A Travellerspoint blog

Last Day in Tokyo- We're off to see the Pandas

Ueno Zoo

sunny -18 °C

For the Japan wind down we headed to Ueno Zoo with our sights set on seeing the pandas. We jollied along to Ueno with 2 Australian girls from our hostel to enjoy the zoo and probably the last bit of sunshine we will see for a while.

Even through a post-sake haze, we were childishly excited about visiting the zoo. We wandered about for most of the day seeing everything from pandas to goats. The seals proved the most entertaining bunch and we spent the longest time watching them lark about.

I think it is testament to how over excited we got that we took over 100 photos. Given that, it is probably best that we show you our day through our photos:

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The pandas were particularly excited about our visit:

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All that is left for us to do now is the mad pack before we go. Easier said than done for 2 girls who love shopping and are living out of backpacks!

In the last 2 weeks, we have been trying to gather some of the odd signs and sights we have seen in Japan. We will leave you with a photo montage of them before we sign out:

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A sign in Nijo Castle gardens

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We were disappointed to find out that this was actually quite an up-market cafe with posh nosh

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This was actually a clothes shop and not selling as advertised
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We weren't 100% sure what this female statue was doing but other passers by were keen to find out:
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Always chase dogs with a dustpan and brush:
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This was in fact a regular women's toilet and not a directions to a collection of women who look like toilets:
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The only amusing thing about our stay at Miyajima Prison:
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It's a 5:30am start for us tomorrow to travel homewards. Sayonara to our Khaosan hostel and to Japan! We won't miss sleeping in dorms but we will miss this lovely country.
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Posted by Ashton and Emma 07:20 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo ueno zoo khaosan Comments (0)

Sake to me! Sake to me! Sake to me!

Ueno, Ameyayokocho Market. Alice in Wonderland Restaurant and Karaoke in Ginza.

sunny -19 °C

For our penultimate day in Japan, we took a trip to Ueno to visit the Ameyayokocho Market. And, for the very last time, Ashton got to wear her travelling outfit, a close replica of the Canadian Olympics 2012 team uniform- frilly socks added for the Japanese touch.
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The market is made up of a long strip of little stores with interesting goods and clothes. However, we didn't manage to snap up any bargains because the prices were close to normal shops. It's quite nice to browse the different stores but we found the shop keepers overly helpful -if they see you looking at an item, they have to come over and get it out for you, demonstrating all its functions. This sometimes puts you off going to have a closer look.

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We also stumbled upon this little shop right next to the market:
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We aren't particularly fans of comic books but we spent a good hour roaming the floors of this shop, looking at all the little gadgets, games, clothing, models etc. It was a bit of a treasure trove.

We couldn't resist the flashing lights of this coffee shop in Ameyayokocho Market either before heading home on the tube. We stopped in for a lovely luncheon of quaint little finger sandwiches and a cup of tea.
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In the evening we headed to Ginza for the Tokyo moment we'd both been waiting for: the Alice in Wonderland restaurant. As it was Halloween, we decided to embrace a little dress up and went hats and gloves to dinner.

The start of the evening didn't work out quite as we had pictured it. A leisurely stroll to our dinner date turned into an hour's frantic flap to find the restaurant before they cancelled our reservation. In Toyko in particular, the multi story buildings on the main streets are all packed with numerous restaurants/shops/bars and karaoke venues. Apart from small signs (in Japanese) on the side of the buildings, there is very little to indicate where different places are, so finding 1 place in 1000 can be quite tricky. However, a google map print out from a hairdressers and a sprint up Chuo Dori meant that we eventually made our table with 5 minutes to spare. Hallelujah!

Here we are in our fabulous get up, in an extraordinary venue!
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The corridor as you walk in is lined with pages from the book and the main interior is decorated using iconic scenes from the story.
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All the staff were dressed as characters or in Halloween garb. The menu too was a novelty; the waitress brings over a fancy box which, when opened, reveals a pop up scene from Alice in Wonderland with little booklets inside for you to read the drinks/food list.

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The food was also fantastically presented in accordance to the theme:
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Scrumptious food and yummy cocktails all round then!
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After our brilliant dinner, we were determined to have a true Japanese night out and visit one of Tokyo's karaoke bars. We stopped in at a little out of the way shack called Nelson's Bar where the price was right and the atmosphere was nice. A couple of glasses of wine and we had all the dutch courage we needed to hit the karaoke and sing our hearts out. You will be pleased to hear that we performed some interesting versions of P!nk and Oasis before picking up a maraca each and dancing to the amusement of the rest of the bar.

We met some really nice people here including the Filipino hostess who supplied us with snacks, chocolates and drinks galore. Here are some friends we made:
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We had a thoroughly good time and it felt like a good end to a trip of a lifetime. Only 1 more day to go!

Posted by Ashton and Emma 06:09 Archived in Japan Tagged ueno restaurant market in ginza alice wonderland ameyoko Comments (0)

Up a Tree & in a Tower

Tokyo Skytree and Hanayashiki "the old park with a smile".

overcast -16 °C

Since we hit Tokyo, we made the decision to bypass temples, shrines and castles in favour of some of Japan's quirky attractions. So today, we started by going to one of Tokyo's newest attractions: The Skytree.

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This is a view of it by night from our hostel
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The skytree is the tallest telecommunications tower in the world and the second tallest building in the world. It offers you panoramic views of the city from its two observation decks at 350m and 450m high. Reservations are hard to come by so we found ourselves queuing at 7:45am. The queues went really quickly so the pain of the early morning was soon rewarded. We shot up to the decks at an ear popping rate. Here's Tokyo waking up at 8:00am this morning.

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Emma walking the glass floor and crying inside with fear
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Our next mission was to find a coffee. It's quite tough to get a coffee in Japan before 11:00am because no cafes are open. The only place we could find this morning was stuck in some kind of warp. Green velvet chairs, a jukebox table, chain smoking grannies and a shopping channel on a bigscreen at the bar. Oddly enough, this coffee shop only appeared to offer 1 type of coffee- black coffee with milk (and it's safest to put sugar in it too).
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Being able to walk from the remarkable to the weird in just a few streets, it's no surprise that our next stop was Hanayashiki "the old park with a smile". This rickety old amusement park with clunky rides is a relic theme park of the past and the oldest in Japan.
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We released our inner children and ran about the park with a handful of ride tokens. We had chosen our first ride before stepping into the park: The Bee Tower!
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This was followed up by riding on the juddery old rollercaoster built in 1953, a police car, a ship, a swan and on the back of a panda. As you can imagine, we both had an awesome time!
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We also took the opportunity to visit our hostel rooftop. Our hostel is well situated next to the Sumida River.
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We were quite tired out from all our jollies after that and settled for a more relaxing afternoon with a green tea and a strange brown cake we found in the supermarket. We're all geared up for our last two days in Toykyo. Watch this space!

Posted by Ashton and Emma 05:01 Archived in Japan Tagged skytree hanayashiki Comments (0)

Sushi with Gingercake

Kyu-Yasuda Garden, Ryogoku Kokugikan, Nakamise Shopping Street, Sushi, Sumida Cruise, Rainbow Bridge, Odaiba

sunny -20 °C

Today we visited the Suminda/Ryogoku area of Tokyo. We would like to report an official sighting of a Panda Bus from this area. There are probably only a few of these in the world so we felt very honoured.
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We then decided it was high time we schmoozed some Tokyo pigeons which lead us to Kyu-Yasuda Garden. It must be our lucky day because we also saw a tortoise and another white bird. Here are some photos from our 9:00am sit down in the park. You will find Emma sandwiched between two birds.
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We would have liked to have seen some Sumo whilst in Japan but there are no tournaments on at this time of year. We decided to go and check out the stadium where they show you some old match footage and you can look at photos of past and present wrestlers. This gave us a sense of how exciting and competitive the games could be. It can cost anything between 2000-11,000 Yen (£14-£100) to watch a match.
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When the stadium is open you can eat Chankonabe Stew, this is the diet of Sumo Wrestlers. It is just a mixture of vegetables and meats, so we're not sure how they go about getting such big bellies. Or how they walk with such big bellies. These are two questions that remain unanswered for now.

To mix it up a little, we decided to look around Asakusa's Nakamise Shopping Street which has about 90 stores dating from the Edo era. Most of them now sell tourist goods and a variety of freshly cooked food. It was nice to walk around and soak up the atmosphere of old Tokyo and the hubub of the busy street.
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After a relaxed morning, we decided it was time to try our luck at a Japanese sushi restaurant. I think it's important to note here that neither of us enjoy a wide variety of fish and stick to the main three staples: tuna, salmon and prawns. With this in mind, we felt it was important to order a large jug of beer to accompany our fishy specimens.

We chose a conveyor belt sushi restaurant (the cheaper choice) and selected 4 dishes we felt had the most promise. We had: tuna and spring onion roll, cucumber roll, sweet and spicy shrimp (with all parts intact), and the wildcard of the bunch was spicy cod roe. The cod roe will probably be a meal that will haunt us forever. We chose cod because it was a fish we recognised and it wasn't until the plate arrived in front of us that we realised roe meant eggs. Emma didn't think twice, took it in a one-er and didn't look back. There was nearly a vom on the conveyor belt situation when Ashton ate hers. If it wasn't for the beer it might not have gone down.
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That was about all we could handle in one sitting but we were quite proud of our eating accomplishments.

Off the sushi train and on to the Tokyo Cruise. On route, a Japanese man quite randomly began engaging in conversation with Emma. He referred to her as Gingercake, or at least that's what we thought happened and that was good enough for us.

The cruise took us down the Sumida River to Hinode Pier. We enjoyed a river based view of Tokyo just as the sun was going down.
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From there it was a short walk (with very industrial views of the port) to the Rainbow Bridge. We were blown away (mentally and physically) because the view was amazing and because it was actually quite windy up there. We walked across the bridge and gazed out at the lit up city. It was an utterly fantastic experience and made us fall completely in love with Tokyo.
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This led us to Odaiba Marine Park where we went to the big Decks complex on the water front. We chose a bar on one of the top decks and sat outside with a drink looking out at Tokyo and the Rainbow Bridge. A full and Tokyofabulous day.

Posted by Ashton and Emma 03:07 Archived in Japan Tagged river bridge cruise rainbow sushi sumida Comments (0)

Yoyo it's Shibuya

Shibuya Crossing, Cat Cafe, 109, Yoyogi Park

rain -18 °C

We started our day with a trip to Yoyogi Park to hunt down the market. Despite the rain it was stalls aplenty, offering a wide variety of hippy gear. You could purchase anything in tie-dye, wool or hemp. We browsed the market but couldn't find anything that we wouldn't look ridiculous in. The only thing we could see potential in was the vast array of candles which hardly seemed a must in a city famed for its neon lights!

We were pleased to see today's rain hadn't put off the dancing youth who were practising their moves under the shelter of a stairway; they were breaking out a lot of cheesy boy band moves that momentarily entertained us as we walked past. There were also a few loitering old men in denim- they were less interesting.

There was almost a fatal calamity as Ashton nose dived up a set of stairs. Where was the wet floor sign? Getting away mostly unscathed, we decided to cut our losses and head uptown in search of something more up our street.

Shopping in Tokyo is infamous and so we decided to do a full scale raid of Shibuya 109, a mall that we were advised was popular with 'young ladies'. Being young and being ladies, this seemed ideal. Wowaweewa were we surprised, the sheer variety and eccentricity of the clothes blew our noodle.

It's fair to say that Japanese ladies take their shopping very seriously, it was like a shopping spree and fashion parade all rolled into one. Halloween is very popular here and there were a lot of people in costume and at times we were unsure what was costume and what was fashion. We decided to embrace the weird and the wonderful and get involved! It was time to go hard or go home!
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The shop assistants are very on the ball and quick to help, pulling together outfits for you, or recommending you items you might like. After Ashton tried on the red devil suit in jest, she started being recommended studded choker collars with chains hanging off them. In a lingerie store, we paused to look at some nipple tassels and the assistant promptly gave us a flash of her cleavage to demonstrate how they might look. What a very helpful and forward young lady she was.

We must have spent hours perusing all the shops and it was quite a relief to break off into the freedom of the street after that mayhem. Far from shying away from Tokyo's madness, we decided to throw ourselves into one of Japan's other quirky theme experiences: the cat cafe. Here you can sit with a cup of coffee (or cocoa with marshmellows) and hang out with a hoard of cool cats.
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The best thing about it was that the cocoa was superb and the cats were incredibly cute. The unfortunate thing about it was that none of the cats wanted to be friends with us. The only ones that let us stroke them were the ill and the sleeping which made us feel our friendship was a bit one sided. In an attempt to get the attention of the more active ones, we started throwing balls around and poking teddies in their faces. I think we turned the big fluffy white one a bit mad though because it went bonkers running about the room and scratching everything.

We continued our day on foot, pacing the streets of Shibuya. It's all pretty manic with restaurants, hotels and shops galore.
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We even ran into a tiny pet store with little puppys and kittens in and cooed over them for a while.
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With all that lark, the day was almost over and it was time to head back to Shibuya station and to cross the famous Shibuya Crossing- Japan's busiest commuter route. When the lights change, there is a burst of people all bustling across the roads simultaneously in all different directions. When you're in the herd you just have to keep moving, especially on a brolly day when your chances of loosing an eyeball are increased tenfold.
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Ashton takes a danger shot of Emma caught in the herd:
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Posted by Ashton and Emma 06:07 Archived in Japan Tagged yoyogi shibuya park cat crossing cafe Comments (0)

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