Japan 2015: Yokohama Reminiscence Part 1

Start of my holiday entries. This time round, it will be more of a photo-based highlight series rather than a detailed day to day break-down which I did for my previous Japan trip back in year 2013.

1st third of the trip (Days 1 to 3) were spent in Yokohama, if you were to count Day 1 (arrived in Yokohama in the evening) and Day 3 (where we did a day trip out to Enoshima and Kamakura).

Flight touched down at Narita in early afternoon, around 1415Hrs Japan Time (Note: Japan is 1 hour ahead of Singapore). Going towards the mid to tail end of autumn, Japan is already on daylight savings mode, thus sunset is around 1630 to 1700 Hrs …… which means a limited amount of daylight. By the time we cleared customs, activated our JR passes etc. – we reached Yokohama well into the evening (around 6pm!).

Thanks to Tripadvisor, we found a great deal at Yokohama Garden Hotel – which is to be our ‘home’ for the next 3 nights! It may be a small, not really well known business hotel. But service was really impeccable, and more important the room was really comfortable!

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The other nice touch was that there was a humidifier in the room. The humidifier came in really handy as the air was pretty dry, and we were pretty much sneezing non-stop without it πŸ˜›

Moreover the great location (just a 5 min walk down the road from the JR Kannai Station), and it being right beside Yokohama Stadium! Not to mention, our room was facing the stadium as well.

Really hungry after a full day of travelling (Singapore to Narita to Yokohama). No lunch served on board our ANA flight to Tokyo. So here’s our 1st proper meal of the day (Dinner) at Katsuretsu An.

I 1st came across thisΒ restaurant in my 1st Japan trip back in Winter 2012 (December). Didn’t manage to visit it in my 2nd trip in year 2013 …… and so I made it a point to go back again this time round. Katsuretsu An is a well known ‘old school’ Yokohama tonkatsu restaurant, very highly rated by the locals. We got a seat on level 2 this time round. Very nice, home style Japanese restaurant, with friendly aunties serving us.

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1 classic tonkatsu set + another mixed seafood (prawn, scallop, some japanese vegetable set) ….. and both rice and cabbage are free flow. Was soooo hungry that I had 2 servings of rice πŸ˜› …… All in all a great meal!

Another highlight – Smart Illumination Yokohama 2015.

This is an illumination event held in various parts of Yokohama, but mainly concentrated around the Zou no Hana Park area in Minato Mirai itself. Β Co-incidentally, 3rd Nov was also the last night for the event. A pretty small-ish event, but I thought the image of the ladyΒ imposed onto the Yokohama Customs Museum gave it a somewhat alluring and mysterious feel.

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Next up, Day 2! 1st highlight was taking the subway down to Shin-Yokohama to visit the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum. The place was slightly difficult to locate as it was located in a side street around the corner from the Shin-Yokohama Station (Subway) …… but we managed to locate it after spotting a small quene.

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Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum is a food amusement park / museum that is all about RAMEN! The interior is decorated in 1950s style, as 1958 is the year where instant noodles were first invented in Japan. There is a bar right in the centre of the open area, while the ramen stalls / mini restaurants selling ramen from various regions/prefectures in Japan are located on both levels.

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Apart having Ramen from various regions/prefectures in Japan, there is also a souvenir shop at the basement level of the museum. The ramen sold in the stalls/mini restaurants on levels 1 and 2 are also available as takeaway packs for you to go back to cook (or to bring home as a sounvenir/omiyage). Decided against buying any due to the short expiry dates (we are leaving Japan only on the 13th of November).

After going 1 round the museum, the last thing to do is to get an early lunch (around 1130 Hrs) before the lunch crowd comes in. It was a close choice between Ryu Shanghai Honten and Casa Luca (Italian Style Tonkotsu Ramen) …… and Ryu Shanghai Honten won out in the end.

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Ryu Shanghai Honten’s speciality is their seafood based spicy miso ramen. The broth itself is very rich (and a tad on the salty side) as it is boiled using a mixture of seafood, pork and chicken bone …… with the spicy miso to give an extra kick.

Unlike most ramen shops, in order to let you try as many types of ramen as possible, all the shops have either half-size or full size. Sis elected for half size while I had a full size one. Not such a great idea in the end …… as the full size portion was really HUGE. Am really stuffed after lunch πŸ˜›

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Nothing else really interesting in Shin-Yokohama (apart from the Nissan Stadium maybe) as Shin-Yokohama is more of a district cum transportation hub (The Shinkansen stops at Shin-Yokohama) …… and so it was back to the main Yokohama city area after lunch.

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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.Β  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.

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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)

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

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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 ……

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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.

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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)!

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Japan 2013: Day 11 Roaming Around Tokyo Part 4

DAY 11 (CON’T)

The main purpose of my visit to Rikugien is for the evening illumination. Rikugien is one of Tokyo’s best known and most popular autumn spots, thus penciled in as a ‘must-visit’ destination during the last lap of my trip in Tokyo. In addition, I will be in time for its famed evening illumination as well given that the autumn peak in Tokyo is towards late November to early December.

As highlighted in Japan Guide, there were many other popular autumn leaves/koyo viewing spots such as Koshikawa Korakuen, Icho Namiki (Gingko Avenue) and Shinjuku Gyoen …… but realistically, only had time for 1 autumn spot after slotting in the various day trips and other activities in Tokyo. On hindsight, with better planning and time management, I could have probably squeezed in another spot for a more complete autumn leaves/koyo viewing experience in Tokyo.

Back to Rikugien, it was very crowded given it was a Sunday. It was a very big garden though …… but unlike the evening illumination that I had enjoyed back in Eikando (in Kyoto), this one was too dimly lit. Not enough spotlights along the walking trail. If not for the massive crowd, it would have been pretty easy to get lost in the crowd :S

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It was so dark that I couldn’t really spot the Togetsukyo Bridge ….. but the trees surrounding the stream were pretty nice.

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Further up was the Tsutsuji no Chaya teahouse where one can stop by and enjoy some Japanese tea. But given the crowds, the dimly lit paths, lack of directions and my own impatience (the target was to get back to Shinjuku/Shibuya for shopping before 8pm where all the shops close) …… decided to end off my tour around Rikugien after just 20 min. Probably the evening illumination was not just as good / up to my expectation as the autumn leaves were probably just coming into peak, and the spotlights were not able to bring out their colour and character. In this case, a daytime view would have been much better, well ……

So left via the exit I came from (Main Gate) and walked back the route I came from to Komagome Station. Passed by the Someimon Gate (of the garden) where there were huge quenes. This was the gate/entrance that was so much nearer to the train station! And after looking at Rikugien’s map …… also much nearer to the key autumn viewing spots in Rikugien. Oh well ……

Boarded the JR Yamanote line and decided to head next to the Tokyu Hands @ Takashimaya Times Square in Shinjuku. The next best alternative given all the crazy protesting going on back in Shibuya πŸ˜› …… Got to Tokyu Hands a little over 7, to be greeted by this ……

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If I knew there were extended opening hours for Sunday, I would not have been so ‘stressed’ and rushed through Rikugien. Nevermind. Had a good time doing a proper walkthrough across this 5 storey outlet (not as big as the one in Shibuya) and got the stuff I wanted – gift exchange present + a box to store the Fancl collagen and Fujiya cookies (bad oversight not to have asked for/topped up for a box when I bought them). Then more walking at Takashimaya itself …… where I spotted an Uniqlo outlet and finally got a sweater and a Kobe Waffle snack at the basement food hall (while deciding what to have for dinner this time round) ……

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Went up to the dining level at 11F, saw that there was a Katsukura outlet but decided that I wanted to have Maisen still (after not having it last night :P) so it was a toss up being the Omotesando/Aoyama outlet (found out from the counter at Takashimaya B1 that this outlet opens till 10pm) or the more convenient Tokyo Station Gran Roof outlet. Did had the thought of going to Omotesando to see the evening light-up while on route to Maisen but having to walk through the crowded Harajuku + another 10 min walk down Omotesando Hills just to get to Maisen (which is what me & HX did in our year 2012 trip) is such a damper. There’s the option of a short METRO subway ride from Harajuku (Meiji Jingu Station) that will bring me to the edge of Omeotesando Hills (via Omeotesando Station) ….. but since the Omotesando Koffee joint that I really wanted to check out during this trip is already closed (they close at 7pm), decided that there is not much point going to Ometesando just to eat at Maisen. And so dropped the plan! Another add on to my ‘to-do’ list for future return trips πŸ˜›

And so, took the JR Chuo Line (express) back to Tokyo Station. Managed to locate Maisen this time on 11F of Tokyo Station Gran Roof and finally got to have my dinner a little over 9. Had quite a bit of yen leftover, and since I’m unlikely to do any more shopping, decided to splurge a little on this meal. Anyway I did note that the prices here were higher than that of the Omotesando outlet …… that’s what you pay for convenience I suppose πŸ˜›

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Rather than ordering a pure tonkatsu set, decided on a hybrid bento set where there is also a fried ebi, a small iberico pork (cooked) and tofu/vegetables on the side. Felt that this wasn’t as good as the tonkatsu that I had previously at Maisen Omotesando. Probably that + my meal at Katsukura had set a higher benchmark where tonkatsu is concerned πŸ˜›

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.

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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 πŸ˜›

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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 πŸ˜› …… So am really glad that I got to try this tempura entirely by chance πŸ™‚

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

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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 ……

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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 πŸ˜›

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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 πŸ™‚

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) ……

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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 πŸ˜›

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.

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

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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 πŸ˜›

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Japan 2013: Day 9 Odaiba + Venturing Out To Kamakura & Yokohama Part 6

DAY 6 (CON’T)

Was deciding what to do next as I head back to Tokyo from Yokohama. While on the train, I decided that since the Keihin Tohoku line will pass through both Hamamasutcho and Shimbashi …… and since I have yet to eat dinner (and there’s nothing much to eat at Hamamasutcho) ….. and since I had a day Yurikamome Line day pass …… and most importantly its a bit of a waste to end my day at 9+ and just go back to the hotel (as much as I should, as I had an early train to catch the next day), will drop off at Shimbashi and then take 1 stop via Yurikamome Line to Shiodome to see the Caretta Illumination, and then get dinner in the area.

Sounds like a good plan yeah …… and so when I dropped off at Shiodome station and peeked out from Shiodome station platform, I saw ZERO light-ups! So made another dubious/strange decision – hopped back onto the Yurikamome Line train to head back into Odaiba!

Sidenote: Did some googling as I am writing out this entry. It seems that the Caretta Mall is actually on B2 of Caretta Shiodome, which explains why I didn’t not see any light-ups from the station platform. And there are quite a bit of stuff to see and do (and eat) in Shiodome as well. Missed opportunity, sigh ……

And so, this time round back to Odaiba sorely to catch a snapshot of the giant Gundam outside DiverCity Tokyo Plaza. I have seen the Gundam illumination during my previous trip …… but no photos as my camera battery went flat right at that instance. Thus decided to go back and capture that to fill in the puzzle this time round. It was a long 15 min walk from Daiba Station (the station in front of AquaCity where I got off) as I have got to walk pass the Fuji TV Building before getting to the traffic junction and turn right and walk straight all the way towards DiverCity. Tokyo Teleport Station (via Rinkai Line) would have been the nearer station and I see many coming out from Tokyo Teleport as well (rather than Daiba Station).

After reaching DiverCity, there is still 1 long walk through across the shopping centre in order to get to the Giant Gundam right at the other end of DiverCity (facing Palette Town). No more illumination show (think it ends around 9-plus) …… so had to be content snapping some pictures in its not-so-illuminated state πŸ˜›

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In addition to the Giant Gundam, there is also a Gundam Cafe and a Gundam Front Complex (entrance fee applies) at the area around the Giant Gundam. However not really interested in that πŸ˜› …… What caught my attention though was this lighted display at a corner of DiverCity.

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Walked up and took a closer look. This turned out to be a pop-up promotion for the recently released movie ‘Hidamari no Kanojo‘ starring Ueno Juri and Matsumoto Jun (Arashi). Very nice illumination and very romantic as well (very much in line with the movie’s storyline) …… my favourite being the guitar right in the middle of the stairway. There is also music playing along with the change of colours along the stairs and on the guitar iself. Nice!

A little past 10 as I finally made my way back to Daiba Station to take the train back to Tokyo mainland. Didn’t manage to get any dinner at DiverCity as most of the outlets at the foodcourt were already closed. When I reached Daiba Station, I realised that there was another shortcut from the open plaza that will lead up to the Gundam entrance of DiverCity (admist the lighted trees adorning the path) …… that could have saved me 10 mins of walking, arghhh …… By the time I got back to Shimbashi and then to Hamamasutcho, it was close to 11 and so had to be content with pasta dinner from Lawsons. Thinking about it now, I should have just eaten at Yokohama or at Shimbashi (found out online later that there are a lot of food outlets open till late at night to cater to salarymen). Well ….. bad planning on my part!

Japan 2013: Day 7 Kyoto Part 5

DAY 7 (CON’T)

Back to Kyoto station at around 1800 Hrs.

Stood outside the station fixing my camera settings for night shots, and got a decent shot of the Kyoto Tower in the night.

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Still craving for coffee (since I didn’t manage to get any at Arashiyama earlier) …… walked around Kyoto Station and Portia (underground mall that is linked to the station) and finally manage to locate a Doutor outlet for a much-needed coffee. After a much-needed coffee boost, decided to check out the Bic Camera shop located in Kyoto Station around the Portia mall (saw an billboard advertisement for it somewhere in the station). Walked through the underpass …… but ended up right opposite at the foot of Kyoto Tower instead. Hmm ……

So explored the area a bit and ended up at Yodobashi Camera – a huge building located right behind Kyoto Tower. It is more than just a camera and electronics as the building itself is 6-7 stories high (selling items of all kinds, with 7th storey being a restaurant floor). Only hung around level 1 of the store – where camera accessories are sold. Looked through camera SD cards (as I forgot to bring an extra one with me when I left Singapore) and found it to be quite expensive (in the range of S$20 onwards) as compared to back home …… and then walked out again without getting anything.

Had initial thoughts of heading towards South Kyoto – to either Fushimi Inari Shrine or Tofukuji Temple for its evening illumination. However did not fancy yet another train journey and more walking to either of these temples (its especially eerie walking through the red torii gates of Fushimi Inari at night) …… so decided to take a bus to Gion instead. And hopefully with a bit more luck, get to see some geishas and maikos close up πŸ˜›

Spotted the Yasaka Shrine and got off at the bus stop right opposite it. Yasaka Shrine is one of the major shrines in Gion itself. Recall that I saw the same Shrine yesterday as well. Nevermind.

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As per researched the night before, keep a closer lookout for Hanami-Koji Street – where the main Gion area (dominated by the machiyas i.e. tradtional wooden townhouses) is. Kept walking straight and finally chanced upon a small street sign stating Hanami-Koji Street. Yahoo!

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Saw a crowd of tourists along the dimly lighted Hanami-Koji and knew I was in the right place, and finally so! Didn’t take much pictures as 1. camera battery was running low …. 2. my SD card is at full capacity (man! just when I was at Yodabashi earlier. And I still have 5 days more to go!) ….. 3. Saw lots of tourists but no geishas and maikos ……

However the dimly lighted streets do give the machiyas a very romantic and somewhat rustic feel right in the night. It was around 8 …… probably the geishas and maikos are in the restaurants (inside the machiyas) entertaining the dinner guests πŸ˜› …… Found nothing much to eat along these machiyas also as they are more of expensive fine dining.

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Since there were no maikos/geishas in sight (later on after returning to my cabin, I googled and found out that the ‘golden’ time to spot them would probably be late afternoon around 4-plus when they head to work. Wrong timing :S) …… and my SD card is full. Took a bus back to Kyoto Station (finally managed to max out the city bus pass as only made 2 journeys in the day so far) and back to Yodobashi to get a SD card.

SD cards in Japan are not cheap at all. Finally got one that was around S$25 that is suitable for my camera (after asking and asking the salespersons there who barely know English) …… so problem solved without having to try and delete photos in the original SD card (too tedious). So the earlier visit to Yodabashi was probably a hint / a work of instinct. A new realization as a result of this incident in the trip – always trust your instinct! Heh!

Since I was back in Kyoto Station area, it was thus an opportunity to have dinner at Katsukura – which I sort of planned to try the next day (before taking the shinkansen back to Tokyo). Once more, the stars have conspired that since I’m back at Kyoto Station …… I get to check out Katsukura now (and not later …… as you’ll never know if your plans have to change last minute due to unforseen circumstances like schedule delays etc.)!

Not before some Christmas light-ups at Kyoto Station. Similar to at Osaka Station City, found it a tad early to really feel Christmas in the air as it was still November.

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Quite liked the light-up at the stairs leading up to The Cube (Isetan side of Kyoto Station) ……

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And finally late dinner (around 9-plus) at Katsukura! This was definitely one of the best meals I had not only in Kyoto, but throughout the trip as well. Separate review coming up!

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And also chilled to a beer back in my cabin after a long long day! Non-Alcoholic beer from Suntory, heh! Verdict – still prefer the malt version due to the smoother taste πŸ™‚

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