Monday, July 11, 2011

Tokyo ni ikimashita Part 2

Tokyo Trip Day 2!

Bus stop outside of the New Sanno

Day 2 in Tokyo, Do-yobi (Saturday) I had the honor of hanging out with my friend, Mari Townes and her
dear, sweet mother. I, however, had to get to them 1st. I was meeting them at 11 am, okay, I get up at like 7, not a problem. I was to meet them at Shinagawa, hey, I've been there before, I can get there again right? Well sort of. I go 1st thing in the morning and used the front desk travel services to ask how should, could, one get to Shinagawa Eki? (Eki=Station) Well there are a few ways, 1st off taxi, which she didn't suggest, this is how I got from Shinagawa to the New Sanno when I touched down in Tokyo. 2nd, you could always walk up to Hiroo eki, and travel by subway and train, easy enough if you are not me. Lastly, the way they lady that helped me suggested was by basu aka bus. It cost 200 yen AND gets you right to Shinagawa eki. Well that is easy enough and cheap, so it was a no brainer. She let me know that it takes roughly 20 minutes to get there and she let me know to take bus 97 right outside the hotel. Sounds like I got all the info I needed and I did, but my brain doesn't process easy like everyone else's brain does. I must do everything the HARDEST way possible. I decided, since the bus arrives every 20 minutes, I'd have more than enough time to wait at 10 am for the bus, I would be way early. Well come to find out the bus didn't get there until 10:20 am. Still not a problem, I will still get there on time. My bus arrives, I get on, and about 7-10 minutes in to the ride, I read the screen wrong and I get off of the bus way too early. Now I am waiting for the bus again, paying the fare, again, and I am late to meet my friend and her mom that so graciously allowed me to tag along with them, knowing full and well they'd have to baby sit a slightly clueless American. I am texting Mari this whole time, giving her play by play and she is trying to help me, but I finally get on my bus, go the right direction, and thought of another way to help myself, when in doubt, follow the other person that is not Japanese. I did see the sign just fine however and got off at the right stop and sure enough that is where the other non Japanese person was going. I was told by Mari, STAY PUT, we will come get you. So, I did what I was told, I learned a long time ago when someone is helping you, sometimes you need to shut up and take orders. Though after a couple of minutes when they couldn't find me, I walked to the top of the stairs to use the elevated crosswalk and luckily, because of my height, I was found. NOW, I was off on the good part of my journey, with my friend, and I didn't have to think anymore, just follow, I liked, no, LOVED, that part.  I was so nervous on using my Japanese when you are introduced to someone that I totally didn't even hear Mari's mom's name!  I was saying "Hajimemashita. Talya Desu. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu", at the same time she was!  We were now off to Asakusa and Harajuku.

Mari and her mom showing me the way.

Mari's mom was too kind to me, I wish there was a way I could pay her back, she completely took care of me as if I was family, I am thinking that this is what it means to be a guest sometimes and goodness knows if Mari and her mom ever came to visit me, I'd do the same for them. Both are great women. Mari and I were catching up and her mom would give us tid bits of history as we were off the Asakusa, which you get to by exiting at the Shimbashi eki, well at least we did.

There was a steam engine out where you could see it. I was amazed that the Japanese used the same trains we once did to travel across our country, but then again, why would I be? Japan, in it's own right, is huge. The bullet train from Tokyo still takes you 3 hours if you are traveling to Osaka, I'm not even going to think how long that would take by car, regardless, in Asakusa I was taken to a very famous shine. My pictures show it's glory and how big it was. Though I forgot to ask whether the shrine was an actually Shinto shrine or a Buddhist temple. (There is a difference, Shinto religion, from Japan, is the worship of multiple spirits, animal spirits as well where as Buddhism, is not.) I took pictures as we made our way to the shrine and all down the road there were shops, food, snacks, knick knacks or various sorts, even wigs, and yukata. We went up and received our blessings after a wonderful tempura lunch. I was in awe of the fact that people from all kinds of countries were there in Japan, but then again Asakusa is very famous.

The actual shrine in Asakusa
From the street you can see the up and coming Sky Tree. The Sky Tree will be opened for tourist to come and go up and see Tokyo, just like Tokyo Tower, but the Sky Tree, once opened will be taller. Though this should give T.T. a complex, I am sure people will still flock to it enough that both buildings will not be lonely.

The Sky Tree (Not yet opened)
As we head off back to the station for Harajuku, I am realizing that as far as square miles, Tokyo doesn't seem that big, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in population, making it hard, very hard to get around by car, and making the subway and train systems ideal. I notice people taking naps on the subway, and I wish I could do the same, but I was way to excited to sleep as we were now going to the famous Harajuku.

Hello, Harajuku

Harajuku, some have asked, and I am more that okay with this question, did you see the Harajuku girls?
Well, yes I did, but not many. In Japan, the day off is Sunday, so when I went, I saw a handful, maybe
5, 7 at the most. I was surprised that Harajuku wasn't all that big, or at least the shopping part. The streets were packed with people, I got very close and brushed up and bumped more people than I can
count. This doesn't bother me however, because when you don't have hardly any room to even breath, you
better know, you are gonna get close to strangers, my tip, just hold on to your purse. Back to the Harajuku girls, and boys. What I didn't know, and luckily didn't even try, is that you are not suppose to take pictures of them. Yeah, go figure, the reasoning, they'd rather hold out for the magazines that patrol Harajuku and want to snap pictures of the Lolita styled boys and girls( I mainly saw the sweet Lolita dressed girls, but there were a couple others that were dressed on the Punk Lolita side. (It is goth, get it right) Knowing the rule about the pictures, told to me by Mari, I didn't attempt to catch a shot because I respect the places that I go, I am the guest and should act like such. I was shocked by the amount of Africans in Harajuku, my main question was, how do I get to live in Japan, others make it seems so easy, but I am sure it is far from easy to get in and stay in the country. They weren't the only culture though, Indians were there as well. I was amazed, thought it was pretty neat actually. America is not on everyone's top spot of places to go to live. Harajuku had stores like H&M and Forever 21, so I stopped for some shopping, once we were down it was back to the station to head back home, well to the
hotel for me. I followed Mari and her mom back until they got off the train, we said our good byes and I made it back to my hotel just fine once I realized where it was that I was going. Which turned out to be very easy once I got the hang of it. Get to Ebisu, once at Ebisu, you head down to Hiroo, which is one stop and then I walk back to my hotel. I ate dinner, had a nice miso salmon, and I crashed. Lovely time but hard work, and I had to get plenty of rest, because Sunday was Mt. Fuji.

Good bye, Harajuku

Sayonara from the Scott!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tokyo part 1!

Tokyo ni ikimashita Part 1

Ahhh, I am back from Tokyo. Part of me is glad because Tokyo was a lot of work for me, though I had an
outstanding time, I can get back to cuddling with Hercules. He is rather happy I am back and being very
demanding of my attention. Now, it is also time to go back to school, awww. I decided to break my trip
up in to 3 parts, for the 3 full days I spent there. I will be sharing photos that I will not be posting
on facebook right away so make sure to check them out, though they are just alternative shots of the
same places ha ha.

Touchdown in Tokyo.

I arrived in Tokyo around 7:30 at the Haneda airport. Haneda is more for local travel though international flights stop through. From Haneda it was on me to head down past baggage and hop on the train. Since the taxi is around 7500 yen ($90) I opted for the train system. I wrote down long before I left that I needed to go to Shinagawa and from Shinagawa, I would take a taxi to my hotel. Of course I had no clue how much I needed to pay so I went to the information booth and took care of my fare this way. (I soon found out that when in doubt, INFORMATION BOOTH!) The ticket buying system has an English option, but without knowing where my destination was on the map, I had no clue how much to actually pay. (Though this is also not a problem if you don't pay enough, as I found out, they won't let you out if you don't pay enough.) Easy enough, now to hop on the train. I had no clue which train to take, 1 or 2, I believe either would have taken me where I needed to go but in my mind, it is now freak out time. Train 1 or train 2, well train 1 was the only one there and so I got on 1. Well, shortly after, because I am an over thinker and because a stranger kept bumping against me in a disturbing manner, I got off the train. I then realized there was no need for this and had to wait for the next train to come. Luckily, I wasn't waiting long and by looking on the local map I saw I was indeed on the right train. I made it to Shinagawa, out of the station and quickly realized unless you are actually IN the taxi line, the taxi will not pick you up. I made it to my hotel, the New Sanno, without too much trouble and felt VERY accomplished, very. I am a very smart traveler, but with a whole lot of "I'm a spaz" that traveler in me gets lost in translation.

The New Sanno is beautiful. If you are military, you must stay there. The services they offer are
worth the money, I paid $56 a night!! They make up for it though, if you eat there, you soon find out
why everything else is so cheap! (I found out my last night there, they have a food map of places to
eat at the hotel front desk.) The hotel is clean, the staff is friendly and fluent in English as well as other languages. They have service desks open during the day to help you find your way around Tokyo and I employed them every day. They really have everything you need at the New Sanno and again the service and the room made me feel like I was staying in a 5 star hotel. In my mind, it beats the Hilton hands down, though I have only stayed in Hiltons state side, not in Japan. I am sure anything accomendations in Japan trump much state side. Regardless, I truly felt the New Sanno was my home away from home. I quickly settled in, for tomorrow, I was going to the Ghibli Museum.

I was 1st introduced to Princess Mononoke and Grave of the Fireflies in high school by my then good friend, Heather Grice. This was the 1st time I was introduced to Studio Ghibli, and had no clue. I had been in love with Anime since middle school but these 2 movies were not at all my cup of tea. One was just weird and the other extremely depressing. A few years later, I saw a movie that would capture me in a way no anime had ever before, the movie was, Spirited Away. After that, if I saw that a movie was made by Studio Ghibli, I'd give it a watch, Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl's Moving Castle, and I even gave Princess Mononoke another watch. I found that more often than not, I LOVED Miyazaki-San's work. I now collect his movies and I always new that if I ever had a chance to visit Tokyo, I would visit his musuem, the Ghibli Museum. So I did.

This place had me truly smiling from ear to ear, I felt like a kid, or rather, the adult that can still get lost in a world created just for that purpose, to get lost, to see someone's imagination spark your's. My photos are limited and makes the Ghibli Museum even that much more special, because you are not allowed to take photos of inside the museum, so I keep the images I saw that day close to my heart and mind. I saw people from many places there, Europe, North America, Asia (duh) and the sights were amazing. There is even a mini theatre to see shorts created for the Ghibli Museum by Studio Ghibli. The movie playing that day was a short about a little boy who went to play after a good rain, while playing he finds a cane and goes to pick it up, but a little bunny boy had the same idea. After failing to find a clear winner in a couple feets of boy strength, the boys deside to go see the bunny boy's grandmother and find out it is in fact, her cane and the boys are rewarded with hugs for finding it. Each ticket to the musuem (That much be purchased at Lawson, if you are in Japan) gets you a little slide from one of Hayao Miyazaki's film. I received one from the movie Princess Mononoke. I left at 9:30 am just to make sure I got there for my 2:00 pm entrance time. Good thing too, because I arrived at 12:00 pm, and of course, there was a "Misadventure of Talya Hood-Scott", I arrived ALL that way, from the New Sanno to Mitaka, a good hour and a half away and saw I left my ticket to the museum at the hotel. Of course I freaked, but after talking and waiting and with the help of an awesome staff (aka my knight in blue armor)
 I was able to get in the museum. Luckily, I know what my name looks like in kanji as well as knowing my 11 digit Japanese telephone number. The musuem was packed and shopping for things to bring home was almost too much to handle. I did score a very special music "box" if you will. Modeled after the character, Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, he is a magical, dashing cat figurine that comes to life in, "The Cat Returns". Played by Cary Elwes in the American movies staring the Baron, (Also in "Whisper of the Heart.), the Baron is one of my favorite characters, so I had to have this special item, no matter what. Another highlight of my trip to the museum was being able to sit in THE cat bus. If you ever have seen "My Neighbor Totoro" you don't even need to ask. For those who don't know, the cat bus is the magical transportation called upon by Totoro to take Satsuki to find her lost sister, Mei. The cat bus was
amazing, with scenes from the movie outside his "windows". He was soft and inviting, exactly what I would imagine him to be if he were in fact real.
       I didn't bother eating there, I just waited to get back to the hotel. I did have a snack, Japanese pear ice cream, more like sorbet. While I waited for my time to enter, after all I did get there 2 hours early, I walked around the park the Ghibli Museum is nestled in, got ate up my some hungry mosquitos, and had a friendly, or angry Japanese man come talk to me. He spoke only Japanese and asked if I was American. I understood this much only, after telling him "Hai, so desu" (Yes, that's right), he then asked me where in America, I only understood the "Doko" and "Amerika". I told him "Tennessee" and he seemed to understand this and either wished me well or told me to a kite...I'd like to think he wished me well as he biked off on to the trails. I ate a rice ball at Lawson, was called "kawaii" by some chreepy old man, and I attempted to buy another ticket, but they were sold out, and it turns out, there was no need anyways, as they found my reserved spot. I did not walk to the museum from the Mitaka station, as I figured I would get lost, so I bought a special ticket for the Ghibli Museum bus.

 My trip was over after I saw EVERYTHING in the museum and I decided to head back around 4:30 pm.
Believe by the time I got back to the hotel at about 6:30, I was so tired.

I was told by another American in my class that the Japanese will help you, they love to help foreign
people, and I found this to be slightly true. My classmate made it seem that they would be very curious
about me, talking to me, but only 3 people spoke to me, that I didn't know, the whole time I was there,
and it was only the one day I was completely by myself. I am okay with this, though I did stick out as
I was rather tall, I didn't want to attract too much attention, as they teach us not to in the military.
I did receive glances, but of course, I was looking too, and I felt very safe. My 1st thought was that
Tokyo was cleaner than Okinawa, though Tokyo had some smells that I was none too pleased with and I learned very quickly Okinawa is nothing like the mainland when it comes to being Japan, but of course, Okinawa is not Japan, only by law, so I can understand the differences. I would totally go back to Tokyo by myself, though like any big city, there are dangers too.

Next up, my day at Asakusa with my good friend Mari and her mother, but for now, Sayonara from the Scott!

A side story about the Baron in his first movie, "Whisper of the Heart": A grandfather onces traveled
to Germany to attend college and there met a beautiful woman and they fell in love. One day while
shopping, the couple stopped at a cafe where the Baron and the Baroness had caught their eyes. The 2 cat figurine's eyes were made out of stunning jewels that glittered in the light. The, at the time, young grandfather, decided to purchase the Baron one day, but the cafe owner could not sell the Baron. You see, the Baroness was in another shop receiving repairs and the cafe owner would never split them up, they were only to be sold as a pair. The beautiful woman, Louise, told her Japanese boyfriend, who was to leave Germany very soon, that she would buy the Baroness once she returned and keep her until he returned to Germany to be with her once again and both her love and the shop keeper were fine with this option. The grandfather promised, that once he returned, they would be togehter. After the man left with the Baron, and made it back to Japan, war soon broke out, he made good on his promise and returned to Germany years later, after the war, but the cafe was gone, and Louise was no where to be found.