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Tokyo (Imperial Palace) June 29, 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 (Imperial Palace)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-pC

The Imperial Palace is one of the biggest tourist spots in central Tokyo.  It is the home of the Japanese Imperial Family and home of one of the most beautiful parks in Tokyo.  The area itself is somewhat difficult to reach, but the area also provides one of the most unique views of Tokyo.  The most famous way to reach the Imperial Palace is to exit from Tokyo Station, Marunouchi Exit, and head down the biggest street.  This will lead to the main entrance of the palace.  Following this road will take you to a vast open area with no buildings.  This is the Imperial Palace.  Once there, you will see a small park full of cherry trees on the east side.  This is one of the most beautiful views for cherry blossoms in Tokyo.  It is always popular, but do be aware that security is very heavy and they will tell you if you are doing something wrong.  There is also a major street running straight through the middle of this area called Uchibori Dori.  On the west side of this street is the main entrance to the Imperial Palace.  This area itself isn’t special as almost all of it is full of gravel.  You can walk up to the inner moat of the inner palace grounds, but that’s about it.  You can take photos of the palace from behind the moat.  It is popular to take pictures of two famous bridges, but access onto the bridges and into the palace is extremely limited.  Twice a year, you can enter, but you will still be restricted to specific areas, and if you take the tour, the chances of English guides is low to none at all.  If you do head over, January second is a good day to visit as you can enter the inner grounds a little and you can see all of the dignitaries from around the world visiting the Emperor and wishing him a happy new year.  Many of the dignitaries will be wearing their traditional clothes as it would be an official visit.  If you are lucky, when a new Ambassador visits the Emperor for the first time, they usually take him or her from Tokyo Station to the palace by horse and carriage.  It’s a unique experience that I hope to experience once, but I haven’t been that lucky.

Just north of the main entrance is the Imperial Palace East Gardens.  I have not had the luxury to visit this area yet, but it is the home of the original Edo Castle.  The Imperial Palace itself sits on the property of the original Edo Castle.  This was the main castle of Tokyo that was destroyed either in the late 1800s or during World War II.  Unfortunately, the information on the internet is not very clear on an exact date of destruction.  Today, the East Gardens are open to the public, but the sights are no where near as grand as in the past.  The old castle is nothing but a stone foundation, but the gardens are sure to be nice.  Visiting this area, you are sure to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and be able to relax.  If you were hoping to see a real Japanese castle, unfortunately, you have to leave Tokyo to see one.  If you have the energy and the time, heading a little farther north, you will come to the Nippon Budokan, or Budokan for short.  This is one of the most famous concert venues in Tokyo, and also the biggest martial arts arena in Tokyo.  It was originally built for the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, but it is also a very popular venue for artists.  There are several famous places to play a concert in Tokyo, and the Budokan is one of them.  Tokyo Dome and Jingu Stadium are bigger and more famous, but you’d have to be a huge star to play there.  If you are lucky, you can always buy a ticket to see one of the judo competitions.  It is said to be one of the most interesting places to see judo.

While the Imperial Palace is a famous spot for tourists, many locals take advantage of the palace grounds as well.  It is a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing and seeing the autumn leaves.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of cherry trees located on and around the Imperial Palace.  During the cherry blossom season, the cherry trees are lit up at night and people jockey for position along the moat.  It can create a very nice and interesting picture.  The biggest draw for locals is the road encircling the palace.  The road goes around the palace in a ring for 5 kilometres.  This provides an ideal location for people to go running.  It’s most popular for people to head to Takebashi Station, walk to a nearby sento (public bath), change and go for a run.  When they have finished, either 5/10/… km run, they return, take a shower, and head back home.  If you are a runner, this is the once place you must go to enjoy a nice morning, afternoon, or night run.  The most popular way to run around the palace is to go counter-clockwise.  You start off from Takebashi Station and head uphill until you are near Hanzomon Station.  From there, it’s downhill to Sakuradamon Station.  Because the uphill is steeper going counter-clockwise, it’s easier, so most people go this way.  Also, at night, if you go clockwise, you will have many headlights pointed in your face.  This makes it difficult to see with the glare.  There is one thing you must be careful about, and that’s the pollution.  When running in other areas, there is less pollution.  When I had run in this area, I didn’t have problems as I am used to Tokyo, but after this run, my clothes were covered in a thin, or thick depending on your viewpoint, layer of soot.  This can be disgusting to most people, do be prepared.  The good thing about this is that you can see a lot of Tokyo in a short time, and experience another aspect of Japanese life.  Running is now a major pastime for many Japanese people, and it’s growing.

Is the Imperial Palace worth a visit on your next trip?  Many people say yes, but for me, it’s 50/50.  I think it’s a nice place to go, but I wouldn’t put it high on my list of places to visit.  You can do many things there, but you are still extremely limited, and you may be in for a disappointment.  If you go expecting nothing, you will probably enjoy it a lot more.  If you go expecting to be wowed, you will probably be disappointed.  Just go and have fun as always and you will be fine.

Imperial Palace Information

Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Imperial_Palace
Japan Guide:  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3017.html
Budokan (Official Site – Japanese):  http://www.nipponbudokan.or.jp/
Budokan (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nippon_Budokan
Edo Castle (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edo_Castle
Edo Castle (JNTO): http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/attractions/facilities/castles/83dn3a000000ece7.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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Maps January 31, 2010

Posted by Dru in Uncategorized.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Maps” and other posts from this blog.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-maps 

For a time at the end of 2009 till 2010, I was creating maps to accompany my posts.  Unfortunately, I no longer have the time to keep this up.  I will continue to keep these existing maps online and you may continue to view them along with the posts that are here at Dru’s Misadventures.

Dru

MAPS:

Ajinomoto Stadium (2010-01-31)
Japanese Football: Kashima Antlers VS FC Tokyo
Japanese Football: Urawa Reds VS FC Tokyo

Asakusa (2010-01-31)
Part I
Part II

Ginza (2009-10-25)
Part I
Part II

Gundam (2010-01-31)
Shizuoka

Harajuku (2009-11-01)
Part I
Part II

Japan’s Top 3 Views (2010-01-31)
Amanohashidate
Matsushima
Miyajima

Jingu Stadium (2009-12-06)
Japanese Baseball: Tigers VS Swallows

Makuhari Messe & Chiba Lotte Marine Stadium (2010-01-31)
2009 Tokyo Motor Show
Japanese Baseball: Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles VS. the Chiba Lotte Marines

Nippori (2010-01-31)
Nippori

Odaiba (2010-01-31)
Part I
Part II

Otaru (2009-11-28)
Otaru
Otaru Snow Gleaming Festival

Samezu (2010-01-31)
Converting a License in Japan

Shibuya (2010-01-31)
Part I
Part II
Part III

Shinjuku (2009-11-15)
Part I
Part II
Part III

Suzuka Circuit (2010-01-31)
2009 Formula 1 Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix

Toyocho (2010-01-31)
Renewing a License in Japan

Tsukiji (2010-01-31)
Tsukiji

Japanese Baseball (Hanshin Tigers VS Yakult Swallows) October 13, 2008

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 this post complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-2Y

On October 3, I went to my second ever baseball game in Japan.  Once again, I wasn’t dissappointed.  I went to a different stadium with different teams in a different league.  I was watching the Hanshin Tigers face the Yakult Swallows in Jingu Stadium.  Rather than take the 40-60 minute ride out to Chiba, I had a nice 10 minute ride and 5 minute walk to the stadium.  Jingu is a very nice stadium and I’d say it’s better overall than Chiba Marine Stadium.  For one, it’s shape is closer to that of a real baseball stadium.  Second, the seats feel closer to the field than Marine Stadium.  Marine Stadium is built up to provide a better view.  Jingu was built out, but still feels good.

The most common way to get to Jingu is to take the Ginza line to Gaienmae and walk up the hill.  Before the game, it’s very simple to find the stadium.  Take the Jingu Stadium exit and follow the crowds.  Yes, it’s that simple.  There were many vendors selling everything from burgers and hot dogs to regular drinks and beer.  Yes, if you really crave a beer on the walk up to the stadium, you can get it.  Boy, I love this country.  After a minutes or two, you will see the stadium lights and it’s a fairly easy trip to make.  After finding my gate, I ventured up and found my seat and just absorbed the atmosphere.  I was sitting relatively behind third base in the visitor’s cheering section.  The Hanshin Tigers are very similar to watching the Red Sox or Yankees (I think), so the fans are absolutely crazy.  Many came right after work, took off their work shirts and put on their jerseys.

Hanshin Tiger's Fans

Hanshin Tiger

The Hanshin Tigers are one of the most popular teams in Japan.  They have an amazing fanbase that goes everywhere they go.  They are generally hated by everyone else as they are very vocal.  Imagine seeing a Leafs fan in any stadium.  They are everywhere.  And just like the Leafs, they haven’t won a championship in a long time.  In fact, it’s simlar to the Curse of the Bambino in which the Red Sox had an 86 year gap between championship wins.  Instead of the Bambino, it’s the Curse of the Colonel.  After the 1985 Japan Series, fans took a statue of Colonel Sanders (KFC) and threw him into a canal.  Ever since, fans have blamed the Colonel for cursing their team.

Yakult Swallows cheer

Yakult Swallows cheer

As for the Yakult Swallows, their history is not as interesting.  While they are an old team in the Japan Series, they are not a prominent team.  They are akin to the Mets.  Second to the Yankees in Tokyo.  Tokyo has two baseball teams, and the Tokyo Giants are regarded as the better and more popular of the teams.  However, like any underdog team, the Swallows also have a small loyal fanbase.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have a lot of fans at the game as their team was already eliminated from the playoffs.

Hanshin Tigers VS Yakult Swallows

Hanshin Tigers VS Yakult Swallows

The game itself started off slow.  The first few innings produced no runs, but by the 5th inning, things were exciting.  The Tigers were starting to fire themselves up and scored a few runs over a few innings.  They were holding a 5 run lead and all the fans were crazy.  Every run and big hit made the crowd stand up and cheer like crazy.  Before the 7th inning started, the Tiger’s fans did their traditional cheer.  Everyone bought long balloons that resemble sperm and prepared to release them.  If you have ever watched Anthony Bourdais’ show, don’t forget that you SHOULDN’T TIE the balloon.  Everone releases the balloons and they “scream” up into the sky.  There is a small plastic grommit fitted at the mouth that creates the sound.  After the balloons have finished flying, they sing the Hanshin Fight Song.  It’s quite amazing, and I wish I knew the words so I could sing along.  Between the top and bottom of the 7th, the Yakult Swallows had the opportunity to do the same thing.  Essencially energize their team.  However, unlike the Tigers’ and their fight song, they just dance with clear plastic umbrellas.  It felt very comical/anime-like, but it was definately fun to watch.  The only thing is, you wouldn’t catch me doing it.  🙂  After they did their umbrella dance, something horrible happened.  The Swallows took the lead in the 7th.  Needless to say, all the Tigers fans went dead silent.  I couldn’t believe it.  The fans couldn’t believe it.  The game had just ended.  I thought they would still try to cheer a lot, but unfortunately, everyone was too stunned.  Needless to say, the Tigers suffered a surprising loss and it was blamed on the manager.  He decided to take a hot pitcher out and tried 3 different pitchers in the 7th.

After the game, my thought on Japanese Baseball hasn’t changed.  It’s definately more fun than I could ever have expected.  The cheering, the beer, the food.  The only problem is the washrooms in Jingu.  Line-ups that went forever.  Oh well.  That’s how it should be in any stadium.  Again, if you are ever in Japan, and have an opportunity to go to a game, you definately should go.  Just learn the cheers when you go and have fun.

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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