Saturday is Another Beautiful Day for Wandering Japan

Somehow we have been amazingly lucky with our trip to Tokyo. The weather has been overly warm and sunny with only one night of rain last Friday. We came at the perfect time of year to see beautiful Cherry Blossoms everywhere we looked. As well, the people we have encountered have been very kind and helpful with communicating with us and our lack of Japanese skills.

With just over a week behind us and three days left, we needed to tone down our walking. My average steps in a day are around 2500 at home. I’ve done 7 times that at least once so far.

We return daily to the hotel exhausted and sore, just to pass out with bellies full of great Japanese food we had moments before.

Today we traveled to the Sensõ-Ji Temple and went all touristy there. Lots of artsy pictures on numerous cameras. We walked past the shops doing our best to avoid spending money. The temple was our main goal today.

We stopped and got our fortunes. My oldest daughter got a bad fortune, so the idea was to tie it up. While good fortunes you needed to take care of. Inside the temple, we each tossed a coin in and made a small prayer of thanks for letting us enjoy the temple. And we bought souvenir luck charms to take home with us.

Of course we couldn’t pass up the chance to go on a rickshaw while in Japan. Our “driver” took us on a quick tour. Where he showed us the “Asahi Golden Flame” or as people call it- the “Flame Poo”. We got a good laugh. We passed more Cherry Blossoms and stopped for some pictures.

Next we hopped back onto the train and headed towards Ginza to find a KitKat Chocolatory. We picked up some signature flavors including the newest “Sublime Ruby” which is said to be from the 4th kind of chocolate. They sell 300/day/store so we were happy to be able to pick up 5 of them to try out. I also picked up a special “Birthstone” box for myself since my birthday is in March.

Afterwards we hit the Don Quijote store and grabbed some more flavors to bring back home for our friends to try.

Yes, we even picked up some wasabi and sake flavors as well. Maybe we will lose some friends after that….

Odaiba

We are doing our best to explore as much of Tokyo as possible on this trip. With tons of walking and lots of train rides, I think we are doing pretty good. Sure, we won’t see everything, but we are definitely trying. Our next adventure took us to Odaiba.

Hold up.

Our first adventure was waking up at 8:19am to a 5.0 Magnitude earthquake. Laying in bed, in a hotel, in a foreign country as the room trembled back and forth was an uneasy feeling. I was happy that it was a minor one. It took a few minutes after the rumblings but we calmed down and we just went on with our day.

On our way to the train station, we saw an incredible clock. Just like a tourist- we took a bunch of photos. When we arrived in Odaiba- we immediately began taking tons of more photos. There is a Statue of Liberty and the iconic Fuji TV building as soon as you step out of the train station. We then walked towards the outer edge of Odaiba in hopes of walking the parks, but it was all under construction with signs of the 2020 Olympics. So we wandered back towards finding the Full Size Unicorn Gundam!

Hold up!

But we weren’t going to make it there right away. We got distracted by a lost puppy. She was cowering in between the sidewalk and the fence over a major roadway. Clearly terrified. So I carefully got her out and my wife and I discussed what we should do. We began to head towards the Hilton hotel when we noticed some police just up the road.

Turns out they were looking for the dog for about twenty minutes. I was amazed that something like this is handled by the police, and the fact that they were actively looking for the dog. We waited about five minutes with the officer while another one walked his bike and the dogs owner to us. This is not something we see the police do in Canada. The owner was relieved and thanked us profusely before we went on our way.

Now we made it to the large Gundam. That thing is impressive! Even my wife thought it was pretty cool so she gave me the okay to buy a few limited edition Gundam models from the gift shop. We headed into Diver City and did some more souvenir shopping.

Hold up again!

We found Café de Miki with Hello Kitty and clearly had to stop for a lunch. My wife and daughter love Hello Kitty, so this was a no-brainer. We got to keep a souvenir mug and marmalade as well. After lunch, we went downstairs to the Hello Kitty store and bought some more stuff.

We left Diver City and made our way to Pallete Town and Mega Web. We stopped in at the Toyota showcase and saw some amazing concept cars that run on hydrogen and the kids tried out a VR sports car. This was on our way to the 115 meter tall Daikanransha Ferris Wheel. On the Ferris wheel we saw some amazing views of the city and bay. Then my wife remembered we had experienced an earthquake earlier in the day and was looking forward to the ride being over.

After the ride, we wandered through another mall called Venus Fort with some unique indoor decor. We made a quick stop at an arcade to play some more of the Drum Game, four player Pac-Man and air hockey. Of course we had to stop at a Studio Ghibli store and spend another small fortune on goodies.

Finally we escaped the malls and crammed onto a train to head back to our hotel and unload our goodies. This was our day of shopping which was originally planned for Monday. So now we have a free day opened up on our itinerary.

Hmmm… looks like family has voted for another day to be spent at DisneySea.

Experiencing Japanese Cafes

Today we slept in after two hard days at both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. We needed a calm down and decided to take in some other unique experiences Tokyo has to offer. So we took our adventure to Akihabara.

We couldn’t even leave the train station without spending a tiny fortune on tiny capsules filled with tiny toys. We hunted them out afterwards and spent a bit more. But the first real stop was only steps away from the train station. We hit up the Gundam Cafe for a quick lunch (and lots of food photos for Instagram).

After lunch, we wandered the streets walking in and out of shops filled with those capsule machines and anime statues. I also found the “Table Flip” arcade game I was so desperate to play. We gave it a go for fun. My son made the top ten on the scoreboard. Then it was time for us to head out for the reason for our trip to Akihabara.

Then the highlight of our day was spending an hour in the Akiba Fukurou Owl Cafe. Almost hidden down a side street with no real markings except a few small signs on the windows. You need to book in advance, and they give you directions on how to find it.

Once we were there, it was like walking into a zen filled oasis. Classical music, whispered voices, and owls. Lots of varieties of owls. All of which were perfectly happy to visit with us as we marveled at them.

We were each given an opportunity to hold two different owls. So of course we took it! And we took hundreds of photos! This was one of the most unusual and gratifying experiences we have had. I even got to “hold” a Burrow Owl. This is my favorite Owl ever since I saw a Cartoon of it. I want one now more than ever!

That pretty much ended our day on an extreme high. We left Akihabara feeling fulfilled and could not stop talking to each other about the experience in the Owl Cafe.

If you make it to Tokyo- check out Akiba Fukurou Owl Cafe it’s worth it.

Tokyo DisneySea

The day before we went to Tokyo Disneyland and it was great. Like a mini version of California’s original Disneyland (Minus The Matterhorn). Today we went to DisneySea.

We didn’t expect much after the day in Disneyland. Maybe just a few different rides or variations on the classics. But nope. That’s not what we encountered. We walked into DisneySea-

It blew my freakin’ mind, man!

As you can tell by these few panoramas- the place was HUGE! Every time you entered a new “land” you couldn’t even tell that you had left the previous one. Like switching a channel on TV. It was amazing to say the very least.

Our first ride was Journey to the Center of the Earth followed by 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on Mysterious Island. Afterwards we wandered through Mermaid Lagoon and Arabian Coast. If we spent a second day in DisneySea- we would’ve seen the shows in the theaters and still not hit every ride.

After that, we made our way to Lost River Delta and got a FastPass for the Raging Spirits Ride. Well, Ok- everyone else got a FastPass but me. I was too damn tall. But the family had fun when we returned.

We hopped onto a Steamship and headed back to Mediterranean Harbor where we grabbed lunch and another ride on the water. This time on the Venetian Gondolas. It was a lot of fun- like the Jungle Cruise.

After the Gondolas- we wandered back to the other side to use our FastPasses on Raging Spirits and Journey to the Center of the Earth (for a second ride). Once the rides were over, we decided to walk around the Fortress Exploration where we ended up watching an Easter Show on the water.

As the evening started to settle in, we headed through Port Discovery and rode the Aquatopia ride. After that, we wandered through a mock-up of a Cape Cod town as we made our way towards American Waterfront.

It was starting to get late, so we ended up going for dinner in an old steamship in a place called The Teddy Roosevelt Lounge. It was decked out with T.R. memorabilia. It was set up like an old smoking lounge with booth tables and large leather chairs. We were placed in the center of the lounge at the large fireplace and treated like American Royalty. It was a great experience.

We ended our day with a walk towards Toy Story Mania and bought some “Little Green Dumplings” as dessert. Wandering through the shops on our way to the exit was absolute chaos. It seems that “Duffy” the bear is HUGE in Japan and everyone wants some of the merchandise that the employees were having a tough time keeping the shelves full.

All-in-all it was one of the greatest Disney Resort trips we have ever experienced. I already want to return- so does my family!

Tokyo Disneyland

Tuesday was spent exploring a crowded Tokyo Disneyland.

We awoke early to catch a couple of trains in order to arrive 30 mins prior to the park opening. As we shuffled through the gates, a sea of people were everywhere. I was amazed at the initial entry and how amazing the structure was.

Our first ride was Star Tours- with an already 20 minute wait. Just before it- I had zipped out to get a Fastpass for the Monsters: Ride and Go Seek (which was surprisingly a good ride!) Even though it was shortly after we entered the park- the second ride we tried to get on already had a 3hr stand-by line.

But that ride was Space Mountain. A ride we have been on in California numerous times. As we were about to get in line, a lady took my daughter and I aside to see if we would even fit in the ride. (We did!-but 3hrs is too long to wait.) So we wandered over to Tom Sawyers Island for a little walk around.

Of course we tried different rides and shows that aren’t in California. Lee-Anne made us go on the Beaver Brother Canoes. So I made her go see Stitch in the Tiki Room. They gave us translation devices to enjoy the lyrics in English.We also enjoyed the PhilharMagic this time in Japanese.

Of course no trip to Disneyland would be complete without a train ride, turkey leg, and a bunch of pictures in front of the castle. It made for a busy and fun adventure!

Next stop- DisneySea!

Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli was on our list of places to see for ages now. It took me months to get tickets for it. And we could only get a time slot of 16:00 to get in. Was it worth it? Yes.

The downside- no photos permitted inside the museum. Only the outside in the courtyard and garden. So we took advantage of that opportunity.

Inside the Museum was very interactive. And well maintained. It was so clean and pristinely well kept inside. Lots of art and descriptions of how the filming was done. Even old school 35mm style films were used in the demonstrations. (I felt like I was doing my projectionist job back at the theater.)

We also got to watch a short film called “Boro The Caterpillar”. No words or music in the movie, just sounds made by a person’s mouth. The audience laughed at the cuteness of the film. We each received a souvenir “movie ticket” with a small film cell inside. Pretty cool.

I also spent a small fortune in the gift shop because hey- when will we ever be back here? I amused some people with my arm full of soot sprites.

It was a great day that was filled with smiles and joy for the family. If you like Studio Ghibli- this Museum is for you.

Sunday Was Made for Walking

Today I wrote on our itinerary: “Walking Tour”. Which meant we were going to walk around and explore wherever the family wanted to go. We hit up a small grocery store nearby and grabbed some sushi and fruit for a picnic lunch.

The first place we wandered towards was back to the spot near the Tokyo Tower. I really wanted to see the Zōjō-ji Temple in the daytime. It was gorgeous. The building is fantastically preserved. We walked around before heading to the park next to it for lunch.

We found a shaded bench and enjoyed our lunch. Having a beer in public in Japan is completely acceptable. Who am I to not want to blend in? We bought cans of Asahi with lovely Cherry Blossoms on it since we are here to enjoy the Cherry Blossoms! During lunch we discussed what to do today. We had no big plans, so I suggested going to an arcade to play some video games.

We chose to walk the 5km with a plan on taking the train back. It seemed like a great idea at first. Using the pocket WiFi I had picked up- we all played Pokémon Go on our journey. Gotta catch ’em all! On our walk we also saw people on Mario Karts doing a tour.

After a long walk we made it to the High-tech Land Sega and enjoyed some games. Even though we can’t read Japanese- the kids figured out how to play by guessing and watching others. A good battle of Mario Kart ensued between them! We did terrible at the crane games, so we left and wandered over to the other arcade across the street.

You could smell the cigarette smoke before even walking in. It was an instant throwback to my youth. Hazy arcades filled with secondhand smoke. We didn’t last very long inside- not even long enough to play a game.

So we headed to the train to go back to the hotel. THE TRAIN WAS PACKED. But only for a couple of stops. Then it cleared out and we found some seats to relax in.

After we did a pit stop at our hotel, we headed out for our first Ramen of the trip. My wife has been kind enough to let me figure out everything on this trip. From the ticket machines at the train stations to ordering dinner at the Fukki Ramen- I’m guessing at what to do, and being pretty successful as it goes.

The Ramen was delicious and exactly what we needed to end our day. Full bellied and happy. We all had a good night sleep. Soon we will be off to find out next adventure!

Ueno Zoo

Saturday in Tokyo was a journey up to the Ueno Zoo. This was a place our son had chosen to see on our visit to Tokyo. I’m glad we did. We had a ton of fun taking selfies and joking around.

It seemed crowded at first, but it wasn’t so bad once we were inside and wandering around. The large lineup moved quickly through the main gates. It seemed most people wanted to see the newborn pandas. We were “ok” to pass on that- as cute as it may have been. Even though I do not like crowds, the Japanese groups are almost pleasant to deal with.

The Zoo itself was pretty amazing. Lots of healthy animals not being pestered by people. Fairly large habitats as well.

Seems my son has an affection for polar bears, penguins, turtles & tortoises. He was constantly taking photos and videos of them. He now wants to use my old empty fish tank and get a turtle. We shall see about that one.

Everyone was still full of smiles at the end of the day. It proved that we had a great time at the zoo.

Sore feet and all….

Tokyo and Tokyo Tower

On our first full day in Tokyo, we journeyed around near our hotel. We found some shops and restaurants. Then we ventured off towards the Tsukiji market to check out the fish.

After wandering around the market sampling foods and taking tons of photos of fish, we saw a sign pointing towards a temple. Since there was no big plan today, so we walked over there.

It was a lovely building that we entered and I performed a Buddhist prayer as respect. The chanting and the incense inside added to the spirituality of the temple.

Then we walked towards “Don K”- a store filled with cheap junk. We laughed at the merchandise- my kids thought it was funny that dad was a shit head. I was mesmerized by the over stimulation in the store. Noises, sounds, videos, and colors attacked my senses. We picked up some bento box lunches and went back to the hotel.

After lunch, we all had a quick nap- the time change was still hitting us. By dinner, we were up and out the door making our way towards Tokyo Tower. On our way there we stopped at the Zojoji Temple. But as it was getting dark, there was only some of the outside to see. Lovely white cherry blossom trees were all around. (We plan on walking back during the day sometime this trip).

Once at Tokyo Tower, we went inside and checked out the stores. Our middle daughter loved the Hello Kitty merchandise. I had pre-purchased tickets for the Tokyo Tower Top Deck Tour since it had just reopened at the start of the month -they had limited tickets available. We were each given a device and ear piece that described the history of the tower as we slowly escalated to the Top Deck through a series of elevators.

Once we were at the top deck, it all became so much more than just a visit to Tokyo. Inside the top deck were angled reflective panels that gave a look of shattered glass. It was a beautiful expression of art. The 360° views of the city were stunning. I had timed out our tickets for the 8pm slot in order to view the night lights and the Disneyland Fireworks.

This was a great way to end our first full day in Tokyo- overlooking this amazing city.

Big in Japan

We made it to our destination. For some reason, I kind of stand out. Probably because I’m 6’8″ or a bit over 2 meters tall. I’m big in Japan.

We are excited to be here. There is so much to see. And I guess we have become a sight as well. Oh boy. Big In Japan is going through my head over and over. I tower over the crowds already just coming off the plane.

We arrived at 6:30pm Japan time. Which to us was 3:30am. After getting our bags and clearing customs, the first leg of our journey began. The part I was worried about- figuring out how to get to our hotel.

After a few moments of staring at the ticket machine for the monorail- I figured out what I needed and where we were heading. Luckily for me- my wife stayed away with the kids instead of crowding me. She knew I need a few moments peace to get it.

The monorail wasn’t too busy and it spoke in English at each stop. Ours was the final stop where everyone had to disembark. Smiles were showing up on our faces as the shock of being in new country overcame us.

Relief was coming over me. Off the train and we had to get to our hotel. This was the next part I worried about. The printed map was not very helpful:

As we walked, my son asked how I knew where we were going. I told him I had memorized our route using Google Maps and Google Street view. Figuring out how far from landmarks (7-11 and Denny’s- the ones I’d recognize). In about five minutes we were at the hotel and checking in. Our Tokyo adventure was continuing even in the lobby.

There is a little robot in our lobby named “Pepper” who was kinda neat. It was there as a sort of assistant to help if you had questions. It would follow a person’s eyes as it got near to them. The little guy looked at me and stared up. I think it was “blinking” in astonishment- the lights around its eyes were changing color.

After getting settled in our room for a few minutes, two of the kids and I wandered out to the 7-11 and grabbed a snack. Our day/night ended at 9:30pm Tokyo time/ 5:30am Vancouver time. We all passed out.

First day done. Now to explore more of this city.