Friday 17 February 2006

It’s a proud 104 centimetres

After all those long blog’s I’ll keep this one short. We measured Marika‘s belly today, Woohoo it’s bigger than mine. It's passed the 1 metre mark, it’s a proud 104 centimetres. Junior didn’t travel well to & from Japan so we went a saw the Doc and she thought it best to ground Marika & baby, so no more flying until Junior is born.

Thursday 16 February 2006

Wednesday Day Five Tokyo Japan

While Marika headed off to work, I again had breakfast near one of the subway station and watched the people moving around in an orderly manner like worker ants through the station gates and down corridors and up escalators always standing to the left, me all the time smiling to myself and thinking that I’m glad I’m not stuck in the middle of peak hour rush!

No temples for me today, first back to the hotel to pack our bags, then into the GInza area for a little wandering around. I had a stroll through the Sony building and another big electrical retailer, mmmm toys. We checked out of the hotel at midday and headed to the Tokyo station for the express train to the Airport. To the hotel staff and other friendly people we met, we would like to say ‘domo arigato gozaimashita’ we enjoyed our trip.

Wednesday 15 February 2006

Tuesday Day Four Tokyo Japan

Lucky Marika headed off to work again today while Jason too had an early start, lots to see & do. But the morning was not to be a success! I planned on visiting the Sengaku-ji Temple with the shrines of the 47 Ronin (masterless samurai) then travel a littler further along to a small Zen temple (Tozen-ji). Lets say damn tourist maps, it’s not the first road on the left followed by the first of the right, it’s really the fifth road on the left then the third on the right. As you might have guessed I walked to all the wrong places. Eventually I found the Zen temple but it was closed to the public for some special event involving lots of guys in dark suit and sunglasses. From the Zen temple I was able to find the Ronin temple, however it was closed for construction work, I assume this meant the temple was undergoing repairs. Zero for two. Time to head across country past University of Tokyo and Shizenkyoikuen National Park to find my third temple for the day. Success, I found the Daien-ji Temple right where the tourist book said, strike one up for the tourist book! This temple had 500 lifelike rakan (Buddha disciple) images, lifelike but little, not like the full sized Chinese terracotta warriors.

Just down the road from the temple you find Ebisu Garden Place, here I visited the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. I spent half an hour playing on a research computer looking for photographs, it was a little hit and miss as it was all in Japanese, as you would expect! I think the main reason I stayed at the computer was to rest my weary feet. My next stop was just around the corner, the Beer Museum Yebisu, and it was free, my favourite price to pay.

I headed over to Roppongi for a late lunch, my plan here was a trip up the Mori Tower to the free ‘Tokyo City View’ observation deck. On trying to enter the elevators I was stopped and told I need a ticket, OK a ticket, a free ticket, again my favourite price to pay. But alas I was wrong, you had to buy a ‘Combination ticket’ starting from about $20 for Mori Art Museum & ‘free’ observation deck. My discussion with them in broken English / Japlish about not wanting to see the art museum or any of the other more expensive combination tickets attractions as they were not attractive to me failed. So what is the moral of this story, Mori Tower’s free ‘Tokyo City View’ observation deck is not free and didn’t get my money! I knew later in the day I was going to visit the Tokyo Tower observation deck which I had heard had a better view, and I was nicely surprised to find it was half the price too! Not quite my favourite price free, but still good value.

Just behind the Tokyo Tower is Shiba Park the home of one of Tokyo’s grandest temples ‘Zojo-ji Temple’. This temple had monks wandering around getting things ready for something, as I was leaving cars with dark tinted windows started arriving. I didn’t stay to investigate; I wanted to get up to Tokyo Tower’s observation deck before it was to dark. Nice view from the lower deck, about the same height as the Mori Tower, I however had purchased the valued added ticket that allowed access to the upper deck. Excellent view, well worth the extra price and still cheaper then the ‘free’ Mori Tower ‘observation deck. I stared down at the little Mori Tower with much glee in my eyes. I watched the sunset from the top deck, surrounded by mostly cuddling couples, I guess after all it was Valentines Day. I guess I spent near two hour there watching the city scape change from day to night with all the city lights shining bright. Damn this city must have a high electrically bill.

Monday 13 February 2006

Monday Day Three Tokyo Japan

Jason was left to fend for himself today while Marika headed off to work, after all this was really a work trip for her! While Marika worked Jason made his way around the city, learning more about the subway system and realising how bad tourist maps really are, incorrect street names, missing stations, long gone attractions. My first mishap sent me travelling down several roads that didn’t really exist according to the map; however I did come across a great train spotting bridge where I watched local trains and the mighty bullet trains snaking their way through the city. From here I travelled through a few kilometres of Yanaka Cemetery, not that I’m morbid, but the cemetery was very interesting with all the different shrines, temple and neatly manicured trees. I think I took to many photographs here; mmmm maybe I am a little morbid. From here I wandered around Ueno Park past museums, statues, temples and the zoo. Did I mention how bad tourist maps are! Heading along the suggested road from the park towards Nezu-jinja Shrine I found myself in the wrong place, after walking for a while I happened upon my starting point for Yanaka Cemetery. Mmmm, time for a different map, time to pull out the big map, working out which direction I needed to travel I set out using the trusty compass on my watch, half an hour later I’m there, staring at the famous red style Torii gate. It was getting late in the day and I had one more place to visit; Akihabara known as the electrical shopping district. It was getting dark and the place was little up like a Christmas tree, well maybe like Time Square in New York except some of the signs were ofcourse in Japanese characters. After visiting a few shops I realised this is not the place to buy electricals. Lots of choice but the few items I wanted were around double what I would pay in Australia or Singapore. Too many people, too many lights, too expensive and getting too late so I decided to head back to the hotel and see if Marika survived here day at work. She did so we headed out for dinner and more picture pointing food, this time we had restaurant staff that could speak English, funnily enough we still only had water to drink.

Sunday 12 February 2006

Sunday Day Two Tokyo Japan

We tested out the subway system today, buying a ticket was interesting, all in Japanese but we figured it out and purchased a 1000 yen travel pass. This only lasted the day, not cheap but quick. We later found ticket machines with English options. The Singapore MRT (subway / train) system is much better and cheaper, especially when transferring between lines. Most of the time we had to exit the station when changing lines, thus being charged for two or more trips. I guess there are tricks to learn about travelling their subway.

Today we headed out to Ryogoku to visit the Sumo Museum & stadium, and then wandered up the sumo statue lined road to the Ekoin Temple, aka the Shrine of the Rat Boy. There were interesting stories about the place so a visit was in order, hey plus it was the Shrine to Rat Boy! Next we headed to the Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum; this covers the complete history of Tokyo, from Edo to modern times. After a late lunch we headed over to Yoyogi Park where there are youth / pop cultures with rather different sense of dress, including Tokyo Rockabilly Club & Harajuku girls hang out. Yoyogi Park is also the home of the Meiji Jingu Shrine, a rather imposing complex in the middle of the park, with large Torii gates made of ancient cypress. From here we walked down Kyu Shibuya-gawa promenade to Shibuya and its vast busy shopping & entertainment district. We found another Japanese point at the pictures restaurant for dinner, however this time we had green tea instead of water, Jason was thinking bring back the water!

Saturday 11 February 2006

Saturday Day One Tokyo Japan

We had a nice cold welcome to Japan, cold temperature that is, just above freezing; the people on the other hand were very welcoming with a warm ‘Konnichi wa’ hello. After reading about how small the hotel rooms are in Japan, we were greeted with a good sized room. We can recommend Capitol Tokyu Hotel to you, the staff were great, spoke English, well Japlish, handy for those who don’t speak Japanese.

As we flew on the Friday night red eye, our Tokyo experience started early Saturday morning, after checking into the hotel we decided to head out for a little walking trip. First we visited the temple right next door to the hotel, then found out the Marika’s work building is also right next door to the hotel, handy three minute walk to work! Lunch was interesting; nobody spoke English so we ordered by pointing at pictures saying ‘ichi dozo’. I later found out that I should have been saying ‘Kudasai’ not dozo for please, (‘ichi is one). Hey, we tried and we were able to order lunch mostly OK, drinks we just had to stay with water. We strolled around the Imperial Palace and then wandered back through the city, Ginza area and headed back to the hotel grabbing dinner at a local Japanese style restaurant, more pointing at pictures to order, more water. Japanese TV commercials are quite funny to watch. It was an early to bed night after a minimal sleep red eye flight here. The bed was king size and comfortable; the pillows were like 20kg bags of concrete mix, bring on the pillow fight, one hit and you're out cold!

Friday 10 February 2006

And The Fireworks Rolled On!

It’s been 12 days since we welcomed the Chinese New Year and every night at 9:30pm there have been fireworks for us to enjoy. I assume there is only 3 more nights, to finish out the 15 days of celebration. I’ll upload some video footage later for your enjoyment. I need to shrink the video; 1.6Gb download might be a bit too much for some. After tonight’s fireworks we’ll be heading out the door for the airport, Marika going to Japan for a few days for work, so I decide to tag along and have a look around. Two days sight seeing together and two & half days on my own. It should be good and cold, the forecast temp’s are between zero and ten degrees Celsius. Mmmm a little different to the 30 plus Singapore winter we’re use too!

Friday 3 February 2006

Week 26 Doctors Visit

We had another doctor’s visit today and I’m starting to think that doctors are never on the same time clock as the rest of us. So when your appointment is at 11:15am doctors time, that really means 11:45am local time. The visit went well, Junior is growing as s/he should be. The Doc showed us the heart pumping strong, and we were able to see the feet clearly this time. Sorry no pictures. Our next check-up will be in another month. Marika is looking into antenatal classes, Woohoo back to school!