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Monday, April 30, 2012

Japan : Ueno Park, Ueno and Yodobashi, Akihabara

PREVIOUS - Read HERE for Hotspot #3
NEXT - Read HERE for Hotspot #6

Hotspot #4 and #5: Largest Sakura Park and Recognized Electronics Place

“Can’t wait to see more and more sakura.”

From Shibuya, there were 16 stops before we reached Ueno Station on Ginza Line. It was already 4pm and sun was about to come down at 5.30pm. We chose Ueno Park instead of other park coz it has more than 1000 cherry trees lining at its central pathway.

“So, be prepared for hanami secara besar-besaran la ni…”

We had to walk for about 50meters before we passed by one big shopping complex where there was one guy having an open speech about animal cruelty. He bowed and begged everyone to save and love animal, indirectly helping him to raise some fund for these animals. Baik kan?

We then crossed the road and saw one thin building with Panda face on it. Across the road, there were more Panda faces on the wall. “Tempat apa ni? Siap ada Pizza delivery!" Yup, they can deliver Pizza right to you, WHEREVER you are!
“Ooo…Ueno Koen (Park) has, like 3-4 museums, and zoo. First Japan zoological garden you know.”

“So we are expected to see Pandas walking around this park?”
“No lahhhhhhh.” Hahaha!

We climbed the stairs and saw street artists, busy sketching people. And most of them were old folks.
Main park was on the right, but we couldn’t help ourselves to let go this one big sakura tree, located in the middle of the area. It was so beautiful and eye-catching, and right next to this tree were lines of flowers and rows of lanterns. We quickly noticed that it was getting dark, the moment they were lighted on.
“Jom, we have to walk fast.”
I swear, I almost drop my jaw off once I entered the pathway. IT WAS SPLENDID! There were sakura trees along the path on both sides, and people were doing hanami in office attire! And they didn’t even bother to take off the ties and coats!
Looking at them having bento and asahi (beer) on the blue mat below the sakura trees, I wondered, how discipline Japanese are, for not messing up the park. They NEVER litter around! Cans and bottles in one bin, papers in another bin, and others in separate bin. (How to train Malaysian like this huh?) And again, no one smoke freely like dragon!
“I seriously can’t get enough of sakura. SO CUTE!”

“But most of them are 5 petals in white. Where’s pink?”
Even the most popular hanami spot with more than 1000 of cherry trees didn’t have much variety, so we could expect that pink and yellow are critically difficult to find.

“I’m hungry…” I looked around and find one spot, right opposite the mini Tori gate. There was a big kitty there. It seemed friendly but it was indeed, not easy to touch. While eating, it tried to come closer but poor kitty, we didn’t have anything to offer. (Takkan nak kasi serunding kot? But don’t worry guys, kitty tu gemuk! So takde la tak cukup makan.)
It was nearly sunset so we decided to went up, to one of the family temple used to own by the ruling Tokugawa during Edo period. Most of them were built to protect the city from evil, which one of the halls was dedicated to the goddess of Benten. (Bukan Ben10 ye…hahaha!)
Right down the park, there was a pond/lake called Lake Biwako. From this angle, experiencing sunset was, without doubt, truly amazing. We enjoyed the moment until the sun went down and the moon went up.
We walked back to the Ueno Station and stopped at Akihabara on Hibiya Line. You see…this is the best part of Tokyo Subway, where one station could have more than 2 lines. EASY to commute around, again, AS LONG AS you know where to go and where to stop. Note that ok?
Why Akihabara? Global Technology. Without doubt, this place is famous with electronic shops and was recognized as Japan's Otaku culture (die hard fan) devoted for anime and manga (bukan majalah mangga ye).
He chose Yodabashi-Akiba. Hubby was the one who would rather die if we skipped this place. He really wanted to see the range of price and models of camera and its accessories, in comparison with what he observed in South Korea.

Ternyata, dusta belaka.

Canon, Nikon, whatever produced by Japanese, was F**KING EXPENSIVE! (Started singing Yuna, Ini Tidak Adil…)

This complex has more than 5 levels and it’s huge! I bet it would be a heaven on earth for technology lovers. Hubby wasn’t excluded. He lingered around for quite sometime until I feel asleep at the waiting area. At this point of time, he didn’t bother to lose his wife than losing the precious time with filters, lens, tripods, and what not!
AND HE ENDED UP NOT BUYING ANYTHING! (Tampar dahi.)
"Now I cannot see cutie pies in Maid Cafes." I majuk. 

I always wanted to go to Maid Cafes (a cosplay themed restaurant) to experience the scene where the waitresses are typically dressed as French maids. You know...serving the food, talking to them, playing stupid kids block game, as if you are the master of the house. Gile kinky kan? Please someone, try for me next time, ok?

On the way back to our host’s house, we stopped at 7E (banyak majalah 'gadget' kat sini) and I got myself a pack of seafood noodles (sumpah sedap), while hubby got himself a pack of rice and fried fish at Hotto Motto (lagi sumpah sedap). Since there was no place to eat inside the restaurant (it’s like on-the-go cafĂ©), we had to sit on the divider and ate.
Cuaca sejuk dengan makanan panas, with majalah "gadget", SUMPAH GOOD COMBINATION!

Read HERE for Travelista version.  

Friday, April 27, 2012

Japan : Shibuya Crossing and Hachiko Statue, Shibuya

PREVIOUS - Read HERE for Hotspot #2
NEXT - Read HERE for Hotspot #4 and #5

Hotspot #3 : Famous Crossing and Meeting Place Ever

From Shinjuku, we took a train to Shinjuku-sanchome on Marunouchi Line and changed for Fukutoshin Line to Shibuya.
Shibuya, the center of youth fashion and culture, is noted as one of the most colorful and busy district. At this point of time, I felt so overwhelming coz I knew that I will, by any means, take LOTS of stylo-mylo Japanese chicks! Hahaha!

Besides, I was so keen to see the most popular meeting place, the Hachiko Statue, the loyal dog that waited for its master for years, though his master had passed away. (I hope Kiki will do the same thing. That super lazy cat? Nahhh!)

“WOW! This station is super PACK!” I almost dropped my jaw when I saw people passing by from left to right and vice versa.
“Wait, we need to look for Midori-no madoguchi, to exchange our JRail Pass.” Hubby calmed me down before started looking for the JR reservation office.

“The queue is too long and we gonna waste our time. Let’s do people watching first!”

And so we did.
The very first thing that I saw was, THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE, CROSSING THE FAMOUS SHIBUYA JUNCTION! Not to mention, photo-takers too! I quickly find a spot next to one Caucasian guy, who stood on the pedestrian divider, right next to the dustbin. “Ah pedulik!”
I snapped, snapped, and snapped, like a crazy woman. Sambil nganga! Boleh? Hahaha!
Devastating with the scene, I forced hubby to snap my pictures while CROSSING THE ROAD!

“I want to blend in! Shoot me! Shoot me!” I still can't believe that I was finally there and almost hentak my kepala on the road.
“It’s good if we can go up (pointing at Starbuck Coffee above Tsutaya) and take pictures. That is the BEST place to shoot Shibuya Crossing.”
“Ahh…we have no time, concentrate, and start clicking!” The Godzilla came back.

Dissatisfied being the only attention seeker, I went to the other side and forced hubby to walk towards me.

“Let me take your photo. Just walk and act normal. Don’t see the camera.”
Yet, he was looking at the camera! Nak glamer jugak katanya…

I tell you, there were hundreds of people crossing at a time, like a colony of ants! There were youngsters in fancy skin socks, short skirts, gorgeous hair, heavy make-ups, and what not. And I managed to see Harajuku kids somewhere nearby! (Dalam hati cakap, takpe, tunggu kat Harajuku nanti!)
“Owh man…KL is soooooo outdated! (Looking at my newly bought trench coat.)
 
“Jom! We have to get our JRail Pass.”

“Wait, I need to see the Hachiko first!”

I tried to look around but didn’t manage to locate it. While walking towards a group of smokers, I saw Hachiko! (You can't smoke anywhere you like, regardless day or night, walking or running, covering or sneaking, YOU HAVE TO SMOKE AT THE DESIGNATED PLACE. Find the smoking area and start puffing.) It was right below the sakura tree and surrounded by locals who busy snapping pictures, USING THEIR IPHONE! (There was no chance to pose alone, so don’t bother to wait, just snap!)
“Ok, now JRail Pass. Where to?” I was back on track.

We walked back towards the Shibuya Station and asked the officer nearby. The moment I showed him the Exchange Form, he automatically said “Hait!” and asked us to follow him.
Left, straighttttttt, left, and left again (about 100 meters within the building), there we saw a small booth with JR Information Center signage. The lady officer spoke English very well and took about 15 minutes to verify, wrote down, re-verify, and re-verify again, before handed away a small booklet-shape card, with Tsunami image on it! Whatta…

(Click to see how we get our JRail Pass in Malaysia.)

Remember the earlier officer who escorted us? He waited there UNTIL we received our JRail Pass! SUPER HELPFUL AND DEDICATED!

“So, where we can do the seat reservation?”

“You have to go to the Reservation Office. The seats are free.”

Yup. It’s free, unless you want to try the Green Car or whatever is not normal. Hahaha!

We walked back to the place where we met the first officer and went into the Reservation Office. There, I saw more foreigners in queue. Beforehand, I asked for help from another oldman in uniform (an officer) on how to book for nobi-nobi seat on Sunrise Seto night train. We planned to catch an 8 hours night train from Tokyo to Okayama, indirectly, saving the hotel cost and travelling time.

“Sumimasen…wareware wa…Sunrise Seto…” I spoke no more and just showed him our train schedule, train name, and wanted seat. Gues what? HE CAN’T SPEAK ENGLISH! Not even simple or little English!

"Okay...this gonna be FUN!"

He wanted to help but he seriously had no idea how to relay the info to us. He opened his book (wah nak lawan buku aku hahaha) and checked on what to write on the slip. (Having a complete info on the slip will ease the reservation.) More or less he knew what we want and wrote whatever necessary. Until…

“Nobideska?” (Seriously, it didn’t’s sound like that.)

I was totally clueless for at least, 2 minutes! And he kept on looking up, looking down, looking at me, looking at the slip, and repeated the same thing. Patu berjangkit kat aku, aku plak dok tengok laki aku sambil pandang atas bawah. Hahaha!

“Owh…nobi-nobi seattttttttttt! Hait! Hait! Nobi-nobi sitto!” Hubby cleared the confusion. 

“Apa la you, tu pun tak paham…”

“ELEH!”

We then queued and handed over the slip to the officer behind the counter.

“Sunrise Seto at 10pm?”

“Ha pandai pun speaking Londonnnnn!” I looked at hubby.

“Ya, for 2 please. Is there any nobi-nobi seat available?” (It’s a private compartment, carpeted, for you to lie down. It costs you a bomb, 13,850yen but with JRail Pass, IT’S FREE!)

It took her 5 minutes to bring us a bad news. Only ONE nobi-nobi seat left. Like ONE??? Can we get another ONE??? I thought of creating chaos but…sigh…sob…sob…

“We’ll go for Shinkansen then…make it 6pm, on reserved seats.” Pasrah…
We looked at each other and paused. 

"We have to get a hotel in Okayama. Hmmm...it will surely cost us a bomb for last minute booking..."

"Namind...cheap hotel will do. Let's do sakura peeping at Ueno Park first!"

"JOM!"

Read HERE for Travelista version.  

 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Japan : TMGO (Tokyo City Hall or Tocho), Shinjuku

PREVIOUS - Read HERE for Hotspot #1
NEXT - Read HERE for Hotspot #3

Hotspot #2 : Where Metropolitan Is Viewed

“We are off schedule…” Hubby looked at me while pointing at the first place to visit for that day.

It was due to late wake up and we had to boil the “nasi impit” for our supply.

“Banyak la 15 minit…” my host teased me when I told her it should be a quick one, when I ended up spending almost 30 minutes to get it done!

We took 2 packets of cereal, each, and ready to go.

“Pray for the cherry buds still in place.” “Ye la, smalam kan ribut…” Our host was kind-hearted enough to cycle with us, while we were on foot. Hahaha! It was fun to snap her, until…

“AAAAAAAAAA SAKURA!!!” I shouted!

“Yeah, right in front of my house, cool huh?” There were sakura trees along the channel that were not yet, fully bloom. “It should be blooming by this week…you guys are so lucky!”
After few snaps with our first ever sakura tree IN Japan, she then led us the way to the Gyotoku Station. We stopped at Hotto Motto, to figure out which one we can consume and which we can’t. The cheapest was only 290yen for a rice, fried octopus, fried fish, bit of veges, and soy sauce.
We then stopped at Lawson (similar to Watson) and Seiyu (similar to MyMydin), to take a quick peep on instant foods. There were variety of selections but we were charmed by one cute food called onigiri (triangle rice ball wrapped in nori/seaweed).
The moment we saw these food in various filling and flavors, we knew that we’ll survive and WILL NEVER die in hunger in Japan. Hahaha!

On the way, there were still, umbrellas on the pedestrian, bicycles in slanting position, plastics here and there, due to the late night storm. Anyhow, in return, we had a VERY fine shiny day!

“See, Nihonji always recycles. Those unwanted households, normally, will be collected by passerby. My hubby did. If you want, you can too.” She smiled. In 0.05 seconds, I tried to look for something…from distant. Basikal tu sesuai utk Aqilah! Hahaha! Gile nak selongkar. Nak bawak balik dengan apaaaa!
There were not many cars on the road, there were no carbon dioxide pollution in the air, there were no ciggies butt on the walkway, there were no stupid graffiti on the wall, there were not even a junk or trash or rubbish or whatever you called it, TAKDE!

“It took me 12 years to fulfill my dream, to step my foot on the land of the rising sun…I love Japan…and will always be…”

Drama!

“Ok, let’s get you guys a ticket.” She parked her bicycle anywhere she liked and touched the kiosk.

“Ah…ada pun English! Sape tah dulu cakap takde…” (Placing both hands on my chest and looked up.)

“GOT LAAAAAA…YOU THINK WHAT? SO TERUK KA?” We laughed.

“Okay, we have 7-day JRail Pass that will only be activated the day after tomorrow. So we’ll settle with 1-day Tokyo Metro Pass. Well, 5 POIs in list! Let’s see whether we can catch them up!”

Instead of paying 1230yen for single/return rides to these places, we paid only 710yen for this pass. I swear, hubby earned a big Mexican wave from Mrs. Wifey, for his effort in deriving the transportation fees. He tabled out and listed each ride with station name and code, alongwith the ticket price.

NOW, WHO WANTS TO SEE MY TOUR COOKBOOK? Hahaha!

“Sayonara. Tanoshimu.”

“Haitttt!”

We slotted in the pass as usual and smiled like nobody business. EXCITED OK! The officer was standing right next to the machine and looked at me. To save the pride, I suddenly said “Emm..mappu?” Sign-language-ing him with square shape, THOUGH LILY HAS PROVIDED US ONE TOKYO SUBWAY ROUTE MAP, BACK IN MALAYSIA! Hahaha!

Nevermind, we love to keep rubbish.

The station wasn’t that big, so no “jalan laju-laju jauh-jauh” like China. (Ok, too early to make a statement!) I can’t stop snapping pictures of train and people, until I hopped in the coach. I had to force-control my “gedikness” to look normal. NORMAL for local means, stay silent, sit/stand properly, and RELIGOUSLY TEXTING ON THE PHONE! (No ring tone, never ever talk on the phone! You'll make them stress!) And 90% of them were using IPhone! Pfft!
Bit of info for Japan subway. It is divided into two, Tokyo Metro and Toei Line, each has its own line. AND THEY ARE MASSIVE!
Tokyo Metro consists of :
Ginza, Marunouchi, Hibiya, Tozai, Chiyoda, Yurakucho, Hanzomon and Namboku.

Toei Line consists of :
Asakusa, Mita, Shinjuku, and Oedo.

These lines are the main lines, alongwith JR Yamanote and JR Line. So, you REALLY need to know where you’ll be going. Or else, you’ll wasting your precious time. TIME IS GOLD IN JAPAN.

“So…TMGO observatory?” “Yup. Gyotoku to Otemachi on Tozai Line, then change, Otemachi to Shinjuku on Maronouchi Line.”

Changing between lines was initially fun since we did not need to worry on ticket buying. We just need to aware on which side to board. And I tell you guys, the information board on direction and time IS F**KING ACCURATE! Lost in translation? Tettt! There’s no such thing! You can rely on, anytime, anywhere.

We arrived at Shijuku around 10am, so we had passed the rush hour. (Note that Shinjuku Station is the world’s busiest railway station that handles more than 2 mills passengers, a day!) Walking without seeing the blue sky or shiny sun, the underground complex was huge where we had to walk more than 200meters via the connecting tunnel (using walkalator), another 150meters before we finally saw the 243meter-tall twin towers. (Wow, lots of numbers huh? I hate numbers!)

“Thank GOD it’s free.”

We entered TMGO (Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office a.k.a Tokyo City Hall a.k.a Tocho) and headed to the South Entrance. (Oh ya, do check the operating hours and closing day coz each tower has its own inspection day. Kang rugi jer…)
There was one officer next to the lift and requested us to queue. The lift then opened and another officer welcomed us in. She greeted us and took us to the 45th floor, where the observatory deck is located.

The moment the lift door opened, there was another officer waited and greeted us.

“WOW! They deployed one officer at each place ke??? Amazing!”

We entered and looked around the deck. EXACTLY like what we’ve experienced in Q1 Tower back in Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast. When Q1 offers beaches, surfers, rivers, boats and buildings, TMGO offers buildings, buildings, andddd buildings. (See how pack Tokyo is?) WITH Fuji-san at far far away land.
"Wow...is that Shinjuku Koen?" "Ya..." "Sooooo big!"

We can see almost 270degree from up here and all we can see are buildings. These buildings are said to be quake-proof.
Since hubby was using zoom lens, he couldn't help himself but taking all miniature-sized human and cars.
“Glare la pulak…” Hubby complaint when I forced him to snap my picture with those amazing view.

“Do you know that TMGO is destroyed in 1991 by Godzilla?” Said the Godzilla. Hahaha! And I walked away.
Eh, it WAS, you know! Go figure.

I walked to the souvenir booth and look for fridge magnet. Sadly, none of them amazed me. Plus, it was super expensive! After spending about 20 minutes, we went down and walked out from the lovely twin gigantic steels. We then noticed that this building is surrounded with sakura, statuette, artsy abstracts, and iconic skyscrapers. AND KITTIES TOO! 
"NEKO! KAWAIIIII!" (Neko means cat and kawaii means cute.)
“So what’s next on the list?”

“Owh…my…GODDD! IT’S SHIBUYA! THE…MOST…WAITED…PLACE…” (I fainted before I couldn’t even finish the sentence.)

Read HERE for Travelista version. 

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