Not much in the way of snow to report at the moment. A little bit fell overnight, but not enough to impact on snow levels in any major way. In the meantime, I thought I would put together an article about Tokyo, a place most people will be travelling through on their way to the mountains.
Tokyo is modern, vibrant, clean and friendly city which would have to rank as my favourite big city in the world. Not spending at least a day in Tokyo on your way to the mountains would be a great shame, and you could easily spend a week or more. Here are a few places worth checking out. You could squeeze a few of these in for one action packed day, or spread them out and take your time to explore. Tokyo is utterly packed with places to go and things to see, this list is merely a few of my favourites.
Harajuku (Yamanote Line)
The bridge outside Harajuku station is where extroverted cos-play fanatics hang around and pose for photos on right alongside the peace and serenity of Meiji Shrine. An increasing number of foreign cos-players have been spotted dressing up and posing recently.
The Watanabes are Tokyo’s best foreign indies band. Formed several years ago by a group of English teachers in rural Shikoku, they have now relocated to Tokyo where they spend their time playing live, recording and teaching English. A Watanabes gig is a great insight into Tokyo nightlife and they often play with interesting Japanese bands.
The Watanabes Myspace page – http://www.myspace.com/thewatanabes
Akihabara (Yamanote Line)
Gadget geek heaven. With a stronger dollar for Aussies and Kiwis, you can save a bit of money and get the latest equipment by purchasing in Akihabara. Prices are displayed in Akihabara, but in most cases open to negotiation. You should be able to haggle a few thousand yen. Like most things in Japan, haggling over the price is quite reserved. Ask for a discount (in English is fine) and you will get a polite yes or no. Make sure you go into one of the big department stores (Bic Camera, Yamada denki, Yodobashi Camera) and try out a massage chair – fantastic. Freshly made rice balls at Musubibito (about 300m North of the station on Chuo Douri) are possibly the tastiest snack in the world.
Maid cafes are another popular attraction in Akihabara. You will see plenty of maids around the area handing out flyers. Maid cafes are more expensive than regular cafes, and can get quite pricey if you want to take a photo with a maid, have them stir your coffee, or challenge to a game of moe janken and have them feed you om-rice, as seen in this Japanese commercial starring Tommy Lee Jones:
Kanda (Yamanote Line or Ochanomizu station on the subway)
Snow equipment street. Absolutely tonnes of snowboard and ski equipment shops. There are large department store type shops, as well as smaller discount places. If you are okay with previous seasons equipment, there are some great discounts to be had. London Sports (identified by the sign “Kanda Cheap”) needs to be seen to be believed. The store is not that huge but the equipment is piled on tables literally as high as your head. It may take time to find something you like that fits, but when you do it will be dirt cheap. On a visit a few days ago they were having a 50% + 20% + 10% off sale. This thread on ski.com.au is worth checking out for more detailed information and also has a great access map.
Tsukiji Fish Market
(Tsukijishijo station – Toei Oedo line, Tsukiji station – Hibiya subway line)
I will admit I haven’t actually been to the Tsukiji Fish Market. I have however, heard nothing but good things about it and will make the trip out there as soon as I have a day in Tokyo can get out of bed before 9am.
Tokyo Disneyland (Maehama station, JR Keio or Musashino line)
Well worth a visit. According to sources Tokyo Disney is not as big as its American counterparts, but for a New Zealander who has only ever visited the dilapitated Rainbows End in Auckland, Tokyo Disney is the real thing. Next to Tokyo Disneyland is Tokyo Disney-sea. Japanese people describe Disneyland as the fun place for family and friends, whilst Disneysea is Japans number one surefire date spot.
Ikebukuro (Yamanote Line)
The area around the East exit of Ikebukuro station is full of izakayas (Japanese style restaurant/bar) and shops and is quite a popular hangout for young Japanese people. Bic Camera has 5 stores in Ikebukuro and fierce competition with Yamada Denki has led to to Ikebukuro gaining a reputation for cheap electronics.
Kamakura (JR Yokosuka Line)
Kamakura is not actually in Tokyo, but a day trip to Kamakura is well worth it, especially if you are unable to visit Kyoto. Kamakura is a former capital of Japan and is packed with temples. There is also a very large bronze buddha. Kamakura is much less urban than Kyoto and I really like the peaceful feel of Temples and gardens there.