jump to navigation

Tokyo Dome City February 1, 2011

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo Dome City” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-BI

Tokyo Dome City is an amusement area around Tokyo Dome. Tokyo Dome itself was opened in 1988 and was a modern replacement to the previous open air stadium. It is only in one corner of the actual site itself but it is the focal point for all events within the area. Tokyo Dome is a 55,000 seat stadium that is home to the Yomiuri Giants. They are the perennial favourites in the Japan Series of baseball. They are akin to the NY Yankees or the Toronto Maple Leafs. They are the team everyone loves to hate if they aren’t a fan of the team themselves. They have a huge budget meaning they can have all of the top players on their team alone. They have won several championships and they are almost always favourites to win the championship. The dome itself is not exclusive to baseball. They hold various concerts as well as other sporting events. When there is a game or a concert, you can expect the entire Dome City to be busy as people will arrive a little early to relax and enjoy the facilities. If you are going to enjoy a concert, you had better arrive really early if you want to buy some of the concert souvenirs. They tend to open up an outdoor area for people to enter and do their shopping. It’s a great way to make money as people will line up from the early morning and people who don’t have tickets will also enter to do their shopping. This is very popular for Japanese singers as the fans tend to be a little overly crazed about buying related items.

LaQua is situated next to Tokyo Dome on the north side and it’s the second major attraction of the area. It is a large shopping and entertainment complex that is famous for couples. Inside the complex they have a multi story shopping mall where you can find all of the typical Japanese fashion brands. The prices within each shop aren’t too expensive but they aren’t cheap either. I’d probably recommend the main plaza that can’t be missed if you are heading in from Tokyo Dome itself. It’s a big open area with two floors of mainly restaurants. There are various shops to eat in, ranging from cheap fast food to expensive luxury. It’s a great range of food, but if you are looking for something Japanese, you might have a little difficulty finding it. It’s definitely worth a look and trying Japan’s take on western food. It’s not quite right, but it’s not bad either. The main attraction for most western people has to be the amusement section. There are 3 rides inside LaQua itself. The first is the ferris wheel. It’s nothing more than your typical ferris wheel but the views of the park must be nice. The other popular attraction is the log ride, Wonder Drop, which is especially popular in the summer. Located within the plaza itself, you can take a 2 story slide into a pool of water while inside a boat. It’s your typical double slide water ride, but being inside the mall is interesting in itself. The main attraction has to be the rollercoaster, Thunder Dolphin. Thunder Dolphin itself winds its way around the entire building going through a small hole in a wall located at the corner of the main building. Many people say it’s scary due to the roughness of the ride itself and the sharp corners. I have seen many friends go on it and the reactions range from frightening to just jarring.

If you go east of Tokyo Dome, you will come to a relatively open area. This is mainly an amusement area. There are a few baseball themed restaurants but the major attraction has to be the theme park rides. There are several “areas” for the theme park. The first is Tower Land. There are various rides that focus on heights and dropping from those heights. The main focus is the Tower Hacker which is an 80 metre tall tower where you fall from the sky. There is a children’s version as well. Splash Garden is a summer time area that focuses on children. For the teens and adults, this will be somewhat boring, but the light and easy rides make it a great adventure for kids of all ages. Parachute Land is a small area with only two rides. The easiest to see is the Skyflower where you ascend to have nice views of the area before gently floating back to the ground. Personally it looks boring to me. Geopolis is the last area with only two attractions as well. This is an indoor themed area where you play interactive games. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to actually enjoy this area as I have been too busy to take a good look around, but it is fun walk around the area.

The southern area has a high mix of buildings. In the south west corner, you have the JRA building where you can enjoy the horse races and bet on who you think will win. There is no actual racing done at Tokyo Dome, but races are televised live and it’s not uncommon to see dozens of old men lining up to buy betting tickets and reading the various odds on each horse. Within that same area are a few large buildings that are multi-purpose amusement centres. They offer entertainment such as bowling and other various sporting activities that can be accomplished indoors. Golfing and a batting cage are available, but I personally don’t see a huge point in doing that. This is a fairly typical “family amusement” area. In the central south area is the Tokyo Dome Hotel. This is just a standard hotel with various restaurants and bars inside. In reality, unless you are staying there yourself, there isn’t much to see inside. I recommend a short walk around the outside as there is a fountain on the north side that is very picturesque. On the south east corner is a small building called Meets Port. This is where you will find the most reasonable food and drinks in the entire area. If you are headed to a game or going to enjoy a concert, stopping by for something to eat and drink isn’t a bad idea. However, I’d probably stick to the JR Suidobashi Station to get cheap eats.

Tokyo Dome City is not a one time affair. You can visit during the various seasons and get a different experience each time. I can only account for the summer and winter seasons as I have never been there during the autumn and spring seasons. In the summer, the area isn’t that different but they do have a nice beer garden located outside Tokyo Dome. It’s one of the few places where you can enjoy a nice cold beer outside. When there are games going on inside the Dome, you can usually get a nice seat for several people and just relax. Once the game ends, you can watch everyone file out of the dome. The winter time is another good time. The entire area is decorated with Christmas lights. There are a few shows as well, but depending on the year, you might be surprised with fireworks. Unfortunately, I only know that they had fireworks in 2009, but in 2010 they decided not to do it again. Being a “theme park” inside Tokyo, they do their best to change with the seasons.

For those who are looking to save a little money, I highly recommend going to the JR Suidobashi Station. This is located across the river from Tokyo Dome City and has a lot of cheap eats. It’s more famous for its Chinese restaurants along with other small shops. It can look a little intimidating to enter a small shop with only a few people inside, but some of them are delicious. It could be difficult to choose but just do your best.

Tokyo Dome City Information:

Tokyo Dome City Official Site (English): http://www.tokyo-dome.co.jp/e/
Tokyo Dome City Official Site (Japanese): http://www.tokyo-dome.co.jp/

Tokyo Dome Hotel Official Site (English): http://www.tokyodome-hotels.co.jp/e/index.html
Tokyo Dome Hotel Official Site (Japanese): http://www.tokyodome-hotels.co.jp/home/index.html

Tokyo Dome Official Site: http://www.tokyo-dome.co.jp/e/dome/
Tokyo Dome (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Dome

Yomiuri Giants Official Site (Japanese): http://www.giants.jp/top.html
Yomiuri Giants (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yomiuri_Giants

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。

Trains in Tokyo (Redux) January 25, 2011

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo.
Tags: , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Trains in Tokyo (Redux)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-zA

Recently, I have been participating in a travel forum giving advice to various travellers who want to visit Japan. This is the Virtual Tourist forums. There are lots of people who need help with information on various locations around Japan and I do my best to provide them with as much information as needed. I don’t have all of the information, but being a resident, I have a different viewpoint compared to those who have just visited Japan. While I may have some knowledge in some things, I’m surprised by how much information travellers have, and can remember after a trip. In the last few months, I have seen people ask about transportation in Japan, and sometimes specifically about Tokyo. I have written that the Yamanote Line is one of the easiest ways to get around Tokyo, and I suggested methods to get information on how to get around Tokyo by subway. There was a major reason as to why I wrote about the subway system itself rather than the Yamanote Line. Many tourists seem to pride themselves that they can easily get around Tokyo using just the Yamanote Line, and that the JR lines are better than the subway lines. This, I think is not true and actually, the opposite is true.

The debate on which is better, Subway or JR, is something that people sometimes talk about, and people tend to have a unified voice. Of the various co-workers and students that I have talked to, the consensus is that the JR lines are worse than the subway lines. I’m not too sure why this is true, but this is just how it is. At the time of writing my post about Tokyo’s Subways, I hadn’t ridden the JR lines too often, so I didn’t have any real experience with them. Now that I have moved and lived in my current apartment for nearly a year, I can easily say which is better, and I completely agree that the subway system is much better. When we look at the morning trains, it doesn’t matter which train you take, it will be full. There really isn’t much of a difference on which company is better. However, during the day, and at night, this difference is very apparent.

The first thing you will notice is that the people are generally more courteous on the subway. When you are getting on and off the subway, it’s more common for people to get out of the way, or get off the train. People don’t tend to crowd the platforms, or crowd the doors when they get on or off. Of course, this is not always true, but this is generally true. When the trains are really full, people don’t push to get off. More often than not, they just wait till the person in front moves and then they get off. I can’t tell you how many times my heel was stepped on while exiting a JR train that wasn’t full, while in a full subway, it’s less common to get stepped on. In a worst case scenario, people push, and this has happened a lot to me. I feel that people just don’t have any patience when exiting a JR train. In the daytime, the trains are not as busy so people don’t try to push you out of the way to get out, but the subways also get better in the day as well.  It’s hard to truly explain the differences in words but if you ever get the chance to try it you will notice the difference.

The crowding inside the trains is the other problem. In any train, people tend to “hang out” around the doors. On the subway, this is true, but if there are a lot of people, they tend to move into the train rather than insist that they stand at the door. It seems that people who take the JR trains need to be near the door or they won’t get out first. They NEED to get out first or else the whole world will end. At least that’s my impression. My only plausible explanation is that they need to get out and run as fast as possible to make a train connection, but at the same time, if the train is late, they won’t make it anyways.  Sometimes, there can be a lot of space around the benches and the door area will be packed, yet no one in the door area will move as they feel they won’t get out. It’s unbelievable that people would do that, but that’s life on the JR lines.

The best part of riding the JR lines is the fact that it can get you to almost any location in Tokyo. There are only a few locations that can’t be accessed by the Yamanote and Chuo lines. I do recommend the JR lines when travelling in Tokyo for their ease of use. It’s a great tool, but I still prefer the subway. It’s more complicated, and you can’t use your phone as often, but at least it isn’t as busy and you will keep your sanity longer than on the JR lines.

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 (Shiodome) July 13, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

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。

Tokyo (Akihabara – For the Civilized) April 20, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:   Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Akihabara – For the Civilized)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-n9

Akihabara Electric Town is a well known tourist spot in Tokyo.  Its claim to fame would have to be the electronics shops, comic book shops, and video game shops.  The area is best understood when you look at the station itself.  There are two major train lines that form a cross.  This is the starting point for almost every visitor to Akihabara.  Looking at the map, you can see that most of the shops are located to the north-west of the station.  The south-west corner is still a good place to visit, and the east has recently grown in popularity.  The main street, Chuo-dori, is sometimes closed to allow people to walk freely, and to reduce crowding, but due to an attack that killed several people, this may not be happening anymore.  Thankfully, this area is still relatively safe.  There is no need to really worry about getting injured or having your money stolen, but as with any place in the world, just be careful.

The east side of the station has only one point of interest, Yodobashi Camera.  This is a large electronics retailer that opened in 2005.  It is their largest single building shop with 7 floors of electronics goodness.  There is also a restaurant floor and a golf centre with its own driving range on top of the main electronics floors.  It is very easy to spend a full day in this shop, hence the caveat to be aware of time.  The main floor comprises mostly of mobile goods, such as mobile phones and netbooks.  For most people, heading up is your best bet.  If there is anything you ever wanted, this is the place to go.  They can do duty free for many items, but be aware, that as with most shops, you usually have to spend over 10,000 Yen in order to get a reduction in taxes.  People must also be aware that almost all products sold will be geared towards Japanese people.  Finding goods with English menus will be difficult, if not impossible for many items.  Warranties are also limited to Japan, but this shouldn’t discourage you from purchasing something.  You can always find good things here.  For those looking for a great deal on a new camera, or PC parts, you may be in for a sad surprise.  Prices are not cheaper here.  Yodobashi is a major electronics retailer, so they do not always provide the cheapest prices, and you can always visit one of the other branches or even the other shops to get a comparable price.

On the west side of the station, you will find the true heart of Akihabara.  This is where the original Electric Town was located.  Unfortunately, due to the arrival of Yodobashi Camera, things have changed.  Many, if not all, of the small shops that used to occupy the central Electric Town has left.  Under the railway tracks, the ones that head east and west have almost all left.  The area is also undergoing renovations to “modernize” the area and bring about a cleaner feel.  When I first arrived in Japan, I was able to walk through the tight cramped corridors under the station and buy almost any piece of electronic hardware I wanted.  Switches, lights, cables, batteries and anything that used a battery was sold.  The prices weren’t extremely cheap, but very reasonable.  You could walk into the area, spend 20 minutes shopping, and have everything you needed to build your own radio or more if you had the talent.  Today, we can only see shops such as Laox and Ishimaru.  They are the last famous electronics shops in the area.  If you do go to Akihabara, you can usually skip both Laox and Ishimaru as they generally have the same electronics.  However, if you enjoy manga and anime, these shops do have various character goods for sale.  You can also head to Radio Kaikan which is the main centre for anime goods.  All of these shops are located between the station and Chuo-dori.

The area located between Chuo-dori and Akihabara Station is a very safe place for tourists.  You don’t have to worry too much about speaking Japanese, and the staff is generally friendly.  As you head farther away from the station, further east and further north, you will find the shops will speak less and less English.  The area bounded by Chuo-dori, the JR tracks, and Suehirocho Station in the north, is a very interesting area where you can somewhat experience the old style of Akihabara.  The area near the JR tracks still has a foreigner friendly feel, but one block north will present you with shops that can sell almost anything.  If you are looking for PC parts, this is the area for you.  You can see all of the various peripherals that you could imagine, but do be aware that many of them can also be found around the world.  Then, you have Mandrake.  This is a big black building that can be easy to find if you know where to look.  It’s the only big black building in the area.  This is similar to the same shop that is located in Nakano.  They specialize in the second hand trade of anime and game goods.  You can find various old video games, anime characters, videos, and costumes.  It can be a little scary if you venture into the wrong floor.

With all of this information, you could spend an entire day shopping in Akihabara.  It’s a nice place, but everything mentioned so far is quite tame.  In my next post, I will talk about the eccentricities of Akihabara and a little about the changes that have been happening over the last few years.

The Akihabara series continues with Akihabara – For the Eccentric and Akihabara – Redux.

Akihabara Information:

Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akihabara
Wikitravel:  http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo/Akihabara
Japan Guide:  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3003.html
Official Site (English): http://www.e-akihabara.jp/en/index.htm
Official Site (Japanese):  http://www.e-akihabara.jp/ja/index.htm
Free Akihabara Tours:  http://akihabara-tour.com/en/
Akihabara Map:  http://www.e-akihabara.jp/en/map.htm
Commercial Site:  http://www.akiba.or.jp/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。

Narita to Tokyo April 13, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Narita to Tokyo” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-kZ

Arriving at Narita Airport can be a daunting challenge.  Not only will you probably be tired, if you don’t speak Japanese, it can be a small challenge to find out how to get into the city itself.  Unless you are rich, taxis are not an option.  There are three main routes into Tokyo.  The first is the Airport Limousine.  The second is to take a train, which has two options.  The simplest has to be the Airport Limousine.  When you exit the arrivals gate, you can usually find the Airport Limousine counter on the main floor.  There are several locations in both terminals.  It’s as simple as saying which hotel you want to go to, or what station.  The Airport Limousine goes to many destinations throughout Tokyo and Yokohama.  It’s also the most convenient way to get to Haneda Airport.  Do note that due to traffic, all times are estimates.  You can be severely delayed if traffic is horrible.

The safest way to get into the city is to use one of two rail companies.  The most popular for tourists is to use the JR Lines.  Using the regular lines is not popular for JR.  It is expensive and slow.  You will more than likely have to change trains at least once, maybe up to three times depending on your destination.  The easiest route is to take the Narita Express.  In fact, they have recently released a new train that makes things more comfortable.  They offer secure locks for your luggage and plugs for your laptop in each row.  Unfortunately, these are not available at all times.  The main advantage of the Narita Express is the number of destinations.  You can go as far as Ofuna, Takao, and Omiya without getting out.  However, most trains will only run from Narita Airport to Yokohama or Ikebukuro.  These trains usually de-couple at Tokyo Station.  Don’t be too afraid of connecting trains if you are headed to Ikebukuro.  If the train only goes to Shinjuku, it’s very simple to change platforms and get to Ikebukuro faster than if you wait.  The Narita Express doesn’t run too often, so it’s best to take the first one you can get, unless you have too many bags.

The cheapest route to Tokyo is to take the Keisei lines.  Their rapid service takes roughly 71 minutes to get to Tokyo, and their Skyliner service takes about 51 minutes.  The Rapid service costs roughly 1000 yen, which makes this a budget travellers dream.  If you want a good balance between cost and comfort, the Skyliner is one of your best bets.  The biggest problem with the Keisei service is choice.  You have your choice of Nippori and Ueno as destinations.  If you are headed to a hostel in Asakusa, this line is perfect.  If you are headed to Shinjuku, this route may not be your ideal choice, but it is a cheaper alternative at relatively the same time.  It’s just not as convenient.  However, as of July 2010, the service will be upgraded and the time will be cut by 15 minutes making this a more popular route in the near future.  The new service will be called the “Sky Express”.  It will feature brand new trains with a new local service being introduced as well.

Regarding what to take and how to get there, that’s your choice.  By far, the cheapest is the Keisei lines.  The most convenient would be the Airport Limousine, if they offer service to your hotel.  The Narita Express offers a very competitive service, but it is a little expensive overall.  In terms of locals, unless your company is paying for it, most people will take the Keisei lines.

Information:

Narita Airport:  http://www.narita-airport.jp/en/
Airport Limousine:  http://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/
Narita Express:  http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/nex/index.html
Keisei Skyliner:  http://www.keisei.co.jp/keisei/tetudou/keisei_us/top.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。

%d bloggers like this: