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Tokyo (Ueno – Ameyokocho) May 25, 2010

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 (Ueno – Ameyokocho)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-mZ

Ameyokocho, or Ameyoko for short is a major shopping area of Ueno.  It’s literally translated as “Candy Alley” or “American Alley” depending on how you read it.  “Ame” is short for sweet or America and “Cho” can be translated as town, or alley.  This area was famous as a black market area for American products after WWII.  However, this area has changed significantly since then.  Today, this area is more popular for its small shops and cheap prices.  Ameyoko is located south of Ueno Station.  Immediately, you will be faced with a wall of buildings with the train tracks running right through them.  Next to the highway is a large department store, Marui, and next to that is a somewhat large toy shop, Yamashiroya.  Marui is a typical department store, and Yamashiroya is one of the best toy shops outside of Akihabara.  It’s also difficult to navigate as the floors are packed with good from floor to ceiling.  On the west side of the tracks, you will see Yodobashi Camera.  While this is a famous electronics goods shop, it’s not as good as their Akihabara branch.  This branch should only be visited if you have nothing better to do.

In the area just inside Ameyoko, you’ll find several small restaurants selling various typical Japanese foods.  You can buy everything from yakitori to sushi.  A good tip is to head south for about one block.  From here, you can see a few cheap sushi shops under the train tracks.  If you are on the west side of the tracks, next to Yodobashi Camera, you will be in the fresh market area.  Here, they will offer a variety of seafood, konbu, and other items needed to make a delicious dinner.  Do note that they are open at different times of the day, probably the afternoon.  If you see them, you will see, or rather hear, the fishermen selling their wares for a very cheap and reasonable price.  The only problem is that they tend to sell in larger quantities making it difficult to purchase seafood for just one or two people.  In the same area, they have a famous chocolate shop where everything is just 1000 Yen.  Basically, you can just walk up and they’ll throw a lot of chocolate into an average sized grocery bag, and it all costs only 1000 yen.  You never really know how much, or what you will get, but that’s part of the adventure.  Located somewhere under the tracks, you’ll be able to see a man selling “Ueno Okonomiyaki” and possibly another man selling mochi.  These two stands are great for trying Japanese junk food.  It’s not too expensive, but not cheap either.  Closer to the south end of Ameyoko, on the east side, there is a supermarket called Nikki.  This is one of the most famous shops in the area.  The shop itself is large, by Ameyoko standards, and they sell a variety of foods.  It’s not a traditional Japanese supermarket.  You can find various name brand snacks, along with western snacks.  If you are craving western chocolate bars, you can usually find the most famous ones here.  Don’t expect to find “Oh Henry!” or “Reese’s Pieces” around here though; just the standard Hershey’s Kisses.  The good thing is that you can get Japanese snacks such as sembe or dried seafood for a decent price.

Food is not the only famous thing to shop for in Ameyoko.  There are several shops selling everything you can imagine.  Walking under the train tracks will allow you to see a market that is more akin to a Chinese style market.  The shops are very small, and they sell things such as leather jackets/bags, jewelry, make-up, and perfume.  At the end of Ameyoko, in the south, they have all of the perfume and make-up shops.  Towards the north end, you will see more clothing shops.  Scattered throughout the entire area, mostly on the west side of the tracks, you will see similar shops.  Some of the biggest things you can buy are shoes.  There several shoe shops with a large variety.  After walking around for a bit, you will start to notice that most of the shops sell similar items, with the only difference being colours.  While Harajuku may have the most variety, Ueno still has a good selection, and it’s usually at a cheaper price.  If higher end goods are what you are looking for, be sure to head to Matsuzakaya, which is just south of Ameyoko.  It’s your typical high end department store.  If you don’t want to go to Ginza, this is probably the best place to go, if you are in Ueno.

Ameyoko is a great place to visit.  The atmosphere alone is worth the trip.  You can experience a typical Asian street market, without worrying about buying something of poor quality.  Japan prides itself on quality, and this area is no exception.  Do beware that sometimes you can get poor quality goods, but most of the shops are legitimate now.  You generally don’t have to worry too much.  It’s also a great way to spend a morning, or afternoon.  It’s very close to Akihabara, which is about 10 minutes from the southern point of Akihabara.  The walk itself isn’t very interesting, but you can always save a few bucks.

This is part of my series on Ueno.  Please continue to read more about Ueno at Ueno – Corin Street, Tokyo Bike Town and Ueno – Ueno Park.

Ueno Infomration:

Ameyoko – Official Site (English):  http://www.ameyoko.net/e/
Ameyoko – Official Site (Japanese):  http://www.ameyoko.net/
Japan Guide (Ameyoko):  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3012.html
Ameyoko (Photo Blog post by Danny Choo):  http://www.dannychoo.com/post/en/1514/Ameyoko.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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Tokyo (Shibuya) [Part III – The Path Less Ventured] November 24, 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 (Shibuya) [Part III – The Path Less Ventured]” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-fN

For people who want a more traditional experience, especially shopping, staying at the station, or heading north is the best way to go.  The Tokyu department store is located above and below Shibuya station.  Heading north from Shibuya crossing will lead you to Seibu and Marui department stores.  All of these shops provide a typical Japanese department store experience.  You can find them in every major centre of Tokyo, and almost every major city in Japan.  However, be sure to explore all of the side streets.  I have visited Shibuya countless times and every corner, every back street, changes constantly.  Many of the old shops have left the northern areas, in favour of more traditional fashion boutiques.  However, if you walk around enough, you’re sure to find a lot of nice shops that even residents who have lived their whole lives have never even found.

If you are feeling more adventurous, or you just have too much time on your hands, the areas to the south and east provide a very different feel for Shibuya compared to the north and west areas.  Directly to the east, people tend to associate it with Omotesando.  To the north east, it’s more Harajuku.  To the south, it feels more like Ebisu.  Omotesando is an upscale area that is very akin to Ginza.  The main difference is the affluence.  While Ginza is for people to be seen, and you’ll see a large variety of classes, Omotesando tends to be one class only, rich.  Harajuku was talked a lot by Gwen Stefani for its fashion and need to break away from the normal culture.  The north east corner of Shibuya borders Harajuku, and hence has more in common with that style of fashion.  It is also a location of an infamous park where homeless people tend to live, and rows of yakitori shops similar to the small shops in Shinjuku.  Again, like in Shinjku, I would not recommend them as they tend to be a little expensive, and they may not be so friendly to foreigners.  It’s better to go to Shinjuku.  The south region will see things be more food oriented.  Ebisu tends to have more food shops than anything.  You can also see some interesting fashion outlets, but people tend not to shop here.  There are more apartments than shops, but if you want to go for a nice walk, this area is a nice area.

All in all, Shibuya is a place to visit.  It’s noisy, bustling 24 hours a day, and willing to show you new insights into Japan.  Is it a true picture of Japan?  No.  Will you be amazed by the crazy lights, strange people, and wonderful shopping?  Yes.  Make sure you visit during the day and night.  In the day, do your shopping in the north.  At night, return to Centre Gai and take a stroll around the Love Hotel Hill.  Don’t be surprised when you pass expensive cars with blacked out windows parked in front of a sex toy shop

This is the end of a 3 part series on Shibuya.  To read more on Shibuya, please continue reading Part I and Part II.

Shibuya Information:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shibuya,_Tokyo
http://wikitravel.org/en/Shibuya
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3007.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。

Tokyo (Ginza – Part I) March 17, 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 (Ginza – Part I)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-88

Continuing on my Tokyo series, here, I’ll talk about the very famous district of Ginza.  Ginza is famous for being an upscale shopping district in Japan.  It’s is always compared to 5th Avenue in New York, Oxford Street in London, and Champs Elysees in Paris.  The shopping is top notch with the biggest name brands located within this small area.  To give you an idea, you can walk the perimeter of Ginza in about two hours.  Ginza is bounded by an elevated highway, which makes it easy to know when you leave Ginza.  While the south-east border has an underground highway, it’s still easy to tell the border as there is a huge street to cross.  The heart of Ginza has to be 4-chome (yon-chome).  Whenever you see pictures of Ginza, you are probably seeing 4-chome, or a picture very close to it.  Taking the train to Ginza is also relatively easy.  Finding 4-chome is also easy, but you can easily get lost at the same time.  Thankfully, there are several maps in the underground area of the station, but once you find it, it’s easy to explore Ginza.

4-chome, as I said is the most famous intersection in Ginza.  Running north-east to south-west is Chuo-dori.  It’s the main strip for Ginza.  On weekends and national holidays, the street is usually closed to traffic to allow pedestrians a wide space to enjoy their shopping.  Many local merchants also set out tables and chairs so you can have a nice rest in the sun, if it’s sunny.  Running north-west to south-east is Harumi-dori.  It’s a very busy street with relatively fewer things to see, but still a good destination.

On the North corner of 4-chome is the department store Wako.  It’s famous for its high prices and extreme luxury.  It’s a nice place to take a quick look at things you could never afford, unless you are very rich.  For something reasonable, exploring into the North, you’ll find Printemps which is a popular department store for younger women.  The entire North side of 4-chome is full of expensive luxury shops that have both no name shops and brand name shops.  It’s a wonderful area to just walk around and explore the many different shops.  There are also several mid range to expensive restaurants in the area.  Notable shops include Gucci and Emilio Pucci on Harumi-dori, and Kimuraya (bread shop), Chanel, Cartier and Apple.

The East side of Ginza 4-chome is probably the most popular, in terms of shopping.  On the corner, you have the Mitsukoshi department store.  Next door, you have the Matsuya Ginza department store.  Both are relatively the same, in terms of what they offer.  They both have large underground food shops where you can buy a lot of delicious Japanese and foreign foods.  It’s a must see for most people.  Behind Matsuya Ginza, you’ll also find the first Starbucks in Japan.  It’s a relatively small building, but the coffee is cheap for the Ginza area.  If you continue past Matsuya, you will run into Bvlgari, Tiffany & Co., and a large stationary shop called Itoya.  You can find almost any type of pen, pencil, or even painting accessories.  It’s a must see if you like stationary.  Travelling south-east into Higashi Ginza (East Ginza), you’ll reach the Kabukiza.  It’s a famous kabuki theatre.  Kabuki is an old style of theatre that is akin to the old Shakespearean theatre of England.  It’s an all male cast and tickets for the upper deck are relatively cheap.  You can even rent headsets that will give you information as to what is happening.  I hear it’s a wonderful place to visit on a lazy afternoon, but if you don’t have the time, it’s probably nothing you’ll cry about.

This is the end of Part I of this two part series. The second part is available at PART II.

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 (Shinjuku – West Area) Part I December 1, 2008

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 (Shinjuku – West Area)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-3O

So far, I have spent a lot of time talking about many places around Japan, but I have yet to touch on any places within Tokyo itself.  Having lived in Tokyo for over 3 years, a lot of the wonder and awe that I had felt when I first arrived has left.  However, every time one of my friends, or family arrive for the first time, I’m reminded of the exact same feelings I had when I first stepped out of the station and into Tokyo itself.

To give you an idea, Shinjuku is about the size of a city’s downtown core.  There is the business district, the shopping districts, and the dinner/bar district.  The main train in and out of Shinjuku is run by JR (Japan Rail).  It runs North-South through the heart of Shinjuku.  While the majority of interest is located on the East side, business generally runs on the West.  The old English saying talking about “the other side of the tracks” is very noticeable here.  Living on the West side, you feel relatively safe amongst the everyday workers and it’s generally peaceful at night.  When you cross the tracks into the East side, you suddenly feel how busy and hectic Shinjuku can truly be.

The West Side has two sections.  The main section is generally the business section, also called the “Skyscraper District”.  There are many skyscrapers in this area.  The most famous is “Tocho” which is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.  It’s iconic for Shinjuku.  It is the tall “castle” like building located at the edge of the West side.  This building has a wonderful observation floor that is free for all tourists and has the best view of Mt. Fuji, when you can actually see it.  The only problem is that the windows tend to be dirty, the lights within the building are too bright at night, and you can’t see a lot of the famous landmarks within Tokyo.  However, it’s still a great place to visit, and it’s FREE.  Just past Tocho is the Shinjuku Chuo Koen (Shinjuku Central Park).  It tends to be a popular place for tourists to visit after a quick trip up Tocho, but beware of the homeless people.  Around dinner time on Sunday’s, they tend to give out free meals and on weekdays, you can see lots of homeless people all over the park.  Don’t worry though.  They tend to stick to themselves and it provides a very interesting look into the poor side of Japan.  The other famous location for people to visit is the Park Hyatt.  It is the location of Bill Murray’s hotel in “Lost in Translation”.  It’s a wonderful movie that explains a lot of how people feel when they first enter Tokyo, but the hotel itself isn’t so important.  For photo opportunities, I recommend visiting the area both in the day and at night (before 10pm).  All of the buildings are lit up, and Tocho usually looks colourful.

The second region of the West side tends to be directly adjacent to the station itself.  Running from Odakyu to Keio, and out to Yodobashi Camera.  Odakyu and Keio are two department stores and Yodobashi Camera is an electronics shop.  Finding Yodobashi Camera is a good idea as you’ll be able to search the buildings for hours looking for unique things to buy.  While Akihabara is the cutting edge of technology, Shinjuku is still a decent place to pick up the latest technology.  You just won’t get exclusive items, or as many international models with English.  The West side is also the best way to get out of Tokyo (westward, of course).  Within the Keio Department store is the Keio train line.  It runs out West towards Mt. Takao, where you can enjoy a nice day hike.  It’s also the best way to get to Ajinomoto Stadium, home of Tokyo’s Football (Soccer) Teams.  Odakyu is great to head into Odawara and Hakone.  This area is famous for it’s hotsprings.  Near the Yodobashi Camera store, the Keio Bus Terminal is a great place to take a highway bus out of Tokyo.  Heading to Mt. Fuji is relatively cheap and FAST, if you take the Keio Highway Bus.

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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