Japan 2013: Day 11 Roaming Around Tokyo Part 5

DAY 11 (CON’T)

Had no where else to go after dinner …… but while waiting for my food to arrive, whipped out my iPad from my bag and did some study of the metro/train maps.

Personal view of mine – anytime before 10pm is always too early to end off the night especially when you are overseas …… and so realised that from Hamamatsucho, it is just 3 stops from Daimon Station (Toei subway station right beside Hamamatsucho) to Roppongi – which means it is more than possible for me to pop by Tokyo Midtown for its signature Midtown Christmas illumination/light-up. And best of all, the Roppongi (Toei) station is just right outside Tokyo Midtown itself unlike the Metro station which is nearer to Mori Tower side.  Saw it last year and loved it, only slight bummer was lack of pictures as my camera battery died halfway. Why didn’t I think of that earlier, ah ……

And so after dinner, got back to Hamamasutcho and instead of exiting on the South side as I always do, headed towards the North exit instead, crossed the road and viola, Daimon Station is right there. Toei, being a private subway line, meant that the station is many many levels underground (as I keep going down on multiple escalators in order to reach the ticketing floor, and then another 1-2 more escalators to the platform proper) + having fewer traffic/commuters as compared to the more popular Tokyo Metro and JR Lines. Anyway a 170 JPY fare for 3 stops is not that expensive given that it stops right at Tokyo Midtown as compared to Tokyo Metro (which I could have changed at one of the JR lines). And so 15 mins later, around 1020 Hrs, it was back to Tokyo Midtown and the Midtown Christmas Illumination!

Instead of walking from the front of Tokyo Midtown (as I did for my previous visit), this time round, cut through from the building and onto the left side of the buildng where some of the trees behind the building are lighted up.

2014-05-25 22.07.08

There were also some nice light-ups on route to the centrepiece attraction – Starlight Garden. But as I have taken shots of those back in my last trip, skipped photo taking on this and headed straight towards the garden. As I reached, it was just in time for the start of a new show/light-up! (Note: The light-up and the accompanying music repeats in every 5 to 10 min intervals)

Processed with Moldiv

Lights out for the 2nd half of the ‘show’ ……

2014-05-25 22.31.53

Did 1 round the garden. Same display …… but from the other end of the garden. The amazing thing about this display is that it utilises 280,000 LED lights to create that starry blue effect! Definitely one of the best illuminations I have ever seen ……

2014-05-25 22.36.03

And so after a 10 min walk around the Starlight Garden, that’s the end. Satisfied to be able to see this light-up for the 2nd time, despite not really feeling Christmas as yet as it is still November.

P1040295

Went back to the 24 Hour supermarket ‘Precce Premium‘ to get the small bites/snacks and the Japanese jelly that I bought during my last trip …… and had a great response amongst my family members. Then finally, its time to head back to hotel for a much needed rest (and packing) before my flight tommorrow morning!

Ending off my last night in Japan/Tokyo with my favourite hotel room supper – Suntory Premium Malt Beer + Fried Fish (bought earlier at Tokyu’s food hall at Shibuya)!

20140525-235113-85873164.jpg

Advertisements

Japan 2013: Day 10 Fuji Five Lakes + Exploring Shinjuku Part 4

DAY 10 (CON’T)

Thought of getting a coffee + doughnut at the Kripy Kreme outlet at Southern Terrace City but the quene was so long that I dropped the idea instataneously! After finishing with photo taking, decided to get indoors instead to the huge Takashimaya Times Square to do some shopping at Tokyu Hands and pick up some food at the basement food hall as well.

It was around 8.30pm, and being a weekend, 8pm was also the closing time for most major department stores in Japan. So only managed to walk through 1 floor of Tokyu Hands before the doors closed at 8.30pm sharp! Since that was the case, walked back to Shinjuku Station …… and instead of heading to Shibuya as per my original plan, ended up instead on the Chuo line platform. The Chuo Line (Rapid) service will bring me to Tokyo Station in 15 min as it is an express service that only stops at 4 stops!

Main task to do at Tokyo Station – get Tokyo Banana as omiyage for the gang + also to get dinner at Maisen (since Maisen has an outlet at Daimaru Yaesu right beside Tokyo Station). Managed to locate the same Select Market shop that I was at yesterday without too much difficulty (as it is right in the centre section of the station) and promptly got my Tokyo Banana. Had a bit of trouble locating the lift to 12F …… and promptly kept walking round and round Yaesu exit for a good 20 min before deciding its probably wiser to give up searching rather than waste more time searching and end up even hungrier (like what happened the day before at Yokohama/Odaiba).

Shimbashi, being just 2 stops away on the JR Yamanote Line, was a safe bet for dinner as many food outlets open late there (as per my research last night). Instead of getting out of the Shiodome Gate like I did yesterday (to get to the Yurikamome Line), got out instead at the Hibiya exit as that was the place where most of the food outlets/shops are. Right at the Hibiya exit was a huge open space called the Shimbashi Station SL Square. There was a life size model of a huge SL (steam locomotive) right outside …… Similar to the famous Hachiko Statue at Shibuya, this is also a popular meeting spot for many people in Shimbashi itself.

At the same time, there was also an illumination right at SL Square. Very small scale as the illumination is mainly concentrated on the locomotive …… but the colours were very nice, and in a way, it sort of made up for missing out on the Caretta Illumination last night.

Processed with Moldiv

Sidenote: As I write this now, it only occured to me that Shiodome was within walking distance to Shimbashi as well. Which means I could have gotten a quick dinner, then walk over to Shiodome. Duh!

Walked 1 round along the shops, narrowed down on 2 ramen shops – one of which had a small quene, while the other had tonkotsu based ramen that cost 500 JPY only …… Until I spotted Tenya right across the road. Tenya is a fast food chain specialising in tempura, and my stomach could do with something warm, and can’t go quite wrong with tempura as well 😛

2014-05-04 18.03.48

Ordered the most basic 500 JPY prawn tempura with rice set. It looks small in the picture, but the portions were aplenty full, and very filling and satisfying. Now I recall that I actually jotted down Tenya (the outlet @ Akihabara) as one of the food places to try, only to forget about it as more to-do items cropped up 😛 …… So am really glad that I got to try this tempura entirely by chance 🙂

It was already close to 1030pm and so its time to make my way back to Hamamasutcho and to hotel for a much needed shower, start packing my shopping loot into my luggage (spare bag) and do some research for tommorrow’s itinerary at the hotel lobby. One last thing before I entered the station – a live ‘show’ of sorts right at the locomotive model in SL Square! Pretty interesting and stood

2014-05-04 18.23.20

Despite the hiccups (1st the camera, then the horrible traffic at Lake Kawaguchiko) that threw my plans into slight array, most important I got a clear close up view of Mount Fuji (that I wasn’t able to see back in Hakone) …… and my evening turned out to be much better than expected thanks to my unplanned exploration of Shinjuku (west side of station + Southern Terrace City), got some of the major shopping (Tokyo Banana, Fancl) ticked off …… and a nice filling tempura dinner and beautiful christmas illumination at Shimbashi!

Japan 2013: Day 10 Fuji Five Lakes + Exploring Shinjuku Part 3

DAY 10 (CON’T)

Had some time to kill before the train leaves Kawaguchiko at 1629 Hrs. No point waiting for the 1659 Hrs train (which is an express train) as there is nothing much to do around the station anyway. There is a souvenir/omiyage shop right beside the cafe …… and found out that the Fujiyama Cookie is sold here as well (and nicely packaged). Ahhh ……

2013-11-23 16.17.12

And so it was goodbye to Kawaguchiko and Mount Fuji as I leave on the train heading back to Otsuki. Felt that I could have done more if I had managed to do more research. And also not come here on a public holiday! As there is so much to see and look at the Fuji Five Lakes (not just Lake Kawaguchiko alone, Lake Yamankanko is also the other major lake worth spending a day at) …… a 2D1N or even a 3D2N trip would have worked better as well. Another item for future return trips 😛

2013-11-23 16.33.13

Reached Otsuki slightly aheaed of schedule, around. Tried to ask the station staff whether I could cancel off the earlier reserved ticket (1803 Hrs train) and reserve a new ticket instead for the earlier 1740 Hrs train. It seems like the train station staff attending to my query could not understand my question despite me trying my best to keep to very simple phrases and so kept shaking his head (to indicate NO) until I got really impatient (probably the accumulated frustration from battling traffic throughout the day + not having my camera to use really got to me quite badly) …… and so blew my top at the poor station staff! The poor guy probably got a bit scared by my raised voice, and so in the end a more senior staff (his superior probably) attended to my query. And it turns out that I can cancel the ticket and re-reserve one for the earlier train. Actually I need not cancel, I could just book a fresh ticket, but I thought that if I cancelled, then someone else could have reserved that seat when they come by the station/buy a ticket at the machine.

Anyway this episode took a good 15 min …… and I started to actually cool down and felt a bit bad. Since it was already close to 1740 Hrs, changed my mind and decided to wait out as the arrival times at Shinjuku between this train and the later train I reserved is less than 10 min difference. Apologised to the station staff and admitted that my frustration throughout the day did get better of me. Thank god this was the one and only time I blew my top at someone throughout my entire holiday.

And so got back to Shinjuku. Since the original plan to head to Rikugien was sort of ruined (no camera so kind of pointless), decided that I will make use of the evening to do some shopping instead. Since I was already at Shinjuku Station (JR), instead of changing platforms to the JR Yamanote Line i.e. green line) to get to Shibuya for dinner, instead I exited at South exit of Shinjuku. The South exit facing right towards the main road/traffic junction was the same entrance/exit that me & HX frequented during our 2012 trip 🙂

Decided to walk the same route i.e. turn right, go straight, and turn right again (at Lumine) towards the west side of the station where Keio Department Store, Limousine Bus Counter and Tokyo Metro entrance is. This time round, this familar stretch was full of people (including a few groups of street buskers) ……

2013-11-23 19.36.22

2013-11-23 19.36.46

Saw that Keio Department Store (right beside Lumine) has a Fancl counter, so popped in and got the Fancl stuff that sis wanted. One major item down (and that saves me the trouble of having to get it at Shibuya or at Fancl store in Ginza)! There was also a huge Uniqlo outlet further down the road so walked over. There was a 15th anniversary sale so huge discounts for many of the items. Mainly autumn/winter clothes though. Had roughly marked out a few items that I thought of getting since it was really cheap after conversion back to SGD …… then for some strange reason, decided to hold off the purchase to tommorrow/next day instead. Thinking about it now, I should have just bought on the spot (as I ended up going back to Uniqlo again on my last day in Tokyo just to hunt for something to buy).

Left Uniqlo and since I had some time (7-plus in the evening), decided to just walk further upwards. Based on the map, and from the photo my sis whatsapp me, there should be a Don Quijote (Donki) outlet around the west exit of Shinjuku station, and at the edge of Kabukicho (Japan’s largest red light district). Only made it as far as the next satellite station – Shinjuku-nishiguchi Station (a Toei railway station). Got out from the station exit at the other end, only saw a huge Tokyu Hands store (and probably still some way away from Kabukicho) ….. and so turned back to where I came from 😛

Saw the entrance to the Shinjuku Terrace City Illumination. Since there was not enough time during my last trip to view this illumination …… and I’m here this time (entirely by chance), might as well take this opportunity to walk through the illumination. The illumination will extend across the overhead bridge all the way till the Southern Terrace City end of Shinjuku, where Takashimaya Times Square and Kinokuniya is located.

2014-05-04 01.14.41

2014-05-04 01.16.54

Let’s just say the illumination is pretty ordinary at best, and we didn’t miss out anything significant during our last trip 😛

Processed with Moldiv

However there was a lighted christmas tree where you step into it, put your hands and a colour will illuminate. No one to take a photo for me, but I got yellow – which means I’ll be rich. A good sign yeah 😛

2013-11-23 20.31.31

Japan 2013: Day 4 Osaka & Nara Day Trip Part 4

DAY 4 (CON’T)

Cutting through the Naramachi district whilst on route to Gango-ji.  Actually the map does not state Naramachi, it only indicates to keep walking straight. Only realised when writing this now that the district that I passed through was actually Naramachi 😛

More on Naramachi here – http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4108.html. The former merchant district of Nara, as characterised by the traditional machiya (long, narrow townhouses) along the narrow streets ……

Naramachi

Got lost a little bit before managing to get more accurate information from the passer-bys on the road, and finally managed to locate Gango-ji Temple – which is inside a small street.

Just like Todaiji & Kofukuji, Gango-ji is also a UNESCO World Heritage designated site, as part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara. It is also a Buddhist temple, under the Shingon School of Japanese Buddhism, and the oldest buddhist temple in Japan (refer back to my Part 1 entry). Entrance fee is 400 JPY ……

P1020762

Ganjo-ji is a much smaller temple than Todaiji (or even Kofukuji) as only 3 halls remain preserved (out of the original 7). In terms of architecture, it is more zen-like and serene as compared to Todaiji. There were hardly any visitors as I reached at 4-plus, pretty near the 5pm closing time. Got from a friendly uncle at the entrance counter some directions on how to walk the recommended course round the temple ……

20140107-023328.jpg

The Gokurakudo (i.e. Main Hall) and the Zen Room. Very nice wooden exterior and very well-preserved.

Ganjo-ji 1

The stone buddhas outside the compound ……

Gango-ji 2

One of the key features of the Gokurakudo and the Zen room that are National Treasures is their beautiful roofs. Japan’s oldest tile roofing called “Gyokibuki” is constructed by partially overwrapping roof tiles of folding-fan shape, which creates varied and quaint expressions.

Source: https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/spot/shritemp/gango-ji-temple.html

20140108-005009.jpg

Had intended to do some editing to the shots but decided to present it as originally taken in the end as the grey-ness of it makes the tile roofing and the autumn leaves adorning it look more authentic, given that it is already 430pm, where the sky is starting to turn dark ……

Nice temple it may be, but really lush compound which is very well maintained (I guess the entrance fees charged by these UNESCO sites go towards maintenance of such cultral and historical relics) ……

20140108-022006.jpg

That marks the end of my visit to Ganjo-ji!

Made the walk back to where I came from (i.e the pond as landmark) as the Nara Kotsu bus doesn’t seem to run into the Naramachi district. Saw the shopping street that I took a picture of earlier, and turned into that street. Otherwise known as the Higashimuki Shopping Arcade which leads back to the Kintetsu Nara Station.

Not really in the mood for shopping, but did pop in to one of the drugstores along the arcade to check out the Shisedo Perfect Whip prices. They were selling it for 640 JPY. Total rip off!! (I got it the day before at Osaka Station for 299 JPY only) ….,,

Thank god there were bus stops right beside the Kintetsu Nara Station, and a stop included for the Nara Kotsu bus line. Yes, it’s really near to JR Nara (around 10 min walk) but as mentioned earlier, wasn’t in the mood to do much walking that day + not wanting to let my day pass go to waste …… So took the bus back to JR Nara station.

Reached JR Nara Station a little after 5. Rushed straight to the washroom (and forgot all about getting the leaf sushi :P) …… Walked out of the station to take some pictures before the train comes ….. There are hotels, a huge bridge (leading to some halls and sports facilities I think) around the station area.

20140108-023833.jpg

1 hour later, back at Osaka Station. Walked around a bit, changed my mind about going back to the Umeda Sky Observatory for the night views as once again, I was really in the don’t feel like walking mode 😛

Checked out the Christmas Illumination light up instead at Osaka Station City which starts from the North exit (facing Yodabashi and Grand Front Osaka). Nothing spectacular ……

20140108-025552.jpg

Changed my mind about checking out the Sweets Museum at Yodabashi Umeda Building (the don’t feel like walking mood at work once again). Saw that there was a Wired Cafe so went up, saw that there was a quene and went back down again …… Ended up window shopping at Daimaru Umeda since there was still time before the food hall closing sales start around 730pm. And walked into the Tokyu Hands Outlet inside Daimaru. Time to do some recee (before I buy whatever I’ve set my eyes on back in Tokyo later in the trip) ……

Tokyu Hands Umeda

No photo taking was allowed inside Daimaru/Tokyu Hands, but the cashier and sales assistants were kind enough to let me take the pictures 🙂 …. Really interesting items, such as a plastic steamer, great variety of kitchen utensils, stationery, handphone accessories, beauty products etc. …… Truly a lifestyle store in every sense of the word. I guess the variety will be even more humongous back at its flagship store in Shibuya 😛

Made it this time round for the closing food hall sales and got what I need. Decided to pack dinner from the food hall to eat in the comfort of my hotel room.

It became the day where I left hotel the latest and came back the earliest (reached around 815 to 820 pm) to ‘re check-in’ to my semi-double western room. Finally a bigger and more comfortable room on a higher floor (less noise from the Karaoke pubs opposite the hotel) …. more space and a bigger bed! Yay!

P1020805

My eat in dinner! Packed the Rice With Fish (can’t remember what fish) from Hanshin which cost 480 JPY only …. And grabbed the calamari from Hankyu at 180 JPY as the rice was 1 normal bowl rice (rather than being a huge bento) …… Decent meal considering the cost (closing sales) but would have tasted really great if there were microwave facilties in the hotel ……

P1020810

Last night in Osaka, so got a dessert from Hanshin to round off my meal. The cheesecake should be around 380 to 400 JPY, from a Kobe-based bakery counter called Bocksun. Loved the packaging + it was so nice of them to put in the dry ice to ‘cool’ the cake whilst I walk back to my hotel ……

Very delicious cheesecake that has the exact right texture, yet its light and not too cheesy! Went to google and made a mental note to look out for Bocksun Bakery/Cafe when I get to Kobe the next day, heh …..

20140108-133858.jpg

Japan 2013: Day 2 Osaka Part 4

DAY 2 (CON’T)

Continuing from where I left off, walked back to Osakako station, and changed subways at Honmachi to get to Namba.

Namba is also another huge station just like Osaka/Umeda – located down south of Osaka,with many dining, shopping and entertainment options. Followed the directions and signs as indicated in the train station. No photos as I wanted to get to Dotonbori ASAP!

Walked straight based on directions given by the train station staff and some passer-bys on the street. Saw this and happily crossed the road …..

P1020311

After walking inside the street for about 5 minutes, found it to be too quiet and not the famed Dotonburi that I have read and seen so much about, bustling with its many restaurants and shopping outlets. The final clincher was that I even saw some touts/bounchers standing along the roadside. Turned back and saw a bridge, so went on the bridge and finally saw a bit of the famous Gilco Man and Kani Doraku billboard – which indicates the Dotonburi that I want to go!

So crossed the road back to the ‘correct’ Dotonburi. Finally in the right direction as I spot the huge Kani Koraku outlet ……

P1020313

Saw the start of Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade at the end of the small bridge. Huge crowds on a Friday night (and its only 6-plus in the evening) ……

P1020316

Famous icons of Dontonburi – the Gilco Running Man & Asahi billboards!

Dotonburi 1

Time for some food next! Stomach is rumbling. Checked out Kani Doraku, found the dinner sets a tad expensive (ranging from 5000 JPY and up) and decided to just get 2 grilled crab legs at 700 JPY instead (they have stalls outside the restuarant walkway selling the grilled crab legs, takeaway ekiben, and even crab-based snacks), for the thrill of it 😛

Kani Koraku

Note: Edited the crab legs picture using Fotor as original image was too blurry

Takopachi next! There are many shops/restaurants selling takopachi along the street. Finally found one that seems to have a reasonable crowd (which means the food should be good) and decently priced at 400 JPY for 6 pieces (there were a few shops selling the same for 600 to 700 JPY) ……

Dotonburi 2

Note: Lightened up the takopachi using Fotor as well

Felt pretty full after the crab legs and takopachi (must be all the flour from it) so gave Ichiran Ramen a miss. Walked the food stretch a bit more, and did not manage to locate the Pablo Cheesecake shop, so decided to turn back. Rather than going southwards and squeezing with the crowd at the Shinsaibashi Shopping Stretch, walked back northwards towards the subway station (where I came from) ……

Instead of going back in the subway station, kept onto the main road and soon reached the huge Takashimaya building right beside Namba station.

P1020340

P1020343

Went into the building, into the Nankai Namba station (Nankai is another private railway in Osaka). Walked further up and ‘landed’ in Namba Parks – a pretty new shopping and office complex with a rooftop garden right above the Nankai Railway Station. The rooftop garden was lighted up as part of the Christmas light-up, but personally I did not find it very spectacular. However, the christmas tree right in the middle of the garden has music accompanied with a change in colours which I thought was pretty nice ……

Namba Parks

Namba Parks 2

Walked around a while more before heading back to Umeda area, and back to hotel to check in.

Thanks to the free wifi in the room, googled and checked up Tripadvisor for reviews of the Santa Maria cruise that I did not take. Felt better about missing the last cruise as a quite few Tripadvisor reviews indicated that the views from the ship were quite average as compared to the Ferris Wheel 😛 …… And enjoyed a fried fish (got it from the Hankyu Umeda Food Hall during the closing sales after walking around it for a good 45 min or so) and beer supper in my room as well ……

20131214-180003.jpg

Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination

Sneaking in a post at work 😛

Has been a while since I participated in any of the weekly photo challenges + since I have yet to get down to blogging my holiday entries, will make use of this opportunity to get going on that + log in my 1st post of year 2013!

Since Japan is a land of illuminations (they have lots of Christmas themed illuminations during the time I was there – http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2303.html), I will post up 2 of my favourites which I happened to have done up in collage format on my iPhone as well.

1. Rainbow Bridge & Statue of Liberty

IMG_3507[1]Took this series of pictures at the observatory outside of Decks Shopping Centre, which stretches all the way till Aquacity (another huge shopping centre beside Decks).

Its pretty amazing as by as walking across different positions on the observatory itself, I get the Statue of Liberty left, centre, right. In addition, the Rainbow Bridge is illuminated in rainbow hue (which does not happen all 365 days of the year, as I found out online recently). Further, managed to capture the lighted up Tokyo Tower in the pictures as well 🙂

2. Christmas Illumination @ Tokyo Midtown

IMG_3511[1]This is the annual Christmas illumination show @ Tokyo Midtown (just around the corner from Roppongi Hills).

Pictures only tell part of the story. If you were there in person, the show itself is spectacular! Found a video on youtube to illustrate this!

3 Days Left To 2010 ……

It is the time of the year when things start to wind down for another round of festives (to celebrate the new year) …… and also the time to review and reflect upon the past year – year 2010. It is also the time that I try to find time to sit down and set my new year resolutions for 2011.

My festive season/ celebrations so far ……

Tracking back slightly to the long weekend (starting from Friday – Christmas Eve to Sunday – Boxing Day) …… it has been a quiet festive season in contrast to last year as the gang has already gathered 1 week earlier (which I personally felt was too early to really feel any Christmas spirit in the air) + office party was also rescheduled to be tommorrow
(30th) instead. Was also looking forward to a Christmas theme-ed 90 min spin class as such special holiday classes are getting pretty rare these days …. And pretty disappointed that I only got as far as the waiting list. Mind you, I touched the call button on the dot
at 3pm .. and 15 min later, I only got as far as the waiting list(apparently the reception gives priority to those who quene physically and there is no way 20 bikes can be filled up within 15min) .. Major flaw in execution, not to mention the disappointment as I was really really looking forward to it ……

And so proceeded to slack the Christmas weekend away ……

Busy week so far, as it is another short work week (that is excluding Fri 31st) before 2010 comes to an end …… And trying to clear as much backlog as possible ….. On a happier note, have started the 1st run of my 16 week training plan – an easy 2.85km run on the treadmill yesterday night, but nevertheless, body is already feeling the positive effects from the endorphin 🙂