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Rainbow Bridge May 31, 2011

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 “Rainbow Bridge” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Gc

 

Rainbow Bridge is one of the most famous, if not the most famous bridge in Tokyo.  It has been used as a backdrop along with Tokyo Tower to define Tokyo.  It is a famous backdrop in the summer for the Tokyo Bay Fireworks festival as well as one of the easiest ways to access Odaiba.  The bridge itself is 798 metres long with a main span of 580 metres.  It is a main artery that has been painted white.  At night, the bridge is often lit up in various colours.  It is often lit in a rainbow of colours to highlight the bridge’s popular name, but it has been lit up for other special occasions such as pink for breast cancer awareness or other similar events.  While the official name of Rainbow Bridge is quite boring, city officials took the nickname, Rainbow Bridge, and ran with it.  On most nights, the bridge is lit up naturally so that the the white paint stands out against the traditional backdrop of black and grey buildings.

As with any bridge, there are only two ways to access the bridge itself, the Odaiba and the Shibaura side.  I would recommend the Shibaura side as there is an elevator to access the promenade which makes the walk a lot easier.  On the Shibaura side, you can access Rainbow Bridge from either Shibaurafuto Station on the Yurikamome Line or Tamachi and Mita Stations on the JR and Toei lines.  From Tamachi and Mita, it is a bit of a walk to Rainbow Bridge but it is a nice relaxing walk through some new residential areas.  The area around the bridge itself is not special.  It is a port area with nothing more than large trucks driving everywhere.  It can be a little dangerous at times to cross the street as trucks speed through the area.  It isn’t too bad as traffic isn’t too heavy and there are large gaps between cars.  Upon entry to the main anchor on the Shibaura side, you will be treated to a more touristy setting.  While there are no people to give you information on the bridge itself, there is a small display and information signs telling you where to go.  The elevator is not very quick journey as the main deck is located 7 stories up.

The bridge deck has two promenades.  There is the north and south side but you must make your decision before you head up from the bottom of the Shibaura anchor.  I ventured on the south where all the traffic was heading towards Shibaura.  The views on this side were nice but probably better on the north side.  You can get a view of Kawasaki and Odaiba from the south, and views of Tokyo Tower and central Tokyo from the north.  On the south side, it can get a bit boring as all you see are container ships and the sparsely populated Odaiba region but the photos can be amazing.  The first thing you will notice will be the wind.  The second you walk outside the anchor you are hit by the wind.  If you have ever walked across a bridge you will know what I’m talking about.  Most bridges over a body of water are subject to higher winds.  It was a bit daunting on the day that I visited Rainbow Bridge.  It was a constant barrage of wind that kept me from walking smoothly.  The second thing you will notice is the vibrations.  Being a double decked bridge with 8 lanes of traffic and a rapid transit line, it is hard to walk along the bridge without feeling the constant rumble of cars.  If you are in a car at the time you won’t notice it as much as the car’s suspension does a good job at creating a smooth ride, but when you walk along the bridge, you will get a mild sensation that a small earthquake is occurring.  The first tower is fairly close to the Shibaura anchor.  Each tower forces the promenade to go on the outside of the tower itself.  This provides a better view of the surrounding area.  Unfortunately, there is a fence that runs the entire span of the bridge.  Thankfully they cut holes into a fence around the towers so you can take photos.  At all other points along the bridge you have to take photos through the safety fence.  The fence serves two purposes.  One is to keep people from being blown off the bridge itself, and the other is to prevent suicides.  In Japan, that is understandable.

The midpoint of the bridge is not spectacular but there are signs to inform you that you are at the midpoint.  There are signs on the floor that tell you which direction you need to go to reach either Odaiba or Shibaura.  There is also an information sign on the wall to inform you exacatly where you are.  It is an interesting place as it is a small section that is neither Odaiba nor Shibaura.  You are in a “no man’s land” between cities.  Other than that, it is no different than any other section of the bridge.  It is noisy, windy, and shaky.  From that point on, things are relatively easy.  The Odaiba tower is almost a mirror of the tower on the Shibaura side.  The anchor on the Odaiba side has an elevator but you cannot use it.  The anchor on the Odaiba side is for maintenance workers only as the anchor is on an island.  There is no access to the main island from the Odaiba anchor.

The approach to the Odaiba tower from Odaiba is a long gradual slope.  There are no fences so the view is spectacular.  You can enjoy the view of the batteries that used to protect Tokyo from invaders and you can get good pictures of Odaiba as well.  It is also popular for tour groups to take a short walk to get a better view of Odaiba.  For many people, walking out to the bridge tower itself is easy but walking all the way across isn’t.  Most people will start on the Odaiba side and head to the first tower before returning.  In reality, that is more than enough but for perfectionists, walking along the entire bridge deck on both the north and south side is a must.

Rainbow Bridge is often a tourist attraction that is to be seen, not experienced.  It is not a common place to be for anyone as most people wouldn’t think twice about visiting any bridge.  In Japan where domestic tourism is very high, they do whatever they can to lure tourists to various locations.  Food is the most popular way to lure tourists to various regions, but the bridges are what connect these places.  The government knows this and they created creative ways to highlight their bridges to encourage more tourism to these areas.  One great example is the Onaruto bridge.  The Senjojiki Observatory is located under the main deck and provides great views of the sea below.  While most people will skip this, it is still a popular destination for domestic travellers.  Rainbow Bridge is not as spectacular, and honestly not worth the time for most people, but it is a great way to spend a morning when most of the shops are closed in the area.

Rainbow Bridge Information:

Rainbow Bridge (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_Bridge_%28Tokyo%29

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Naruto August 18, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Shikoku, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Naruto” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-naruto

Naruto is a suburban town of Tokushima.  It is extremely small and serves almost no points of interest.  However, they do have one major claim to fame “The Naruto Whirlpools”.  Naruto is on the north-eastern tip of Shikoku.  It is the main link between Shikoku and Kansai.  While most people will just race through this area going to either Takamatsu in the west and Tokushima in the south, twice a day the town is buzzing with tourists.  It is very important that you check the schedule for the whirlpools, or you will end up visiting and seeing nothing.  The whirlpools are a natural phenomenon that occurs during the peak of the high and low tides.  This is when the tidal waters of the Naruto Strait, shifts causing whirlpools to form on both sides of the strait.  The best time to see the whirlpools is during high tide, but low tide is also good.  To find the whirlpools, all you have to do is head for the Naruto Park, which is under Naruto Bridge.

The first thing you should do when looking at the whirlpools is take a boat cruise.  Just past Naruto Park, you will be able to find a small ferry port where there are two cruise ships, a large one and a small one.  They both leave two to three times an hour.  If you look at their website, you will be able to determine the peak whirlpool times.  You have roughly one hour before and after the listed time, in red, to see the whirlpools.  I believe it’s best to arrive roughly one and a half to two hours ahead, especially on weekends.  These boats will take you directly into the whirlpools where you’ll cruise inside the tidal area for about 15 minutes before returning to port.  On my trip, I took the smaller ship which has a very interesting compartment.  You are seated inside the hull where you have many windows below the surface.  As you leave port, you can see a few jellyfish swimming about, but there really isn’t much to see.  You can head up on deck a little to enjoy the scenery and see Naruto Bridge approaching.  As you approach the whirlpools, you are ushered back into the hull where you can see the whirlpools from under the sea.  It is like a large bottle of champagne that is bubbling and frothing.  It was interesting to see, for about 10 seconds, but in reality, you want to get on deck as soon as possible.  Once on deck, you can see all the action.  You will be really close to the whirlpools and you’ll experience the rough seas.  Beware that small children, and especially babies, should be well taken care of.  After floating around inside the waters, you are quickly taken back to the port to reminisce of your adventure.

After a cruise, you can easily drive back to Naruto Park and enjoy the whirlpools from a higher vantage point.  There isn’t too much to see in the area, but you can venture out under the bridge.  You can walk roughly 450 metres out and enjoy the spectacular views.  You will be 45 metres above the whirlpools, and there are several windows in the floor that allow you to enjoy the view below.  Do be warned that there are big red letters on the glass that says “DO NOT JUMP!” in Japanese.  Unfortunately, I found out AFTER I had jumped.  The entire walk out onto the bridge is a must see, in my opinion, and worth the fee.  However, if the whirlpools have stopped, I might take a second thought before heading out.  The park itself has many things you can see and do.  For children, there is a museum about whirlpools with several interactive machines to play on.  There is a long escalator that goes to a series of restaurants on a mountain, and several short hiking trails in the area.  If you have a full day, you can easily venture around and enjoy yourself.  There is also a “replica” art museum.  This place holds nothing more than replicated works of art, including a replica of the Sistine Chapel.  If it’s too expensive to travel around the world, this museum can offer you a taste of the best art under one roof.

Naruto’s last claim to fame is their sweet potatoes.  It is considered the sweetest sweet potato in the world, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.  It is definitely worth a taste.  Other than that, there is no reason to really stay in Naruto.  After seeing the whirlpools, you can easily head back to Takamatsu, Tokushima, or even Kobe.  Kobe is a short drive across the Awaji Island and the Akashi Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world.  You can even venture onto Awaji Island and camp along one of the beaches.  It would provide a great tale.

Information on Naruto:
Whirlpool Timetable: http://www.uzusio.com/shio4-6.html
Naruto City’s Website:http://www.city.naruto.tokushima.jp/contents/foreign/english/index.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。

The Great Motorcycle Adventure (Take II) June 5, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Shikoku, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “The Great Motorcycle Adventure (Take II)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-bW

On April 28, 2009 I embarked on my second great motorcycle adventure.  I went for two weeks to Shikoku.  Shikoku is an island located south of the main island.  It’s the fourth largest island and a dream destination of mine.  I had two destinations for riding adventures, Hokkaido and Shikoku.  As I have written before, I had already visited Hokkaido, with a bad result.  This time, things were completely different.

From Tokyo, there are two simple ways to reach Shikoku.  The fastest and possibly cheapest is to take the highway from Tokyo to Tokushima.  This is roughly 700km in total.  You will start off in Tokyo, head past Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe before going over the Akashi Bridge to Awaji Island and then over the Naruto Bridge into Shikoku.  In Japan, the ETC system can provide significant savings to your trip.  On weekends and holidays, there is a flat rate of 1000 yen for cars and motorcycles with an ETC system.  If you travel overnight, enter or exit between 10pm and 6am, you can receive up to 50% off your total travel costs.  Many people make use of this system, however be very aware that during the weekends and holidays, traffic will be backed up for kilometres.  During the first Golden Week rush, there were traffic jams along every expressway on Japan’s main island and they could stretch for over 100 kilometres in some cases.  ETC has also become so popular, that it’s sometimes faster to go through a regular pay toll gate than the automatic ETC gates.

The second route, and something I recommend if you don’t have ETC, is to take a ferry.  From Odaiba, you can board a ferry and reach Tokushima in 18 hours.  It’s an overnight ferry, but the gas and sanity that you save is a lot.  Plus, you can meet a lot of people if you want to.  It’s definitely better if you can enjoy the trip with a friend.  The ferry arrives around 1pm in Tokushima and it’s just enough time to go around the city.  Going outside the city to other regions can be difficult unless you plan everything correctly.

When travelling in Japan, most Japanese people will use their car navigation to find out how to go from A to B.  This is the most efficient way to do things, but it isn’t always the best.  For motorcyclists, we have a touring bible.  It’s called “Touring Mapple”.  It’s written completely in Japanese, but there are references within each book, road recommendations, and information about camp grounds, hostels, and almost anything you need to know when travelling.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone.  Whether you travel by bicycle, car, or by it’s intended audience, by motorcycle.  Without it, I would have been lost in my travels.

Please note that this is just an introduction to my actual adventure.  I will be writing about things in much greater detail in the coming weeks.

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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