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16 July 2009 @ 11:59 pm
It is Day 10 of the trip and our last day in Japan.

At 10am my brother-in-law and I bought the airport bus tickets from the Cashier at the hotel front desk. My travel mates and I bought sandwiches and snacks at a nearby bakery at 11am and hurried back to the hotel since the airport bus comes at 12 noon.

The ride to the airport was faster than when we took it going away from the airport to the hotel on our first day in Tokyo. We arrived at Narita airport past 1pm and was too early to get our luggages checked.

We hung around the lobby area and looked around the shops there. My sister bought traditional shoes and some snacks. I bought a book at a bookstore because I liked the bookmark it came with. :)

At about 2:30pm, the line for Air Canada finally opened up so we checked our luggage (my sister's luggage was over 50 pounds so she had to put a couple of things in my luggage). Then we went through security and had a late lunch.

We didn't board the plane till quarter after four. The flight took 13 hours and there was a lot of turbulence. The flight back to Canada felt so long and by the time we landed, my feet were so swollen that my sandals' straps dug into them, causing some bruising and bleeding cuts.

We stayed for a couple of days before heading back home.

And... that's it for my trip to Japan!

Till next vacation holiday... it's been a blast! ;p

Current Location: now, back home!
Current Mood: tiredtired
15 July 2009 @ 11:59 pm
It is Day 9 and today is the last full day in Japan.

It is so sad... :(

But, I'll make the most of today! :)

My travel mates and I went to the Imperial Palace this morning. The Palace itself was closed to the public but the East Gardens were open from 9am to 5pm. We started at the Ote-mon Gate which was really impressive (the doors and the stones used). Then we went to the Sannomaru Shozoban (The Museum of the Imperial Collections) where we saw the wedding gifts of the royal family. There are cameras allowed in this museum. Up ahead was a resting area with kiosk. I bought a coin wallet for my father and a handkerchief for my mother. I bought some postcards of the Palace and Gardens.

Afterwards, we passed by the three guardhouses (Doshin-bansho, Hyakunin-bansho, and the O-bansho) and the remains of the Chujaku-mon Bridge. There was another kiosk resting place by the lookout area where I took pictures of portrait photographs of the history of the Imperial Palace and Gardens. We continued along the path and passed by the Gakubu (Music Department) and the Tokagakudo Concert Hall. The architecture on those two buildings were gorgeous. As we left the Gardens through the Kitahanebashi-mon Gate, we passed by the Tenshudai (remains of the main tower).

Overall, the East Gardens were very pretty and I enjoyed the walk through it. :)  It was a pity that I missed the Tea Garden. :(  Ah, next time when I visit Tokyo...

We started at around 10:30am at the Gardens and finished around 12 noon. We were going to have lunch together but couldn't find a place around the Palace so we split up, with the decision to meet at the hotel to visit Tokyo Tower. I told them that if I don't see them at the hotel by 8:30pm, I'll be going to the Tower by myself first and I will be at the top of the observatory till closing if they decide to go visit the Tower.

They took the subway to go to Roppongi or Shibuya (I couldn't remember which area they were planning to go to first). I took the subway to Akibahara using one transfer point. When I got off the subway, I exited the station at Yodobashi Camera Department Store.

Yodobashi Camera Department Store is an amazing place. :) It was floor after floor of computers, laptops, usb and peripherals, games, toys, model vehicles, puzzles, cameras, robots, anime figurines, and all these electronics that you can't even think of. For a geek like me, it was pure joy!! ;p  I bought some souvenirs for my co-workers' children such as lego and model motorcycle. As I was leaving, I saw a tiny robot that I thought my brother would like. I kept that in mind as I left the store to see what else Akibahara had before I spend all my cash in that Department Store (hehe). ;p

I walked around for a couple of hours, grabbing a quick bite at a noodle & rice restaurant (ticket vending machine) and exploring the small stores to look for a t-shirt for my brother (he wanted a t-shirt from Japan) and also to check out the anime figurines and collectibles. Most of the stores that I went to had a lot of female figurines of anime characters in rather scantily clad clothing or lack of. (haha) I didn't see anything I wanted to buy especially since the t-shirts were about 3900 yen and I wasn't too keen on the print. Though there was one t-shirt I thought my brother may like (since I like it myself!) but it was expensive so I didn't purchase it. There was always the robot I saw back at Yodobashi Camera Department Store.

At a couple of duty-free shops, I saw VAIO laptops for really nice low prices. There was the Z-series which only weighs about 3.3 pounds and costs around $749 USD. I would love to get one of those lightweight laptops for traveling purposes. :)   I'll have to save up for one...

From the hotel I was staying at, I had grabbed a brochure and map of Akibahara at the concierge desk. I was using this map to search for the store "Tokyo Anime Center" and after searching aimlessly for about half an hour, I asked a couple in their thirties where I would find the store. The man showed me, using my map, where the 7-11 store was and to follow that path to the Anime Center store. I thanked him and continued on my way. After about several blocks I checked my map again and wondered where I was (yes, I was lost...). I heard someone shouting in Japanese so I turned around and saw the same man who helped me earlier. He was running towards me and when he reached me, he pointed at the 7-11 store on my map and gestured at the 7-11 store one block away. In my confusion I had passed by it without realizing and the man saw me walking past it. The man was really nice as he and the woman he was with, walked me to the building. I thanked them profusely.

From the map of Akibahara, it appears that Tokyo Anime Center is a separate building altogether but actually, it is in a department building and is located on one floor. If I had known this earlier, then I wouldn't have been lost since I had passed by this building "Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ" before. Tokyo Anime Center wasn't big but it had a good supply of anime souvenirs, mostly Ghibli Studio pieces. I bought a pen for myself and a t-shirt for my brother. It was the exact same t-shirt I saw earlier at another store, but at a lesser price (3000 yen). The image on the shirt had the pirates from "One Piece" anime and a nice slogan. Now, I regret not purchasing one too for myself...  :(

I grabbed a Royal Milk Tea at Tully's Coffee House located on the first floor of the building and went back to Yodobashi Camera Department Store. At the store I bought two robots (one for my brother and one for myself) and a Zoro figurine. Zoro is a character in "One Piece" anime and I really wanted the P.O.P. Pop-Neo series version but it was sold out so I settled for another version of Zoro. :(   The Pop-Neo version is 4200 yen which is cheaper than the one I saw on-line in USD. Too bad...

During my entire trip in Japan I've been trying to locate CDs by a Japanese artist "Tokuyama Hidenori" but I couldn't find a single one. I've tried four Tokyo Tower Record stores and other CD stores as well but with no luck. Everywhere I go, it is always sold out. I was going to give up altogether but I found a Tokyo Tower Record store in Akibahara. I asked an employee and he had two copies left of his newest 2009 single. I was so excited! I bought them both, one as a souvenir gift for my older sister and one for myself. I also bought Suga Shikao's double cd best of album and a couple of Remioromen CDs. Persistence and patience wins... :)

It was around 6:30pm when I grabbed a quick dinner at a nearby restaurant and then took the subway back to the hotel. I rested and then left for Tokyo Tower when I saw my travel mates haven't come back yet by 8:30pm. I had to take the subway to where the Tower was but it was still a bit of a walk to the foot of the Tower. I went up to the 250m Special Observatory and spent the next half hour at the 150m Main Observatory. The sight was pretty from those heights what with all the lights below and around the Tower. What impressed me most of all wasn't the height or the lights but the steel beams of the architecture. It is amazing that although Tokyo Tower is the world's tallest self-supporting steel tower, it is about 3000 tons lighter than the Eiffel Tower. (yes, I'm weird...) ;p   I left at closing time, around 10pm and since there were no sight of my travel mates, I took the subway back to the hotel.

Around quarter to eleven, my sister and brother-in-law came back from shopping and we finished the night packing our suitcases. It is sad... tonight is our last night in Japan. Tomorrow, we will taking the airport bus at 12 noon to Narita airport.

Canada.... we will be returning soon!!

Current Mood: sadsad
14 July 2009 @ 11:59 pm
It is Day 8 and we are going to the zoo!

It is the first time I’m using the subway in Tokyo and also the Pasmo card. The Pasmo card is really sweet to use. Just pass it over the scanner at the gate and it automatically deducts from the total on the card. Yeah, I know… it’s not that interesting to other people but I never had one before so it’s very cool to me. (hehe) I actually find the subway easier to use than in Osaka except it is busier than in Osaka. Tokyo at all times of the day is really busy for the major lines (the Chiyoda, Hibiya, Marunouchi, and Ginza lines are busy but the Tozai line wasn’t too bad). The ride to the Ueno zoo only took about 25 minutes.

When we were buying the tickets at the entrance, there were signs saying that Ling Ling, the giant panda, passed away in 2008. I was shocked! No panda?!? Lonely Planet, a guidebook on Japan, had panda mentioned in the book. I was so saddened about the news. :(

Nonetheless we had a great time at the zoo.

The elephants were so huge and the young elephant was swimming in the pool. The adolescent spider monkey was making a racket in his area, swinging and showing off his acrobat skills. We came upon feeding time at the vultures area. The king vulture was so dominant. He was fighting over the raw liver and was winning. The bats were so cute. They are related to the fruit bat so they were small. The gorillas were the main attraction at the zoo. The male gorilla was showing off to the visitors. He tapped on the window to draw attention to himself and the pregnant female gorilla was eating eggplant, onion, and carrots. The gorillas were given water bottles and drank from them as people would. It was really adorable when they did that. :)

There were two sections to the zoo. It took several hours to walk through the first section so we didn’t have time to go through the second section properly. There was a monorail that connects the two sections together but it already left by the time we reached the station gate. Walking towards the second section, we passed by a sign which read “Porcupine”. All I saw initially were large trees. My sister was walking in front of me and I glanced upwards briefly. I spotted a large porcupine hanging from a branch. I yelled out to my sister, “Come back here! You just walked past a porcupine!” I must have been loud because the porcupine woke up from his slumber, looked at me, yawned, and hid his head to sleep again. It was so cute!!!! We took photos of the porcupine front and back. He had a cute tail and funny legs from the back view. ;p The only area of the second section we went to was the petting zoo. It had these animals running around freely: a potbelly pig, chickens, roosters, and goats.

Before we left the zoo, we stopped by a souvenir shop to purchase some goods. Then we ate lunch at a restaurant in an alley along the subway station. I ate fried rice and it was delicious, I told the owner of the shop that. She was so pleased that she told the cook what I thought of it. She asked us where we were from and we thanked her for helping us order from the ticket vending machine. Truly, the rice was really tasty! :)

Afterwards, while my travel mates were in a department store, I went to a closeby store "Yamashiroya" which sold games, anime, toys, and electronics. There was so much that I want to purchase but I only bought some souvenirs for friends and co-workers such as bath sponges in the shape of a donut and toast, jelly bean bath soap, and other odd ball items. There were some cool-looking iPod lego-style players and weird music headphones. If I had more time and money, I would love to shop there.

There was still some time to kill in the day before night falls, so we took the subway to Shibuya. I wasn’t too keen to go there since I am not interested in shopping areas too much but I was a bit curious about the district. We got off the wrong exit from the subway station and ended up in a gloomy area instead of the shopping district.

Because we were tired from today’s excursion, we walked around a bit and ate at a noodle place.

By the way, the “Gatsby” sheets that we bought at a local convenience store were amazing as they absorb all the sweat from your face, keeping you dry, and they are also deodorized (scented). I gave one package to my brother who said it would’ve come handy a month ago when he was in Peru backpacking. ;p

We took the subway back to our hotel in Akasaka and as we were walking through the subway terminal, the ceiling above us darkened and lit up. The ceiling had the astrological signs all painted across the top. It shimmered and was so beautiful to look at. I took some photos of the ceiling the next night. It is a shame that it was only us looking at the computerized painting. It seemed that no one else was stopping to view it. :( Perhaps, they locals see it everyday so they were used to it? Or maybe everyone is too busy to stop and “smell the roses”?

For tomorrow, we decided to split up and do our own thing but then get together in the evening at the hotel to visit Tokyo Tower. Though I’m not too particular about visiting the tower, it is a landmark of Tokyo that seems to attract a lot of tourists, so I would like to visit there before I leave Japan. :) I can't wait to go to Akibahara for anime and electronics!

Current Mood: calmcalm