on travel, thoughts, and the art of short fiction

Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

The Imperial Palace and Gardens

In Japan on January 1, 2011 at 9:24 am

A side view of the palace. Note the evergreen trees and the shape they are cut into.

Sweet Makiko, who I met while training to go to Mozambique lives in Tokyo and we met up a few times. She took me around and showed me the ins and outs of Tokyo. Well, she showed me what she knew, she had just moved to Tokyo from Osaka and was almost a tourist herself. But Makiko was Japanese and spoke Japanese, that means she was able to translate and explain bits and pieces of the culture to help me better understand the complex hub that Tokyo is.

After meeting me at Hotel Okura, where I am staying with my now fiance (that’s right 😉 I got engaged last night :0)  ) we traveled via the subway in search of the Imperial Palace and Gardens.

The Tokyo subway map. Say what?!?

The Palace, home to Japans emperor and his family was quite the sight. Surrounded by a moat filled with swans and giant gold-fish, the palace and gardens are hidden behind a giant wall. Open to the public, complete with a museum, the palace is a major tourist destination.

Swans in the moat

The palace from a distance

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View from the Tower of Tokyo

In Japan on December 31, 2010 at 6:48 am

first, the mighty tower herself

From the Tower of Tokyo, you get a panoramic view of Tokyo from all sides.

Lightopia 2010-Tokyo

In Japan on December 30, 2010 at 10:45 am

An annual holiday celebration of lights, Lightopia is a spectacle to behold.

You obviously want to wait until the sun goes down and don’t forget to bundle up.

Cooked Sushi

In Japan on December 29, 2010 at 11:01 am

I am pregnant. My list of things that I can not do is vast. I can not drink sake. I can’t visit the famous Japanese hot springs. I can not eat sushi.

I thought I was doomed to spend my time in Japan slurping down noodles until Mark and I found this sushi establishment in Rapungi. On the menu, seared sushi- I was saved.

The sushi was so fresh. I ordered shrimp and salmon (it’s best not to get too crazy during the first trimester).

The chef made our rolls right there in front of us.

Our sushi came with a bottomless  cup of green tea.

*Note: Asking for ginger and wasabi on the side is a bit rude. The chef looked mortally wounded when we requested this as we are accustomed to in the states. “I have already placed it inside” was his horrified reply. And he had, he knew what he was doing and the food was phenomenal.

Why I’m Loving Taxis in Tokyo

In Japan on December 29, 2010 at 10:41 am

I’m a New Yorker. I find taxis to be off-putting. I don’t know if it’s the pine odor mixed with the smell of ripe pits, or the constant nauseating jostling, but I’m just not a fan of taxis.

In Tokyo, I am a different person. Completely helpless when it comes to navigating their complex subway system on my own, I am not only dependent here on taxis, but I have come to enjoy them.

Why I’m loving the taxis in Tokyo:

  1. Taxis glide over the smooth streets with expert precision. No potholes or craters blemish the smooth facade of Tokyo’s streets making for a sleek and comfortable ride.
  2. Taxis are everywhere and easy to catch. Outside of every subway stop for the most part, you will find a que of taxis. If you’re not near a subway stop, you can hail a cab the good ole’ fashioned way. If a taxi is on the street and empty, it is available.
  3. Taxi doors open and close automatically. This catches me by surprise every time. The taxi pulls up and before you know it the doors are open, ready to receive you. * Note to the wise, make sure you put your legs and arms in before those doors close 😉
  4. The aesthetic appeal is just plain quirky. Taxis are multi-colored and instead of having side mirrors by the windows, two large circular mirrors rest on the hood of the car, giving the appearance of the car wearing spectacles.
  5. All taxis are GPS capable. You will not have to worry about the cab driver telling you “Sorry, I don’t know where that is, unless you can give me directions you will have to get out!”
  6. You will not have to gag on that conspicuous pine scented car freshener odor. Taxis are clean and odor free.

* Note: Most taxis have a starting rate of 710 Yen. Which depending on your destination does not make for a cheap ride.

Why Does Everything Look So Familiar?

In Japan on December 28, 2010 at 10:21 am

On every street corner you will find:

  • Starbucks
  • 7-11
  • McDonald’s

Amongst the restaurants you will find:

  • TGIFridays
  • Outback Steakhouse
  • Dominoes Pizza
  • Denny’s
  • Tully’s

What is occurring?

Shiba

In Japan on December 28, 2010 at 10:20 am
A shrine in the Shiba neighborhood near Hotel Okura, where we stayed while in Tokyo.
 The stream in the Shiba gardens.
Shiba Gardens.

Origami

In Japan on December 27, 2010 at 10:13 am

The national art form of Japan, origami animals were a daily treat at Hotel Okura where we stayed.

the classic swan

it's hard to say, but i believe this guy is a frog

Cherry Blossoms in December

In Japan on December 26, 2010 at 10:09 am

Oh those whispy clouds of pink and red, delicately adorning slender branches.  Cherry Blossoms are the national flower of Japan.  While on a tour of the gardens at the Imperial Palace, I was surprised to find Cherry Blossoms in full bloom in December.

Christmas in Japan

In Japan on December 25, 2010 at 11:17 am

Merry Christmas!

Surprisingly, Tokyo was decked to the nines. I almost felt like I was in the states with all of the garland, and ornaments (almost).

Japan is not a Christian country, however, Christmas is acknowledged and in certain areas (and among its Christian population) celebrated.

I got a kick out of all of the Christmas sale signs in the stores. I suppose commercialism is everywhere.