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Tokyo – Sumida River March 1, 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 “Tokyo – Sumida River” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Cu

The Sumida River is one of the major rivers in Tokyo.  There are three famous rivers, the Kanda, Sumida, and Edogawa.  There are others that are equally as famous, but in terms of rivers that everyone knows and can easily point out on a map, these are the three.  The Sumida River is one of the rivers that I know very well.  I live very close to it and cross it daily as I head into Tokyo to get to work.  I run up and down the river and know almost every inch of the river from Asakusa in the north to Tsukiji in the south.  The entire river front area is a unique area in Tokyo and something that most tourists miss, along with most locals.  If you have a few hours of down time, between running to Asakusa and shopping in Shinjuku, I’d recommend a quick visit to any section of this river and you won’t be disappointed.

Starting in the north, for most people Asakusa is the best starting point.  North of Asakusa, the Sumida River is a very peaceful location.  Along the western bank, there are various parks and schools making this a very pedestrian friendly location.  The views of Tokyo Sky Tree and the Asahi buildings are very famous and a typical photo opportunity for those visiting Tokyo.  The north side is also home to the Tokyo Water Bus which has its main terminal here.  It’s very popular for people to start the day in Asakusa visiting the Sensoji before boarding the water bus and heading to Hamarikyu Gardens or Odaiba.  I’d suggest a quick walk around the park as well as it’s a great way to relax.  On a nice sunny weekend you can expect to see lots of families in the area with their children.  Of particular interest, if you walk along the eastern side, you will come close to the elevated highway which provides an experience that only Tokyo can provide.  Being mere metres from the looming highway above can invoke strange feelings that can’t be explained.  I wouldn’t suggest it for everyone as the idea of hearing cars overhead also brings screams of environmental chants calling for a curb on carbon emissions, but that’s beside the point.

Heading south will take you towards Ryogoku.  This is a great opportunity to see some of the more interesting bridges in the area as well as visit Ryogoku.  Ryogoku is home of the most important sumo stadium in Japan where they hold 3 tournaments a year.  For most of the trip, you will be pleasantly surprised by the detailed art located within the railings of the river walk as well as the details of the bridges.  From the famous red bridge in Asakusa to the equally vibrant yellow of Kuramaebashi, you will see some of Tokyo’s most brightly painted bridges.  While this is the case, most of the time, not every bridge will be as beautiful, and to be honest, not everyone likes a bridge.  Towards the Ryogoku area, you will may be surprised to see large canvas drawings.  These pictures vary from school kids helping to define the area to traditional Japanese paintings to describe the area’s past.  It is a great way to learn about the area and how things have changed and all of this is free.  Be sure to avoid leaving the riverside as the areas on the other side of the dike are not as interesting, but you can find a few gems along the way.

Once past Ryogoku, you will come upon the Hamacho and Hatchobori area.  For this area, it’s best to keep to the west as there is less of a need to exit the riverside area to cross a small river.  This area, along with most areas along the river, is popular for runners.  It is common to see runners at all times of the day running both up and down the river.  For the casual tourist, there are a number of paintings on the walls as well as various gardens and art displays.  I would recommend this area for its relaxing views and the ability to just sit down and enjoy the views.  While it isn’t a natural as the Edogawa, in fact there is almost no nature in the area at all, it is still fairly peaceful.  The architecture of the area is also noticeably different.  You will notice that the buildings are a little higher and a little newer in this area compared to the Ryogoku and Asakusa areas.  Both Asakusa and Ryogoku both have tall buildings but they tend to be focused whereas this area tends to be evenly distributed.  If you travel along the east side, walking around in the streets can be very interesting as you will be walking in an area that is filled with locals.  It’s a popular residential area that tends to be on the high end of the social ladder.  For this reason, the area tends to be more peaceful and distinct.

Just south of Hatchobori is the last section of the Sumida River.  Tsukiji, Tsukishima, and the Hamarikyu gardens mark the area with their own distinct flavours.  The Tsukiji area is relatively calm and a wonderful area to walk as you get beautiful views of Tsukushima and Kachidoki.  It’s also a great way to end a walk by heading in and getting some sushi.  If you head to the other side and visit Tsukishima, you can easily get good monja yaki.  While both areas don’t have much to offer, I do recommend you to visit as both areas provide another unique look at Japan.  In contrast to the area just to the north, this area does its best to combine modern high rises with nature.  It’s very common to see small plazas everywhere.  You can easily take a break and just enjoy the view.  If you head along the east side, you will have to travel past Monzennakacho.  There is a very small island located between Monzennakacho and Tsukishima.  While this island is not very significant and almost never on any tourists “to do” list, I’d recommend a visit if you just happen to be in the area.  It’s a peaceful place with hardly anyone there.  Of course there are a few homeless but the views up and down the river are spectacular and show off the urban beauty of a city built around a river.

For most tourists, I would only recommend visiting the Asakusa to Ryogoku section of this river.  The main reason is that the entire river is long and that’s the only section which would be interesting to a casual tourist.  Even for residents, I wouldn’t recommend visiting this area unless they lived in the nearby area.  If you are a runner and looking for a nice place to run, and you happen to be staying in Asakusa or somewhere near the river, I highly recommend that you go for a run if you have the time.  It’s a wonderful experience and being able to run part of the area is worth it.  It’s better than trying to fight your way through traffic and trying to avoid getting hit by cars on the regular streets.

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。

Honolulu, Hawaii (Part II) December 30, 2008

Posted by Dru in Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Honolulu, Hawaii (Part II)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-5e

This is Part II of a two part series.  Please see Part I for the beginning of this post.

The next day, I had to attend my friend’s wedding.  It was an all day affair.  I did wake up early and had a nice run along the beach.  Waikiki’s beach is very nice, but the path for runners is very short.  You are better to go elsewhere, but I wanted a beach that was close to my hotel.  The morning is also a nice time to visit as there aren’t too many people there.  By the afternoon, I’m sure it was busy.  The beach itself is also nice, but a little rocky compared to other natural beaches on Oahu.  I saw many people swimming and surfing in the area.  The wedding I attended was a beach wedding.  The wedding party was about 20 people and we all sat on the beach.  We went to Waimanalo Bay, which is about 1 hour from Waikiki.  It’s a wonderful place with very few people.  There were a few people who looked at us in envy, but it was generally our own private beach.  The women had a lot of problems as they wore heels.  Heels and sand do not mix.  Most of them changed to flip flops or just went barefoot.  The beach was beautiful with nearly white sand and a turquoise surf.  It wasn’t too windy either.  Just perfect.  We got lucky.  After the ceremony, we had a break time to relax before we had dinner.  Dinner that night was at Roy’s.  A very nice upscale restaurant, but not as good as Orchids.  The food wasn’t as good either, but there was a lot of choice.  We were all stuffed.

On my third day in Honolulu, I headed to the Premium Outlets.  It’s a major chain of outlet shops that has several outlets in Japan as well.  The only difference is that Honolulu’s Premium Outlets is very small, but they have better discounts.  Most shops had 20-50% off the lowest ticketed price.  Very good deals to be had.  I do recommend heading to this outlet shop if you have a car and the time.  For lunch, I headed to a famous Cheeseburger restaurant.  Cheeseburger in Paradise is relatively famous and they offer HUGE burgers.  They are so huge, that you don’t need fries.  However, who can eat a burger without fries?

The fourth, and essentially last, day in Honolulu, was not so fun.  I woke up to rain.  It was pouring out.  I cancelled my morning plans.  I was going to enjoy the beach, but obviously that was out of the question now.  Instead,  I headed to Wallmart with some friends and found some cheap things.  Nothing too special.  If you have time, it’s nice to go there.  After that, I headed to Ala Moana again for a final round of shopping.  Nothing bought, but I enjoyed browsing all of the shops.  After shopping, I headed back to the hotel to pack as I would have a very eventful evening.  After packing all of my things, I headed back to meet my friends for drinks.  We met up and started drinking in one of the rooms.  After, we headed out to a bar for more.  We ate and drank and had a great time.  By the end of it, we were kicked out as they place had closed and we moved the party to the beach.  In our drunken state, many people started to jump into the ocean for a night swim.  Nothing too dangerous.  Just up to the chest.  I might have gone in if asked, but I had no option.  My friends picked me up and tossed me into the ocean.  I was soaked from head to toe.  I jumped out of the water, stripped down to my jeans and jumped back in.  It was a fun night of swimming that lasted about an hour or so.  I couldn’t quite remember as I was quite drunk.

The next morning, I was awoken to the sound of a phone.  I had missed my first bus to the airport.  i had only 5 hours of sleep, my alarm was broken by the sea, and I had about 30 minutes to change, pack, and go.  I didn’t even have time to shower.  Thankfully, I finished packing the night before, so all I had to do was put a few things away and off I was to get picked up.  Needless to say, the flight back wasn’t so good, but I did make my flight and I did arrive in Tokyo as expected.  However, when rushing, it’s best to take a quick breather before heading through security.  I spent a lot of time there as I made mistake after mistake.

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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