Thursday, October 18, 2007

Japan Part Two

Day Three:
Was Em's 40th! We all left early to catch a train and then a bus to Nikko to see the Toshogu Shrine to Tokugawa leyasu - founder of the shogunate & warlord who ruled Japan for 250 yrs. This place is incredible; the temples and shrines (there are five, from memory) are ornate and lavish with steps leading up and up into the brilliant green of the trees in the mountains. Even though there were lots of tourists, we still found plenty of moments for peace and quiet. Hundreds of stone lanterns line the exit path - they would look spectacular lit up at night. One temple in particular features lavish wood-carvings of animals and the three monkeys; hear, see, speak no evil. So much detail to take in. Afterwards, we all walked part of the way back to town and caught the train back to Tokyo. That night we had a birthday Dinner for Em - then some of us booked a karaoke room. Thank god we didn't end up on You Tube - couldn't stand the humiliation. But it was a great night.

Day Four: Up early (again!) - caught quaint tram to Nakasando. No tourists (just us) and a mile long flea market that sold everything from Kokeshi dolls to sardines. I think the market is only once a month - Em's Mum wanted us to get an idea of where/how the locals shop. It was a great experience to see suburban Tokyoites doing their shopping. We had some fantastic street food; pancakes with shrimp and ginger with hot tea and I picked up a kimono for 5000 yen (about $5.) plus about five kokeshi dolls like the above.

Later we got the subway to Akihabara; the place if you want anything electronic. Didn't buy a thing but loved wandering around and checking it all out. Loads of people and the most mobile phones I've ever seen at one time...a chorus of constantly beeping.

Later.... we caught a Sky Bus for a trip around the Imperial Palace. Surrounded by a high wall and motes, we couldn't see much - it's only open to visitors a couple of times a year, but got a sense of its massive size. Getting close to dusk, we got a train to the Ginza. Wow. Chanel, Dior, Tiffany, Gucci.- big names, big money. I just liked the lights - huge blinking buildings, biggest bill-boards I've ever seen; glamour, heels, money, money, money. We ended up having the best Sushi at a sushi train place near a railway station; hmm.
Day Five:
Robyn left to return to Beijing. Miss her heaps. Rest of us caught a monorail near Tokyo Harbour, then a walk through a surreal shopping centre called Venus Fort. This place was strange - called a "Shopping theme park for women"...decorated in a very (okay, I hated it) over the top, European (18th century) style; huge fountains, domed ceilings, white pillars... with hundreds of shops and a casino. There were hardly any people the day we went...the shops where okay but it was like a vacuum sealed experience.

Speaking of surreal...later that day, Em, Shayne (Em's niece) and Em's aunt, Peta and I took the subway to Tokyo Disneyland. Okay. I should admit now that I have spent a very long time looking forward to the Disney experience. I was one of those kids who spent Sunday nights glued to the tv singing "When you wish upon a star..... ". I had to get it out of my system.

I think the ticket price was $65, but that got you in and all the rides. The first thing I noticed was how clean it was - I mean - really, really clean. Everything, including the ground, had a sparkle to it. We walked through the shopping avenue and headed straight out into the guts of Disney, stopping only to buy a pair of mandatory ears! Loads of people turned up to D'land dressed up as Mickey or Minnie - thousands of kids dressed up as Snow White - all looking adorable. We hardly went on any rides - more than a two hour wait for all of them...except the terrifyingly saccharine It's A Small World After all...which had to be we jumped in the little candy coloured boat ("No photos please") and sailed off around the world in 20 minutes, surrounded by tiny mechanical robots dressed in national costume to the bleating whine of, well, you know the song, in Japanese. Lots of laughs. I don't know how many D'land employs but there seemed to be heaps of staff just standing around, waiting for you to catch their eye so they could give you a big D'land greeting. Halloween loomed and the whole park was covered with pumpkins, witches and ghouls, which looked fantastic. Later we started to spot Disney characters roaming the park and I must admit, I got pretty excited when Em said, "Fran...there's Woody!". I didn't exactly break into a run (or did I?) but I was chuffed to get my photo with him. I look, I really do - like a total grinning idiot, but there you go. Later Em got a pic with Sleeping Beauty and Prince Charming! Then we located the Snow White who really, really looked like Snow White - problem is, she looked totally creepy because despite the fact that she was human...she didn't actually blink...there's was lots of "My oh my, what's your name?" but no blinking. Un-nerving to say the least because I'm pretty sure I've read something about a connection between non-blinkers and psychopaths....

Five hours later, we walked out with a whole lot of stuff I didn't need: mickey/minnie magnets and some stickers and our wilting, furry ears...caught the train back to Ikebukuro for some udon noodles and bed. But hey. It was a hoot.

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Some Books I've Really Enjoyed

  • Apples For Jam by Tessa Kiros
  • Saturday by Ian McEwan
  • Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life by Andrew Motion
  • The Bell Jar by Syliva Plath
  • Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
  • Stasiland by Anna Funder

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Living, reading, crafting, taking photos, writing.