Joey Goes Tokyo: Week 2
Join Joe as concludes his journey into the land of the rising!
Well, I hope that everyone enjoyed reading about the first half of my trip in Japan, and I also hope that it was helpful for anyone planning on going. Now Iím here to tell you all about my last five days of my incredible trip.
This was my last full day in Kyoto, so I wanted to make sure that I really made the most out of it. Of course, the day started off with a delightful stop at Mister Donut, which was right in the train station. They have some really nice donuts, but I hate paying over $2.00 for a cup of coffee that is the size of a juice glass.
Following a great breakfast was a stop off at the Silver Pavilion. While I was there, it was under some construction, so a bit of the beauty was taken away, but it had this great Zen garden and a mound in it that represented Mt. Fuji. Also, there was a really pretty walking path through a pretty large garden, which made the trip worth it.
After the Silver Pavilion, my brother and I took a short walk over to one of the more well-known spots in Kyoto, and thatís the Philosopherís Path. When you first look at it, the Philosopherís Path might not look like much, with just two strips of stone setting the path, a small stream on one side, and a small road with the backs of houses and shops on the other side, but once you understand the importance of it and the history behind it, the walk certainly becomes more then just the average walk about Kyoto. Itís a really pretty area, but marred a bit by shops, houses and vending machines. However, even with those blemishes, it is still one of the must doís in Kyoto. The walk probably isnít even two miles long, so it doesnít take you that long, and it's right by other shrines and temples.
Right after the Philosopherís Path was the experience that all anime fans probably dream of, especially when they are in Japan, and thatís the encounter with school girls. As soon as my brother and I got off of the Philosopherís Path and started heading towards the next temple, I heard this loud "Hello," coming from in front of me. I looked up to see this girl with a huge smile on her face, waving at me. They happen to get out of their taxi right in front of us, and I saw my chance. I asked them for a picture. About point-two seconds after I asked, they had already thrown their cameras to the taxi driver, let out a huge scream of excitement and were standing by my brother and I. Following this, we actually got into a good fifteen minute talk with the three girls. They each had a good grasp on English, which made things easy. Surprisingly enough, they werenít really into anime, but they loved J-Pop and Avril Lavienge. They were in Kyoto on a class trip, and in Japan, the class trips are different because the kids go off in small groups and basically travel around the city by themselves. I should also throw in a little tip here, speaking of high school students. If you are ever in Japan and you need help, look for high schoolers first, because they are most likely to know English, and hence, they are able to help you out with whatever you need. Donít ask the old woman wearing the kimono, because the odds are that she wonít know any English.
After that great experience, we stopped off at another temple before grabbing some lunch. It was a nice shrine that was a bit more out of the way, but still absolutely worth seeing. It was one of the few places where I was actually required to take off my shoes before entering. Once inside and walking around, it was one of the most peaceful places Iíve been. There is an old legend that goes along with this particular shrine. Itís said that one of the gold statues of Buddha got up and danced in the middle of the night, and that's why the statue is facing a certain direction. Just learning about these little legends was one of the most interesting parts about my stay.
In the afternoon, while at the Tojo Temple, I had my second encounter with the school children of Japan. This time, it was three boys and girls, and once again I was able to have a really good talk with them. I was really surprised how well fourteen year old children could speak English. They also gave me and my brother a few gifts. One gave us some candy called camu camu lemon, which was awesome, and another gave me a small dried French fry type snack, which was also great. Besides this meeting, the Tojo Temple was a great place to visit. It had two buildings like mini museums that housed a number of different statues. The Tojo Temple is also home to the largest pagoda in all of Japan, which is certainly a sight to see, and it had an absolutely gorgeous pond in the middle.
This was the last of my traveling days while in Japan. I went from Kyoto back to Tokyo, and I arrived back around 9:30 AM. Once back in Tokyo, I headed right out to Ueno to see the Tokyo National Museum, and to walk around Ueno Park. Ueno could be one of the nicer places to go to if you donít have much time in Japan, and one big reason is that as soon as you walk out of the station, youíre across the street from Ueno Park, which has a number of different museums, temples, shrines, a zoo, the famous statue of Takamori Saigo (a 19th century samurai), and it is just a pretty area to walk around.
The Tokyo National Museum was another great site, and Iíd highly recommend it to anyone in Tokyo. There are a number of large buildings, each dedicated to something different. If you do go here, youíll want to give yourself plenty of time, especially if youíre like me and you walk very slowly while read everything.
Since the Tokyo National Museum is in Ueno Park, it was easy to move on to the next thing I wanted to do. Ueno Park is a really pretty place to walk around, with a number of different things to see. I stopped at a shrine and at Shinobazu Pond. One thing you will probably notice about Ueno Park is the high population of homeless people that live there. Ever since they were forced out of the subways, a large majority have made Ueno Park their home.
The day finished with a stop at MOS Burger (the Burger King of Japan) for dinner, and a baseball game. I got to see the Bay Stars take on the Fighters. Probably the best thing about the Fighters is their center fielder Shinjo, who is like an icon. He played over here for a few years, but he never did very well, so he went back to Japan. Whenever he was on the field, the girls would go running up front to quickly take pictures of him on their camera phones.
Since I had been to all of the major sites and areas that I wanted to, my brother and I used these last few days to go back to some areas that we wanted to see again and to get in any last minute areas that we wanted to see, but only if we had the time.
Our day started off with a trip back to Asakusa, since the first time that we were there, we didnít have much of a chance to walk around. While there, we went to the Sanso-ji complex, which is where the shopping arcade, temple, shrine and pagoda are all located. We were lucky enough to actually see a famous baseball player. A huge mob of people rushed him, and my brother and I had no clue who he was until someone told us that he played baseball. I made sure to pick up some rice confectioneries there, since you see them all over and they are basically a staple candy in Japan.
For the second half of our day, we went to famous Akihabara, known for its large amount of anime shops and especially its electronics. While there, we went shopping at Laox, which is a really well-known store that sells electronics and just about everything else you could possibly want in Japan. We easily spent over an hour there, just looking around, and we found gifts for just about everybody that I knew. Following the shopping, I had to hit up one of the many arcades all over the place, and I played what quickly became my favorite game, the UFO catcher, which is basically the claw machine game that you see in bowling lanes. I was able to get Ghost in the Shell, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Bleach action figures, which made the hundreds of yen that I spent worth it. After I won, one of the employees came running over with a bag for me to put my action figure in. Right here was just one of the small things that you see in Japan that youíd never think of in America. When a guy working at an arcade wearing a uniform comes running over, bows, congratulates me and hands me a bag, you realize that arcades there are so much cooler than they are here. The same guy also told my brother that no pictures were allowed, so maybe he just felt bad for us.
The day ended with more yakitori for dinner, which is always a great way to end the day for me. My brother had perhaps the strangest thing out of our entire stay in Japan: softened chicken bone. He describe it as, "You know that feeling when your knee pops? Well, itís like eating that."
This was a pretty uneventful day actually. It started with a trip to Shibuya, where I got to see the busiest intersection in all of Japan. It was crazy; just how busy it actually was, and the buildings around it all had TV monitors on them, and they were blasting some kind of music. I also got to see a famous statue of a dog called Hachiko at the intersection in Shibuya. There is a famous tale behind it, where the dog waited so long for it's master that people felt it was worthy of a statue, so obviously it had to have been waiting for a long time. It's a popular area for friends to meet up with one another.
After walking around Shibuya, we went to our third and final baseball game. Once again, I'd like to highly recommend to everyone that if you go to Japan, you should go to at least one baseball game, because they are a lot of fun and you immerse yourself right smack dap in the middle of the culture. It's something that's very familiar to Americans, yet while in Japan, it's so different.
This was a sad day, because it was my last in Japan, but I wasn't going to get down and I was going to make sure that I made the most of it. First, my brother and I went to Roppongi, and we walked around the Roppongi Hills shopping complex. It was this huge mall that was far more complicated to get around then it had to be, and most of the stores were just clothing chains. When you enter, you get a map, a map which you will need, but unfortunately, it is almost impossible to understand. While at Roppongi Hills, you might want to walk through its garden and visit the TV studio right across the street that airs Doreamon for all the people of Japan that can't get enough of that time traveling cat.
After that, we had to make one last stop at what was one of my favorite spots: Harajaku. We went to the Meiji Shrine one last time to grab some souvenirs and grab sushi for lunch. Surprisingly, mikos donít fight demons anymore; they just sell charms at shrines. I guess demons don't cause as much trouble as they use to. Following Harajaku, we stopped off at Shibuya, so that my brother could go to Tower Records, and we walked by a ice cream shop that had a line that stretched down the street, past a number of stores.
As our day was coming to an end, we stopped at Yakana. Itís a pretty small area that's not as well-known as some others, but it has a huge number of temples and famous sites to see. Since it's so small, it's very easy to walk around, and worth stopping at.
The last place we went to was Ikebukuro, where we just walked around and got to see some bands playing at Ikebukuro West Gate Park. It isn't really a park, because it's basically just cement with some trees, but they still call it a park. I felt bad for this one guy, because he was all by himself with his guitar, and about fifty feet away was a full band, completely drowning out anything that he was playing.
We ended the night with dinner at Yoshinoya (itís a really good and extremely cheap restaurant chain that serves only about five dishes, but they are everywhere), and a stop at Newdays to get some drinks and snacks.
The Trip Home
The plane ride back was only twelve hours and four minutes, including an arrival delay, so it wasn't bad at all. The best part of the flight back was that my brother and I were lucky enough to sit next to someone from Japan that knew English pretty well. We spent at least half of the flight just talking about different customs in Japan, and of course, anime. I should make sure to throw in a reminder to leave some room in your suitcase, because you will be bringing back a lot of gifts.
This concludes the story about the trip of a lifetime for me. I hope that everyone at least once in their life gets the chance to experience what I did, because it truly was incredible.