Another engrish sign I saw today. I think a trend may be emerging.
You know what's strange? Japanese TV. Tonight, while I have been writing this, I've seen several different programs. The most interesting of which is was a TV show that was a semi-game show that involved people (who I assume are celebrities) guessing the outcomes of certain social situations in percentage form. For example: "How many celebrities have caviar in their fridge?" (33%), "How many attractive Japanese women have had eye-enlargement surgery?" (44%), and "How many groups of people pass comment on someone who farts when sharing an elevator with them?' (2% at tokyo tower, 58% in a more youth-oriented district). Fascinating stuff. In the background of the show, they also had women in glass cubicles repeating the same actions over and over again in quite a robotic manner. One woman pretends to load a gun and shoot herself, one is playing with a kid's toy, one is playing with a mini slot machine. Strange, but not really noticeable until you actually stop and look at them.
Anyways, today we visited three places. Firstly, we headed to the Imperial Palace east gardens. They were super pretty. Full of cherryblossom trees just on the precipice of blooming. I can't wait to see Osaka and Kyoto - it should be amazing. I really admire the Japanese for having so many natural areas within their bustling city. Yes, Central Park in Manhattan is one giant park, but it's pretty much their only green space for a very long while. Tokyo, while not boasting a single park as large as Central Park, has several other breathtaking nature areas scattered throughout the city.
Next up, we caught some lunch at a noodle bar in one of the train stations. The food ordering system was great - you chose your food from a vending machine, and you are issued a ticket. You then take that ticket to the counter, and they make your food on the spot. I had the tempura prawn and udon noodles. I'm not a very big fan of noodles, but I found this quite tasty and definitely good for an on the go lunch.
We then headed to Ueno park, to have a look through the Tokyo National Museum. The park itself was fantastic - definitely a more family-oriented park than a formal garden, but it had a great atmosphere nonetheless. Unfortunately though, by the time we had reached the museum, it was closing for the day in 30 minutes. As such, Emma decided that we shouldn't go in.
Instead, we went to have a look in an art museum also in the park. Upon reaching the entrance, it was apparent that it was undergoing rennovations and wouldn't be open until April. 2012. Fail.
We then went to look at the zoo. By this stage Emma and I weren't expecting it to be open, and I can safely say that the zoo lived up to our expectations. It was closed for the day. This was probably due to the earthquake or power saving measures. That being said though, I've already seen my fair share of zoo's. The only attraction to this one was the promise of baby Giant Pandas, which would have been brilliant to see.
So, Emma and I decided to just wander through the park, and take in what we could. Along the way, we were stopped by two young Japanese women. From what I could gather, they wanted us to take their photo together. I gathered wrong. They actually wanted a photo with us! Emma and I happily obliged, showing our best peace signs and giving them our best smiles. No idea why they wanted a photo with us - maybe because we were foreigners in a mainly foreigner-deserted city.
We then headed down to a nearby lake boardwalk area. I had my first cup of Grape Fanta. For some reason heaps of people were telling me that this drink is the best thing since forever. To me, it tasted just like the generic grape candy flavour, just slightly less sweet. By no means awful, but I doubt I'd get it again in a hurry. Manao Soda is far better. I also tried a "Crunky" ice cream, which was far better than I expected. Similar to a Gaytime, yet also quite different.
When walking along the boardwalk, we noticed many types of birdlife, including tiny little sparrows that would eat bread from your hand. We also noticed that this whole boardwalk was once again lined with cherryblossom trees. Even though they weren't in bloom, I took plenty of photos anyway. Who knows, I may be able to photoshop some cherryblossoms in to them!
Emma and I then took the Tokyo Metro Subway to the Shibuya district. It's a famous area to anybody who has seen the film "Baraka". It contains Shibuya crossing, which as our lonely planet guide describes as a place that demonstrates a "Surge of humanity" every two and a half minutes. According to wikipedia, it is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. And boy does it show. Every two minutes, literally thousands of people accumulated at each of the four corners of the intersections. And, when little man turns green, all hell breaks loose. Well, to be fair, this hell is quite organised actually, as most people stick to the zebra crossing paths. May god help those who don't though, as you'll either get trampled, or you have to stop and start to avoid people so many times that you'll still be in the middle of the crossing by the time the little man goes red.
We then had a look around the various shops in the area, including an eerily Japanese-themed Disney store. It definitely had that Walt-Disney feel to it, but it wasn't quite right with most of the merchandise having a definite Japanese influence that is missing in their US stores.
Emma and I then headed back to Shinjuku. Unfortunately, we didn't have the energy or the perseverance to try and find a decent English-friendly Japanese restaurant tonight, so we had KFC. My stomach now regrets it, but I suppose we were bound to try it some time during the trip.
Now, a note. Tonight was our last night in Tokyo. Tomorrow, we head for Shibu Onsen, a small town near Yudanaka. Our reasons for travelling here are to see the Snow Monkeys in hot onsens. As this is a fairly remote part of the world, I may not be able to access the internet for several days, and as such may not be able to update this blog. When I can update this, I will, but don't expect daily updates for a while.
Up Next: Shinkansen! Snow Monkeys! David possibly seeing snow!