Monthly Archives: November 2011

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!

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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!

Minato Citizens Festival

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Hey everyone!

I’m sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted. Mid terms got a bit crazy and it’s been hard to get back on track. But I’m still having lots of adventures that I want to share! A couple of weeks ago I volunteered to work at the Minato ku Citizens Festival. For two days, local businesses and organizations gathered in several areas around Zojoji Temple which is located right in front of Tokyo Tower. It was really amazing to see all the people milling around the various stalls with the temple towering behind them.

Temple University students worked at the prize counter at the festival. People could buy a ticket and then pick a number out of a box (1-5). Depending on which number you drew, you would go to an area of the tent and choose from a myriad of prizes. Of course the higher the number you chose, the better the prize you received. I was working at the #3 area, where the prizes were an emergency disaster kit, a hot water bottle, a face roller (to exercise the muscles in your face), or odor absorbing charcoal. The #1 prize was a bike, but unfortunately I was at lunch when someone won it.

It was really fun talking to the people walking around the tent, and those who won prizes. It was good Japanese practice as well. On my time off I got to walk around the festival and check out all of the delicious food and other various stalls. One of my favorite stalls was selling okonomoyaki (Japanese fried pancakes) covered in shrimp, spicy sauce, and mayonnaise right off the grill. It was so delicious! So many people were just lounging around eating delicious food, and kids were running all over the place.

Later on the afternoon I was asked by the Minato ku International Association if I would like to try on a kimono. Of course I couldn’t refuse, so I allowed them to pick one out for me and dress me up. They picked a formal kimono covered in flowers, and a green obi. I was really surprised at how much work goes into wearing traditional Japanese clothing. It took them a good fifteen minutes to get my ready, and then I put on some traditional sandals and stepped outside the tent. A lot of people had gathered to take photos, and some of the members asked if they could take a photo with me. It was slightly embarrassing, but still pretty fun at the same time.

One of the members suggested I walk down to the children’s park and take photos with some Temple art students who were making Halloween cards with local children. It was a little hard to walk in the kimono, since it is so tight against the legs, but somehow I managed it. Afterwards I got my picture taken in front of the temple, and then was helped out of the kimono. Everyone was so kind, and it was a really great experience. I was really happy I volunteered, and would definitely help out again! Too bad it only happens once a year!

With the members of the International Assoc.

with Temple Japan Art students