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Geocaching in Tokyo and Japan October 26, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Geocaching in Tokyo and Japan” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-vR

If any of you have been following me on Twitter, you would know that I have a new hobby called Geocaching.  Geocaching, for the uninitiated, is a type of game where all you need is a GPS receiver and the ability to think.  You are given a set of GPS coordinates and you navigate your way to that location.  From there, you can look around the area and find a container that has been hidden by another geocacher.  The game itself is simplistic in nature.  Think of it as a grown man’s hide and seek, or treasure hunting for geeks.  In fact, you don’t even need a GPS receiver to play the game, just a print out of a map for the GPS coordinates.  Each cache, treasure, is different.  They can be as large as a coffin, this was a real cache, and as small as a button.  The only limits are your imagination.  There are hundreds of places you can hide a cache, and Japan is a place where this is growing.

From reports from other blogs and other geocachers, geocaching in Tokyo has not been that big.  It has taken off, somewhat, in recent years and there are hundreds of different sites around Tokyo.  If you are interested in it, it’s a great way to see the city.  Many of the caches are set up by locals, and many are Japanese.  I have had the opportunity to visit many places that I would never have visited without geocaching to tell me to go there.  While you probably won’t see them at the typical tourist hot spots, such as Meiji Jingu Shrine, you will see them just outside, and at places where most tourists would never think to go.  Imagine going to a famous cathedral, going inside, but never taking the time to walk around the block just outside the cathedral.  You never know what amazing things you can discover if you just walked within a block of the actual building itself.  Geocaching can take you to these places, and it can teach you interesting things if you care to learn about it.

While I’m still very new to geocaching, I have found several caches already, and there are several that I’d recommend.  In Shinjuku, there is the “Concrete Canyon Cache” (GC4B70) located in Shinjuku Central Park is a good example.  Many tourists will come and visit the area, but not many will actually enter the park, nor take the time to read the signs telling them the name of the “forest” inside the park.  Having lived in Shinjuku for years, I myself never took the time to actually read the signs and discovered that the park’s forest actually had a name.  The name itself is part of the cache as it is a Virtual Cache that requires you to find some information to make the “find” valid.  Another good one is “Astronomical clock and LOVE” (GC213BG).  This one is located near a large sculpture of the word “LOVE” that was originally designed by Robert Indiana.  It is world famous and extremely popular with tourists and locals alike.  The entire area is very photographic, and the cache itself is somewhat large for the area.  For geocachers, this is a good place to drop some toys for others to take.

If you are looking for a “traditional” geocache, look no farther than Shinagawa Station.  Going there, you can find a large geocache called “Takanawa Forest Park” (GC25MKW).  I won’t ruin the surprise if you are looking for it, but needless to say, it’s a typical sized cache, but fairly large for Tokyo.  It’s hidden in a fairly quiet area, and the entrance to the park itself is well hidden.  It was so hidden that I had to think twice about entering the park.  When looking for the entrance, you have to use a private driveway which makes you think you are trespassing on someone’s property.  Thankfully, that’s not the case.  When you do reach the area of the cache, it’s fairly easy to find.  Once again, I would never have visited this park on my own, and I was happy to find a very small urban forest in the middle of the hotels in Shinagawa.  This cache was also a treasure trove of goodies.  I found lots of goodies that I could “steal” and keep, and a few things that I could pass on to others.

Currently, I’m working in Ginza, and have found a lot of time to visit the caches in my area.  Unfortunately, there are only a few that I’d mention as being special.  The first is “Shinji Ike Pond” (GC12FXY) which is a small container in Hibiya Park.  While the location isn’t that special, the fact that I can visit a small cache that can hold goodies is important. It’s also a busy cache with many people visiting it every week.  “Godzilla” (GC28YAD) is also a good one.  I haven’t been able to find this one yet, but the area is great.  There is a statue of Godzilla nearby and hand prints of famous celebrities on the ground as well.  It felt a little like the Mann Theatre in Hollywood, but obviously without the same energy.  For relaxing times, a visit to “Brick Square” (GC23C10) is a must.  It is an urban oasis.  When you have had enough of the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, you can head into this small courtyard and relax with various trees.  There are a few bars where you can also enjoy a nice glass of wine.  This cache was definitely a nice surprise.

One of my biggest surprises came from “Small Island” (GC18B37).  I never knew that there was a small island located in the middle of the Sumida River, let alone a cache.  I saw it and had to visit it.  It was a scorching hot day and with sweat dripping down my face, I took the time to hunt the cache and I found it within minutes.  I had a great time and the view was wonderful.  I wish I could have stayed for an hour or so, but unfortunately, I had no time as I had to get to work.  If you are in the area, or if you want to see something unique, this is a great place to visit.  Unfortunately, there is nothing interesting in the area, unless you are going to eat monja yaki.  While not the most recommended food item in Japan, if you do choose to try it, you might as well come to the cache, say hello, and grab some monja afterwards.

When in Asakusa, going to “Lucky and Happy Come Come Cats” (GC24X6G) is a great place to visit.  You will visit a nice shrine that is dedicated to cats.  If you are a cat lover, you’ll love this place.  I’m not sure of the importance of this shrine but it is a cool place to visit.  “Bridge of X” (GC249RQ) is also an interesting experience.  For this one, it’s the pedestrian bridge that was built to bridge the gap between two parks.  The bridge is full of people, and every year, there is a fireworks festival at the end of July.  I’d also recommend this as an interesting place to see Tokyo Sky Tree, and the various cruisers that ply the Sumida River waters giving tours.  Do note that you can always see things closer to Asakusa itself, but getting farther north will mean things are quieter and more relaxed.   A day spent exploring the area that no one has been will allow you to brag about seeing things that no other tourist would ever thing to see.

As part of the game, there is a thing called a trackable.  These come in two main forms, Geocoins, and Travel Bugs.  A Geocoin is exactly that, a geocaching coin.  It is a standard coin with a special design.  On the back is a special tracking number which is the password to tell the system that you truly found it.  A travel bug is the same, except it can come in any shape or size.  Usually, a dog tag is attached which has the tracking number.  These trackables may or may not have a specific goal in mind.  Some of them are there to just travel the world, aimlessly, and others are in a race or trying to do something specific.  I have seen people race their bugs, and others who have set a goal to visit a specific location before returning home.  Some people have sent USB drives in a goal to meet people, collect pictures, and essentially return home so that they can see all of the people who have touched it.  It’s a fun game and a way to meet people you never otherwise would have.

Geocaching is a fun game that requires a little stealth when playing.  Often, you are looking for something that is hidden so regular people can’t find it.  It can be very suspicious when looking around something that is generally uninteresting.  You may get into trouble from the police or security personal who thinks you are up to no good, but that’s also part of the game.  Just be careful.  When in Tokyo, the majority of caches are small to micro in size.  Unfortunately, this means that most of the caches you will look for and find will be somewhat boring.  They don’t tend to be that creative, but depending on the person, they can be.  However, Tokyo has so many wonderful secrets that most caches will take you somewhere interesting.  While visiting 20 shrines to see geocaches may get boring, you should know that many of them will be unique and give you a sense of “wow”.

Geocaching Information:

Geocaching:  http://www.geocaching.com
Love Sculpture:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_(sculpture)

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

2010 Grand Prix of Japan (Motegi Twin Ring) October 12, 2010

Posted by Dru in Sports.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2010 Grand Prix of Japan (Motegi Twin Ring)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-wp

The first weekend of October was the second attempt of 2010 to hold the 2010 Grand Prix of Japan.  The Grand Prix of Japan is the annual MotoGP race that was traditionally held in October until 2009 where it was moved to spring.  It was initially supposed to be held in spring of 2010, but due to the Icelandic volcano eruption, the GP was re-scheduled to October.  It was a huge disappointment at the time, but at the same time, I was extremely happy that it would return to the end of the season.  If you have read any of my previous posts on past GPs, you would know that I have been to 4 previous GPs.  When they moved the race up to spring, it was a tough race to enjoy relative to an end of season race.  Rather than being at the end of the season where I would have had time to learn about the different riders and get a chance to recognize the liveries on each of the bikes, spring was a new season where there were no clear leaders.

This year, I had no real changes to my schedule from last year’s trip.  I decided to do a one night, two day trip for only the second time.  I took off from Tokyo Station in the very early morning and reached Motegi Twin Ring before 11am, about 40 minutes late due to heavy traffic in Tokyo.  I had a good chance to relax on the trip up and got excited as always when we reached the main entrance.  Once the bus parked, I jumped out and headed straight to the track.  Being a qualifying Saturday, the track was far from crowded.  I had a lot of time on my hands as there was nothing set to do and the bus would leave for the hotel around 5pm.  I spent most of the morning shopping around the main area.  If you ever visit Twin Ring Motegi, the area behind the main grand stand is where most of the shops are held.  There is an official shop located just below the main grandstands, and various temporary tents set up in the main plaza.  Just past the main plaza, near Victory Corner is where most of the eateries are located, along with an area behind the VIP grandstands.  This year was unique in that there were more Valentino Rossi booths than normal.  The standard booths by all the major manufacturers in the MotoGP class were also there.  There were also the usual interviews with various riders.  I don’t believe that Valentino Rossi was out there, but I was a little too busy watching the actual qualifying to care this year.  Last year, I did take time to try to see Rossi at the interview, but that was due to the rain soaked qualifying.

One of the saddest parts of this GP was the fact that Shoya Tomizawa, a rising MotoGP star had tragically died the month before.  There was a special tent set up with a few pictures of Tomizawa and hundreds of flowers set up under them.  Only a few places had Tomizawa shirts and the like.  It was a very sad thing to see.  All over, you could see his distinctive 48 all over.  When I entered the grandstands, there were the usual flags promoting all of the riders, but there were also dozens, if not hundreds of flags for Shoya Tomizawa.  Many had his number along with the simple words “Arigato”, or thank you.  The other major flag was one showcasing Tomizawa’s personal “symbol”.  It was a stylized gold “S” on a red circle.  Think of it like the traditional Japanese flag but with a gold “S” on top of the red dot.  Before any of the races got underway, Dorna, the commercial rights holders of MotoGP held a special ceremony where they retired Shoya Tomizawa’s number.  They presented his parents with a special plaque with his number, a memorial book with messages from thousands of fans, and an award praising Tomizawa as the best Moto2 rider of the season, as elected by his peers.  Tomizawa is one of the brightest personalities within the MotoGP paddock.  When I watched him on TV, he was always smiling.  In fact, his parents commented that he had a “mischievous” smile.  It was true that his smile was mischievous, but it was also very infections.  Seeing his smile always made me smile as well.  I was deeply affected by his death and the MotoGP paddock will never be the same.  Tomizawa will eventually live on by being memorialized in Japan.  He will be remembered much the same as Daijiro Kato is remembered after his death in 2003.  I’m sure that we’ll be seeing his number flown for years to come at all future Grand Prix of Japan.

Getting back to a lighter note, the races had lived up to my expectations.  I wasn’t expecting the best race in history, but it was still a good race.  I was once again in a Yamaha supporters section.  I got a bunch of free swag, and won a nice warm pull over with Fiat Yamaha emblazoned all over it.  I was really hoping to win a photo book to complete my set, but I wasn’t lucky enough.  Being with the Yamaha supporters, I had to sit in the main grandstand, just off to the side of the podium.  Like always, the podium was accessible from the grandstands.  The 125cc and the Moto2 races were normal.  There wasn’t a lot of interesting things happening in the first two races.  The main points of interests were the fact that there were various Japanese riders in the races that had a chance to be on the podium.  Unfortunately, they didn’t do so well, and the typical heavyweights in each class did well.  For the MotoGP class itself, the show was pretty typical until the last few laps.  That’s when all of the action happened.  It was an amazing race and a great way to end the weekend.  I left the race feeling extremely happy and satisfied with what had happened, along with a lighter wallet.

This will be the last time that I attend the Grand Prix of Japan as a Yamaha supporter.  I have been with them for 4 years now and have enjoyed every race with them.  If you ever have a chance, I highly recommend taking a tour with them.  It’s amazing and you won’t be disappointed.  Unfortunately, my favourite rider will be switching from Yamaha to Ducati, so that means I can’t support Yamaha while supporting him at the same time.  Well, I could, but it would feel a little weird.  I will probably return to the first grandstand that I ever sat in, the 90 degree corner grandstand.  It’s probably the best seat I have ever been in at Motegi.  Do note that I have only been to two locations.  You are close to the track and there is a lot of action all the time.  I will also have to figure out how to get there without any help from the tour operators.  A tour is one of the easiest ways to get into and out of the race.  No need to contend with driving, and I can sleep on the way up or down if need be.  It will be a great new experience, and you’ll be able to read about it here next year.

MotoGP Information:

http://www.motogp.com

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Tokyo Fireworks August 17, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo Fireworks” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-tE

Summertime in Tokyo is a time when you can go to many different festivals.  The usual summer festivals with various food stalls selling okonomiyaki and yakisoba exist, and there is a lot of dancing that happens at these festivals.  The most popular annual festival has to be the fireworks festivals.  These are held weekly starting in the last weekend of July.  There are several famous fireworks festivals in Tokyo.  These include the Sumida River Fireworks (last weekend in July); the Edogawa Fireworks (first weekend in August); Tokyo Bay Fireworks (second weekend in August); and the Meiji Jingu Fireworks (end of August).  Of course, there are several more in and around Tokyo, but these are the biggest festivals.  If you are in Tokyo at that time, and have a day to spare, it’s a good idea if you can make it to one of these fireworks festivals.  If you can’t, I wouldn’t worry too much as you can see video of this at various places on the internet, especially on YouTube.

Coming from Vancouver, I have a very different idea of what a fireworks festival should be.  I am very biased in how things look after growing up enjoying the Symphony of Fire, now the Celebration of Light, in Vancouver.  The Vancouver festival lasts four nights over the course of two weeks and it is actually a competition among various companies from around the world.  They are scored on five basic criteria:

  • General Concept – presentation, structure and scale of display
  • Colour – choice and variety of colours
  • Originality – design and architecture
  • Quality of Production – rhythm of fireworks, volume of effects and quality of construction
  • Correlation of Music – choice of music, synchronization of effects, adaptation of moods

This festival has been going on since 1995 and I have grown to become extremely critical of the types of fireworks used, how it’s used, and the use of music within a fireworks display.  Needless to say, fireworks festivals are no longer as “enjoyable” as used to be.

In Japan, fireworks festivals are not about a competition.  It’s about impressing people with various fireworks, including the use of a large amount of fireworks to impress the crowds.  I have seen a couple of fireworks displays around Tokyo since I first came here.  The first time I saw the fireworks was in Atami several years ago.  Atami is a beach resort that is famous for its onsen. Recently, I have had the pleasure to go to the Edogawa Fireworks festival.  The atmosphere in Japan is extremely different compared to Vancouver.  The first thing you have to realize is that the festival is very calm and relaxed.  If you go to a festival in the city, such as the Sumida River Fireworks, you should expect to see people all over the place.  Since there is limited park space near the fireworks, it’s customary to see people set up their “camp” on local streets and just wait there for several hours.  My friend John, owner and star of Weblish was kind enough to spend a lot of time reserving a huge area in a park next to the fireworks.  We had what was one of the best seats in the city.  If you do go to a fireworks festival, and you do find a way into a nearby park, expect to see a sea of blue tarps on the ground.  It’s customary for Japanese people to rush into a site when it’s opened up and set up these tarps to reserve their area.  You can usually set up shop up to a day or so in advance, but it depends on which festival you are attending, and the rules for the year.  The second thing to note is that by the mid afternoon, people start to flood into the area.  This is a festival, and like any festival, people like to make it a big event.

When you get a spot to watch the fireworks, the next thing to do is relax.  It’s a great time to be with friends and enjoy the conversations.  To be prepared, bring lots of food and lots of drinks.  The great thing about Japan is that you can drink in public.  It’s necessary to bring enough alcohol to keep yourself happy up to and including the fireworks.  Bring enough snacks so that you won’t be starving after the fireworks.  The only question is where to use the washroom.  Like any public event, expect lines to use the washroom.  I had the unfortunate event of needing the washroom about halfway through the fireworks, and had to wait a bit to use it after the fireworks.  It wasn’t bad, but it’s not something that I’d feel comfortable doing again, if I could help it.

As I mentioned, fireworks in Japan are all about amazing the crowd.  They usually start with a countdown, if you are near a speaker, followed by a large display of fireworks.  They tend to go in a 10 minute loop.  There are a few minutes of spectacular fireworks that light up the sky followed by several minutes of smaller fireworks.  They tend to go one after another rather than several at the same time.  I believe this is done to allow the smoke to dissipate for the next round of large fireworks.  This entire process is repeated for just over an hour. If you are worried about catching a train to escape the area, you should think about leaving 10 minutes, or earlier, from the area.  If you wait till the end, you could be waiting for over an hour to just get to the station platform before you can wait for a train.  Needless to say, the trains are packed as badly as the morning rush.  If you don’t want to wait in line, chill out at your spot for at least 30 minutes, and then try to find a place nearby that you can just hang out and spend money for a couple hours.  If you are lucky, you’ll have a friend who lives nearby and you can just hang out there until the trains aren’t too busy.  The fireworks ended at around 8:30pm, and I left my friend’s house around 11pm.  The train was still packed as if it was the morning rush hour, but at least the station platform wasn’t that busy.

Comparing fireworks in Japan to fireworks in Vancouver is not an easy thing to do.  Vancouver is a beautiful display that is timed to music which makes it more art that spectacular.  In Japan, it’s the opposite. It’s all about impressing the crowds with images such as famous Japanese characters, and also to have the largest size of fireworks possible.  I’m not sure which is best, but both have their merits.  In Vancouver, everything feels different.  In Japan, with alcohol, things just feel like a party.  I can’t truly explain the difference.  You must go and enjoy the show to understand the difference, but it’s something that must be done if you have the chance to experience it.

Fireworks Information:

Vancouver’s Celebration of Light (Official Site): http://www.celebration-of-light.com/
Vancouver’s Celebration of Light (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celebration_of_Light

Tokyo Fireworks Schedule (Jalan – Note: May not be accurate past 2010 events):http://www.jalan.net/jalan/doc/theme/hanabi/13.html
Sumida River Fireworks (English): http://sumidagawa-hanabi.com/index_eg.html
Sumida River Fireworks (Japanese): http://sumidagawa-hanabi.com/index.html
Edogawa Fireworks (Japanese): http://www.city.edogawa.tokyo.jp/chi…event/hanabi8/
Tokyo Bay Fireworks (Japanese): http://www.city.chuo.lg.jp/ivent/tou…anabisaimeinn/
Jingu Fireworks (Japanese): http://jinguhanabi.nikkansports.com/

Weblish:  http://weblish.co.jp/

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Sakaiminato (Gegege no Kitaro) August 10, 2010

Posted by Dru in Chugoku, Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Sakaiminato (Gegegeno Kitaro)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-sf

Sakaiminato is a very small city located on the border of Shimane and Tottori.  While technically located on the Tottori side of the border, it’s very close to Matsue, the biggest city in Shimane.  It is also close to Yonago, which has an airport making it easy to access this small city from Tokyo and Nagoya.  The best option is to visit from Matsue as it’s just a short drive, or train ride to visit this cool small town.

The city is famous for only two things. For most foreign people, it will be the seafood.  Like most Japanese towns, this one is no exception.  The crab is the most famous, but other seafood such as mackerel and squid are also somewhat famous.  Due to the location and size of this city, it would be very difficult to find information in English, let alone Japanese on what food is good here.  In fact, most of the Japanese guides never mention food, but rather mention the most famous activity in Sakaiminato.  Unfortunately, I only spent a couple hours in Sakaiminato, so I can’t really comment on the taste of the food.  I can say that the city feels more like a town than an actual city.  The streets aren’t busy and most people enjoy the quiet streets.  It can be easy to get lost in the area, so be aware of your surroundings.

The most famous thing to do is to walk down Kitaro Street.  It’s the last stop on the Sakai Line which starts in Yonago and ends at Sakaiminato.  As with the rest of Tottori and Shimane, I highly recommend renting a car to get around as the trains run sparsely.  Kitaro Street is very easy to find from Sakaiminato Station.  Once you exit the station, just look around and you’ll see statues of various strange creatures.  Once you head this way, you will be fine.  The street is fairly short and shouldn’t take more than an hour or so to venture down it.  Taking pictures can be tough as there are hundreds of small sculptures located up and down the street.  One of the most surprising things to see is the fact that the entire street is full of images related to the manga.  Everything from street signs to washroom signs has a Kitaro theme to it.  All of the shops sell the various Kitaro souvenirs, including a few snacks.  However, the biggest draw for souvenirs has to be the cell phone straps.  These are extremely popular with Japanese people, especially manga themed ones.

If you aren’t into shopping, located roughly in the middle is a small shrine dedicated to the creatures of this manga.  While this is not a true shrine in the sense that the gods are “real”, many people still enjoy the theme of the shrine.  You can write your dreams and wishes on small wooden blocks that are cut into the shapes of some of the characters.  There is even a large eyeball floating in a bowl of water that can be turned.  If that isn’t your thing, you can also relax inside a very small park which was created to look like Kitaro’s home.  All of the major characters are inside and you can see their relation to Kitaro himself.  If you have never read Kitaro, or you aren’t interested in it at all, this place may not be interesting for you.  If you are curious about Japan’s obsession with its characters and “idolization” of their cultural treasures, this place is great.  If anything, the city is a nice and quiet place to visit if you walk just outside the main tourist street.

Sakaiminato Information:

Sakaiminato (Official Site, English):  http://www.sakaiminato.net/foreign/en/index.html
Sakaiminato (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sakaiminato,_Tottori
Sakaiminato (Wikitravel):  http://wikitravel.org/en/Sakai_Minato

Kitaro Street (Sakaiminato Official Site, English):  http://www.sakaiminato.net/foreign/en/mizuki.html
GeGeGe no Kitaro (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GeGeGe_no_Kitaro
このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Tokyo (Shiodome) July 13, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures had moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Shiodome)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-qz

Shiodome is one of the most modern looking areas of Tokyo.  It was once an old train terminal that has been redeveloped into a modern city within Tokyo.  There is no real way to describe this area, other than to say that it is awe inspiring.  There are many ways to enter the Shiodome area.  The easiest is to use the JR lines and use Shinbashi Station.  The station is located on the corner of the Shiodome area.  The station is also served by the Ginza and Asakusa lines if those are more convenient for you.  The best way to enter the area is to use the Oedo line.  The main reason to use the Oedo line is because you will start off under Shiodome.  The Oedo line’s station is located in the centre of the area and as you head up into the area, you will slowly get an idea of what Shiodome really is.  The Oedo line itself was built deep underground.  Regardless of which exit you take, you will start off with nothing more than a few hallways before you slowly make your way to the surface.  Each set of escalators will take you to the next level.  Think of it like peeling leaves off an artichoke.  You reveal more and more until you can see the entire place for all its glory.

The first layer that you will happen upon is an underground shopping complex.  Do beware that if you head in the wrong direction, you will be heading towards the residential district.  This area is not as interesting, but still worth a quick look.  You will be amazed by the vast area that you can wander that is completely underground.  Each building in the area has its own set of artwork, or something interesting to see.  Most of the buildings have their own restaurants within the basement area, and there are various shops located in the basement concourse.  Heading in the direction of “Shinbashi Station” is the easiest way to see everything, but if you do reach Shinbashi Station, you will have gone too far.  The underground area also has a few interesting plazas to see.  One of those plazas has an interesting dome object that doubles as a waterfountain.  Beware as the signs are written in Japanese with minimal English warning you of when the fountain show will begin.  The underground plazas are especially pretty in the Christmas season.  The Dentsu building, located on the north-east corner is home to an annual light display that is popular among couples during the Christmas season.  It’s common to see couples enter a small teepee shaped metal tent and press a button.  This will randomly make a set of lights turn a specific colour that coincides with their fortune.  Some couples will press it together to see if their fortune is good as a couple or not.  Obviously this is not a real indicator of luck, and everyone just enjoys it for the fun.  Generally, the lines for this attraction can be extremely long during the Christmas season.

One of the more interesting things to do is to visit the Nittele Building.  This is the headquarters of Nippon Television.  They do all of their broadcasting from this building, and film various shows as well.  It’s very common to see newscasters, weathergirls, and various celebrities filming live segments for the news or morning programs.  They also hold various concerts at times with musicians of all calibers performing.  The largest concert that I have seen was one for Arashi during their annual 24 hour telethon.  They also included a 3D segment of the concert.  Like the FujiTV studios in Odaiba, the Nittele studio also has various activities throughout the year in a concourse near the station.  It’s a great way to check out some of the television culture while you are there.  If you want to get on TV, it’s best to arrive in the morning as they always have segments being filmed throughout the complex.  If you aren’t interested in the Nittele building, it’s still a great place to visit for the building and architecture around it.

If you make your way up to the Yurikamome Station from the Nittele Building, you will be taken to a sky walkway.  The route to access this walkway, next to the Nittele Building, is a set of long escalators which provide a view of the central complex.  It is also a lot of fun to ride up and down the escalators due to their length.  If it’s busy, it isn’t as much fun as you can’t really play on it and take fun pictures.  At the top of the escalators, you will be able to see one of Hayao Miyazaki’s works.  He designed a large clock that performs every hour.  If you have ever seen one of his films, you will easily recognize his style of art within this clock itself.  It can be a little busy during the performance, so get there a few minutes before to get the best viewing locations.  Do note that it’s best to go during office hours as there are less people watching the show.  Once you reach the sky walkway area, you will be presented with a maze of walkways.  All of the walkways connect the various buildings high above the street.  Glass walls were built into the walkways to protect you from falling, or prevent you from jumping onto the street below.  There aren’t many support beams to block your view, so you’ll be able to see everything that’s around you.  The best time to visit the walkway is at night.  Once the sun goes down, fluorescent lights turn on giving the area a futuristic feel.  You cannot imagine the different tone the area takes up when things are dark.

Shiodome is a very interesting and futuristic looking area.  The buildings may look normal at times, but they also have a certain aesthetic that can’t be explained.  The area is very stale due to the lack of greenery, but the dynamism of the area is unique and intriguing.  Like any other area of Tokyo, the area has two different sides, if not three.  There’s the daytime, the nighttime, and the overnight side.  In the day, things are bustling with people moving from A to B.  The TV studio is running at full blast producing morning shows, and the shops are open.  At night, people rush home or head to the bars.  The atmosphere is a little quieter, and things look extremely different.  Overnight, the area is deserted.  You can walk around and not see anyone, although this is rare.  It can almost feel like a ghost town.  I wouldn’t recommend staying overnight in the area as there aren’t many people around.  Enjoy it during the day and at night, but return home by your last train.  If you did get stuck, get out and head over to Shinbashi.  They have a lot more happening all night.

Shiodome Information:

Wikitravel:  http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo/Shiodome
Shiodome’s Official Site:  http://www.sio-site.or.jp/index2.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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