somehow really uneasy with the kindness of the women.

The cable car was not scary at all, it felt very safe and we enjoyed the view. I asked the women if I could see Fuji-san from the cable car. Then they said no way. But half way towards the endpoint, the daughter shouted and pointed out “Fuji-san!” which made me very excited as well. Fuji-san was covered by some clouds, but still it was pretty clear that I could see the shape. Yatta! Lucky, said the daughter, even happier than I was.

In the same cable-car, there were a really neat senior couple, wearing what I think would really resemble a Japanese couple, so eventhough you meet them in New York, in Sydney or in Paris, you would definitely know they were Japanese. The couple involved in a conversation with the mother and daughter, and they obviously talked about me (but I don’t understand what about me).

THen we got off at the station of the cable car. The two women were going to the Owakudani for the volcanic cauldron landscape full of bubbling mud and smelly steam of sulphur. I don’t know if that’s for somekind of health treatment or just sightseeing. I saw from above (from the cable car), the landscape wasn’t too exciting, and I didn’t even add the sulphur smell.

So I continued the journey with Hakone Ropeway to Togendai, the terminus where we could ride boats in the lake. In the ropeway, I was adopted by another “host family” : the senior couple who was with us in the cable car.

The ropeway was just the same with cable car ( I wonder why they call it by different name – Funicular). When we queued for the funicular, The obaasan and ojiisan asked that I should be with them together, eventhough there was still space in the funicular cabin before us. I felt really uneasy feeling again that people were so nice to me.

We went into one cabin together with three tourists, from the way they talked, from Singapore. The couple hardly speak English, as a matter of fact, the obaasan didn’t say anything and only smile. But the ojiisan was very friendly, he asked many things. They gave me a souvenir they got from Odakyu, a mobile phone hanging accessory with Stitch on it (Odakyu has adopted Lilo & Stitch as official character for Hakone – I think).

We arrived in Togendai,  port for ships. Obaasan and I went to bathroom, while Ojiisan stood guard in front of the queuing line, because the entrance hasn’t opened yet. After that, we sneaked in front of the line and I saw the ships. Haha.. it was so strangely fun : they decorated the ships so resembled pirate ships. ANd all of them were all pirate ships. I tried to allocate the black flag with skull and bones, but fortunately they didn’t put it up (ha ha)

Ojiisan hurriedly gestured us to go to the second floor compartment. I guess the view was better from there. We sat together, then ojiisan took off his hat and again gestured me to  follow him. He went to the deck, and we saw the tourists were all there. Not only local tourists, but from Taiwan, and other countries. Seems like Hakone is already an international tourist destination.

Ojiisan pointed out the point of interests on the side of the lake, the Sekisho, which I read in LP that it was originally established as a base for training of Japanese army/police in the past. I didn’t realize it at first, but from the tone of Ojiisan, seemed like it was some scary place (eh? did I get it wrong? haha). And then he pointed at a red torii gate, Hakone Jinja. I told him, I wanted to go there. Then he said something that I don’t understand (well, he said many things that I didn’t understand).

We went back to the compartment. Obaasan was very calmly still seated in the original spot. We sat and they gave me a paper bag of round things (which I concluded to be some sort of fruit, the uniqueness of Hakone), and a banana that I instantly ate.

In front of us there was a group of tourists from Taiwan. They asked us to take picture of them, and then the guide also took picture of us in return. He asked if I was with them, but ojiisan explained we just met there. He asked in English to me where I was from. Indoneshia? And he said they were from Taiwan.

When the ship was closing to one port, Ojiisan in an alerted voice told me to get off (or something). I was kinda confused, I said “we should get off?” then he said “You!” in English very clearly. Oh, I finally got what he tried to tell me about Hakone Jinja. That they weren’t going there. THey’re going to the other port, Moto Hakone.

So I said goodbye. Luckily before I got the address and the name of Ojiisan. His name is Hidao Kobayashi, from Chiba.

Posted by: phoebz | August 23, 2008

Tsugi wa : Shibuya!

As some of you might’ve known (belaga terkenal aja), I am an avid manga reader. More than I do novels. More than I watch movies / TV. One of the mangas that I repeatedly read, Gals, by Mihona Fujii, tells story about girls gang who hangs out constantly in Shibuya. Then, everytime I read the adventures of Kotobuki Ran and her friends in the manga, I always wondered, what is this place really like ? Is it as hip as it was depicted? Does everyone really wear trendy clothes like I seein Fruits magazine ?

Of course Shibuya is one of the destinations when I know I’m going to spend my time in Tokyo. Along with some other places such as Harajuku, Shinjuku, Asakusa temple, Odaiba, Tokyo tower etc, which only few I could manage to visit.

The unbelievable things are that in Shibuya intersections, there are crosswalking where people can go to all directions, and not bump into each other. I failed to document that, though.

Shibuya also is heaven for shoppers. I saw bargain shop such as 100 yen stores with variety of goods from toothbrush to bag. One afternoon, after roaming around the station and activate my JR pass, I asked the friendly JR staff how to get to 109 (Ichi Maru Kyu). She put on an understanding and sort of funny smile but politely directed me to the building.

I had a very high expectation, therefore I’m quite suprised to find out that 109 is a small building with escalators connecting levels of fashion outlets, much like “Strawberry” or “Naughty” in Bandung. On ground level, there was a humungus collection of Hello Kitty merchandise (not my kind of thing), even they have a ko-gal Hello Kitty doll (weirdly cute).

I climbed the escalator and stopped by some outlets to check out the trendy gladiator shoes (by the time I was in Japan, the trend hasn’t reach INdonesia, but it’s now everywhere). Meant to buy a pair, but all the small size have all sold out.

Posted by: phoebz | July 23, 2008

Shinkansen to Kyoto, Gold Pavillion

Sakura Hotel Jimbocho, Tokyo, 28 June 2008

Morning breakfast in the hotel lobby couldn’t have been categorized as 5 stars hotel material, but boy, didn’t it taste great. After starvation of last night, the serve-yourself toast with butter and jam with list of choices of teabags and coffee is heaven.

Made myself toasts and sweet sakura tea. After the quick (very hungrily) breakfast, I still had time to go up to my room and do some last packing and lay down (still kind of sleepy) for half an hour before going down and checked out at the front desk.

From the quite annoying receptionist ( I forgive him thanks to the satisfying breakfast), I found out to go to Tokyo-eki, I need to go to Jimbocho-eki and take the Hanzomon Line to Otemachi-eki, then trasnfer to Marutomachi (the red circle) Line until Tokyo-eki. There I will meet my kind new friend Niswar who will be my guide to Kyoto and Nara.

The shinkansen leaves at 9:33. We take Hikari bullet train. Eventhough I already have my JR Pass handy in my hand, I still have to get the ticket to reserve the seats – but no fee required. Unfortunately we were there in the very last minute, so the only train car available is the smoking one. Yah, fine lah, second hand smoker for 3 hours.

Shinkansen board

Shinkansen board

We went to the special platform for shinkansen and waited only around 10 mins. Every 10 mins shinkansen arrived (and departed) in very punctual timing. The train inspector came and always check if the doors were all closed, and make sure that everything is in order. For an organized freak, Japan must be heaven!

Our train came, and we hopped to our car in the very end, and then off to Kyoto!

The stations on the way to Kyoto included Yokohama, Nagoya and some other cities that I’d want to visit (but have no time to). The train itself is very steady and not making any noise. We can stand as it runs in around 130 km/hour speed. That’s bleeping fast!

Shinkansen platform

Shinkansen platform

Take two! Action!

Take two! Action!

I was hoping to be able to spot Fuji-san from shinkansen (so they said) but not today, since the weather lately had been cloudy. So we just enjoy the train. A couple of times there was a girl selling drinks and onigiri or snacks in a trolley. I bought ringo juice, more expensive than in combini.

The shinkansen, and most of JR trains, I like, because they use English also for announcement if closing to each station. Like Yamanote, the most useful line that circling around Tokyo, the announcements are bilingual, using a quite hip American accent girl voice, announcing related station. I think it created quite a different atmosphere altogether.

Kyoto Tower

Kyoto Tower

We arrived in Kyoto at 13:30 or so. Quite hungry. Clouds hang low when we went out of Kyoto-eki. Right outside, there was Kyoto Tower (I thought it resembled the Seattle Needle tower, somehow looked like it came from Jetson’s cartoon – not too impressive, I’m afraid). We stopped by at the closest combini and bought another onigiri (believe it or not, I have survived so far by living on onigiri, bottled tea and sandwich only). I spotted even the convenient store in Kyoto carried small things souvenir-like, for example key chain or handphone strap. Wow.. Kyoto is so artsy (or maybe it’s just because the combini is near the station).

The Hostel

Turned out that the hostel that I booked was quite some blocks away from Kyoto-eki. Again people, remember advice no #1 : Don’t believe the map the hotel give you on their website!! We walked, luckily I have my friend that can help me (pak Niswar I owe you big time).  And then we finally found hostel, strangely noone was there. It was smaller than I thought, and quite scary.

Then I just realized I got a notification email from the hostel, telling me that in case of the hostel was full, they could give me a co-ed room. Uh-oh. Suddenly, cheap hostel was not such a good idea. My friend advise me to cancel and quickly reserve another hotel, preferably closer to Kyoto-eki. I browsed in a rush from my faithful z610i, but then most of the hotels are all fully booked (the day being Saturday, and summer too, so obviously visitors were already reserved the hotels).

Good thing I did a research before coming to Japan, remembering something about a hotel not so close to Kyoto-eki area, but near the Imperial Palace (Kyoto used to be the capital of Japan). So I Googled it, got the phone # and called… there was a room!

So we didn’t tell the guy, in fact we let the luggages there (because not check in time yet). We went to Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavillion), the so-called must-see destination no. 1 in Kyoto.

Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺 Golden Pavilion Temple) is the informal name of Rokuon-ji (鹿苑寺, Deer Garden Temple) in Kyoto, Japan. It was originally built in 1397 to serve as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, as part of his estate then known as Kitayama.[1] It was his son who converted the building into a Zen temple of the Rinzai school. The temple was burned down twice during the Ōnin War.

The Golden Pavilion, or Kinkaku, is a three-story building on the grounds of the temple. The top two stories of the pavilion are covered with pure gold leaf. The pavilion functions as a shariden, housing relics of the Buddha. The building is often linked or contrasted with Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion Temple, which is also located in Kyoto.

From Wikipedia Kinkaku-ji

It was quite packed in Kinkaku-ji. We met some ‘suspected’ students from Indonesia, it’s quite funny to hear Bahasa after so long not hearing it being used in public place. He he. It was raining a little, but didn’t stop the visitors from taking snaps at the beautiful  golden temple.\

Raining in Kinkaku-ji

Raining in Kinkaku-ji

Greeny..

Greeny..

Golden Temple

Golden Temple

the villa

the villa

another view of the temple

another view of the temple

After walking around the pond (with big koi fish swimming cheerfully), we followed the crowd  and went on the path and passed a tea house (where you can order tea too), and some souvenir shop that sells … amulet (jimat!) in tiny fabric bags, attached with a small tinkle bell. The sign in romaji said what the amulet is for, for example : traffic safety, health, success in study and many more. Tried to look for the amulet for love (ha ha i know) for my single friends, but there’s none. So I bought each from the pile for the fun of it.

We then walked out to the exit. The garden itself is also quite amazing, but being raining a little and the thought of having to get to the hotel (plus kind of tired) made us went quick. Stopped by at the souvenir shop, and bought yukata set (3,500 yen for a flowery yukata with obi and geta – I think it was a bargain).

And then went by bus again to the hostel. I canceled the booking after got reservation at the hotel near Imperial Palace, but in order not to make the manager angry, I said I’d pay the price of one night. Nicely enough, the guy (sticker on his chest said ‘Hide’) said he would call his boss and ask if I could get a refund. Arigatou, Hide-san..

I did get half price refund. So I went to the hotel by taxi, dropping my friend to the station on the way. The hotel was indeed quite far from the station, but that’s okay. I got my peace…

Hotel across Imperial Palace

Hotel across Imperial Palace

Unintended I fell asleep. OMG! Two hours later I woke up feeling hungry, ate the sandwich I got from the afternoon, and then watched some TV. The programme in NHK, oddly enough was about several gaijins who commented on what’s cool in Japan, and they mentioned the pre-paid card (what is it called?) for train, and the shinkansen being two of the things cool. It’s so kewl… I just rode a shinkansen! (Kampungan mode on).

Then watched some weird teenage dorama about shogi. It’s like watching comic books or anime but it’s live action, complete with its exaggaration, including some flaming shogi chess.

After looking at my oleh2 in satisfaction (feeling that I have accomplished some of the tasks from this trip:) ) I forced myself to sleep again. Tomorrow’s gonna be a long day, to Gion and then Nara.

Outside, rain was still pouring down on the garden of Imperial Palace of Kyoto

Posted by: phoebz | July 20, 2008

Heian-jingu, National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto

(still 29 June 2008)

I still walked for another hour, I think, the thoughts were quite blurry when I walked out of the park (Maruyama-koen), and found traditional houses, ochaya (tea houses), and several little shops. Unlike Tokyo where houses and building were all westernized/modernized, this neigborhood of Higashiyama still maintained its roots.
Here and there I found statue of tanuki in front of houses (I wonder what message would this creature bring to welcome the guests?)

Another temple in the rain

Another temple in the rain

I walked again in the hilly areas with narrow roads, almost no cars, and less people on sidewalks. As I did several times, I asked again with one lady who seemed to be friendly, which way I should go if I wanted to go to Heian-jingu (already started to think, did it really worth to go to Heian-jingu? with wet clothes and backpacks and souvenirs that began to weigh like 100 kilograms?)

They kept telling me to look for the big torii (shrine), which I would obviously see right away (and how did I get the power to translate that far? This time I do think God works in mysterious ways). But still no red torii for me to see.

there it was!!

I got out of the hilly traditional neighborhood and appeared on the urban and more modern neighborhood, with traffic lights on road intersections and all. And there in the faraway I saw a tiny (but huge, in real) red torii. Oh yay!!

So I walked towards the torii. Along the way, some more shops stalled my way. The one that I stopped quite for some time carried a classy collections of sport shoes decorated with sakura patterns. Some tshirts with original designs, canvas bags, printed with the head of a girl with flowers from 3D kimono scraps, and so many cute dolls, hair berrets in floral patterns, and many many souvenirs. I tought I’m gonna buy the whole store! (again, couldn’t get a hold of myself… he he)

The girl that attended the store was really cheerful and friendly. When I forgot my umbrella in the store (which forced me to go back, when it suddenly pouring again when I almost reached the torii), then I asked her if she would want to keep my heavy backpack and souvenir there while I went to Heian-jingu and the museum of modern art (conveniently on the way). She agreed, and would keep all my things in the staff room, asking me how long I’d be. I said one hour (-ish).

I wonder why I was so trusting with her, but the way she attended me and the other customers of the shop somehow told me she was a good person (and in Japan, people don’t steal, well at least AFAIK). So I let her keep my backpack containing my brand new USD 2,000 laptop and others. Whatever.. the backpack almost caused me permanent neck pain.

the giant torii

the giant torii

across museum of modern art

across museum of modern art

on bridge towards shrine

on bridge towards shrine

on bridge

on bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

I walked, a lot lighter with only my sling bag containing camera, wallet, passport and a bottle of water. I took the time of having lunch while waiting for the rain to quiet down before, when I forgot to bring my umbrella in the store. And now I am happily skipping to the National Museum of Modern Art.

 

the torii still looks huge

the torii still looks huge

view from 2nd floor museum

view from 2nd floor museum

Could be my lucky day (still think that after the rainy walks in Maruyama-koen :P) , there was a Renoir special exhibition with collection from Le Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France. Wuoh… I went to the ticket booth and bought both regular collection and the special exhibition. 

 

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (February 25, 1841–December 3, 1919) was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As a celebrator of beauty, and especially feminine sensuality, it has been said that “Renoir is the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to Watteau”.

From Wikipedia Renoir

There were quite a line to this exhibition. I guess rain don’t stop the art spectators of Kyoto from attending this special exhibition. I don’t know that much about Renoir, only that he is an impressionist artist, in the same era as Monet. But I recognize some of the works, from walking through the halls where the paintings were hanging. 

The exhibition was in 4th floor, and we directed to the elevator. In the entrance of the exhibition hall, they provide audio cassette with narration of the artworks displayed. Too bad no English. Moreover, then I am stuck with French titles and kanji translation, so might as well just enjoy it:)

The Japanese people were very orderly. I never see anyone cut any line since the first time I’m arrived. And now, in the packed hall of museum, noone produced any noises, and no pushing or cutting into each other’s line like we often experience in one particular country in south-east Asia (that I dearly miss right now).

The exhibition includes several famous works :

The Swing (La Balançoire), 1876, oil on canvas, Musée d'Orsay, ParisDance at Le Moulin de la Galette (Le Bal au Moulin de la Galette), 1876, Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (Le Bal au Moulin de la Galette), 1876, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and 

The Swing (La Balançoire), 1876, oil on canvas 
From Wikipedia

After finishing Renoir, and caught in a moment without canceling the thought of buying a Renoir book in Japanese, I took the stairs to the second floor of the regular collection. Seeing one Picasso (forgot the title), and some of the famous works, Japanese artist’s work like the room-separation painted in a pool of koi fish (sorry no photography permitted).

There were also some 3D works like pottery and really awesome kimono (an emperor’s ? he he). Somehow I felt uneasy of leaving my backpack with a stranger, then I cut the visit short, and head to the first floor where they have all the souvenirs of the museum. Bought several postcards of Renoir as a memento that I was here, and some mini-clear folders to keep the bills and receipts tidy.

Then I go on towards Heian Jingu, the destination that so hard to reach (seems like). I’ll give you some pictures of the Shinto temple :

the gate to the temple

the temple

the temple

in the rain

in the rain

liat miko nya inget Kikyou di Inuyasha!

liat miko nya inget Kikyou di Inuyasha!

 

 

 

 

 

Another walk towards the red Torii and then went to the shop. My bag was safely sound, and the girl greeted me, making me felt slightly guilty for having bad thoughts about her. I asked her for the last time (since it’s difficult to find a person who can speak english), how to catch a bus to Kyoto-eki. And she told me, it was just right across the street. 

I waited for a while, not long the bus came (no getting lost this time – I’m too tired anyway), and then got there (I don’t know how I managed with the already full backpack – some of the souvenirs I moved there to avoid the rain) and still one plastic bag of another group of souvenirs.

After reaching Kyoto station, I had to take the subway to the station nearby the hotel, which is Marutamachi-bashi. Now, the challenge is how to get to the right subway platform. In the basement there was a department store, and everywhere I turned there were only shops, and no signs to subway. Hopeless, and the backpack is killing my neck once again, asking around, finally I got to the subway. Phew…

My friend already text-messaged me since I was still at Heian-jingu, so that meant that I was expected. I got into the subway, got off at Marutamachi-bashi, but wrong exit. (hehe, not remembering the experience of Takebashi…. duhhh) and then ask a really old lady where is the Gosho (imperial palace),  because I just know the hotel is right across the imperial palace park. She pointed out the place. 

I got a bit disoriented, and then found the kaban that I went to first thing in the morning before getting to the bus stop. Ah there must be the hotel. 

Finally I arrived at the hotel, dashed to the toilet to freshen up (if there is any difference that can be made, my clothes was dry, rained on, and dry again), claimed my luggage, and dragged the luggage to front porch of the hotel.

There I finished one carton of Glico strawberry milk (starving), and one onigiri. Then rearrange the souvenirs into my backpack and one travelling back and one huge plastic bag. Then I wonder still now, how I managed with all these stuff to Marutomachi-bashi subway station and then back to Kyoto-eki. 

I had a plan. I will drop the things at Kyoto-eki, in coin locker, and then I will go to Nara only with necessary stuff. Seemed that what I left behind at Tokyo still not enough, or I guess it was just my shopping mood that resulted into many additional baggage. But finally I got a coin locker, put 400 yen there and put most of my things there in one huge plastic bag.

Ah. Life is suddenly good again. Well, prolly not just yet! Gotta catch the train to Takanohara (station in Nara where my friend will pick me up). Uh oh. Gotta run.

Posted by: phoebz | July 20, 2008

How to smile like a geisha, Gion, Kyoto

29 June 2008

Good morning, Kyoto!

Weather isn’t the perfect for my tight schedule of visiting Gion, make walking tour through the Higashiyama trail as recommended by LP and then catch the train to Nara as promised as my hotel was booked at NAIST for tonight.

So I packed up all my things (which constantly grow into bigger pile in a much fatter travelling bag). I checked out and left my luggages in the front desk, which gave me a token to get it back. The receptionist guy was very helpful and offer about a one-day ticket for Kyoto bus (subway doesn’t cover as much as Tokyo), and I bought it since it’s only 500 yen. I only had yesterday’s experience riding the bus to Kinkaku-ji with my friend, it took sometime before really adjusting).

 

hotel that claims to be next to the Imperial Palace (Gosho)

hotel that claims to be next to the Imperial Palace (Gosho)

church on the same block as hotel

church on the same block as hotel

Imperial Palace Park gate

Imperial Palace Park gate

 

 

From there I walk to the nearest bus station, conveniently passing a kaban (police station), and then I waited for sometime, first kinda forgot which number of the bus I should take (take notes!) then after the bus passed, I quickly remembered, it was that bus ! Heh.  Another wait then I took another bus and then it was wrong, so I dropped out on the next stop, and run back to the first bus stop because the right bus was appearing. Aduh, imagine the hectic plus it was raining (small, but still, an umbrella can add up into the chaos).

I got a seat next to an elderly lady, who, of course, can’t speak English. But having been in Japan for several days now, I now understand it’s better ask or you’d be left deserted in some unknown territory. So I asked her. She blurted out some explanations, and when my stop was nearing, i assumed she told me ask to the kaban for the maiko place (Yumekoubou), and pat me in the hand (blurted out some fast Japanese) and hurry me to the bus door. Arigatou obaasan!

Thanks to the lady, I arrived in Gion district.

 

Gion (祇園) is a district of KyotoJapan, originally developed in the Middle Ages, in front of Yasaka Shrine. The district was built to accommodate the needs of travelers and visitors to the shrine. It eventually evolved to become one of the most exclusive and well-known geisha districts in all of Japan.

The geisha in the Gion district do not refer to themselves as geisha; instead, Gion geisha use the local term geiko. While the term geisha means “artist”, the more direct term geiko means specifically “a woman of art.”

 

a shrine I passed on Shijō-dori

a shrine I passed on Shijō-dori

For sure I dropped of in the kaban (asking directions have never been an issue with me, I’d rather talk to some strangers than die not knowing where I am). The good thing about the policemen here are, they are very polite, they are nice even to strangers (i.e. don’t run away) and they speak OK English (at least the young officers do). 

 

So I got to the maiko makeover safely. It was in the 4th floor of an business building. I saw some shop selling traditional food (swear don’t know what they are!) on the way. But then I went to get in because my appointment time is almost on. The makeover place was rather small, with one studio, one waiting room, one rather big preparation room, where there are lockers to put your clothes when you are stripped into an undergarment for kimono, and three sets of make up chairs equipped with mirrors, and a wardrobe full of colorful kimonos.

So I got into the white undergarment and wear the tabi sock (sock with thumb separated from the rest of the toes he he) and sit on the chair. The amazing thing is, none of this people speak good English, so it’s crazy. I guess the make up artist memorize some of the lines like “This is  foundation”, “Now lipstick..” and some similar steps needed to be done to the customer. But, other than that, zip. However she is very nice and I was sort of on the state of “I’m gonna do it whatever it takes”.

Metamorphose 

 

 

 

 

                                                          HENSHIN !!!

pose pasrah menanti tamu

pose pasrah menanti tamu

smile of a geiko

smile of a geiko

The whole process of making over took about 1 hour, and the photography session is probably 20 minutes. Then, the whole make up was torn down in about 10 mins. He he. And all of the sudden I was 10,000 yen poorer.

Can’t say that I’m totally satisfied with the whole thing ( especially because they canceled the photograph session outside in the streets of Gion because of the constant rain). I guess I just have to come back (why do I keep saying this ?)

After that, my journey was a bit at ease. The rain still went on, but I got my 1,000 yen umbrella (from Fujisawa), and I got my shopping mood on. Kyoto turned out to be a lot more artsy craftsy than Tokyo (or was I looking in all the wrong places?), but true, I got most of my souvenirs from yesterday’s trip to Kinkaku-ji. Last night I got some counting of the souvenirs that we have to bring (in Indonesia we have the tradition to bring back something from the place that you visit). So I was visit the little shops along the street of Shijō-dori, had a lot of fun, and bought some souvenirs.

They aren’t that expensive (I managed to stop converting from Yen to Rupiah to save myself from heart attack), and they are all so full of arts… traditional sakura, rabbits, or dragon flies print fabrics was made into purses, lady wallets, cellphone straps and scarf. I almost bought everything.

There was one really lovely store called Chiri-men, highly recommended. The prices weren’t all that cheap (even in Japanese standard), but they have i-will-kill-to-have cute earrings made of kimono fabrics, and hina dolls, and i-wonder-why-there-are-people-who-are-dilligent-enough-to-make tiny fabric vegetables and mini woven basket, and sushi and tiny sized bento for the sushi. I almost fainted! 

Managed to buy only 4 vegetables (they’re to kawaii not to have), several pairs of earrings for my family and myself (spent so much today!). And run away…

 

Heavenly Macha Ice Cream

Heavenly Macha Ice Cream

Still on the same Shijō-dori, there was a store that sold everything green tea. Hubby is a big fan of greentea, in fact the only thing he wanted from my trip as oleh-oleh was only this. So I went there, there were so many kinds of tea to pick from (but no english speaking waiter to help me), so i picked one can of green tea and one sakura tea (because it sounds so sweet), and two packs of green-tea astor-like biscuits which there were testers, so I could taste it (and it tasted great..)

Before I went out the shop, couldn’t help not to pick one cone of this smooth macha ice cream with green-tea biscuit. Taste was not sweet, it was really authentic green tea (yeah as if i know), unlike the macha milkshake I used to have in Japaneser resto back in Bandung.

After that I went to a couple of shop that sells maiko and geisha accessories, wow really expensive. The hair accessories like pin on the hair can cost aout 15,000 yen. OMG! Then I bought a bag of kimono scraps for my craft project (if I ever got a chance), a summer fan decorated in red flowers, and a tabi (not knowing that for the yukata that I bought at Kinkaku-ji, we don’t need to wear socks).

I also went to a kimono shop, that the owner was really nice, and she helped picked out one male yukata (on sale), for hubby, navy color with minimalist pattern. 1,500 yen from 3,500 yen was quite a bargain! So I got it, and she showed me how to tie an obi.

 

The red gate to Maruyama Koen

The red gate to Maruyama Koen

From there, while rain is still pouring, I got myself a lunch at Lawson, a very familiar combini (convenience store), and ran in the rain towards the red gate. The lady in the photo shop right across this gate said that to go to Heian Jingu (my next destination), I would have to go through Maruyama-koen (park). Since I was reading this walking trail of Southern Higashiyama, I chose to walk (though I remembered in vain when the rain became really hard, that the lady actually asked if I would want to take the bus or walk).

Anyway, I am most proud of my physical strength😀 that day, carrying my backpack, my little sling purse, and a huge bag filled with souvenir, a result of a little uncontrollable shopping earlier.

Because it was raining, and my hands were full with things, it’s very difficult to snap a decent photo. Some of the photos I took either not including me, show a silvery blurry image of rain, or shaky.

 

anyone could translate this?

anyone could translate this?

 

Maruyama-koen duck, at least one of us is enjoying the rain!

Maruyama-koen duck, at least one of us is enjoying the rain!

Yasaka-jinja

Yasaka-jinja

I still walked and walked… would I ever find Heian-jingu?? The souvenir bag was already dangerously soaked wet, and so were the gray pants that I was wearing … (to be continued)

The morning was filled with anxiety, because I had to remember how to get back to Shibuya station, and then figure out how to go to Takebashi by subway. Seems easy for Tokyoites, but for myself, this is something new.

Tokyo Train Map

Tokyo Train Map

So you gotta know what station you should go to, which line is that, and where to transfer if there is no direct line going to that station from your starting point. 
Then you have to figure out how much you have to pay for each line. Because you buy ticket according to your destination and each lines you have to pay separately (or you would have to do fare adjustments, which means you have to add into some amount if you didn’t buy the right ticket).

I had to go from Shibuya Station by the Hanzomon line and stop at Kudanshita station, then take the JR Chuo line to Takebashi station. The office for our meeting (the last minute meeting that my boss suggested – on my leave day) is just next to the station.

I have to say that I’m proud of myself not to get too panic and finally I arrived at Takebashi (about 45 mins too early, because I had to have spare time just in case the worst happened, like I got lost or something!) 

There I was and I have no idea which building I had to go (There were maps like in every block, but the building of the office that I was supposed to go wasn’t listed, so I am hopeless). So I just walked to the nearest building, asked to the security in front, which eventually called his friend who (Thank God!) speak English. And he said this is Meteorogical building, not the office that I was looking for. Then he directed me to the public phone (because I’m almost desperate), and then I called the office where I’m supposed to meet, and the person barely spoke English. But she was nice enough to told me that the building is on the different exit of the station.

So another tip from me, please read the signs and make sure which exit that your destination is located, because different exit from the same station would lead me to some other neighborhood.

Finally I went back to the station, took the other exit, and voila, read the signs (I was so nervous I mislooked the clearly written sign on the subway walkpath.

I arrived, hot and sweaty, without any suits (because I wore the only formal wear I brought I’ve already used yesterday for the event), wearing crocs, and of course, with my bagpack. The building is this formal one like a bank (because I’m meeting the bank for development cooperation), and the two girl receptionists at front (of course all nicely-dress with their perfect make-up) greeted me.

I was told to wait, and then I waited in the big lobby until some woman picked me up, introducing herself as the asisstant of the person that I was supposed to meet. Since I was very early (which I explained to the receptionist – doubt that they would understand me, but anyhow), she said his boss was still in the other buliding. So we went one block to another office of his, which located inside a mixture of mall and office. And I had my meeting and all. (of course all meeting details will not be included to maintain the entertainment value of this blog :)) )

The person was nice enough to print me a map of the neighborhood ( I guess he had heard about my little adventure around the Takebashi station), so he directed me to go from Takebashi and t hen take Mita LIne to Mita station, which I would attend the second day of the Summit meeting.

View of the imperial palace Tokyo

View of the imperial palace Tokyo

View of the Imperial Palace

View of the Imperial Palace

It was good that I had a meeting there at Takebashi, the place was just accross the Imperial Palace, but unfortunately when I asked if I could go to Imperial Palace, it’s only open on the weekends, so I just bought my lunch (starving after getting lost and all), and a new contact lenses solution (and a little juggling of words in the optical).

There was conveniently a post office in the mall, so I bought several postcards with the stamp already included. The lady staff was so nice, so I was able to pick good postcards for Zidane and hubby, my parents, Ruby (who was supposed to go with me to Japan), my cousins and nephew.

The nice office partner told me to walk to Jimbocho station, which located several blocks. It wasn’t bad, and I just had lunch:) and managing to go by myself to Takebashi so far gave me some confident (though got lost haha).

On the way to Jimbocho station, I passed a street where they sell used-books (read it on LP), and I stop by there just to write the postcards and dropped it on the nearby mailbox.

I took Mita line from Jimbocho-eki and arrived safely in Mita station. Then my next challenge was to get to the campus where the meeting was. Again, when I surfaced on the neighborhood, I was puzzled as there was no signs to go to this campus.

Though a little hesitate, I asked a nearby salaryman there, who probably went out for a smoke, where is this daigaku (university). He answer, “Wakaranai” so I thanked him and text-messaged my friend, who came and picked me up:)

Posted by: phoebz | July 18, 2008

Minato Mirai 21, 25 June 2008

Yokohama Street Sign

When Japan ended its self-isolation from the outside world, one of the first ports opened to the world was Yokohama. Now remains as one of the biggest ports (and the busiest cities) of Japan, Yokohama resembled a mixture of East meets West cultures.

The meeting in Fujisawa dragged until late in the afternoon. I wouldn’t bore you out with meeting details, to cut the story short, we dropped our bags (and laptops) to the hotel before heading to Yokohama’s tourist destination, Minato Mirai.

Minato Mirai 21 (みなとみらい21?), often shortened to Minato Mirai, is a large urban development in Yokohama, Japan.

The name, which means “Harbor Future 21,” was selected in a public competition. Construction of the area started in 1983. Built largely on reclaimed land, the area now features the Landmark Tower, Japan’s tallest skyscraper, the Queen’s Square shopping mall, the Pacifico convention center, Intercontinental Hotel, and moreThe area is a popular tourist spot together with nearby Yokohama Chinatown. Minato Mirai is one of the few places in the Tokyo-Yokohama area where the seashore is accessible, and not blocked by industry and harbour areas.

From Wikipedia Minato Mirai

Meeting must be tiring...

Meeting must be tiring...

The other side...

The other side...

Our hope to catch the sunset at the port was for sure wouldn’t be fullfilled. We caught the train to Yokohama as yesterday, a group of a few Indonesians, a FIlipino and a Malaysian. After Bani splitted in the station, we walked from Minato Mirai station to the port. Woah… I love the view of thousands of lights on the tall bulidings by the water. It’s so different from what I’ve seen so far. The weather was a bit cold of the bay’s strong wind, better pack up a sweater. Though it was summer, still I felt a bit chilly whenever there was no sun.

the lights reflection

the lights reflection

There were pathways and docks of wood and bridges that we walk on the side of water, from across the building of five starts hotel and meeting hall stood tall in glimmering lights from top to bottom. One of the atraction was also an amusement park, with its giant ferris wheel also decorated with lights and a roller coaster with screaming spectators.

The place itself was also a common dating place, given the view and the ocassional meeting spots. Suddenly the participants of the “tour” was busy with their own cellphones – calling home. Aaww:)

Laper banget

Laper banget

We had dinner in the mall, where I tasted one of the best meal in Japan so far, strangely it was Korean food. I never thought that our choice of having dinner first have a consequence of not being able to ride the ferris wheel. The wheel closed at 9 pm and we arrived there minutes too late. So we just went to the park down there and spent some time with the view there. I found Doraemon there! (a ride where kids can get inside Doraemon and have some screen in there). Hehe:)

Ferris wheel or dinner?

Ferris wheel or dinner?

Giant Doraemon!!

just sit and enjoy the view

just sit and enjoy the view

We spent sometime there before one of our friends joined us and we went back to Fujisawa using the same train.

Posted by: phoebz | July 16, 2008

Roppongi, 49 Academy Hill, Tokyo, 26 June 2008

Tokyo business district

Tokyo business district

Today I arrived in Tokyo. I was half asleep when the bus that drove us from Shonandai was flashing through the roads of outer Tokyo. Tall buildings and salarymen in suits greeted us, not only in boring black color, but also in grey, creme and stripes, combined with light brown leather shoes and matching briefcases.

 

We made 2 stops at Tokyo Grand Hotel and JAL City Hotel. Then off to Roppongi, the up tempo district of Tokyo, where the rich resides and the wanna-be’s stop by for a sip of coffee in one of its fancy cafes. The conference hall where the MOU signing will take place located in the 49th floor, making us climbed up in a seamless elevator which rarely spoke English.

After checking with my boss and the big boss (just arrived with the morning flight, and picked up and brought to the venue – thank God they moved the signing event to after lunch).

I joined the rest of the partners in separate dining hall, where we ate a fancy bento costs 1,600 yen (don’t convert it into rupiah, it will only result in pain). THough I couldn’t tell which are supposed to be eaten with the rice and which one is the desert, still this authentic food is fine.

View from the 49th Floor

The view from the 49th floor itself contributes its breathtaking value to this expensive hall. From the glass windows I can see the busy roads of Tokyo in sizes of tiny rain streams, and the buliding as small as lego blocks.. The weather are cloudy but no rain, maybe the weatherman has been booked for this event ?:)

The signing was preceded by a press conference, totally in Japanese, except for the part of my big boss. After that we all assembled in the main hall and they have these impressive giant screens to display the names and institutions of the speakers. In this awesomeness, I thought quietly, how do they maintain it without glitches and technical problem.

It was a success, I believe. Afterwards, we disbanded from the bosses, me and a group of partners and friends walked to station, and this is where I learned for the first time, the complicated system of Tokyo subway. Thanks Dikshie for teaching me. The map of Tokyo subway that Yoo get for me and the two interns also was invaluable for megapolite vagabond as myself.

We took separate trains, some are heading back to Shonandai station. And me and my friend went for Shibuya. We switched trains 2 times, Ginza Line to Yamanote Line (this popular gaul line for gals!) and I experienced a quite horror experience. It’s around after working hour, the trains were quite packed. We were shoved inside one car. It was OK, I thought, little did I know that once we reached a certain station where the people deep inside the car would go out, they will push with all they might, regardless of our readiness to move!!

I almost tumble (with the big packpack and all), if I hadn’t grabbed my friend’s back. Wuaa!!! It’s the nightmare of Tokyo subway on the busy hours… If I were to take train during busy time, I’d rather wait than being shoved around like that again!

We reached Shibuya Hachikou exit. Woah, as an avid manga reader, I am discovering the sites and icons that all this time I was only able read in manga. To tell you the truth, my over-all impression was, the manga exaggerated a lot. Hachikou, however, remained as one faithful dog complete with some teary moments depiction inside my head. 

 

Hachikou and me

Hachikou and me

Hachikou, the Faithful Dog 

There was a professor of Tokyo University, who had a dog, named Hachikou. He used to go to work and go home using train, and Hachikou used to pick him up at the same time at Shibuya station. in 1925, the professor died, but the dog kept showing at Shibuya station at the same time in the evening when his owner used to come home – for 10 years. 

Complete story here

Another tip for you, megapolis traveller is : Do not trust the map you found in hotel website. Take my case as an example. In the ryokan/hotel website, it was described pretty close to Shibuya station. But my friend and I had to walk five blocks (or more), cross one intersection, turn left, and walk several blocks, before reaching the destination.

When we arrived, I felt like a marathon runner after a long rally. Somewhere among those blocks, I even took a moment to change my meeting high heels into my walking crocs  (boy, do I love these crocs more and more each day my feet were swollen) because I can’t stand walking another pace with the high heels!

Felt sorry for my friend who went straight back to the station (yes, several blocks and more), and finding my room having a strange smell. But being very very tired gave me an ability to inactivate several senses. After talking to the manager of the  ryokan, looked like an Indian who spoke good English, and a Japanese elderly lady who spoke no English (“Eigo wa dekinai” she told me persistently when I tried to talk to her in English)

 

The tatami room in the ryoukan

The tatami room in the ryoukan

He showed me the strange smelly room in the second floor, and told me there was a wi-fi in the room (thank God for internet), and that if I want to use the shower, it’s on the first floor, and I had to tell them when I want to use it, because it’s shared. Strange, I thought, until I experienced the bathroom. It was an onsen! An onsen is a traditional bath with the big bathtub (this one was made in stainless steel) which constantly heated, and I mean really-really hot.

Good thing that I am a Japan culture fan, I read in some book (Kariage-kun?) that we’re supposed to wash up before entering the onsen. There were two sets of taps with shower up and a water tap for washing down. And after washing up, onsen is ready to dip in!

I felt very weak afterwards though, I have no idea if this is the effect of onsen – relaxing, but in one sense sort of loosening up all the muscles. I didn’t take very long time in the bath, because really hot, and I was really tired. But I enjoyed it quite a bit, and turned out that the ryoukan’s is the only onsen that I experienced during my stay in Japan.

I didn’t even had chance to pack up for tomorrow. Tomorrow would be an adventure since I’ll be going to Takebashi for a meeting, using Tokyo subway – by myself!

Posted by: phoebz | July 16, 2008

Somewhere above Japan sea, 23 June 2008

Seemed that I managed to get some sleep. Feeling slightly refreshed eventhough the face I saw in lavatory’s miniscule mirror was not too convincing : red puffy eyes with the blood lines exposed.

The time is 7:00 am Japanese time (according to the Japanese girl sitting next to me, wearing a flu mask). Thirty minutes to go. Several things bothered me. Thanks to the very unorganized packing moments (Zidane was having his end-year school events, therefore my concentration was divided), I forgot so many things. Chiku’s name card, to name one. The namecards I brought were only the ones of business partners (I’m so ready for the business meeting –pfft!)

 

Your own entertainment

Your own entertainment

Btw, the red-neck inside of me amazed when seeing the tiny LCD screen on the back of the seat in front of me. There are wired remote equipped with tiny fingertip keyboards. The girl next to me already watched some dancing movie, but my head was heavy and my eyes hurting. So I spent most of my precious time not enjoying the new Boeing A380 facilities, but sleep.

 

Now waken up, I tried to play with the thing (like first timer I’m so goofy), and I found there are facilities for language training. Haha… funny huh?The girl next to me must think that I’m pretty ridiculous, but who cares.. Semakin kampungan, semakin PD!

Another thing that I forgot to buy is the electric converter, though my friends had reminded me since I’m still in the country. Yes, yes, my mind is failing me.

And I’m sort of upset for not exchanging my USD with JPY at CGK, because when I tried to exchange in Changi, the rate is bad. So my last chance is Narita. After another meal on the air, we finally arrived. Felt kind of drowsy, I didn’t quickly realized I’m already in Japan. 

On the immigration line (where they segregate Japanese passport holders with the rest), I met one participants for the meeting. Wow, a fellow countryman! Quite grateful, having the cramped mouth for one day without nobody to talk to except for the stewardess. Turned out that we are picked up by the organizer with the same car. 

After claiming the baggage, my friend spotted the pick-up (spoke a little English). I even got a chance to exchange my money to yen. Yay! I can shop again😀

After that, we met up with another participant from Thailand. All names will be kept anonymous for the privacy of the actors in this blog😛  Then all three of us were driven in a van from Narita to Shonan, Fujisawa, where we would join the meeting tomorrow.  Tomorrow? Hell no!!

Apparently the driver had his own ideas to realize. After three hours or so driving, with the thought of having a shower, a clean clothes and wishfully a nap, we were dropped (by force, I should say!) to the university, not to the hotel. I had no idea, who told this guy to have us deserted to the meeting place (with our luggage), and then drove away like a mad man, after I confronted him to take us to the hotel instead. He blurted out some Japanese while unloading our luggage to the yard of unknown site in the university. He had issues, I had to say.

So there we were, me and my two new friends. Had to do something, I opened my suitcase, took out the hand-out the organizer sent us before our departure to Japan, which contained the phone number we should contact for emergency. Now is emergency, I thought as grumpily dialed my friend’s mobile phone on the public phone found in nearest spot. No answer. Tried another one, worked out. I couldn’t hold myself, I told  him about the crazy pick-up from EO. He just laughed, and not long he picked us up from the front of the public phone.

 

Meeting Day #1

Meeting Day #1

Shortly say, Goodbye hot shower, goodbye clean clothes ( I must stink like hell), goodbye nap time, and Hello… meeting!  

 

Supposedly make us feel better, there were three other people who had their luggage and joining the meeting right after arrival in Narita. I seriously needed a bath, and I felt very hot. It’s in the beginning of summer, and the room didn’t have A/C (don’t you get cranky when it’s hot?)

I had more or less no idea of the technical meeting (I was first registered to this meeting, but then advised not to join), but then joining. Konyol banget. Anyhow it’s nice to see some familiar faces. The group was small, but has similarities and bonding, which somehow amazed me, an outsider.

It rained that day. The campus was on a hilly ground, covered with green grass with many trees. The air felt fresh on that ground. The classes were on modern building, simple and clean. The meeting was held in auditorium on the basement – explained why cellphones weren’t receiving any signal down there. 

When we had our lunch break, my friend took me to the senkyo (student co-op) to buy things needed. Introductions included the brand of the ‘official tea’ of Japan (he he). I bought a new umbrella – didn’t bring one from home, and some deodorant (oh I still craved the bath).

There were plans to escape the campus and find our way to the hotel, but since the check-in time itself is 15:00, we would be stranded there, so why not stranded here :p Ate our bento and met more people who normally I just talked to on messenger. I should say the hosts were all very welcome.

We had a tour of the server room (typical geeky tour), the messy laboratory (totally understandable), and head back to meeting. After the meeting finished, we were lucky enough to have a bus to drive us, so we and our luggage can FINALLY go to the hotel.

For some of the participants, it’s their second or third or more time in the university. And for some people, they had arrived since a couple days ago. So tonight there were plans to go out. I would be the first one to sign up! 

My friend also offered for a walk after his other meeting. Well, can’t complaint, at least that would give me time to take a shower and rest.

The hotel was located in an awkward alley near Shonandai Station. The bus couldn’t reach this narrow street, so we had to bring our luggage by foot. I got the room on 14th floor. And we said we will contact each other for dinner. 

We had dinner in the Italian restaurant, quite popular among students, named Caesarian. The food was okay, though I couldn’t finish the huge portion of spaghetti I ordered. The price was not bad, around 600 yen per meal.

Walking in Rainy Yokohama 

 

Yokohama (横浜市 Yokohama-shi) is the capital of Kanagawa Prefecture, located in the Kantō region of the main island of Honshū and is a major commercial hub of the Greater Tokyo Area.

Yokohama’s population of 3.6 million makes it Japan’s largest incorporated city and second most populous urban area after Tokyo (during nighttime – Yokohama ranks 3rd in daytime population, after Osaka). 

From Wikipedia Yokohama

 

To go to Yokohama from Shonan, we need to go to Shonandai station, take the Sotetsu Line to Yokohama. And there were shops along the streets of entertainment area of Yokohama. One of the shop that I visited twice was the Don Quixote ( I wonder if the store has Spanish origin or something). It’s such a bargain shop, not as cheap as the 100 yen shop but carried a variety of goods (my friend said original). I bought an electric tooth brush with refills for my son and a pink earphone for me.

The Takoyaki franchise

 

Yummy takoyaki

Yummy takoyaki

I don’t fancy the thought of eating an octopus with its purplish tentacles popping out, but given a hot takoyaki (with the octopus well hidden inside the ball of fried flour) was quite tempting, especially because I wanted to experience everything Japanese in its own place. The tips of eating takoyaki : be careful because they are really hot, so better chopped them into two or three pieces and let it cool down a bit.

 

Rain fell on our way back to Shonan. Too bad I didn’t get to see the whole Yokohama, which I read contains quite a bit of mixture of western and Japanese culture. Probably that just meant that I have to come back.

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