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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。

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Running in Tokyo (Central Tokyo) June 22, 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 (Central Tokyo)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-pc

The Imperial Palace is the most popular place for running, but it is not, by far, the only place to enjoy a run.  There are countless other locations that make for a good run.  In central Tokyo, there are three good areas for running.  The second most popular place, after the Imperial Palace, is Yoyogi Park.  This is a large public park that is free to enter.  The closest station, for most people, would be Harajuku Station.  The park is located just behind Meiji Jingu, but be aware that heading into Meiji Jingu, and running, is not allowed.  The main entrance to Yoyogi Park is located on the south side, across from the Yoyogi National Stadium.  If you don’t see it clearly, you aren’t really at the entrance.  The other way to tell you are going to the wrong place is to look for the large wooden Torii (gate).  If you see that, that’s the route to Meiji Jingu and the guards will probably stop you from entering.  The park itself is a nice short run.  Upon entering, just keep going straight and you’ll naturally enter the inner loop.  This loop is less than 1km long, probably about 700m.  It’s a nice loop and you’ll be able to enjoy the various people relaxing in the park.  You’ll be within eye sight of the large fountains, and you’ll be able to see various school kids practicing their drama skits.  You might be lucky to see maids, various costumes, and idols getting their pictures taken.  It’s a popular site for this.  If you are lucky enough, you can even enjoy the cherry blossoms.  Overall, the park is nice as it’s fairly shaded in the summer, but due to the number of people relaxing, it can be a little difficult to enjoy it all the time.  It’s not perfect, but it’s still great.  If you are staying in the Shinjuku or Shibuya region, Yoyogi Park is very close and easy to reach without any travelling.

Next door to Yoyogi Park is Meiji Jingu Gaien.  This is a large complex of greenery and sports stadiums.  It was built during the 60s for the 1964 Olympics.  Since then, the buildings have been maintained and the area has become one of the centres of sports in Tokyo.  While Tokyo Dome is the home of the Tokyo favourite, Yomiuri Giants, Meiji Jingu Gaien is home to the Yakult Swallows and the Emperor’s Cup final for the J-League.  For runners, there is a major loop road that is closed on the weekends and provides a good circuit for running.  The loop is roughly 1.5km in distance and generally surrounded by trees.  Since the road is closed on weekends, it makes an ideal place to run.  The only problem with this is that there are various activities happening on the weekends at all times of the day.  There are courses for kids to learn how to ride a bike, various baseball teams walking to and from the many baseball fields in the area, and lots of security keeping an eye on people.  I would still recommend this loop for running, but due to the popularity of the area for families and others, it may not be the best for all people.  Also beware of the Swallows games as it will be extremely busy near the start and at the end of the game itself.

Located next to Meiji Jingu Gaien is the Akasaka Palace (State Guest House) and Togu Palace, home of the crowned Prince Naruhito, the heir to the Japanese throne.  This is a very ideal running route, in my own opinion.  This route is around 5km in length with no lights.  It is similar in distance to the Imperial Palace, but far superior.  The route itself isn’t very busy as most Japanese people avoid it.  When running, I usually encounter serious runners only.  The main reason only serious runners tend to use this route is the fact that there are two significant hills.  While the Imperial Palace has only one hill, which isn’t very steep, the two on this route are fairly significant.  The first hill is located on a small section on the east side between Aoyama-dori and an elevated highway.  This is also the most dangerous section of road as the sidewalk is very narrow.  There is barely room for one person to run, so passing oncoming runners can be a challenge.  Thankfully, this section is very short.  On the opposite side of this stretch of road is the other hill.  It is not as bad as the eastern section, but still a good workout.  Generally, the area has a nice wide sidewalk for 90% of the route and lots of police and cameras.  Unfortunately, the scenery can be a little sparse due to the high walls keeping people out of the palace grounds.  The only interesting thing to see would be the Akasaka Palace.  If there is a head of state visiting Japan, such as the US President or the Queen of England, they will be staying in the Akasaka Palace.  During this time, there are state flags everywhere and extra security.  Don’t let that detract you from running around the palace.  It’s still nice, even with the police watching you as you run.

If you are adventurous, and in need of a marathon run in Tokyo, doing all three of these parks, along with the Imperial Palace is a great way to see everything and do minimal stopping.  This route will be in the neighbourhood of 20km to do a loop of each on, but may not include a return trip.  Be aware that brining money for a train to get back, or a few hundred yen to buy a drink at various vending machines or convenience stores is advised.  The summer can get very hot and humid, so keep hydrated.  Other than that, be adventurous and have fun exploring the city on foot.

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

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
Yoyogi Park (English):  http://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/english/park/detail_03.html#yoyogi
Yogogi Park (Japanese):  http://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/park/format/index039.html
Meiji Jingu Gaien (English):  http://www.meijijingugaien.jp/english/
Meiji Jingu Gaien (Japanese):  http://www.meijijingugaien.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。

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