Saturday, August 29, 2009

RetroTravel: Tokyo

Konnichiwa! We are turning Japanese as this time I will share my travels to Japan. One of the most beautiful country I ever visited, Japan is a country full of colorful cultures, contrasts and places. Though, I have not extensively visited the whole country, I had a sizeable visit to its capital - Tokyo. Tokyo is one of the most cosmopolitan city that I had visited. Everything is high-tech, yet old charms of traditions and basic life scenes goes living with it. Japan is so charming that I had a chance of visiting it for 6 times! And its not enough to discover the whole of what Japan has to offer to travel-trotter like me. On every travel and discovery to this "land of the rising sun", I long to visit it again and again.

I am very excited on my first visit to Japan. Beforehand, I had so many perceptions about the country like - it is the land of animes (Japanese cartoons), sushi, hi-tech gagdets, robots and Kimonos. But what I discover the best in Japan is its people. People are cheerful, helpful and most especially discipline. For instance, in case of a red light signals (means to stop walking across) in pedestrian street cross, Japanese people won't go across the street even their are no car vehichles crossing. It will only on green light that they will go - that's how discipline they are. And also, no matter how high-tech and urban they are especially Tokyo, the city maintains a clean surroundings that not even a small trash can be seen around in every street corners.

The surrounding sights in Kawaguchi, Tokyo.

I also notice that Japanese people are trendy in attires. Whether it is a school uniform, office attire or casual ones, they try to be in the "IN" fashion trend. And I think it was Japan who popularized the anime look - both in hair and sense of fashion. If you see the Japanese, they are like living animes that step out of their mangas (Japanese comic) or coming out from an anime tv series. They are living proofs that animes originated from them that gain worldwide fans around like me. I would say the anime characters is a reflection of their modern culture and Japan itself.

Another, I also notice in Japan is that the surroundings are clean and pollution-free. This is something you wouldn't expect in mega-city like Tokyo where everything is high-tech and fast-pace. I believe this is part of their discipline to give a respect to the place we live in. And of course one can see a Japanese school girl or group with others wears a school uniform in a different way. Their signiture sailor collared blouses, shortened pleated skirts (I've learned that they do these intentionally but only outside theschool premises), and knee-length socks. We can't resist noticing them and we even ask to have a souvenir shot with them.

The cool Japanese students.

I often visit Japan with my family on vacation. We usually stay at my mom's friends who are residents there. Ate Vangie and her family lives in Kawaguchi, Tokyo, Ate Flor and his niece Kuya Mel lives in Chiba, Narita while Kuya Sam also lives in the same district of Narita. Kawaguchi has a city, metropolis vibe but a charming Tokyo life scene can be seen while Narita has rural charm yet makes you feel relax and homey. Honestly, writing this article makes me miss the places and those kind people I've met in Japan. 
Tokyo is also a heaven for shoppers!
At the rooftop of Soho Mall in Kawaguchi.
My last visit to Japan in November 2004 was the most memorable one as I visited the most interesting places and landmarks in Tokyo. We also had a night tour around Tokyo that I will never forget. Plus were treated on sumptous lunch and dinner. Our extensive tour of Tokyo happened through meeting Kuya Sam who is living in Japan for long and working in an embassy office. He has a local driver's license and speaks Nippongo fluently so it wasn't hard to tour around. He knows a lot of places to visit around Tokyo.

We first had a visit to a park where there is a great view of the Rainbow Bridge. Rainbow Bridge is a suspension bridge crossing northern Tokyo Bay between
Shibaura Pier and the Odaiba waterfront development in Minato, Tokyo, Japan. Completed in 1993, the bridge spans 570 metres (1,870 ft) and carries three transportation lines on two decks: Upper deck: Shuto Expressway No. 11 Odaiba Route and Lower deck: Route 357 (also known as "Rinkō Dōro", Portside Avenue) and the Yurikamome automated train. The bridge has separate walkways on the north and south sides; the north side offers views of inner Tokyo Harbor and the Tokyo Tower, while the south side offers views of Tokyo Bay and occasionally Mount Fuji.

Tokyo sunset while driving to Tokyo
Rainbow Bridge as our background.
By afternoon we went on crossing the Rainbow Bridge then reach Roppongi District and Shibuya District by night. I think its 7 in the evening. It was rush hour at that time as there are crowds of people (both employees and students) crossing the mainstreet particularly in Shibuya main street that resembles the Times Square of New York. Both disctrict houses the vast shopping and dining areas in Tokyo area. Roppongi is famous for its nightlife as it houses many clubs and bars moslty catering to foreigners but its also home of many foreign embassies including ours. Don't forget to check out Roppongi Hills - a massive shopping and dining complex as well as night club scenes and Azabu area which are quieter commercial area of Roppongi Hills but also absorbed some of its vibrant commercial activity and nightlife. Shibuya, on on the other hand, is a shopping and eating district popular with a lot of young Tokyoites. It's within walking distance from two other large shopping districts - Omotesando and Harajuku - as well as being quite close to Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Jingu shrine. Aside from its busy streets and shopping districts, there are also many places of interests in Shibuya like Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park and Shinjuku Gyoen. Too bad, because of time constraints I never had a chance to see those places.

Then we headed to Tokyo Tower - a communications and observation tower located in Shiba Park, Minato, Tokyo. The tower looks burning at night in its glowing bright orange color and lighting. There's an observation deck where you can have a 360 degree view of Tokyo. There's a fee for entrance at the observation decks. Too bad I have not tried it. Aside from the observation decks, Tokyo Tower also houses coffee shops, souvenir boutiques, restos, museum and art galleries that makes it attractive for tourists to visit.

Tokyo Tower is famous in popular media culture as it is mostly used as a setting in Japanese anime. Visiting the tower had made get some flashback of anime scenes that I have watched. I somehow feel that I have entered in the world of Japanese anime. Tokyo Tower really brings so much Japanese atmosphere for me. After that "Tokyo by Night" tour we retire home to rest as we are tired from a one night tour of Tokyo.

The burning-like and Tokyo architecture icon - Tokyo Tower.
Another unforgettable experience I had in visiting Japan was witnessing Cherry blossoms on my visit in April 2004. During that time westay at Ate Flor in Chiba, Narita. We arrived from Manila in the evening. In the morning, I can't forget the street scene near Ate Flor's house as all of the trees lining the streets were only covered with white pinkish small flowers of cherry. It was so memorable as it was my first time to see it. It was delightful to see that scene. Some of the petals were blown by the wind and scatters on the street ground. I even touched the tree branch and the flowers that feel it. It seems like a dream for me. I only see cherry blossoms in anime tv series. Now I see it face to face. I had flashbacks of anime scenes again and felt that I have entered again in an anime. Only cherry blossoms can bring a unique air of Japanese feel. I won't forget that experience.

Cherry blossoms in Narita during my April 2004 visit.
There are still so many places I want to discover in Japan. And there are so many experiences that I want to experience again in Japan. I like to see Mount Fuji, experience the cherry blossoms again, have a great view of Tokyo from the observation deck of Tokyo Tower, eat sushi and ramen noodles, buy Meiji chocolates as pasalubongs, raid Hak-yen stores again... To do things are endless in Japan. They say that it is expensive to go tourist in Japan, and yes it is! But everything is worthty when you experience all the unique things in Japan like I had . It is one of the countries I'm targeting to visit again in the future. Honestly, writing this entry makes me long to see it again. There are so many wonderful things in Japan that makes me addictive to it. Japan will always be one of my favorite places to travel. I can't wait to visit it again.

RetroTravel: Tokyo is a recollection of my travels to Tokyo in the pre-digital camera era of my travel experiences but memories of it is still vivid and enjoyable and is part of my RetroTravel series.  My travel dates to Tokyo, Japan were in May 16-19, 2001, October 31 - November 2, 2001, June 6-8, 2002, September 5-7, 2003,  April 8-10, 2004 and November 3-6, 2004.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

You can kiss the sky when you travel...

This heavenly view is taken from my window seat when I flew to Davao via PR811 last April 3. You see.. when you travel via airplane you can get an exquiste view like this - a kingdom of clouds in the vast sky... And you can't just admire the beauty of the sky that is so close... so close that you can kiss it.
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