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Japan – Day 9

Got up about 10am, had something to eat and then checked out of the fabulous Hotel Sunroute in Shinjuku.

Pulled our baggage to the Shinjuku Train station and Sarah put an extra 1000 yen onto a Pasmo card, instead of a fare adjustment – Something to note! (We found out later Pasmo is only Tokyo)

Got on the Yamanote line to Shinagawa where we eventually found our Shinkansen platform. We were using the Nozomi service (express, fewest stops) on the Tōkaidō/Sanyō service. This train hits 300km/h..

I was a bit worried about how we would store our luggage (as space is limited, unless you can get the space behind the last row of seats) but ended up being fine. Whoever said the section above the seats is similar to that of an airplane should be shot. Our 55-60lt bags went up there no issues…assuming you can lift it up there.

The train ride was cool, I was trying to find my Blackberry to show GPS speed (Didn’t have an app on Iphone) and I couldn’t get the damn thing, it was burried in our luggage somewhere.

Very smooth ride, didn’t feel like it was going that fast..we went past some of the nice countryside and also saw Mt Fuji – had some clouds around it unfortunately.

Some parts of the track had some sprinklers going too, I assume to keep the track temperature stable in case the steel warps or something.


We passed through Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya and Kyoto before arriving at Shin-Osaka.

From here it was a pretty simple task to get to our hotel…Jump on the Midosuji line and get off at Namba. Only thing was at Namba it was a maze of department stores, subway lines, railway lines and bus lines. Evenutally found the lobby of the hotel.

The Swissotel Nankai Osaka – Is a world above where we stayed previously in terms of the size of our room, which is huge. Very nice with awesome views.

Only crap thing is we have to pay 1680yen for a day of internet – Might be a nice hotel but all the bits and pieces cost extra. 3000yen to use the pool/gym for example. The restaurants are also very expensive. However, not really an issue as we’d be eating out anyway.

The vending machine in the previous hotel was actually very handy, as the mini-bar costs 350yen for a coke, where as the vending machines have them for 150yen.

Once we were settled we had a look around, Had dinner at a place called Yayoiken – Curry Rice and stuff for me, and Sarah had some beef/egg/potato on Rice dish – Tasty, and around cost under 1500 yen.

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Went and played a few games of SFIV at the Club Sega (Which we can see from the hotel room) – Had some success here tonight, won about 7 games and had a little streak going. Then played this Able and got destroyed. Doing stuff i’d never seen before…Very interesting. I attempted to have a little chat with the player who tried his best to explain some things with very limited english, if I knew Japanese I think I’d be able to learn a lot from these guys.

Written by Aaron Tan

March 10th, 2011 at 11:00 pm

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Japan – Day 8

Its sunny today, woo. We went all the way to Tokyo Dome City (I really wanted some rollercoaster action) and then when we got there..the place was pretty much deserted.

I got to an information desk and asked when “all this stuff” will open again, and was shown a piece of paper that read:

“Due to incident on January 30 the rides will remained closed. It has not been decided when they will be reopened”

Perfect. We wondered what incident had happened, later that night googled it and a Japanese guy died here that day. He fell out of a ride and it was being investigated as to whether it was the rider or parks fault. Not very good. From that I found this park has had a couple of other incidents as well. Maybe its better we didn’t go on anything here..

So that sucks, now where are we going to go? As this place was right next to Tokyo Dome..we walked past and had a quick look while heading back to the subway.

We decided on Odiaba – Theres a Sega Joypolis there which is supposed to be pretty cool. Also it was out on this man made island part of Tokyo which sounded interesting.

We trained it all the way out there, over the bridge and all (later found the subway was much easier and faster) and got some lunch at an Italian restaurant. It was REALLY good too. I had a lasagne and Sarah got a pizza. Sarah looks really happy in this photo…

They had a nice outdoor dining area with a decent view so I asked if I could go outside and take a snap, no one was out there, probably because it was freezing..still I thought i’d be polite.

After that, we paid the 500yen admission into Joypolis – and I had an ‘unlimited ride’ ticket (which cost an extra 3000yen) – Not bad. There wasn’t that much in there..Don’t think it was worth getting the 3000yen pass. Most rides were 600yen, and I only went on a few. First up was this mini-roller coaster where you are spun around in the cart while going around the track. Second was a Intial D driving game with real cars setup – WRX, AE86 and a FD RX7. Third was this athletic game. The attendant made us stretch before, as the point of the game was to run on these treadmills and hit a button for hurdles, long jump and a sprint. During the name entry, I accidently followed the two girls I was competing against, and must have selected ‘Female’ for my character. Hopefully that didn’t look too odd..anyway I won! Was pretty strange, and my leg muscles are still hurting..

There was a Prison Break thing as well, which I thought was pretty lame. The Japanese guy leading us through the ‘prison’ was pretty cool, he got right into it..The other japanese running along seemed pretty into it as well.

And thats all I went on..I must say before Prison Break I started to feel a bit off..It didn’t help waiting 10 minutes in line for a crap ride and then having to run through it.

Headed back out to the Decks complex, which is where all this stuff was..went out onto the actual deck outside and checked out the nice view of Tokyo.

Got back to the Hotel, and had some plans to meet up with Tim and Sachie again for some food (Jamaican..Sounded good too) and also another friend prior to that.. But I felt crap and couldn’t be bothered going anywhere after a pretty big day.

Had a good nap and then later in the night got up and felt a bit better..headed around the corner to get some dinner, thought we’d try this Sizeria place – Since I know people that work there back in Australia (Yes they have a factory in Melton..Not sure what they make and ship back to Japan though) – I had some hamburger meat dish (yep, just a hamburger patty) and Sarah had some pasta. Pretty crappy but it was cheap I guess and filled the stomach.

Had a quick walk around and went into the gaming part of Yodobashi Camera, saw all the Hori fight sticks they had and laughed at how cheap they were.. Wasted 200yen in a Mario capsule vending machine thing – Only to realise it was EMPTY!

Went back to hotel and went to bed..gotta get up early to get ready to check out and head to Osaka.

Written by Aaron Tan

March 9th, 2011 at 11:30 pm

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Japan – Day 7

One week mark gone now!

It was snowing this morning, so we didn’t do too much today.

Hung around Shinjuku and then went to Shibuya to meet up with Tim later in the day, who took us around and showed us a few more shopping centres that we’d missed. We also got to see Shibuya crossing lit up at night..which is pretty damn bright.

Had some dinner at Pepper Steak – First meat I’ve had in a long time..Pretty cheap too for 1000yen.

Went to Loft – another homewares shopping centre spread across 5 or 6 levels, also the ‘everything’ store – which literally was 6 floors of everything..luggage, rolex watches, boutique bags/wallets, homewares, toys, makeup..costumes, adult stuff, food, drinks..it really was everything.

We went back to the hotel, then I came out again to catch up and have a few drinks with Tim and Sachie.

We went to this little bar in Shibuya and have a couple of jugs of Asahi and then ended up in Sbarro for some pizza slices.

Bloody cold day it was!

Written by Aaron Tan

March 8th, 2011 at 11:30 pm

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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 Tan

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. Hilarious.

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 Tan

March 6th, 2011 at 12:21 am

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