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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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Happy Holidays December 7, 2009

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

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Last year was my first year with this blog and I talked about the differences between a Japanese Christmas and a Western Christmas.  It’s a little early for Christmas, but with December having started already, it’s the holiday season.  The actual Christmas season starts on November 1st, and gets into full swing on December 1st.  It also signals the party season.  If you have ever visited Japan in December, it’s highly advised that you be careful when taking the trains after 10pm.  In fact, you should always be careful after 10pm.  It is this time when people start to make their way home after a night of drinking.  The end of the year is a very important time for Japanese people to celebrate the end and have one last party.

Bonnenkai is essentially a Christmas Party, or for non-secular people, a Year End Party.  Offices typically have at least one party at this time, but depending on the company, this can increase significantly.  In North America, there tends to be an average of three Year End Parties, at least from my own experiences.  There is usually one for the department, one for the company, and possibly one with friends.  Sometimes, this is the only time to meet old friends as people can be busy with their work and their own personal lives.  On the extreme end, people could have up to three parties each week, or about 12 in the month if they have to have a bonnenkai with their customers.  Needless to say, this can put a lot of stress on a person’s liver.  Typically, restaurants are busy over the weekend, and there are always special bonnenkai deals to be had if you book ahead.  Be aware that sometimes they are not better than ordering on your own.

Other than bonnenkais, the only thing that happens during the holiday season is to head around town and see all of the Christmas lights.  It has become very popular for different shopping areas to have their own light display.  As always, Ginza is a hot spot for lights, although it’s not spectacular.  Roppongi is generally a more interesting area as they have the Tokyo Midtown, the Roppongi Hills areas for lights.  This year, there will also be another Lightopia event in Marunouchi along with the typical Marunouchi lights.  If you have seen the Christmas lights in the last few years, especially in Tokyo, there won’t be too many new displays.  Each year, there tends to be one major new light display, while the others are only slightly updated.  The general designs tend to be the same.  Below will be a link showcasing the major areas where you can see some lights.

Information:

Christmas Light Locations (All of Japan):  http://www.rurubu.com/season/winter/illumination/
Christmas Light Locations (Tokyo):  http://www.rurubu.com/season/winter/illumination/list.asp?KenCD=13

Note:  The three boxes in the key are, in order, “There is a Christmas Tree”, “There is an event”, and “There are fireworks”.  Unfortunately, the events will depend on the location, and I am not sure when the fireworks might be.  There are only three places where there are fireworks:  Tokyo Dome (December 14th at 7pm for about 3 minutes), Toyosu Lala Port (December 24th at 8:10pm), and Tachikawa’s Showa Kinen Park (December 19th and 24th at 8pm for about 5 minutes).


Tokyo Dome Illumination Information:  http://www.tokyo-dome.co.jp/event/illumi/index.htm
Tokyo Dome (English):  http://www.tokyo-dome.co.jp/e/
Lalaport Fireworks Information:  http://toyosu.lalaport.jp/special_event/
Showa Kinen Park Winter Illumination Information:  http://www.showakinenpark.go.jp/2009winter/wvi2009.html
Showa Kinen Park (English):  http://www.showakinenpark.go.jp/english/index.htm
Mapple Ilumination List (Tokyo page, you can surf to the Japan list page):  http://www.mapple.net/sp_illumi/list.asp?PREF=13
Nihon Kanko Illumination List (Tokyo page, you can surf to the Japan list page):  http://illumi.nihon-kankou.or.jp/list/result.php?m=1&c=03&c2=13

Note:  All sites are Japanese unless specified.  If you are curious about locations in a specific area, please feel free to ask with a comment.  I’ll do my best to provide a small list based on these sites.

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 (Roppongi) September 8, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Roppongi)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-8u

Roppongi is a somewhat seedy area of Tokyo that is extremely popular with foreigners. When I came to Japan, over 3 years ago, Roppongi was undergoing a revitalization of the neighbourhood. Roppoongi Hills had just opened and it was suddenly a place for the rich and famous to visit. However, there was still a large club district where there were dozens of clubs that attracted many foreigners.

The first place people usually think of when they talk about shopping and Roppongi is Roppongi Hills. It is an upscale shopping mall and business complex that opened in 2003. It’s a large labyrinth of walkways, stairs, and shops. Finding your way around this shopping complex is difficult to say the least. Finding Roppongi Hills is also a challenge. Depending on which train you take, Roppongi Hills isn’t located near the station, so check the maps or you could easily get lost. However, if you take the correct train, you will be greeted by a large glass atrium that is very picturesque. The main attractions of the complex aren’t the upscale shops. Rather, the first is a large open terrace that goes up and down over the complex. It’s a nice place to see some interesting art and enjoy a nice stroll. There is a famous spider sculpture that can be eerie, yet it’s perfectly harmless. The roof will also allow you to enjoy the view of Tokyo Tower. If you head down from the terrace, you’ll reach a nice small garden with lots of plants and flowers. It’s a beautiful place to visit during the cherry blossom season. In the winter, there are hundreds of lights within the park and also throughout the complex. If you head up, way up, you will reach the Mori Art museum and a viewing centre. Beware though as you have to pay to see the view. The last attraction is the TV Asahi building. It houses a few displays of current TV shows airing in Japan as well as a gift corner. If you venture outside near the car park entrance, you might see some film crews with some Japanese talents.

If you walk around Roppongi Hills, you will have a nice time enjoying some of the new shops that have popped up in the area. They tend to be high priced boutiques that offer some nice goods that may not be easy to find anywhere else. You will also run into the Chinese embassy. It’s best to not head too far down that road as there really isn’t much to see. However, on the TV Asahi corner of the complex, you will be able to go to the Blueman Group theatre, a nice large Tsutaya bookstore, and Azabu-juban.  Do note that the Blueman Group will have their last Tokyo show on November 29, 2009.  Be sure to catch the show while you can.  Whether or not they’ll have a new show or what will replace them in that theatre remains to be seen.

In 2007, Roppongi Hills had some competition. Roppongi Hills was built by Mori Building, one of the largest development companies in Japan. Their arch rivals, Mitsui Fudosan decided to literally go across the station, buy a disused military base and build a “cousin” complex to Roppongi Hills called Tokyo Midtown. It was an ingenious idea as the area was already growing rapidly, and demand for high end shops were growing. It was also a very risky adventure as it could easily flop. Thankfully, things went well, and both complexes are thriving. The main theme of Tokyo Midtown was to promote lesser known high end brands. Tokyo Midtown also has a large underground eating area and prepared foods section. You can buy almost anything that you could imagine. The main attraction for the budget conscious is the large garden behind the main entrance. The garden measures a 40,000 sq metre garden that is wonderful to just wander around. While it’s more of a park, it’s still very beautiful and full of couples during December as they have a huge light display. In a corner of the garden, and underground, is the Suntory Museum of Art. It is a direct competitor to the Mori Art Museum, and in many cases, people say its better. Lastly, Tokyo Midtown is also the site of the Ritz Carlton Tokyo. It’s the first one in Tokyo, but probably not too interesting for most people.

I mentioned, at the beginning of this post, that Roppongi has undergone a transformation from a club district to a high end shopping district. While that is true for the most part, there is still a sizable area for clubbing. The original meeting spot of Roppongi was at the Almond café. It is on the corner of Roppongi-dori and Gaien Higashi-dori. It is the pink and white shop. Unfortunately, due to high rents, this café has recently relocated. However, if you walk down the street towards Tokyo Tower, you will head towards the entertainment district of Roppongi. Unfortunately, things are quickly getting quiet as many clubs are closing due to the revitalization efforts. If you want to see this area, you had better do it quickly. I’ve heard that some of the clubs are moving towards Azabu, but I cannot confirm this.

Roppongi is, without a doubt an interesting place to visit. Unfortunately, it is no longer a unique place. Aoyama and Omotesando both have their own versions of Roppongi Hills, and even Shanghai’s World Financial Centre (developed by Mori Building) will be similar. It isn’t a new thing. It’s essentially mixed use “habitat” where you can work, live, and play. It’s a wonderful place to go on a date, but remember that it’s still somewhat expensive.

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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