Thursday, August 4, 2011

Japan Trip 2011

( pagoda at Asakusa - Tokyo )

I have just completed my summer vacation which consisted of a five day trip to Japan. Last year, I traveled to Japan with Justin & Ciaran, but we pretty much just stayed in the southern areas of Japan. We didn't have time to make it up to Nagoya or Tokyo, so this time around, Erik & I did just that. We left Suwon pretty early in the morning to make it out to Gimpo and catch our flight out to Nagoya where we met up would meet up with Richie. We were worried that it might be a problem to wake up early, seeing as though Erik and I did some drinking the night before and ended up killing a bottle of gin and shaving his head into a mohawk.

Nagoya - Day 1

Upon our arrival in Nagoya, we took a train into Nagoya station where we met up with Richie. This was no easy task, because the "big golden clock" where we were supposed to meet was in a completely different spot then where we were looking. Eventually, we found him and had some lunch and headed out to Fujigaoka where Richie lives with Nick and Joel. We rested for a bit then hit the town.

Richie is the absolute best person to visit. He arranged the whole night prior to our arrival. He had orchestrated a a big group meet up at an izakaya, where we met at least fifteen new people, ate delicious Japanese food, and had a number of drinks. This event was followed promptly by another bar meet up with even more new people. After this we headed back out to Fujigaoka for drinks close to Rich's home. We had beers and met more great people at Slow Camp, a great cozy bar. This night ended with everybody stumbling and and passing out promptly upon arrival at Rich's place. FANTASTIC night!

( View from Rich's place )

( Erik chugging hangover-proof medicine )

( Richie )

( Aya & Ryoko )

( Satomi, Erik & my blurry self )

( A portion of the group on the street )

Tokyo - Days 2 & 3

The next morning we woke up nice and early to make it to Tokyo with lots of time to explore. We headed out to Nagoya Station to catch a shinkansen [bullet train] to Tokyo. This is quite the pricey ticket, but it sure is fast, so we figured it was worth it to make the most of our short trip. We arrived in Tokyo in the early afternoon and immediately hopped a subway out to Shibuya [the time square of Tokyo]. After poking around at a music shop and some interesting streets, we made it out to the busiest intersection in the world. When the crossing signs turn to "walk," and almost literal sea of people flood across the street in all directions. It was pretty cool to see.

Erik and I were also on the lookout for capsule hotels to stay in, but were unsuccessful. We remembered that we had made reservations [no money down] at a capsule hotel in Shimbashi, so we headed out there to check in, take a shower, and drop off our bags. Unfortunately, we were turned away because of my tattoos, but all hope was not lost, because we found a hotel a few blocks away, in what seemed like a fun neighborhood. We checked in and cleaned up. Once again, we headed out into the night. A nice man that showed us to the hotel happened to own a bar right outside. We stopped in for a few drinks, and he directed us to a happening area, Roppongi. We took a rather expensive taxi to this area and proceeded to drink a fair amount. This I only remember vaguely, but it was a rather fun night, from what my memory recollects.

( hilly, wavy street in Shibuya )

( Shibuya crossing )

( Shibuya crossing )

( at the establishment next to the hotel )

The next day, we awoke nice and early and went out for a great day of sightseeing. The first stop was Harajuku. I really wanted to see all of the crazy that supposedly dress up in crazy fashions. We didn't actually see any of this, because apparently we were looking in the wrong areas. Bummer, but we still saw some cool stuff. Right next to the station was the entrance to the Meiji shrine which was really sweet. We had to walk down a really long path through three different torei, which are big gates at the entrance to shrines. One we got down to it, there were lots of great buildings. It's kind of refreshing to see the differences in Japanese architecture. I still love Korean temples, but these have a completely different feel. We also saw some sort of wedding with lots of people dressed up in traditional clothing. It was pretty cool.

After the shrine exploration, we moved on to Harajuku and its alternative culture. We found an interesting area that has all sorts of punk and goth shops. We actually found one that featured a number of nazi hats and Hot Topic-esqu clothing items. The store next door was called Sex Pot Revenge, and it was a little more gothic than the one before. The one awesome thing about this show was that there was a photo of Fat Mike from NoFX on the wall, and he had signed the wall with "NoFX <3 Tokyo."

The next destination was Asakusa. This is an old area of Tokyo. We were given directions that weren't very good. After getting of the subway in Ueno, we had to walk about an hour to find it. It was alright, because it was a peaceful walk on an overcast day. Plus, on the way there, we found a Shinto shrine tucked away in a neighborhood that was pretty beautiful. When we finally arrived at Asakusa, we found a lot of cool stuff. There was a long street full of street vendors that ended with a whole complex of temples and shrines. I really like how Buddhism and Shinto mesh together so well in Japan. It is the kind of harmony that would be nice to see all over the world. We saw lots of amazing temples, shrines, and a performing monkey show. After this, we were pretty satisfied with the experience, so we sat down for a beer on a nice traditional street. While drinking beer, we watched men pulling people in rickshas. Awesome!

We decided it was time to head back to Shimbashi to rest for awhile and shower up. We did so, then headed out to Akihabara, which is sort of an anime/manga district of Tokyo. We quickly found a maid cafe. It is sort of a fetish establishment, but I think that it can be enjoyed by just about anybody. It's terribly entertaining. The whole industry thrives on "cute." We sat down and had a few beers and snacks. We didn't partake in the games that can be played for about five bucks, but we enjoyed watching others do so. I actually had my picture taken with one of the maids.

We headed back to Shimbashi again to enjoy the nightlife around our hotel, but as it turns out, there wasn't any. We had a few beers, dinner, and called it a night.

( Containers at Meiji Shine walkway )

( washing up before entering the shrine )

( Meiji shrine entrance ) 

( wishes )

( wedding )

( Takeshita Street )

( Erik; out side Sex Pot Revenge )

( Harajuku Street )

( Shrine tucked into the city )

( Asakusa entrance )

( Street heading down to the temples )

( Mohawk pals )

( myself under the pagoda )

( Erik breathing incense )

( a shrine )

( Buddha )

( A tiny shrine )

( Resting after a day of walking )

( Erik & one of many rickshas )

Photo on 2011-08-04 at 22.33 #2
( My Maid Cafe photo... poor quality )

( Businessmen shot )

Nagoya - Day 4

The next morning, we awoke a little bit later and checked out of the hotel around 11:00am. We had breakfast and hopped a shinkansen bound for another night in Nagoya. We accidentally boarded a slower train that stopped way too many times. It was no big deal; Erik and I managed to get pretty drunk on the long train ride and arrived in Nagoya around 2:30. We met with Richie and took a self-guided tour of Nagoya Castle. It was pretty awesome. It looked a lot like the pictures I'd seen of Osaka Castle, and I imagine they are quite similar. Even if it's completely different, it was pretty cool to see a building that looks so much different than the ones in Korea.

After the castle, we met up with Nick and had the best sushi I've ever had. It was amazing. I would travel back to Nagoya just for the sushi. Then we found a bar called Fu-Zi that had all you can drink for only 700 yen [$7 or 7,000 won]. We stayed there for awhile and drank. I managed to beat the bartender in a silly game where you stab a barrel with the intention of launching the pirate from within. I won some free food. After this bar, we went to Slow Camp again, drank a bit, when somewhere else, drank a bit more, and went home to sleep off an uncountable number of drinks.

The next morning, Erik & I made our way back to good ol' Korea. I wasn't ready to leave, but it is still nice to be home!

( Nagoya Castle )

( Japanese "Harry Potter" wands )

( Life-sized replica of the dolphins atop Nagoya Castle )

( Myself & Richie )

( Sushi! )

( Satoko & Richie )

( Barrel & Pirate game )

( Satoko with a tape mustache )

( Richie, waiter & Tako )

( Erik )

( Nick )

( Painting of the Slow Camp bartender )

( Awesome guy, Erik, bartender & myself )

( Fu-Zi)

( Ridiculousness at the end of a long trip )

That trip was something special. Thanks Rich!