Friday, September 17, 2010

Japan Trip 2010: TOKYO

Japan Trip 2010: TOKYO
The first leg of the Japan Trip is Tokyo.

The most tourists visited city in Asia!
This is our first trip to Japan, and our misconception of the complicated Tokyo transport system turns out to be rather straight forward if you read some Chinese characters and have some common sense.
It sure did not take us to be experts with the local transport!
At Tokyo, we visited the Tsukiji Market, Asakusa Temple, Akihabara, Shinjuku, Harajuku.

Arriving at Narita Airport, we bought the Narita Express (NEX) with SUICA pass combo ticket. The SUICA pass is a top-up card for most trains and subway in Tokyo.

The view from outside our accomodation at Villa Fontaine Ueno and the same breakfast everyday.

Day 2
First stop is the famous Tsukiji Fish Market.

Remember to stop by one of the sushi stores beside the fish market, and indulge in the freshest sushi.

The next stop is Asakusa. One of the most photographed location in Tokyo is the Kaminari Gate.
Beyond the Kaminari Gate, is a long stretch of stalls selling souveniers and Japanese snacks. The stalls are enough to let you spend a good hour or so.

Asakusa Shrine

Beside the shrine is a nice little shophouse that serves a really fragrant bread. We decided to stop over and check out its retro interior decor.

Around the Asakusa area, there are more streets to explore. Just remember to grab a location map near the Asakusa Station.

Grabbed a piece of croquette to snack.

I thought I would not have enough time to explore the whole Akihabara. Indeed, I did not have enough time, but I was also not really enjoying Akihabara, possibly those anime that are popular there, ain't just my type. I was expecting loads of Gundam! And the Gundam Cafe is such a disappointment. Otherwise, the "Electric Town" is actually quite interesting if you have done your homework.

Time to grab dinner. It is common to find small eating house which has a vending machine that takes care of your orders.

Ginza is where the high-end shopping labels can be found.

Odaiba is an island that can be reached by a private rail and does not allow our SUICA pass to be used. We bought a reused ticket from another tourist. The train runs on the rainbow bridge to Obaiba. I still cannot understand why it is called "Rainbow" bridge.

Day 3
Shinjuku is practically packed with giant malls, correction, SUPER malls, biggest being larger than Vivocity and small ones smaller than Isetan Scotts. It is kinda like Causeway Bay in Hong Kong. Everywhere you turn, it is a mall. So could I ever complete Shinjuku in one day? Never!

A udon-only shop. I was utterly lost for words to describe how a cheap and plain bowl of udon with clear broth and diced spring onions can be super nice! No other udon in Singapore which I had, can everr compare to this simple bowl of udon! With never-ending stream of customers, I think I just found a gem in some narrow street.

Getting lost in Shinjuku is easy but you can just find your way around with big malls as landmarks. However, getting lost means discovering interesting small malls. You can get yourself tempted by the many dessert stalls in the basement of departmental stores.

When my brother told me to visit Tokyu Hands, I was like "stop it already!". But after being in there, I totally understood what he meant! There is definitely something to get, because they have everything! Not just your regular departmental store, it is dedicated to "Creative" stuff. They have everything such as super-compact stylish umbrellas, Porter bags, USB sticks that do crunches and humping actions, stylish furnitures, tons of cute stationery, snazzy kitchen utensils, etc. No one was able to resist getting something. Everyone had to walk out with a bag or two! I was not spared! I could have spent all my budget at Tokyu Hands! I resisted!

Below right is Yodobashi Camera. The latest cameras from major brands like Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Olympus, Pentax, Sony, Ricoh, Yashica, Fujifilm, etc. They have the latest models of cameras to let you get trigger happy! I had so much fun on the fancy coloured Panasonic GF1, the lastest G2, Olympus PEN EP-2 in exclusive silver colour, the latest PEN Light EPL-1, Pentax Kx in many candy colours, the latest micro-SLR Sony NEX-3 and NEX-5 , Ricoh GX that never made its way to our shores, high-end Canon 7D and Nikon D700 SLRs. Not to mention the complete range of latest lenses for you to play without being hassled by the sales representative, something that you can never do in Singapore! No way you will see an expensive camera in such a worn out state!! Dedicated outlets also include dedicated Mooks level, film-processing equipment level, studio equipment level, basically a camera-otaku's heaven!
Apart from cameras, I get to play with the latest iPads to my heart's delight! Damn fun I must admit! I was evenn tempted to score a WIFI 16GB iPad at ~S$600+, too bad we do not have microSIM available at Singapore Telcos, if not, I would score the WIFI+3G 16GB at ~S$800+. It sure saddens me when I see people unravelling their spanking new iPads at the Apple dedicated service stations. Wait, Singapore don't even sell iPads officially! Haha! Maybe I should score one back just to show-off!
Wait! Show-off? I might as well bring back an iPhone 4! Yes, I had so much fun with iPhone 4. Japan is currently selling iPhone 4 only with contract with reservations. But the sales lady was kind to let me play to my heart's delight. A good 15mins play was nice, or was that longer? So no iPhone 4 for me to bring back to Singapore, what about the many eye-dazzling iPhone 4 accessories? Of course! I could get them here and use them when the slow Telcos in Singapore finally bring in the handset! But I might just get a Docomo special version RX-78 Gundam phone. Of course, it is not an RX-78 phone, but it is a white clamshell phone that sits on cradle which is a RX-78 Gundam in Ver.Ka finish.

A fruit stall that is recommended. We decided to visit and get a shock of our lives by the price of fresh fruits in Japan. Then again, the fruits are really premium quality.

Dinner is discounted bento sets from a small shop near our hotel.

Day 4

Getting from my accomodation to Harajuku means that I would need to take the JR train from Okachimachi Station, which would be a direct ride to JR Harajuku Station. On our way to the JR Okachimachi Station, we came across Ameyoko, a shopping street that runs next to the JR tracks leading to JR Ueno Station. The street was not really a tourist attraction, but for people staying in Ueno, Ameyoko is part of their daily life, where they get their wares and sundries.

We arrived at JR Harajuku Station via Yamanote Line. We were immediately greeted by the biggest crowd ever. JR Harajuku Station is not very big, hence the tourists and locals who visit this place on a Sunday, made it jam-packed! Where were the cosplayers? Didn't really see much, but did see a lot of "Lolitas".

A recommended ramen store.
We decided to try out the "unconventional" ramen.

Before leaving Harajuku, we visited the Meiji Shrine. It was a huge compound, probably bigger than our Botanical Gardens. The road to the actual historical sacred shrine, was paved with gravel and lined by tall green canopies. The shrine precinct itself seemed completely cut away in another dimension from the modern lively Harajuku.

We managed to make it to Shibuya as our last stop in Tokyo.

This is the famous Hachiko statue. Do you know Hachiko? It even had a Hollywood movie in the same name.

Shown below is the famous Shibuya crossing, where the traffic from all sides will stop and the junction will flooded with pedestrians from all directions. At Shibuya, I managed to find free WIFI in the street and did some Facebook and Buzz updates and checked some emails. We were rather unprepared to visit Shibuya. But we did managed to find the Burberry Blue Label, Burberry Black Label, Tokyu Hands and Loft.

By the way, we first came to know Loft only as a Japanese stationery store in Bangkok. But the actual Loft in Japan is like Tokyu Hands, which sells everything that is interesting. I was rather tempted to get a LOMO, HOLGA or a buildable LEGO digital camera.

Gyudon makes cheap and affordable dinner. Less than 500Y per set.

Before leaving busy Tokyo station, make sure you grab a box of Tokyo Banana! You cannot get these anywhere else in Japan.

On board the Shinkansen to Takayama.


Photography by William & Fiona
Copyrights reserved 2010

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