Tokyo

Oct. 30th, 2008 05:20 pm
Tokyo Tower
Tokyo
Meiji Jingu Shrine
Inside Sunshine City, in a corner of Namjatown, exists Ice-cream City. Strange flavours of ice-cream are stacked up in freezer cabinets, and these are the weird flavours you read about. [livejournal.com profile] fluffymark tried the shark fin soup and Dracula garlic flavours, where as I stuck to cherry blossom flavour.

Later that evening, just before sunset, we headed up the Tokyo Tower, which looks a bit like the Eiffel Tower, but is slightly taller and more colourful. From there, we could see skyscrapers glistening in the sunshine, and then as the sun disappeared behind the smog, we drank glasses of wine and watched the buildings, bridges and ferris wheels light up as it got dark.

The day after that, I wandered around Shinjuku, and then Harajuku, looking for cosplayers, and ended up at the Meiji Jingu Shrine, where there were many dolls, as well as a tree that had been impressively overtaken with cobwebs.

Soon after that, I left Japan and travelled to New Zealand.

More photos on Flickr: Japan.

[livejournal.com profile] fluffymark has also written more detailed descriptions: Japan - Part 1, Japan - Part 2.
Totoro
Robot Soldier
We headed back to Tokyo and jumped aboard a catbus at a bus-stop that had a picture of Totoro on it, and it took us to the Ghibli Museum. The first Ghibli film I ever saw was Laputa: The Flying Island, when it was broadcast on ITV, and it appealed to the 8 or 9 year old me. Although I am now a bit older, meeting a robot soldier from Laputa on top of the Ghibli Museum, and finding a Laputa cube was still great. Inside the museum, Totoro, the Catbus and friends leapt around manically inside a stroboscope, brightly flickering and running in circles, and I felt like I was hallucinating. Another room inside the museum was decorated as if it was Miyazaki's office, and was covered in a jumble of random books and weird artefacts. Other rooms displayed sketches and zoetropes, and a weird miniature Louvre. There was also a large Catbus, but only children were allowed to play on it. We watched a short film - The Whale Hunt, which was amusing, and also saw clips from the new Ghibli film- Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.

Kyoto

Oct. 30th, 2008 01:19 pm
Ginkaku-ji
Bamboo
In Kyoto, I wandered through a bamboo forest; heard geishas dangling in downtown Kyoto as they walked past the lantern-adorned wooden houses; found watermelons in department stores that cost over £100, but were not square; ate purple potato ice-cream; visited Ginkaku-ji temple, only to find it was covered in scaffolding, but there was still moss the interrupter, zen gardens with raked sands, a wishing pond, and many schoolchildren.

Kôyasan

Oct. 27th, 2008 11:59 pm
Okunoin cemetery
We counted ferris wheels spinning in the distance on the day we left Tokyo. From the window of the shinkansen, we watched patterns and colours blurring amongst the houses in the towns we sped past. Every town has a ferris wheel somewhere, we concluded. Sometimes even two.

After changing trains at Kyoto, a few hours later we were on a train that stopped at tiny stations amongst the dense forest, and then after that, a cable-car carried us into the mountains and we arrived at Kôyasan.

We had decided to stay at a temple that night, as Kôyasan is home to many Shingon Buddhist monks and apparently has over a hundred temples. We stayed at the Shojoshinin Temple, which was close to the Okunoin graveyard, Japan's largest graveyard. Before dinner, we wandered around the mossy graveyard, peering into hollow trees at effigies, looking at rows and rows of tall stone columns, and wondering who was buried there.

After dinner (shōjin ryōri - vegan food without onions or garlic), I adorned a dressing gown and headed to the women-only communal bath. Before bathing, it was necessary to wash underneath a shower type tap, but after that, I soaked naked in the large deep bath. [livejournal.com profile] fluffymark apparently got to share his bath with a group of French men, but I had the female bath all to myself.

Later that night, back in the graveyard, we stumbled across a wishing tree, with yen driven into it. The main paths in the graveyard were well lit, where as other paths were dark and somewhat more spooky, hiding the red frogs we had seen earlier, as well as the insects that bit our foreheads.

At 6.30am the next morning, we attended morning prayers. The monks sang their prayers and banged gongs, amongst ornate gold decorations and incense, while we sat on a bench at the back of the room and quietly watched.
Reflecting
Ginza's shops range from the pink pock-marked Mikimoto building (selling pearls) to buildings that are strangely curved to those that look like they have a spaceship landed on the roof to wonderful toyshops that sell giant Totoros, Cat Bus purses, Princess Mononoke playing cards, Neon Genesis Evangelion ears, Pacman key-fobs, Monchhichis (Chicaboo), Moomins, dancing plants and cool little robots.

After wandering through Marunouchi, and seeing strangely decorated cows on random street corners, we headed to the Imperial Palace Gardens. It rained that day and women who passed me exclaimed "kawaii!" when they saw my frog umbrella.

That evening in Shibuya, we were curious to see if HMV stocked Merzbow CDs, so browsed the Japanese loud and punk section and found that they did. I listened to some random Japanese punk bands there, but the listening section did not seem to be playing any noise. I also listened to some pop music - YMCK - "8-bit Nintendo meets jazz and pops!"

Nagi Shokudo, a vegan restaurant in Shibuya, was where we ate dinner that night. The food was fairly cheap and tasty, and did not contain shark fins.
Buildings
Sign
Tales of tainted rice scrolled across the sign at the end of the carriage on the Narita Express. I was feeling sleep deprived but excited at being in Japan, and spent the journey to Tokyo mostly staring wide-eyed out of the train window at a dull sky.

After changing trains at Tokyo station, I arrived at the Khaosan Tokyo Ninja hostel, laden with rucksacks that I could barely carry, and met [livejournal.com profile] fluffymark there before heading to Shinjuku.

It rained that day and although the views from the Metropolitan Government Building #1 were somewhat spoilt, Akihabara was quite the opposite.

The neon signs of Akihabara Electric Town were reflected in the puddles that night, making even the pedestrian crossings glow in vivid pinks, blues, greens and reds, as people carrying see-through umbrellas waited to cross. I wandered around, imagining the otaku that perhaps frequent the area during the day, as I glanced at the brightly-coloured signs with anime characters on them, Neon Genesis Evangelion figurine vending machines, maid cafes, futuristic buildings, and the Cosplay shops that tell you: "No goods, no life."

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