Fast Forward through Tokyo
March 23rd, 2013

A few weeks ago I had my spring break and spent a good five days in Tokyo. I’d been before, but I went to places I hadn’t visited before, and it was nice to go at my own pace.

Shibuya

So what is in Shibuya? The famous crosswalk that really is quite intimidating…The photo is shot from the second floor Starbucks that overlooks the crosswalk. The entire intersection is red for walking, and Shibuya is just a really busy place in general…

Aside from the crosswalk, there is a statue of Hachiko, a loyal dog who waited for his master to return for nine years after the master had passed away. There are also a lot of department stores, including 0101 Marui – which seems to be everywhere in Tokyo…

Asakusa

The hostel I stayed at was in Asakusa [which for me, was slightly confusing because there is another area of Tokyo called Akasaka...the kanji is completely different but romanized it's very similar >.<]. Next to the Sumida River, you can get a good view of the recently constructed Tokyo Sky Tree, as well as the giant [random] golden daikon-esque building for the Asahi Headquarters. Aside from Sky Tree, there is also Sensouji, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. The area is very touristy with a lot of shops and such, but it’s pretty nice, with little gardens and pagodas on the premises.

Harajuku

Harajuku is known for its unique fashion and culture, and although I went on a Sunday, it wasn’t as outlandish as I was expecting. However, compared to people in Kyoto, people in Tokyo do dress much more…extraordinarily. People in lolita-style dess, or just…more unique in general. The main street in Harajuku was pretty crowded, with a lot of “street” type clothes and accessory shops [as compared to typical department stores]. There are also quite a few creperies in Harajuku ^_^

Next to Harajuku is also Meiji Jingu, which is a famous Shinto Shrine. The premises consists of a bit of a long path through a forested park, with a few giant stone Torii gates, as well as a stone lanterns along the sides. At the shrine, there is a large stone plaza as well as several buildings. While I was there, there was also a wedding going on, so that was kind of cool to watch. The procession crossed the plaza, with giant parasols and the bride and groom in a kimono and hakama respectively.

Omote Sando

More shopping basically. Omote Sando area consists of a very lovely street lined with stores – mostly high end stores. The street is decorated with a lot of trees and it goes up on a bit of a hill. One end eventually leads back towards Harajuku and Meiji Jingu. There is a new department stores called Omote Sando Hills that a friend showed me; the building itself is almost a triangular shape…it’s just another department store though overall. Filled with stores of things I can’t really afford and things I don’t really need, haha. The walk itself was pleasant though.

Akihabara

Known as the electronics district, Akihabara has tons of electronic stores, as well as stores for anime, manga, and video games. Brightly lit, there are tons of giant signs for anime and such. Stores sell figurines, toys, games, anime, and just a lot of paraphernalia.

There are also some unique places…including a Gundam Cafe, as well as an AKB 48 Cafe [which I highly disapprove of!]. There is also a huge Yodabashi, other regular department stores, and more shopping.

After spending half a week in Tokyo, I came to the conclusion that mostly what there is to do in Tokyo, is eating and shopping. And after a while, all the shopping becomes somewhat similar…department stores are everywhere…

Disney Sea

As Disney Sea in Tokyo is the only one in the world, I chose to go check it out over Tokyo Disneyland. There was some misunderstanding and ambiguity as to what kind of park it was before going, but it is not a waterpark. It is just another Disneyland-esque theme park with a bit of a more water-theme to it, but even that is not so obvious. The different areas in the park are water-themed, such as the “Mediterranean Coast” or “Cape Cod” [haha].

My favorite aspect of the park I think was that there is a large portion that is steam-punk themed. I really love that type of art/style, and it reminded me a lot of Last Exile and Atlantis, with weird airships and submarine vessels and such.

So, I actually have a lot of thoughts about Disney Sea…

Where are the Disney characters at?! Although it is a Disney themed park, there are barely any references to traditional Disney. You can buy and souvenirs with Disney characters on them, but rides and worlds aren’t really based off from any of the movies. There is an Arabian area that is themed like something out of Aladdin, except that the story-book ride there is for the movie, Sinbad, which isn’t even a typical Disney movie. There is also a Toy Story area, granted, but that was super crowded and it’s more of a corner than a “world” area. Duffy is more popular than any Disney character there anyway…Duffy and Shelly May -.- Two teddy bears that, while cute, are not really very Disney-esque in my opinion…ah well.

Matching outfits are a pretty common thing…Groups dressed the same, buying the same hats or jackets, or even bringing them with them before coming to the park. As weird as I thought that was at first, I figured I’d probably do the same because there isn’t really anywhere other than Disney parks that is appropriate to wear a giant Mickey hat… But matching mickey-themed hats, jackets, and leg warmers is a bit too much for me.

Each food stand sold special food only sold there, so lines were surprisingly long for tiny little cart things. But the stuff was pretty special/unique, including milk tea popcorn, strawberry popcorn, and shrimp doughnuts. But some of the lines…they must have been at least 45 minutes…for popcorn…

Lines are a bit ridiculous also. I don’t know how it compares to Tokyo Disneyland, but from what I can recall about other Disney or amusement parks back in the US, people don’t want for over 2 hours for one ride…that’s just too long. Some of the rides though at Disney Sea had a 300+ minute wait…Really?! The wait time was so long, there was even a line for the fast pass…I can’t imagine waiting that long for a ride that will last about 3 minutes… Maybe because there is currently only one Disney Sea in the world, or maybe because it was spring break in Japan…but either way, the park was crowded. Walking around wasn’t too bad [it got congested at times], but the lines…

Fantasmic is similar to World of Color in California’s Disneyland. It uses a lot of water and lights and projects movie clips on mist. It was pretty cool and well done; I was a bit disappointed all the songs were in English though.

That’s another thing, Tokyo Disney Sea caters to foreigners before Japanese customers for the most part. All the signs were in English first, and much larger, than the Japanese. All the songs throughout the park were also the English versions, which I was pretty surprised about actually. Part of the fun of going to an amusement park in another country is that it’s different…at least that’s what I thought. It was different, but not to the extent I was expecting. I guess they just want it to be tourist friendly.

Overall it was a really fun day. Everything is well done, clean, and looks good. Lines are a bit too long though, and the experience wasn’t Disney filled [the Fantasmic show was the most Disney I saw all day], but it was fun.

Studio Ghibli Museum

I should note that I didn’t even have any interest in going here initially. I knew about it, but I also knew it was a bit outside of Tokyo, and it was small. I figured it’d be kind of dull…as much as I do love Studio Ghibli. However, to my surprise, it ended up being probably my favorite thing in Tokyo.

Unfortunately [or fortunately], you aren’t allowed to take photos inside the museum. But I think that’s actually better because it preserves a kind of magic about it. Miyazaki wanted the museum to be a place to explore, especially for children. There is no set route and there are a lot of alternate ways to get around to things. There are two spiral metal stair cases enclosed in this bird-cage like thing and it’s pretty cool. It was kinda magical, and I dunno if it was because of the layout and structure, the concept behind it all, or the childhood nostalgia, but it felt like something out of Alice in Wonderland, viewing the same room from all different sort of angles and perspectives.

Aside from the structure, there is also a special short film [roughly 15 minutes long] that you get to sit in on. However, the films aren’t released outside the museum and they rotate, so even if you go more than once, you may get to see a different film. There is also something special about that since the films aren’t released elsewhere.

There were tons of production sketches from various movies in the museum and I wish they had prints or something at the gift shop because I thought they were pretty awesome, but unfortunately the gift shop was about 80% dominated by Totoro…which is cool and all…but there are a lot of other movies…ah well, haha.

The museum also explains how the cells are made for the movies. I had read that Studio Ghibli does their animations by hand still, but I didn’t really understand what that entailed, since everything looks so clean. Well, when they mean by hand, it really is by hand. All the cells are hand painted on these plastic cell sheets, which look messy on one side, but then they are neat and animation-ready on the other side. It was cool to see; however, it must take so much time @_@

Another cute thing about Miyazaki in general is he likes to portray himself as a pig, so all throughout the museum there were little Miyazaki-pigs pointing to different blips of text. It’s basically like a little cartoon pig with Miyazaki’s white hair on top, round glasses, a white moustache, and his plaid shirt and work apron.

There is a also a lot of stained glasses of Totoro and the other films. No pictures, but everything was well done.

I had little interest previously, but now I highly recommend the museum for anyone going to Tokyo; it’s a lot of fun and it’s a nice trip outside of the typical busy shopping of other districts in Tokyo. To top my day off, I also had shoyu-ramen in Mitaka, which Tokyo is known for ^_^

Ikebukuro

And the tour through Tokyo continues. Ikebukuro…well this is short because there isn’t much there other than food, shopping, and clubs…which were kind of sketchy looking in my opinion. After a while, every major intersection in any area of Tokyo starts to look similar though…They all have a lot of lights and shopping.

Shinjuku

Shinjuku is literally just more shopping, with even more department stores. It also has one of the busiest subway stations in the world.

There are also a lot of business related buildings, including the Tokyo Government Building, which you can go up on the observation deck for free [very rare anywhere, haha].

Overall, Tokyo is a fun place. Although all the districts are known for different things, shopping and eating is everywhere [well isn't that any place?]. So many department stores…But it was fun to walk around and check things out.

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A little bit of an intro...

This is my personal site to post some stuff – stuff that is so random I can’t really be any more specific. But if you care for photos of food, panoramas, my day, or just the thoughts that go on in my head, please stay!

I love to travel, bake, burn time on tumblr, read, cafe questing, and run around pretending to be a photographer. I also have a thing for Japanese, classical music, and food. Wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, I hope to do it with a smile, see new things, do everything, and just experience and take it all in.