Tokyo Drift Take 2: Electric Boogaloo

We wanted to go into Tokyo at least one more day, so we picked Tuesday. The weather forecast only said there was a 100% chance of thunderstorms that day so no biggie. We had left the umbrellas on the train the last time we went not Tokyo, so you might say we were going commando. Or at the very least tempting fate.

The train ride in was rough because of train rerouting so we stood the entire time. And when we got into Asakusa, it was pouring rain.
One of the many things I love about Japan that is different from DC or Montreal (the only other cities where I’ve extensively used subways) are the awesome shops tied to the train stations. And Asakusa was no different. So we walked through the store attached to the subway station and looked for umbrellas.
The cheapest one we found was $60. Most expensive was well over $100. 
So we left the store and station and ran across a small alley and found a hole in the wall shop that had tiny umbrellas for $6. All I wanted it to do was keep my hair and glasses dry. It did exactly that, and neglected my arms and my purse. No matter.
Our first stop was Sensoji Temple. It’s a tad surreal for a couple of reasons. First, it’s beautiful, and the gardens are peaceful, but you don’t have to walk far to be back in the chaos of Tokyo. Second, it’s a prime shopping district. 
This is the main drag of shopping at the temple. Because I am so short and did not have a ladder to stand on, as I saw another photographer use, this is an incredibly limited view of the shops. It’s a good 1/4 mile minimum of everything from shoes to handbags to treats and toys.
This is a side stree that runs perpendicular to the main drag. One of several. And in spite of the rain, the place was packed. So much so, that I really hate all the pics I took. Like this one:
What is that? That is me trying to take a photo of the entrance to the temple whilst holding an umbrella and trying not to be a nuisance tourist to others around me. I will use it as an example of bad photography in my photojournalism class. That’s right, I pretend to teach photojournalism. Please judge me plenty.
Another horrible photo, this one of the dogs guarding the temple.
This one is a little better. This is a pagoda on the temple grounds.
One of the assignments I’ll be giving my students next year is to take a photo of the same thing from a different vantage point. Here’s kind of an example of that.
A giant lantern.
And a giant sandal.
And this is the walkway that directly leads to the actual temple. The smoke there is from incense that people burn as part of their worship.
Paintings on the ceiling of the temple. I felt bad taking this, after I took it. I didn’t take any other photos of the interior of the temple. It was beautiful though.
The top of the temple. A shot that I will use to show my students the importance of aligning your shot prior to taking the photo. Seriously, now that I’m looking through these photos I’m a little horrified.
We walked around the gardens. These are two small pagodas. 
And a koi pond. The fish were shy that day. Very peaceful part of the park though.
I love the food displays in Japan. This is one at the temple–a small eatery that always has a line. They sell shave ice, ice cream, and Japanese sweet bread. The sweet bread was amazing. Some of these ice cream favors were interesting: rose, bean, pudding, and chestnut were some of the flavors I was not tempted to try.
After we left the temple, we went up to the red bridge.
We were standing on the red bridge, and you can see the blue bridge, and the green bridge if you really squint. The red bridge gave us a great view of the Tokyo Tower.
The Tokyo Tower is the building that looks like a lightsaber. The clouds were low that day so you can’t see the top. Next to it is what some people call the Golden Turd. It’s supposed to be a drop of beer or something like that, as the giant gold building is the office for the largest beverage company in Japan.
After we had some lunch at a Turkish kebab place, we headed to Kappabashi Street. This is probably the best photo I took all day.
The entrance to the kitchen district. Luckily, it stopped raining while we were at the temple. This street is home to many shops for restaurants and bakers. I didn’t take a lot of photos because I feel weird taking photos in stores. But I did take this one: 
Look at the size of that whisk!!!!
I saw so many items I would’ve loved to purchase if I lived in-country, but since I don’t, I settled for a bento–a Japanese lunch box.
I didn’t last long, walking up and down this street. I’m not a big shopper in the first place, and standing for the whole train ride in took a heavy toll on my feet. So we moseyed back to the subway and headed home. We took a train that made more stops than we would’ve liked, but we were able to sit the entire 75 minutes back to where we parked. So that was pretty awesome.
I know I could’ve spent so much more time in Tokyo, but it really is overwhelming. I loved that we split up the trips and explored just little pieces of the city instead of trying to cram in absolutely everything. 
I only have a few days left, and I’m getting incredibly sad. 

The Epic Disney Post.

I knew when I finalized my trip to Japan I was going to spend time at a Disney park. And the plan all along was to go to the Magic Kingdom. 

Last week as we planned our Disney excursion, I looked at the Magic a Kingdom website and realized I was only looking forward to a handful of rides. And the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to spend time and money for a handful of rides. 
So I told Deanne we shouldn’t go, and she suggested I look at the website for Tokyo Disney Sea. I did, and it looked completely unique but still Disneyish, so we decided that would be a good use of our time. 
Best choice ever. 
Disney Sea incorporates the worlds of Pinocchio, Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Newsies, and Jules Verne. Each area has some unique rides, as well as different takes on Magic Kingdom favorites.
Like the “It’s a Small World” ride? Hit up Sinbad’s Voyage. A fan of Dumbo? Try Jasmine’s Flying Carpets. Enjoy Autotopia? You’ll love Aquatopia!
Our main consideration with the rides is that both Deanne and I have vertigo issues, so some rides were flat out bad ideas and not even considered.  Like the ride with the 360 loop. The ride that gave us the most fits, actually, was Aquatopia, because the small bumper boats automatically rotated forward and backward at a decent speed. It looked tame, but that was the roughest for us.
We picked the best day ever to go. We did not wait in any lines (except one–the Crush the turtle standup comedy show), and though humid, it wasn’t unbearably hot, and by 4 pm I was actually chilly.  
The walkway to the main part of the park.
A view of the Mediterranean Harbor. So gorgeous. Everything was Italian, and my biggest regret about this section of the park is that I didn’t try the gelato. By the time we could have, I wasn’t hungry.
Another view of the Mediterranean. Fake, of course.
This is the machine that goes to the center of the earth! One of two major roller coasters in the park, this would be closest to Thunder Mountain. I was a little nervous, because I’m not a fan of roller coasters, but I enjoyed it! The drop was a tad terrifying, but what I liked most was that the ride wasn’t too long. Just the perfect balance of thrill and interesting decor.
King Triton’s castle! 
All day long I was floored by the detail of the decor. This is a close up of part of the pillars outside 
Triton’s castle.
Ariel’s shelf of human goodies. I looked for a dingle hopper but did not see it.
This was pretty cool. The inside of Triton’s castle is filled with all kinds of rides (see the teapots?) and places to explore. We spent half an hour in this space and loved it.
Watch out for that stingray! Not painted on the floor, but moved around via some kind of light from above.  
WISH I COULD BE…PART OF YOUR WORLD…. (My least favorite part of the movie)
Welcome to Agrabah!
One of the stages for the different shows. We did not watch. In case you were wondering, it wasn’t raining, but it was sunny–that’s why you see the umbrellas. Shade.
Again, details! I loved them!!!
It’s Aladdin! As soon as I saw him, I thought he looked like my friend A.J., which is why I took the photo. 
The ads on the buildings in the New York section were so great. I loved this one that said “Thespians welcome.”

Rule #1 of Disney: take the selfie at the beginning of the day. In the background is the entrance to 20,000 Leagues Under a The Sea, which was quite cute.
The entrance to the park has a giant globe. I took a photo of the Japan side.
It really was a perfect day until we tried to shop. I planned on dropping a couple hundred dollars on gifts and souvenirs, but I did not account for the fact that Japanese fashion is different…so different. The shirts were so loud and out of my comfort zone, and I realize now I should’ve taken photos to prove it, but just trust me. You would not want to see me in any of those shirts.
I was disappointed in the candy, too–it’s quite different from Magic Kingdom’s offerings. I did grab a gorgeous tin of rice crackers though.
It’s made of the same fabric they make obi (kimono belts) out of, with a more Japanese design that incorporates Disney. And the rice crackers and yummy!
I was floored by the footwear I saw. Again, no pictures because I think it’s rude to take random pics of strangers, but I saw so many platform shoes and stiletto heels at Disney Sea, and every time I thought, “How?!? I’m in Skechers and DYING.” 
Also, American men need to step up their boyfriend/husband game. Couples were easy to spot because of their matching apparel. Matching shirts, matching Mickey headbands, matching MINNIE headbands, and even MATCHING SHORTS. Deanne asked if we could buy matching shirts right when we got to the park and wear them all day, and I thought she was crazy. But that’s really a thing, and by the end of the day I kinda wished we had. I think the biggest group I saw was 7 girls, all wearing the exact same shirt.
So that’s the epic Disney post. We did not stay for fireworks because, well, I’m 40 and I’ve seen fireworks, and I’m going to be in Provo for the 4tjh of July, and they know how to do fireworks. Also, we had done everything we wanted to do by 6 pm, and I didn’t want to just hang around for 2 hours waiting for fireworks. So we left at 7 and were home by 8:30. 
A much better trip home than when we left. Only a 20 minute delay.
We are taking the rest of the week easy, as next week will be packed. I can’t believe my time here is more than half gone. 

ETA: I forgot the best part! At Disney Parks in Japan, you can bring in your own food and drinks. They even have places for families to eat the meals they pack in themselves. Deanne and I each had our own water bottles, so we brought those and just refilled them throughout the day. And the food prices?amazing. Lunch, dinner, a churro, some popcorn, a frozen treat and some caramels ran us less than $50. For both of us, not each of us. $50 total spent on food. I couldn’t believe it.

Japanese Road Trip

My sister had an appointment at the navy base, which is about 38 miles away from the air base, so she thought it would be nice to take me there, go see Big Buddha, and then go to Disney sea the next day. It made sense at the time. 

Let’s talk traffic in Japan. 38 miles is not very far. In Wasatch Front terms, that’s like going from Provo to Murray. Not far. 40 minutes tops. I used to make that drive all the time. 
My first breaking point came when I saw a sign for Yokosuka that said 52 km and we had been in the car for 45 minutes. When I started the GPS, it said 60 km. That’s right–in 45 minutes we had traveled 8 kilometers.
See that arrival time? Yeah, it was 11:45 when we actually arrived.
When we left, I had this great idea to take a photo everytime we were stopped at a red light. Had I continued that, I would’ve filled up the 18 gigs of available storage I had on my phone, so I quit. But here’s a sampling…

My second breaking point came about 5 km from the base, when Deanne got pulled over for crossing a yellow line. Yellow lines just separate lanes here, not direction of traffic.
“Take a picture of my ticket for your blog!” Deanne said. So I did.
Ever been pulled over by a cop in a country so foreign you have no idea how to communicate? I was terrified. Deanne thought it was hilarious. I will say though, that the cops were quite kind, and after handing over the ticket, gave us driving directions to get back to the road we were on. I’m not sure American cops would do the same.
My final breaking point came when we arrived at the naval base, and the ID issued to me at the Air Base is not recognized by the Navy. I always knew there was something I didn’t like about the navy…anyway. Deanne got to where she needed to be, so it’s all good. 

After our Navy excursion, we headed to Kamakura to see a famous Buddhist shrine.

A selfie with Buddha. 
After Kamakura, we headed to the Tokyo Bay Sheraton, right by the Disney parks here in Japan. We were about 40 km from the hotel, so that meant another 2 hours in the car. By the time we arrived, we spent a grand total of 8 hours in the car and traveled a whopping 100 km. As a point of reference, when I leave Provo, I’ll spend 8 hours in my car and end up IN DENVER.
This is a carport we passed at some point. Yes, a carport. Which means a car fits here. Probably once the bikes are moved. 
The one photo I didn’t take that I wish I would have is after we put gas in the car at the Navy base. The Navy set up a sobriety checkpoint, and I wish I could have documented my sister taking a breathalyzer for the first time in her life. The best part was when he held up the device and she looked at him and said, “I don’t know what to do with this.” Then it took her four times to breathe into it correctly. I could not stop laughing.
We really lucked out with the hotel. It was crazy cheap, and the room was American-sized. I’d heard about the small hotel rooms in Japan, but when Deanne walked into our room, she was floored with its size. Then we went on the balcony…
That glowing structure? That’s a ride at Disney Sea. That’s how close we were. 
Disney Sea is a separate post…I’ll get right on that once I steal some of Deanne’s photos, because I really did not take as many as I probably should have.

Tokyo Drift, 1st Attempt.

Today my sister took me to Tokyo, and I remembered how much I don’t like crowds. Unfortunately, I remembered this right as we exited the train at Shinjuku and began a quest to find a comic book store. Also, it was raining. Also, it was hot. Also, I was hungry. 
In short, I was in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle known as “Julie’s about to have a meltdown.”
I tried to take a panoramic photo but this is as far as I got.  
This is the exterior of the comic book store Stueve wanted me to visit. I did. Everything was in Japanese, and while inside I remembered that I know nothing about anime or manga. Also, all the books were shrinkwrapped so I couldn’t glance inside any of them to see if I could find Sailor Moon. 

Outside the comic book store, a line of little vending machines for various accessories related to anime and manga.

Pretend that I took a photo of Hachiko, the dog. There was a line, and I’m impatient and sometimes, I just don’t care about photos enough. I saw him from a distance, and if you don’t know his story, read it on Wikipedia. Or watch the movie Hachi starring Richard Gere. 
This is Shibuya Crossing. Deanne says to go on YouTube and watch videos of the crossing. This is a shot of it at a red light.

Here it is on a green light. The photos really don’t do it justice. It’s amazing. Deanne said at the time we were there, traffic was pretty light. 

 By the time we got here, I was exhausted and the niece had also had about enough, so we didn’t go into the Meiji Shrine. But it looked beautiful from a distance. Maybe another day…
This is the map of the train system, by the way. Not overwhelming at all.
At Harajuku. This is Takeshita Street, which was by far the best thing I saw all day. I wish we had started here, because it was just so cool. Tons of clothing and shoe shops, candy stores, jewelry stores, all seeped in Japanese culture (except maybe for the McDonalds). I’m continually gleeful at all the French references I see as we go different places, and Takeshita Street was no different. 
A man walking his posse of cats. You know, as you do.  
Can you spot what the gnomes are doing? Naughty gnomes. 
I want one. 
So every restaurant has plastic display food to show customers what everything should look like once they order. This was the display outside a creperie. Most of them have gelato, fruit, and whipped cream. Must have before I leave. Doesn’t have to be this location; any one will do.
I’m sore from all the walking and standing on the trains, and I’m a mess from the rain and heat and humidity, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more out of my element ever in my life, even that time I was totally lost by myself in Manhattan and it was before the age of smartphones and I had to call my sister to look up my location on Google Maps and get me to the Marriott.
But I also can’t wait to go back. 

Just Pictures.

It’s actually pretty difficult to write while I’m here, because I don’t know how to accurately describe what I’m seeing. My sister asked me yesterday, after I had finally changed out some dollars for yen and paid for our lunch, if I was feeling a little “Whoa. I’m in Japan” kind of moments. And I’m not. 

I have a couple of theories as to why I’m not looking around thinking “OH MY GOSH EVERYTHING IS IN JAPANESE AND I CAN’T COMMUNICATE WITH ANYONE.” And maybe Friday when we go to Tokyo I will have a complete freak out moment. But it hasn’t happened yet.
In the meantime, here’s some photos. Today we went to a ramen bar for lunch and to a store called Sexy Mizer to buy some tshirts for the folks back home. 
This was lunch. Ramen with roasted pork. I did not eat the egg.
This is how I ordered my ramen. It printed a ticket that I handed to my waitress to place my order.
This is me eating lunch with chopsticks. Second day in a row I’ve eaten in public with chopsticks and did not make a compete fool of myself.

Sexy Mizer has many shirts in Engrish. I’ve been assured that Engrish is not an insensitive term, though I have my doubts. I’m not posting pics of the shirts I picked up for family and friends, but these are still some winners.

When all else fails, just use completely random words in a string of randomness.

This shirt is a little, shall we say, inappropriate for young children. This shirt would fit a 7 year old.

By far my favorite. And a grorious holiday to you too. 

This is the mall where we ate lunch yesterday. We did not go to Gap.
This was my lunch yesterday. I promise I won’t become one of those annoying people who does nothing but post pictures of food all the time. I’m leaving Japan in a couple weeks and will not post pics of food from Provo and Denver.
These are Cronuts. I will probably have more, and I’ve made peace with the fact that I will probably gain 15 pounds while I’m here.  
So that is the latest wrap up–if we indeed make it to Tokyo on Friday, I’m sure I will have much more to say, or at the very least, show.