Friday, 1 January 2016
Monorails, Mega Web, Temples and Burlesque.
Friday started in a bit of a haze, too much of the Miso Soup bar had slowed us down, we left the Citadines Central to walk to Shinjuku station, on our way we stopped by Hanazono Shrine a beautiful building in a green oasis, a refuge from the harsh buildings and noise of the surrounding area, from there we walked to a local cafe for breakfast, the toasted ham and cheese croissants were delicious, as was the coffee, it is almost impossible to get bad coffee in Japan.
After breakfast we made our way to the station, I gave the group a quick demo on how to purchase subway tickets, tickets purchased we found the platform jumped on the train and headed for Shimbashi Station, once there we boarded the New Transit Yurikamome, you get a fabulous view of the city and Odaiba from the Monorail, we left the Monorail at Aomi station which is connected to Pallet Town home of the Toyota Mega Web, an interactive car theme Park and the History Garage Museum.
There is a lot to see at the Mega web so allow plenty of time, Toyota displays its latest model range at the City Showcase, you can test drive one of the new models on the 1.3 kl “Ride One test track” or if you a fond of TRD cars the Toyota Gazoo Racing display is for you, it featuresToyota’s hybrid race cars as well as an accessory shop where you can by all sorts of lovely carbon fibre bits to dress up your Toyota, The Mega Web also has some great activities for children, a cafe and a merchandise shop among other attractions, definitely worth a visit.
Across the plaza is Venus Fort shopping Mall, the interior is a faux European City streetscape, complete with realistic sky ceiling, the Mall is full of high end retailers and plenty of restaurants, if you make your way through the mall you eventually find a hallway that leads to the History Garage a small museum with a very good range of classic cars, featuring Japanese, European and American classics, the cars on display change from time to time so there is something fresh each time you visit.
The Restore Pit lets you spy on the restorers as they work to keep their collection in mint condition, there is also an extensive display of model cars, visit The GP archive or stop for lunch in the Alessandro Nannini Cafe, then rest your bones at the GP memorial lounge surrounded by portraits of drivers from the past, you could spend at least two days exploring Odaiba the whole area is a themed shopping and entertainment precinct, absolutely ideal for taking the children, Tokyo Big Site is located here, and is the venue for the Tokyo Motor Show, held every October, it is an amazing building in its own right. but for us having spent more time here than we had expected it was time to jump back on the train and make our way to Asakusa.
Back in the dim dark past Asakusa used to be Tokyo’s Red light district full of unsavory types and rather untidy, now however it is a very popular spot for tourists who come to visit the Senso Ji Temple, make sure you enter via the Kaminarimon (thunder gate) that way you will be able to stroll through Nakamise-Dori, a street lined with small shops selling food, souvenir’s and a wide variety of interesting and beautiful items, make sure you try some of the snacks along the way, once past the shops you come to the Temple, day or night there are always crowds here the Hondo, or main hall is magnificent as is the pagoda, take a stroll through the beautiful Japanese style gardens, then stand on the bridge watching the carp swim effortlessly by in the pond, to really enjoy Senso Ji make certain to visit by day and by night for the full experience.
We left the Temple complex and walked to an area that is full of little bars serving Izakaya style food, basically light snacks to be eaten while drinking, a lot of salary men and women stop by these bars for dinner on their way home from the office, the proprietor may not speak english but it is not to hard to order a meal and drinks, don’t get frustrated just go with the flow, they often have picture menus’s on hand, once we had eaten and quenched or thirst, tourism is very thirsty work we set out for Rokza a Burlesque venue in Asakusa, Rokza is Gaijin friendly, that means non Japanese patrons are welcome, entry is 5000 Yen and you can get drinks as well as light snacks at the bar, the two hour show is usually based on a Japanese folk tale, with women playing all the parts the quality of dance and costume is quite high, and the show is very entertaining although being in Japanese difficult to follow and just a little risque, Couples are welcome.
After the show we took the subway to Shibuya, Ashley had heard about Shibuya Junction and was keen to see it, Shibuya Junction is the intersection of five major streets that converge just outside Shibuya rail station, the buildings surrounding the Junction are covered in electronic advertising , which makes for a spectacular back drop, the show starts after crowds have built up at the pedestrian crossings waiting to cross, then all the crossing go green at the same time so you get hundreds if not thousands of people all crossing from different directions at the same time! the light return to red traffic takes ove and the crowd builds once more, awesome. Oh while you are at Shibuya Station be sure to visit Hachiko Japans most revered and well known dog, give him a pat for me.
By this time we were all feeling pretty tired so for the last time that day we took the subway back to Shinjuku, made our way back to the Hotel, to get some rest before moving onto Yokohama and MOONEYES!
Shinjuku, So Good To Be Back In Japan
Seven days after leaving for Japan we have arrived back in Melbourne, bringing to an end the 2015 Gearheadz Travel tour to Japan, the first of many more to come, the tour went very well, I had a fabulous time escorting Tony, Togga, JW and Ashley around Tokyo, Yokohama and Nagoya, we manage to squeeze a lot into our time in Japan.
There were two core activities to accomplish one was to visit the 24th Mooneyes Hot Rod and Custom Show at the Pacifico centre in Yokohama, an event I am passionate about and which showcases some of the best custom cars and bikes in the world, the other to drive high performance cars through the Hakone Mountains an area made famous, for car enthusiasts anyway as the location for the film Initial “D” one of the first and most well known drift movies, more on both those activities later.
I had arranged for a mini bus to meet us at Narita airport, much easier than battling public transport after 14 hours in transit, Our first stop after arriving in Japan was Shinjuku, our hotel was fabulous, in a good location, well I say that despite being smack bang in the middle of the red light district, I have no issue with that apart from the unwelcome throng of touts who try to coerce you into the brothels and hostess bars, they are a pain in the arse.
After checking in we showered, changed into fresh clothes and headed out into the cool night air looking for a place to eat, we stumbled on a terrific Izakaya style restaurant not far from the hotel and settled in, the food was delicious to say the least, best deep fried chicken I have ever tasted crisply fried, tender and moist inside and deliciously spicy, once we had eaten our fill and enjoyed a couple of beers we walked back toward the hotel via a winding landscaped path, a quiet lane way which took us to an area know as Kabuchiko, consisting of dozens of tiny bars usually two story with one bar at ground level and another on the second floor, some offered music some where cigar bars, the one thing they had in common was that they housed no more than at most a dozen patrons.
We, by no particular criteria chose a bar called Miso Soup, and were welcomed by the two barmaids, Hatsume and Massume, who made us feel very welcome and set about introducing us to the locals, including the owner, drinks where bought and drunk, then more and again more, time slipped by unnoticed until it was well past midnight before we called it a night we had enjoyed the company of these to lovely bar maids the owner and the bars regular customers, but sleep beckoned we had a full day of activities ahead of us, so we bid farewell to our new found drinking buddies, and retired to our hotel.