Finally, Vacation with Karla! Yay.

Trip Start Dec 02, 2008
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Trip End Jan 20, 2009


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Flag of Japan  , Kanto,
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

 I made it to Narita and checked into the hotel with about an hour before Karla landed. The Kyoto vacation had been great, but being without any way to get cash was a real pain.

I picked up Karla at the airport and we went back to the Hotel on the shuttle to settle in. This first night we were staying in Narita because it took almost an hour on the train to get to Tokyo and I figured that Karla had already traveled enough. We stayed at the Narita Hilton, a nice place shaped like a doughnut with windows facing inward and a waterfall and a nature area in the center.
After changing we took the town bus down to the Local AEon Mall, where we looked around at all the Japanese stores and ate at the food court. I showed Karla one of my Favorite Japanese fast food's Pepper Lunch. I ate it so much while I was in Japan that I actually got a Pepper Lunch Punch card.
That night was pretty low key, I made sure that my new debit card worked, and then we settled back at the hotel to get ready for the day ahead of us.

The next day we took the train into tokyo and got checked into our new hotel. The Grand Prince New Takinawa. The Prince line of hotels are very nice hotels, for some reason in the business district of Shinigawa, they felt like the 4300 room shinigawa prince wasn't enough so they built the Prince Takinawa, and the Grand Prince New Takinawa literally right down the street. I guess that they have enough visitors to keep the rooms full, that's all that counts. Our hotel had a Japanese garden in the front with a large Koi pond, a tea room, walking paths and many benches to sit and enjoy the scenery. The place was all decorated for the season with flashing lights, silver balls and ambient music outdoors. I could tell by walking in that this was going to be a magical stay in the big city.
 We got a complimentary room upgrade (somehow) and landed ourselves on the 15th floor in an awesome room with a great view. Things were starting to look up! we dropped our bags off and went right to sightseeing. First Stop, Imperial Palace.


The imperial palace is a large area with grounds in the center of Tokyo. This large plot of land about 4 square kilometers in size was once valued in the late 80's (during the Japanese housing boom) to have a property value equal to the entire state of California.
The palace itself doesn't look very lavish from the outside, I'm sure it's much nicer on the inside, but tours are only given once a week or so by appointment only. We walked through the grounds and around the East Gardens, The areas were wide and sprawling with the tall business buildings towering all around it. It really gave me the feeling of Central Park, the beauty in the middle of the metropolis.

The Subway was our main form of transportation around the city. We bought a prepaid Suica card to ride the subway. Unlike other big cities like New York that just charge a flat rate (2.00) to enter the system and then you can go anywhere in the city. Tokyo Prorates their fares based on distance. There is a large circle about 2 miles in diameter that runs around the city, then there are cris-crossing lines that run into the eastern and northern suburbs and cross throught the center of the city.  When you enter the subway you scan your prepaid card, and it removes the maximum amount for a subway fare. when you leave the subway, you scan your card again and it calculates your fare and credits your card. The cards are all IR sensors so they work through a thin purse or wallet, by the end of the trip I found that I could sort of  "slide/rub" my ass against the sensor, I could swipe my card without taking it out of my pocket.
We returned to the hotel and rested for a spell,

We walked around Shinagawa for the afternoon, staying close to the hotel. Karla took a nap to catch up from the jet lag and I bit the bullet and paid however many thousand yen to get the internet for 24 hours. I believe I've already told people on the blog how I feel about pay-per-day internet but sometimes it's just something you have to deal with.
After a nice refreshing nap we caught the subway up into the Roppongi hills. This is the night-life spot in Tokyo, there are several discos and night clubs as well as a number of Gentlemens establishments with risque advertisements in the doorway. we started off with a bar that had a happy hour, and met a girl from Ecuador. I was surprised at just how many people spoke English in this part of town and at times I almost forgot that I was in Tokyo. We strolled down the streets, avoiding eye contact with the throngs of (mostly African) men attempting to persuade us into their club. After wandering up and down the main drag and stopping at the Hard Rock Cafe to pick up my collectable shot galss, we walked down the hill toward the giant orange glowing tower. The Tokyo Tower, standing 333M high looks like a big orange Eiffel tower at first glance. We went up to the observation deck where you could see a great view of the city. there is a rather large area on that floor with a restraunt and a bar, there was an acoustic duo having a concert at the moment. we walked around and then decided we wanted a better view so we paid the extra to go to the tippy top of the tower. This is a much smaller circular room at the top of the structure. This view is one of the most amazing man made specticles I have ever seen. Tokyo at night is a little darker than I expected it, but the fact that it stretches on into infinity is really mind blowing.
The next morning we woke up and planned our day and then set off to tackle the enormous city. We took the subway to the East on our way to have breakfast at the Tsukiji Fish Market, we walked down Ginza st. The Ginza Shopping district is on par with 5th Aveneue in NY and Oxford St. in London. The biggest names in fashion all have their grip on Ginza st. and once again, at times I forgot that I was in Tokyo. We wandered throught the posh market place down to the end, this was where Sony, Nissan, Toyota, Fujitsu, and many of the largest companies in Japan have their world headquarders. At the end of Ginza St. we turned toward the water and toward the fish market, the odor told us that we were going in the right direction. We were looking for a renowned sushi restraunt that was talked about in our Lonely Planet guide for having the best and the freshest sushi. Upon arriving at the fish market we could see that there were no real locations for a sushi restraunt, the stalls were crowded with freezers and styrofoam. Forklifts beeped and whirred as they loaded the day's catch into cold trucks. The market opens when the fish boats arrive at about 1 in the morning, by 5am the sushi stores are open to the general public and throngs of people line up to get their breakfast. Yes sushi for breakfast. I mentioned this in my other blog, but Japanese don't have breakfast food and lunch meats and dinner entrees, they just have food, and you eat it, three times a day, this means sushi and miso for breakfast, rice and shrimp for dinner. OR Rice and shrimp for breakfast and sushi for dinner. Of course some things lend themselves better for one meal or the other, but in general, you're not going to find a Dunkin' Doughnuts in Tokyo. ( I didn't check to be sure, but I think that McDonalds doesn't even have breakfast, they just serve burgers all day, please let me know if you can confirm or deny this)
So starting to get very hungry, we wandered around aimlessly looking for this (apparently) famous sushi restraunt with huge lines of people. At the moment I didn't see anything that looked or smelled like a viable restraunt and the only lines were the rats waiting for their chance at the garbage pails. Finally, defeated, we walked out of the fish market to find some regular food. As we walked out I noticed a white couple carrying a camera and walking around with a 'full stomach' look on their face. I decided to take a shot in the dark and asked them if they knew where the sushi restraunts were. "Sure," the man said, "Right over there", pointing to a row of buildings ahead of us in the distance. We thanked the man and hurriedly walked up to the buildings that were starting to look less like a fish market and more like a restraunt. We rounded the corner to find...... OH MY GOD, a huge line. There was a row of about five or six restraunts but the one on the end had a line that must have had 40 people in it. It was already 11:00 and the travel book said the market completely shut down by noon, we stood around trying to figure out what the difference was between this PACKED sushi hut and the rest of the mostly empty sushi huts. We really wanted to know what all the fuss was about, but the you couldn't even get close enough to see through the tiny windows. Finally with time and hunger pressing upon us we went into the neighboring restraunt and sat down.  I'm not the biggest sushi eater in the world, but I have to say that this stuff was off the hook! I now know why the Japanese will pay through the nose to ambulance a large tuna to the airport and get it to Tokyo in a number of hours, rather than in a day, because fresh tuna is beyond compare. I was certin that the fish that I was eating had just been eating something else in the Pacific Ocean less than 12 hours ago. The prices were pretty reasonable as well. We thanked the man and left the market with 'full stomach' looks on our faces.
We made our way slowly home the long way, stopping at Akihabara, to see it in the daylight, we were planning to come back and visit it that night as well.
At rush hour we trekked across the city to the famous Shibuya crossing, a large six way pedestrian cross walk. I'm sure that a crosswalk being on my list of things to see irritated Karla. Not only did I want to see it, I had to film it. She was a real trooper while I sat on the second floor of the Starbucks and ran my video camera for almost a half hour, capturing the pulse of the city with each wave of people, then traffic, then people. I sped this up and it made for an absolutely AWESOME time laps video, For those of you with Facebook, you can see it linked to my site. I'm barely finishing writing all my experiences, so the complete Tokyo video will be much MUCH later, but I had a vision, and I needed video of a crosswalk. Karla was nice enough to wait around while I had my stupid videographer moment.
Back at the hotel we walked the grounds, chatted with the fish in the pond, and Karla took another nap, still suffering a little bit from the Jet lag. Then we planned out the next couple days so we could fit everything in everything we wanted to do. After the short break we set out for dinner and a night with no plans, just exploring. We started with the bright lights of Akihabara, the technology district. I could have stayed there for hours looking at every little shop, Karla was very tolerant of my computer-loving disease, only going her own way once during the evening when I got stuck in a four story computer wharehouse.
We grabbed dinner on the go and continued walking, I honestly can't say exactly where we went because we were walking without a real purpose, looking in shops and stores along the way, when everything finally closed, we made our way back to the subway and back to Shinigawa, Outside the train station was one of the Pachinko rooms, and both being curious, we walked in. A Pachinko parlor has to be on the short list for one of the noisiest places on earth, everywhere machines are blasting away, ticking and clicking, shouting congradulatory phrases in Japanese frequently. Successful players had large stacks of trays, filled with the shiny pachinko balls stacked in elaborate piles, sometimes three feet high, and filled to the brim. Though the room was full with people, almost every machine with a player, nobody was talking to each other but rather fixed at their machine gazing into their lucky futures. Each ball representing 1 yen, about a penny. I could see how it was easy to gain such large piles. Not being able to pass by any form of gambling machine without at least trying it, I sat at an empty maching in the far back corner (one of the only ones open), and tried it out. The game resemblend a Tiny plinko board like in the Price is Right, little silver balls were shot into the top at varying speeds and trickled down through the pegs to the bottom. The player held a throttle with their right hand that controlled the speed at which the balls were shot into play, the left hand was used to shovel the balls into the shooting funnel. There was an LCD screen in the background and a series of holes at the bottom of the pegs. Placing a thousand yen note and recieving a tray full of balls I started doing what I saw everyone else doing, not really knowing what I was accomplishing. I began to figure after a while that you are supposed to get the balls through the peg field into the central hole, when that happens, the LCD screen rolls three wheels, very similar to a vegas slot machine and that determines what kind of bonus round you've entered. Then, you want to get as many more balls as possible through that center hole while in the bonus mode. I think that's how it works anyway. Sometimes I would get a large flow of new balls released out of the bottom of the machine into my tray, but other times I would go for whole minutes without recieving any winnings, and when your shooting balls at about three per second, a minute without winning is expensive. Eventually the machine cashed me out, and I didn't feel like I understood the game any better than when I entered. I would later have to Wikipedia the subject to find out more about the rules, and then find out that you can't even receive money for your winnings, you have to trade them for stuff at the front desk, which is grossly priced, kind of like using the tickets they have at Chuck-E-cheeses. Thoroughly satisfied that we had adventured well without a plan, we made our way back to the hotel and went to bed we had a big day tomorrow.
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
Prince Hotels New Takinawa

Comments

lovingodsearth
lovingodsearth on

wow didn't notice til now
YOu've been nice enough to help me with my trip to Ireland while you're have a trip of a lifetime in Japan with your girlfriend.... Enjoy...... can't wait to read your blog...

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