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Rainbow Bridge May 31, 2011

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 “Rainbow Bridge” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Gc

 

Rainbow Bridge is one of the most famous, if not the most famous bridge in Tokyo.  It has been used as a backdrop along with Tokyo Tower to define Tokyo.  It is a famous backdrop in the summer for the Tokyo Bay Fireworks festival as well as one of the easiest ways to access Odaiba.  The bridge itself is 798 metres long with a main span of 580 metres.  It is a main artery that has been painted white.  At night, the bridge is often lit up in various colours.  It is often lit in a rainbow of colours to highlight the bridge’s popular name, but it has been lit up for other special occasions such as pink for breast cancer awareness or other similar events.  While the official name of Rainbow Bridge is quite boring, city officials took the nickname, Rainbow Bridge, and ran with it.  On most nights, the bridge is lit up naturally so that the the white paint stands out against the traditional backdrop of black and grey buildings.

As with any bridge, there are only two ways to access the bridge itself, the Odaiba and the Shibaura side.  I would recommend the Shibaura side as there is an elevator to access the promenade which makes the walk a lot easier.  On the Shibaura side, you can access Rainbow Bridge from either Shibaurafuto Station on the Yurikamome Line or Tamachi and Mita Stations on the JR and Toei lines.  From Tamachi and Mita, it is a bit of a walk to Rainbow Bridge but it is a nice relaxing walk through some new residential areas.  The area around the bridge itself is not special.  It is a port area with nothing more than large trucks driving everywhere.  It can be a little dangerous at times to cross the street as trucks speed through the area.  It isn’t too bad as traffic isn’t too heavy and there are large gaps between cars.  Upon entry to the main anchor on the Shibaura side, you will be treated to a more touristy setting.  While there are no people to give you information on the bridge itself, there is a small display and information signs telling you where to go.  The elevator is not very quick journey as the main deck is located 7 stories up.

The bridge deck has two promenades.  There is the north and south side but you must make your decision before you head up from the bottom of the Shibaura anchor.  I ventured on the south where all the traffic was heading towards Shibaura.  The views on this side were nice but probably better on the north side.  You can get a view of Kawasaki and Odaiba from the south, and views of Tokyo Tower and central Tokyo from the north.  On the south side, it can get a bit boring as all you see are container ships and the sparsely populated Odaiba region but the photos can be amazing.  The first thing you will notice will be the wind.  The second you walk outside the anchor you are hit by the wind.  If you have ever walked across a bridge you will know what I’m talking about.  Most bridges over a body of water are subject to higher winds.  It was a bit daunting on the day that I visited Rainbow Bridge.  It was a constant barrage of wind that kept me from walking smoothly.  The second thing you will notice is the vibrations.  Being a double decked bridge with 8 lanes of traffic and a rapid transit line, it is hard to walk along the bridge without feeling the constant rumble of cars.  If you are in a car at the time you won’t notice it as much as the car’s suspension does a good job at creating a smooth ride, but when you walk along the bridge, you will get a mild sensation that a small earthquake is occurring.  The first tower is fairly close to the Shibaura anchor.  Each tower forces the promenade to go on the outside of the tower itself.  This provides a better view of the surrounding area.  Unfortunately, there is a fence that runs the entire span of the bridge.  Thankfully they cut holes into a fence around the towers so you can take photos.  At all other points along the bridge you have to take photos through the safety fence.  The fence serves two purposes.  One is to keep people from being blown off the bridge itself, and the other is to prevent suicides.  In Japan, that is understandable.

The midpoint of the bridge is not spectacular but there are signs to inform you that you are at the midpoint.  There are signs on the floor that tell you which direction you need to go to reach either Odaiba or Shibaura.  There is also an information sign on the wall to inform you exacatly where you are.  It is an interesting place as it is a small section that is neither Odaiba nor Shibaura.  You are in a “no man’s land” between cities.  Other than that, it is no different than any other section of the bridge.  It is noisy, windy, and shaky.  From that point on, things are relatively easy.  The Odaiba tower is almost a mirror of the tower on the Shibaura side.  The anchor on the Odaiba side has an elevator but you cannot use it.  The anchor on the Odaiba side is for maintenance workers only as the anchor is on an island.  There is no access to the main island from the Odaiba anchor.

The approach to the Odaiba tower from Odaiba is a long gradual slope.  There are no fences so the view is spectacular.  You can enjoy the view of the batteries that used to protect Tokyo from invaders and you can get good pictures of Odaiba as well.  It is also popular for tour groups to take a short walk to get a better view of Odaiba.  For many people, walking out to the bridge tower itself is easy but walking all the way across isn’t.  Most people will start on the Odaiba side and head to the first tower before returning.  In reality, that is more than enough but for perfectionists, walking along the entire bridge deck on both the north and south side is a must.

Rainbow Bridge is often a tourist attraction that is to be seen, not experienced.  It is not a common place to be for anyone as most people wouldn’t think twice about visiting any bridge.  In Japan where domestic tourism is very high, they do whatever they can to lure tourists to various locations.  Food is the most popular way to lure tourists to various regions, but the bridges are what connect these places.  The government knows this and they created creative ways to highlight their bridges to encourage more tourism to these areas.  One great example is the Onaruto bridge.  The Senjojiki Observatory is located under the main deck and provides great views of the sea below.  While most people will skip this, it is still a popular destination for domestic travellers.  Rainbow Bridge is not as spectacular, and honestly not worth the time for most people, but it is a great way to spend a morning when most of the shops are closed in the area.

Rainbow Bridge Information:

Rainbow Bridge (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_Bridge_%28Tokyo%29

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Outlet Malls of Tokyo November 16, 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 “Outlet Malls of Tokyo” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-pk

Shopping is a major attraction of Tokyo, and the Outlet Malls are no exception.  While there is a lot of information out there on the different outlet malls, the information isn’t very detailed, and it’s difficult to understand the history of outlet shopping in Tokyo.  In Japan, shopping in large shopping malls, much less outlet malls, is a new concept.  Based on my short research, the first outlet mall is Outlet Mall RiSM located in Saitama.  This was opened in 1993.  It’s a fairly small outlet mall, from what others have said, and from their website, caters mostly to Japanese brands.  It isn’t too far from central Tokyo, but probably not worth a trip for the average person.  There are several other “independent” outlet malls with locations in Machida (western Tokyo) one on Chiba which is  east of Tokyo, and a new one that opened in Odaiba’s Venus Fort in December, 2009.  Do note that the Odaiba outlet mall is small but worth a short visit if you are in the area.

In general, there are only two companies that have outlet malls that are worth visiting.  Mitsui Outlet Parks are the largest chain of outlet malls in Japan.  They have 10 locations throughout Japan and 4 within the Tokyo area.  Depending on where you are staying or living, each one is convenient.  For those living on the east side of Tokyo, or in Chiba, the Makuhari branch is the best.  It is located next to Makuhari Messe and a lot of their business is from people visiting the convention centre and doing a little shopping at the same time.  This outlet mall is pretty good overall.  While it isn’t huge, nor is it the best, for those looking to go somewhere close by, and for only half a day, this is a good location.  Due to its relative close proximity to Tokyo, it can be very busy at times.  The other close mall would be the Tama Minami Osawa branch, located in Tama.  This one is best for those living on the west side of Tokyo.  From what I have heard, it isn’t that great, but very convenient and close enough to Tokyo to enjoy.  The last convenient branch would be the Yokohama Bayside.  This isn’t convenient for anyone in Tokyo, but for those in Yokohama, it’s a wonderful place to visit.  It’s large with many shops to see.  Unfortunately, it’s far from the station, about a 5-10 minute walk, and there is nothing else to do after you have finished.  It can take nearly one full day if you are travelling from Tokyo.  For those living in Saitama, or north western Tokyo, a trip to Iruma is also an option, but not convenient unless you have a car.  This is one of Mitsui’s largest outlet malls, and the newest one in the Tokyo region.  Unfortunately, it’s too far from the station making it tough for a regular tourist to visit.

Personally, and by many accounts on the internet, Gotemba Premium Outlets is the best outlet mall near Tokyo.  It is locate about 1.5 hours west of Tokyo and requires a bus to get there.  It’s located near the foot of Mt. Fuji creating a very picturesque scene for shopping.  Do note that Mt. Fuji is often obscured by clouds, and I have never really seen it when I have been to Gotemba.  Then again, I have been very unlucky and only visited Gotemba when it was raining.  This mall is huge, to say the least.  It can take several hours to get through all of the shops, but it can be worth it.  The food may be expensive, but thankfully, there are several places for children to have fun, including a small amusement park.  Do beware of the crowds on the weekend as it’s very popular.  Compared to the Mitsui outlet malls, Chelsea is more upscale with more foreign brands due to its foreign ownership.

For those looking for a cheap shopping experience near Tokyo, you can’t really go wrong with the outlet malls.  The only down sides are that they tend to be farther away from central Tokyo.  They also can’t compete well with the large sales that happen every few months at the department stores.  The amount you save on travel expenses may be more than enough to say home.  However, it’s still a great experience to see the other areas of Tokyo that few people experience.  If you are looking for a basic shopping mall, there are a few in eastern Tokyo, such as Lalaport Toyosu and Olinas Mall in Kinshicho.

Information:

Wikipedia index of Outlet Malls in Japan (Japanese):  http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:日本のアウトレットモール
Wikipedia on Mitsui Outlet Malls (Japanese):  http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/三井アウトレットパーク
Premium Outlets (English):  http://www.premiumoutlets.co.jp/en/
Premium Outlets (Japanese):  http://www.premiumoutlets.co.jp/
Gotemba Premium Outlets (English):  http://www.premiumoutlets.co.jp/en/gotemba/
Gotemba Premium Outlets (Japanese):  http://www.premiumoutlets.co.jp/gotemba/
Mitsui Outlet Park (English):  http://www.31op.com/english/index.html
Mitsui Outlet Park (Japanese):  http://www.31op.com/english/
Venus Fort (Japanese, but logos of the outlet shops):  http://www.venusfort.co.jp/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。

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。

Running in Tokyo (Imperial Palace) June 15, 2010

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 “Running in Tokyo (Imperial Palace)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-pa

The first ever Tokyo Marathon was held in 2007.  It was the start of an annual event that would change the way people in Tokyo thought about running.  While there were several other marathon races, and half marathon races, this was the first marathon that was widely broadcasted.  This was also the beginning of what would become the “running boom” of Japan, which is still going strong today.  The first ever Tokyo Marathon, and all subsequent versions after that started in Shinjuku near the Tokyo Government Offices.  From there, the route heads east to the Imperial Palace where the course turns south.  It then makes a U-turn at Shinagawa where it heads north to Asakusa via Ginza.  From there, runners make a second U-turn and head east again once they return to Ginza where they continue until they reach Odaiba and the finish line.  It is by far the most popular marathon in Japan and one of the most interesting ones.  For those who want to participate in this marathon, it’s necessary to enter a lottery to get a chance to run.  Due to the extreme popularity of this marathon, you must enter the lottery.  Thankfully, there are several other marathons and half marathons run throughout the Kanto area.  If you ever want to try it, feel free to ask.

In terms of running courses, there are several courses located within Tokyo itself.  The most popular route has to be around the Imperial Palace.  This route is fairly simple and has promoted many running related shops to open up along the route.  Most Japanese people start around Takebashi Station.  There are several reasons for this.  The biggest reason people start around here is that the station entrance is located on the course itself.  The entrances have small areas nearby for you to stretch and prepare a little before you head out on a run.  The other reason is that there is a small section on the road where drivers can stop and drop people off.  While this isn’t quite legal, if you do it quickly, you can probably get away with it.  The last reason people enjoy starting at this station is the number of places to change and shower after a run.  With several locations with lockers, it is obviously popular.  One of the few places that I would think about visiting would be the Art Sports: Running Oasis.  Art Sports is considered to be one of, if not the best place to buy running shoes.  They tend to have the most recommendations among the Tokyo Runners Clubs and among many Japanese people.  Unfortunately, it’s still somewhat of a specialized shop, so it isn’t very famous yet.

While Takebashi Station is the most popular starting point, it isn’t the only place to start.  You can always start from Nijubashimae Station, Hibiya Station, Sakuradamon Station or Hanzomon Station.  You can also easily access the Imperial Palace from Tokyo Station, Yurakucho Station, Kasumigaseki Station, Jinbocho Station, Kudanshita Station, and many more.  Whichever station you do use to access the Imperial Palace, just be aware that the location can alter how you feel during your run.  The route around the Imperial Palace is located on the side of a hill.  The west side, near Hanzomon Station, is the highest point, while Takebashi Station and Hibiya Station are at the lowest points.  There are, obviously, two ways run around the Imperial Palace, clockwise and counter-clockwise.  This can make a huge difference in the quality of your run.  Most people run in a counter-clockwise direction.  The north side, from Takebashi Station to Hanzomon Station is a shorter and steeper uphill climb compared to the longer Sakuradamon Station to Hanzomon Station section.  For this reason, it is relatively easier to run counter-clockwise.  The secondary reason to run counter-clockwise is only for night runners.  Cars drive on the left side of the road in Japan, so if you run clockwise, the headlights of all the cars will be shining in your face the entire way around the palace.  If you are like me, you will probably enjoy the challenge of going clockwise, but be warned that it adds the extra challenge of running against the stream of other runners.

In the last year, there have been a many articles regarding the Imperial Palace and the “Runners Boom”.  While most of it has been good, there have been some calls to improve the signage around the palace so that runners can understand where to go easily.  The first time you run, there is one section that can be confusing, if not get you into trouble.  Running on the gravel, aside from near Sakuradamon, will get you into trouble and the police guards will tell you to get out.  The sidewalk is free to run on, but be aware that there are many tourists walking around.  The east side of the course is the busiest for tourists and you will have to avoid them.  One article said that there was an estimated 4500 people running around the Imperial Palace between 6pm and 9pm on a weeknight.  That is by far the busiest time, and probably best to avoid running there.  I have heard from friends that it can be too busy, and running at your own pace can be a challenge.  Weekends and weekday mornings are probably better, but you may have to find a way to pass people who are slower, or let others who are faster pass.  While this may sound bad, the actual route is very nice and picturesque.  Most people only visit the east side, but the west side offers a look at the palace grounds from a different angle.  It may not be the most beautiful thing in the world, but a quick run around is worth it.

This is part of a series on running in Tokyo.  To read more, continue to Running in Tokyo – Central Tokyo.

Information:

Running Club:  http://www.namban.org/
Runner’s World Article:  http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-239-281–6897-0,00.html
Running In Tokyo:  http://runningintokyo.com/
Time Out Tokyo (Blog):  http://www.timeout.jp/en/tokyo/feature/176
Imperial Palace Running Guide (Japanese):  http://koukyo-run.boo.jp/
Art Sports:  Running Oasis (Japanese): http://runningoasis.art-sports.jp/

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。

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

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