Tag Archives: Tokyo

Japan Top 10

1. MariCar

This was by far the most fun I had the entire trip

2. Nagashima Spa Land

I was able to fulfill a 17-year old dream of riding Steel Dragon 2000, plus the day was a lot of fun

3. Tokyo DisneySea

You kinda can’t beat Disney Parks

4. Tsutaya Daikanyama T-site

I could have spent an entire day their looking at books

5. Anata No Warehouse

The theming was great and the games were fun

6. Liberty Walk and RWB

Tied at #6 because of how similar the experience was, I was so grateful to meet Kato-san and Nakai-san

7. Gonpachi Nishi Azabu

Not only was it cool to be in a location that inspired a scene from Kill Bill, this was also my most memorable and probably best meal of the entire trip

8. The 5.6.7.8’s

I got to fulfill a long time goal of not only seeing this band, but seeing them in Japan

9. Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium

Whale Shark, nuff said

10. Miraikan

The Art of Disney: The Magic of Animation exhibit brought me to tears

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Japan – Day 15: Tokyo – Day 9

Saturday – April 22, 2017

Today was our last day in Japan. I basically wanted to use it to tie up any loose ends and see any of the things I hadn’t gotten around to. Though it was sad, I was ready for the trip to be over. Not for any negative reasons, but simply because it was time.

Stationary Cafe

I started my day by going to the Stationary Cafe. It had been on my list of places to eat breakfast and, being that I am a stationary nerd, I thought it might be cool. It took me a bit long to actually find the place because I kept screwing up the directions, but I eventually found it.

IMG_6853Stationary Cafe

When I saw the menu, it seemed very sparse so I ordered the only thing that looked good, a pancake. However, when I got my order, I was a bit shocked. The picture had clearly mislead me because what I got was not a pancake. Instead it was this tiny, somewhat expensive thing of custard or whatever. Angry, I ate it quickly, paid and left.

Miraikan Museum (Again)

Next I made my way back to the Miraikan Museum. Though I had been there yesterday, I had wanted to check out the Disney Exhibit but knew I wouldn’t have enough time to enjoy it. I ended up getting that at noon and was able really stroll through and look at every piece.

IMG_6796Digital globe at the Miraikan Museum

The exhibit focused on the art of Disney. Starting with the first cartoons in the late 1920s and ending with their most recent film, Moana. The exhibit had everything from concept art, storyboards, background paintings and original sketches from the most well known cartoons and feature films.

As I made my way through the exhibit, the somewhat bad mood I had been in from my shitty breakfast melted away. I kept singing the music from the various movies to myself and I suddenly had the urge to watch them all.

IMG_6879Entrance to The Art of Disney: The Magic of Animation exhibit

I don’t know if it was the link to my childhood, the powerful imagery or the subconscious awareness that this was the last day of the trip, but I started to tear up. I got through the rest of the exhibit and, as I expected, exited through the gift shop. Well technically no. I was led to the line that led to the gift shop.

I decided to skip it and moved on to the rest of the museum. I retraced my steps from yesterday to see if there was anything Dan an I missed. Now that I was on fresh feet and legs it was much easier to navigate. I soon found myself on the floor with the cafe, and since breakfast was a fail, I decided to get lunch.

IMG_6875Honda Uni-Cub

After eating I took one more pass before stopping in the main gallery of the first floor to lie on the benches provided and look up at the globe hanging from the ceiling above. I used the time to chill and figure out a game plan for the rest of the day.

After I’d figured everything out, I made my way back to the room to drop some stuff off, then headed to Shinjuku Loft. It was 16:00, when the show was supposed to start and I wanted to see what time the band I was going for was on. I was told not till 20:50 so I took the time to do a bit more exploring.

I forgot to add that there was a section where for 500 Yen you could test ride a Honda Uni-Cub, like the ones featured in the OK Go music video for the song I Won’t Let You Down.

Uniqlo Move + Muji

I made my way to Uniqlo Move, a concept store that had been set up a few weeks prior to my arrival. I wanted to see what it was all about and how, if at all, it differed from the Uniqlo stores I’d been to in the states.

As usual, I got lost trying to find it and had to resolve to a montage of walking in all the wrong places before asking for directions. When I did eventually arrive I was/am pretty sure I was in just a regular Uniqlo. Oh well.

I decide to see if there was a Muji nearby to kill a bit of time in. I found that there was indeed one near me and started to head in that direction. As I did however, what had started as a sprinkle was beginning to turn to rain. On top of that I was pretty sure I was, once again headed in the wrong direction.

I stopped into a ubiquitous Family Mart to keep dry and reassess my situation. On top of that, I took the opportunity to buy a clear umbrella, something that I’d wanted to get but not frivolously, only if I needed one organically. As it turned out, I needed one organically.

I then made my way to Muji. I walked around for a bit and saw that it was 17:30. My new plan was to be at Shinjuku Loft for 19:00 so I could watch a few bands before settling in for the main event. Thus I decided to head back to the room again to blog my day so far and chill for the hour and a half before I would set back out to the Loft.

Shinjuku Loft

We got into the Shinjuku Loft no problem and when we arrived there was a band in the middle of their set. I moved right to the front to watch. They were a fairly heavy punk band and were really high energy. At one point they did a cover of Rebel Yell by Billy Idol and later they covered Fight For Your Right by The Beastie Boys. Towards the end of the set the guitarist/lead singer stripped down to his leather underwear.

IMG_6888The 5.6.7.8’s at Shinjuku Loft

The second band we saw was another trio only these guys were a bit older. They were dressed up in suits and had nice hats on. They were a bit more surf punk and somewhat rockabilly. I really liked them and at one point the bassist did this thing where he used one hand to mim revving a motorcycle and the other, on his bass, to make the “revving sound. It was pretty cool.

The third band we saw was a bit more punk, however they too got did some rockabilly stuff. They covered Somethin’ Else by Eddie Cochran and ended with a cover of the Sex Pistols cover of My Way by Frank Sinatra.

Next was the piece de resistance, the reason I had come to the show, something I never thought would actually be able to happen. As if it were fate, for our last night in Japan The 5.6.7.8’s were playing! I’ve wanted to see them in concert ever since I hear about them but to see them in Japan, that was the best of the best.

Because there were too many bands, they played a relatively short set. However, with the exception of one, every song they played, I knew and basically were all the ones I wanted to hear. All in all a solid end to our trip.

 

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Japan – Day 14: Tokyo – Day 8

Friday – April 21, 2017

Because we have been going hard this entire trip, I decided to give the guys a break and so we all decided to sleep in. The negative to this is that it means starting your day later than usual. We got to Odaiba, where our day was set to take place, around 11:30. After having brunch we made our way to Joypolis, our first stop. By the time we got our tickets it was 12:30.

Joypolis

I was really excited to go here because, rather than just being another arcade, it was also supposed to be a quasi-amusement park. The concept seemed similar to Disney Quest in Downtown Disney. Once entering though, it basically still felt like an arcade.

IMG_6475Joypolis entrance

The first thing I did there was to go pee. However, being that this is an arcade, the urinal was a game! As I peed there was a sensor tracking how much urine I was producing. There was a screen with a cartoon cupid on it cheering me on. It counted my liquid in milliliters. I was only able to fill the equivalent of one beer can. The game was actually really silly and fun. Probably the most fun thing I did the entire time we were there.

After that I met up with the guys and Pete had already found the Initial D game. This was basically what I had come for. There were three full sized cars from the anime all on simulators with screens in front of them; a WRX STi, an AE86 and an RX-7. I figuured you could sync the cars so that all three of us could race each other. Unfortunately, that’s not how it worked.

IMG_6776Initial D racing game/simulator

Each simulator did it’s own race at it’s own time. They were even so strict as to not let us pick which car we got to sit in. I would get it if it were busy, but we were literally the only three people in line. Pete went first and got the RX-7, though he wanted the WRX. I on the other hand wanted the 86 and fortunately, got it.

The game was pretty cool but I was really bad at it. After we all got a chance, Pete wanted to go again and Dan and I wanted to explore. The next thing we hit was the Half Pipe. This was a standing roller coaster type thing where you were on a “skateboard.” As you went back and forth on the half pipe, depending on which way you leaned, you would do spins.

IMG_6786Tokyo Halfpipe ride

We both agreed we didn’t want to spin but, either due to the slightest tilt of the board or the ride getting fed up with us, we ended up doing a few spins anyway. It ended up not being so bad. You try and compete to see which skateboard team can do the most spins. We lost but had fun which was the most important.

Next we rode the roller coaster, but, being that this is an arcade, they had to make it into a game. It was called dance coaster or something and as you rode you stopped at various screens that showed you video footage of some Japanese boy band.

IMG_6787Spinning coaster

As the footage played there were discs that would appear on screen which correlated with the colored buttons each rider had in front of them. Like DDR or Guitar Hero, the objective was to hit the button at the exact time it lined up on screen. I was pretty bad at it. Eventually it got to the fast part of the ride.

I had been on spinning coasters before but they are usually wild mouse style rides. This one not only spun, it also did a barrel roll. This was a weird sensation and put strange g-forces on your body. When it was over, it totaled your score. I lost, naturally, and Dan won!

IMG_6791Sonic The Hedgehog

After that we went upstairs where I did the Sonic Run game. There are basically 8 treadmills lined up next to each other, each correlating with a character from Sonic. I was #2, Tails. There were different running events such as the dash, long jump and hurdles.

For the long jump and the hurdles there were two buttons where your thumbs rested that you needed to press to jump at the right time. I was competing again all little girls. I was literally 20 years older than the oldest one. On the dash I kicked their ass but as the competitions got harder my age and coordination began to show. I ended up in 3rd place overall so I was happy to medal.

After that Dan and I played a game of Air Hockey before riding these three movie simulator rides. Wild River, Wild Jungle and Wild Wings were all basically the same except that the first was a raft, the second was a jeep and the third was a plane.

The kind of cool thing was that on each ride you “passed by” the other rides on your screen. In other words, each of these experiences were supposed to take place in the same world at roughly the same time, which was kind of a nice tie in.

While in line for Wild Wings, Pete met up with us and after we did the ride, we did Biohazard. This was a walk through “haunted house” type game where you had to choose your own adventure. We had a guide and were walking through it with two other Japanese girls.

The guide was funny and kept it entertaining. The game was actually kind of cool. Depending on the choices you make, that decides whether you “live” or “die.” We died. I almost wanted to do it again to see if we could make the right choices, but decided not to.

After that we parted ways again. Because we knew we would be allowed reentry, Pete went to another car parts store and Dan and I walked to a nearby science museum.

Miraikan

The main draw to the Miraikan museum was that they do demonstrations of Asimo the robot. We arrived at 15:30-ish and despite the fact that it said the price of entry was 600 Yen, it ended up being free.

IMG_6806ASIMO robot demonstration

The only thing that did cost money was the Special Exhibit which was all about the art of Disney Animation. I kind of wanted to see it but a) Dan didn’t want to and b) the museum was closing and I didn’t want to have to rush through it. We basically only ended up seeing the Asimo demo. We did walk around to a few of the other things but there wasn’t much we could do in the time we had before it closed.

We then went back to Joypolis where we re-rode the roller coaster, I played Initial D again and we ended on the half pipe. Once we were done we took a short break on the deck of the building and watched the sunset for a bit before splitting up again.

Dan went to Diver City (mall) to grab souvenirs for his family and I went to the Toyota City Showcase.

Toyota City Showcase

The Toyota City Showcase is comprised of three exhibits, the History Museum, the showroom and the Ride One center where you can book an appointment to test drive a Toyota of your choice around their special test track. I had booked an appointment to drive an 86 at 19:00, but by the time I got there, I knew I’d have to rush to make it, so I didn’t even bother.

IMG_6826Toyota City Showcase – History Museum

Instead I focused on the History Museum. It was actually really cool featuring cars in set locations. There was much more than just Toyota’s there and on the lower level they even had rally cars. After seeing everything there, I made my way to the showroom.

This is exactly like it sounds, a giant Toyota showroom. However, it featured a lot of the Japan only cars we don’t get in America. I sat in a bunch of them before heading out to grab food. My dogs were barking so it was nice to sit.

I ate dinner at this fast food restaurant right next to a giant ferris wheel, the hundredth one we’d seen on this trip. (Not really but there have been a ton). After dinner I walked 20-ish minutes to Tokyo Big Sight

Tokyo Big Sight

IMG_6841Tokyo Big Sight

I knew Tokyo Big Sight would be closed but I mainly wanted to see it because of the cool architecture. I got a few pictures of the outside before hanging out in the lobby for a bit. My feet were killing me but I had two more things to see.

Ariake Colosseum

I walked from Tokyo Big Sight to the Ariake Colosseum. Again I knew it would be closed but I merely wanted to look at it and take pictures. I got there after miles of walking and got what I wanted. I was planning on seeing the Aquatic center as well but I was too dead to walk there. So I made my way back to the train and took the hour long ride back to the room.

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Japan – Day 13: Tokyo – Day 7

Thursday – April 20, 2017

We had booked our MariCar tour for today at 11. Knowing we wanted to get breakfast before hand, the initial game-plan was to get to Akihabara by 10. But, as is the case most days here, things never go according to plan. We ended up leaving late and not getting to MariCar until 10:50. Cutting it a bit close if you ask me.

We then paid for our “tour”, signed the waiver, got on our costumes -Pete was Mario, Dan wore a Yoshi hat and I didn’t bother- and headed out with four other rando’s to the go karts.

MariCar

For those who don’t know, MariCar is a company that takes people on 1, 2, or 3 hour tours of Tokyo while driving in formation on go karts. It is supposed to be like the video game Mario Kart and so they have costumes you can put on to dress like the characters.

IMG_8630Pete, myself and Dan (back) driving through Tokyo in go karts

After a super brief tutorial we selected our karts and started the tour. We chose the 2 hour tour which took us over the Rainbow Bridge, to Odiaba (where we stopped for a bit for a photo op), back over the Rainbow bridge, past the Tokyo tower, through Roppongi and then back to the store.

It would be impossible for me to account for all of the things that went on during the drive becuase the two hours flew by and it was all a blur. I will say that driving across the Rainbow Bridge at 70-80kph was definitely the coolest and scariest part.

MariCarThe on-ramp to the Rainbow Bridge felt like Toad’s Turnpike from Mario Kart 64

Also being amongst downtown traffic, you realize just how small and vulnerable you are. Plus because it is an open air vehicle and you are so low to the ground, 40mph feels like 100mph. The only complaint I have is because you are sitting so low, exhaust fumes go directly into your face. Thus, I’m pretty sure I now have the black lung.

Oh well, totally worth it. This may have been the most fun thing we did the entire trip. We all loved it and it was worth every Yen (it cost 6,000 Yen or ~$55.00).

Hanayashiki Amusement Park

After finishing MariCar we grabbed a bite to eat at Mister Donut, a chain we had been seeing but had yet to stop into. Pete and Dan grabbed a quick bite where as I was going to be eating in. Since we all had different plans, they wanted to spend MORE time in Akihabara (I literally don’t know how that is possible) we once again split up.

IMG_6722Hanayashiki Amusement Park

After finishing my breakfast I headed to Hanayashiki Amusement Park, the oldest amusement park in Japan. There, I was on a mission to ride their roller coaster. It is tiny and barely worthy of note. However, if I’m not mistaken, it is the same roller coaster feature in the film Enter the Void.

Being the movie and roller coaster and movie nerd that I am, I had to ride it. After getting off at the nearby subway station, walking the short distance to the amusement park and figuring out after minor confusion how to get in, I paid the 1000 Yen entry fee.

Once inside I had to buy five tickets (at 100 Yen a piece) in order to ride the roller coaster. I literally rode it, filmed the entire thing, got off, took a few pics of the park and left. One more thing to check off the list.

Snoopy Museum

Next I made my way to the Snoopy Museum which, despite the fact that their hours are 10:00 – 20:00 seven days a week*, was closed when I got there. For whatever reason I am having shit luck with museums on this vacation.

IMG_6723Snoopy Museum

However, to be honest, because I knew I had other things to do with my day, I didn’t really mind. In the distance I could see the Tokyo Tower and since I had yet to get a close look at it, I decided to start making my way there.

*I should know, I’m the reason their hours are posted on Google. I checked the website, submitted them to Google Maps and they were approved by Google. I even have the emails to prove it.

Reiyuka Shakaden

However, along the way I got side tracked by a familiar site. Down some side street, off the main road I was using to head to the Tokyo Tower, I caught a glimpse of a temple I had put on my list to check out. Thus, I made my way over to it.

IMG_6729Reiyuka Shakaden

The Reiyuka Shakaden is a Buddhist temple/community space that is open to everyone from 6 to 17:00. I arrived a little after 16:00 and thus decided to head in. Apart from a police security guard and a few janitors, there was no one out side the place.

I slowly made my way up the ominous stairs and, at the top, pulled on one of the giant doors. It opened and I entered like the fellowship of the ring entering the doors of Durin. When I stepped inside there was no one there either.

I was in a lobby and so I made my way through a second set of doors into the main hall. I was floored by what I saw there. The hall was massive and beautiful. Again it was filled with no one but me and the 204 empty benches. It was absolutely silent.

I walked as lightly as I could trying not to disturb the silence. After walking to the front of the rows of benches I made my way back to the back and took a seat in the last row. I closed my eyes and reflected on the trip the far and the trip (what little left there was) to come.

After a few minutes of peace, I exited the main hall and then walked around the rest of the facility before heading to the Tokyo Tower. I was a truly excellent experience.

By the way, before stopping at the temple, I knew I was near the Hard Rock Cafe so I made a little side trip to grab a pic of the temple before heading on my way.

Tokyo Tower

The Tokyo Tower was a short walk from the temple. To be honest, I really just wanted to see it up close and get a few unobstructed pictures of it. I had read that the top observation section was closed which, to be honest was fine with me. After doing the Skytree I was basically done with observation towers, simply because they are all the same.

IMG_6764Tokyo Tower

I did however pop into the gift shop which was multiple levels and filled with restaurants as well. I found a bench and plotted my route to the nearest subway which would take me to Ikebukero. I then left and walked to said subway station.

Ikebukero

I made it to Ikebukero a little before 18:00. I had three main goals here. The first was to find Tokyu Hands because it is a store featured in Durarara, an anime I enjoy. The second was to find more locations from Durarara and the third was to go to the Kit Kat store as Kit Kat is known for having Japan only flavors.

After a bit of walking around aimlessly, I made my way to Tokyu Hands. This muilti-level department store has literally everything. Each floor is a different “topic” and it is stacked wall to wall with a little something to everyone.

IMG_6768Tokyu Hands

I gravitated to the stationary section where I found a beautiful little Field Notes sized notebook. Despite not needing it, I decided to buy it. Made by a Japanese company called Delfonics, what drew me to the notebook was they livery.

There were several colors to choose from but this one was yellow with deep blue typography on it. In addition the logo and the typeface that had been chosen -Helvetica- reminded me of the airline Lufthansa. To top it of there were some words and phrases on the front that were in German so it just added to the the feel of Lufthansa.

IMG_6771Kit Kat Chocolatory

After getting the notebook I made my way to stop number two, the Kit Kat Chocolatory. Despite what appeared to be straight forward directions on Google maps, I was having a tough time figuring out where to go. Eventually, after a bunch of walking around and digging a bit deeper I found the Kit Kat place.

Rather than being a store, it was more of a kiosk. Slightly disappointed, I grabbed a variety pack to bring back as a shareable souvenir.

Though I wanted to try and find sights from DRR, I had done no prior research on the matter and my feet were simply too tired. Thus I decided to head back to the room to rest for a bit and do a some blogging.

Brewdog Roppongi

Once Pete was back, we headed out to Roppongi to try Brewdog Roppongia bar I had found on Google maps while researching the trip. After a few stupid subway screw ups we made it to the bar. I had no idea how Westernized it would be. When we enter we were greeted in perfect English by a young woman whom we later found out was American.

IMG_6772Brewdog Roppongi

Most of the patrons were caucasian and spoke english. All of the waiters, though not all Amercian spoke English. The bar was rad and felt like it had been transplanted from Central Square in Cambridge or from Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

The music was great too. They played Do I Want to Know by Arctic Monkeys, followed by either I Don’t Know What To Do With Myself or I Can Tell That We Are Gonna Be Friends (I forget which) by The White Stripes, followed by Supermassive Black Hole by Muse.

I ordered a Chili IPA, and a kabab. Pete got a burger, typical, and a curry chicken app which we split. The food was great and we ended up finishing up around 23:30. I headed back to the room afterwards because I was so tired from the day. Pete wanted to stay out longer, so he did.

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Japan – Day 12: Tokyo – Day 6

Wednesday – April 19, 2017

Knowing me and knowing that I like to get to things early, I woke up a little before 6 so I could leave by 6:30. The train ride was supposed to take about an hour and though the park wasn’t set to open until 8:30, I wanted time to scope out what I could (such as their “Downtown Disney” section) before they opened.

Despite the fact that Google had other plans for me, I listened to my app which took me exactly where I needed to go. I took two subway trains and one JR train. Before making the transfer to the JR I grabbed a quick bite to eat. Then, two stops later… I was there.

Tokyo DisneySea

I arrived at 7:33. When I got off the train I was instantly giddy. I ran back and forth taking pictures of EVERYTHING. I had no idea the JR would take me, basically right to the entrance. After getting pictures of the gift shop and the entrance to the Magic Kingdom, I made my way to Ikspeari (their version of “Downtown Disney”). Unfortunately however, that section did not open until 10.

IMG_6525Mediterranean Harbor at Tokyo DisneySea

After running around for a bit longer I eventually made my way to the Monorail station where I figured out that I needed to take it from where I was in order to get to the entrance of DisneySea. Weirdly, rather than being free, you had to pay to ride it. Fortunately, it accepted Pasmo.

Their monorails are fully autonomous; because of that I was able to sit right up front and pretend I was driving. The monorail made two stops, one at each hotel, before arriving at DisneySea.

I got out, ran down the stairs and immediately got in line to get a ticket. This was strange because I’m so used to already having my ticket before I ever arrive at the park. Regardless, the line moved quickly and I actually ended up paying with cash rather than putting it on my card (I actually have more than enough Yen to sustain me).

After getting my ticket, I got in line to wait for the park to open. While waiting I put on suntan lotion and looked at the park map. Before you knew it the park was open and I was ready to start my Disney day.

Tower of Terror

The first ride I went on was the Tower of Terror; it is one of my favorite attractions at Disney World in Florida. Also, because it is one of the closest attractions to the front of the park it was a natural fit to start my day. Also, because no one was in the park yet there was only a 10 minute wait. The 10 minutes was mostly due to the pre-ride show you watch.

IMG_6545Tower of Terror

Unlike the one in Florida which is Twilight Zone and Hollywood themed, this one is New York and African god themed. Basically this explorer guy Hightower-san, stole this tiki god thing and now he’s cursed. At least that was the gist I got from the pre-ride show; naturally it was all in Japanese.

The ride itself was pretty good, not as good as the one in Florida for 3 reasons, 1) it is not as tall, 2) it doesn’t do as much, ie. move forward through the “The Twilight Zone,” and 3) and it doesn’t drop as much in terms of, not height, but how many times it goes up and down. Nevertheless, Tower is always a good ride.

Aquatopia

After Tower of Terror I made my way towards the back of the park. Along the way I passed a ride called Aquatopia. I was going to pass it since it was a family ride, but there was barely any line and I knew I was gonna be there all day so screw it.

It ended up being as lame as I expected but who cares. I was trying to do the opposite of what I usually do and actually smell the roses, rather than pass them by.

Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull

Eventually I made my way to the back of the park where I found and rode the Indiana Jones ride.

IMG_6563Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull

When I got to the front of the 45 minute line, I met a guy named Russ who told me there was a single rider line. I told him I didn’t mind the queue because it was well themed but that that was good to know. We got to chatting before the ride set off and it turned out that he was from Attleboro, MA; small world.

The ride was basically a version Countdown to Extinction (aka Dinosaur) in Animal Kingdom. You drive a jeep through a temple and, rather than being chased by dinosaurs, you are chased by evil spirits. Also, you get to see Indiana Jones speak Japanese. Fun.

Raging Spirits

Right next to that ride is another Indiana Jones themed ride called Raging Spirits. It is a compact little roller coaster with a loop in it. The cars look like mine trains and there are two cars per train. They were running about 6 at a time so the line had a steady flow. Though short, it was fun.

IMG_6567Raging Spirits

When I got off the ride, I checked my email and finally I had something from Dan. Because I had told him I was going to leave so early and I knew he wanted to sleep in, he decided he’d meet me there. However, since he had gone out late the night before, I thought he might bail. To my pleasant surprise, he was writing to say he was on his way and would be at the park soon.

After reading the message, I figured out a game-plan; ride one more ride then slowly make my way to the front of the park.

Journey of Sinbad

The next land over was Aladdin themed. There I came across the Journey of Sinbad ride. I had no idea what it was but I figured I’d try it. There was virtually no wait and it ended up being, essentially a Sinbad themed It’s a Small World -slow boat- ride. It was very childish and again, all in Japanese but the message, from what I could understand was to follow your heart.

After that I strolled through the Little Mermaid section before heading to Mount Prometheus, the main feature (Cinderella’s Castle) of the park. This section, because it was steam punk themed was by far my favorite.

IMG_6583The Mysterious Island section of the park

One of my favorite movies growing up was 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. This section had a 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea ride so I was pumped. I hadn’t been on it since before it closed at the Magic Kingdom in Florida, so probably since 1994.

Knowing I didn’t have time, I decided to hold off and save this section for Dan.

Cut to me at the front of the park checking my email. Dan had written that he did not need to ride the monorail to get to the entrance of the park. This made me nervous that he was entering The Magic Kingdom despite the fact that I had warned him that he’d need to take the monorail to get here.

He then wrote back saying he was looking at a big volcano and not a castle so clearly he was in the right place. I walked over to the lagoon and sure enough, there he was. I later found out that rather than take the JR, Google had made him take a bus which must have dropped him off right at Disney Sea, rather than where I had been dropped off.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Since I had just come from the Mysterious Island section of the park and had wanted to save Journey to the Center of the Earth to ride with Dan, that was where we went. When we got to the ride there was a 70 minute wait. I immediately grabbed Dan’s ticket and had him hold our place in line. I then went to the FastPass machine and came back with two FastPasses, that way we would be able to come back between 17:00 and 18:00 and skip the line.

IMG_6587Entrance to Journey to the Center of the Earth

Because Dan is not a Disney pro like I am, he was completely blown away by this concept. Despite the relatively long wait time, the line moved right along. Not only does Disney do lines better than anybody else, because they are themed, but having someone to talk to makes things go faster.

The ride was pretty cool. The ride vehicle was a sort of digging machine and you bore through the “center of the earth” until you reach the conclusion where you speed up a hill and erupt from the top of Mt. Prometheus.

Immediately following the ride, we were both starving, so we ate at Vulcania Restaurant. The place was really cool and the food was great. They had a sampler, which we both got, that had dumplings, rice, and other stuff I’m forgetting but all of which was great. After getting sufficiently filled up, we made our way to the nearby 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

I had been on the original 20,000 Leagues ride when it was at Disney World back in 1994. It has since closed down and so I was excited to ride it again. However, when we got to the ride vehicle, I knew something was a miss. The ride was more akin to the Peter Pan ride at the Magic Kingdom than a submarine ride that actually goes underwater. Regardless, the ride was kind of fun and was cool to check off the list.

IMG_6582 Queue for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Next we made our way to the back of the park to ride Raging Spirits. Since it was to be my second time riding it and Dan didn’t want to wait 45 minutes, we decided to do the single rider line. It probably ended up taking about 25 minutes so still a win. After we got off the ride, Dan went to the bathroom while I grabbed us FastPasses so we could come back to ride it later.

We chased Raging Spirits with a ride on Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull. Again we did single rider and again it worked to our advantage. After that we made our way to the front of the park to ride Toy Story. The line however was super long and for whatever reason we were unwilling to wait. Instead Dan got an ice cream and we sat and chilled for a bit.

Following that we explored a few of the shops at the front of the park. Naturally we took an infamous picture of us in Mickey ears hats. We then slowly made our way back to the the back of the park, along the way stopping to check out this DaVinci castle thing before getting back to the Mysterious Island section.

IMG_6621Blurry selfie of me and Dan in Mickey hats

There I grabbed an ice cream sandwich before we got back in line for Journey to the Center of the Earth, using our FastPasses of course. We chased Journey with Raging Spirits again (also with the help of FastPass) before grabbing food at the Arabian Coast Section of the park.

Again we both grabbed the sampler meal which was pretty good before making a game plan for the rest of the day using the park map and a Sharpie. Because we had seen it earlier and not gone in, we decided to go to the show at the Magic Lamp Theater. It wasn’t until the line started moving that Dan realized/pointed out that the show was probably all in Japanese. Sure enough, it was.

The show, as expected, was sort of childish, but a nice excuse to sit for a while. From there we took the electric railway from the back of the park to the front of the park and waited in line for the Teddy Rosevelt bar. The cool thing about this bar was/is that it is located on the SS Cloumbia, a “steamship” they have in the American Waterfront section of the park.

IMG_6647SS Cloumbia which houses the Teddy Rosevelt Bar

The bar seemed cool and I was craving a beer and a cheesecake. However, we were also pressed for time as the Fantasmic show was set to start at 20:00 and it was already 19:20. On top of that there was a line to get into the bar. While Dan held our spot, I explored a little bit of the boat. More that just a prop they had actually built out some of the decks where I got to have my Jack and Rose moment.

When I got back to the line we had barely moved. Since time was running out we decided to go to the lagoon only to find out from a cast-member on the way that, due to the wind, the show was not happening. We were bummed two fold, one because we had waited in line and bailed for nothing but also, because it meant we skipped the bar.

Toy Story Midway Mania

We once again rerouted and found ourselves in a 70 minute wait for the Toy Story Midway Mania ride. Once inside the building, the line was cool and a little bit lifted our spirits. The ride, as usual, was a lot of fun. Dan kicked my ass and the girl in the other car kicked both our asses. We chatted with her and her friends for a bit after the ride before doing one last thing each.

IMG_6646Toy Story Midway Mania

I wanted to ride the Tower of Terror one more time (this time at night) and I knew Dan still wanted to do the bar. I sped through the line for Tower. When it got to the part half way up where they fake you out by turning off the lights (knowing this was a fake out) I let out a blood-curdling scream.

What I forgot is that after the lights go off, they turn them back on. When the lights came back on I had an entire elevator of Asian people staring at me. Half started laughing and the other half started clapping; mission accomplished. After the ride I exited through the gift shop to find Dan waiting for me. Apparently, the bar was closed by the time he got there.

I was bummed that he had missed Fantasmic and the Teddy Rosevelt Bar. Oh well. For the most part the day was a good one and it gives us a reason to one day come back.

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Japan – Day 11: Tokyo – Day 5

Tuesday – April 18, 2017

Today was set to be a day away from Tokyo. Because it was supposed to be crappy weather I tried to figure out a day that would involve mostly indoor things. (The day, by the way, ended up fine; the weather was perfect.) The first thing I had on the itinerary was an arcade, but not an ordinary arcade.

Kawasaki

We made our way to Kawasaki, along the way having to transfer to the JR. At our transfer station we grabbed breakfast at a place called Bagel & Bagel. I hadn’t had a bagel the entire trip and these were actually pretty good. I got my breakfast sammy with hummus and twas quite good.

Anata No Warehouse

Once we arrived at Kawasaki station, we walked about 10 minutes to the Anata No Warehouse. The warehouse is meant to look old and rundown. The outside looks rusty and decrepit and even the sign for the parking lot appears to be crooked and falling apart.

IMG_6351Anata No Warehouse

I had purposely not told Dan what the place was all about because I wanted it to be a surprise. The front doors slid open as we approached and left us in an empty room with another single door in front of us. I slowly approached and suddenly a light turned on, there was a loud unsealing noise and the door slid open. Frankly, it scared the shit out of me.

Once inside, you’re in what feels like some back alley in Kowloon, China. It’s dark and creepy, you’d almost believe you were outside if not of the ceiling. We walked towards the back of the alley and saw the escalator that took you to the first floor, the main floor of the arcade. However, before going up, we saw this cave-like thing and had to check it out.

When we walked in, I was hoping it was going to be what I thought it was going to be. Sure enough, it was. The cave led to a stone pathway over a small green body of water that led to a circular door. It was mystical and creepy and cool until the illusion was broken by someone entering through said door. Apparently it is not only the exit, it’s also the entrance from the parking lot. (We had entered from the street).

IMG_6363Inside the warehouse

After getting a few pictures, we made our way up the escalator to the first main floor. We decided to do some scoping before we tried any of the games. Walking around, apart from the theming, it wasn’t much different than most of the other arcades I’d wandered into. After doing a lap, Dan and I decided to race each other in their arcade version of Mario Kart.

After I beat him (by a hair) in Mario Kart, I watched him play a bit of Time Crisis before we headed up to the second main floor. That floor was basically a casino with slot machines and games of chance. Dan also came across this weird pachinko type game that featured his favorite anime characters. I watched as he tried to figure out how to play it (all the games were in Japanese).

Once he was done, we headed up to the top floor. This one was the most chill. There were table tennis tables, pool/billiards tables, darts and two random pinball machines. Dan played the Elvis pinball machine and I played The Sopranos machine. I ended up getting a little over 2,000,000 points, which I thought was good… until I saw the high scores which were in the hundred millions.

IMG_6360The warehouse exit

Once we were both done with our games we decided to play a few games of pool. On the first game, despite the fact that he ran the table, I ended up coming from behind to win the game. On the second game, I left the table with three or four stripes still in play. I was glad that we both won one.

Lastly, after all that was done, we did one more lap of the first main floor. I played an Initial-D drifting/racing game and Dan played some fighting game. The place ended up being super cool I was glad we’d made the trip out there.

Yokohama

Next we made our way to Yokohama on the JR train. We hopped on one of the double decker cars. We rode it for about five minutes before an attendant came up to us and asked to see our tickets. We showed her our JR pass and she told us we were in a first class car and that we needed to go to scum, er I mean an “ordinary” car.

Luckily we were only going one stop and the rest of the ride was only another five minutes. When we arrived at Yokohama station we had to take the subway a couple of stops before arriving in the part of town we needed to be. We then walked about 10 minutes to Cosmo World.

Cosmo World

I was really only going there to ride one coaster, Diving Coaster Vanish (named so because there is a drop that “dives” underwater). As we approached the park, it looked like a ghost town and didn’t seem like many of the rides were running. I assumed this was due to the fact that it was a Tuesday and that there simply weren’t many people there.

IMG_6385Cosmo World

As it so happened, when I approached the ticket window to pay for the ride, the women told me it was closed. I was pretty bummed to have come all that way and to have dragged Dan with me to not even ride anything.

Cup Noodle Museum

However, I had a trick up my sleeve. I knew that literally across the street was the Cup Noodle Museum. That’s right, an entire museum dedicated to Cup Noodle brand ramen. Unfortunately when we walked up, we saw that the museum is apparently closed on Tuesdays. I was once again defeated. I only had one last ditch effort to make our trip to Yokohama worthwhile.

IMG_6384Cup Noodle Museum

We made our back to the train station and took the train to the end of the line. From there (after a bit of Google mapping) we switched to the #58 bus which would take us to Mooneyes Area 1.

Mooneyes

Mooneyes Area 1 and the abutting Moon Cafe are both centered around 50s, 60s and 70s era American car culture. The Moon cafe is, for all intents and purposes, an American diner. Being that it was around 14:00, we decided to get lunch.

IMG_6390Mooneyes Area 1 and Moon Cafe

The Moon Cafe was really cool. The food was exactly the sort of fare you would expect to find in a greasy spoon such as this. We took our time enjoying our respective sandwiches, mine a ham and egg, his a pulled pork. Though I haven’t been straying too much, it was cool to have “normal” food. Additionally, it felt weird to be using a fork and knife instead of chopsticks.

After eating we checked out Area 1. The “gift shop” had two levels. The first floor had all the merchandise; shirts, hats, stickers, mugs, etc. The top floor had car parts and accessories, like an AutoZone except specializing in things that actually look cool. Period correct rims and dashboards as well as other parts one might need.

IMG_6408Moonbug in the garage out back

I knew I wanted a sticker so I somewhat hastily picked a set, then headed downstairs. When I got down there however, I saw two that were exactly what I was looking for. I was sad that I had peaked too early and expressed this sentiment to Dan. He reminded me that I had no idea the next time I’d be in Japan, so I knuckled under and bought the other two stickers as well.

After I was done we exited out the back as there was a garage and a few cool custom cars in the back parking lot. I grabbed a few pics and then we headed to the bus stop to make our way back to Tokyo.

Tokyo

It was only around 16:00 but I wanted to get back sort of quickly. Now that the day was turning around, I wanted to see if I could sneak at least one more thing in to make the day even more of a success.

I had looked up a few cruises that not only gave you good views of the city but also took you from one part of town to another. The only problem was that the last cruise was set to leave at 17:30 and I knew our bus/train ride was over an hour. It was going to be close and so the race against the clock was on.

To my amazement, we arrived at Asakusa station at 17:07. However, we weren’t out of the woods yet. Despite the fact that Google Maps said it was only a 1 minute walk from the station to the dock, we still had to navigate the subway (not an easy task in Tokyo rush hour) and figure out how to get from the station to the dock.

IMG_6412Tokyo Skytree as seen from the dock

Usually GM is really good about labeling the station exits (all exits in Japanese subways are numbered, this can be super helpful) so you can see which is closest to the thing you’re trying to see. Unfortunately the labels for this station were not clear and we exited to some alley.

I then navigated us to the main road but, as has been my way on this trip, started heading in the wrong direction down said road. Dan course corrected us and, as we were running out of time, we both started lightly jogging. When we arrived at the ticket station we asked if there were still cruises. Happily there was.

We went to the ticket machine and we both grabbed one way tickets to Odaiba. The ticket printed at 17:19 and the boat was set to leave at 17:20. Can’t cut it more close than that.

Cruise

We boarded the Hotaluna which looked like a spaceship just as it was about to disembark. We then rested while enjoying the view out the glass roof from below deck. Eventually, once we’d passed under all of the low bridges, they opened the top and we were allowed out on deck.

IMG_6459Fuji TV building at seen from the deck of our boat

The views were much nicer from the top, unobstructed and with cool evening air. Dusk fell as we approached Odiaba and made our way under the Rainbow Bridge. Though we had rushed, I was really glad we were able to do the cruise. Being able to get out on the deck made it totally worth it.

Odaiba

Arriving at Odaiba, we were greeted by a familiar sight, the Statue of Liberty. For whatever reason there is an inexplicable SOL in Tokyo. It is, of course, much smaller, but was still weird to see.

IMG_6465Rainbow Bridge and our boat as seen from Odiaba

We then made our way to Aqua City, which, despite it’s name, is just a mall. We walked through it to get to Decks, another mall. However inside is an indoor theme park/arcade called Joypolis. This is on my itinerary for a different day (probably Friday) but I at least wanted to see it from the outside since we were here.

After grabbing obligatory photos, we made our way to Diver City, yet another mall. However, as was the case with the other two, I wasn’t there for the mall. I was there for the Gundam statue that was on the other side. Or should I say that was supposed to be on the other side.

Now mind you, Dan had warned me that it had been taken down just a month earlier in order to make way for a new statue to take it’s place. However, I wanted to see for myself that it was not in fact there. Low and behold, when we exited out the other side there was only a construction site. Sad.

IMG_6503Empty business district of Tokyo

We finished our time in Odaiba by grabbing a few pictures of of the Fuji TV building. We then took the train back home, however that too was an attraction in itself. Because of where we were, the train had to use the Rainbow Bridge to get to mainland Tokyo.

I’m a little kid when it comes to this stuff. I love bridges, and I love traveling trough a city at night. Because this train was elevated, it soared through the city, above the streets and between buildings. It felt like Batman Begins.

We arrived at our transfer station at 19:58. Two minutes later we heard this cool music and when we looked over, we saw this giant clock was doing a performance to announce the hour. I had no idea this was a thing, a happy accident. Dan and I ran over to it to enjoy the performance before it ended. It was a really great way to top off our night.

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Japan – Day 10: Tokyo – Day 4

Monday – April 17, 2017

Unlike yesterday which started out great and ended up only mediocre, today started out crappy and ended up great. I started my day by leaving the room before Pete in order to get to Ginza early enough to scope things out before he got there. Also because he was taking too long to get ready and I didn’t want to wait for him.

My first goal was to get breakfast at the Monocle Cafe. However, upon my arrival at Ginza station, despite doing Google map research, I was having a tough time finding the place. Eventually I busted out my phone and tried to find it on Apple Maps. It appeared it was inside of a building, rather than having a street-side location like I expected.

I went into the building and did a bit of snooping but could find nothing. Eventually I asked a security guard for help and he took the time to walk me to the cafe. I was pissed because I had literally just come from there and had missed it and because I wasn’t set to open until 11am! Who does that?

I called off Peter and told him that I was going straight to our first stop, the Tokyo Skytree, and to just meet me there. This was a bummer not only because I wanted to eat there and cross it off my list, but also because my plan was to find it fast, just to know where it was, then go to the Kit-Kat store and grab some Japan only Kit-Kat flavors to bring back to the states.

Tokyo Skytree

So, after this first failure of the day I made my way to the Tokyo Skytree. For those of you who don’t know the Tokyo Skytree is the second tallest structure in the world., second only to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Additionally, since construction was completed in 2014, this thing is only three years old, who knew!

IMG_6271Tokyo Skytree; the second tallest structure in the world

I exited the station, turned around and boom, there it was. The tower is disorientingly tall. You just can not get over how big it is, especially the closer you get. In any case, being that I hadn’t grabbed food at the cafe, I stopped into the Tully’s Coffee that was right there and grabbed a bite. Shortly after, Pete joined me and once we were both finished, we headed to the tower.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was not a “Disney World length line,” to get in. Which is what the internet had promised. Haha internet, turns out you don’t know everything. We actually got our tickets super quickly and got right on an elevator. The elevator too, despite having to take you up to 1,150 ft, is surprisingly quick doing the job in what felt like maybe 30 seconds.

Once at the top (technically there is a bit higher you can go but you had to pay more money so I was like ‘eff that) I walked around and checked out the views. After about 10 minutes I was bored. The thing about observation towers that I will never learn, is that they are all the same. Pete wanted to look around some more and he actually did take advantage of the higher observation deck.

However, at around 12:20 we called it quits and started to make our way to our next destination.

Rauh-Welt Begriff

I won’t bore you with the details of our train ride, however, I will just say that involved taking three trains and, including the walk from the final station, the total travel time was about an hour.

FullSizeRender 3Panorama of Rauh-Welt Begriff garage

We arrived at RWB a little after 14:00. When we got there it felt very surreal. I was finally at this place I’d read about on so many blogs and seen featured in countless Instagram pictures and YouTube videos.

Pete and I approached with caution. We started taking pictures of some of the cars outside the garage and as we approached, we noticed that the garage door was open. We peeked in and, at the back, I could make out a shadowy figure with poofy hair. Could it be? We said hello and the man waved us in. Low and behold it was none other than Akira Nakai AKA Nakai-san himself.

IMG_6311RWB 964 911

This man is a legend amongst car enthusiasts. Particularly Porsche fans and tuners as he is famous for making wide body kits for ’90s era 911s. I could not believe I was meeting him. He was just a regular dude, chill as he always in his videos. I fully did not expect him to be there and so I was bummed I hadn’t gone through with buying him a 6-pack of Stella Artois, his favorite beer.

Nakai was busy packaging some body kits that were bound for Canada but he was super accommodating. He let us see everything and take pictures of whatever we wanted. Whether you love or hate what he does with 911s, you have to respect a man who has been able to make a living out of doing what he loves.

IMG_6289This Mint Green one was my favorite

I zipped around the shop snapping pictures of everything inside and outside while Pete chatted his ear off. Nakai popped in a signature cigarette and was very respectful despite the fact that he seemed to be only half listening to everything Pete was saying. I then asked about buying a t-shirt. He told me they were 3,000 Yen and so I found a design I liked and pulled out my wallet.

I then bothered him for a picture, which he obliged and then, basically was on my way. Pete hung back to take it all in, take more pictures and to continue to talk his ear off. I just do not have the attention span for that. Also, being that it was going to take over an hour to get back to the apartment to drop this stuff off, and that I still wanted to do more with my day and didn’t want to get back super late, I dipped.

Roppongi

I got back to the Air BnB around 16:30 (the train ride back was a lot smoother for whatever reason) and checked my itinerary to see what else I could accomplish. I found two things that weren’t too far away from the apartment nor from each other and after making a game-plan, headed back out.

IMG_6328Tokyo Tower as seen from Roppongi Hills

The first stop on my list was Roppongi Hills, a shopping district with a bunch of cool stores. However, I specifically wanted to visit their Tsutaya Tokyo Roppongi book store. While making my way through the Roppongi Hills complex, I grabbed my first glimpse of the Tokyo Tower. I grabbed a shot then continued on my way.

When I got to Tsutaya, I did a bit of a walk around before asking for the item I had come to purchase. As I expected they would, they had it, Terada Mokei. I had first heard about this Japanese paper craft through the website Tested dot com.

I knew however that I had to buy some if I could while in Japan. Though they were a bit expensive, actually much more than I expected them to be, they would make great gifts. After finishing my purchase, I made my way to my last stop of the day.

Gonpachi Nishi-Azabu

Just a few blocks down the main drag from the Roppongi Hills complex is a restaurant called Gonpachi Nishi-Azabu. This place was the inspiration for the “House of Blue Leaves” from Kill Bill Vol. 1. Upon entering, you immediately get the same vibe. It feels exactly like the set built for the movie.

IMG_6336Overview of the layout

In the entrance there are photographs of celebrities that have visited the restaurant and once inside there is a little Kill Bill plaque inside a case. Despite not having a reservation I was seated almost right away. I had arrived at 18:15 so the dinner rush hadn’t really started yet.

I was seated at the “bar” right in front of where they cook all the food. Everything on the menu looked great and, despite the fact that the restaurant was somewhat upscale, the prices (as I’ve found has been the case with most things in this country) were very fair. I ordered a beer and two appetizers for my meal; the personal pizza and the pork belly.

IMG_6340The seat with the red jacket on the back is mine

After I placed my order, I walked to the upper level of the restaurant to get a few pictures of the layout. Because of the theming, it felt a little like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney. Shortly after I sat back down, my food came.

Though the portions were relatively small, they were incredibly delicious. I tried to take my time and enjoy them, rather than just scarf them down. After I was done, my waitress brought me a cup of tea. I ordered dessert and it too was fantastic. I couldn’t place the flavor of the ice cream, but whatever it was, it was good.

IMG_6346My dessert

Being that I had spent my allotment of cash for the day (between breakfast, putting money on my Pasmo, buying the t-shirt and the paper crafts) I put the meal on my credit card. I was completely full and very satisfied. Not only with my meal, but with my day. This was the first day in Tokyo that I felt I got a lot done and it felt good.

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Japan – Day 9: Tokyo – Day 3

Sunday – April 16, 2017

After a late night last night we all slept in thus giving us a late start to the day. We didn’t end up leaving the room until after 10am. We skipped breakfast and took the train straight to Tokyo Dome City.

Tokyo Dome City

Once there, we grabbed breakfast at a bakery. We ate outside in the shade and then grabbed tickets for Thunder Dolphin (the roller coaster). Luckily you can buy individual ride tickets and it was only ~$10. They were running two trains and because it wasn’t very busy, we only had a 10 minute wait.

IMG_6199Panorama of Thunder Dolphin

Because LaQua (the name of the amusement park; part of the Tokyo Dome City complex) is in such a confined space, Thunder Dolphin has to make due with what space it does have. Both the lift hill and drop are steep and the ride is relatively compact, but, despite that, it packs a punch.

What I loved is that you never get the chance to ride a roller coaster in the middle of a city. It’s a great way of not only getting a ride/entertainment, it’s also a way of getting a 360 view of the city.

The ride ended up being great, we all loved it and were kicking ourselves for not getting a five ride pass so we could ride it five times in a row.

IMG_6207The Tokyo Dome; pretty self explanatory I guess

We then made our way over to the Tokyo Dome (literally next door) which, apparently had a baseball game going on. After getting a few pics, we made our way to the train station. Ignoring my directions, we ended up going to a station that was a bit further than the one I was taking us to. Whatever. We took the train three stops (instead of just two) and ended up in Akihabara.

Btw, while walking around Tokyo Dome City after having ridden Thunder Dolphin, we totally came across a small Muji store. Super dope.

Akihabara

I don’t remember how this got on the itinerary. It must have been either Dan or Pete’s suggestion. Either way, Akihabara is the anime district/electronics/video game district of Tokyo. Imagine if everything you think about Tokyo were located in one place, this would be it.

That said, it was immediately apparent that this was not my scene. Dan and Pete on the other hand were loving it. Being that I was going nuts staying in the manga and card shops with them, I told them I wanted to walk around and we decided to meet back at the JR station in an hour (14:00).

IMG_6212This is a general overview of what Akihabara looks like

I spent my hour popping in and out of arcades, exploring the different levels but not actually playing any of the games. I also sat and posted my Instagram for the day. Additionally, I used the change machine to get smaller denominations of Yen as I keep getting screwed by big bills.

When I went back to meet up with the boys, I fully expected them to be ready to move on to the next thing seeing that I had walked the entire area. To my surprise, they said they had only just finished the building we had started in!

IMG_6216One of many SEGA arcades

I decided that this was my que to split. I grabbed my things from Dan’s backpack and took the JR two stops to Iidabashi Station. I then walked about 10 minutes to the Yushukan War Museum.

Yushukan War Museum

Not gonna lie the main reason I wanted to go was to see the Zero (airplane) they have on display. As you enter, it is literally the first thing you see in the lobby. I admired it and took some pictures before buying my ticket and entering the main part of the museum.

IMG_6235One of two Zero’s on display at the museum

I sort of perused at a steady pace. I couldn’t really take it all in because only a few of the plaques were English. Eventually however, I made it to the room with the vehicles. There they had a tank, a boat, miniatures of battleships, a mini-submarine and another Zero.

I ended up spending an hour and a half there. As I was walking out through the lobby, Pete Facetime Audio called me. I told him I was done at the museum and was heading back to Akihabara. We decided to all meet at MariCar.

MariCar

For those who don’t know, MariCar is a company that allows you to rent a go kart and, if you want, dress up as a character from Mario Kart while driving around on the streets/taking a tour of Tokyo.

IMG_6240In the lobby of MariCar – Akihabara

I arrived first, despite being the furthest away, and found out that they were all booked up for the day. When the others arrived, we agreed to reserve an 11am slot on Thursday. I was a little bummed that we weren’t gonna do it today, but I was glad that we at least put it officially on the itinerary.

Food

After booking our tour, we grabbed a bite to eat. Pete went to Carl’s Jr. and Dan and I ended up at Mos Burger. Once we were done eating, I wanted to go to the Park Hayett Hotel to make up for my not going last night. Pete realized there was some car meet near by, so once again, we split up.

Park Hayett Hotel

Dan and I took the train to Shinjuku Station. I had done my homework this time and wasn’t going to make a mistake with regard to directions again. Unfortunately, despit all that, that is exactly what I did. We walked for about 10 minutes in the wrong direction before I realized my mistake. I was so bummed and angry.

IMG_6252The entrance to the hotel

We then backtracked to the station and started over again. As we got to the station, I realized my mistake, we had come out the wrong exit. I had figured out how to walk to the hotel from one specific exit and, despite following the signs to what I thought was the right exit, we had somehow screwed it up. Whatever.

We then walked 15 minutes to the hotel which normally would not have been bad. However, when you’re tired and have had a long day and are pissed off, 15 minutes seems like forever. On top of that, when we got there we realized that the hotel is part of a much larger building complex.

This meant navigating the complex in order to find the entrance to the hotel. Once in the lobby of the hotel, we had to figure how to get to the New York Bar. This meant taking two elevators, one to the 41st floor and then a second elevator to the 52nd floor.

When we arrived at the New York Bar we were told we couldn’t be let in because Dan was wearing shorts. He insisted I go but I simply took a peek before heading back down to 41. Clearly I am not meant to have a drink there.

IMG_6248My “mocktail” and Dan’s whiskey at the Peak Bar

Instead however, we grabbed a drink at The Peak Lounge, the more casual but still upscale bar on the 41st floor with great views of the city. This actually ended up working out well because rather than just getting a beer, I was able to get a “mocktail”. Dan ordered a Japanese whiskey and though the drinks took forever, they were delicious.

I told Dan I’d grab the tab as I had dragged him on this somewhat fruitless endeavor and because he had had to deal with my shitty attitude.

Shibuya Crossing

After our drinks we made our way to Shibuya Crossing where we met up with Pete and took some pics and vid of the famous crosswalk. After a little bit of that we walked around the area for a bit before taking to the train back to the apartment.

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Japan – Day 8: Tokyo – Day 2

Saturday – April 15, 2017

I started the day by doing laundry. This was becoming necessary as I was on my second to last day of clean clothes. Luckily I planned it so that I would only have to do one load the entire time. Additionally, there was a laundromat 5 minutes away from our Air BnB. Lastly, I was able to figure our how to use the washer and dryer despite the directions being in Kanji.

Harajuku

Once I was done with what I needed to do, I wrangled up the troops and we made our way to Harajuku for breakfast. I had found a place on Google Maps while doing research for the trip called Eggs and Things, apparently a Hawaiian joint. Clearly I had picked a good spot because when we arrived there was a small line out front.

IMG_6124Eggs Benedict with spam at Eggs ‘n Things

The three of us checked out the menu while in line and knew what we wanted before we were seated. Dan and I had eggs Benedict and Pete got chocolate chip pancakes. The place was a little pricey and felt like something you’d find at a Disney Resort but it was very good.

After eating, we explored a few of the shops in Harajuku. There were a lot of street-ware brands represented there; I went into Stüssy for a bit. But one of the main places I wanted to visit was Deus Ex Machina.

IMG_6135Deus Ex Machine – Harajuku

Ever since going to the one in Sydney I’ve wanted to go back to one. So once I found out that there is one in Tokyo, I immediately added it to the itinerary. I’d love to grab breakfast or dinner there one of these days/nights, but, if I don’t, I’m glad we at least went.

Ghibli Museum

Next we split up. Pete left to go to a drift event that was happening in town and Dan and I went to check out the Ghibli Museum. For those who don’t know, Studio Ghibli has produced some of the most famous Anime such as My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke.

IMG_6146Ghibli Museum

Dan and I took the subway to the JR, then hopped on the bus from the JR station to the museum. We go in the line to enter the museum -yes, there was a line to enter the museum- and waited a few minutes only to find out that tickets need to be purchased in advance. What kind of museum does that?

We tried to grab same day tickets at a kiosk in a Lawson connivence store across the street. (Apparently a location where you can get tickets… go figure). But they were sold out. I felt so bad for letting Dan down.

Temari no Ouchi

After that we made our way to Temari no Ouchi, a cat cafe (as in there are literally cats there just chillin’ while you eat… because Japan) I had seen featured on the show Girls on HBO. We went in the lobby and took our shoes off (because we had to) then entered the cafe. Weirdly, no one greeted us or directed us where to sit.

IMG_6149Temari no Ouchi – the cat cafe from the HBO show Girls

There were a bunch of groups of people sitting around petting cats. Some may have had food, I don’t remember. Dan immediately noticed that it was super hot and humid in there. The vibe was also really awkward, so we decided to bail.

After failing at two things in a row, we decided to split up. Dan decided to go back to the room to take a nap. I, after looking at the itinerary, decided to check out a bookstore which I had been told stocks a magazine I’m unable to get in the states.

Tsutaya Daikanyama T-site

After a bit of a train ride and a short walk, I found myself at Tsutaya Daikanyama T-site. Tsutaya is apparently a chain. However, this one is not only their largest location (spanning three buildings with two levels in each one) but also has crazy long hours; 7am to 2am!

IMG_6151Tsutaya Daikanyama T-site

To start, the architecture. These buildings are architecturally beautiful. All minimalist rectangles, they incorporate intricate and ornate concrete design with glass. This design flows to the inside where the motif continues as well as adding wood to the mix.

The books are extremely well organized and there is a plethora of them. The secion I stopped in first was the car section as I was looking for Motorhead Magazine. What I found was a section that spanned books, magazines, videos, new, used, makes, models, maintenance; literally everything on the subject.

This theme continued through out the various sections and topics they covered. On top of that they had a floor dedicated to music, another dedicated to movies, one floor was a restaurant (naturally they had a Starbucks too), there was even a Family Mart. In addition to books, the store also sold writing paraphernalia such as pens, pencils and notebooks.

There was even a small museum style exhibit of Belstaff jackets which had been featured in movies. I could go on about all the things that the place had, but I won’t. All I’ll say is that if you needed it, this place probably sold it. There were so many books I wanted to buy but I ended up leaving with just the magazine.

Shibuya Crossing

After spending at least two hours walking around the book store, I made my way to Shibuya station so that I could get my first glimpse of Shibuya Crossing. Think of it like Times Square only even more insane. I only went at 17:00 (shit gets apparently gets poppin’ at around 19:00) but it was still fairly busy.

IMG_6154Shibuya Crossing

I took a few pictures of the famous crosswalk and the surrounding buildings before playing a game of human Frogger. When the cross sign goes green, hundreds of locals and tourists (let’s face it, mostly tourists) cross and criss-cross diagonally through the massive intersection.

I ended up on the other side at Shibuya 109 Men, a mens clothing mall. I went through a few of the floors before getting back on the subway and heading back to the apartment.

Park Hayett Hotel

I was only back for maybe half an hour before I left again. Dan was still sleeping and Pete wasn’t back yet. I had a feeling we weren’t going it make it to the Robot Restaurant again, so I decided I’d selfishly try and hit another bar on my list.

My plan was to visit the New York Bar at the Park Hayett Hotel as it is the one featured in the movie Lost in Translation. However, to spare you the details of this pathetic attempt at a trip. I ended up going to the absolute wrong subway station and ended up way out of my way.

I had been rushing too because they start charging a cover after 20:00 so now my legs and feet were unnecessarily tired. It was a total bummer. Tail between my legs, I made my way back to the Air BnB where I met up with the boys and after checking in on our respective days, we all went out to eat.

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Boston to Tokyo to Osaka

It was late December of 2008 that I first took an international vacation by myself. I went with EF tours to London and Paris. While in Soho in London, I went to the Onitsuka Tiger boutique on Carnaby Street. There I purchased a pair of yellow and black Mexico 66’s reminiscent of the Tai Chi’s worn by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol. 1.

At the time Onitsuka Tiger had a campaign called Made of Japan. The bag in which a got my shoes was a beautifully designed sneaker city of Tokyo. I think it was then that I realized I wanted to go to Japan.

I cut out a part of the screen printed brown paper bag and hung it on my wall. All it said was JAPAN. Now, nine years later, I’m on my way.

Thursday – April 6, 2017 – United States of America

Apartment to Sullivan Station (via bus; 10 min)

I left my apartment at 10:25am EST to catch the 89 Bus to Sullivan Station. According to my “Catch The Bus” app, I had 4 minutes until the bus was to arrive. knowing that it only takes me about a minute to get to the bus stop from my apartment, I took my time. However, as I rounded the corner onto Broadway, I saw that the bus was already at the stop. I ran and luckily the merciful bus driver waited for me. This was the first of several connections/forms of transportation I would have to take on what would be one of the longest days of my life.

Sullivan Station to Logan Airport (via subway (Orange line and Blue line) and shuttle bus; 40 min)

At Sullivan station I boarded the Orange line bound for Forrest Hills and took it to State Street. There I switched to the Blue Line. I took the Blue Line to Airport where I then boarded a shuttle to Terminal E. I arrived at the airport at 11:15am.

Logan Airport to Narita Airport (via JAL Boeing 787; ~14 hrs)

Once there, I checked in and got my boarding pass. After that I checked my phone and saw that the other guys weren’t far behind. A short while later I met up with Pete who then checked his bag. Then, after that we figured out that Dan was already making his way through security.

IMG_5364Japan Airlines B787 at Logan Airport

Pete and I followed suit. Apparently Thursdays at 11:40am isn’t a particularly busy time for Logan Airport’s International terminal, we basically just walked right through. After hashing a few things out, taking some pictures of the plane, using the restroom and grabbing food, it was time to board (1:00pm).

The boarding process was quick and hassle free. Our plane pushed back promptly at 1:20pm and after a short taxi to the runway, we were air-born. You don’t realize how cool all of the features of the B787 Dreamliner are until you get to experience them. The larger overhead compartments, the larger windows that dim rather than use a shade, the graceful flex of the carbon fibre composite wing once in flight.

I started the flight by listening to the latest episode of This Is Only A Test (Tested dot com’s podcast). Shortly after, or possibly right before the hour and 45 minute podcast ended, we were served our first meal. Dan and I (who were sitting next to each other) had the pork meal. Pete, who was sitting behind me, got the chicken. The meal was pretty big and pretty good, it filled all of us up.

IMG_5367Our first meal on the flight

After using the restroom and chatting with the guys for a bit, I started my first movie, the Academy Award Winning Best Picture -er sorry, that was the other one- La La Land. I don’t know if it was because I was on a plane or that I heard so much about it or that I had built it up too much but I only thought it was ok.

After the movie I stood and stretched for a bit, looked at maps, looked out the window, chatted with Pete and Dan, then watched the movie Allied, which was also only ok.This was then followed by a snack/meal service, more chatting, an episode of Star Wars Rebels, and a nap which was followed by our last proper meal of the flight.

An episode of Wheeler Dealers led us to a holding pattern where we made circles out over the ocean which ruined our initial estimate of an early (3:30pm instead of 4pm) arrival time. After a sketchy crosswind landing, we touched down at Narita Airport at 16:07 Japan time.

Friday – April 7, 2017 – Japan

One of my biggest fears upon landing at Narita was being able to get our JR Voucher converted to a JR Pass, book our Narita Express train from the airport to Tokyo and get to the bullet train on time, as well as getting our PASMO card and our Japanese SIM card all while making it on time to our various connections.

I assumed that our biggest hurdle would be going through customs but the whole process, including Pete having to collect his bag at baggage claim, only took around a half an hour. Once we got through and made our way out to the lobby, we then scrambled to find where to exchange our JR Pass Voucher for a usable JR Pass.

IMG_0930Dan, Pete and I getting off the plane

Eventually, after asking a few people, we found the JR Pass ticket booth. There, not only were we able to get our JR Pass, we also got our ticket for the Narita Express train (#42 which left at 17:47 just as I had researched) and our ticket/reserved seat for the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Osaka (#529 which departed at 19:10, also as I expected).

After getting all that we went over to the PASMO machine to purchase a PASMO card. PASMO is one of many “IC Cards” one can choose from while in Japan. It is a subway tap-card that works in seemingly all subway stations and most busses, not just in Tokyo. After sorting out our PASSMO, Dan and I went in search of a SIM card.

We went back upstairs and, using Pete’s phone, figured out which retailers sold the specific SIM card he was looking for. As I looked around the airport, amazingly I saw one of the retailers from the website. This was the first of many times that, as a team, we figured out where we needed to go. We grabbed our SIM cards and, after collecting ourselves, made our way to the platform to board the Hogwarts, er, Narita Express.

Narita Airport to Tokyo Station (via N’EX train; 52 min)

We got to the platform in plenty of time and as I expected, the N’EX showed up at 17:47, right on schedule. The first thing you notice after entering the spaceship looking train, is that the ride is not only very quiet, but also incredibly smooth. Additionally, despite the fact that it was not a bullet train, the N’EX hauled ass doing probably 80 kph.

IMG_5372Narita Express Train

As we entered Tokyo, Pete pointed out to me the Tokyo Skytree, which he mistook for the Tokyo Tower. Even from a distance you could tell it was massive. It dwarfed everything else in sight. Eventually we arrived at Shinigawa station where after a bit of fevered confusion, made our connection to the Tokaido-Sanyo shinkansen.

Shinigawa Station to Shin Osaka Station (via Shinkansen aka bullet train; 3 hrs)

I don’t know what made me think this was a good idea, a 3+ hour train ride after already being subjected to ~14 hour flight and an ~hour long train ride. Regardless, we boarded the train, which again was perfectly on time, and began our journey.

IMG_5374Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Osaka

The three of us were miserable. Despite the relatively comfortable seats, we were all exhausted but yet could not really fall asleep. Despite travelling at ~274 kph (about 160 mph) the train felt like it was taking forever. I felt like I was on Snowpiercer. Eventually however, we made it to Shin Osaka Station.

Shin Osaka Station to Nippombashi Station (via Subway; 20 min)

Our journey was nearly over. There were only two more subway trains to take. Once we got to the station, I pulled out my itinerary and, thanks to its through detail, as well as excellent sign spotting by Dan and Pete, we found our trains without a problem and before we knew it, we were at Nippombashi Station.

Nippombashi Station to Air BnB (via walking; 10 min)

IMG_5378View from the 14th floor balcony of our Air BnB

Thanks to my Google mapping before the trip, I knew not only what exit number to leave from (#10) but also exactly where to go once we got out. The walk was very straightforward and, with help from Pete, we figured out out the exact location of the Air BnB and how to get in it. Once we did, we got settled and then, after admiring our accomplishments, all went to bed.

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