there little lack of creative interior lighting. (an upstairs tea room in ansan)
my attempt to arm myself with information. they eyewitness stayed in the hotel. if there was good info that i couldn't memorize, i'd take a digital picture for later reference. the phrasebook came everywhere. . . and my japanese style moleskine. (hehe. . . get it. . . i went to japan, and had a japanese style book) i filled it with emergency phrases. . . notes. . . maps. . . foldout maps. . .hotel information. . . anything that i thought could make getting about a little easier. sometimes, it actually helped.
japan- you are at point A, you need to get to point B. . . here is the machine that will give you the ticket to do so. . . if you can figure it out. we were often offered and thankfully accepted help. . . but it made us feel better to see other japanese people struggling with it and the fare map.
we were expecting some culture shock. but the weirdest thing was how empty the streets were. one street was turned into a walkway, and it took me several hours to realize why it was so unsettling. there was no music or advertisements blaring from the stores on the streets. it's really common in seoul. . . really loud music and street barkers. . . there was none of that here. (maybe we were there at all the wrong times?)
we were there with plenty of time so we loitered about, checked in, and grabbed a snack.
the flight was a little over an hour and a half. we spent a bit of time in customs. then some time figuring out the best route to our hotel. . . and off we were on a bus to downtown tokyo.
we stopped off at a hotel close to a subway line that would take us closer to our hotel. then another 5 minute walk to the hotel, where we still had to wait an hour to check in.
it. was. so. hot.
we were warned.
i figured wearing jeans the first day wouldn’t be so bad, since we’d be in transit so much- plus jeans have good pockets for passport and wallet and such. well, i guaranteed camille as we got off the plane- yes it was that hot just de-planing- that the first thing i’d do when we got into our hotel was remove my jeans. . . definitely needed lighter material.
i realize that as a kid, what i knew about the japanese culture incorporated pictures of beautiful women wearing kimonos and holding a fan or a parasol. well. . . the fan and parasol are not a fashion item. (though many of them are beautiful) it’s because japan is F’ING hot! men carried fans nearly as often as women. i mostly saw women carrying parasols. . . but a hand towel (a very popular item to sell in small shops) was an essential item for both men and women. (douglas adams holds true) everyone spent a decent amount of time mopping themselves off at train stations, in stores, and anywhere while trying to catch a break from the sun.
we were told this. i packed a cut down piece of a shamwow towel. it did me well.
so, knowing we had some time to kill at the hotel, we picked up a late lunch from a 7-11 to bring and eat in the lobby. (ps- 7-11 is a traveler’s friend. i was surprised at how they really become my atm of choice when using a bank card from the states.)
there actually wasn’t much of a lobby. there were a number of other people, also waiting to check in, but we weren’t moving from that oasis of air-conditioning. we ended up not waiting long. they opened up several rooms an hour early and camille and i settled in to relax a bit and check maps before we headed out. we also decided to let the worst of the sun pass before we left. (waiting for the sun to dip a bit only subtracted the burn factor, it was still horribly hot and humid.)
first on the list- ginza. . .
as we left korea, we had heard a few rumors that they might have to start rolling black outs, to conserve some energy. i had been walking around myeongdong and insadong. all the big shops had very large doors and window panels wide open with their very powerful air-conditioning spilling out. while it has a rather nice cooling effect to a passerby, it doesn’t seem very energy conscious. well. . . japan wasn’t much better. in fact, there was a car dealership which i passed several times, just to partake of its arctic gusts.
i was told to check out the sony building. . . not for the shops, but for the 3D aquarium. it was pretty fantastic. because of our timing we were pretty far back, but the fish seemed to reach out through half the audience- the best 3D effects i’ve seen. . . if i had another shot, i’d try to sit up closer. and, well, it got us out of the heat for a bit.
below the sony building we found a great shop- the Plaza. it became one of our favorites. cute knick-knacks, a good pharmacy. . . and an excellent worldly snack aisle. lucky for us. . . there were plazas all over the place!
we then headed out to find one of the many stores our friends had told us about. . . itoya- a nine floor stationary store.
we found it. . . and as wonderful as it was. . . it was a little upscale and pricey (much like ginza). i found some amazing notebooks and a bunch of gorgeous freitag messenger bags that were way out of my price range. but i walked away with a few fun things for friends and family.
we walked about ginza as it grew dark. . . ate a bit. . . and then headed back to the hotel. we had a bit of fun switching about the channels on our cable while snacking and planning the next day before getting some rest.
camille was luke warm on it, and i offered that i’d be willing to go alone. it was slightly outside of the city and it could take a good chunk of the day. she read up on it and gathered from the reviews that it was really worth it. i also picked up a couple of movies that she could watch to get an idea of just how beautiful their work is. she really warmed up to it, and after touring the museum, we’re both gunning to see more of the movies.
we had to go through all these extra steps as foreigners to attend the museum. within three months we had to get vouchers for tickets through a travel agent, and even had to show our passports at the door. but it was completely worth it.
our tickets were for noon. . . add in some train travel and transit time. . . time for the bus ride. . . and me not wanting to be late. . . we left around 10am. we took trains to get to mitaka where there’s a special ghibli bus.
the area of mitaka was super cute. we passed a park that looked incredible. just the thought of getting out of the sun and sitting in some tree shade made me giddy.
we weren’t supposed to take pictures inside the museum, so i took a lot from the outside- though it crossed my mind to see the whole museum and then walk through with my camera so in case i was tossed out, i would’ve seen the whole thing already. . . but i didn’t have the guts.
the whole museum was complete in this amazing style. sort of a whimsical, sweet, and steampunky vision. a huge, open main room with maybe three floors open to the ceiling. . . a staircase, a spiral staircase, an elevator and a bridge across the walkway above. one side of the building was mostly service area, really nice bathrooms on all floors with really gorgeous interiors. little nooks under stairways. . . all buttons and fixtures fit into the style. it was very nearly like walking into a set or a movie.
the first room we saw was incredible. there were all manners of video and ‘motion pictures’ being shown. flipbooks, hand-cranked film scrolls, strobe light animation, zoetropes. there were rube goldbergesque reels of films winding around the corner of the room (some with small backlit areas so you can watch the film from several vantage points) before they made it to the projector.
i really would’ve loved to video or take pictures of this room, but i’m pretty sure my camera couldn’t do it justice.
several other rooms looked a bit like ‘inspiration’ rooms. filled with books, photos, paintings, and objects that all looked like they came from different movies. there was the big cat bus. . . but that was only for children. (still haven’t seen my neighbor totoro yet. . . but it’s higher on the list now.)
there was a screening room, and you can bet i dropped a few bucks in the gift shop. there was a hot dog/ ice cream stand where we had lunch. we hung around for the line outside the ‘strawhat cafe’ to dwindle a bit. . . completely worth it. we walked around the grounds of the building and eventually caught our ghibli bus back to the mitaka station.
we couldn’t resist a little stationary store shopping in the mitaka area. . . but then we were on to harajuku.
harajuku definitely has its own rhythm. we didn’t see many of the goth or harajuku girls. . . but we saw a couple, and it was impressive. kind of drag queen like in their level of drama. . . but slightly more to the bo peep side of fashion. . . at least the ones that we saw.
we were enticed into an english pub for dinner, especially since it promised hard cider. did some bargain shopping at the 500 and 300 yen stores, and with the night still young, we headed back into the heart of tokyo to try and find that area that you always see in books and magazines.
we thought we found it, but really, we just ended up in ginza again. not that it’s a bad thing. . . we’d later find that area we were looking for.
i ordered the 'looking up at a clear blue sky in a field cream soda' it was amazing (though i didn't realize that i should wait to mix the ice cream in it till i had eaten half of it- it probably would've been better with the full dose of ice cream. the drink was blue, hence sky, and the ice cream was white- clouds in the sky). and my earl grey cake was delicious as well. camille had a wonderful homemade ginger ale. . . and some strawberry shortcake, i think.