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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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Dogo July 21, 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 “Dogo” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-dogo

Dogo is an area inside Matsuyama that is very well known.  Its claim to fame is Dogo Onsen.  It is claimed to be the oldest onsen in Japan.  While no one can be certain, it has the oldest referral in any written book in Japan.  For this reason, Dogo is a must see for people who visit Matsuyama.  Being a tourist destination, you will have a lot of opportunities to see and do things that are more common in the touristy areas of Japan.

Reaching the Dogo area is very easy.  Taking one of the main trams to Dogo Onsen is the easiest way.  It is the last stop, so don’t worry about missing it.  Once you get off the tram, you will see a sea of people.  Exiting the station will point you in the direction of Dogo Onsen.  Across from the station is a popular, and free, footbath.  This fountain is very popular as a quick way to enjoy the natural spring water without having to pay for the onsen itself.  Do be warned that it can be very busy and line-ups in the middle of the day are common.  Next to the footbath is an old style clock.  This clock, like many others in Japan, has a special chime every hour.  Don’t forget to turn around after walking to the clock and footbath, so you can see the beautiful station building.  It was built to look like an old European building.  The face of the building makes it feel much larger than it actually is.

There are two routes to reaching Dogo Onsen.  The first is to follow the shotengai to the entrance.  The other is to walk up a hill and follow the line of cars waiting to enter the parking lot.  I’d recommend the shotengai as you can always buy a few souvenirs on the way.  Dogo Onsen has two buildings, as far as I know.  When the shotengai turns right, you’ll be at the new onsen.  Turn left and the building is just outside the covered shotengai.  I believe everything is the same, but in a modern building.  It isn’t as busy, and has the same natural spring water, but because it is not the original, most people go to the original building.  Upon exiting the short shotengai, you will see the old onsen.  The way people talk about it, I was expecting a building that was much larger than it was.  It was a nice small wooden building with many people on the second floor enjoying tea and Japanese sweets after their afternoon bath.  There are many guides at the entrance that have instructions in English.  I’m not sure if they speak English, but the guides have English manuals that will definitely help.

If you do go inside to enjoy the bath, be sure to bring soap and a towel.  It does cost extra if you don’t have it.  It is also well known that going at night, or most other times, you’ll have to line up for everything.  You have to line-up to enter, to get a locker, to take a shower, and to bathe.  If you are shy about being naked in front of other people, especially for a long time, I’d recommend going to the newer building.  Once you finish your bath, you can visit one of the other rooms in the onsen.  Do note that the onsen has a few classes for bathing.  You can also visit the emperor’s room, but that is also extra.  After leaving the onsen, it is almost always true that Japanese people want to drink some alcohol.  Outside Dogo Onsen, you’ll have a lot of choices.  I would highly recommend going to the Dogo Brewery located next to the onsen.  The food was excellent, and so was the beer.  You won’t find it anywhere else.

Next to Dogo Onsen is Isaniwa Shrine.  It is about 135 steps to the top, and a good trial before heading to Kotohira.  The shrine itself is very small, but dedicated top the god of war.  If you have the energy, you can try to walk over to Ishite Temple.  This is part of the 88 temple pilgrimage and one of the most spectacular temples.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find it and discovered it was much farther way than I expected.  It is somewhere that I do plan to visit again, if I get the chance.

The last thing to do in the Dogo area is to visit Dogo Koen.  It is a very nice, relaxing park, where you can see dozens of people enjoying a nice barbeque on a sunny day.  It is a very hilly park and the site of the Yuzuki-jo ruins, another castle.  There aren’t any signs that there was a castle on the grounds, but there is a nice lookout site at the top of the hill that gives another vantage point to the city.  The centre of the park is a fun place to explore and to escape the heat.  Do be aware that there are a few entrances and exits, so it’s easy to get confused.  However, the main entrance is also located in front of a tram station, so getting back to Matsuyama is very easy.

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。

Kochi June 23, 2009

Posted by Dru in Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Kochi” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-kochi

Kochi is a small city located on the south coast of Shikoku.  It is well known throughout Japan that the people of Kochi drink the most out of any other Japanese area.  Due to the location of this city, very few people ever visit this town, and most people are either locals, or Japanese people.  Tourists tend to be few and far between.  In fact, most cities in the south of Shikoku can be considered difficult for any foreigner who cannot speak Japanese; like any other non-English speaking city, you can always get by with hand signals and gestures.

The first thing you will notice about Kochi is the low skyline, fresh air, and lack of transportation.  It is very much a car centric city.  Public transportation relies on buses or trams.  The downtown core is where most people will want to spend their time.  It provides a great place to find good restaurants and do a little shopping.  Being well known for drinking, you will probably find more pubs and restaurants than anything else.  The downtown core has three main attractions.  Going to the main intersection, where the two tram lines meet, you can be entertained every hour by a clock.  Every hour, you can watch a special show where figures come out and dance to a tune.  Adjacent to the clock is a small park with a man made stream.  It is a very nice place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the main street.  It is also the location of Harimayabashi.  It is a wooden bridge that is the title of the 2009 movie of the same name, “The Harimaya Bridge”.  This will probably provide a lot of tourism dollars for Kochi itself, and the bridge will also become a major tourist attraction.  Unfortunately, it may no longer be the tranquil place it once was.

The main attraction within the downtown area is Kochi-jo.  It is Kochi’s white castle, located on the western edge of the downtown core.  The grounds of Kochi-jo are not as magnificent as Himeji, but they are still very beautiful.  Unfortunately, I visited Kochi in May, and the flowers and shrubs hadn’t started blooming yet.  I have heard that it is more beautiful during the summer months than in the spring.  Upon reaching the main courtyard, you will be graced with a nice view of the city, but it isn’t the best view of the city.  Instead, head for the inner courtyard to see the main building.  It looks relatively small and simple.  It is a very simple castle that can be explored very quickly.  You must pay to enter the castle, but I thought it was worth the entry.  It is very cool inside and there aren’t too many people.  You can essentially get parts of the castle to yourself.  At times, there are volunteers explaining how the castle was used in the past, but do note that they tend to be retired people who probably don’t speak any English.  If you have ever visited Himeji, you will remember how boring the inside of the castle was.  Kochi realizes that looking at a castle can be boring, so they added several dioramas.  These range from depictions of Kochi in past times to how Kochi was a whaling city.  They provide an interesting snapshot into the history of the people from Kochi.

Godaisan is a small mountain located within the city, but too far to reach on foot or bicycle.  There are some busses that do go up the mountain, but they are infrequent.  The easiest way to reach this area of Kochi is to drive.  When you reach Godaisan, you will have to drive up a steep and narrow road.  This road, thankfully, is only one way.  The first place you can stop is the Godaisan Park.  It is a very nice hillside park that gives great views of Kochi city.  I would highly recommend a quick visit and climb to the lookout point.  The lookout point is easy to find.  It is atop the main building in the park.  You can also look back to the mountain and see the peak of the pagoda of Chikurinji.  Walking to Chikurinji from the park is very easy, but the path can be a little difficult to find if you aren’t looking in the right area.  You can also walk along the street, but because it’s so narrow, I don’t recommend it.  Chikurinji is the 31st temple along the 88 temple pilgrimage of Shikoku.  It is a very nice temple that feels very secluded.  The entrance near the park is the back entrance.  From here, you will be able to see some of the disused areas of the temple, and some of the graves.  The main attraction of this temple is the pagoda.  It is a typical Japanese style pagoda.  The temple and other areas of the temple are not particularly special either, but it is a significant temple in Kochi.  Next to the temple is the Makino Botanical Garden.  It is a very nice garden, but be aware that many schools in the Kochi area visit this garden on school trips, so it may not be as peaceful as you’d like.

My overall impression of Kochi is of a small city with a small town feel.  It is very beautiful and a place I could return to.  It is easy to relax, and there is a beach that isn’t too far away.  If you ever have a chance, I would recommend heading to Kochi to get away from everything in Japan.

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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