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Tokyo Dome City February 1, 2011

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 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。

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。

Happy Holidays December 7, 2009

Posted by Dru in Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Happy Holidays” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-jM

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Last year was my first year with this blog and I talked about the differences between a Japanese Christmas and a Western Christmas.  It’s a little early for Christmas, but with December having started already, it’s the holiday season.  The actual Christmas season starts on November 1st, and gets into full swing on December 1st.  It also signals the party season.  If you have ever visited Japan in December, it’s highly advised that you be careful when taking the trains after 10pm.  In fact, you should always be careful after 10pm.  It is this time when people start to make their way home after a night of drinking.  The end of the year is a very important time for Japanese people to celebrate the end and have one last party.

Bonnenkai is essentially a Christmas Party, or for non-secular people, a Year End Party.  Offices typically have at least one party at this time, but depending on the company, this can increase significantly.  In North America, there tends to be an average of three Year End Parties, at least from my own experiences.  There is usually one for the department, one for the company, and possibly one with friends.  Sometimes, this is the only time to meet old friends as people can be busy with their work and their own personal lives.  On the extreme end, people could have up to three parties each week, or about 12 in the month if they have to have a bonnenkai with their customers.  Needless to say, this can put a lot of stress on a person’s liver.  Typically, restaurants are busy over the weekend, and there are always special bonnenkai deals to be had if you book ahead.  Be aware that sometimes they are not better than ordering on your own.

Other than bonnenkais, the only thing that happens during the holiday season is to head around town and see all of the Christmas lights.  It has become very popular for different shopping areas to have their own light display.  As always, Ginza is a hot spot for lights, although it’s not spectacular.  Roppongi is generally a more interesting area as they have the Tokyo Midtown, the Roppongi Hills areas for lights.  This year, there will also be another Lightopia event in Marunouchi along with the typical Marunouchi lights.  If you have seen the Christmas lights in the last few years, especially in Tokyo, there won’t be too many new displays.  Each year, there tends to be one major new light display, while the others are only slightly updated.  The general designs tend to be the same.  Below will be a link showcasing the major areas where you can see some lights.

Information:

Christmas Light Locations (All of Japan):  http://www.rurubu.com/season/winter/illumination/
Christmas Light Locations (Tokyo):  http://www.rurubu.com/season/winter/illumination/list.asp?KenCD=13

Note:  The three boxes in the key are, in order, “There is a Christmas Tree”, “There is an event”, and “There are fireworks”.  Unfortunately, the events will depend on the location, and I am not sure when the fireworks might be.  There are only three places where there are fireworks:  Tokyo Dome (December 14th at 7pm for about 3 minutes), Toyosu Lala Port (December 24th at 8:10pm), and Tachikawa’s Showa Kinen Park (December 19th and 24th at 8pm for about 5 minutes).


Tokyo Dome Illumination Information:  http://www.tokyo-dome.co.jp/event/illumi/index.htm
Tokyo Dome (English):  http://www.tokyo-dome.co.jp/e/
Lalaport Fireworks Information:  http://toyosu.lalaport.jp/special_event/
Showa Kinen Park Winter Illumination Information:  http://www.showakinenpark.go.jp/2009winter/wvi2009.html
Showa Kinen Park (English):  http://www.showakinenpark.go.jp/english/index.htm
Mapple Ilumination List (Tokyo page, you can surf to the Japan list page):  http://www.mapple.net/sp_illumi/list.asp?PREF=13
Nihon Kanko Illumination List (Tokyo page, you can surf to the Japan list page):  http://illumi.nihon-kankou.or.jp/list/result.php?m=1&c=03&c2=13

Note:  All sites are Japanese unless specified.  If you are curious about locations in a specific area, please feel free to ask with a comment.  I’ll do my best to provide a small list based on these sites.

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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