Treasure


As I enjoyed my tea and scones today, it struck me again how much I like my china set. First off I think it is real pretty, but the fact that my dad picked it out and bought it all by himself in a country, Japan, on the other side of the world – is what makes it a treasure in my eyes. The Noritake China, pattern 5802 Arlene, can be replaced for 400 USD, so the monetary value isn’t great, even though it was only produced between 1957 and 1966. Which means that I can use it more than I do, as I have been afraid of breaking it. Now that I know that this is not a rare pattern, and it can be easily replaced, it will not be devastating to break it.

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Tokyo much? Addendum


(Norwegian version: Reisebrev fra Tokyo, noen betraktninger etter reisen.)

Oh, what a wonderful vacation we had! What an Adventure! A week in Tokyo turned out to be perfect for our little family. This is one of the few places I wish to return to (as long as there are places I have not yet visited, I will normally choose somewhere new instead of returning to a place.) I want to see more of Japan, like the old capital Kyoto, and Hiroshima that had to be completely rebuilt after the Yanks dropped the bomb.

A vacation in Tokyo gets the highest grades and most heartfelt recommendations from Old Mamasan and the Doodz. We chose not to visit it, but there is a Disneyland in Tokyo if that is something you enjoy. I am sure kids will love it.

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Old Mamasan prefer old dragons over ducks in hats

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The Doodz also prefers antiques over Dolly and Goofy

Even though I am done with the travelogue from Tokyo, I’m still not ready to let go – so I write this addendum with a couple tips and observations that I did not find a natural way to include in the other posts in this series.


Kawaii desu ne?

Tokyo (which means «the eastern capital») is the biggest city, a Prefecture and capital of Japan. 10 per cent of Japans inhabitants live in Tokyo, cirka 12 million. Include Yokohama and Kawasaki, and you have the world’s largest metropole with 37 million people. That it, in this huge city, would be this quiet, came as a very pleasant surprise.

The exceptions were a mall, where they had sales, and in the One Piece Park (you can read about it here). In these two places there were noise. Irritating noice. Japanese females, of all ages, tend to change their voice into a baby voice, and they are even capable of yelling in this excruciatingly irritating voice. They call it Kawaii (cute); I call it “Stop That Crap or Imma Slap Ya Silly”! Why do they do this? To turn on Japanese men? Do Japanese men like this? I have not been able to understand why they do this über-annoying thing, but it has to be anchored deep in the Japanese culture, because everybody does it! Even the automated announcements on the Metro! Gaahhhh!

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Even here, in the middle of a cross road, it was way quieter than I expected it to be!


Smoking

Tokyo is a very clean city, and the locals are very orderly. You won’t see any litter lying about in the streets. And no cigarette butts. It is actually not allowed to smoke just anywhere, they have set up specific places where you can have your cig, and dispose of the butt in the correct place (i.e. not on the street.) Right by the entrance to the Metro at Shibuya Crossing there was even a guard thanking you for disposing the cig butt in the ashtray. Imagine that for a career!

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Restaurants, cafes and bars often have a separate space where smoking is allowed, and this is marked by a sign on the outside. Even if you are a chain smoker, survival is entiredly possible in this city.

The Japanese have a strict honor codex, and despite the size of the city, Tokyo feels very safe. Even at night, we felt perfectly safe.


Tipping

You do not tip in Tokyo. Good service is understood and not something you should pay for extra. The Japanese will be insulted if you try to tip them. It is not in their culture. If you – like me – have a problem with all the small coins that tend to fill up your wallet, then the best way to empty the coin compartment is to put the coins in one of the charity boxes you find on the counter at every 7-11. That way you don’t insult anyone by leaving a tip, you get to empty your wallet of those annoying small coins that tends to accumulate, and you contribute to charity. Win-win-win!


Metro/Train

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The underground transportation in Tokyo works really well. We picked up a Tokyo Metro Guide at our hotel, asked the Receptionist where the nearest underground station was – and then we went for it! We bought day passes in the ticket machine, cash or card. (We tried both) It was easy to figure out the trains; what train to take and in what direction, and where to change. Do not be afraid of the Japanese underground transportation, it is easy and effective.

Old Mamasan had read in the Tokyo Guide that it was rude to fiddle about on your smart phone onboard public transportation. Apparently someone forgot to tell the Japanese that, because businessmen in suits were reading, surfing and playing Candy Crush on the metro everywhere we looked. Either the Guide book is wrong, or things have changed. Those not fiddling about on their smartphone were actually sleeping.

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Sake

In the Western world we use the word Sake 酒for the Japanese alcoholic drink that is brewed on polished rice. In Japan they use the word Sake for all alcoholic drinks. This Rice wine we wrongfully call Sake, is actually called  Nihonshu 日本酒. It is also not correct to define it as a wine, as it is actually produced in a process that resembles brewing of beer.

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The National drink Nihonshu, is often served in ceremonial rituals, gently heated in a ceramics bottle, tokkuri, and sipped from small ceramic glasses, guinomi.

 

Sake is often consumed as a part of Shinto cleansing rituals, and it is also served to the Gods, as offerings, before the Japanese drink it themselves (“Omiki” or “Miki“). They drink Omiki to communicate with the Gods, and to ask for a plentiful harvest the following year. Kamikaze pilots would drink Sake during WW2 before completing their missions.

They use a club to open wood barrels of Sake in the ceremony “Kagami biraki“. This ceremony takes place during Shinto festivals, weddings, store openings, sports events, elections and other celebrations. Celebratory Sake, iwai, is served to all to spread luck and good fortune.


The end is near (and often heated)

Japanese toilets are a topic I could fill several blog posts with. I choose not to, and instead share a video, as closure to this series from the world’s absolutely, totally, hands down, coolest city!

 


Here is a list over all the posts in this series:

Dazzling Tokyo

Tokyo much? (day 1, travel and arrival)

Tokyo much? Harajuku and Meiji-jingu

Tokyo much? Manga-Mania

Tokyo much? Akihabara (something for the nerds)

Tokyo Much? Edo Castle, The Big Scramble and Roppongi

Tokyo much? Play Ball!

Tokyo much? The National Museum and (more) shopping

Tokyo much? Zōjō-ji

Tokyo much? Matcha Tea and Vintage Toys

Tokyo much? Odaiba and Tokyo Bay

 

 

 

 

Tokyo much? Odaiba and Tokyo Bay


(Norsk versjon: Reisebrev fra Tokyo, Odaiba og Tokyo Bay, dag 8)

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The Statue of Liberty with the Tokyo skyline and Rainbow Bridge in the background.

Even History-buffs like us might occasionally look to the future, and that is how we decided to spend our last day in Tokyo, at Odaiba. After 20150704_104438a late and tasty breakfast, mind you.

 

Odaiba

Odaiba is a large, artificial island in the east end of Tokyo Bay. The island was built in the 1850s as a part of the city defence, and was drastically expanded late in the 1900s and highly developed as commercial, residential and recreational areas.

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Panorama of Tokyo Bay

When you tour Tokyo and see old temples and modern shopping centers, it is easy to forget that this diverse city actually is a seaport. Out on the island it is kind of hard to see it as a part of Tokyo, as it struck us as quite “un-Tokyoish”.

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Panorama Tokyo skyline

11012410_10153342194056622_785178654568773598_nFor you whom are travelling with children, make sure you take the Yurikamome Line out to Odaiba – a fully automated transit line. The whole trip takes place above ground and as there is no driver, the kids absolutely love to sit at the very front! From Shimbashi station you will travel between sky scrapers, before crossing Tokyo Bay via the Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba. You have to buy separate tickets for the Yurikamome Line, as they cannot be combined with day fare tickets on the TOEI or Metro. Tickets are easy to buy at the self-service kiosks at the stations.

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Rainbow Bridge

The vid below – that I shot when we returned from Odaiba to the city – shows parts of the trip. First part is from Odaiba towards Tokyo, then as we come off the Tokyo Bridge on the mainland side, and you can see that the Line makes a 270 degree turn.

On Odaiba there’s a small beach and also a promenade along the shore. The temperature was all right, and us being rough and tough Vikings would have loved to go for a swim, despite the cloudy and rainy weather, but had failed to bring swimwear. However, my camera works best out of the sea, so a lot of pictures were shot instead.

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Did you think that New York has the only Statue of Liberty? (You can read about our visit to the original Statue of Liberty here ) There are actually quite many of them around the world. Even the small town of Ålgård in Norway has one. A small one, but still…

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Tokyo’s Statue of Liberty

A Statue of Liberty was erected on Odaiba from April 1998 to May 1999 as part of «the French year in Japan». Due to its popularity, a permanent statue was erected on the same spot in 2000.

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We even found a little reminder that we were returning back to Denmark the next day…

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Also on Odaiba, you find Miraikan, National Museum of emerging science & innovation. In other words – yet another El Dorado for the Nerds! This is a very interesting museum, recommended for kids as there are many interactive exhibitions. You can spend so many hours here that it’s not even funny. There are cafes and restaurants, so you can fuel up on the ol’ java and have a cake while you rest your weary legs.

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The Doodz at Miraikan

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We are not talking world class cafe, but it sufficed

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Sir Nerdalot putting on a brave face while waiting for his much needed coffee.

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The Doodz resting on over-sized cafe-furniture

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Picture taken from the top gallery down towards the entryway.

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From the Space-part of the Museum

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Sir Nerdalot checking out a quite impressive underwater vessel.

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I think I know some ROV-pilots that would love to get their hands on the controld of this buddy 🙂

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The Kid and Sir Nerdalot enjoying Miraikan

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The Kid making friends with ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative MObility), a humanoid robot constructed by Honda.

The glorious globe, Geo-Cosmos, is showing near real-time weather-patterns of the world.

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Geo-Cosmos

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That’s the Kid all the way over there.

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This was our last day in Tokyo. An adventurous vacation in an interesting city. There will be one last entry in this series where I give some last tips and a few considerations to take if you are visiting this fab city. So stay tuned!

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Opposites

Tokyo much? Matcha Tea and Vintage Toys


(Norsk versjon: Reisebrev fra Tokyo, matcha tea and vintage toys, anyone? Dag 7)

Japanese Tea ceremony

Finally the day arrived that Old Mamasan were to experience a Japanese Tea Ceremony. We had all heard about it as a great Japanese tradition, but we didn’t know a whole lot about it. Well, that was about to change.

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Both the making and the serving of tea are artforms

The Tea Ceremony needs to be pre-booked, and were not in keeping with our laissez-faire methodology of travel, but we lucked out and they had spaces for us, even though our booking came in late. We made the booking at the Hotel Okura’s webpage, and they promptly responded. Be aware that they do expect a confirmation from you, and we sent ours immediately.

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You will often find a beautiful garden in connection with the Tea Room, and it is possible to, weather permitting, have the Tea Ceremony outdoors.

We arrived the hotel soaking wet, because we had (of course) left our umbrellas at our hotel, and we made a couple of wrong turns before we found the place. We were met by a very sweet Japanese lady, who took us to a lobby where we hung our coats and bags before we washed our hands and mouths before entering the Tea Room.

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The Kid is doing the Cleansing Ritual

Japanese Tea Ceremony is a cultural activity that involves preparation and serving of matcha tea, a powdered green tea. All steps and movements are rehearsed, and it’s a very elegant Ceremony to watch. When the tea is served to you, there are rules of conduct to observe, like turning the bowls decoration to the side, and as the Kid experienced, what way you turn it is not optional.

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The Kid is paying attention to the instructions so he’ll get it right

 

A little bit of history:

The first documented Tea Ceremony took place in year 815, when the Buddhist Monk Eichū returned from China and served Sencha (unground Japanese green tea) to Emperor Saga, whom at the time was travelling in Karasaki.

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The Kid, somewhat wet.

 

The Monk Eisai introduced tencha tea in the late 1100s. Tencha is when powdered matcha tea is being stirred into hot water. This powder was first used in religious rituals in the Buddhist temples. Tea was associated with luxury, and therefore became a symbol of status among the warrior class.

 

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A traditional Tea Ceremony lasts for four hours and includes something edible. Here is some sort of sweets made from ground beans, and probably lots of sugar.

The aesthetics and the symbolism of the Tea Ceremony developed over time, and the principles of Sabi and Wabi became important. Wabi represents the inner, or spiritual, aspects of life, and Sabi represents the outer, or materialistic, aspects of life. In the 1500s the culture of drinking tea had spread throughout society.

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Sir Nerdalot enjoying the matcha

Old Mamasan has, for a long time, wondered about (and been amused by) the various sound effects that you find in Karate. I did try out Karate for some months, and learned that the wheezing and yelling actually do have a purpose (I am the proud owner of a white belt in Karate and green Suspenders in kicking your ass!) The sound effects also have a purpose in Japanese Tea Ceremony, as it is a wordless ritual. You signal that you have finished your tea by sucking air through your molar teeth, kind of the same sound as when you eat a water melon.

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The Kid and Mamasan having the tea – as instructed

To my dismay, I see that all the photos are from the outer tea room. After the tea and the “cake” in the outer room, we were taken into a much smaller room with no furniture. The guide told us that the doorway was low and narrow so that the Samurai had to leave their war attire and weapons on the outside. I might be reading too much into this, but I do love the symbolism: leave your worldly possessions and get ready for meditation and inner peace.

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Old Mamasan was so good at this, that a career change is being considered. (I just have to learn to sit om my knees for 4 hours…)


Nakano Broadway

– will absolutely melt your credit card if you are a collector! Here you find Mandarake – the store that has specialized in Comic books, manga and toys. They have huge displays totally filled with old and used toys. If you do not find some of the toys you had as a child – then you were born a grown up! This is truly a great chance to get your hands on some old toys so you can save them for posterity.

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The Doodz by one of the many little Mandarake-shops

Nakano Broadway holds 12 Mandarake stores, each with their own speciality. You could spend an entire vacation here.

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They had everything here! The stores were totally crammed with costymes, comics and old toys. A true El Dorado for nerds of all ages.

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Shelf upon shelp filled with Manga and Comic books

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Sir Nerdalot found his favourite toy!

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If you are travelling with non-nerds, just park them at one of the many coffee shops while you shop til you drop.

Stay tuned for the next installment in this series: Odaiba and Tokyo Bay

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Graceful

Tokyo much? Zōjō-ji


(Norsk versjon: Reisebrev fra Tokyo, historie og shopping, dag 6 (del 2))

Zōjō-ji

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Have you ever been jet lagged? It’s not good. You’re so tired that you can hardly remember your own name, despite the fact that you have been sitting still for over 11 hours – you feel exhausted. Legs ache, your body just feels odd, and your head feels woolly. Under these premises we had a few hours to kill the day we arrived in Tokyo, before we could check in to our hotel. This was when we, unknowingly, stumbled upon Zoji-ji, the temple I promised to elaborate on in the first post of my “Tokyo much?”-series.

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Loving the contrasts

Zojo-ji is the Great Main Temple of the Chinzei branch of Jodo-shu Buddhism, and dates from 1393. As many other historic buildings in Tokyo, the original structure has been moved, destroyed in wars, fires and earthquakes. The Temple has been rebuilt several times, last in 1974.

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The Doodz on top of the stairs

Zojo-ji was the Togugawa clan’s family temple, and 6 of the 15 Togugawa Shoguns have been laid to rest here.

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Entrance of the Togugawa Mausoleum

The main entrance to Zojo-ji is a huge gate, Sanmon (1605), and the three entryways are symbols of the three stages you have to go through to reach Nirvana. It is also said that you rid yourself of three vises when you enter through the gate; greed (貪 Ton), hatred ( 瞋 Shin)  and foolishness ( 癡 Chi). Old Mamasan did not notice any changes in the three vises, nor any other vises, after passing through this gate. I choose to see that as being vise free in the first place.

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What vise would you like to rid yourself of?

The Daibonsho bell was made in 1673; it has a diameter of 1,76 meters and is 3,33 meters tall. It weighs 15 tons. The bell is known as one of the three great bells from the Edo period. It is rung twice a day, and contributes to cleanse humans from the 108 earthly passions/vises, and installs great peace of mind.

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Daibonsho

Visitors to the Zojo-ji can write their prayers on a colorful note and attach to one of the many trees by the main Temple.

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Along one side of the Temple garden, you find rows of stone statues of children. The statues represent unborn children, including miscarried, aborted and stillborn children. Parents can choose a statue and decorate it with small clothing and toys, and a small gift to Jizo – the guardian of unborn children (to ensure they are brought to the afterlife.) Next to some of the statues there are small piles of stones, which are also meant to ease the journey to the afterlife.

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The Garden of Unborn Children


Garden Islands Beer Restaurant

On our second day in Tokyo we wanted to visit his restaurant (one of many restaurants at the Tokyo Prince Hotel), but it was closed due to a private arrangement. On our sixth day we were happy to see that they were open to the public, but unaware that we had to cook our own dinner! This was such a fun restaurant! You order one of several menus, the grill in the middle of the table is lit and you have a god at whatever raw meats and vegetables are brought to your table. The meats were of very high quality, and we grilled it to our own preference. It was soooooooo good! And we ate sooooooo much! When you are in Tokyo, make sure you do not miss out on this very fun and tasty experience!

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The Karate Kid is waiting for food!

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Look at all these yummies!

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The Kid is getting a hang of the chop sticks.

hitsStay tuned for the next post in this series, featuring matcha tea and vintage toys.

 

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Tokyo much? The National Museum and (more) shopping


(Norsk versjon: Reisebrev fra Tokyo, historie og shopping, dag 6 (del 1))

Tokyo National Museum

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The Doodz in front of the main Museum building

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Two tickets for adults. Kids enter for free.

After a sports-filled day at the Ball Game (Goooo Giants!), it felt right to visit  the National Museum. If you are only visiting one museum in Tokyo – then you should make the Tokyo National Museum the one, with its grand permanent exhibition, many temporary exhibitions and the gorgeous garden and park. You can easily spend hours upon hours here – just as we did, and we only saw a small part of the exhibition!

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Panoramic view of a few of the Museum buildings

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The Museum is surrrounded by a beautiful park and garden

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They even have fog machines in the fountain.

As mentioned, the exhibitions are very large, so there is a lot to see.  Our favorite was this sword. It might not look all that impressive in the photo, but it is a priceless national treasure, and one of the five most famous swords. The sword maker, Sanjou Munechika is famous for his craft. Reportedly he lived in Kyoto during the Heian period (794-1185). It is known that the sword was owned by Kôdai-in (1549-1624), the wife of the war lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The second Shogun in the Tokugawa Shogunate inherited it from her and it was then passed on within the Tokugawa-clan.

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Mikazuki Munechika, a sword placed on the top five list of famous swords

 

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This is one of four tea houses within the Museum garden

After all this interesting history and priceless treasures it was time for lunch. In the outskirts of the park surrounding the Museum, there are many restaurants to choose from.

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Old Mamasan was very happy with this view ❤


Onwards and upwards – shopping!

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The Doodz ready to shop til they drop

In the district Asakusa you find Senso-ji, a Buddhist temple and Tokyo’s oldest temple. Nakamise-dori is a street that runs up to the temple. Early in the 18th century, the neighbors of the temple were granted permission to set up shops and stands, and a market street was born. The area was devastated by an earthquake in 1923, and again by the WW2 bombings. The street is approximately 250 meters long and is home to 89 shops.

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Old Mamasan and he Karate Kid enjoying some shopping

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This Sake set went home with me


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Sir Nerdalot bought two decorative katanas, which after a detour at the police station in Copenhagen now sits on our sideboard.

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Show me one “forigner tourist” that can resist this sign!

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Melon soda…


We had finally beaten the jet lag, so we had more to see! Stay tuned for a post about Zojo-ji, the temple we stumbled upon on our first day.

 

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For Posterity

Tokyo much? Play Ball!


(Norsk versjon: Reisebrev fra Tokyo, Play Ball, dag 5)

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Enjoying dinner while waiting for the game to start.

Do you know what the most popular sport in Japan is?

Karate?

Sumo wrestling?

Soccer?

Table tennis?

Nope… It is baseball (yakyū)!

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The score board.

Baseball was introduced to Japan in 1872 by Horace Wilson, an American English teacher at Kaisei School in Tokyo.

Six years later, Japans first baseball team was founded. Hiroshi Hiraoka, who learned the game while studying engineering in the United States, introduced the game to his colleagues at the railway, and they founded the Shimbashi Athletic Club, in 1878. Shimbashi Athletic Club dominated in all games against other teams that were formed. Still, it was not until a team was formed by Tokyo University that the sport became a part of Japanese culture.  In 1896, the University team won against the American team Yokohama Country and Athletic Club – which in fact were the first documented international baseball game to take place in Asia. After this victory, baseball was adopted by several other universities, and the sport spread rapidly throughout the country. Pro baseball was started in 1920, see Nippon Professional Baseball.

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Tokyo Dome is starting to fill up before the game

Sir Nerdalot dabbled in the sport when he was a young lad, at the Stavanger American School, and is thus interested in the game. The Karate Kid and I will follow along to anything fun. You can book tickets here: Tokyo Dome.

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Tickets

We spent the whole day around the Tokyo Dome, as there are lots to do there (amusement park, spa, shopping, restaurants, bowling, and arcade). There is also a batting range, and Old Mamasan got to swing the ol’ bat for the first time since elementary school. Oh, it was so much fun! To whack those balls as hard as you possibly can is pure therapy!

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Old Mamasan whackin’ balls

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The Karate Kid also enjoyed the batting range

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He hit some too

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Sir Nerdalot showing off

Make sure you visit the The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. It is not allowed to take pictures at the museum, so you just have to take my word for it; it was really good, and I highly recommend it!

There is also a MLB (Major League Baseball) café and shop, should you be interested. (Of course, Sir Nerdalot was very interested…)

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New York Yankees cap and Everton jacket to see Japanese baseball? This can’t be right!

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The Kid at the MLB cafe

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Sir Nerdalot looking forward to the ball game

If you need any supporter-stuff, there are lots to chose from!

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Yomiuri Giants fans wave towels whenever something exciting happens in the game.

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Sakamoto, number 6, team Captain.

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The Doodz outside the Tokyo Dome

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The Doodz starting to dress the part

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Ready. Now Play Ball!

The Home Team, the Yomiuri Giants are a Tokyo-team, and play their home games at the Tokyo Dome (opened 1988). The team is owned by Yomiuri Group, a Japanese media conglomerate. The Giants are the oldest team among the current pro teams.

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Giants batting

The Visitors, Hiroshima Toyo Carp, was established as a part of the rebuild of Hiroshima after the atomic bomb. The team is owned by the descendants of the founder of Mazda.

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The Carps are warming up

Inside the Dome there are lots of supporter shops, cafes and fast food places with all kinds of weird foods, crepes with lots of different fillings, snacks and anything you might want for. We had to resort to pointing and holding up fingers to indicate how many of whatever we pointed at to get fed. You can imagine the Kid’s disappointment when what he thought he ordered as meatballs actually were fish balls (what? Fish don’t have balls!?) As a game might last for three hours and more, it becomes clear that the «beer girls» are not only entertaining, but also a necessity. There was always one of them around so you could get a new beer without leaving your seat. They kept it up throughout the duration of the game, at an impressive speed and high energy level.

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“Beer girl”, with the keg on her back and the tap in her hand

Both before the game and between innings, we were amply entertained by cheerleaders, mascots and games.

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Mascots

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Touching up the field

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The Giants fans

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GOOOOOOO GIANTS!!!

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Sir Nerdalot had a hard time explaing this to us *giggles*

I am sorry to say that the Giants lost 10-2 to the Carps (confusing facts for the Europeans: In baseball they do the scores backwards. Visitors vs. Home team. As opposed to the logic, smart and reasonable way of doing it with the home team first and then the visitors. Remember this; it might come in handy at a pub quiz). Despite a formidable loss, this was fun!

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Steal bases much?

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Here Batter Batter Batter Sawiiiing!

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Giants batting

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Giants pitcher

More Tokyo much?-posts are coming up his week, next one from National Museum and some more shopping at Asakusa.

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Tokyo Much? Edo Castle, The Big Scramble and Roppongi


(Norsk versjon: Reisebrev fra Tokyo, Edo-palasset, The Big Scramble og Hard Rock, dag 4)

Edo Castle, Chiyoda

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The Edo Castle is an enormous castle construction and fortress built in 1457 by Ota Dokan; a Samurai warrior-poet, military tactician and Buddhist monk. He is most noted as architect and builder of the Edo Castle, and is the presumed founder of the urban settlement that grew around the fortress.

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The Edo Castle is surrounded by a wide moat

Tokugawa Ieyasu was founder and first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan from 1600 until the Meiji Restauration in 1868. The Edo Castle was the Shogun’s residence, office and military headquarters. After the Meiji Restauration the Emperor made the Castle his residence. Parts of the Castle have been ruined in fires and war throughout history, but there are still some surviving original parts.

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Parts of the Castle are now a part of the Edo Museum. Unfortunately the Museum was closed when we visited, but we did go for a nice walk in the beautiful park. (Mind you, you only see a very small part of the Castle-complex in my photos.)

You can check for opening hours on the Museum webpage, where you can also find information on both current, upcoming and permanent exebitions. This is also a great place to get an introduction to traditional Japanese music.

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Old and modern architecture side by side, quite fascinating!

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The Doodz enjoying cold drinks and a small break

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Gorgeous pond with swans in front of a more modern building in Chiyoda

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Not quite sure what this is, but it sure looks cool!

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Chiyoda is the Political centre. You will also find investment bankers and other business in this district.


Shibuya Crossing / The Big Scramble

We came out from the Shibuya subway station right by The Big Scramble. The Shibuya Crossing is reportedly the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing, and a little fun fact for the nerds; this is the point in the world with the biggest density of mobile phones. Remember that one; you never know when this comes in handy at a pub-quiz.

The cars take their turns through the intersection, but as soon as they all get red light, the pedestrians comes from all directions – simultaneously. The Shibuya Crossing is surrounded by department stores and large, digital billboards. There are many cafes overlooking the crossing – but getting a window table can be hard. We did not go there at rush hour, but you still get an impression from it in the vids.


Roppongi

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The name Roppongi, which appears to have been established around 1660, means «six trees».  Six very old and very large Zelkova trees (often used in bonsai) stood here. The first three were removed, and the rest of them were destroyed during WW2. Another legend says that the name derives from six powerful Daimyo (feudal Noblemen) that lived in the area, and all six of them had either the Japanese sign for tree – or a sort of tree – in their names.

A part of the Japanese army was moved to the area in 1890, which led to a resurgence of the nightlife, only temporarily interrupted by a major earthqquake that devastated the area in 1923. The district was devastated again during WW2 duing bombings.

After the war, the US Army occupied a large portion of the area, thus Roppongi were known to be an area attracting foreigners. Near the military installations there were an increasing number of restaurants, pool-halls, bars, and brothels. Late in the 60’s, Roppongi was popular with both the Japanese and foreigners for the night life, and thus attracted the artistic elite. Various embassies and international corporations established their presence here, and the area is still favored by foreign businessmen, students and military personnel.

When writing about Roppongi, there is no getting around the the Japanese mafia, Yakuza. Yakuza used to have a strong presence in Roppongi, but has in latter years moved to other parts of Tokyo.

The Yakuza is reputed to be well-organized and have strict rules of conduct and rituals. Many Yakuza have tattoos covering their whole bodies, genitalia included, often tattooed with old-fashioned tools like sharpened bamboo as needle. The procedure is expensive, very painful, and takes years to complete.

Now, we didn’t see any Yakuza, but our goal in Roppongi was clear; we had to buy T-shirts and souvenir glasses at Hard Rock Cafe (someone is collecting). There are two Hard Rock Cafes in Tokyo, and this one suited us the best logistically. While you are there, after being lost both at the subway system and in the streets of Roppongi, you might as well enjoy a coffee- and dessert-break.

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You just have to try the Apple Cobbler! It is to die for!


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Old Mamasan is easily charmed by the small nick nacks they have everywhere in Tokyo. Here a set of soy sauce and vinegar. Love it!

Stay tuned for a Japanese Ball Game. Gooooooo Yomiuri Giants!

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Graceful

Tokyo much? Akihabara (something for the nerds)


(Norsk versjon: Reisebrev fra Tokyo, Akihabara – consumer electronics galore, dag 3)

The district of Akihabara is a true El Dorado for technology-geeks and games- and manga-nerds, and if that is you, then you would be called otaku in Japanese.  The district is also called Akihabara Electric Town. After WW2 it became the commercial center for household appliances, electrical apparatuses and also the postwar black market.

Historically, this was a town gate to Edo (previous name for Tokyo), and the passage way between the city and the north-west part of the island. Craftsmen and merchants, and also some lower class Samurai, settled here. The area was destroyed in a fire in 1869, and the inhabitants decided to replace the burned down buildings with a shrine/sanctuary called Chinkasha – meaning fire extinguisher shrine. The popular name on the shrine was Akiba, named after a God who had the power to control fire. The surrounding area was therefore named Akibagahara, which was later shortened to Akihabara.

As household appliances began to lose its futuristic status and became common in the Japanese homes in the 1980s, the stores in Akihabara shifted their focus to home computers. At this time the computer were used by specialists and a few hobby-programmers. This change attracted a new type of clientele: the otaku (nerd). The nerds then attracted yet another type of customer, those interested in Manga, Anime and videogames. (See this post for Manga: Tokyo much? Manga-Mania) Relations between Akihabara and otaku have not just survived, but have grown to the point where the district is now known all over the world for its otaku culture, and many otaku regard Akihabara as their Holy Grail.

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Yodobashi Akiba

Yodobashi Akiba is a monstrous department store in the Yodobashi Camera chain. We are talking 8 huge floors filled with electronics, computers, light, sound, toys, kitchen appliances, cafes, and everything your little okatu-heart desires. There are many fun purchases to be made here, but not all are very wise. Console games are zone locked, PC’s and tablets comes with operating system, keyboard and software preinstalled in Japanese, and mobile phones are sold solely on contract. Whether or not you come out of there with lots of shopping bags – this place is definitely worth a visit. It is the sickest department store ever!

Should you be inclined to dazzle in the fine art of shopping, please note that tax free shopping is available (usually electronic stores and the big department stores in the bigger cities), and if you shop for more than 10.000 JPY in one day in one store/department store, you can get the 5% VAT refunded. Remember to bring you passport, or else there will be no refund. Some stores will deduct the VAT at the cashier, others require you to take the receipt to the information desk and have it refunded there. Also smart to have checked what the max value is for importing toll free goods to your country.


After a whole day in a friggin’ department store, we returned to our hotel exhausted and with sore feet. We chose the Japanese restaurant at the hotel for dinner. We finally got us some Japanese food!

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The Doods went for the steak

The waiter, a very formal man (this was a nice restaurant, mind you), had to swallow more than one giggle when the Karate Kid and I lost things in our noodles, stabbed the vegetables and had great difficulties with the chopstick technique.  Despite our clumsiness, we really enjoyed our three course meal.

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Old Mamasan enjoyed tempura

hitsStay tuned for the Big Scramble (and we are not talking about eggs), and the Edo Castle.

Tokyo much? Manga-Mania


Norsk versjon: Reisebrev fra Tokyo, Manga-Mania og den store jakten på middag, dag 2 (del 2)

Our travel methodology consists of being as unprepared as possible. We found cheap tickets with Lufthansa, booked a hotel that seemed to have a fairly good location and was adequately comfortable, then we pushed the “confirm”-button. Then we did nothing for over six months.  The week before departure, we booked parking for our car at Copenhagen Airport, booked a portable Wi-Fi and checked on how to get from the airport in Tokyo to our hotel. (You can read more about the portable Wi-Fi and transfer to the hotel in this post: Tokyo much? (day 1, travel and arrival))

The travel guide was not purchased until after we were checked into the flight. Rebels, is what we are! Old Mamasan’s thoughts on what to see and do in Tokyo was simply; Japanese tea-ceremony and “old temples” (Check!) Sir Nerdalot wished to go to a ball game. (Check!) The Karate Kid wanted to do some Manga-stuff (Check!)

As you can see, a lot of what we do on our travels is not planned in detail, but this rather whimsical approach works for us.

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Some of the Karate Kid’s Pne Piece books and collectables

 Day two was spent at Harajuku and Meiji-jingu, and after a quick stop by our hotel, we wanted to try a Garden Restaurant we had passed the evening before on the way to Tokyo Tower. Unfortunately they were closed for a private wedding party (maybe one of the weddings that took place at the Meiji-jingu). Being already half way to Tokyo Tower, we decided to go all the way in our pursuit for something edible. Despite the fact that we eat both fast, plenty and often, the typical “fast food” is not what we aim for. Ever. At Tokyo Tower fast food is what is offered. So we planned to do what the Kid really wanted and then have dinner at the restaurant at our hotel afterwards.

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In the base of Tokyo Tower there is something called Tokyo One Piece Tower . An explanation might be needed here: Manga is the Japanese word for comic book. Mangas are very reputable in Japan and has since the very start been recognized as an art form. Manga is quite different from western comic books in drawing style, storytelling and plot, due to the vast differences in culture. Popular Mangas are often processed into Anime (Japanese for animation).

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The Karate Kid just had to buy the first book of the series in Japanese.

One Piece is one of Japan’s most popular and bestselling Mangas, and tells the story about the young Pirate Monkey D. Luffy and his crew. The Karate Kid is a big fan!

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Manga is read by starting at the back of the book and turning the pages the wrong way.

Inside this One Piece Tower there is, in addition to a store and a cafe, some sort of arcade. Talk about being lost, we did not understand one bit of what was going on. Nothing. Zilch. Zip. Nada.  The young Japanese girls that work there have this annoying way of yelling in a baby-voice and it is the most irritating sound ever! Oh the noise level! Oh my poor head!

The girls with the annoying voices nagged, convinced, pulled and pleaded with us to join in some of the games. We didn’t know how to get out of this, so we partook in a couple stupid games. I have no idea if we won anything, I don’t know what the heck was going on. It felt like we were stuck in a crazy Japanese game show.

Obviously this place is not just for kids. There were several grownups, without kids, running around with some plastic sea shells, ducking in and out of tunnels and doorways. The Kid picked up one of the shells and headed into a tunnel. He later told us that he had had a great time. He had no clue what he was doing – but it was great!

We did try to follow instructions from these cute Japanese girls with the annoying voices, and we smiled and we tried and then we smiled some more. We were as confused as freshly released flatulence in a wicker chair. Even the Kid, who reads this stuff, was confused, shocked and rather amused by the whole thing. Surreal. Weirdo McWeirdface. Like, totally.

The Kid posing with one of the characters from One Piece

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I don’t think Sir Nerdalot has any clue who this character is.

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That little thing with the big head is the Kid’s fav character. It is a healing reindeer? Eeeerrrr… He is the medic onboard the Pirate ship? Or something?

I am note sure what the Kid is posing in front of here? Surely it’s One Piece-related?

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The Karate Kid is trying to figure out the games

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The dude in the red shirt is the main character, that is, if you can pull your eyes away from the boobs sitting in front.

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I guess we won? Happy b-day? Just smile and say “arigato”!

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The Kid posing with Luffy and the healing reindeer. Whatever you do, do not call it a goat! That would be sacrilege!

When we finally found the way out of that crazy place, we were really hungry, so we headed for the Japanese restaurant at our hotel. Whaddayaknow! We were 5 minutes too late! At 9 pm there are not many restaurants still open, but we did manage to find a nice American coffee shop/restaurant/bar where they had great food, but sadly nothing Japanese on the menu.

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Old Mamasan had a very un-Japanese cod-burger.

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I love this photo of the reflection of the Tokyo Tower glaring in the neighboring building.

Stay tuned for more Tokyo craziness. The next post will be on electronics galore.

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