Sunday, January 20, 2013

Kristy and Adam's Most Excellent Unexpected Japan Holiday - Part Three - I Still HEART Tokyo!

Day Eight June 9th
Today was the day that we were hoping to get up ridiculously early to visit the Tsukiji Fish Market. It was right up the top of the list of "Things to Do in Tokyo" on tripadvisor when we were booking our trip, and I think may have also been mentioned in Lonely Planet. When I say 'we were hoping' what I actually meant was 'Adam was hoping and I was going to do my best to be a good wife and go with him'. As a girl who, 1. likes a sleep in, and 2. keeps a wide berth of the deli seafood section of her local Coles and Woolworths (I just can't stand the smell)... you can now understand how much I truly love my husband, to actually say yes to attending the biggest wholesale seafood and fish market in the world at the ungodly hour of 4am.
Thankfully for me, in the end - Adam opted out of visiting the Fish Market. We were both buggered from the day before - a MASSIVE day and night at DisneySea
Post sleep in, we headed out for a drink at a local bar. We were hungry, but they appeared to only serve pasta which we weren't keen on at all. Instead we sat amongst the mountains of Manga's and enjoyed a beer together. And we also ate what I am assuming is the Japanese equivalent of beer nuts. I don't know what it was, perhaps dried shrimp bits. 

Our other planned activity for the day was also chosen by Adam. We were off to see our first ever game of baseball!
So from our local bar, we made our way to the Tokyo Dome to see the Yomiuri Giants. Thankfully we thought ahead and borrowed umbrellas from the hotel. It was the only rainy day of our entire trip! Take THAT wet season!
Knowing that it is always best to 'do as the locals do', we couldn't help but purchase some souvenirs before the game. Everyone seemed to have neck towels so Adam went with the flow and got a towel and a baseball cap, and I got some silly little clapper/speaker thing. You wouldn't believe it, I wish I'd got a neck towel!
We ended up choosing to eat before entering at a burger place that was attached to the stadium. No doubt we paid through the nose for it, but they were crazy delicious burgers!!! The Japanese know how to make a spectacular and juicy burger thats for sure.
We bought the tickets for the game back when we first arrived in Tokyo... which was lucky because they were almost completely sold out! We ended up in the standing zone, super cheap tickets that were undercover and we were in with the locals.

Having never seen a baseball game, not even on TV, I had no real idea of what to expect...and I have to say - it was a lot of fun. I totally recommend it, even if you're not a fan of the sport. Each player has their own chant/song, complete with hand gestures that everyone gets into. So much awesome atmosphere. No ridiculous bogan behaviour. The towels are very important. Who thought swinging a small towel around your head could be so much fun!

Day Nine June 10th
One of the places I was most excited to visit whilst in Japan was undeniably Harajuku. We had learnt that Sunday was definitely the best day to visit this area. We hoped to see some awesome street fashion on the Jingu bridge, a Shinto wedding at the Meiji Shrine, and the super-cool rockabilly dancers in Yoyogi Park.
We were surprised to find the Jingu bridge completely empty when we arrived. Perhaps we were too early?

We headed to the Meiji Shrine. It was a lovely walk surrounded by trees which eventually opened up into the main yard.
So many beautiful things to look at and take an absolute bucket-load of pictures of.

And just as we had hoped, we saw not one... but FOUR Shinto weddings! All were in different stages. Fascinating and beautiful.
After plenty of time exploring this peaceful place we headed back over the Jingu bridge. Still no Japanese teens showing off their mind-blowing style! We did however find this Alice in Wonderland cosplayer in a convenience store nearby.
Perhaps there was hope yet!
We ventured into Yoyogi Park, where we were also unsuccessful in finding the rockabilly dancers, but had a great time doing some people-watching. We quickly discovered that parks on Sundays are the perfect place to learn new skills. There are groups of people dancing, boys playing hacky-sack, people sitting under trees playing a guitar or trumpet or another random instrument, little kids learning to ride bikes, groups practicing their cheerleading, others perfecting their soccer technique... you name the skill - there will be someone practicing it in Yoyogi Park on a Sunday. Whilst we were there we spotted some super-cute lolita girls in the distance - hooray! Perhaps there will be more people on the bridge when we head back.
Not far from the park we found a little collection of multicultural food stalls. The biggest line was for a couple of Thai-themed food stalls. We didn't follow our own advice (do as the locals do), and opted for a non-busy, no line-up ?Japanese option.

Noodle burger! Should be awesome, right? 
Wrong. It wasn't much chop. We weren't thrilled. In fact, I don't think we finished it. Found ourselves wishing we had tried the Japanese take on Thai food instead.
Takeshita street is the main quirky shopping street of Harajuku. Packed full to the brim of people, it is not for the faint hearted. We braved it, and spoilt ourselves at the pancake stall. So many delicious looking plastic food options.

When looking at our map of Harajuku, I found an advertisement for an official Evangelion store. OMG! An Evangelion store right there in Harajuku. It took us a little while to find it, but when we did, it was worth it!

After managing to escape Takeshita Street (and the Daiso 100 Yen shop), we yet again went back to the Jingu bridge in the desperate attempt of witnessing some cool Japanese street fashion. Finally! Some action on the bridge. A very small group huddled in the corner... with a parent holding a sign basically saying no photo's allowed. What was going on? It was nothing like we had heard about from friends and relatives that had visited before us. No plethora of street fashion to feast your eyes on. We were able to take a photo of one girl, after first gaining permission.
Feeling a little disheartened and confused (isn't Sunday THE day?!), we headed back into Yoyogi Park trying to find the rockabilly dancers. After wandering around for too long with my bag of Daiso goodies in tow, we decided to call it quits and head home. Of course, when you give-up, what do you find?

Two groups of rockabilly dancers getting their groove on. So cool. Yes, you read it right on the jacket - one of the groups is called Lebels. I'm not sure if that is a mistake, or a deliberate play on the word Rebels. They sure do have some awesome moves though! The Lebels were our favourite. The double-denim group (can't remember their actual name) were a little older, oozed a little less Grease 2 'cool-rider-coolness', but were still a lot of fun to watch. With that achieved we were able to remove ourselves from Harajuku's grip and head home. We later learnt that Police no longer allow the fashionable youths to congregate on the bridge, as I believe they were having problems with too many people and too many tourists. Bugger.
We found a cat cafe on the way back to the hotel. I was missing my substitute child very much. We knew cat cafe's existed thanks to an episode of An Idiot Abroad, and because my husband loves me too much - we did actually go up to enquire about the cafe. There was a considerable entry fee and you weren't allowed to pick up the cats. It was still tempting, but in the end - we opted out. We got dinner near-ish to our hotel (sans cats) and it was delicious! I LOVE Karaage! 

Day Ten June 11th
Today was the day we gave in, and went to Tokyo Disneyland!!!
Having been to DisneySea, we rocked up to the park - fully equipped with mouse ears, goofy hat and popcorn buckets.

Both of the Disney theme parks in Tokyo have what they call a FASTPASS ticketing system. This basically means that every two hours you can get a ticket (free of charge) to one of the main rides which gives you a specific time to come back to the ride, at which point you can surrender your ticket and jump the queue! It's a great system, especially when some of the rides have lines that are 2+hours long. The most popular rides will exhaust their allocation of FASTPASS tickets very early in the day. Having been to DisneySea, we knew that some strategy was required, so we did our research the night before and learnt that a ride called "Pooh's Honey Hunt" was by far the most popular, but no matter where we looked - we couldn't find out what the ride actually entailed. I was dubious as to why, and whether it was really worth our while to rush there and waste our first FASTPASS for a silly kiddies ride.

We got to the Pooh's Honey Hunt FASTPASS station as soon as we arrived at the park, and it was soooo popular that the FASTPASS tickets had sold out within the first hour. Hooray for successful research! Our tickets told us to come back at 6pm!!! We did. We rode it, and let me just say... this ride is difficult to describe. It was like nothing we have ever been on before. It was awesome. Trust me, no matter what age you are - just do it. It is best left unexplained for you to enjoy it in its pure form anyways.
Adam got very excited to try out his skills at the Shootin' Gallery. You know, the old school ones where you shoot at western themed objects that jump into life once hit.

He was a crack shot and even got a sheriffs badge to prove his awesome skill! So proud!

It was quite surreal seeing Cinderella's castle. We even got to go inside, and I tried on her slipper.

Darned thing didn't fit though.
Whilst I was obviously not fit to be a princess, it was cool to actually meet one. And she even realised that I was wearing her on my t-shirt!

She was very popular, I felt guilty having to fight off the littlies for a photo with Miss Snow, but Adam shoved me in there and I got my turn.
Here we are in the line-up to see Captain EO. Starring Michael Jackson, it is one of the first 4D films ever created and was screened in Disney themeparks from 1986 to sometime in the 1990's. They actually announced as we waited, that all ears were to be removed before entering the theatre. Being a good girl, I hung my Minnie ears on my popcorn bucket string (there was no way I was fitting them in my Totoro handbag), and later sat down in the theatre-ette to realise they were gone. Devastated, it was hard for me to enjoy the film. I was so annoyed with myself. How could I be stupid enough to lose them? Sure I could buy another pair, but I'm a sentimentalist - it wouldn't be the same!!! When the short film ended, we went looking for them and asked an attendent for assistance. I figured there wasn't much chance, but it was worth a try. In Australia, they would either be trampled or long gone. It turns out they had been picked up and handed in! Crisis averted. My ears had survived and come back to me! We were meant to be. Hooray!

I love Toontown. I love Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The detail in the theming of these parks is spectacular, and so well maintained. Sifting through the photo's we took, there was a ridiculous amount of pictures of random fountains and statues. Toontown is where you will find the official residence of Mickey Mouse. Remember in my last post, how I thought it was a joke to line up for 45 minutes to see Mickey?

Well that is Mickey's House and Mickey's Mailbox and you can go inside to meet Mickey - but it constantly had the longest line in the park. Even longer than Pooh's Honey Hunt. There was no way we were going to line up for 2 and half hours to see Mickey. Surely it's not worth that length of time, just to see someone in costume.
Instead we rode all the classic old school rides, that we only knew about thanks to American movies and sitcoms.

From Peter Pan's Flight to It's a Small World, The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. It was awesome to see what all the fuss was about. Adam had no idea that you could turn yourself around in the teacups. He was like a little kid when he realised. We were now totally up-to-date with all the well-known, well-loved vintage Disney rides. And thanks to our super-tasty popcorn filled bucket we were well fed whilst waiting in the lines.
Night time brought on the Fantastic Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade. I could bombard you with all the cool photo's we took, but instead I'll give you a taster. 

When the parade was finished we actually managed to find a quiet spot to sit together, Adam with his arm around me, to watch the fireworks over Cinderella's Castle. It was a little girls dream come true. 
And after that, we gave in and lined up to see Mickey Mouse, which was down to a 1hour 45 minute line-up (shortest it had been all day) and would have us exiting the park smack on closing time. I wasn't super keen, but Adam decided he couldn't leave without meeting him.
The line ride took you through Mickey's house where there was plenty of Mickey memorabilia, and quirky bit's and pieces to keep you pre-occupied during your wait.

After we finally finished weaving our way through Mickey's House and yard (complete with Pluto's Kennel), we ended up in Mickey's dressing room for an intimate meeting with only us and a few other people present. The girl before us squealed and ran into his arms. It was actually exciting and kinda surreal.

I have never known a costumed character to have so much personality. He was awesome, beautiful... worth the line-up and then some. You felt like you really got quality time with the main man. He took a liking to me and I got multiple kisses. I was 100% won over. I'm so glad Adam decided that we should meet him. It ended up being the highlight of my day, and we got some cool photo's to boot.