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Japan – Day 6

Sunday. Fairly tired, decided to take things easy today.

After another Pao Pao feed (And Sarah hit up Paul’s bakery) We went back to Shibuya again. Saw Hachiko the dog and them up through one of the busy shopping streets.

Got a photo in the middle of the busy Shibuya Crossing on the way through.

Futher up the street – out of the blue – someone in a Ronald McDonald outfit wanders down the street..random!

Went to Parco shopping center, where Sarah picked up a nice bag from Betsey Johnson. This place is another huge shopping center devoted to womens clothing. We also came across some Juicy Couture stuff..I think they’re clearing out of Japan because everything was 50% off.. Nothing for Sarah though.

Headed back through the maze of streets, stopped through what looked to be a skate/surf shop – Picked up a Hurley jacket and the continued back to the station. Better drop our bags off first, and since it was a little early still – about 130PM – we decided to head back to the hotel and have a bit of a rest.

Went to Harajuku to see if we could spot some Harajuku girls, as well as visit the Meiji shrine. On the Jingu-bashi there were tons of tourists around, a handful of girls – Odd thing was there were these old guys there ..looked like they were ‘managing them’ – Didn’t feel real – They had signs up saying ask permission for photos, and these old men looked real scummy as well. By the looks of it, I saw them approach a few other girls that were dressed up and ask them for photos. I didn’t really know what to make of it, but I guess times have changed and perhaps most of the girls have moved on? Or maybe we just went at the wrong time. We just passed by and headed towards the shrine. Walked pass this big row of Sake barrels too, which was pretty cool. A bit of spiritual significance behind these, i’ve read.

A long walk, we passed through a few huge Torii (gates) and finally got to the shrine itself. There is a huge forrest around this place – very tranquil.

The shrine itself made the one we saw yesterday feel tiny. There were a heap of tourists everywhere so it was hard to get a good shot, so instead I’ll post up this one of the water fountain just before the entrance of the shrine. These are placed here because before you enter the compound, you should be ritually, spiritually purified – and Water purification is usually performed by scooping up water and cleaning your hands and mouth. (Not that we did this..)

We had a good look around here, then proceeded back to the Jingu-bashi to see if there were any more cosplay girls around.

I got some shots of a few of them. There was a mini crew there as well taking some photos of the girls, they had some pretty serious gear as well so I assume for a magazine or something.

Then this old man suddenly turned up with goldfish hanging from this bust on his head.. and got a bit of a crowd going:

Nothing else much happening around here, we went back down to the absolutely crowded Takeshita Dori – It was Crepe time. Shoving our way through the thick sea of asian’s and sparse caucasian tourists…

We finally got to the crepe stands. They offer you a lot of choice.. I think its cool there is a whole industry here centered around making plastic/rubber food for display, helping us tourists (probably) pick what we want.

The one I got was mega-creamy. Think I will settle for something less next time. There was another weird photoshoot happening up the alleyway here with some young girls and older men. I’m pretty sure they just ask these girls for photos. Again, I have no idea what was going on.. We saw these girls just wandering around later on, so I dont think they were affiliated at all. They must have been about 13-15. Strange?

Ate our crepes, walked back to the station and went back to Shinjuku..and so ends our 6th day. Oh we also went to Yodobashi Camera and picked up some moccasin’s with mops on the bottom of them – we thought would make a cool gift.. and I also got a HDMI to Mini-HDMI converter..specifically so I can take my camera to Sarah’s parent’s house to show photos on the TV a whole lot easier!

Written by Aaron

March 7th, 2011 at 3:36 am

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Japan – Day 5

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Brunch Time. We head to Keio Plaza foodcourt (found out the name) again below Shinjuku Station for food. I got some buns and dumplings at Pao Pao. Ordered 2x Pork and 2x Prawn dumplings and what I thought to be a meat bun – Instead ended up being red bean..Still tasted really good though.

Sarah went to a french bakery (which seem to be huge here) and got some baked products.

The plan was to do a walking tour through East Shinjuku, starting at Shinjuku Dori. Went all the way down to the Isekan building. Here you can arrange to have your own english assistant to help you shop. We just went past it though and headed towards Hanazono-jinja – There is a cool Shinto Shrine here (our first one) – Took some photos, there were some cherry blossoms out which was cool. Now on to Golden Gai.

A network of little laneways that all have these little stand up bars. Being daytime, it was pretty much deserted. Really dense and its hard to imagine how many people this place must have to sustain all these bars.

The road lead us to Kabukicho, the red-light district of Tokyo. Lots of girl clubs here, again..there are just so many places..see photo, each of those vertical signs on the buildings show at least 10 bars per place! and there are a lot of signs..

Funny sign here too..Work it out.

We eventually ended up at the Koma theatre area, where there is a square that had some buskers. A girl was rocking out on the stage here as we went by.

By this time we’d done a big square of East Shinjuku..and it was time to head out to Ikebukuro. We also spotted Vinh’s Doppleganger.

Jumping on the Yamonote line, we ended up going past Takadonobaba Station – where the Astroboy theme is played when the train stops. Trains in Japan (On the JR lines at least) play a little tune when the train is waiting. The few stops later and we were at Ikebukuro, where we head straight to the Tokyu Hands store. On the 8th floor, there is a place called Nekobukuro. Its like a petting zoo for people, and a luxury apartment for about 20-odd cats.

The story with this place is that since Tokyo is so busy, and people lead busy lives..they don’t have time for owning or looking after a cat. So they can come here instead.

We spent some time checking out the kitty’s and then had a look at the actual store outside the petting part – All sorts of pet accessories here..from Collar+Bow things for cats, to hats and clothing for dogs, for dog loving people and even calming treats for dogs amazon that are great for educating dogs.

Exiting the Tokyu Hands building, we went to the Amlux building where there was a Toyota Auto Salon display on (we found out later there’s an observatory deck in this building) and after a quick look around, we went outside to line up at the crepe stand. Windy and cold (the wind even blew off a crepe the guy was making for the people in front of us) we left to go back to Shinjuku, and get one there instead. Ikebukuro was pretty packed, looks like lots of young people here. A lot of Pachinko palours and arcades.

Back at Shinjuku, we went by a Kebab stand and I couldn’t resist. Pretty good, I think they use Mayo instead of garlic sauce. Reminded me of the Kebab’s I had in Madrid. They opened up a pocket of bread in a half moon shape and fill it in.

Sarah got a crepe and compared to the Melbourne Japanese crepes – Were totally awesome. Not to mention about half the price too.

Just near here there were some more buskers – A violinist was drawing quite a crowd.

After a bit of a rest back at the hotel, it was time to get some dinner. We went to a Soba place about 5 minutes down the road – These little places have vending machines inside the restaurant, where you pay for your order and then pick it up from the counter. Saves having to pay someone to serve customers..great idea.

On the walk back we stopped through a place called Frigo – A european beer cafe. Not heap to drink here, about 850yen for a 250ml glass.

We had some garlic toast, a few beers and then moved on back to the hotel.

There was some pretty funny “Getaway” style TV show where this japanese woman was going through Italy tasting foods looking at the sights. It then went back to a panel of people who were asked certain questions..Kept us amused thats for sure, Sarah’s mouth was watering at all the italian food they were showing on the TV. It did look awesome though..

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Written by Aaron

March 6th, 2011 at 12:21 am

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Japan – Day 4

First stop, Harajuku. Thought it’d be best to take in the sights prior to the weekend (We’ll be back on Sunday to check out the Harajuku girls thing) and do some shopping. Walked down Takeshita St and stopped in at Daiso, the japanese equivalent of a $2 shop (except it was bigger..like 4 floors bigger) and bought a few bits and pieces. At the end of Takeshita St lies Meiji Dori – Another strip of shopping..it really doesn’t end here. First up was the Laforet shopping center.. Specifically Topshop – Sarah made a nice purchase here, then across the road to the YM Square Building’s Adidas store where we both bought some ‘Exclusive to Japan’ stuff.

I finally saw my first Kebab shop here too…

Back to Shinjuku for some food, Sarah got a photo with a cute japanese cat suit thing as we walked out..

We went back to the food court that was in Shinjuku Station, this time for some sweets. We decided on some awesome looking Macaroon’s and bought a 6 pack to take back to the hotel. The way the girl boxed them, tied a ribbon around the box, then wrapped the box in foam, and then put some ice/cool sachet into it, and then taped that..finally putting that into a plastic bag – was pretty neat. They take so much care with things, its really something else. It made you feel guilty just unwrapping the thing. In the end, they were delicious though..

So dropped bags off at hotel, went back to Hanamaru for some Udon and then it was off to Roppongi – Had a quick look around here, it was about 7pm and dark by now. Just stopped through to have a quick look around on the way to Akihabara. Lots of bars and strip shows around this area I think.

Akihabara, or Akiba – Was pretty cool. There was a huge Yodobashi Camera store (Same as the one we’ve been to in Shinjuku) – Still we had a quick look through. There were some “stick your head in and take a photo” displays outside, which we had to do..

We walked down to Book Off – A huge, 6 storey building filled with manga, dvds, magazines, books..somethign we’re begining to get used to.. Went up to the top floor, had a look at some of Japan’s weird adult manga, then went out again..Not much for us to see here as we don’t read Japanese.

We’d heard a lot of the massive adult stores around here, so had to check out M’s Tower – 7 floors (small floors) of all things sex/fantasy/adult related. Out front there were these anime girls with a whiteboard marker that you could use to write whatever in the speech bubbles. There were some pretty wild things in here.. We thought the fact that a lot of the dolls looked really young was a bit disturbing. Also, if you bought some of the cosplay/fantasy stuff and let the staff take a photo of you dressed up in it (there were displays of this on the staircases as you walked up) you would get a 30%
discount – Interesting. So to recap – 7 floors of DVDs, Toys, Dressup, Dolls and everything else you could imagine..

Having seen enough, we walked back out and saw a girl dressed up in a french maid outfit trying to get people to go up into a Maid Cafe called MaiDreaming. I’ve heard about these, they’re a cafe where you get your own little ‘assistant’ to make you coffee and bring you food, etc etc. Something I wanted to try out..maybe later down the track.

Time to head back to Shinjuku, so back to the JR station and onto a train to the hotel. The ‘Priority’ seats (for elderly, disabled, etc) that we were on – were heated! Only in Japan!

Written by Aaron

March 5th, 2011 at 4:09 am

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Japan – Day 3

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Sunny Day! On the way out of the hotel we bump into a friend who happened to get here on Tuesday, and is staying in the same hotel. This is after we found out he was in Japan via Facebook. Small world.

Entered Shinjuku station via the elevators (literally next door to the hotel) and loaded up some Pasmo cards for our public transport adventures. After finding out yesterday we were limited to the Toei subway with the daily tickets we bought, these prepaid cards work everywhere and save us the hassle.

The plan today was to find the Juicy Couture store, which is in Minato. We got off at the Omotesandō station and walked out..where it was absolutely FREEZING. Windchill was breaking us here. After getting our bearings, we started heading towards Minami-Aoyama – An boutique area with all your big brands.

Wondered through a few times, was absolutely sure we were in the right area. Sarah wanted to go into the big Miu Miu store, which was very lavish..had a look around there..then went into the Marc Jacobs down the street. Broke out some of the Japanese on the store assistant there who kindly told us that the Juicy Couture store had closed down in January. Let me just say, The Juicy Couture website needs to be updated..one, the stupid address is wrong..we were typing it into Google Maps (as noted in Day 2 at the Apple Store) and wondering why it wasnt working. Secondly, It doesn’t even matter if the stupid store is CLOSED DOWN. Why not just remove the stupid wrong entry!

Anyway, we wondered around the area and saw a cherry blossom tree sprouting so that was pretty cool.

Also the Prada store looked amazing.

Next up, time to walk down to Shibuya. We wandered out to the main street..and it was bloody windy. Lucky I brang the little pocketwarmers, bought yesterday. Sarah hogged both of them in her pockets while we hid away in a Starbucks to get organised.

Stopped again at some sort of Bakery place and bought some snacks. Engrish at its best with a label stating something was “Rape Blossom”.

10 minutes later..we were at the intersection that everyone talks about. Shibuya’s scramble crossing…where all traffic stops to let people walk through. People everywhere! This is in front of one of Japan’s busiest stations.

We made our way through, and entered anohter huge electronics store..typical stuff here.. There are a few 3D gadgets we haven’t (and probably won’t) see down in Australia.

3D HD Video Cameras
Real-3D TVs and Photo frames (No need for glasses – Bit weird to look at)
3D Digital cameras

Having seen most of this in Shinjuku’s stores, we went to to Shibuya 109 – A huge department store devoted to Women’s wear. Another 5-6 storey’s worth. Sarah had a good look around while I followed. Lots of japanese girls dressed up in all sorts of gear here, from your trashy torn ragged look to your really oldschool doyle look.

Tokyu Hands was next. This place is really something. 8 levels of all sorts of homewares, stationary, DIY, travel goods, materials, toys.. It was huge. We got about half way through before my feet (and Sarah’s back) started to give up on us and we needed to sit down. NO SEATS in this place!

Went to the closes Doutor’s (A coffee shop) where we got some sandwiches and OJ just to sit down. Unfortunately it was a smoking area and we were smashed left/right/centre with people smoking away.. My feet were happy though.

From here, we headed back to Shibuya Station and went back to Shinjuku.

Had a nap at the Hotel and then walked out to Takashimaya Times Square, which is also very close to the Hotel – Maybe 5 minutes walk? This place had another Tokyu Hands store where we finished the last few levels. By this time it was about 830PM and it was closing..so it was time to find something to eat.

There is a Ramen place right next to the hotel that I wanted to try, since it was full we went down a little furhter to find Hanamaru – A Udon noodle place. Ordered Ontama Bukkake – a special soy sauce udon dish with a boiled egg, and some tempura chicken and squid on the side. Very tasty.

Stopped off at a Family Mart (Convenience Store) and picked up some 8% alc canned drink…lemon/blood orange I think? Its called Strong Zero. Sarah got some Chocolate Strawberry Haagen-Dazs ice cream (tasted like strawberry chocolate you got in the Cadbury Roses box – It even went in the same order..Chocolate..then Strawberry..weird)

And that sum’s up Day 3.

The plan for tomorrow is to check out the Daiso/100yen store in Harajuku and then try to get to Akihabara.

Written by Aaron

March 4th, 2011 at 2:06 am

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Japan – Day 2

Woke up about 930am. Headed out to the Shinjuku train station and bought a Toei Day pass for ourselves and tried to find our way to Ginza.

Was a bit of an adventure. Took the Oedo Line (E) Daimon and then got onto the Akasuka Line (A) to Shimbashi where we were going to get onto the Ginza Line..Only thing is the (G) line is a Tokyo Metro line..so our tickets obviously didn’t work.

Didn’t matter though, we walked out and decided to walk the rest of the way. While looking at a map, a nice japanese business man stopped and asked if we needed help..and kindly pointed us in the right direction. 5 minutes later and we were looking down the main strip of Ginza.

Lots of stores, the street looks nicer than the ones we’ve seen already.

Walked into a few big stores, lots of the big expensive brands here. Sarah got some MAC makeup, cheaper than back in Australia. Went and saw this Nissan thing, which was just a small exhibition on the zero emissions Nissan Leaf. Looked good, must have been fully functional too I guess.

Stopped at the Apple Store to find where the Juicy Couture store is in Japan. After whoring their free internet for about 5 minutes one of the store people asked if we needed help (Japanese are helpful!) and he ended up finding the store for us (The address we put in wasnt recognised off the English site) and even printed out the directions for us!

After walking up and back to where we started, walked into the Toy Park store that we strolled past the first time. A 5 storey store devoted to all sorts of toys and games is something I haven’t seen in Australia for a LONG tme! and it was awesome. There was even this huge scalectrix track that I had a go on. 200yen for a few minutes, and it was awesome..the guys looking after it were dressed in overalls and all, one of them got in on the action and gave me some competition. Very fun, better than I remember it being when I was 6-7 yrs old.

We bought a Kendama, a Tomy GXBuggy (a mini RC buggy that does flips and jumps!), a little Totoro plush and a toy coinbox with a little kitten inside, its paw comes out and grabs coins that you put on a little plate (totally japanese).

Had some lunch at the Ginza Lion – A sort of beer place – Got some Curry rice (Kari Raisu) with deep fried Pork cutlets (Tonkatsu) and a beer.

On the way back, we did the right thing this time and walked to Shiodome on the Oedo Line, which was also a short walk from Ginza – Which took us straight back to Shinjuku. In fact right to our hotel, as we found there is a station entry literally next door. Loving the location of this hotel!

Sarah wanted to have a nap, I wanted to play some games – so off to Club Sega again for some SSFIV. There were 3 Dhalsim’s playing this time, which was pretty cool. Got a 6 win streak and then lost a few. Went back to the Hotel at about 6PM and got some dinner at First Kitchen, a bit of a fast food store on the corner. Sarah had some soupy dish and I had a prawn burger. After this we went into the Lumine centre for a look around. Found an amazing little food court/market with all sorts of steamed dumplings, sweets, cakes and sushi. Bought some Gyoza and other little dumplines – Will come back here for sure.

Now back at the Hotel..Ready to check out Roppongi and Aoyama tomorrow for more shopping.

Written by Aaron

March 2nd, 2011 at 11:01 pm

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