1 April 2007

Our last day 31st March 2007

Today was our very last day on holidays before we had to head back to Himeji. This was probably the best week I have had so far in Japan with all the exciting things we did. It was so much fun and it was all very exciting and interesting. We went for a walk to the mall where all the markets were and then we found a street that followed the river through the town. The street was covered in cherry blossom trees and looked so beautiful. We stood on a bridge and admired the sight of the cherry blossoms. It was very busy and crowded that day as everybody was having a hanami party. This is a very popular Japanese tradition where family and friends get together and sit under the cherry blossom trees and have a picnic with lots of food and drinks. I can't wait to have one. It should be fun!

Remember how I was saying how disappointed Tina was for not going on the ferris wheel? Well she got her wish today and we went on the ferris wheel together and got a beautiful view of Yokohama. It was really cool. She was happy in the end!

We had lunch, picked up our things from the hotel and headed home on the shinkansen back to Himeji. Being back in Himeji is weird now. It feels like I have been away for much longer than one week. Getting off that train and seeing the main street felt so surreal. If I felt like that after leaving Himeji for one week, imagine how I am going to feel when I come back to Australia! It is going to be hard settling back into Australia after having lived in Japan for a whole year. I think I will really miss Japan when it comes time to leave. Not that I have to think about that for another nine months!

Sankeien Garden 30th March 2007

The Sankeien Garden was the most beautiful garden I have ever seen. We picked the perfect time of year to go and see it because the cherry blossoms were in full bloom and they looked amazing. I have never seen something look so beautiful before. I took so many photos of them, but seeing it in real life is just a totally different story. This time of year is the most beautiful time because all the cherry blossoms are in bloom and they have cherry blossom trees EVERYWHERE! Some of the streets are full of them and you could imagine how pretty they look.

The Sankeien Garden was just amazing. I took so many cool photos of the flowers and plants that grew there. There were many old homesteads that were still remained within the boundary of the garden and they were so cool. I wish I could have lived in them. There were some tiny little Japanese-style cottages surrounded by native Japanese plants, trees and flowers and to top it off, sakura (cherry blossoms). It was the best sight I have ever seen.

The garden was packed with people rushing to see the first signs of the cherry blossoms. They all brought their own picnic lunches and sat under the cherry blossom trees watching the ducks swimming in the pond. It was so serene and relaxing just walking around and seeing nothing but beauty.

After a few hours of walking around the gardens, we headed towards our hotel. Tina and I were really excited about going on the Ferris Wheel because it is a major feature in Yokohama. It is so pretty to look at in the night time because it is all lit up with colourful neon lights that change colour and pattern. Unfortunately, we missed out on going on the ferris wheel because by the time we got there, it was closed, much to Tina’s dismay and disappointment. I have never seen her crack it so much as she did when she realised she wouldn’t get to go on the ferris wheel. It was the funniest thing. Steve and I just thought, “oh well,” but Tina was beside herself with big puppy dog eyes and a sad, sorry look on her face. She was like a little kid who missed out on the last piece of Cadbury chocolate! Steve and I started laughing at her and it made her even angrier! She cracked it good and proper. If she were an egg, she would have been in one thousand pieces! She soon got over it though!

To make her feel better, Steve thought of this cool idea to take a photo under these pretty red lights. How cool does this photo look? I wish I could have said it was my idea, but I will let Steve take the cake for that one!

Yokohama 29th March 2007

Yesterday was our last day in Tokyo before we moved to Yokohama. I LOVE Yokohama! It is a beautiful city with nice wide streets and clean footpaths and great scenery. We went for a walk through Chinatown, cruised up towards the beach to check out the view and watched a really cool performance from a guy who could juggle with fire, perform magic card tricks and put out fire with his mouth! It was all very impressive.

After that, I went for a walk on my own and stumbled across a really cool, old and interesting building. It was open, so I looked inside and realised that it was a department store. Looking at it from the outside, you wouldn’t think it would be a department store as it looks more like a museum or an art gallery, but it had a lot of character. Later, I found out it was called the Akarenga.

I was walking through the building, wishing that I could find a jazz bar because I really felt like listening to some good quality jazz music. I was about to ask someone, when I stumbled across this sign. It said that there was a jazz bar on the next floor and that a jazz band was playing there that very instant! It was all so convenient and coincidental, that I just HAD to go in and have a look.

I was so glad that I did, because I walked into this really classy, up-market jazz bar with four extremely talented musicians on stage each playing their own instrument of expertise. There was a pianist, a saxophonist (who could also play the soprano trumpet), a cheloist (who could also play the bass guitar) and a drummer. I was mesmerised by their talent and I didn’t want the jamming session to end. It was the best jazz music I have ever heard in my life. I couldn’t believe how fast the pianist could move his fingers and not once did he make a single mistake. I couldn’t believe how confident and comfortable the drummer looked while he was playing the drums as he had such a luring presence on stage during his performance. Later, I found out that he was one of the best drummers in the whole of Japan! The saxophonist was just amazing the way he put his heart and soul into his music and the cheloist could play with such precision and excellence that he almost put me in a trance. It was brilliant.

The service was fantastic and the waiters were really friendly and accommodating and could speak English really well. I had the nicest cocktail that had a little cherry blossom inside it with honey and small flecks of gold. It was delicious! I felt really comfortable in the jazz club and it was a very bizarre and interesting night. It was like everything just fell into my lap without any effort whatsoever...the band, the service, the people, the atmosphere - it was all perfect! I love it when that happens!

Imperial Palace and Tokyo Tower 28th March 2007

It took a while to find the Imperial Palace today. When we got to the train station, we were asking all these Japanese people how to get to the Imperial Palace and none of them knew what we were talking about. They didn’t know what it was called in English, they only knew what it was called in Japanese. We eventually found the information desk and this really nice lady explained in perfect English how to get there. I really, REALLY wish I could speak more Japanese so that I could explain myself better to people! It is so frustrating sometimes.

We eventually got to the Imperial Palace and it was really beautiful. We didn’t get to go inside the grounds and see the actual palace as it wasn’t opened to the public, but we walked around the gardens that surrounded it and took lots of photos. There was this really cool bit that we saw that had lots of fountains and statues where people who are on their lunch break like to go to eat their lunch with their work mates. It is a really popular place to go as it is really pretty – especially when the weather is nice.

After walking around for what seemed like hours, we got on a train and headed for the Tokyo Tower. Tina and I were on our own. We were so proud of ourselves that we found the Tokyo Tower all by ourselves with no help from Steve.

The Tokyo Tower was so cool. There are lots of things to see and do inside the tower. We saw the Wax Museum which was really interesting. In this museum, there were hundreds of models of famous movie stars, singers and inventors. Some of them looked so real and I couldn’t help thinking of that movie, “The House Of Wax” and getting a little freaked out by how real they all looked! They had models of The Beatles, Jimmy Hendrix, The Last Supper, Julia Roberts and heaps more!

I also got a photo pretending to be the fattest man in the world, and I got a photo standing next to the tallest man in the world. His name is Robert Wadlow and he was about 8-something feet tall. He truly was a giant man!

There was also this really scary torture section where they had wax models of how they used to torture people in the past. One way was to tie a man’s arms and legs down to a surface and stretch them so far so that their muscles and tendons would snap. This was usually done to force the truth out of someone. Another form of torture was when a man was strapped to a wheel on his back and on the surface of the wheel was sharp spikes that would pierce the skin and the man would bleed to death. The next form of torture was when the man would lie on his back with a funnel in his mouth and water would continuously be poured into his mouth, bloating his stomach so that he would either die from his stomach being burst open or he would suffocate on the water if he chose not to drink it. The worst one was when the man would be left in a tiny cage that only allowed him to stand in an uncomfortable position with no food or water until he starved to death. Sometimes, they would put him out into the public view as an example to the people.

The most interesting section was the optical illusion and magic tricks section. In the optical illusion section, there were lots of pictures on the walls that you can see in 3D when you look at it in a certain position. The magic tricks section was the best! The photos you can see below say it all!

After seeing all the different sections of the Tokyo Tower, we went to the Observatory which was 150metres above the ground so that we got a beautiful night view of Tokyo. It was picturesque! To top it off, there was a jazz band playing and there was an amazing singer with a beautiful voice that we got to hear. It was a very interesting and enjoyable day and night.

Asakusa and Ginza 27th March 2007

It was a struggle to get out of bed this morning. I have been so tired lately from walking around all day and all night – not that I’m complaining because I am having such a good time here. Tina, Steve and I decided to go to Asakusa today. Asakusa is a part of Tokyo that has very old buildings and an interesting history. We took so many cool photos of gates, shrines and temples. We walked through the markets and saw all these beautiful ornaments and cool souvenir things you can buy a memento of having been to Asakusa. It was a really pleasant day walking around and seeing all the cool sights.

At night, we decided to go somewhere different for tea. We got on a train and made our way to Ginza. Ginza is like the Beverley Hills of Tokyo. It is so rich and posh and up-market and beautiful! We walked straight into a shopping complex from the train station and no kidding, every single person that was in this complex was dressed to the nines. They had their name brand coats and dresses and shoes on and all the men were in neat suits. Then there was us! Grubby, scrubby us! We felt a little out of place in this shopping centre, but we enjoyed looking at how nice everyone looked around us.

We went for a walk down the main street and it was so clean and neat. There was absolutely no rubbish on the footpaths and it looked like a million dollars – well it probably cost way more to make it look that good! You get the gist of what I’m saying!

Every shop was lit up with neon lights and looked so cool. We couldn’t help but just stare in awe of what we saw around us. It was just awesome!

We looked for somewhere that wasn’t too out of our price range to go for dinner. We finally found this cute little place that looked kinda like a pub. I had a yummy pizza and it didn’t cost too much! It was a very enjoyable day and evening.

Tokyo Disneyland 26th March 2007

Tina, Steve and I made our way to Tokyo Disneyland today. It was sooooo busy! It took ages even to wait in line to get into the park. I loved the landscape because there were beautiful gardens there with grass that looked so perfect it was hard to tell whether it was real or fake. It was definitely real though! There were hedges as boarders to every garden and there were pretty flowers in the middle.

We went on as many rides as we possibly could fit into the day. It was hard to get around to everything though because it was so busy. Some lines were a three hour wait! That is almost half the day gone, waiting in a line. It was a little ridiculous having to wait so long. Most of the rides were kiddie rides. They were cute to go on, but some of them were a little babyish. It would be good to take young children to this park. I’m sure kids would get a lot more enjoyment out of it.

The best ride I went on was the Buzz Light Year ride. It was really fun and different to most rides. Tina and I went on it together. We sat in this little spaceship and we each had a little laser gun to use. Every time we flew past a circle with a Z in it, we had to try and shoot at it. Every circle you shoot, you get points for. At the end of the ride, you can see what level you got to depending on how many points you got. I got about 11 000 points and I was on Level Three! I beat Tina because she only got up to Level 2.

Another highlight was looking at the Disney Electrical Parade. They had all these cool Disney characters lit up with thousands of lights – all in different colours. It was so amazing to see. I took some photos of all my favourite characters.

There was about ten minutes to go before the park closed, and we quickly sprinted to Mickey Mouse’s house so that we could meet him. We got there just in time and we got to meet Mickey, take a photo with him, shake his hand, and he even gave Tina and I a kiss! It was cool!

I am glad I went to Tokyo Disneyland, but the next time I go would probably go with kids because it would make it more exciting to see their faces when they go on the rides and see all the characters.

Shopping in Harajuku 25th March 2007

Tina and I went off and did our own thing today, while Steve went to this Animae festival in another part of Tokyo. Tina and I went shopping in the fashion district of Tokyo – Harajuku. There was this big, long street filled with trendy shops where you could buy the coolest, outlandish clothes ever! We pretty much bought the whole of Tokyo that day!

It was lots of fun shopping, but Harajuku also had a great atmosphere. There were lots of young people shopping there and they all had different styles of clothing. They were very loud with their dress sense. We saw one girl with a velvet suit on and a top hat with red paint on her neck making it look like she had cut her neck. There were some other girls who were dressed in black and white dresses and they looked like little maids. They even had the little maid hats on! It was really fun walking down the street and seeing all the different fashions.

We then made our way to Shibuya. This was the place that blew me away the most. When we got out of the train station, we found the busiest intersection in the world. This is a fact, not an exaggeration! When the pedestrian lights went green, thousands upon thousands of people would cross the road. Tina and I stopped for about fifteen minutes just looking at the busy intersection. As soon as the people crossed the road, another crowd of people would stand on the footpaths waiting to cross the next set of lights. It just went on and on like that. Every time the lights went green, thousands of pedestrians would cross the busy road. It was just amazing!

Tina and I enjoyed looking at the shops and the people and it was nice just to be able to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the liveliness of the district. If you ever get to Tokyo, I would definitely recommend you to go to Shibuya.

For dinner, we went to this place called Sweets Paradise. It was an all-you-can-eat restaurant and had the largest selection of cakes and sweets I have ever seen. It was really delicious! We wanted to take a photo of us sitting in the restaurant and we asked the people at the table next to us to take a photo. Then we got them to get in the photo with us and they thought it was hilarious! It was lots of fun!

My new camera in Shinjuku

I bought a new camera! YAY! On our first day in Tokyo, after putting our things in the hotel, we walked around Shinjuku and saw a massive electrical appliances store. We walked in there, found the camera I had been dying to buy, and I bought it! I quickly borrowed Tina’s already charged battery and started taking pictures with it straight away! This is my very first picture taken with my brand new camera!

We looked around the shops in Shinjuku for a while and were really impressed with what we saw. There were people EVERYWHERE! It was so crowded and busy and everyone was dressed really cool. All the guys had cool hair and were dressed in suits and they looked really good. All the girls were dressed to the nines and they all looked really nice too.

That night, Tina and I decided to hit the town in Shinjuku and try and find a place to dance. We walked around for what seemed like about an hour and we couldn’t find anywhere to go. We asked about four people and nobody knew where a good place to dance would be. We were just about to give up, when this African man came up to us and said he would take us to a hip-hop dance club. He took us to one and it was really dead and had no atmosphere so we decided to leave. Then he took us to this other one just down the road and it was the coolest club I have ever been in. It was really small, but there were heaps of guys dancing there and every guy on the dance floor looked like they had just come out of a Brittney Spears film clip! They were amazing dancers. So Tina and I got a drink and sat in awe of these awesome dancers.

Then this old man, who looked like he would have been in his sixties, started dancing on the dance floor. He was a little crazy, maybe a bit eccentric and he obviously loved dancing. I think he went to that club often because everyone seemed to know him. Anyway, he came up to me and got me up dancing. It was just him and me on the dance floor and I felt a little strange because everyone else in the club was looking at us! I soon got over it and ended up having an awesome night dancing with all these brilliant hip hop dancers. They were so cool to dance with and it was totally different to the clubs in Adelaide because they were just there to dance, nothing else…and so was I, so it worked out really well!

I hate train tickets! 24th March 2007

Today was our first day in Tokyo. We bought a shinkansen ticket (bullet train ticket) and were on our way there. I held the ticket in my hot little hands the entire time because I was so scared of losing it! When we arrived in Tokyo, we got out of the train and headed towards the ticket machine where we had to put our tickets through. Just before we got there, Steve asked me if I had my ticket. I looked in my hand and it wasn’t there! I lost my $150 shinkansen ticket and there was nothing I could do about it!

I went to the ticket booth and explained the situation to them in the little Japanese I had. Steve helped me speak to them because he knows more Japanese than I do. The man was getting very impatient with us because he was probably thinking that we were stupid Westerners who had no idea what we were doing…which was kinda true! We asked him what we could do about it and he told us that I had to buy a whole other ticket to get out of the train station! That would have cost me $150 just to get out when I had already paid the money. I was so annoyed. He was thinking one of two things: I was either really stupid or I was a liar. I kept on saying to him that I had lost it and eventually, he got sick of seeing my face (so it seemed) that he just gave me a ticket so I could get through. He must have thought I was stupid. I was happy about that because I would rather have him think I was a stupid than have to pay an extra $150! Tina, Steve and I thanked him so many times and we could just see on his face that he didn’t want to hear our thankyous, he just wanted us to get out of his sight! So we did, as quick as a flash we were out of his sight!

Anyway, I put my ticket through the machine and was so excited that I didn’t have to pay all that extra money. I was free, but I wasn’t free. We still had to put our ticket through the next machine and I realised that I had forgotten to get my ticket out of the previous machine I had gone through. So I lost the second ticket. We then had to spend another ten minutes explaining to the next guy the situation that I had lost my first ticket, then I lost my second ticket…Well this guy was more impatient than the last guy and he just waved his hand to let me through because he didn’t even want to hear my story! So he let me through, not out of kindness, but out of frustration! Well I will never do THAT again, that’s for sure! I tin-assed my way out of that one!