And Finally Japan!


I had wanted to get to Japan now that the window of opportunity had opened up and even more so that cherry blossom season would be at the cusp during my stay (though it turned out to be the heart of plum and only the very beginning of cherry). I got a direct flight over and one with a stopover in San Francisco again on the way back. Another tour guide had sent me to Jalpak the airline associated tour agency which sold me the rail-pass for the trains in japan for a week including the world famous bullet trains (shinkansen) . They also booked my first couple of nights in a hotel the Shinagawa prince outside Tokyo and soon I was off.

I can’t remember much about the trip through Kennedy airport except that there was a group of like eighteen women in front of me that at check-in this erstwhile traveler managed to sneakily sneak around. Once in I remember landing at same airport Narita as I had landed at for a connection on the way back from China on my second visit there. Once there seeing the line for the health check for certain countries and then the line to pass immigration which I easily did and it was then the trip downstairs to validate my rail-pass with the famous painting of the wave by Hiroshige on the front of it and to take the train to Shinagawa to my hotel the Prince.

So after getting some free origami bank branch giveaways, quenching my yen for yen and being pointed in the right direction for the nationally owned rail line to Tokyo I took my place on the platform when soon was announced that because of a fatal accident this line was now closed. What to do back to the office to get a ticket from the national rail line to get another ticket on one of the many privately held Tokyo subway lines one of which runs to the airport. Told how to change trains and where to go I observed the countryside and then the city sprawl on the way into Tokyo and eventually after changing trains arrived in Shinagawa where I walked from one end of the station to the other out one side into one section of the city than back to finally find the hotel which was in like five parts and finally directed got my room made a reservation for my return from where i would be going.

Next I went up to the room investigated its small shower put on the television watched a guy in weird glasses host some show where they talked about celebrities like Brad Pitt put my luggage away and then went back downstairs and investigated what I had glanced at the Dolphin attraction and aquarium in the hotel along with a bowling alley and comedy show , movie theater, and pirate ship ride.. I went to the aquarium and watched the team of dolphins jump but could hardly keep my eyes open.

Then I left a message for my friend Kei and went to sleep. When I woke the next morning there was a message for me why I didn’t go out and see stuff but I was so tired. we finally talked via the hotel desk phone and we agreed to meet and he would take me around and show me the city.

Dolphin Stadium @ The Shinagawa Prince Hotel

So I believe it was around eleven and we met in the lobby and he took back to the train and started our tour in a couple of youth oriented neighborhoods including Shibuya and we progressed than to the Fifth avenue of Tokyo Harajuku (which has actually grown out of Shibuya) to see the fancy shops and a boutique mall done by famed architect Tado Ando called Omotesando Hills.


Kei at Omotesando Hills

Tokyo neighborhood Shot

Harajuku Shot

After exploring these neighborhoods Kei then took me to a Buddhist temple which for all the search engines possibilities available I probably would not able to find online right now. He told me to step over the precipice as it was considered bad luck or a bad omen to step on it and so I followed his advice.

Towards the Temple

"The Temple"

Next he took me to what he called the old town a series of temples and small streets with vendors and markets

"Old Town" Tokyo

. After seeing the temples here it was time to have lunch. He explained to me that Japanese food to some degree in restaurants on Japan was served as one type of cooking or food like chicken or pork at a restaurant but not all cuisines at once everywhere so here we had udon noodle soup.

Temple Pagoda "Old Town"

Then next we took the train again and went to what I later knew to be Ueno to visit the national museums all the ones we could fit in before they closed and for lack of time as Kei advised this would not include the Zoo. First we went to the national one to see all the art kabuki costumes samurai gear screens woodcuts by Hiroshige Utamaro and others japanese model houses gardens and an exhibition of the painter Kuroda Seiki who painted in a Western style a member of the Barbizon school here there was a series of about eight buildings and we did as much as we good before it closed and then back to t the train I believe then that’s when we hot the sushi place where they had the conveyor belt. Also around this time I saw the fried dough balls which I had seen a couple of years earlier being prepared by Japanese chefs at the Venetian hotel casino in Macau and Kei informed me that these were octopus ball and they were part of the regional cuisine of Osaka where his family is from.

Next he took me to see a museum Tado Ando had designed and we went to the Mori tower in Roppongi (which he told me was the ultimate status neighborhood in Tokyo) where is the Mori museum of contemporary art (that is the one founded by the builder of the building and uncle of the futuristic artist Markio Mori, Minoru Mori) here we went to the high observation tower and saw the vast expanse which is Tokyo wow!

This was pretty much the close of a long day of much walking. The next day I waited patiently though for kei who had multiple professors assigning him stuff at university so I went to breakfast at the Yahoo internet cafe in one of the wings of the hotel mega-plex and enjoyed the Japanese breakfast set which included the internet time. I got used to this place over my time here and found it very comforting even watching the western business people eat. Eventually I went to the hotel buffet and had lunch. Later in the day I finally ventured out and went to the two famous big high end department stores of Tokyo, Takashimaya

Takashimaya the Mothership Tokyo

and Isetan.

I browsed these stores for a great time especially enjoying taking pictures of the elaborate Anna Sui cosmetics display

Anna Sui Cosmetic Display in a Tokyo Department Store

a very simulacrum of which I was told not to photograph in Beijing. At Isetan i spent what seemed like hours going up and down the escalators perusing the fancy clothes and styles both on the racks and the customers backs (especially fascinating was the golf department).

On the way to the stores and after I walk through the area of Shinjuku famous for its bars both straight and gay and its love hotels. One of the busiest neighborhoods in Tokyo it also boasts a huge train station.

Shinjuku View

The later on it the day after some dallying I made it across town through a series of train changes mostly above ground to the area just down from the national palace the Emperor’s home , home of the imperial family that is. I t was late in the day and coming at the last minute I just missed entry to the gardens inside the compound which as far as you are allowed to go into the walled area beyond the moat. So then I walked around the outer grounds than across the street where the on the first avenue I came to you could see the Diet , the parliament of Japan’s building from afar and then i was in the area where the government bureaus were including a old German style building leftover. Now I called Kei who apologized profusely and said he would meet at the hotel I think in like an hour or two and that we would have dinner.

We met in the lobby afer I had returned and he had arrived and first we decided to go to the Pirate theme area in the hotel to have dinner but the place by the rickety boardwalk well blow me down was reserved for a private party so we took the the pirate ship thrill ride

The pirate Ship Ride at the Shinigawa Prince

which went high up on both sides in an arc an then back down at a high rate of speed and then walked across back to where I had gotten lost when I had first arrived at the other side of the hotel and lo and behold restaurant after restaurant was booked. Finally we found a place that specialized in pork which had room for us at the bar. I believe we both had pork with ramen noodles a beer and some kind of appetizer which will one day come back to me.

Chef at the Pork Specialty Eatery in Shinigawa

After dinner we finished off the night with a couple of rounds of sake in the restaurant where I had the lunch buffet starting with hot sake followed by cold flavored sake  with the plum at the bottom of the glass as if right out of paradise and then Kei went home and I went to sleep.

The next morning it was time to go Kyoto and after another obligatory stop at the yahoo Internet cafe and checking out

Checking out of the Prince

I made the short journey with my one heavy bag to the train station to get my first bullet train to ancient capitol.

So there back at the Shinigawa train hub which I would constantly travel through during my week in Nippon I caught one of the many bullet trains to Kyoto which arrived and departed with alarming frequency.  So here it was the fable Japanese bullet train and the two and hour journey to Kyoto.  The bright eyed conductor came to check tickets

Wide Eye Bullet Train Conductor Strikes a Pose

, beverage carts came through regularly, the seats were wide and comfortable ,everybody was polite and at one a man pointed out Mt. Fuji to me so I could sort of check that off my list.

So once in the fabled city I disembarked and was immediately went to the side of the station where I came out.  It was overcast and looked as if it were about to rain.  I looked for a hotel and there seemed to be none around until  green building somewhat shorter than those around where now I saw other hotels which was entered very quietly by an elevator on the ground floor and all the walls were black.  This was the vista hotel like the name of the one which stood next to the world trade center in New York.  They had a room the price was reasonable they had lobby internet service and breakfast.  The room was small but very very comfortable not to mention peaceful.  I had a map of historic Kyoto and I marched out to see what I could see though it was raining.  I marched the wrong was into a gritty industrial area dn at some point caught a bite to eat like Western fast food style chicken..  I saw bits of urban residential life and pachinko parlors like the japanese slot machine or Off Track Betting parlors and a man who actually spit on the ground at the site of a westerner or heaven forbid an American.  Wet blossoms were everywhere

Full Blossoming

and in the rain I saw several people riding bike carrying umbrellas while seated peddling

Ambidextrous Kyoto Bicyclist in the Rain

, what a feat.

At some point now this ambulatory tourist realized that he was definitely headed in the wrong direction and so followed the signs towards the nearest historic site so that al least I saw something historic on this overcast dya..Then there it was a series of structures it was what was described on the markers as a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the sentinel Buddhist temples of Kyoto The Toji Temple.  I had very little Yen on me and what he did have this rained upon tourist

Toji Temple Pagoda,Kyoto

spent here.  Pagodas. temples, carved wooden statues of god this place of worship had it all.

Toji Temple Compound

Toji Temples Tourists Standing Outside in the Rain

Toji Temple Garden

Japanese Garden Toji Temple 2

Toji Temple Complex Structure
Toji Temple Lantern and Moat
Toji Temple lantern and Moat

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3 Responses to “And Finally Japan!”

  1. R&R Says:

    Can’t wait to hear what’s next! Stay safe.

  2. Mistress Xui Xui Says:

    How much was the desk phone call?

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