Tokyo (Day 8 to 13) : Ikebukuro

 

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(As usual, the crowd is killing)

 

 

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From left:
1. One of many cinemas in Ikebukuro. I went one (Toho Cinema) to watch “I am Legend” and it cost me 1800 yen a ticket. That’s almost twice as much I have to pay in Australia!
2. Some politician trying to make her point
3. The streets in Ikebukuro
4. Some performance in a large shopping centre World Import Mart.

 

 

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From left:
1. It’s not cheap to play cosplay
2. An anime shop specially for females, filled with shounen stuff.

 

Fast food for lunch the Japanese style

 

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(One of the most hardworking and dedicated worker I’ve seen so far)

 

 

I’ve tried a couple of times and I liked it: fast, simple and cheap. An average Japanese quick-to-get meals. One of them is Yoshinoya, a large chain beef bowl restaurants. They said Yoshinoya is a common and economical cheap food in Japan and I couldn’t help laughing when I heard the ones opened in Malaysia where it was treated as gourmet, luxurious restaurants and they were not cheap.
How it works:
1. You pick your desired food from a vending machine.
2. Put some coins (some accept notes), press the relevant button and ticket is given
3. Pass the ticket to the attendant, and he/she will serve you the dish you’ve chosen.

Simple eh?

The photo above shows the inside of a typical fast food joint, run by 2 persons only. An U-shape table with a front attendant serving the customers while another handles the kitchen. This lady is handling 3 things: serving food/drinks, cleaning up and kitchen hand, everything at the same time. At peak hours, the table is always filled with people as they come and go. No matter how many customers there are, just the two of them is more than enough to take care of the business. One word: respect.

 

 

Tokyo (Day 8 to 13) : Shibuya

‘Shibuyaaaaaaa, Shibuyaaaaaa’. My mate liked the female-voiced auto-station-announcer while we were in the JR Train. O_o’

 

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(Ayumi Hamasaki is everywhere!)

 

The aggresive promotion drive for Ayumi Hamasaki’s new album Guilty was really overkilling. Posters, mobile signboards and promo music via a mobile trucks/vans were seen at every corner of Shibuya (as well as other districts that we’ve visited).

 

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From left:
1. The crowds in Shibuya
2. JR Train station for Shibuya
3. Arcades for the kids and Pachinko for the older ones
4. Live comedy stage. I do not know who they are but everyone laughed at every single sentence that come out from their mouths.

 

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From left:
1. I should have returned to Shibuya during the day time. I missed this one!
2. Another part of Shibuya
3. Who gonna pay 580 yen to eat garlic?!
4. Deathsmiles, a recent popular arcade game that we wasted our money to play. And no, we didn’t finish the game this time.
 

We didn’t return back to Shibuya for a morning trip: Running out of time.

Tokyo (Day 8 to 13) : Harajuku

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(Don’t ask. I do not know what it is.)

 

I took a brief walk around the popular fashion street, Harajuku. Nothing much to see unless you’re into fashion. I’m not. Probably I was way too late to be here and missed all the happening events during the day.

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From left:
1. One of the streets in Harajuku.
2. Yoyogi National Stadium
3. Free hugs are cheap to come by here.
4. A shot over a pedestrian crossing bridge

 

 

Tokyo (Day 8 to 13) : Asakusa Temple

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(Asakusa Temple main entrance)

 

Once again, the cousin surprised us with this fact. This Asakusa Temple has no major significant history attached to it except it is built for tourists, meant for tourists (what the…). You can safely bet that 80% of visitors are not locals. He said not many Japanese would attend for prayers here since the temple is solely for fishing unsuspected tourists, especially the shops around it. Need to confirm this hidden relevation.

 

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From left:
1. Inside the temple
2. The pagoda inside the temple
3. Not sure what it is, but my first thought was a giant straw sandal.
4. The shops that squeezed the tourists dry. We prevailed! Muahaha.
 

This is the same guy I mentioned about that corrupted influenced us into purchasing a DSLR. Took some artistic potshots of us while we’re distracted.

 
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From left:
1. Okay, this one we obliged to do it.
2. How a photographer expressed himself behind a camera. You don’t see that everyday
3. Not sure when he got this but I know I was busy perving.

 

Next, breakfast. There are hardly any cafe and restaurants opened early in the mornings except fast food joints. And that’s what we had.

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From left:
1. Original recipe KFC.
2. Black pepper style KFC. Nice.

Tokyo (Day 8 to 13) : Asahi Beer Headquarters

The next morning, my mate’s cousin drove us to our first tourist spot, Asakusa Temple. We stopped somewhere around the temple area, when I noticed this:

 

  

The cousin said it’s the Asahi Beer’s headquarters in Japan and that funny looking structure is the froth of their beer(?!). If he didn’t tell me that, I would have thought it’s a turnip. I came back and asked some of my friends and my sister.

Their best response:
1. Housemate – Carrot
2. Sister – Carrot
3. HK friend – Flying s**t
4. Friend – Cloud

 

Update (26/02/2008): I was misinformed…again. The froth is actually on a giant-bee-mug-looking building (partly shown on the left) which is next to this giant golden ‘flame’. A better view can be seen here.

 

Tokyo (Day 8 to 13) : Shinkansen again

And so, I’m on the way back to Tokyo via Shinkansen again. This time, I picked a Hikari train which has lesser stops and quicker I get to Tokyo unlike last trip I went via a Kodoma train.

During the last ride, I noticed many of the passengers bought these bento boxes from the train stations and had their lunches in the train and they looked appetising. As I left Kyoto in the aftenoon without lunch, the curious me decided to give it a try.

 

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From left:
1. Bento box A
2. Bento box B
3. Bento box A: Sushi with beef
4. Bento box B: Assorted ‘healthy’ variety, steamed (but cold) veggies, onigiri, some fish and a, um, snail.

 

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(He’s French-wannabe!)

 

There’s nothing much to do on the train and it was so warm, we both slept through the journey. Once the train reached Tokyo Station, I spent some time familiarising their train maps and lines and then headed to Bakuro-cho station, a couple of stops from Tokyo station where our hotel was.

My mate has a cousin who studied and now working in Tokyo. We met up, we had dinner, we chitchat and guess what, he’s from Ipoh. He said he’s on holiday now, so he’ll be bringing us around Tokyo city. Gladly, we accepted.

Kyoto (Day 3 to 7) : Random stuff

Here are some some unsorted, random stuff I took in Kyoto.

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(A restaurant in Gion. Argghh, leggo!)

 

 

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From left:
1. A theatre in Gion. Bad camera, sorry
2. Raijin
3. Fujin
4. Nightlife along Kawaramachi Street

 

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From left:
1. One of the junctions in Kawaramachi Street
2. A happy mutated crab bathing in a pot of Shabu shabu. One of the claws moves.
3. Every cab has a different object on top of their roofs. This one takes the cake.
4. If only it’s real, I would have gone for it.

 

 

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(A fool trying to be artistic)

 

 

Onwards to Tokyo! Yippie-ka-yay!

 

Kyoto (Day 3 to 7) : Not sure where I was

Since I’ve missed the Nijo Castle, once again I aimlessly walked around the surrounding area, looking for something to satisfy my hunger. I do not recall where I ended up but I remembered there was a train station (not sure if it’s JR or some private lines) next to the building I went it.

 

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(Doraemon is still alive and kicking! A new movie is out)

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From left:
1. Rows of gashapon. Couldn’t resist the temptation to try, I got meself one of Amu’s Guardian, Miki (from Shugo Chara).
2. Arcade machines. I took this picture because I lost 200 yen for making a mistake trying to grab the funny cube. Later I found out they were pillows.
 

 

As for lunch, we had yaki soba. I underestimated the japanese food portion and thought they would be average size so we ordered one yaki soba each and a cheesy helping of takoyaki. So this time we ordered too much food and stuffed ourselves silly. 

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(Two-thirds of yaki soba and one-third of leek. Yikes!)

 

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(Yaki soba with fish flakes. Yumz)

 

 

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(Something new for me. Takoyaki with mozzarella cheese)

 

 

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(Leftover takoyakis will be glued to the clock.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kyoto (Day 3 to 7) : Nijo Castle

What a bummer. I wasted my precious time and money travelling to the Nijo Castle and found out  it was closed for maintenance. The only thing I could do was taking some snap shots of the castle walls and rows of cherry bushes.

 

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(The walls are protecting the castle against the tourist hordes)

 

 

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From left:
1. Another challenge to get you inside.
2. A metal plaque with the map of inner Kyoto
3. What else is there to shoot except rows of cherry bushes
4. More cherries. Ugh.

 

Well, at least I’m not going back empty handed:

 

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(Ah so, only normal cars can park here.)

  

 

 

Kyoto (Day 3 to 7) : Kyoto Imperial Palace

The main attraction besides the temples in Kyoto is the Kyoto Imperial Palace. To visit it, you can’t simply stroll into the palace grounds any time and I found this out about a month before I left for Japan. You need to book in advance either calling them up or via the internet. The website was so dodgy, I thought it was a joke or prank until they sent me a confirmation letter with a barcode on it! Wow. I picked up an afternoon English language tour session.

 

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(Entrance to the palance grounds)

The instruction was to wait at the western entrance for my session so I did. Not very long, a palace officer came out, took the printed paper and scanned the embedded barcode (they really used it!) and ushered me to a waiting room where they screened an introductory video of the Imperial Palace. After 10 minutes, my group was guided to tour the selected portions of the palace.

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(That’s a wide, long stroll into the palace. Now you know why ninja spies managed to snuck in)

  

Outside the Palace

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From left:
1. That’s where Sadako rises from hell
2. Freak of nature on display
3. Some aged tree that needed support.
4. Miniature model of the Imperial Palace

 

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From left:
1. Not sure what for and why, but my mate insisted me to take this.
2. Playgrounds are still my territory!

 

Inside the Palace

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From left:
1. One of many entrances into the palace. During the feudal days, certain entrances are meant for certain people with different status (one for the emperor, another for empress, etc). This one is for emissaries but I went in via the commoners/servants gate. T.T
2. Supply warehouse
3. One of many buildings in the palace
4. One of many buildings in the palace (I didn’t pay attention to the guide. Too busy taking photos.)

 

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From left:
1. A garden. End of sentence.
2. More buildings, but this time the guide didn’t tell the group what it was.
3. The walls that surrounded the palace. That person in the photo is the minder of my little tour group, keeping an eye on us in case we “deviate” from the pre-defined path.
4. Taking a shot on its architecture design.

 

The tour lasted about an hour. It’s huge but not big enough to tired oneself from walking compare to the Forbidden City in China. ;D

 

Why you should never leave your camera to your mate…

While organising my photos one day, I came across this hanky panky shot and I honestly swear that it was not me behind the camera.

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(Hanky panky act caught)

 

I can’t recall where and when this was taken so I confronted my mate and demanded if he did it. After all it was either him or me who held the camera during the trip and I did not share the camera with anyone else.

He replied me sentences filled with gibberish. No solid substance nor admitting it. Zip. Zilch. Nadda. All I saw was a sinister grin. That sneaky, sly lecher.

Lesson learned: Never, ever trust your camera to your mate. You will not know what kind of (indecent) stuff they might do to abuse it.

Kyoto (Day 3 to 7) : Kyoto International Manga Museum

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(Snapped this scene when we were walking aimlessly)

This was a random stop. We decided take a long walk instead of catching a train to the centre of the city. As we walked along the streets, the keyword manga caught my attention when we passed by the Kyoto International Manga Museum. The museum is primarily meant for 5-9 year old kids to visit, but being young at heart I joined them. It feels weird when you see an adult mingling around with a bunch of preschoolers, reading manga and skipping around ecstatically like a kid with new toys.

My travelling mate hesitated to go in with me, fearing his reputation being a “man” would be compromised. So a little “bribe” convinced the reluctant macho boy. The bribe was to cover a 500 yen entrance fee paid all by me. Haha, that’s a dirt cheap price paid to destroy a person’s dignity.

 

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From left:
1. Entrance to the museum.
2. A sneak shot of manga works from around the world. No photography allowed by the way
3. Some education mascot. Hey, it’s Christmas okay?

Only after this visit, I realised how serious they were into the manga industry. They even have studies as well as research and development on it.

Rows after rows of manga were neatly arranged on the shelves for visitors to read. There were like thousands of books and they were peppered around the museum from the long corridors to classrooms (this museum used to be a school). Kids would be busy sitting on the floor, savouring the joy of reading manga without the parents buzzing around.

They have a special storage room, at the basement of the museum where they preserved all the yesteryears manga since 1800s. That’s a lot of manga collection.

 

Food oh food

What the heck I had for meals in Kyoto? Sadly enough, being alien to a new country and with the lack of their native language, probably the easiest way to grab a bite is fast food outlet chains. But I set myself a rule about fast food: Only go for it when you’re desperate for a meal. Ticket vending machine style meals would be a good choice too. No communication barrier. Pick what you want, pay the machine and you get your food. You make a mistake, you eat it. XD

Most of the time, meals are spent in Teramachi Street which I mentioned before they have a pot pourri of choices.

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(A full set 700 yen meal – Clockwise from top: plain veggies, stirred fried veggies, cold bean curd, soup, sliced pork and rice)

 

The reason I invited myself to the Wendy’s was because I never tried one before. My first order was this burger and being one big fat bastard with 3/4 pound of meat, the buns couldn’t shield the massive size. I couldn’t even finish half of it. Americans.

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(Wendy’s 3/4 pound triple cheese burger)

I may be a movie freak but…

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(Source)

Spiderman 3 and 300, what do they have in common? Nothing. But they both sure traumatised me after the Japan trip.

I stayed at the Toyoko-Inn both in Kyoto and Japan (they have dozens of branches spreaded out around Japan) and during the period of my stay, they offered these complimentary movies to the guests  and the hotel screened them back to back, right after the other finishes and it did not change to any other variations for two weeks. So basically, every night I watched the same thing and I already memorised every single dialogue. Oh, both hotels I stayed in screened the same thing from dusk till dawn. OMFG.

P.S By the third day, I switched to their local TV channels for good. But the “This is Sparta” tagline still rings in my ear.

Kyoto (Day 3 to 7) : Temples, temples, temples Part 3

 

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(Entrance to the Toji Temple)

 

I just don’t get tired of temples, do I? Guess it’s not your cup of tea if you don’t enjoy the pleasure of historical and holy places. It’s a wonder I remember most of these temples though they almost look the same.

 

Toji Temple

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From left:
1. Inside the temple
2. One of many buildings in the temple, but they won’t let you go in so I’m not sure what’s inside
3. Guan Yin statue
4. Cleanse yourself anyone?

 

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From left:
1. Small garden and lake next to the pagoda
2. A temple housing several god statues. No photography if you want to go inside.
3. The Toji Pagoda
4. This is a rare sight. You have a Haagen Dazs vending machine right outside the temple!

 

Yasaka jinja Shrine

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From left:
1. Entrance from Gion district. And yes, I was talking the ladies since Chion Temple
2. Another entrance shot from the other side
3. Some building under maintenance. Not sure what it is inside.
4. One of many small shrines in the…um…shrine.

 

Shoren-in Temple

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From left:
1. One of many entrances
2. A temple housing some god statues
3. Climbed up this steepy hill just to find a dead end :/
4. I was too cheapskate to pay to get into the garden, so I went around the back and peeped what’s inside.

 

Shokoku-ji Temple

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From left:
1. Entrance to the temple area
2. A walk to various temples
3. Not sure what structure this is for
4. Not sure either
5. Not sure either too! Hahaha. Ignorance is bliss

 

And thus, ends the visit of temples in Kyoto. The next few postings will be more interesting and colourful.