Return to the Rising Sun, Days 5-6: Wasting Away Again in Harajukuville or Fuji Gets Flushed or It’s Godzilla!!!

Day 5

It was a bright sunny Sunday morning as I knew it would be since I was carrying my umbrella.  But that’s OK because it also doubles as a fine walking stick.

Being in Japan, I realized it was highly unlikely that I would be finding a church to attend, but Mat supplied an event to touch on my spiritual needs when we visited Meiji Shrine.

The place was pretty much the same as the last time we visited, but there was a bit of excitement as we got to witness not one, but two, weddings that were taking place at the shrine that Monday.  It was a pair of moving ceremonies and I was glad to be part of it.

Then we went to Harajuku which I ranked as the blah moment of the trip.  Harajuku is known for its underground culture and for shopping.  I freely admit that shopping bores me to tears.  When I do it, it is a surgical strike as I know exactly what I want and I get it.  I don’t have much desire for knick-knacks or souvenirs and books are out in Japan since I can’t read the language.  So I spent three hours staying in the shade while other members of the party went on a shopping spree.

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On the other hand, Harajuku is also noted for its crepes and Dave paid his “fee” for my booking all the travel for us.  Unfortunately, he accidentally ordered the wrong crepes as I wanted cinnamon apple and gelato and got bananas and cream.  In his defense, he did order the number listed by my crepes, but it was a popularity list and not the number for the crepes I wanted.  I also only ended up eating half of it as it slipped out of my hand while I was tearing the paper.  Fiddlesticks.

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Banana and cream crepes.

From there we went to Mat’s favorite ramen restaurant, Tonkatsu Ramen, which I had eaten at during my last visit to Japan.  The ramen was as good as ever, even though the restaurant goofed by giving me a mild broth instead of the hot and spicy one I wanted.  Well, them are the perils of dealing with a language barrier when ordering food.

After filling our stomachs, Mat led us to his favorite shrine in Akasa.  It was still as peaceful as the last time and we got to watch the monks build a shrine for a festival.

We enjoyed a brief stay before heading off to Akihibara where more shopping was done before we closed the evening at Lion Ginza, a bar and restaurant where we took time to get to know each other better over drinks and food.

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Lion Ginza

Another exhausting day had ended, but the next day was to be filled with frustrations.

Day 6

When it rains, it pours.  Or did I say that once already?

Believe me, the rain that met us that Monday morning blew every other rainfall that we’d experienced out of the water (no pun intended).  Rain fell in sheets and would let up only for a few minutes before intensifying again.

This was meant to be a day for us to rest and recuperate as we were set to tackle Mt Fuji on Tuesday.  Then Mat hit us with the bad news.  We would be forced to pull the plug on the climb up Mt Fuji.

The horrible rain we were suffering through was supposed to continue for the next two days which would have made a climb miserable and difficult (well, more difficult at any rate).  Even worse, the winds were gusting so much that those who oversee the climbs were not allowing people to climb on Monday and Tuesday was set to be a repeat of Monday’s weather.  Sigh.

The good news is that we will be going to Mt Fuji’s 5th station to look around, eat lunch, and view the mountain, but it’s disappointing to lose out on what was to be the centerpiece of the trip.  On the other hand, I have gotten very fit training for the climb.

The rain finally let up enough around noon for us to leave the apartment and do something as we were going stir crazy.  We attempted to try an escape room in Akasaka which claims to be open nearly every day.  Monday was apparently not one of those days as the place was shut tight.  I suspect they are only open when people actually arrange for the tickets as neither the business nor its Facebook page list operating hours.

We hiked another 15 minutes to the Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in Europe and Asia.  We stopped for a quick lunch at McDonald’s where I had a Sudden Victory Chicken sandwich and it was delish.  We ended up going up to the observation desk even though the low clouds made it impossible to see very far.  But I did have a small dish of ice cream for dessert and there were a few new exhibits to look at.

From the Skytree we returned to Shinjuku to catch Shin (New) Godzilla or Godzilla:  Resurgence (as it will be known in America) at Toho Cinemas.  I don’t normally watch movies on vacation, but watching a Godzilla film in Japan should be a requirement.  And you don’t need to understand the language to enjoy a Godzilla flick.  Godzilla shows up and chaos reigns.  It’s a formula that’s worked for 31 films.

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Dave ordered the Mega bucket of popcorn. It could and did feed 5 people.

We hit the arcades for a brief spell after the movie before returning to the apartment to pack up our stuff for the next phase of our journey.

 

Return to the Rising Sun, Days 2-3: Sweltering Shinjuku and Under the Tokyo DisneySea

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Day 2

I slept the sleep of the dead. . . or at least the sleep of the extremely exhausted.

When I awoke the next morning, I had a light breakfast of pancakewich and orange juice and then went downstairs for a bath.

Baths in Japan are an interesting thing.  You actually shower outside of the tub, then get into the tub to soak and relax, if you so choose.  The floor design is arranged so the water falls down a drain in the floor.  As such, the floor gets sopping wet as I learned the hard way.  I had merely tried to take a bath, unaware of this cultural set-up so I left my clothes on the floor while I bathed.  I fetched a fresh set of clothes while I set my first set out to dry.

Our apartment in Shinjuku was small, but comfortable.  On the lower floor were the bathroom, laundry room, a small living room, and a bedroom.  On the upper floor contained a kitchen and 2 more bedrooms.  There was also a toilet with a sink built into the top.  When you flushed the toilet, it turned on the sink, recycling its own water.

With only 1 washroom for 7 people, it took a bit to get everyone bathed and ready for the day.  Once we were we headed over to Sunkus, a local convenience store to pick up some stuff for the others.  While there, I noticed they had my beloved Van Houten Cocoa, so I bought some.

The plan for the day was to wander around Shinjuku, famed for its shopping and restaurants.  Our journey had a bit of a delay as Dave’s niece, Amy, forgot her passport and rail pass, so back we hiked to the apartment to get it.  Then it was back to the train station to get to Shinjuku.

One could spend hours exploring the area, but our explorations were limited to a tiny area due to a thunderstorm that broke out in the area.  Being an island nation, it rains a lot in Japan and a typhoon off the southern edge of the country was triggering more rain than usual as well as sending the humidity right through the roof.

We first visited the Hotel Gracery building which also holds the Godzilla Head and Toho Cinemas.  A new Godzilla movie just opened in Japan (we’re considering going to watch it on a free night) and Toho Cinemas is going all out to celebrate it.  Outside of the movie theater was a picture montage featuring every Godzilla film ever made as well as character designs and fan art.  On the 15th floor of the building was the Godzilla head, built to scale, and it was a pretty cool sight.

While in the building, the rain exploded with a mighty crash, so we ducked into a 7-11 on the bottom floor and bought some umbrellas.  We made a quick stop in Don Quixote’s (similar to a dollar store) and poked around the store.  When the rain didn’t let up, we made a mad dash across the street to Taito Game Station to wait it out.

Japan loves their arcades.  Sadly, even arcades over here are not what they once were as the only new cabinet games they seem to make are fighting and dance games.  But the arcade also had claw machines and a few games outside of the fighting/dance genres.  I played a couple of rounds on Luigi’s Mansion which was quite fun.

By the time the rain let up, we stopped at a restaurant for an extremely late lunch.  But a meal of green tea, pork cutler, rice, miso soup, and cabbage served to restore the inner man.  With our meals tucked away, we headed to Shinjuku Station to pick up Mat’s friend, Andrew, who would be the final member of our little troupe.

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Mauricio suggested we visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Building as it has an observatory on the 45th floor.  I considered this event the highlight of the day as we looked at views of the city just to get an idea of the massiveness of the most populated city on Earth.

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The jet lag and humidity began to take a toll on us and we returned to the apartment to relax and crash.  We were all sound asleep shortly after 9pm.

Day 3

Now this is one of the days I had been looking forward to as we were going to spend the day at Tokyo DisneySea.

For years I was an amusement park junkie and though my tastes have changed a bit over time, I still maintain a soft spot in my heart for Disney parks.  From a financial standpoint, Tokyo DisneySea & Tokyo Disneyland are good deals as the entry fee to each park is less than $100.

Two things worked against us that day.  One, I believe Mat made a minor error by wanting to visit the park on Friday.  He thought the kids would have been in school, leaving the park a bit more open to the grown-ups.  Being Friday, I can’t say I was surprised to see the park pretty full as I imagine parents took the day off to bring their kiddies to the resort.  Also, it was a beautiful day.

The park was a little slow going at first due to the long lines and we only managed to ride 20,000 Leagues  Under the Sea before noon.  We decided to get some lunch to refresh ourselves and ate at a little cantina to try Mexican food done Japanese style.  I had spicy meat tacos which weren’t too bad, though they were not spicy by my standards.  I learned that Japanese people are actually very timid when it comes to spices, so to their tastebuds, this was the equivalent of a four alarm fire.

After lunch, we were able to get on a number of more rides, thanks to Fastpass.  Fastpass is a service that allows you to skip long lines at the more popular attractions.  You get a special ticket to return later in the day and you bypass the main line and get on the ride in about 10 minutes.  You are able to get a new one every two hours.  With this we were able to ride Tower of Terror, Raging Spirits, visit the Magic Lamp Theatre, and voyage with Sindbad.

We finished the Magic Lamp Theatre at slightly after 6pm.  At that point lines for the popular attractions were 90 minutes at a minimum and some were at a mind-blowing 2.5 hours.  I noticed that some people were tired (the humidity was brutal) and I suggested we should head back to Shinjuku. We ended up  hitting every gift shop on the way out.   I would have preferred spending that time waiting for one more ride, but oh, well.

We stopped for dinner at a place called Becker’s which serves burgers and sandwiches.  I had a double bacon BBQ cheeseburger and some fries as I was desperately in need of salt after sweating buckets.

With full stomachs, we returned to the apartment to rest for another night.