Category Archives: Molly Guiniven

Tokyo Tower

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The weather has been rather pleasant lately (not too chilly), so today after classes my friend and I decided to finally take a trip to Tokyo Tower! Actually, when walking from Tamachi Station to TUJ’s Azabu Hall, Tokyo Tower is visible and at night you can see it lit up. The tower is in the same ward as TUJ (Minato-ku), and since it did not look as though it was too far, we decided to walk instead of taking the Yamanote line (we would go to the stop right after Tamachi, Hamamatsucho). Walking saved us ¥130, and saving money is always good in my opinion!

The tower's visibility near Tamachi Station (田町駅).

The walk itself was not bad – we were worried that it would be a long walk, but it took probably about 20 minutes and was pretty straightforward. Basically, we just pointed ourselves in the right direction and headed towards the tall yellow-orange object.

Taken while standing in the driveway/street leading up to the tower.

During the day, Tokyo Tower is just painted plain orange and white, but as soon as it becomes dark (around 17:00), it lights up to usually this yellow/orange color. However, when I first arrived to Tokyo in August, it was a white color instead. I have been told that sometimes it changes colors for special events or seasons, so I am currently waiting to see if it will change as the winter holiday season begins.

We explored the bottom area of the tower, which mainly consists of souvenir shops (they sell many Tokyo Tower phone straps, mugs, etc., so I plan on going back and buying a few gifts there) and restaurants. The souvenir prices were reasonable (about ¥200 – ¥1000, depending on what you are looking for). There are also elevators that take visitors to the observatory, which I would like to go to when I go back to Tokyo Tower during the day.

Taken at the foot of the tower. You can see the main observatory in the middle.

Here is some information concerning Tokyo Tower, taken from its official site: It was built in 1958 as a structure for communications, to support antennae, and stands at 333m tall. As you may notice, the design is based upon Paris’ Eiffel Tower, and currently it is one of the tallest pieces of architecture in Japan. There are two observatories – the main observatory and the special observatory. The main observatory consists of two floors, and on the first floor there are “look down windows” that allow visitors to literally look down at the ground below their feet. The second floor holds a Shinto Shrine, and the special observatory is higher up and shows visitors the best views of Tokyo city available from the tower.

Although visiting the tower during the day would be very interesting (especially to use the “look down windows”), I definitely recommend visiting at night as well to see it all lit up – it’s so bright that all the buildings around it reflect the orange glow!

Sega, Gundams, and Maids…Oh my!

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Hello everyone (again!).

I must admit, Akihabara (秋葉原) was one of the places I was looking forward to going to the most. Akiba (its shortened name) is popular for many reasons. It is the place to go if you are looking to buy electronics (new and used), videogames, or anime and manga goods. There are also many popular maid cafes located in Akiba, and as you walk through the streets, there are some maids outside their cafes asking you to come in. There are many arcades, and almost every building along the main strip is lit up.

Photo by: Brittani Ericksen

Also, for anyone interested in J-Pop, the group AKB48 originated from Akihabara, and their cafe and theater are both located here. Their cafe is right next to the Gundam Cafe outside of the train station, and the theater is in the Don Quixote store on  the eighth floor. From what I’ve heard, AKB48 perform live every day in their theater.

Photo by: Brittani Ericksen

The Gundam Cafe.

My friend Brittani and I mostly just walked around exploring, although we did go into a couple of arcades and electronic shops. The streets were fairly busy, although I believe we went a little too late into the evening, because there were a good amount of smaller shops already closed.

Photo by: Brittani Ericksen

The one arcade that we went into had about four floors, and each floor was something different. On the first floor, there were your typical crane games, mostly costing about a few hundred yen for a couple of tries. The second floor had games like Dance Dance Revolution, a guitar game, and a game where you hit drums to the beat of the music. The last two floors were full of video poker machines, video mahjong machines, and other video machines that I didn’t recognize.

We decided to leave that arcade, and then went into a Sega arcade, and tried to play a crane machine for a little bit; however, it was not your usual crane game. The crane was just a single hook, and the item was looped around a metal bar. We originally tried to get the hook through the loop and pick it up, but kept failing. A salaryman actually came over (looking very amused) and taught us how to do it – instead of trying to pick it up, you’re supposed to nudge it off the bar. Unfortunately, we still kept failing horribly, so we finally gave up, but at least we got a good amount of laughs out of it!

Photo by: Brittani Ericksen

There also are a lot of restaurants in Akihabara. Outside the station is a Kaitenzushi place (conveyor belt sushi) that I want to go back and try! Also, on the top floor of one of the camera electronics buildings, the whole floor is dedicated to restaurants. There are Shabu Shabu places, Chinese, sushi – something for everyone.

All in all, Akihabara is a very lively and fun place, and especially great if you have an interest in Japanese pop culture!

Also, all the photos in this post are posted with the permission of Brittani Ericksen, and belong to her.

Hospitals & Cakes!

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Greetings!

To celebrate the fall weather and the spirit of Halloween, my friends and I did a couple of fun things during the past few weeks. It was also a little surprising to see that Halloween is actually popular in Tokyo – there were costumes and decorations around the city.

Our first stop was this buffet called ‘Sweets Paradise,’ which has a few locations throughout Tokyo. My friends Stefania, Brittani, and I went to the location in Shibuya (and it took us a couple of minutes to find the actual entrance that is located on the side of the building rather than the front). You enter, pay the ticket machine ¥1,480, and then have 80 minutes to eat an unlimited amount of various cakes! They also have some regular food (pasta and curry), but most of it consists of desserts.

Since it is fall, they had pumpkin cakes in addition to green tea cakes, roll cakes, mousse, tiramisu – pretty much anything you wanted, they had. Needless to say, the three of us ate too much and basically felt like we were in a sweet-coma afterwards.

Aftermath

We really had no control.

My friend Stefania also found a free event to go to in Hatsudai, so a couple of days later we ventured to an abandoned hospital. I believe it was hosted by ‘ArtGig Tokyo 2,’ and it was open from noon until midnight. We decided to go later, around 7:00pm. The information said to bring a flashlight, so we made sure to pack one!

The basement entrance.

At the entrance was a sign to go down into the basement, and at the bottom of the stairs we were greeted and asked to enter a raffle. They had run out of maps, but the lady told us that the layout of the building was square, with a larger room in the center.

The crematorium display.

It was really dark, and flashes were not allowed, so I was not able to get many pictures. However, it was sufficiently creepy, and there were art displays set up in almost every corner. There was a black & white animated film playing on the wall in a tatami room, a CT scan room where actors were pretending to be doctors, a sokushinbutsu (the mummy of a Buddhist priest and a result of self-mummification), and a main performance featuring a clown (yikes!) in the main room.

即身仏 (sokushinbutsu)

Overall, though, I must admit that, as a fan of survival horror games, I most enjoyed the ability to wander through an abandoned hospital basement. There were abandoned stretchers and equipment left around, store closets full of random devices that were falling apart – the atmosphere was very creepy, definitely.

If I’m in Tokyo again around this time of year, I definitely will keep an eye out for any more free events hosted by this organization!

Tokyo Game Show 2011

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Tokyo Game Show

Tokyo Game Show 2011

This post is actually a couple weekends old – like Michelle, schoolwork has been keeping me busy!

I went to the Tokyo Game Show in Chiba on Sunday, September 18th with a couple of friends from school. We left Ontakesan Dorm around 8:00 am, and it was quite a long journey – we took the Ikegami line to Gotanda station, the Yamanote line to Tokyo station, and finally the Keiyo line until the last station. It took us a little over 2 hours to get to the actual convention center (getting briefly lost included);  then, of course, there were lines to wait in before even getting inside – however, it is safe to say that it was definitely worth the wait in the heat.

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Square Enix Booth Display

The opening day for public admission was Saturday, but even on Sunday TGS was crowded – literally the whole center was packed full of people. There were two buildings, and both housed the booths open to the public. Sony, Microsoft, Sega, Konami, Capcom, and Square Enix were some of the biggest booths, and each had different displays set up. You could wait in line to test a variety things – we tried to test Sony’s Playstation Vita, but, unfortunately, the lines were closed when we got there. Instead we walked around for a little while, looking at the different displays and watching the trailers for all the games. I was, however, able to test out Mass Effect 3 and Biohazard: Revelations (once again – long lines!), which I must admit made me pretty happy!

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Biohazard: Revelations' Display

Another thing that made TGS fun was seeing all the cosplayers walking around. There was a small area outside between the two buildings where cosplayers were holding photo shoots, and it was interesting to look around and find people dressed up as characters who you recognized. Even though I have seen cosplay done at conventions in America, it was different to see here in Japan. It really was amazing to look at all the intricate costumes people had put together to wear, and every single one was perfect down to the final detail. Also, another thing I found interesting in contrast to American conventions was that cosplayers here don’t wear their costumes to the convention – there are designated changing rooms, so people bring their costumes there and then change into them.

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Cosplay (Final Fantasy X)

It was a little nerve-wracking going up to cosplayers and asking them for pictures (写真をとってもいいですか?/shashin o totte mo ii desu ka?), especially since the first person we asked actually said ‘no.’ But, as with any language barrier obstacle that I’ve come across so far here in Tokyo, it quickly became no big deal and we were able to take a lot of great pictures.

All in all, TGS was an incredibly fun way to experience some Japanese pop culture (also a good time to nerd out over videogames), and whether you’re interested in videogames or pop culture or just looking for something interesting to do, make sure to keep TGS in mind if you happen to be in Tokyo during the Fall! To make it even sweeter, TUJ’s OSS (Office of Student Services) gave out flyers for a 50% off student discount, so we only had to pay ¥600 with our TUJ I.D. instead of ¥1200 – definitely worth it!

Oh, and one final reason TGS is worth going to – tons of freebies!

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They hand all of this out, seriously. Everywhere.

Life in Tokyo Begins!

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Crosswalk at night in Shibuya (渋谷区).

Greetings from Tokyo, Japan! Since this is the first post for this blog, let me introduce myself quickly – Hi! I’m Molly, and I usually can be found lurking about at Temple University’s main campus. This semester, however, I’m studying abroad at the Japan Campus, located in one of Tokyo’s 23 wards, Minato (港区). For those of you who are interested in Temple’s study abroad program, I hope this blog will help give you some insight of what to expect! As for anyone else reading this, I promise to have something exciting and new each week to keep your interest piqued!

Let’s start off simply with some details about the arrival procedure, and what the first couple of days are like. I arrived here in Tokyo last Tuesday before the start of the semester with the rest of the study abroad group, and already it has been an exciting week and a half. Arriving and settling into the dorm was a long journey, but relatively simple. A group of us had arranged to meet at the airport, which is where we bought our bus tickets (¥3,000) to go to the Sheraton Miyako Hotel Tokyo where the Temple official would meet us. The bus ride itself was about an hour and a half long, and from the hotel we took a cab to our housing (students doing homestay actually met their host families there and went home with them instead). Luckily I was able to split the fare with another girl in the Ontakesan dormitory, so I think the final cost for the taxi was roughly ¥1,000-1,500 a piece.

The Ontakesan dorm is located in another ward, Ota (大田区). It’s in a residential area, and the surrounding neighborhood is peaceful. Ontakesan station is only 10-15 minutes away from the dorm by walking, and there’s a strip of small restaurants and convenience stores (including a 7/11!) that makes shopping for food and necessities extremely easy.

This little street in Ota can quickly become quite busy in the morning.

The first few days were busy, starting with a dorm orientation the day after arrival, when students were also taken to apply for their alien registration card and national health insurance. Last Thursday and Friday were also orientation days for the study abroad students at TUJ.

So far, what I really like about TUJ are the different events they offer during the semester to get students involved. They host a cultural exchange night and a language partner program (both of which are free!), as well as trips that allow you to see different areas of Japan, such as the Nikko Day Trip (apparently home to beautiful shrines) and the Shikoku Trip (an area that contrasts with day-to-day life in Tokyo by allowing you to experience “old Japan”).  In fact, the facebook page gives more information on all the events, so make sure to check it out!

Between running around with orientations and classes, I’ve noticed one major cultural difference, and I’m going to close this first post by mentioning it: people are extremely polite towards others here in Tokyo. Morning and evening trains are quiet despite being overcrowded (really, really overcrowded), and at night in our residential area, there are never any loud disturbances. Also, just yesterday a high school student approached me to offer me help with my Suica card (train pass) when I was having trouble getting it to work. She even walked with me to the station office, and stayed with me until it was sorted out so that she could help me explain the issue to the officials. Even just a week and a half into the fall semester, I’m already astounded by how respectful everyone I’ve crossed so far seems to be. It certainly is different  than most other cities that I have had the experience of going to.

To finish wrapping up this first post, I would just like to say thank you for reading! I have a list of all the places I would like to explore in Tokyo, so stay tuned!