Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tokyo 2012

Bad-ass photo of Tokyo Tower
I left for Tokyo on December 28th.  It was a bit of a long trip because I took an overnight bus, but still enjoyable.  The first bus took me from Oita to Fukuoka; I checked out Hakata station and mall, and then caught my night bus for Tokyo.  It wasn't so bad, except that it was really hot and they didn't let you off throughout the night, so I got claustrophobic.  There were enough daylight hours, but I never had a window seat and the windows were seriously foggy, so I didn't get to watch the landscape at all.  I brought a novel with me and I have an iPhone, so I was well entertained... until I finished my book and my iPhone died.  Then I was stir-crazy.  I stripped down to my leggings and a single shirt in the middle of the night, but I was still freaking out, especially cause I thought I had an extra water bottle in my bag, so I didn't buy any at the one night stop we got, but I was mistaken, which meant I was flippin' dehydrated.  I know, poor baby. 

I got to Shinjuku station in Tokyo on the morning of December 29th.  My friend Melissa met me there.  She's the reason I went, actually, and to see Tokyo while I was catching up with her.  I had free vacation days over the New Year holiday, and I wanted to do something valuable with them.  On the first day in Tokyo we were in the Karakuen area, where we saw Dome city, which is a sports dome surrounded by rides and a mall.  We went there because I love gardens and I wanted to go to the nearby Koishikawa Korakuen Garden, but it was closed.  This is something that is very counter intuitive about Japan, and very different from America:  During the holidays museums, gardens, and ATMs (ATMs!!) are CLOSED.  A friends of mine had to house a friend of hers because he was on holiday in our area, forgot about the ATM situation, and simply could not obtain enough money to get home until the ATMs opened the next day.  Ah, well.  As we say when cultural quirks cause things to go awry... "Oh, Japan."  Melissa and I rode the giant Ferris wheel and got our girl talk into full swing.  Melissa and I are fabulous at girl talk.  We tore up the girl talk.  You wouldn't stand a chance.

Tiffany and Melissa: Purikura

In lieu of the closed city garden, we headed toward another garden that Melissa knew about so that I could get my garden fix, and we passed through some city areas and another garden on the way.  It's hard to go anywhere in Japan without seeing beautiful things and scenes, and I am a very lucky girl to have a friend like Melissa that is so knowledgeable and resourceful.  We made our way to the Bunkyoku area, home to the luxury Four Seasons Hotel and it's garden.  We strolled through the garden which had it's own shrines and sculptures, a famous well that kept people alive after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, streams, and a waterfall that has a path underneath for entrance to the hotel.  Nice!  The garden was setting for good conversation, which in my opinion, Melissa and I always have.

Asakusa Shopping after the people had gone

After Bunkyoku we took the train to Asakusa to check out a famous shopping area and to see Senso-ji, a huge temple.  We met up with another friend, Mike, who lives in Oita prefecture with me.  It hadn't occurred to me to ask, but that area was bustling as though a festival was in full swing, but I think it's just like that every day.  I wonder.  I had some yummy sake with mochi inside while I was there, as well as some other Japanese sweets.  YUM.  From the temple area I caught views of the Asahi Beer factory (a jet black building with a big gold (sperm-esque) flame on top, famous also for its architecture), and the new Tokyo Sky Tree, which has the coolest matte silver finish, and is now the tallest structure in Japan.  After the temple we went milling the streets looking for eats.  I wasn't in shopping mode, for once, but Melissa hit upon what appeared to be a shoe-shoppers mecca.  We ended up having a delicious meal of... udon?  I think it was udon.

Tokyo Sky Tree
 At this point I had been up all day and I had travelled all the previous night, and Melissa had stayed up very late the night before I got there and had gotten up early to meet me at the train station, so we were getting silly with exhaustion.  After sitting in the restaurant for what might actually have been hours, we set out to the street again, all a giggle.  The dancing mechanical cats?  Hilarious!  The dead Fugu fish in the tank, bumping against the walls and the other fish?  HILARIOUS.  Mike using the Tokyo Sky Tree mural as a stand in penis?  OMG.  We had a good time, snaking through a gorgeous Asakusa street, down a yaki-tori (meat on sticks) tent street, past Asakusa station... good times.  Melissa and I got on the train to Tsukuba and eventually got to sleep.


On my second day, I woke up in Tsukuba without the assistance of an alarm OR a child!!  It was divine.  We did some serious vegging this day.  Melissa fixed me up on the trip with healthier food than I have been eating lately:  We started the day with blueberry and maple syrup infused oatmeal and made a lunch of tuna/carrot salad scooped up with nori, accompanied by boiled eggs and mustard.  We ate lunch in front of a duck pond on the lawn of the Tsukuba planetarium.  It was really pretty.  I say lunch, but we didn't actually get out of the apartment until the sun was on the way down.  That kind of day feels so right to me.  The rest of our day consisted of browsing and a little buying, especially at Loft, a pretty cool store that has lots of cute/fun/uniquely-Japanese stuff.  This is the day I got Roland.  He's my new friend.  We finished up the day with a trip to the purikura!!  Purikura is what we call the Japanese photo booths.  You choose layouts and backgrounds, take your 6 or 8 pictures, and then go to a screen outside the booth where there is screen.  You use a digital pen to decorate your pics with tab after tab of pictures and symbols.  It's really fun!  We stopped in the park on the way home to look at the stars while we talked.     

Tsukuba Planetarium

 We woke up on the third day kind of late, I think, and on our own time, but got out in decent time to see the town and prep for New Year's Eve celebratory activities.  We went to the Hotel Mentels (what kind of name is that?  Oh, Japan) in Otsuka, Tokyo.  We dropped off the stuff, chilled, did a photo shoot with our silky animal print bed spread, and head out to hit the town.  We went to check out Harajuku, Tokyo, which had awesome shopping!!  I didn't want to bring a bag out to the club, so I had just given Melissa my ID and enough money for the night.  I had not planned on animal-eared winter hats, Max Hedrome sun glasses, the best selection of phone and key straps in the land, or T-shirts featuring pigs who were sad to see ham on a plate.  It was glorious, but alas, I had no money, and of course the ATMs were closed, not that I had my bank card.  Oh, well, next time.

Cool Harajuku Wall

Crazy Harajuku Dude

Me and Melissa in Harajuku

Mike and Melissa in
Omoide Yokocho
 We met up with Mike and went to Shinjuku, Tokyo, to eat close to the club.  We ate on a street of Izakaya restaurants called Omoide Yokocho, or Street of Memories.  It was very cool.  Melissa was sweetest most generous friend ever and treated me to dinner.  Thanks Melissa!!  I owe you one.  After that we walked to Club Axxcis, which had a great drink deal for women and featured DJ Kaori, who is pretty famous, I guess.  I went in with Melissa and got settled with our locker and drinks.  They were frisking the dudes, so Mike went to an alley to down his not-that-small bottle of whiskey and then joined us in the club.  He pointed out that if I had done what he just did, I'd probably be dead.  Ha.  The club was really fun.  I got three drinks in before the time cut-off for ladies free drinks, which was more like the equivalent of six:  I complained to the bar tender that my drinks didn't seem to actually contain any alcohol, so he up-ended the bottle of Skyy into my drink and just stirred until I looked shocked.  Awesome!!  That happened three times.  ;-)

The New Year's Party
we went to

So, obviously, that's when things start to get blurry.  It was a great, fun lovin time.  The atmosphere in the club was jubilent.  The strippers were sexy.  The pole dance was really, truly impressive; like, inspiring; and the music was freaking awesome... song after song got me movin' and groovin'.  Finally, the DJ lead the countdown -in Japanese- and we screamed in the year of 2012.  These two guys had been running around all night pouring champagne in our mouths.  They did that some more.  We danced and laughed...

On the way out, sometime before 3am, we ran into my friends from Oita University, who I had told about this Club Axxcis.  They were like, "Oh, you're leavin' already?"  Were you looking at me?  It was three in the morning and I could never have gotten myself home without Melissa.  Yeah.  I'm leavin' already.  Melissa ran me to catch the train, so when we got there I collapsed on the floor of the train, and luckily I was laughing my ass off instead of crying.  I'm generally a happy drunk.  There was a konbini stop and bed.  Good, good New Year's Eve in Tokyo.

Post Club Konbini Stop

On the fourth day, only about five hours later, I woke up and was feelin' fine.  My bounce back powers are healthy.  We checked out, dropped our stuff off in a locker in Shinjuku, where I would catch my bus that night, and headed to Odaiba Island where I caught lots of city sights including Tokyo Big Sight, Palette Town Mall (where I picked up some Tokyo Starbucks Mugs for my collection), the Toyota Design Center, Aqua City, and the Fuji TV Building.  I also experienced an earthquake right before we bought our tickets for the water bus back to Hinode Pier.  I love being on the water.  The views were gorgeous and I got great pictures of Rainbow Bridge and the skyline.  From Hinode Pier we walked to Shibakoen area to see Zojo-ji (ji means temple) and Tokyo Tower.

Rainbow Bridge

At Tokyo Big Sight

Ferris Wheel at Palette Town

After that, it was just getting back to Kyushu and Oita.  It is of note that the 2 hour bus ride from Fukuoka to Oita took, on this day, 5 hours.  My bus went under 15 km/hr for almost 4 hours.  And my phone was dead.  And I had no book to read.  And I couldn't really sleep.  Torture.

But, I don't remember my trip that way and I don't want to end this post that way.  I had a great time with Melissa.  I'm blessed to have such a generous friend who happens to be fluent .  I feel like I have seen Tokyo now, for though I had spent as many nights in Tokyo before, I had only seen the inside of the Keio Plaza Hotel.  ...Now, you know me, I always end up reflecting on something, and what comes to mind now is my lack of appreciation for where I am.  I have come to a point where I am taking Japan for granted.  I know this because although I just spent a really awesome four days in Tokyo, I'm still jealous of my friends who went to Thailand -a place I have already been to, and I'm moaning in my head about when I might get to go to Bali or Guam or even Okinawa.  I'm such a brat.  :-) 


From Japan,

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