Tag Archives: Japan

Hello stranger

It’s Friday night, and I am parked on the couch.

There’s no place I’d rather be.

nyc montageIt feels like I have spent the past two months on the road.

A week in Japan.

A long weekend in Kentucky.

Another week in Boston with Rory Dog.

Don’t get me wrong — I enjoyed all my trips, even the days and nights when I had to work. But I have missed my apartment and my adopted hometown.

When I moved to New York City eight years ago, I wanted to live in my favorite place to visit.

Time to play tourist right here at home!

A matter of taste

ChaCha.com recently put together a list of some of the most unique fast foods available around the globe.

spam and egg sandwichThis was of particular interest to me because a couple of their choices were from Japan:  McDonald’s Ebi-Fillet — that’s shrimp — and Burger King’s Spam and Egg Sandwich (pictured on the left).

I’m proud to say I didn’t frequent any fast food restaurants during my stay, so I didn’t notice these options.

What did strike me as slightly odd was the traditional breakfast in Japan:

ricesaladgreen tea

White rice. A green salad. A thin, bland yogurt. And green tea.

Now, I might eat this for lunch if my main meal was delivered to the wrong table, but it’s not the flavor profile that I crave for breakfast. But my hotel offered it, and I ate it.  When in Rome…

(I did break down and add sweetener to the tea.  And to their credit, the natives didn’t wince too hard when I did.)

Shiny objects

I can’t remember the last time I used a bonafide bookmark, let alone bought one.

Wait — now I can.

I purchased a metal bookmark in the likeness of the Tokyo Tower in their gift shop during my visit on my final day in Japan.

tokyotower_bookmark

It makes me want to pick up a real book and read it — instead of the Kindle I am usually reading these days.

Love it so much!

What lies within

I’m back home in New York City today, and I hit the ground running:

  • Early morning vet appointment
  • Conference call
  • Editing
  • Three focus groups

No time for jet lag for me!

That’s what the world sees.  Deep inside, where the real me lives, I have looked something like this all day —

dog asleep sitting up

Tokyo, Day 5: Tokyo Tower, Narita

My flight home today to New York wasn’t until afternoon,  so I decided to squeeze in some more sightseeing before check-out.

My feet voted against the idea, so I took a taxi to the Tokyo Tower which, like my hotel, is located in the Roppingi district.

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It looks like an orangey-red Eiffel Tower, so I imagined it also occupied a large, grassy expanse. But this is Tokyo; the tower (which is taller than Eiffel) is sitting directly on the street.

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You can see it here reflected in the building across the street.

(I like that shot.)

There are two observation levels. The first offers beautiful views of Tokyo.

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But when you ride to the tip-top, you appear to be in the clouds.  And when you are that far up, it calls for one thing —

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Selfie!!

After I came back down to Earth, I grabbed lunch at Bubby’s, the Tokyo location of a New York restaurant in Tribeca and Brooklyn.

I discovered it quite by accident a few blocks from my hotel and had to check it out.

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Bubby’s is famous for their breakfast, burgers and homemade pie. I had banana-walnut pancakes for lunch — hey, I was on vacation — and they were good.

It was the perfect transitional meal before I headed toward home.

See you soon!

Tokyo, Day 4: Asakusa, Shibuya, Rippongi

After eating a hearty Japanese breakfast of green salad, rice and hot tea, I took the subway to the Asakusa district, which is home to Tokyo’s oldest attraction, the Senso-ji temple.

2014-07-27 09.03.45(I picked a good day to brave the trains.  Foot traffic was fairly light, and I found the signage and announcements clear and easy to understand.

And yes, the Tokyo subway is clean and quiet, except for the occasional screaming baby.)

2014-07-27 09.46.18The temple entrance is guarded by the gods of wind and thunder at the Kaminarimon Gate.  They didn’t seem that ferocious to me, and quite open to a selfie or two.

Once inside the gate, there was shopping galore, and I had the opportunity to get my fortune  — after saying a prayer and paying a small stipend.  I ended up getting “the very best fortune.”

So that’s cool.

2014-07-27 10.01.13The main hall is a five-story pagoda.  There’s a incense cauldron in front; people were rubbing the incense on themselves for good luck or simply waving the smoke toward themselves.

I opted for the latter.

2014-07-27 10.52.43Across the river from the temple is the Asahi Beer Hall. It’s golden plume, which is supposed to be beer foam, is a Tokyo landmark (although the locals call it the ‘golden turd’). I love that.

I was excited to visit the Taiko Drum Museum, but it wasn’t at the map location, and business owners nearby hadn’t heard of it.

Seems like they would have heard a drum…nevermind.

2014-07-27 11.57.21I jumped back on the subway and took the Ginza Line to the Shibuya district.

Shibuya Crossing is as new as Asakusa is old.  There are video screens and noise and thousands of people seemingly moving at once, but the chaos has a kind of order to it.

And remember the good-looking guy I saw yesterday plastered on buildings?

He was at Shibuya, too.  Gotta figure out who he is.

 

 

2014-07-27 12.38.50Hachiko the dog was there, too — well, the statute that is.

His master died in 1925, but the dog continued to go to the station to meet him until his own death some ten years later.

The pup was very popular; it was hard to get a shot.  I don’t know whose hand that is, but he is forever immortalized here on the Egg.

Lucky tourist.

After a stop back at the hotel for the standard wash, clothing change and nap — the heat really takes it out of you — I ended the day at the Roppingi Hills, a large shopping / arts / entertainment complex in the district where I am currently staying.

2014-07-27 16.38.09I visited the Mori Art Museum, an extraordinary contemporary art museum (with an even better store).

I’m told the  observatory has amazing city views, but it was closed because of the weather.  I found that odd…until it started storming.

It was slightly less sticky afterwards, so it was worth it.

I’m resting my feet and back until tomorrow.  Only one more morning of adventure and then the flight home to NYC!

 

Tokyo, Day 3: Jimbocho, Marunouchi

I was free to play tourist today, so I began in the Jimbocho district where my conference hotel was centered.
2014-07-26 08.33.10My first stop was within walking distance, so I grabbed a water from one of the vending machines that occupy every corner of Tokyo.

(It turned out to be apple-favored…one of the perils of not reading Japanese.)

2014-07-26 08.29.55I don’t know who this guy is, but he must be a pretty big deal.  His face was plastered on every other building along my walk.

He’s cute.  Love the bangs, too.

Most tourists visit Japan in spring or fall; now I understand why.  I didn’t have a long walk, but even in the early morning hours, temperatures were in the 90’s with staggering humidity.  I quickly adopted the Japanese practice of walking with an umbrella.  It really helps.

My first stop was the Koishikawa Korakuen, a 70,000 square meter formal garden.

2014-07-26 09.05.30This guy was the first to greet me along the stone pathways.  It was ten degrees cooler inside the garden, so I was glad I took my guidebook’s recommendation to come early in the day, before the noise from nearby Tokyo Dome (baseball and amusement park) could be heard.

2014-07-26 09.30.43You can see the Dome in the background of this shot of a lily pond.

When I first came upon it, I thought a spaceship was hovering nearby.  It was very surreal.

After I left the garden, I decided to take a peek at the Tokyo Dome grounds.

There was an 11 a.m. baseball game, and fans were already streaming into the grounds.  I got a better look at the roller coaster, but was particularly fascinated by a sculpture near the entrance to the park.

2014-07-26 09.52.05Okay.

Hmmm.

I couldn’t find a placard with an explanation for the sculpture.  So, let’s take the highroad and say it is some kind of flower.

Or sea creature.

Or water faucet.

It’s hard to un-see it, I know that.

On my walk back, I checked out some of the used bookstores that line the streets of Jimbocho, which is considered the center of book publishing in Tokyo.  Then I stopped by the hotel to make a complete clothing change — totally necessary — before heading to the Marunouchi District.

imperial moatThe Imperial Palace was just a couple of blocks from my hotel, so I walked along it’s enormous moat — with many brave people jogging in the heat — then headed into the business district for lunch.

Next on my list was the Nihombashi Bridge, which is the geographic center of the city.  Based on everything I had seen so far, I was expecting the bridge to be on the same scale.

2014-07-26 12.27.20But the ancient passageway is small and rather understated; I don’t know that I would have noticed it unless I was looking for it.

The expressway overhead plays a big part in that.  It casts a long shadow.

Even smaller but oh so colorful was the Kite Museum down the street, devoted to the Edo-dako style kite.

I entered here out of curiosity, but stayed a good long time (and not because it was air-conditioned).

2014-07-26 12.41.47The kites were really beautiful art pieces, displayed as kites, framed under glass, and covering the walls and ceilings.

 

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I moved to a hotel in the Roppingi district in the late afternoon and treated myself to an unexpected but thoroughly enjoyable four-hour nap!

I am refreshed and ready for tomorrow’s adventures in Tokyo.