Asakusa

Chochin (giant lantern) everywhere...

Asakusa is an area in Tokyo famous for Senso-ji, a huge temple in the middle of metropolitan district. I went to Asakusa with N-san on the second week after I arrived. The memory was quite distant I don’t remember all the details of what I did…. But let the photos do the talk.

Saw the sky tree from outside the train station... it doesn't open to public until May this year... and I heard people have to reserve tickets from now.

This entrance leads to a dori to the temple

The Nakamise-Dori.. with traditional shops on both sides of the street

People buying sweets as souvenirs..

I bought some Ningyoyaki(人形焼). Eating that while drinking warm Ama-sake(お甘酒). Perfect for the cool weather.

Getting closer to the temple... it was a short 5mins walk (if you don't stop by the shops)

Grrrr.. many tourists and locals...

A second building..

Kamiraimon: Symbol of Senso ji. And we had to walk through this gate to reach the main building

A kid sniffing the smoke. They say it makes you smarter... I guess its partially true: After sniffing, you'll learn smarter to not do it again next time 😉

Line up to pray

People praying after throwing coins into this well? I threw in some pennies...

Last glimpse of the temple before heading out.

We took a stroll around the older part of town.

A lil kid begging his mommy for some more Ningyoyaki

A Monchichi store!! Weird, but I find Monchichi kinda cute now.

Grill sweet yam. I tried a sample... too sweet to my liking.

A tank full of eel like fishes... Signature ingredient of this restaurant.

Heh, cute. but the picked radish is expensive.

I love Tai-yaki... But I'd prefer green-tea flavor.

We walked pass a Monjayaki (もんじゃ焼き) store... but it was too early for dinner. So we went for dessert instead.

A popular place I found on my tour guide, selling traditional desserts.

Here's what I ordered... 700 yen. Expensive for a simple dessert like this...

Before heading back to Yokosuka, we also walked the Shin-Nakamise Dori.. I gotta say though, this area is full of shops that target elderly people. Definitely not a fashionable place.

Sky tree! and the Asahi Beer Headquarters! (I can't relate that golden status with beer, really)

Honestly, Asakusa is not my cup of tea. Don’t get me wrong, temples and shrines are interesting. But I personally would prefer somewhere more tranquil, somewhere I could relax my mind and quietly walk around. Asakusa, like any other parts of Tokyo is simply too crowded. I will come again though, not for Senso-ji.. but for a walk to the Sky tree!

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Now down to one week until my Kyoto trip… And I just checked the Sakura Report… The cherry blossoms in Kyoto still hasn’t bloomed yet! I would be so disappointed if I don’t get to see much Sakura there.

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US Navy Open House

I've never seen Yokosuka THIS lively before...

There were thousands of people lining up to get into the US Navy Base the past Sunday. Yup, the Navy guys open the base for the public twice a year. It was supposed to be a Hanami event (Sakura viewing) too, but the weather in Yokosuka has been to cold for any flowers to bloom.

On my way to Mikasa Park, cloudy weather in the afternoon.

I got up late that day – 12pm.. all because I didn’t sleep till 7am. Anyway, I got out my door before 1pm and began my 10 minutes walk to the Mikasa Park, where the Navy Base was situated.

After 8 mins walk from my dorm, I was shocked to see people lining up just to WALK toward the entrance of the Mikasa Park.

Oh my, I had never seen such a long line up in my life… it’s several blocks away from the park and people were in a single file to enter the park. I had an urge to turn back and go home, or head to Yokohama for a shopping spree or something. “But the Navy opens up twice a year, it means if I miss this, I won’t see it again…” I decided to go in, check it out and leave if it’s no fun.

Been lining up after this small family.. look at how cute his little bag was... BTW, this was only the entrance of the park, the Navy base was 5 mins walk away (with no line up).

The Mikasa battleship (it's now a museum, with 500 yen entrance fee).

The Mikasa Battleship was the first thing I saw after entering the Park… and I was stupid enough to pay 500 yen to go inside, on the (probably) busiest day of the year. Partly because I thought it belonged to the US Navy……… which obviously made no sense now (looking back)… it had a fricken’ Japan flag on it!

The sky began to clear up... on the deck of Mikasa battleship.

When I first got into the park, there weren't a huge line up..

But once I got onto the battleship museum.... swarms of people formed.... At the time I still didn't know what the line was for though.

I later realized it's for going into the Base!!!

However, I still took my time inside the museum, as I paid 500 yen for it. I watched a movie there, about the war with Russia… The Japanese commander of the Mikasa Battleship was a lucky dude, surviving so many battles and lived until the age of 86.

The view from inside the base....

I joined the massive lineup soon after… and got into the base after 3o mins. The reason why it took so long was because every person’s personal belongings were checked before entering.

A tent for selling food, such as jumbo dogs, turkey legs, etc.

However, successfully entering the base didn’t make things any better. Because lineups were still everywhere! For food, for washroom…I hadn’t eaten since waking up, and was hungry. But I decided to wait a little bit longer, hoping the lines would become shorter eventually.

Jumbo hot dogs!

Gigantic turkey legs!! I was drooling.

Kids and their parents lining up to some sort of "build-a-bear" workshop.

People lining up to pee, or taking a dump after enjoying some American food.

The base was like a mini American town, with residences, high school, McDonald’s, Food Court, Fire Department, Bowling Place, Theatre…

Some friendly soldiers chatting up a kid. Many areas were blocked.It was more like a carnival than an Open House.. I initially thought there would be some sort of tour on Navy ships.

Another long line up in front of MacDonald's... So sad. And the bare branches of the Sakura trees made me even sadder.

Cute lil girl pretending to take a shot of her father, who was shooting a photo of her.

Navy officers in uniform became major photogenic attractions..

As well as this poor dog, having to play catch for so many times..

The public enjoying bowling at the Base.

Another attraction: American foodcourt... populated with familiar names like Subway, A&W, Manchu Wok, Cinnabon, etc. Again, no chance to fill my empty stomach due to ridiculous lineups.

A highschool!

Movie theatre. People, again, were lining up to watch a movie or two.

A girl wanted to hug this friendly cow mascot, and her dad dragged her away.

Male Choir with mostly seniors. They sang really well, and I sat there for 20 mins to enjoy their performance... Because I was tired and there's nothing better to do.

Yet another lineup to buy American *expensive* junk food.

I later bought something (non-food) and was surprised the changes were in US dollar.

Um.. the Navy guys showcasing their firetruck?

Gee, almost thought its another line up... just officers standing there to block off a road.

Since I had nothing better to do.. and I saw many people carrying boxes of large pizzas… My craving for food (pizza specifically) finally became stronger than my fear for line ups.

A cute girl and her older sis. Their mom was in front of me, lining up for pizzas.

Wrestling.. not really, her good sister was struggling to put on the jacket for her.

After 40 mins of lining up, it was close to 4:15pm. And suddenly the pizza lady came and told us they were sold out! $#!$ WTF, should’ve notified us sooner.. that way I would’ve lined up for a jumbo dog instead. But of course, it’s Japan, so nobody complained…

Looking at the Navy shipped parked afar, I regretted coming here.. should've gone to Yokohama to have All you can eat Pizza instead of wasting my time lining up for nothing.

One door closes, another opens. Just when I felt hopeless, pissed, angry, hungry... I saw Japanese food stalls right outside the Mikasa Park!! To be honest, I prefer these than pizza/hot dogs!!

I ordered Chicken Skin Gyoza (stuffed dumping wrapped with chicken skin). It's super greasy and fattening, but who cares?

Time for some Hiroshima Yaki...

Basically, pan fried ramen in yaki sauce with corn, lettuce, bacon and egg.

A pair of lovebirds feeding Hiroshima Yaki into each other's mouth lol

The Base was pretty bland, it’s just like any other small American town… except you could see officers in uniforms. But the Japanese people were indeed very intrigued by the place, the food… pretty much everything there.

Drinking Party & Kyoto weekend trip itinerary

Coke-san making his "speech". His gift from us was Sakura tea with a pair of cups. He can't drink alcohol (a rare case), so tea it is!

Our team had another Friday drinking party last night. The occasion was two members will be “retiring” from the company end of the month to become professors in universities, as well as to celebrate Coke-san’s recent marriage to his girlfriend (dating since junior high, way more than 10 years haha)! The party was attended by most of our members (around 20 people), my supervisor didn’t show up because he had to hurry home and take care of his pregnant wife (expected date in a few weeks!) 😀

The Sake at the top was sooo good, the aroma was almost fruity. At the bottom was the small bowl of ramen...

The more drinking parties that I go to, I find that there are usually 6-7 dishes shared amongst each table. The dishes are all small portioned… perhaps people need to save space for alcohol? I didn’t take picture of our food, but we had: Shabu Shabu, Plain tofu (yes, plain with a pinch of salt, but it was really good… As someone commented, “Oiishi, it got such a rich taste of… tofu” lol), Sashimi (I don’t think I’d ever know what fishes I’m eating) , salmon salad, ramen, and chicken karaage. Obviously, for a person who needs to consume 14 plates of Kaiten sushi…. It was not at all for me. So after I went home, I wiped out all Natto in the fridge 🙂 .

Actually, I prefer all you can eat over all you can drink…

Besides the small amt of beer and sake I had in the beginning... The rest of the night, I sampled all Plum/fruit wine on the drinking menu! This is the grapefruit wine... Yike!

This is not tea.... but Sake with a piece of Fugu fish in it. The taste was fishy... and it costs 600Yen!! I'd be more interesting in having Fugu fish sashimi than to drink this.

AB-san received a gift (digital photo frame) from us after his speech. He sits right behind me, can't believe he'd be gone after next week. He'll be teaching in Hiroshima... a beautiful city.

During dinner, Mayor-san talked about his 3-day trip to Hong Kong… I asked him if he went to DisneyLand or the Peak… He said no. Then I asked him where he went. He said “I went to buy iPhone, iPad. And I also went to see Jackie Chan’s house (outside, of course)!” *drop dead*

After dinner, of course there’s a second round as usual. Being a good (and poor) kid, I went home to sleep.

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For my weekend Kyoto Hanami trip on April 7-8th… I have planned to visit the following places… will put more details once I have checked out maps and finalize the route.

Red= Must see 

*  = top 100 Hanami sites

# = World Heritage Site

Day 1: 

Eastern Kyoto-

Toji (#)

清水寺 Kiyomizu Dera ( #)

高台寺 Kodaiji ()

浄土宗 総本山 知恩院 Chion ()

平安神宮 神苑 Heian Shrine ()- features colorful pink blossoms

哲学の道 / Ginkaku ji (#)

Central Kyoto:

二条城 夜桜 (#) : Need to enter during daytime

醍醐寺 Daigo Ji(* #) Southern Kyoto

The famous cherry tree in Maruyama Park is often the center of attention in the evenings when it is lit up. Vendors line the pathway leading up to it, creating a festive atmosphere. Kiyomizu-dera and Kodai-ji have extended hours during the first few days of this season offering visitors the opportunity to view them at night, lit up against the blossoms. Blossoms can also be seen along the Kamogawa River. The entire area literally blossoms in the spring!

Day 2:

Western Kyoto-

天龍寺(#)

Arashiyama(*)- Light up and food stalls at night

Arashiyama Info

Unagi Don@ ArashiYama

Train to ArashiYama

Northern Kyoto-

龍安寺Ryoanji (#)

御室@仁和寺 Ninnaji(* #)

Kinkaku ji (#)

三十三間堂

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Transit-

“The Kyoto Sightseeing Card can be purchased as a one-day (¥ 1200/Children:¥ 600) or two-day pass (¥ 2000/¥ 1000). It can be used for unlimited travel on the subway and city buses as well as a part of the Kyoto bus route. The two-day pass has to be used on two consecutive days.”

Food-

Matcha… tofu, Fugu sashimi, etc.

Yummy Food

Kaiseki

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This year’s winter has lasted longer than usual… so I’m praying the cherry blossoms would bloom in time of my visit. Because normally early April is the prime time for viewing Sakura…

The purpose of the trip is to enjoy cherry blossoms in the historical Kyoto, so I want to spend quality time at each site, rather than taking a photograph and leave. Looking at the jam packed wishlist, I’m sure I won’t be able to cover all the places listed above, but it’s alright… I plan to visit again soon in a longer holiday (hopefully I’ll get to visit nearby cities such as Nara, Osaka…)

Solo in Tokyo Part 1: Meguro

Finally the sun showed up during the weekend!

I have just gotten back from Roppongi… My legs are sore from all the walking I’ve done over the weekend… should’ve worn shoes that are more comfy. But I LOVE Roppongi, I wish I could walk further to see more.. but I guess I’ll pay another visit soon! I realize I haven’t blogged about my weekend trips much… I almost forgot what I did in Asakusa/HakkeiJima… so while it’s still fresh on my mind, I’ll first write about what I did yesterday 😀

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Feb 4/5th : Weekend in Yokohama

Outside Yokohama Station

A late post about my first weekend in Japan (Feb 4th and 5th), and I went to Yokohama (横浜), the “second largest city in Japan by population” according to Wikipedia. It’s the only city I frequently go to now since it’s close to Yokosuka (40mins) and I have my Jap lessons there.

I love diagonal crosswalks...

On the Saturday, it was just me exploring the city. I mostly just hanged around the station area, which had enough shops and restaurants to keep me busy.

Not too crowded... a nice thing compared to Tokyo

The area really has nothing to sightsee, but is ideal for shopping! There’s a huge department store (Takashimaya 高島屋) and several shopping malls right next to the station. My favorites are Lumine and Vivre, I bought quite a bit of stuff from those malls. There’s also a SOGO outside the West exit, but I was too exhausted to walk there after buying so many things.

I had Takoyaki for lunch (600yen /8pcs)...

Had to stand beside the store to eat... since it's not polite to eat when walking on the street.

First went to BICS Camera to buy earphones... and saw the Fujifilm X100 on display (finally)! There was no stock in Vancouver, unless putting an order. I played around with it a bit... I still like my Nex more, the controls are less complicated. What the X100 appeals to me is its cool factor anyway.

Next up- Tokyu Hands... This store has EVERYTHING a person needs. It's sort of a department store (8 floors) but sells anything from weird toys, food to appliances.

Climbing up the staircases was torturing.

I wanted to buy the bacon wallet, but I already have a watermelon coin pouch and a cheeseburger wallet.... and I gave up the thought.

Some Takoyaki golf balls, which my dad would love.

Taiyaki !!! It'd be so cute on little kids.

Yen origami paper, napkin... I realize only things related to food and money can capture my interests

A Ramen place on the travel guide book... and I had dinner there.

This is what I ate... Dip the noodles into the soup- but, the soup was barely hot and it was tooooooo salty. A bit disappointed.

Before heading home, I walked into More's Mall, next to the station...

And went inside this place for dessert...

This is what I had.... Green tea with mochi and red bean. OMG, the green tea was SO GOOD. The flavor was so rich. Cost 600 yen, well worth it.

What I bought... May not seem heavy, but carrying those bags almost killed me.

Unwrapping... most were bought from Vivire Mall... most stores were 70% off!!

….

Then the following day, I went to Yokohama again… this time with M-san, my colleague. She and her husband showed me around Yokohama. Since they drove, I could see much more other than shopping malls!! We first had lunch at a Jap restaurant in Queen’s Centre of Minato Mirai (港区未来)- the area in Yokohama where most landmarks are located.

View of Mirato Mirai... Must be soooo beautiful at night.

An amusement park, kinda small though

A building with somewhat futuristic look

Cupnoodle Museum... people can custom make their own cup noodle... but I didn't have a chance to see the exhibitions. I went into the gift shop though.

Red Brick Warehouse 横浜赤レンガ倉庫. I LOVE THIS PLACE!!! Inside was flea market styled, with a modern look. I heard there were some very nice restaurants too!

Was a cloudy day...

People crowding to watch a street performance

Had a whip cream mochi crepe. Why do I always eat mochi-related food? no idea.

Cute Crocs display... why advertise tea in a shoe store though?

A store that sells weird things.

I WANT IT!

I see these everywhere.... seem to be very popular here

Back to the station… an underground mall with shops and restaurants, where I usually eat after Jap lessons.

There are still many places I haven’t been to in Yokohama, such as the largest China Town in Japan… as well as Manyou Spa with many artificial hot springs (has a very nice night view).

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Hmmm… where should I visit tmr?