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Tokyo (Nishi Shinjuku 5-Chome) June 8, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Nishi Shinjuku 5-Chome)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-qv

Nishi Shinjuku 5-Chome is a small residential district adjacent to Nishi Shinjuku.  The area is full of high rise buildings and a mix of both residential and commercial use buildings.  The atmosphere is loud and busy making it a very dynamic place to visit.  Nishi Shinjuku 5-Chome is located west of the Nishi Shinjuku skyscraper district.  It is very common for people to stay in hotels located in Nishi Shinjuku such as The Park Hyatt, The Hilton, and various other major hotel chains.  The Park Hyatt was even used in the movie “Lost in Translation”.  It is very easy for tourists to wander over and check out the closest thing they can get to a residential area.  All you have to do is head west.  Once you pass Shinjuku Central Park, you are in the 5-Chome area.

There aren’t really any landmarks in this area.  Locating the exact area can be very difficult.  The best way to find the area is to find the station, Nishishinjuku Gochome.  While that is easier said than done, another method to find the 5-Chome area is to just head west from any of the major hotels in the Nishi Shinjuku district.  Once you see Shinjuku Central Park, you are almost there.  It’s basically on the other side of the park.  The most obvious “attraction” in the area would have to be the schools.  This area is the central area for the TOHO group of schools.  You can see various kids walking around at all hours.  The main field of study for these schools is anything to do with entertainment.  They teach everything there is to know about film, theatre, and music.  From time to time, you can even see some of the school festivals where they sell various foods to eat.  If you are lucky, you might be able to hear a free concert from within one of the school walls, but this is a very rare occasion.

The main thing to do in Nishi Shinjuku 5-Chome is to eat.  There are various restaurants that are good, and many that can satisfy you with a quick cheaper meal.  There is a nice Okinawan restaurant that is more fusion than real Okinawan.  The fusion style is less Western-Okinawan than Japanese-Okinawan.  If you go at the right time, they have a happy hour where beer is pretty cheap.  It’s also the only place in the area with seats outside.  It’s common for people in the middle of summer to buy a scoop of ice cream and enjoy it while the world passes by in front of them.  They sell the famous Blue Seal ice cream brand and you can get Orion beer, which are both famous in Okinawa.  If you are looking for good pasta, there is a good place to eat called Popolare.  It’s extremely hard to find if you don’t know where to look.  It’s behind one of the TOHO schools just past Yamate Street.  Mostly locals visit this restaurant, but it has been getting more and more popular.  It can be busy at times but the quality is generally good.  It’s rare to see a line outside, so reservations aren’t always necessary, but if you have a group of over 4 people, you might want to think about a reservation.  If you love the Beach Boys, you’ll also love this place as the chef/owner always has it playing all the time.  There are several other good restaurants in the area, but you do have to walk around to find them.  The adjacent areas are also very close by, within a 10 minute walk, and worth a quick visit.  The good thing about 5-Chome is that there are many fast food shops in the area so you are never far from food at any hour of the day.  If you get hungry, and you are staying in the area, you can easily go out and get some snacks to satisfy your late night urges.

If you have the energy, heading south will take you to Hatsudai or Tokyo Opera City.  This is a nice area.  The complex is hard to miss as it’s the tallest building in the area and a beacon in and of itself.  Inside, there is a museum and a concert hall.  Once, the annual Kohaku Concert was held there.  The main public complex also holds a small shopping area.  There aren’t many shops but there are a few restaurants as well.  If you are lucky, you can also enjoy a nice festival, usually in the latter half of the year.  Adjacent to the Tokyo Opera City complex is a small shopping street called Fudo Street.  It’s a local only shopping street.  There are various small shops, but the main type of shop is ramen.  You can find a lot of good ramen shops on this street.  The area is also known for some of its Indian or South-East Asian cuisine.  It’s important to try it out if you have the time.  There are also a few izakaya in the area, but they tend to be for locals only.  You can also cross the major highway to the south of Tokyo Opera City.  This area is very similar in tone, but you start to head further and further away from 5-Chome.  If you do have the energy to walk back to Shinjuku, you can always stop off at the Sword Museum which is a nice small museum.  The cost to enter is not really worth it, but if you are very interested in seeing samurai swords and such, it’s worth a visit if you are in the area.  It’s better to go to a major museum as they are only slightly more expensive, but they are at least three times bigger with more things to see.

If you want to try another smaller area, there is Nakano Sakaue.  It’s an area that’s about 15 minutes north of 5-Chome and just one stop down.  It’s very similar to 5-Chome and Hatsudai, with the exception that it’s a little busier.  It’s easier to find things in the area, and there are a few more restaurants that are delicious.  If anything, the main reason to head this way is for the large bookstore and Daiso.  Otherwise, it’s more interesting to head towards Hatsudai.  If you live in the area, it’s great if you head towards the Kanda River.  It’s a very small river that looks more like a concrete canal than anything else.  It’s a great area to go running, but beware that major streets make it difficult to run completely at times.

All in all, this area is great to visit.  It isn’t really worth it when you are only visiting Tokyo, but if you are on your second or third trip with nothing new to see, it is fun to just pick a direction and head out that way.  Many things are great to see a second time around, but heading to this area, especially if your hotel is around here, is worth a visit.

Nishi Shinjuku 5-Chome Information:

Tokyo Opera City [English]:  http://www.operacity.jp/en/
Tokyo Opera City [Japanese]  http://www.operacity.jp/

Japanese Sword Museum:  http://www.nbthk-ab.org/Japan.htm

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。

Japanese Football aka Soccer (Urawa Reds VS FC Tokyo) December 1, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Sports, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Japanese Football aka Soccer (Urawa Reds VS FC Tokyo)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-jk

This year, 2009, I have had the luxury of attending two football games in Japan.  Last year, I wrote about my experiences to see football for the first time. This time, I had a different experience.  I was lucky enough to introduce a couple friends to FC Tokyo, and more recently, I was able to see a game as an Urawa Reds fan.  Generally, my first experience with FC Tokyo was how things were in 2009.  When attending a game, once you reach the stadium, you have to head into the stands where you’ll get your seat.  Then, just wait and enjoy the game.  FC Tokyo still runs “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and they still salute the crowd after every game, regardless of the results.  Since I was in the visitors side for a game this year, this post will reflect the feelings and emotions of the opposing time.

On November 8th, I headed into Ajinomoto with a friend of mine.  We were meeting a couple of Japanese guys who are big Urawa Reds fans.  Since it was Urawa, the entire visitors section was full.  It was all red and black, the team colours.  There were the die hards sitting in the front row behind the goal and a bank of over 10 huge flags.  There were also various flags of other countries flying in the main section.  Essentially, if it was red and black, it was flown.  The flag of Yemen, or the old German flag, was also flown because of the colours.  The significance of the country itself wasn’t important.  Getting to the stadium early, as in any other game, is important if you want to get good seats.  Roughly an hour before the game starts, the cheering starts.  There are a few dozen different chants that the crowd does.  There is generally a leader in the main stands along with a drummer to keep the beat.  There may be more than one drummer.  There are a few basic cheers and everyone has to stand and do the cheer.  The Japanese guys I was with were a little sad as the cheering had been started a little early for their tastes.  You need a little energy for the game as well.

During the singing of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” for FC Tokyo, the Urawa fans went crazy.  Lots of comments talking about how stupid it was to sing the song, and when they talked about FC Tokyo, they cheered and whistled as loud as they could.  It’s nice to see that they’ll do anything to support their own team.  Upon the kick-off, the cheering subsided so that the fans could watch the game.  The flags were down and only basic cheers could be heard.  Everyone was at the edge of their seats hoping a weak Urawa would be able to beat FC Tokyo.  To give a little insight into the game, both Urawa and FC Tokyo were in trouble.  Urawa is in a sort of rebuilding season, and FC Tokyo’s main ace was injured, and their top foreign player left to play in the Middle East, for more money.  However, FC Tokyo had recently won the Nabisco Cup, so they had the advantage of momentum.  The first half of the game was pretty boring.  FC Tokyo dominated the game with several shots on goal, but Urawa was limited and trapped in the mid-field.  For the second half, the game remained the same, but Urawa made one excellent play where a couple of strikers broke free of the defence and scored.  The crowd was ecstatic and the cheering was deafening; soon after, FC Tokyo also scored, but it was an off side goal.  By the end of the game, Urawa kept their 1-0 lead and won the game.  Obviously, the Urawa fans stuck around and saluted their players.

In general, the FC Tokyo fans are never very loud.  They enjoy the games and they cheer on their players, but I think the visiting teams are always louder.  They tend to be more focused compared to FC Tokyo.  I’m sure the FC Tokyo fans are also louder when visiting other stadiums, but at home, it’s sad to see they aren’t close enough to shake the stadium.  I still highly recommend going to an FC Tokyo game.  It’s very close to Tokyo itself and the team is still pretty good.  If you have a free afternoon/evening, it’s only 20 minutes from Shinjuku Station.  You don’t need to buy tickets ahead of time, but do wear blue.  Avoid any other colours or you might have to buy your own jersey.

Information:

Ajinomoto Stadium (Japanese Homepage):  http://www.ajinomotostadium.com/
Ajinomoto Stadium (Event Schedule – Japanese):  http://www.ajinomotostadium.com/schedule/index.html
Ajinomoto Stadium (Access – Japanese):  http://www.ajinomotostadium.com/access/index.html

FC Tokyo (English Homepage):  http://www.fctokyo.co.jp/english/index.phtml
FC Tokyo (Japanese Homepage):  http://www.fctokyo.co.jp/
FC Tokyo (Schedule):  http://www.fctokyo.co.jp/english/index.phtml?schedule=1
FC Tokyo (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F.C._Tokyo

Urawa Reds (English Homepage):  http://www.urawa-reds.co.jp/index_e.html
Urawa Reds (Japanese Homepage):  http://www.urawa-reds.co.jp/index2.html
Urawa Reds (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urawa_Red_Diamonds

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。

Japanese Football aka Soccer (Kashima Antlers VS FC Tokyo) November 4, 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 “Japanese Football aka Soccer (Kashima Antlers VS FC Tokyo) complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-3Q

On October 26th, 2008, I made my third adventure of the year to watch Professional Japanese sports.  I headed out to Ajinomoto Stadium in Chofu to watch a football game.  Built in 2001, Ajinomoto Stadium is the home of FC Tokyo and Tokyo Verdy.  It was originally built as a track and football stadium, but it has yet to hold any athletics matches.  Due to the nature of the design of the building, I’ve been told that the acoustics of the stadium aren’t good for football.  I guess I agree, but unfortunately, I’ve never been to a purpose built football stadium.  In general, I will say that the stadium is well built, but the overall design and layout needs to be improved.

Ajinomoto  Stadium is located a short 5 minute walk from Tobitakyu Station on the Keio Line.  During the football games, all Keio trains stop at this station.  Do note that to get the best seats, you need to arrive before the first train.  Upon arriving at the station, you are greeted with banners proclaiming that you are indeed at the right place.  Banners promoting FC Tokyo and Tokyo Verdy are hung within the station, and all along the road you’ll see FC Tokyo banners on most shops.  It’s also very busy as you walk to the stadium.  I recommend buying whatever food and drink you need before heading to the stadium.  While the train is extremely busy, you’ll at least have everything and don’t have to fight with everyone else for what little shops are available.  Note that there are long lines for any restaurant.  If you are only in need of beer, the traditional beer girls are there.  There are more guys selling beer, and they don’t have silly uniforms.  🙂

When I arrived at the stadium, I had trouble finding seats behind the home team goal.  It’s also good to get information on where to sit before heading to the game.  I spent 5 minutes asking a bunch of staff where to sit, but they weren’t too clear as to where it was okay.  Thankfully, a fan helped me out and I discovered that half of the stadium was reserved for the home team fans.  Again, unfortunately, I had to sit a little far from the die hard fans.  Like baseball, football has a lot of die hard fans that will cheer and cheer and cheer.  I was a little disappointed, but that is probably due to the design of the stadium.  The fans aren’t close enough to the action.  It could also be because FC Tokyo is a perennial low ranked team within the league.   The second reason for the lack of sound from the home team could be from the loyal fans from the Kashima Antlers side.  Kashima has a longer history than FC Tokyo and they generally finish at the top of the J1 division, and they have won the most J1 titles.  Thus, they have a very loyal fan base.

Before going any further, a little J-league education is needed.  The J-league officially started in 1993 as a professional league and it has been evolving ever since.  Currently, there are 18 teams in the first division (J1) and 15 in the second division (J2).  Plans are underway to expand J2 to 18 teams.  There is also a third tier under a league name of the Japan Football League, however this league is a semi-pro league.  JFL teams will be promoted to J2 until J2 has reached it’s intended target.  The J-league itself runs 2 series where teams can switch between both series.  J1 is the top tier with the best teams.  Currently, the lowest two teams at the end of the year are sent to the second tier, while the top two teams of J2 are promoted to the J1 series.  The third ranked J2 and third lowest J1 team play a special match to decide if the teams will switch positions in the league or not.  Ultimately, since Tokyo Verdy has had poor form in recent years, FC Tokyo is the Tokyo favourite, even tough Tokyo Verdy has a longer and better history within the league.

The game itself was very good.  Before things begin, both teams take to the field for a little warm-up.  FC Tokyo came out and gave a type of bow and banzai gesture to the fans.  Kashima came out much later, but they didn’t do the same bow and banzai.  They just waved to their fans.  After the warm-up, FC Tokyo stole a Liverpool tradition and sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.  I was a little disappointed because it’s such a strange song to sing for the Japanese people, and I thought a Japanese song or a lively song would be better.  After the FC Tokyo “Anthem”, the game got underway.  The first half was a decent game, but there were many slow points.  A few scoring opportunities, but nothing much.  The second half proved to be the better half.  All 5 goals in the game were scored in the second half.  FC Tokyo scored first, followed by a tie goal by Kashima.  FC Tokyo then scored 2 goals followed by another goal by Kashima.  There was a nail biting end to the game and 3 minutes of extra time.  Obviously the referee wanted a tie game because there were barely any stops to the game.  In the end, everyone was happy to see their team win.  Even on on the Kashima side, the fans were happy and still cheered loudly for their team.

So what are my final thoughts on the J-league, or at least the game that I watched?  It’s definitely worth my 2000 yen.  Should you go to a Baseball game or a Football game?  I will definitely say yes to both.  If you have the chance, go to them.  However, do note that unless you have an interest in Football, I don’t recommend it.  With Baseball, you don’t need to know the sport to enjoy the game.  With Football, I can’t say the same.  Personally, though, I think I’d enjoy Football more than Baseball.  I just enjoy the action.

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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