Category Archives: Travel

Tokyo July 2011 Day 14 & 15: Tokyo Sky View & Farewell Koenji

Day 14 in Tokyo, Tuesday 26th July.

We were getting towards the end of our trip and one thing on our itinerary that we hadn’t had a chance to do yet was see the Tokyo sky view. We would have liked to see the view from the Mori Museum, but we were low on funds by this point. Thanks to this website and the free wi-fi at our guest house we found out that there is an observatory on the 45th floor of Tokyo Tochosha, The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which is open free of charge to the public. The building is just a short distance from Shinjuku station. At 243 meters, it is the 2nd tallest building within the city. We got to enjoy a viewing of the city from 202 meters above ground.

It really was breathtaking.

Best smoking area in Tokyo: It has a view of Mount Fuji!

Yoyogi Koen really stands out in the middle of the cityscape.

There is a bar and a gift shop in the observatory too. What better to do when you’re 202 meters above ground than buy Hello Kitty junk?!

We stayed to watch the sunset. ^_^

In the evening we headed back to Koenji and I stumbled upon this little Sylvanian Families hair dresser in the street. I saw it on my first night in Tokyo and thought I might have imagined it!

We headed to one of our favourite Koenji bars, Godzilla-ya! It’s a tiny bar run by a cute lady who loves 1960s toys! She’s displayed her amazing collection of toys all around the bar.

In Godzilla-Ya we met an elderly Japanese ojiisan. He spoke little English, we spoke little Japanese, but we managed to communicate through the universal language of Nihonshu. He bought us many drinks and got us really drunk! It was a memorable evening.

Day 15, Wednesday 27th July, our final night in Tokyo!

Our final day in Tokyo was spent gift shopping & packing, with huge hangovers thanks to all the nihonshu the night before! In the evening we went out for sushi and beers in Koenji to say thank you & goodbye to our fantastic guides, hosts & translators, Aleister & Maya.

The next morning we flew home! I had one last ice coffee drink at Narita Airport. Oh man, I really miss those Japanese drink vending machines!

Well, that’s it for my July Tokyo trip blog posts! I had the time of my life, I hope to visit Tokyo again soon.


Tokyo July 2011 Day 12: Yoyogi Koen on a Sunday

Day 12 in Tokyo, Sunday 24th July. I finally got the chance to hang out in Yoyogi Koen on a Sunday. Yoyogi Koen is one of the largest parks in Tokyo, located next to Harajuku station. On a Sunday it’s a popular hangout where people gather to play music, practice martial arts, dance & enjoy other hobbies. The bridge across the train tracks leading to Yoyogi Koen is also where teenagers dressed in extreme subcultural fashions come to hang out, pose and be photographed for fashion mags and blogs. I had the impression that this was more popular a few years ago and that the trend had died out a little as it had turned in to such a tourist attraction, but on the day I was there lots of kids were hanging out on the bridge posing for the cameras. A new generation of FRUiTS perhaps? It was great to see!

Note the really dinky lolita on the left! She must have been no more than 13 and was accompanied by her dad. So cute!

By the entrance to the park, groups of rockabillies show off their dance moves. This subculture has been around for twenty years now and these guys & girls are really impressive dancers, I watched them for ages.

Refreshing Watermelon Lollies ^_^

Giant torii gate leading to Meiji Jingū

Barrels of nihonshu are stored in the park while they age. The designs on the barrels are amazing.

Barrels of wine are also displayed here. Amazingly they are never tampered with or stolen. I can’t imagine the same things working here in the UK somehow. ^_~

Meiji Jingū, built in 1920.

After walking around the shrine we headed back to the entrance and got to see some more dancing, this time from the ‘Lebels’ – a greaser gang!

This tiny rockabilly was getting his hair done by the gang’s hairdresser.

Japan’s youngest rockabilly?

Cute spectators

The park is such a nice tranquil place to hang out.

Words of wisdom at Harajuku station

As we headed to Shimokirazawa for dinner, I took this shot of Shibuya scramble crossing in action.

We had dinner at a Shabu-shabu restaurant. On the table is a hob with a pot of boiling stock. You order raw meat and vegtables and cook them yourself by swishing them around in the pot (the name Shabu-shabu is derived from the “swish swish” sound of cooking the meat in the pot). It’s delicious & so healthy! We were wondering why it hadn’t made it’s way over to the UK, but we noticed when we got home that a Japanese restaurant in Cambridge is now serving Shabu-shabu so perhaps it will get popular here too. Oishii!

After dinner I had a bubble tea in this cute crepe cafe which was tacked on to the side of a huge arcade.

Perfect Tokyo Sunday!

Tokyo July 2011 Day 11: Koenji Matsuri

Day 11 in Tokyo, Saturday 23rd July. We spent the day looking around Koenji’s second hand and vintage shops. I picked up some vintage fabric and Kokeshi dolls. ^_^

BAD-NICE Rockabilly Hair Dressers

I love this drink (not just because it matches my shoes)!

Aleister’s friend Max works at a primary school in Koenji and he invited us to his school’s summer Matsuri. The Matsuri is a festival based around the shrine at the school. There were stalls selling food & souvenirs, games, dancing and a procession.

Both adults and children were wearing traditional summer yukata.

Oishii ‘Banana Choco’!

Goldfish scooping is a traditional game at Japanese summer festivals. You catch as many fish as you can with a paper scoop, until the scoop breaks. I saw lots of happy children taking home a bag with a goldfish in!

Delicious spiral potato! Deep fried and covered in BBQ seasoning.

We followed a procession through the street. Local men were carrying a Mikoshi – a portable Shinto Shrine.

Cute kids at their school shrine

Playing on the stage

The local women did a traditional Matsuri dance

Having a beer with Anpanman!

Max is so great with the kids. ^_^

This was one of my favourite days that we spent in Tokyo. The kids were all so sweet! It was a fun experience which we wouldn’t have found in a guidebook.

We finished off the night with a few jars of Nihonshu in Koenji.

Good times! There are a few extra photos in my Flickr album. ^_^

Tokyo July 2011 Day 10: Asakusa & The Imperial Palace

Day 10 in Tokyo, Friday 22nd July. We went to Asakusa, the centre of Tokyo’s shitamachi (old town), where an atmosphere of old Japan survives. There are many temples and shrines in Asakusa.

We visited Sensō-ji, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. During World War II, the temple was bombed and for the most part destroyed. It was rebuilt later and is a symbol of rebirth and peace to the Japanese people.

The “Thunder Gate”. This massive red & black paper lantern is meant to suggest thunderclouds and lightning.

Worlds largest Izakaya lantern? ^_~

There are many statues and shrines in the temple grounds.

Wooden prayer tablets (Ema)

Giant sandal!

Asakusa was also historically an entertainment district. This statue is of a Kabuki actor.

Clean up your dog’s poop?

Pom Poko

There are some lovely traditional shops in Asakusa selling things like handmade crafts and vintage Kimonos. Wish I’d bought one of these cute pin cushions.

After walking around Asakusa, we headed to Chiyoda to the Tokyo Imperial Palace. In this area the contrast between old & new buildings was quite stark.

Double-bridge Nijūbashi leading to the palace’s main gate over the moats.

Tokyo is often defined by extreme contrast of old and new. After a day of exploring classic Tokyo, we spent the evening enjoying modern Tokyo. Some local Tokyo friends took us to ‘All-you-can-drink’ karaoke in Nakano. It was a fun night out, we got our own booth with a karaoke machine and a phone to order drinks with! Things I learned about karaoke: Punk songs are great to sing as they are short & you can shout along! NOFX ‘Murder the Government’ and Rancid ‘Time Bomb’ were awesome! But I also learned that no matter how much you like Glee, you really have to be able to sing to bust out ‘Don’t stop believin’. *cringe*

After karaoke we went Para Para clubbing in Shinjuku. Really awesome night from what I can remember! Cheers to Aleister, Maya and Max for a great night out!

We finished off the night by sampling Honey Toast. Honey Toast is basically a loaf of white bread transformed in to a delicious cakey desert. Half a loaf of white bread is toasted on top,  drowned in honey, syrup and butter, then topped with ice cream, fruit & nuts. Ours was strawberry flavour! It’s a pretty strange concept but it was tasty and it also pretty much prevented me from having a hangover the following day, even after all you can drink karaoke. Sugoi!

Tokyo July 2011 Day 9: Retro Gaming in Akihabara

Day 9 in Tokyo, Thursday 21st July. We headed to Akihabara (Electric Town) to check out the arcades and retro game shops.

Sega Arcade

Jutt ‘avin a fag in the Taito arcade

I played some Tekken 6 online and kicked some random persons ass. It’s the only computer game I am any good at!!

Thanks to a recommendation from Laura we headed to Super Potato! (All those hours spent listening to Jpod101 Survival Skills paid off when I was able to ask the smallest cutest maid in Akihabara the way to Super Potato and understand her directions)! Super Potato is a retro game shop with 3 floors of vintage games and arcades!

Nintendo Cartridge throne

An actual Mario Kart

Playing a spot of Mario

Akihabara is full of cosplay shops and toy shops too. ^_^ I hope to go back one day and see more of it!

Like many of our days out in Tokyo, Day 9 was followed by a night out in Koenji. We enjoyed a 100 yen nama biiru with Aleister. We misunderstood this sign and thought all the beer was 100 yen… but no, only the first one was!

This was gooood. ^_^

Tokyo July 2011 Day 7: Nakano Broadway

Day 7 in Tokyo, Tuesday 19th July. This was the only day of our trip that it poured with rain. What better to do on a rainy day than wander around Nakano Broadway shopping centre?

Peace crane display at Nakano Broadway.

The Nakano Broadway Website says:

Whatever your hobbies, Nakano Broadway will not disappoint. You’ll find a specialized store for animations, comics, figures, costumes for anime characters, a vintage clock shop, a clothing store with military look clothes, a used record shop, a shop with old movie posters and much more. Shops selling huge ice creams and fortune tellers welcome couples on dates. Anyway, Nakano Broadway will offer you the chance to experience all kinds of Japanese hobby culture. You could easily spend all day exploring the fascinating shops. You will surely find something distinctly Japanese, and deepen your understanding of Japanese hobby culture on each visit.

It’s true, Nakano Broadway is total Otaku heaven. Some of my favourite shops were the antique toy shop where Jutt and I were *extremely* tempted to blow all our holiday savings on one toy robot (we didn’t), and a cosplay shop full of cute dresses run by a girl who had a sewing machine set up in the shop and was making the costumes right there. We both got to geek out – Jutt bought vintage computer games and rubik’s cubes and I looked at the numerous incredible doll shops!

Most of the shops don’t allow photography but I took this snap before I realised that. There are some really amazing vintage doll shops. Just imagine being able to buy a Kenner Blythe or an Emerald Witch off the shelf, none of that nerve racking bidding on eBay!

I looked around the whole of Nakano Broadway at all the amazing dolls, toys and antiques… and the one thing I bought was this tiny vintage clown doll. So kawaii! ♥

Tokyo July 2011 Day 6: Tokyo Birthday Part 2! Alice in Wonderland Restaurant, Ginza

Day 6 in Tokyo, Monday 18th July. My 29th Birthday! As a special birthday treat we went for dinner at the Fantasy Dining Alice in Wonderland Restaurant in Ginza.

This magical restaurant is hidden away on the 5th floor of a skyscraper and it was quite a challenge to find! As you step out of the lift you arrive in Wonderland. In a tiny waiting room surrounded by velvet curtains we were greeted by a beautiful woman dressed as the Mad Hatter who showed us through corridors lined with pages of Lewis Carol’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (complete with illustrations) to our table in a Mad Hatter themed booth with a wonderful lampshade made from hats!

The menu arrived in the form of a cube, which opened up to reveal a miniature scene with a ticking clock and playing cards. ^_^

When we rang this tiny gold bell on the table, a waitress dressed as Alice arrived to take our order.

The drinks menu!

‘Eat Me’ bread rolls and heart-shaped butter ♡

Card suits chopsticks

Alice coaster

Cocktails with fresh fruit, decorated with flowers (a snap dragon & a red rose!)

We ordered a set meal with several courses, starting with the White Rabbit salad.

Chilled soup

Playing Card Pizza

The giant lamp, teacup and playing cards make you feel as though you are miniature!

Queen of Hearts Pasta

The teacup is particularly awesome!

Cheshire Cat chicken & broccoli

To my surprise, the adorable Alice waitress appeared with a birthday cake for me! They gave me an Alice band to wear, and presented Justin with a top hat, and they said something in Japanese which I think meant ‘now you become Alice’. They sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me! It was really wonderful, I was so touched! ♡ ♡

Thank you so much to my brother Aleister who arranged the birthday surprise and ordered this Cheshire Cat birthday cake for me over the phone in Japanese! Very impressive communication skills (even if they did add an extra letter to my name ^_~)! I was overwhelmed! ♡

Our cute lolita Alice waitress ♡

The final course of our set meal, Mad Hatter deserts!

It was funny, after my birthday cake arrived, the waitresses went around almost every group in the restaurant singing happy birthday to someone at each table! It’s obviously a popular birthday venue, but it’s also quite nice to be celebrating alongside lots of people all born on the same day. ^_^

Hats lampshade in our booth

Pom pom lampshade in the neighbouring booth

Playing card booth

There were numerous hidden party rooms of different sizes, I would love to have a good look around the whole place, it’s really amazing. This months KERA magazine features a lolita fashion spread shot in the restaurant.

I had a really wonderful birthday in Tokyo! As we left the restaurant the Mad Hatter gave us a low bow. It was a truly magical and memorable experience, I totally recommend it to fans of Alice. ♡