Japan Trip of 2013 – Part One

I’m not entirely sure when exactly, nor how long ago since I have been trying to get myself to visit Japan, but a trip had always been nagging me in the back of my mind… Whether I heard or read a little snippet of news from Japan, it caught my interest. The more I looked into details of the workings and occasional quirks of various towns, cities and localities, the more I felt a need to experience them. The more I heard about Japan from my fellow University colleagues, the more and more I became envious… And so, once I finally found a buddy who had the means and similar interests as I did, we began planning many months before hand, and we finally had an opportunity to visit late-January through February.

This post reflects a sample of photos and commentary from our brief week in Tokyo.

Landing at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport from a morning flight out of an earlier stay in Shanghai.

Upon arriving at, and leaving our bags at our hotel, we decided to go walkabout the streets around our area, and getting ourselves acquainted…
We arrived just the day after “Coming of Age Day”, when what appears to have been quite a snowstorm dumped a fair amount of snow onto this mega-metropolis, but temperatures remained above freezing.

Our hotel was located just a little ways north of Shinjuku, and so we payed a quick visit down to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, where the *free* observation levels near the top of the building provide great views of the snow-covered roof-tops below. (The South Tower viewing deck was closed at the time, and so this is the view from the North Tower facing-west.)

Immediately afterwards, we headed down to what is truly an icon of Tokyo, and modern Japan.

The skyscrapers of Shinjuku

Personally the view from Tokyo Tower is much better than that of the TMG Building, as it’s location offers a better perspective of Tokyo. (Also, due to the snowstorm, there were a few small icicles hanging off the edges of its frame)

Overlooking Shimbashi w/ Odaiba and Rainbow Bridge

We stuck around to see the view from the evening.

The following day, after paying our first trip to Akihabara and making ourselves almost broke for that day, we payed a visit to the Good Smile Cafe.

The promotional theme for that time we were there was “Monogatari Series Cafe” with placemats, goodies and food were all -monogaratri themed. (The food was… well, not great… but I was expecting that…)

The entire cafe was surrounded by figures and merchandise from the series, as well as the company’s other merchandise for other series.

I am a bit ashamed of my lack of Bakemonogatari knowledge at the time, considering I had started the series well over a year ago, and stopped because on of the episodes I had was corrupt and I never got around to finishing it. XD

Coobie ya kno wat time it is?

Amazing visibility!

I distinctly remember taking this photo from our hotel room on the day I heard smog levels in Beijing and surrounds were atrocious, and it was also 40+ degreees Celsius back in Sydney…

…while it was only forecasted to hit 5 degrees Celcius here, and after stopping by the Meiji Shrine, we visited nearby Yoyogi Park.
(I remember there being a number of high-schoolers in the park that afternoon, who must have been practicing for a play or something, as there were small groups scattered around and appeared to be reciting lines…)

Oh how much I love winter! <3

But as the sun set, we decided to retreat to vibrant and bustling Shibuya.

It was one of my goals for this trip, to just pick up a nice, warm Starbucks caramel macchiato here, then sit, and watch as hundreds and thousands of people use the Shibuya crossing over and over again.

The night of the 19th would be one of the biggest highlights of my entire trip and maybe even in my life, as my friend managed to somehow secure tickets to Mizuki Nana‘s “Live Grace” concert in Saitama!
I had watched bits of Nana’s other performances such as Anisama with giant audiences as well, (same venue actually), as well as her “Live Grace” concert from two years ago, but to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect… This was my first ever attendance at a concert, let alone one for “anison” and in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language. I really was a little scared actually. – ^.^;;

BUT MY GODDESS MADOKA IT WAS EPICLY AMAZING!!! As I am not well aware of anything pre-Nanoha with her music, there were a few songs I wasn’t familiar with, but for the ones that I was with… Accompanied by a full orchestral set of 98 people, a chorus of 77 people, and the trusty Cherry Boys, my goodness she does an amazing live show!
Seated at 500-level, we had a great view of the entire arena. The DISCOTHEQUE PV mid-concert was much fun, and the acoustic session was truly fresh! Though what made the night for me was the first encore… I’d never thought I’d hear innocent starter (my favourite song) live, and have it followed by Orchestral Fantasia, which always has to be an epic performance! Then the second encore… I was so glad we stuck around for that and didn’t leave when some people thought the concert was over after the first encore…
It might be a little exaggerating to say it was the night of my life at the time, but I have two regrets – 1. She didn’t perform ETERNAL BLAZE (but she did for the 2nd night), and 2. That we didn’t buy glow-sticks before hand… =|

The next morning we payed a trip to Ueno Park (I like parks…) where the seagulls here seem to be quite tame. (a bit like the Japanese people… Although we did have an interesting encounter with an elderly man talking (or more like a warning) to my Australian friend about essentially “how White guys are stealing Asian, specifically Japanese girls, and that they should stop because inter-racial relationships are wrong… He spoke remarkably- nay, amazingly good English too…)

Sometimes seagulls are quite pretty.

Then that afternoon, we went down to Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium to catch a game of Japanese “Top League” Rugby. We ran into a few foreigners here too who weren’t too sure how things worked here…

We watched a semi-final match, (had to look this up) which was Panasonic Wild Knights vs Toshiba Brave Lupus, with the latter winning 8-20. We just happened to be sitting on the winning side… So yay?

Before I went on this trip, my parents informed me of a relative that we had in Tokyo. It had been a long time since either of my parents last saw him, but they sent and received the annual Christmas card. He drove us out towards Kawaguchi-ko and the Fuji Five Lakes.

Fuji-san is quite an impressive sight, and I imagine it would look even more spectacular in the summer. Also just got listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site just over a week ago.

Unfortunately our stay here wasn’t long, as the weather quickly turned threatening, and we didn’t want to be caught up in snowy-traffic…

That bad weather was then to hang around Tokyo for our last day of our initial stay in Tokyo. We also lacked the foresight that pretty much everything in Odaiba was closed on a Tuesday. ='(

However, we move on, and discover more of Japan. Join me, as we move on to Osaka, Kyoto and Kanazawa.