These travelling blog posts have been moved here from my old blog – they were originally posted on the dates as shown, and could contain errors – years have passed since they were originally posted (and my memory was never that great) and I may not have got things right at the time as it was!
Day Three – 1st January 2008
Today was a very lazy day. We didn’t meet until 11:30am or so thanks to New Years last night but eventually met up to go look at the sales, just in our local area. In Tokyo most stores will have grab bags with dozens of things thrown in that cost anything from a few hundred Yen through to well into the tens of thousands, if not more. You get items that are worth double the price at least, but they tape up the bags so it’s a mystery of what you get until after you’ve bought it. Some have a little display of what can possibly be inside it.
From there we caught a train to Harajuku so I could buy a jacket as, being from a hot climate, was in sore need for one – having worn just a jumper and jeans until then. Harajuku was a dream come true. Tiny shops squished together, the way everyone dresses there and overall just too beautiful and amazing to describe.
We then found a store called Snoopy Town. My mum collected Peanuts books for years and once I was old enough I joined the quest of someday owning every single comic ever printed (as it ran for 50 years, it’ll take a while), so to say the least, the store was utterly amazing to me.
One friend got awesome leggings, I got awesome lolita arm warmer type things, all lace and ribbons and chains… and another friend got a pimp hat.
We then moved on, got more food – karaage chicken – strawberry toffee sticks and bananas coated in chocolate. We then headed back to our district.
We had dinner at beef bowl, the place where you get a feast for $5.80 and then headed to a 7-11 for ice cream (they come perfectly packaged even though they’re soft serve!) before we went to the friend’s flat to decide whether or not we had to change our plans for what we’d be doing for the next week. We changed it around a bit while going through the stuff we bought through the day and eating our ice creams… then travel buddy and I returned to our rooms and I wrote up the rest of yesterday’s post and this! Lazy day, plans to return to Harajuku so we could experience it properly, and a fairly early night.
Day Four – 2nd January 2008
We started off the day latish (9:45am) as travel buddy and I had to check out of our single rooms. Weeks earlier when we had finally attempted to book our stay all the twin rooms were taken for the first few days. Now it was time to move into a twin for five nights to save money. We had to check out at 10am and couldn’t check back in until 4pm though, so we asked them to hold our bags. I cleverly locked my key in my room. Go me.
We first went to a post office to withdraw money, but it was closed because of the new year, so we headed off to Akihabara which is famous for electronics. As soon as we got there we went into Yodobashi-Akiba which is the biggest electronics store in Japan. One of my travelling companions and I had very recently bought our first decent cameras – his brother worked for Canon so he was able to get us both good deals – so we spent a heck of a long time picking out filters and tripods and such.
From there we trolled the streets, going into other geeky stores and looking at figurines and the like. I got a baby chocobo plushie which has since been with me to Singapore, all through England, Fiji, New Zealand…
We walked around heaps, just going into awesome shops and spending too much and buying stuff (like Harry Potter money sets) and looking at lightsabers, and then for lunch we headed into a maid cafe.
What is a maid cafe? It depends on what kind you go to. We went to one where the servers are just extremely cute and the food is excellent and everyone drinks tea, but you can go to kinds where they’ll massage your feet or slowly strip or wear skimpy things.
After that we tried to find a photo booth (Purinto Kurabu) but failed, so we headed on to Nakano, which is quite like Akihabara but smaller, but just as awesome. Unfortunately it was mostly closed – it’s tricky during the holiday season to know when these places will be open!
We then had dinner at a place near where we’re staying and once again, the price was fantastic. AU$6.00 for a plate of salad and VERY yummy crispy chicken (karaage), beef broth soup and rice, as well as pickles. We also had gyoza (pork dumplings). From there we headed back to the friends’ flat to figure out what we’d done to our accommodation as something seemed odd… and we worked out that we’d booked for six nights when we only needed five… so oops. We headed back to Tokoyo-Inn to claim our bags from holding, check in for the next FIVE nights and straighten that out with them. Thankfully they were very kind and helpful.
We all tried to go up to our new room, but they wouldn’t allow our friends to come – which is fair enough, but slightly frustrating. So travel buddy and I dashed up (eighth floor now, we were on the 3rd before) and then dumped our bags and headed down once more. We were heading to the nearby bridge to try out the new tripod and my new filters!
We had a great play around with them, posed like idiots and then returned home.
A short, but awesome day.
Day Five – 3rd January 2008
Today started at 8am. We decided to have breakfast at a place called Mister Donut which is right next to the entrance to our train station and it certainly exceeded our expectations with their wide range of different pastries and donuts, the way they perfectly heat things up, and yet everything was about 1400 yen ($1.50AU) each.
We got to Ueno park which is famous for having a zoo in it, but we weren’t going to that as we were heading to the National Museum, but we did stop at a few shrines and bought charms and had photos taken under red gates and the like along the way.
There’s not much to be said about the museum – it’s better to let the photos describe what we saw. It took hours to get through, it was so beautiful as it showcased national treasures, history and the like. There were famous poems written in kanji by previous emperors, there were the most beautiful painted wall screens, and so many wonderful kimonos, too.
I think my favourite things were the wall screens. I bought a mini one for Dad as his gift. They’re MASSIVE, a metre and a half or two tall, and many meters wide, all stretched out. They have landscapes of sunsets or snow with ladies in kimonos or kanji scrips of poems or quotes.
Something that I found interesting were the objects they’d dug up from the middle golden hall of Kofukuji (Chukondo) which were used to calm the earth spirits after a new building was built and also to pray for a safe completion. The swords were also awesome, but I especially liked the writing boxes – being the little writer I am. True, they’re mainly for kanji writing and the like, but the boxes were beautiful and I loved how they all fitted in to each other with a little place for everything.
They had all this amazing stuff from like, 2nd Century BC or even earlier, which was just mind boggling to think about.
We had lunch and had tempura udon with buckwheat noodles. It was quite nice, but not as awesome as other things we’ve had in our time here. Outside the main, largest building there was a group of five musicians and on drums, flute and a high pitched cup thing, and their performance was mesmerising.
The buildings were beautiful. One was on water which made it quite cold, but it was so incredibly pretty. There was a water feature, a kind of fountain in the middle, and eee.
After we finished at the museum and had a slow, relaxing walk back through the park, we headed on for Asakusa which is famous for being a place for tourists as all it really sells is souvenirs – everything you could think of to give someone to represent your time in Japan. IT WAS CRAZY THERE. It was absolutely PACKED thanks to the holiday season and we immediately wanted to leave. The main walkway down the middle was so packed you shuffled along incredibly slowly and we couldn’t find the best yukata (cotton kimono) shop that the others in our group had found the week before. We spent maybe an hour there, walking back and forth through the back alley trying to find it. There were many yukata shops but not as good as the one she knew and simply refused to go anywhere else, even though we simply couldn’t find it. After getting snippy with each other and more tired, we eventually found it and yukatas were bought by all and for all! Once that was done, we ran and got out of there.
We went back to Akiabara to go to Yodobashi Camera. There, I died. My head cold which had been ever preying on me tackled and I was down. My head was spinning, felt like I was going to throw up, and I hardly had energy to move, which was awful because we waited maybe an hour. We had plans to go to Nakano since we had missed out the day before due to it mostly being closed for New Years, but they fell through yet again since I was simply too ill to continue. So we headed home, and that was a disappointing end to an otherwise wonderful day.
Day Six –>