Category: Tokyo

Last days in Tokyo

With four nights and an earthquake behind me, I would be heading out Wednesday to Hiroshima to do some sightseeing.  I was originally planning to do this later on in my trip, to hopefully catch the cherry blossoms – but that was not to be.  Spending a few days there early would allow me to take in Shikoku before returning to Tokyo for the Anime Festival.

Before that, however, I wanted ramen.  And not just any ramen – the one from this particular restaurant in Ueno.

Every time I go to Tokyo, I make sure I go to this place.  With ramen, it’s all in the stock and the noodles, and this place does both great.  Available in regular (white), spicy (red), and squid ink (black) sauce, with your choice of egg, roasted pork, and portion.  The noodles aren’t like regular ramen, and I wouldn’t call them soba or udon either – they’re thicker than your average ramen, and done a bit al-dente.  For all I know they might even be egg based, rather than rice.  That said, it’s delicious.  South of Ueno station, just look for the line-up around noon.  I’ll be back here before leaving Japan for sure.  After lunch I wandered around Ueno and enjoyed the afternoon.

At this time it’s also worth mentioning that in a previous post I highlighted a Korean restaurant in Ginza under the railway that served up rather tasty taco’s – that restaurant, while still physically there, appears to have morphed into a seafood joint.  Same basic layout, but it’s lost a lot of it’s previous character.  Oh well…

For my last day in Tokyo I decided to head to Shinjuku and check out a few camera stores looking for old lenses at some of the used camera stores there.  While a couple of them are obvious, there are two or three that you just can’t find without previous knowledge, good google skills, and some knowledge of katakana.  I’ve become quite adept at seeing カメラ written on signs in the hunt.  While I found a lot of interesting stuff, I did not find what I was specifically looking for – so left empty handed.  Which is probably a good thing at this point, given I’ll be dragging my luggage around for a while yet.


Got a sore neck?

So after the camera stores and a tonkatsu lunch, I headed into the back streets of Shinjuku to snap a few photos.

Is half a loaf of bread with ice cream a good thing?

Afternoon became evening, and I ended up near the office buildings well off the main restaurant and shopping area, and ended up with some architecture shots.

On my last trip to Tokyo, I had been hoping to try out a stand-up bar, Buri, known for its large variety of sake from all over Japan.  It was a bit out of the way and I had never previously managed to have the time, but today I would make time.  I headed off on the subway (still avoiding the JR trains at this point) and made my way to Ebisu.  I still had the map to the place on my iPhone, so after getting my bearings leaving the station it was a short walk to the place.

The sake they served here came in 180mL individual sized glasses – you “shook” it up, and then pulled the top off.  I started with one from Miyagi, progressed to Niigata, and enjoyed  a couple of others with some edamame and escargot.  There weren’t too many people there at this hour yet, likely resulting from the fact that it was a Tuesday night, and the questions around public transportation were causing people to not come out.  Perhaps if I had stayed late Ebisu’s nightlife might have been more livelier, but needing to pack and get ready for an early Shinkansen to Hiroshima, I decided to head home.


Ginza at Night

The next couple of days I spent wandering around Tokyo to some familar haunts, seeing some of the minor things I missed and generally just looking for some photo opportunities.  This selection of photos is from around Ginza in the early to late evening.  Photography was to be a large part of this trip, so I brought my tripod to ensure I could get some decent night shots which while a bit of pain to lug around is certainly the only way to do so.

While I may have looked a little conspicuous, safety in Japan is not generally a hugh concern – so running around with a tripod and camera in the back streets of Tokyo seemed perfectly natural and no one bothered me.  Don’t try that at home, kids.

Tokyo uses every bit of space available for cramming in all kinds of shops – under and around the railway tracks is a very typical place to find some of the most interest restaurants, and Ginza is no exception.

These photos are also an attempt to play around with Photoshop HDRPro, a new feature in CS5 that appears to work quite well.  This is my “photorealistic” version of the shots, in attempt to make it look realistic, not manufactured.

This bike was still there the next day around noon - no lock. In Canada, it'd be long gone by then.

Hope you enjoyed!

After getting myself situated in a hotel on Saturday afternoon, I was happy to finally get a good nights sleep.  I hadn’t planned on staying in Tokyo so early in my trip, and having been here a couple of times already I wasn’t all that interested in visiting the same spots again.  Sundays in Tokyo are typically good for spending time in Yoyogi Park and Harajuku, so I figured I’d head over there by way of Shibuya and grab some lunch while I was at it.

Noodle Shop in Shibuya

Trying to decide what to order

Shibuya wasn’t as busy as normal, although there was a crowd a Harajuku down the main street at least.  Walking over to Yoyogi Park revealed little in the way of cos-players, what the bridge is known for – in fact, I didn’t see anyone at all.  This gang of dancers is apparently well known, although I’ve never seen them before myself.

The park itself was visited by a number of people, many planing instruments,  practising play reading or martial arts, or just lazing around.  Probably not as busy as normal, but I’m not really sure.  What I did see was that the cherry blossoms appear to be starting a bit early plum blossoms were still on a few of the trees, so I captured what I could.

A family day in Yoyogi Park under the Plum Blossoms

Early Cherry Late Plum Blossom in Yoyogi Park

I headed on over to Akihabara to see if anything was happening there – apparently they’ve started closing the streets to vehicles again, after an incident a couple of years ago, creating a large pedestrian walkway on the streets that is popular.  I only found out later that such activities had been cancelled because of the earthquake and its effect on transportation.  Another Sunday, another trip, I guess.

Combini aftermath

The morning after the earthquake, everyone who didn’t make it home found themselves still waiting for the next train – or bus, or other mode of transportation.  The train stations were packed all night with people camped out on newspapers, trying to keep warm, with what little nourishment they could obtain from convenience store food.  When the train station finally opened in Shinjuku Saturday morning, hoards of people rushed to get tickets or inquire about when the next train would be – which for many would still be quite sometime.

The subways were already opened, so for many if it was possible to use them to get wherever they needed to they had one method – but for those who lived on the outskirts of town, the JR railway is the only way home.  Unfortunately, the screens were to stay blank for sometime yet, with only a few trains actually running – limited trains, on limited lines, on a limited schedule.  I decided to hop on the subway and head back to Ginza where I hoped for better luck finding a hotel.

The earthquake and subsequent nuclear reactor radiation worries have created shortages of supplies for the typical Tokyo resident.  Whether any of this can be attributed to supply lines being affected or not would require further investigation.  But what is clear, is that hoarding is absolutely happening, and with the ongoing reactor concerns it doesn’t appear to be letting up – items are sold as fast as stores can get shipments in.

Apparently this is affecting grocery stores as well, however from what I could tell the fruits and vegtables were still available for the most part – some shelves were empty, which I would attribute to their supplier/farm being unable to get goods to them.

No such issue appears to exist in Hiroshima at least – when I really want that bag of chips, I have no problem finding them.

When you read most of the travel books and websites, they all say that since you’ll be jet-lagged and not able to sleep in (for those of us coming from the west at least), you should head down to the Tsukiji fish market and attend the tuna auction.  In my last two trips that included Tokyo, I didn’t take the opportunity – this time, I figured I should.  Getting up early enough to get to the fish market by 4:15am (which seemed reasonable at the time) meant no transportation would be running.  As I was only spending one night in Tokyo anyway, I decided to pick a hotel near the market and I’d just walk there.

After arriving at the hotel and grabbing a cat nap, it was dinner time, and since I was near the market I figured I’d head out and scout the place out a bit.  Surprisingly, there were several restaurants open which I had not expected, but took did take advantage of – why wait until morning for sashimi when you can have it the night you arrive?  It’s not like it isn’t fresh!

The next morning I was up and out of the hotel by 4am, at the market not ten minutes later.  The area where you (apparently) were supposed to line up to get access to the tuna auction had a sign that said all spots were taken for that day.  There wasn’t a soul in site, so I don’t know if that was true or not, but clearly I wasn’t getting in to see the auction, which starts at 5:35am.  Instead, I decided to wander around the middlemen stalls and edge as close as I could to the wholesale and auction areas.  The pictures I took show a wide variety of sea creatures in various stages of preparation for sale and eventual consumption.

This post is a few days after my arrival in Japan, which as we all know experienced an earthquake on March 11th (the day I visited the fish market).  I will be posting photography blogs for the last several days in an effort to catch up.

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