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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。

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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

Tsukiji December 15, 2009

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 “Tsukiji” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-tsukiji

Tsukiji is one of the most well known places in Tokyo, if not Japan.  There is only one thing to do while in Tsukiji, visit the Tsukiji Fish Market.  In reality, when you head there, you can’t really do anything else.  The area itself is very small and there isn’t much else to do but look around.  If you venture in on your own, you can expect to spend at most, one hour walking around.  It’s unlikely that you will want to spend an entire day, and unless you are a chef or restaurant owner.

The fish market itself is located fairly close to the station.  If taking the Tokyo Metro subways, the Hibiya line’s Tsukiji Station is the closest.  However, it isn’t the closest station to the market.  For that, head on the Toei Oedo line and get off at Tsukijishijo Station, which literally means, Tsukiji Fish Market Station.  From there, follow the signs and you’ll be right outside the fish market.  Finding your way in is one of the most difficult things to do.  It looks like a large mess of trucks going in and out of the market.  There is no specific passenger entrance and everything looks chaotic.  Take your chances and just walk in from any entrance.  There are various places around the market itself to take photos, but do remember that flash photography is frowned upon inside the market.  If you are looking for a guided tour, there are various people who offer tours, but by and far the best looking one is by Naoto Nakamura (link below) who takes you on a two hour tour of the fish market starting at 4am.  This is great on the first day of your trip, especially if you are jet lagged.  You’ll be able to visit the various auctions and also see many of the middlemen selling their foods. Do note that due to many tourists abusing their privileges, the market was closed at the end of 2008, till early 2009 to tourists.  While this was localized to only the auctions, it was still sad to hear about this.  It is now completely open to the public, aside from restricted areas, and you can freely watch the auctions.  See the information in the links below for more information.

As mentioned, the entire fish market feels chaotic.  You MUST be careful.  There are a lot of sites with information on what to wear and how to be prepared.  It is necessary to read them, but the basic run down is this:  wear shoes you don’t care about, and no high heels or sandals; don’t dress too stylishly; no flash photography, especially in the auction areas; and look out for any and all moving vehicles.  While the market is open to the public, everyone should be reminded that the market itself is still a place of business.

Many of the men on the dollies are racing to get the fish from one end of the market to another, or even outside the market.  If you step in front of them, they will not stop.  It’s important that you don’t block the street, and finding out where the street is can be a challenge in and of itself.  Some areas are clearly marked, but others aren’t.  Thankfully, most of the dollies and trucks are gas powered, so it’s easy to hear them, however, even in the middle men market area, the trucks can appear out of nowhere.

Inside the market, there are several shops selling sushi, sashimi, donburi, and various kitchen tools.  It can be easy to miss, but it’s nice to just walk around a little.  The shops tend to be slightly overpriced, and busy.  If you go on the weekend, there could be a long line-up.  I would recommend waiting until you leave to eat any sushi.  Just outside the north side of Tsukiji Market is a small shopping area with various sushi restaurants.  This area itself is reasonable and you can get a lot of good food that’s on par with other shops inside the market.  If you looking to buy sushi and take it home, or to your hotel for a late morning breakfast, the middlemen inside are more than happy to sell a large amount of fish to you.  Do note that the days after the holidays can be the best to get the freshest fish, and the days before the holidays can be the cheapest as they have to sell everything.  Buying fish should be done after 6am, especially if the auction is held until around 6am.  Usually, I found arriving around 8am is a good time.  You can check out all the food, although a lot has already been sold, and you can still get a good breakfast after all the regular workers have eaten and headed to work.

In the last several years, there has been talk of moving the Tsukiji Fish Market from its current location to a location closer to Odaiba.  There have been lots of vocal people protesting against this.  While it’s true that a move will likely destroy the history and atmosphere of the current Fish Market, it feels almost inevitable due to the government wanting a more controlled setting for the fish market itself.  Moving it would allow things to be modernized and flow smoothly.  Plus, the current plot of land is worth a lot more as residential and commercial buildings than as a fish market, regardless of being a tourist attraction.  I myself am indifferent, but as a tourist, I would want it to stay in the current location.  As a worker inside the fish market, I would probably want it to stay as well.  In fact, the move has been delayed indefinitely as the future site is contaminated with various toxic materials.  For those who were worried about missing this fish market in the near future, don’t worry too much.  It will be several years yet before they move.

Tsukiji Information:

Tsukiji Fish Market (Official Site – English):  http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/tukiji_e.htm
Tsukiji Fish Market (Official Site – Japanese):  http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/index.html
Tsukiji Fish Market (Japan Guide):  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3021.html
Tsukiji Fish Market (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsukiji_fish_market
Tsukiji Fish Market Tours (By Naoto Nakamura):  http://homepage3.nifty.com/tokyoworks/TsukijiTour/TsukijiTourEng.htm
Tsukiji (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsukiji
Tsukiji (Wikitravel):  http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo/Tsukiji

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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