Friday, May 16, 2008

Keita in Tokyo

Well we're back after a nice couple of days in Tokyo, got a bunch of pictures I wanted to post... so here goes!

We headed to the station early-ish on Thursday morning... here's Keita at his first Japanese train station.


It's now official... Keita is a great kid to travel with... planes, trains, cars... anything ok!


After a quick train ride, due to it being an express train, we arrive at Kita Senju in Tokyo to kill a bit of time before our check-in.


From this quick trip around Tokyo, I think I can put a "kid-friendly" stamp on the big city, for which I was pleasantly surprised. Heck, this family bathroom at a department store in Kita Senju even had a mini toilet! Our only hassle was carting the stroller up and down stairs at some of the smaller and thus not escalator\elevator equipped metro stations, and the stroller was definitely worth the hassle, so it's a trade off really.


After putting around Kita Senju a bit, we hopped back on the trains for the run out to Nihombashi and the Royal Park Hotel where we were staying. The hotel was fantastic, really great service, up to and including the private tour of our hotel room by the bell boy who remembered us through both days of our stay... and all that with no need for tips! I love Japan!

After a quick feed for Keita, it was our turn for some grub and we headed on down the street. After initially passing by an Indian restaurant, we quickly turned around when the prevailing winds brought the fabulous aroma of curry to our noses. The food was great, and I came to the realization that I've only really eaten Indian food here in Japan... will have to remedy that back home...


The area we stayed in is primarily a business hub, so there wasn't much in the way of sights around the hotel. I did manage to snap a shot of this worker sleeping on the roof of his truck though... ah the lazy days of summer... erm, spring...


The construction worker wasn't the only one sleeping, Keita conked out pretty quick too...


And needless to say he was less than pleased when we'd stop at an intersection and the sounds of traffic would get to him.


We stopped by this shrine, Suitengu, on the way back to the hotel. It's a shrine where pregnant women come to ask for a healthy child and easy delivery. It's also where I seem to have gotten my photography groove back... it's been a while since I looked at one of my pictures and said: "Yup, that's a good shot"... but I thought that immediately upon reviewing this shot here.


Back in our hotel for a bit of a break, I took a few shots of the view. Here's a panoramic view, the big building right across the way is the Yomirui Newspaper head office.


It's amazing how the traffic situation can change in Tokyo. From one minute to the next, things can go from good to heavy congestion.


With me needing to change my voucher for the Japan Rail Pass, we hopped back on the trains for the short run out to Ueno where I got my hands on the coveted pass. Since I was in Japan on a work visa before, I wasn't eligible for this tourist-only pass which gives you 7 (or 14) days of unlimited travel on all JR trains, including the bullet trains, for less than the cost of a return trip by shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto... and no hassle with buying tickets either!

After getting my pass, we headed into the maze of shops that is Ameyoko.


A number of little restaurants spread out into the streets in the evening, to accommodate the rush of commuters grabbing a bite and a drink before heading home.


I've always loved the atmosphere in Ameyoko, with vendors trying to sell their wares and crowds of people walking around.


I was glad to see that my favourite octopus was still for sale here at this stand. I must have photographed this same place 10 times in the last few years.


Once again, here is the horribly difficult kid we had to deal with when travelling amongst these crowds... soooooo hard to travel with him!


After meeting up with a former student of mine and friend of Yoshiko's for a nice dinner at Kurofunetei, which serves up great Hayashi rice, we then headed back to the hotel for the night. When I said earlier this hotel was great, this is one example of that.... the mirror has a heated section in it which doesn't fog up when you shower... how cool is that!


After a lazy morning at the hotel on Friday, we checked out and headed off to Asakusa from where we were taking the train home. For lunch, we stopped at a great little Oconomiyaki place.


Oconomiyaki is often called a Japanese pancake or pizza, but it is quite unique... a mix of cabage and egg and flower and meat... yum!


After lunch, we headed to Nakamise dori, the shopping street which leads to Senso-ji.


Once we got to the temple, we couldn't help but notice that everyone was looking our way, but we didn't know why!


It became clear pretty quick when a procession started to make its way into the temple grounds. It seems we'd arrived smack dab in the middle of Sanja-matsuri, the shrine's huge festival.


On any other day, this would have been great timing, but with a train to catch and a stroller slowing us down, we were effectively trapped on the grounds of the temple.


Luckily the procession wasn't that long and we were able to sneak out behind the wave of people following it.


This is Nakamise on a weekday... I've only been here on a weekend once and it was REALLY wild...


On the way out, I spotted this wanted poster for the guy who killed Linsey-Ann Hawker, a British girl teaching English with Nova. She was reported missing over a year ago now, and when the police arrived to question him, he escaped, despite there being something like 9 cops around. The police then found her body in a tub of sand on his balcony, he has yet to be caught, though with any luck he's gone ahead and offed himself saving everyone the hassle... Nonetheless, until he or his body are found, the hunt goes on. I particularly enjoyed seeing the image of what he'd look like as a woman...


After our escape from Senso-ji, we headed to Tobu Asakusa station and hopped on the Kuni Express train home.


Tired from running around Tokyo with Keita, we opted to pay the 3000 yen charge for a private compartment.


It was well worth it, and made for a very comfortable ride home.


Keita even had his own seat to sleep on.


And that was our run in and around Tokyo. Today, we're heading up into the mountains around Nasu to spend the night at a Ryokan, just chilling with the family. On the way home tomorrow, we'll drop by Nikko to see the Yabusame parade, a yearly event which is well worth the trip from what I hear. Then on Monday, I'm off on my trip out West... busy!

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