Tokyo Maigo 東京迷子

Day 6

My long range expedition day far south of Tokyo to Kamakura, an ancient city with a history and home to a host of famous temples.

Luckily Ueno has direct express to Ofuna, once there I buy a day pass for the Kamakura area and transfer further south to North Kamakura. The plan is to walk down from here to Kamakura, where I’ll catch the tram to Enoshima, a small scenic island.

It’s a great morning, the sun casting down on this town whose wooden buildings have survived through the ages.

North Kamakura


Nice small town feel, with the road next to the train tracks


Traditional wooden houses



I suppose this is when proper research would have prevailed. Sigh. I don’t know why I didn’t check into these. Maybe I thought monks are early starters, or perhaps because the shinto shrines I’ve been to all start out early. But it turns out many of the temples in Kamakura aren’t open till 9:30 or 10.

Things… start to go abit downhill, figuratively and literally, as I walk down the only road toward Kamakura.

Supposedly this is meant to be a quiet town, but maybe it’s the time of the day… or it’s close to end of the year, the road is full of traffic. On a calm windless morning the exhaust is highly unpleasant. I begin to develop a headache.



Kencho-ji Temple

I got a pretty bad headache by the time I reach Kencho-ji temple. Because of my headache I actually decided to skip the temple and hope to get down into Kamakura where I hope to find a warm place to rest. Worst, choice, ever.

If I had stayed and toured the temple, I might have recovered from the exhaust induced headache… now, I’ve only exacerbated it.

Tsurugoaka Hachiman-gu Shrine



At last I make it down to Kamakura, and I take a coffee break at Beck’s near the station…

Didn’t help too much, but I do feel a little better.

After a half hour’s rest I figure I gather myself to continue the day’s plan. Bad choice again… I should have gotten a cup of tea and rest for another half hour.

Any case, Hogoku-ji Temple is about 10-15min walk from Kamakura station. Famed for its forest of bamboos.

Hogoku-ji Temple






It’s a beautiful place, and Kamakura overall is just this wonderful town unspoiled by modern life.

Unfortunately by the time I got back to Kamakura station I am exhausted with a terrible headache…

This is where traveling solo has its disadvantage.

If I was traveling with another, I might have found a place to sit down, or continue on and rest while on the tram. But I was by myself. I’m exhausted, over an hour from Tokyo. I was not sure if my situation got any worse I’ll be able to get back.

I made a choice then to cut the day short then and there, a choice I regret now, but at the time it felt the safer choice.

I think I should have gone on, skipping the rest of the shrines and temples that needed walking, but took the tram to Enoshima, have lunch, and by then the day will have warmed up and I’m sure I’d be able to continue on the day…

Well, first time solo, some mistakes are inevitable I suppose. Next time I’ll know to insert a half day’s break every few day to make sure I am adequately rested.









Day 5

Day 5 is the earliest of all days, starting the day at Tsukiji (the fish market).

The sky’s still dark when I descends the staircase into Iriya station on the Hibiya line.

Empty metro station

Though I got to the tsukiji just after 6, the fish auctions has already finished. At the outskirt of the markets I spot a tuna being hauled to its buyer.

Tunas are huge

Since it’s a place famed for sushi and fish, you can expect a demand for fish knives. Indeed there are plenty of shops selling assorted knives for treating the fishes.

Racks of knives for sale

Inside the tsukiji it is a chaotic where the entire sea’s sea creatures are sold in polystyrene crates.



Large octopuses




Tuna being put to the knife


Some kinda deshelled shellfish


Ikura (salmon roe)...yum!

The tsukiji has 2 parts, the tsukiji proper which serves to sell and distribute fish to various restaurants, and the outer market targeted more at the general populace. The outer market sells more than just fish, and includes various produces as well.

A beans seller


Local shinto shrine

As usual, my planned breakfast place is packed and queued up. Sigh. I’ve resigned that sacrificing food for time is just an unavoidable fact.

A line for sushi

I skip off to Shinbashi and take the Yurikamome to Odaiba.

Yurikamome station at Shinbashi



The nature of Odaiba still somewhat escapes me. A huge island reclaimed from Tokyo Bay, it is home to hotels, huge shopping complexes, a number of museums and media corporations. What confuses me is that it is not exactly well connected to the mainland. The Yurikamome and JR Rinkai line are both outside of the normal transport network, with higher access fees and less convenient transfer connections.

Or perhaps that is the idea, a form of resort location close to the heart of Tokyo while giving the feeling of being a world away. The onsen certainly adds to that feeling.

Tokyo Bigsight in the far distance

One thing that immediate strikes me is how big Odaiba is. Its look on the map is deceiving, with the island seemingly lined with a small number of adjoining buildings, giving the impression of a close knit city block. That is as far from reality as possible. Thankfully many have warned of this on various forums. In truth many of these buildings are hundreds of meters in length, walking around the island without taking the Yurikamome is folly, it is suggested that any visitors fish out the 800Y and buy the day pass.

I hop off at the Telecom center where one of the few Family Marts are on the island, and buy a breakfast of breads and coffee.

Melon bread




Beneath the Big Sight


A giant gundam under construction

After doing  a walk around Odaiba it is near noon. To avoid the queue I decide to have lunch right after the Aqua City shopping center opens.

Giant Xmas wreath


Aqua CIty's Xmas healing tree

Lunch is at Pomu no Ki (Apple Tree, Pomu is Pomme, french for apple), a restaurant specializing in omurice (omelette rice). Huray, no queue!

Pomu no Ki


Nice view from the window seat at Pomu no Ki

Yep, the menu is full of omurice, from traditional ketchup sauce to curry to more western flavors.

Pomu no Ki menu


Such a nice sunny day


Vege and cream omurice

In retrospect I should have gone with the more classical curry one, but after days with meal after meal of heavy tastes, I couldn’t resist the promise of something with refreshing tastes. It’s decently priced and quite well made, the menu inventive with good varieties.

Chocolate sundae


nyom nyom

I also ordered an extra chocolate parfait to make myself feel better after I failed to get dessert at Caretta the night before due to how packed the place is.

Fuji TV


Cosplay-con is hosted a few days before Comiket


Water pours down the middle of the TFT building

Then it’s off to Venus Fort. Their illumination is lit all day, cause the whole place is indoor.

Venus Fort


Venus Fort Fountain


Hanging Xmas decoration



Venus Fort’s illumination is called Light for Wishing, with light tubes creating a shooting star like look. Unfortunately the place isn’t quite as dark as it should be so the tubes are very visible.

What came later is a surprise. They actually got snow makers filling the chamber with white powders.

It's snowing!


Now that's a scene


People reach out to catch the snowflakes


I return to Aqua City for their illumination, a music light performance with the Healing Tree.

Sadly after Caretta it all seems like childplay.

Healing tree going through different hues



I ended up leaving Odaiba early to get a better spot at Caretta.

Although I have not realized at this stage, I actually did very little at Odaiba, unconsciously choosing to leave out visiting many other attractions, like the onsen or Future Museum. All the walking from previous days and the lack of sufficient rest has really drained me both physically and emotionally, putting me in an agitated mindset. I end up rushing for no reason instead of spending adequate time to really tour and enjoy the place, nor did I really take much photos.

My choice to save on transport and walking for 1-2 metro stops in previous days turns out to be almost catastrophic, as all that walking added to the exhaustion.

Special: Caretta

Caretta is a dining, shopping, performance theater complex at Shiodome.

Their Blue Forest illumination every Xmas is without doubt the best out of all the illuminations in Tokyo. I actually came here on Day 4 then again on Day 5, partly because my camera ran out of memory seconds short of finishing recording the performance.

A picture perfect, sublime dreamscape. The ice like soft glow is like a polar landscape, a paradox of cool and warmth, where one’s thoughts are lost amongst the trees and waves and stars, between the blue hue cast upon and mirrored between the surrounding glass walls. A scene that can only exist in imaginations and pages of fairytales.

Every hour there is a musical light show performance, for the rest of the time it is a magnet for lovers, with long lines formed hours before 5pm when the lights switches on, waiting for the chance to share a special moment in the fantasy forest with the special someone, and their bonds blessed in the Xmas tree chapel.

Please enjoy the pictures and videos.













































Caretta Gallery

Day 4 (Washinomiya)

Day 4 is a special day… a very special day.. it’s the day for… Washinomiya!

For those who’s not familiar with anime or otaku-dom, Washinomiya is one of the most sacred places for otakus. It is a small town an hour out north of Tokyo, it has one of the oldest shinto shrine in Kanto. So far so good.

What makes it so special is it being the backdrop setting for the manga & anime Lucky Star. Two of the main characters, the Hiiragi twins, work as mikos at their family’s shinto shrine. The shrine happens to be based on Washinomiya shrine, near the city of Kuki where the author lives.

Lucky Star became cult status and a symbol of otaku-dom due to its in-jokes about otaku-dom, thanks its main character lead Konata, a proud and self-professed otaku girl. Konata is so famous she has become deified by many, half-jokingly, sometimes referred to as Konata-sama (Goddess Konata).

The older Hiiragi twins, Kagami, is also worshipped, not least because of her name is a reference to mirrors, a symbol of high importance in shinto. Also because she’s a tsundere with yuri streak, and what otaku doesn’t love a tsundere yuri. (WARNING: if you’re under 18, don’t look up the term yuri)

With Lucky Star reaching unparalleled popularity, Washinomiya also became a holy place for otakus and holds a special place in our hearts. Like Mecca or Jeurasalem, thousands of otakus make the pilgrimage to visit and pray at the shrine each year.

At first the town was skeptical of this strangely bestowed status, but after a while warmed up to the influx of visitors and the boost to the local economy, hosting festivals and incorporating Lucky Star themes in their local shops.

Enough background, off to Washinomiya!


It’s barely 7, heading east from Ueno on the Asakusa-dori.

A leisurely morning walk, some 15min with few traffic and enjoyable neighborhood.

The Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate)


Kaminarimon up close

It’s still early, the shops in the main causeway still closed.

The main causeway

A ningyo-yaki shop started early. Ningyo-yaki is like tai-yaki but made with faces.



Leading up to the inner gate


Asakusa shrine

I did not stay long at the shrine however, it’s more a pass through while on my way to Tobu rail’s station further east near the river.

Before I start though I have breakfast.

Mos Burger or Doutor, hmm

Doutor is cheaper with the coffee, coffee it is!

Tobu rail's carriage

Tobu rail’s trains are older than the fancy ones on Yamanote, but still very clean and comfy.

I had to change twice, once at Hikifune and once more at Kuki. I got a little confused at Hikifune, since the express I was on goes to the Tobu Zoo which is about 3/4 of the way to Washinomiya, while the train announcement seems to indicate I should transfer here for a rapid trains. Everyone got off and onto the rapid though so off I went. Turned out it was the correct choice and the train made few stops.

Countryside near Tobu Zoo

Once past the Tobu Zoo the train leaves suburbia and into farmlands. The fields are barren at this time of year.

Washinomiya station

The station is quiet and empty, almost desolate. I see a Lucky Star omikoshi, a vessel for the gods. People carry on it shoulders during festivals and bring the gods on a tour of their domain.

Lucky Star omikoshi


Lucky Star covered shop windows


Stream running through Washinomiya

Washinomiya feels very much a rural farming town. The buildings are a little more aged, and though I hate to say it, a little run down.

Lucky Star flags hanging from the power posts



The local commerce council does their best to capture the otakus, such a running an event where one can collect stamps by spending at various local shops. Once all the stamps have been collected you can then exchange for a special Lucky Star gift.

A poster about a Lucky Star promotion


Konata and Kagamin in various cosplay


Washinomiya main street


After a quick tour of the town, it’s time to at last pay my respect.

Washinomiya shrine


This scene appears in the opening credits of the anime


Washinomiya torii


Paved footpath of the shrine


Ema stand here are drawn with anime characters


One professing love for Konata


Huge ema praying for the victims of the quake




Stand where people ties bad fortunes they received, leaving bad fortunes behind


Cleansing basin

The cleansing basin, not as fancy as the major shrines in Tokyo. Instead it gives a more down to earth, tranquil aura, as if the gods are truly watching and giving their blessings over the simple folks.

The main temple




I pay my respect and offer a prayer. I’m not sure whether one pull the bell before or after the prayer, I went offerings->pull bell->clap hands->prayer.

I also bought an omamori and an ema which I wrote my wish and hung up.

The inner sanctum

Almost lunch time. Back on the main street I decide to go into this place I passed earlier. The blackboard outside promised beef curry and coffee.



Inside the takoyaki


Poster advertising the town


An exchange notebook, like the one in Madoka cafe

The owner is a nice middle aged lady, who first mistook me for Japanese. After I explains  that I’m from Taiwan she smiled even warmer, saying that she had been to Taiwan before as well and love the place. I am the only patron, so I was able to have some light conversations with her. My Japanese is lacking, but given some time I generally can discern the words she speaks. Generally I know enough nouns, it’s the adjectives and various polite forms in Japanese that makes it difficult, so if the speaker have the patience and time to simply their sentences I can understand them.

Being a small rural town I don’t imagine she gets much outside, outside the visiting otakus, and even then probably even less foreigners, either way she is the friendliest person I meet on my trip.

Curry beef rice


Coffee, I like the cup

I think she really warmed up to me when I complemented on her coffee cups. She points out the direction of the shrine, thinking that’s where I’m headed (though the shrine is a little hard to miss, hehe). I reply that I have already been there. Obviously she really want to show me where the fun is, she mentions that there’s a history archive on the other end of town.

She then shows me a poster of the hajisai festival, where the omikoshi gets carried into the shrine itself in a huge festival. After some rephrasing the question, I finds out that it happens on the first sunday of each September. I thanks her and says that I will be back next year at that time.

Lucky Star chilly sauce

When I leave, the lady even gave me a anime themed promotional paper fan. Such a nice lady. If anyone out there goes to Washinomiya, please remember to visit Takoyaki and support the lady and the town.


Thanks to the lady, the history archive turns out to be a very interesting place. Without her I would never have knew to visit the place.

The archive has a series of displays describing the birth and history of the town, its importance during the shogunate eras.

Because of the town’s position at the fork of a major river, the town held vital importance in both agriculture and travel. In the sengoku period the town also sits on the border of the local daimyo’s domain which makes it a place of high importance. The shrine enjoys patronage from high profile people including the shogun Togukawa.

Washinomiya history archive

I didn’t see any anime painted cars, sadly, I guess it is the quiet period before the New Year.

Feeling quite happy from my pilgrimage, I go in late afternoon, once again passing through Asakusa on the way.

Now that's a crowd

I took the back streets this time, and finds that there are actually a lot of hidden away temples, some are local protector shinto shrines. Some however are funeral temples, where the temple offers grave slots where people can purchase to be buried in.

A small local shinto shrine in Asakusa

After a short rest back in the hotel, it’s time for the night’s event. Shiodome!

My dinner is in Shiodome City Center, one of the complexes in Shiodome, at a ton-katsu restaurant called Katsukura.

After my first day’s encounter though I found the place to be a huge let down. Quite a bit more expensive and quite a bit worse. I guess large restaurant chains just can’t have the same quality as good single owner restaurants that passionate care about their dishes.

Katsukura ton-katsu

There’s a few Xmas displays scattered about Shiodome.

The polar express


Light tunnel

The absolute stunner, the show piece that by itself warrants a visit to Tokyo during Xmas, an artistic presentation that conjures the most fantastic dreams. Is Carreta’s Blue Forest.