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Japan Travel

A LIGHT ATMOSPHERE

It was another rainy day in Tokyo. From the hotel I walked to Asakusa, passing through Kappabashi, an avenue full of household items stores, mainly kitchenware. The temple of Asakusa (Senso-Ji Buddhist Temple), in the old town, is the main attraction of this neighborhood, very beautiful and with dozens of stalls selling souvenirs and typical local foods, it worth a visit. The original temple built in 645 AD was destroyed in 1945, like almost everything in Japan during World War II. This region has a more relaxed and less hectic atmosphere. As the Sumida River was nearby, I decided to go there and take some pictures.

I found the cheapest “bentô” (lunch box) in Japan, so I decided to eat two for USD 2.50/each, after all here is extremely expensive. I continued walking to Ueno and Akihabara Park, from there I took the subway to Ikebukuro, another neighborhood full of entertainments and shopping malls in addition to many Japanese. Ikebukuro station is the second busiest in the country.

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Japan Travel

THE DAY OF THE SEA

Due to the bad weather, me and my friend decided to go to Tokyo. One option would be the Mount Fuji, but it would not be so pleasant bellow the rain. Catching the train or subway in Japan is a real adventure. The rail system around here, although expensive and very confusing for those who are not accustomed, is very efficient. You will find no shortage of confused tourists (like me) and people from smaller cities (like my friend) in the Tokyo transit system. There are several lines and several companies which makes the process even more confusing for the unprepared. To save ourselves some hassle (and money), we bought the daily pass for about USD 10, which gave us unlimited trips, a bargain if you are going to use the system a lot. At peak hours, there are workers with white gloves from the transportation company that push people into the car. I was surprised when I realized that there were exclusive cars for women, it was a way to avoid male harassment.

Today our schedule was quite eclectic, from department stores to fish markets, we went to:

•            Tokyo Tower: near the Ueno line, the tower resembled the Eiffel of Paris. I didn’t make a point of going up, since the weather was bad.

•            Ginza: the neighborhood with wide avenue and full of department stores, the first neighborhood to modernize and build buildings in the Western style, being the most expensive piece of Japan. It is where there is the pedestrian crossing that you can cross the avenue diagonally. During the peak business hours this intersection is so full that you can easily lose your friends!

•            Tsukiji Fish Market: the largest seafood market in the world. Today due to the holiday, almost all the stalls were closed, but we spent a buck to eat in a conveyor belt sushi restaurant (also called sushi train or rotation sushi), I have tried exotic things like sushi of horse meat, king crab and scallop.

•            Akasaka: We visited a temple in Akasaka. Nothing extraordinary! Don’t be confused with the nice one in Asakusa.

•            Shinjuku: another neighborhood full of department stores, entertainment and neon lights. Shinjuku station is the busiest in Japan, like the subway station of Praça da Sé in São Paulo, at peak times multiplied by one hundred.

The Sea Day, Ocean Day or Marine Day (海の日, Umi no Hi) was established in 1996 as a national holiday. Since then, every third Monday of July has become a holiday. The date is to celebrate and thank for the blessings of the sea, since the country is entirely dependent on the sea. But no ceremony is held in celebration.

Categories
Japan Travel

The Impersonality of the Technology

In the morning I left the hostel before any employees has arrived but, as instructed, I paid my fee through a machine. Nothing more practical – but nothing more impersonal either. Technological life makes human contact as little as possible.

The heat was unbearable, about 38ºC and very humid, giving you the feeling of being in a sauna. I have never sweated so much! It was the worst heat of my life, I was wet with sweat all day.

I met my friends at 10:00 a.m. in Akihabara, also known as Electronic Town for its hundreds of electronics stores. They were a couple of friends who moved to Japan with their daughter to work. We went to buy a camcorder that had not yet been released in Brazil and was well priced here compared to other countries. I have done some research on the internet and knew this was the best place to get it. I bought one of JVC that was turned out later to be over the USD 500 customs limit in Brazil.

After the purchase, we went by subway to have lunch near Ueno park, one of the most famous in Japan, in a beautiful and chic Japanese restaurant, Bambo Garden. After lunch, we met another friend from Brazil, and we went to walk in a park which was very green and had a lake and annexes such as zoo, cemetery, museums and temples.

In the middle of the afternoon, we went to Harajuku, the meeting point of young people and teenagers, there were many strange “types”, young people dressed as dolls, cartoon characters and “punks”, today I know it is called Cosplay, I found everything very artificial.

After walking a lot we arrived in Roppongi, a neighborhood known for the nightlife, with another public, more mature. We strolled a little through the neighborhood and said goodbye to my couple friends who were leaving for another city, to Otawara, northeast of Tokyo.

I had a dinner at a restaurant with those sushis and sashimis on a conveyor belt at the counter, like luggage at the airport, just choose what you wanted to eat and grab it! After the dinner, we took the train to Odawara (almost two hours from Tokyo) and went to sleep at another couple friends’ home. Makio came to pick us up at the station at night and we went to eat again in a “ramen house” (noodles).

My friends’ house, like any Japanese house, has a “tatame” and it was not a big place, but it met well the needs of the couple who spent more time working outside.

Watch some videos of my Japan Playlist in Youtube:

Categories
Japan

Tokyo, The Eastern Capital

Arriving at Narita airport in Japan at the end of the next day due to the timezone, I was impressed by the organization, cleanliness, education and attention of the Japanese people. As soon as I arrived there was a sign with my name on it, I was surprised after all I wasn’t expecting anyone. The lady told me that one of my bags had been lost. I actually brought very little stuff with me, other than luggage for a friend who had moved to Japan.

Talking to someone else, I was informed that they located the suitcase in San Francisco and it would be sent to Narita the next day, the staff apologized to me many times but it the U.S. staff’s fault. For me it was very convenient, the airport staff was going to send it straight to my friend’s home, it was her luggage and she could even save money!

Here in Japan it is convenient for travelers to send luggage using the “takiobin” (a type of courier, such as DHL), to the home or to the airport. That way you are free to ride the subway and train more comfortably. I have sent my suitcase to another friend’s home where I would be staying, I have used the company called Kuro Neko (Black Cat), paying about $34. As I needed to talk to my friends, I borrowed the phone from the young and friendly attendant, in gratittude I gave him a can of “guarana” (a Brazilian beverage), he was very surprised and happy.

From the airport I took a train to the subway station, and from the subway I walked to the hostel, it took me more than one hour and half to arrive, it was very hot that night. The rate was USD 20.67 (Yen 2400) including the reservation fee. This time I preferred to make a previous reservation, contrary to my habit of arriving on the spot and looking for available room. The hostel was very clean, and very quiet. I arrived after the check-in time and has found only a sticky note to the entrance door. Next to the message there was the pin code of the door, after the access to the main door, I have found at the reception the bed linen and next to it another door code for my bedroom. Although it was not a warm welcome I felt completely safe and the service was reliable.

I chose the Tokyo Backpackers, an independent hostel, instead of the International Youth Hostels Association (or Hostelling International), because I don’t like this association, it has to have a membership card and it’s more expensive. I tried to find something cheap and easy to access by subway and near the tourist attractions.

That was just for the first night, I didn’t want to make a long train ride to my friends’ home they would be hosting me near Tokyo, one hour and half away, it would take about three hours to get there from Narita Airport. Besides it I had just arrived from a 32 hours trip, apart from the time zone and the fact that I couldn’t sleep on planes. Yes, travelers also have a very tough life!

This is the hostel:

Tokyo Backpackers

2-2-2, Nihon-Zutsumi, Taito-ku Tokyo, 111-0021, Japan

Phone: +81 3 3871-2789.

E-mail: packers@eg-wave.com

Tokyo, meaning “Eastern Capital”, is the capital and largest city of Japan, it has a province status, with a population of 12.6 million people, located on the island of Honshu.

Tokyo’s ascension can be attributed to two men: Tokugawa Ieyasu and Emperor Meiji. In 1603, after unifying the warrior states of Japan, Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu founded his base in Edo (present-day Tokyo). As a consequence, the city developed rapidly and over time became one of the largest cities in the world, reaching a population of one million in the eighteenth century. It became the capital of Japan even when the emperor lived in Kyoto, the Imperial Capital. After 263 years, the shogunate was overthrown in order to restore imperial rule. In 1869, the Emperor Meiji moved to Edo, which had been renamed “Tokyo” a year earlier. Tokyo was already the political, economic, and cultural center of the nation, with the emperor’s residence it became the Imperial Capital, as well as the Castle of Edo which became the Imperial Palace.