Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tokyo - Day Four

Today we started out by going to the Pokemon Center.  Our traveling companions are big Pokemon fans and we are sort of interested in it now, thanks to Pokemon GO.

I bought a small keychain of a fox Pokemon.

Our next stop was the Sunshine Aquarium; which, interestingly enough, is on the 10th floor of a massive indoor mall/office building.

I have mixed feelings about aquariums; I love to see the fish and animals up close that I might never be able to see in the wild.  However, I feel it'd be better for them to be in the wild.  On the other flipside of all that, humans have done so much to kill the ocean that maybe the creatures are "better off" in captivity at this point.  It's hard to say.

Social commentary and deep, conflicted, thoughts aside, I took 330-some-odd pictures there today since I do love the natural world.  Sadly, I don't have it in me to go through them; I am exhausted.

I did want to share my favorite fish of the day:

I had never seen or heard of anything like this.  Our friends told us it's a dusky batfish.  It looks like some sort of anime character, or a Pokemon!   I took a bunch of pictures of him, or her.

Look for aquarium pictures in a future post, probably after we get home and I get rested.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Tokyo and possible things on the docket include a zoo, the Sky Tree, more shopping, maybe an expo that we just found out about today.

For now it is time for some much needed SLEEP.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tokyo - Day Three - Hachiko

Day Three was primarily more trains, more walking, more shopping.  However, the highlight of the day, for me, was seeing the statue of Hachiko.  I've known of his story for a long time and always thought it would be cool to see the statue of him.  I never thought it would happen.

Today it did.

We took the train to Shibuya station.  There were signs designating that this was Hachiko's area.

There is a MASSIVE construction project going on at Shibuya station right now.  It took us a while to get our bearings and figure out which way to go.  As we wandered back and forth through the construction area, it occurred to me that I could probably aske where Hachiko was, thanks to the Japanese class I had taken.  I've been too shy to use much of what I'd learned, but I thought this might be the time.  But who to ask?

I saw a security guard or policeman at the entrance/exits to the station and while the rest of our party was debating which way to go, I summoned my courage and walked over to him.

"Sumimasen," I asked (Excuse me)

When he had turned to me...

"Doko de Hachiko desu?"  (Where is Hachiko?)  I think it should have been desu ka (the ending to a question), I missed that part - but he understood and replied excitedly,

"Ah, Hachiko!" and pointed down the street.  Sadly I didn't understand what else he'd said afterwards, but we had our direction.  I thanked him ("Arigatoogozaimasu!") and off we went.

I was happy; I had finally used some Nihongo!  (Japanese language)

I had (recently) seen the Hachiko stature in a documentary and thought I recognized the trees around his area.  Sure enough, we found him!

There was a big crowd gathered around, people of all nationalities.  I waited a bit for my "turn" to pose with him (it seemed when one person left him, another from the crowd would just jump in).

Also in ground in the the area around him were these:

We rested by him for a little while and right before we were about to leave, I realized I hadn't actually touched him.  So I wanted until another group was done getting their picture taken and I walked over to him and petted the statue.  I turned to find Jeff smiling at me.  I told I'd realized I hadn't actually touched Hachiko; I wanted to be able to say that I had.

During our time here, we've idly wondered that that "big, famous intersection" is.  Turns out, we were there.  It is at Shibuya station.  We crossed it, twice, after seeing Hachiko.

Even at midday on a weekday, the area was PACKED with people.

Waiting to cross:

Here we go!

While in the area, we went and checked out a few stores, had lunch at a tiny underground ramen restaurant, had Starbucks, and walked ourselves ragged again.

Here's another random sighting I made earlier in the day, back in the Ginza district:


It was another good day in Tokyo, though our nearly non-stop walking around is taking its toll on us.  I think I'll need to sleep for a week when we get back home!

I'm so very happy that I was able to see Hachiko.  As recent as a couple of years ago, I would have never thought it would happen.  Even after making our move to Japan, I wasn't sure I'd make it there.

That made the whole trip for me.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Tokyo - Day Two

Our second day started with room service for breakfast!

The view from our room includes these tall, skinny buildings.  

After breakfast, we set out on our next Tokyo adventure.

In case you were wondering, motorcycles are not allowed on the sidewalk.

In our two days here, we've been riding a LOT of trains.

Some stations look like this:

"I don't think that's our train."  Jeff observed as this one whizzed by without stopping.

Other stations look like this:

Our destination for the morning was MariCar, a MarioKart-inspired go-kart tour of Tokyo.

It had been sprinkling rain all morning and we weren't sure what we'd find when we got there,

All the karts were covered when we arrived.

We found out that yes, the tour was still a go!

They gave us the option to pick out a costume.  There were many choices available.

This is what we settled on: Banana, Pikachu, Minion, and minimalist Iron Man. (we all gave Jeff a bit of hassle for his choice of not wearing a full suit like the rest of us)

Once we were suited up, had a few laughs, and took a bunch of pictures, we went outside to find all of the karts uncovered.

While we were out there, this pulled up.  Can we take that one??

Nope, had to pick one of the little ones.  Here we are, lined up on the road, ready to embark.

Jeff waiting for the go.  He was wearing a head-mounted video recorder, an option for the tour.  He brought up the rear and filmed most of the tour.

After getting underway, sitting at our first red light, I took pictures of everyone.

Jeff - having fun!

The banana.  Having fun karting, not so much fun getting his picture taken.


A little later on.  Scared banana!  The bus was very big and very close.

We saw lots of big buildings, this one was interesting.

Neat building.

At some point, I noticed this warning sticker on my kart.  Apparently, mine was the only one that (still?) had it.  I don't think our whimsical suits counted as protective clothing.

At our first stop on the tour, a cool picture of our karts.

Wow, we drove a long way!  (haha)

A picture of our group, with Tokyo's version of the Statue of Liberty in the distance.

Farther off in the distance, the Tokyo SkyTree, a planned future stop during our time here.

This is the Rainbow Bridge, that we crossed in the karts.

Our group again.

And again, with Rainbow Bridge in the background.

I spotted a cormorant in the bay.

This was an interesting building.  Our tour guide said it was Fuji TV.

Photo bomb!

Another tour stop was the Tokyo Tower.

Shortly afterwards, it started to rain and continued for most of the rest of the tour.

Go-karting through Tokyo was INTENSE and FUN!  If anyone reading this finds themselves in Tokyo, we highly recommend MariCar.

Back on the train lines to get return to the hotel.  At one point we were in a subway car that had a ton of pictures of a horseback rider.  The train had placards inside and out, talking about the Japanese Paralympics.  I think we somehow ended up in the Equestrian car.  I was fine with that!

We rested in the hotel room for a while and then ventured out to the Ginza district, a massive shopping area.  We wandered into a few shops and I ended up getting a new cell phone.  Our cellphone provider, a Japanese company, has very limited service and inventory where we live.  However, we found one of their big stores here and went in to find out the options to replace my horrible phone.  It's been on the back burner for a while, I think neither Jeff or I had wanted to deal with it.  My phone hasn't worked right the whole time I've had it, even after having it serviced.  Tonight, after an hour or so, we walked out with a new phone for me.  I love it already.

Now we are eating pizza and watching some TV.  It was a long, fun day!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Tokyo - Day One

We started our adventure by getting on a train in Misawa City, where we live.

This train took us to Hachinohe.

The reason we went to Hachinohe...  was this:

We were going to ride the "bullet train" to Tokyo, and Hachinohe is the closest Shinkansen station.

Making our decent to the Shinkansen track.

Here it comes!

They have a very distinctive look.

Waiting for it to stop.

A view from the inside.  It was very roomy inside, much more than any commercial airline flight.

Jeff is ready to go fast!

And go fast we did.  Jeff wished he knew how fast we were going.  Then he realized that we live "in the future" and there must be "an app for that".  Sure enough, a basic speedometer app was found and then we knew how fast we were going.

Yes, that's 199 miles per hour.  He said the highest he saw it go was 201mph.

The scenery was pretty evenly split from farmland/rice paddies,

cities and towns,

and quite a bit of tunnels.  Nothing to see there.

The trip took about three hours, by car it would have taken 12 or more.

Upon arrival at the Tokyo station, Jeff got the sinking feeling that the automated gates would take our tickets - he wanted to keep them.  Sure enough, we had to sacrifice our tickets to the exit machines, but he did get a picture first.

It took us a little while to figure out how to get OUT of the (massive) Tokyo station.  Once we did, the first thing I noticed were trees growing on one of the buildings!

I've seen this on various TV shows or documentaries, but it was really cool to finally see such a thing in person.

Jeff snapped a selfie.

The Tokyo train station building is beautiful.

More trees where you wouldn't expect to see trees.

A big intersection.

A view from the Imperial Palace grounds, into the city.  I thought it was an interesting contrast.

At the edge of the park was this lake.

There were two swans feeding there.

We also noticed a turtle in the water!

And he noticed us.  He (or she) seemed quite interested in us, coming right to the edge of the water and popping up to check us out several times.

"404 - street not found"  An observation made by our friends who are traveling with us.  haha

After looking around at the park for a bit, we went back to the train station and rode a couple of subway lines to our hotel.

It was so nice to finally make it to the hotel and offload our bags; we arrived too early to check in, so had to drag/carry our luggage all over with us today.

We haven't fully explored the hotel/resort yet, but I did spot this in one of the hallways.

Also, there seems to be a resident cat out front.  We've seen her a few times now, anytime we arrive or leave the hotel.  We each petted her a little, she seems to be a sweet kitty.

That's about it for day one.  Tonight we're thinking of going to the hotel pool and just relaxing for the rest of the night.

Tomorrow...  we are going to do MariCAR, a Mario Kart-inspired 2 hour guided go-kart tour of Tokyo!