Tokyo Maigo 東京迷子

Day 3 (Part 2)

It’s still early, I decide to hop off at Gotanda, near Osaki and redeem my disappointment on the first day.


Meguro riverside










It’s like sakuras at Xmas.

I walk the length of the illuminated riverbank to Osaki.

Back on the Yamanote, I jump off at Yarakucho, one stop south of Tokyo central.

Marunouchi did not show up in my plans originally, however upon arriving in Japan I notices plenty of posters about the special illumination in front of Tokyo station this year.





Genki o dashite, Japan!


Aside from the main street, there are also various displays put up by various companies.






While the various displays put up back private companies are very well done, the highlight remains the main promenade outside Tokyo station. The theme is Tokyo Lightopia.

The promenade

The promenade is in the design of a river blooming with flowers that shifts in hues.









The Xmas cheer on people's faces sends a tingle through me


A tree of lights

The showpiece however is the Prayer for Japan, where children from various primary schools write their prayers on candle lanterns. It is an extremely powerful sight to behold, especially with the paper hearts flattering in the strong winds, and the staffs working tireless to keep the candles lit. Combined with the Xmas atmosphere, it’s enough to move one to tears.

Stay strong, Japan.

Prayers for Japan






The Lightopia




Sign board listing the contributors


One last look


People gathered for the illumination

By now I’m just outside Tokyo station.

Inside, I find an underground bento street called the Gransta. It’s platform side, beneath the sub-urban concourse, where some two dozen bento shops vie for the stomach of travelers.

Gransta in Tokyo station

I’m not interested in bento though, at least not tonight. For once I have some leisurely time and I’m determined to have ramen.

Back in Ueno, I explore the whole station in full. Turns out I’ve missed out the Atre shopping area in the main concourse since I always exited up north through the Iriya exit, and the station is so big I did not realize what I’ve seen so far is not the main concourse.

Ueno Grand Concourse


Ueno Atre

I soon find what I’m looking for. Ramen Ichi-ran! Said to be one of the best around.

As usual, there’s a queue… is it possible to have a meal without a queue in Tokyo?

Queuing up for raaamen


Purchase what you want in your ramen from the machine

You first need to buy ramen “tickets” from the machine… even though it’s common practice for ramen and other fast-foody places, the first thought that popped to my mind is “Hey, this is like what the students do in Angel Beats!”.

Everyone (who’s there by themselves) is given a cubicle where you can have your ramen in peace.

Ramen cubicle


Ichi-ran ramen

The noodle is most excellent, cooked just right. The soup is flavorsome but perhaps a little too flavorsome, I have a preference for light tastes.

Ahh, nothing beats a hot spicy ramen on a cold night.


For more see the Day 3 gallery

Day 3 (Part 1)

Day 3, an early rise again. I’m determined to either be out before 7 or after 9:30, outside the hours of sardine schools.

Then I got on the train and saw the empty carriages. It’s the Emperor’s Birthday, a public holiday. Doh!

Half a circuit on the Yamanote and I’m off at Harajuku. Though famous for the colorful fashion, it’s far too early and all is quiet.

I drop in to Doutor for breakfast, the coffee chain found outside JR stations without fail is fast becoming the default nice warm refuge where I can get a hot cup of coffee.

Sandwich breakfast, Doutor


Doutor, Harajuku


The ginkgo trees here are a stunning gold


Harakuji station

Behind the station is the renowned Meiji Shrine.

Meiji shrine entrance


Meiji shrine torii


A worker sweeps the grounds with an extra long broom


The place is large, but to be honest I kind of expected something more grandiose or more transcendental. It’s not sprawling with temple complexes nor are there much statues or lanterns. All in all, pretty plain.

It’s a popular site for hosting traditional marriage ceremonies, however I don’t see much activities today.

Entrance to the shrine complex


Cleanse your hands and mouth before stepping onto sacred grounds


The south gate


The ema stand

I made no offering nor bought any prayers as I intend to do that the next day at Washinomiya.

The exit on the north side is not too far from Shinjuku, or at least it seems on the map. I should have just taken the metro, even if it is a stop away. Once again the wind is cold and seems to be funneled in between the apartment blocks.

The situation did not improve as I nears the vicinity of Shinjuku. Shinjuku and its underground passages is probably the most complex station on earth, while on paper everything is linked, it’s not so simple finding the connecting passages. It’s either be lost down below or freeze above.

A cake shop in one of the underground malls

It took some walking around to finally get my bearings, after more walking and a coffee break, I find one of my goals at Shinjuku.

Sanrio gift gate

I rush in hoping to find shelves full of plushes of the curly tailed puppy…

…they only have 1 Cinnamoroll, and an ugly one at that 🙁 that Melody bunny, it’s taken over all the cuteness. It’s so hard to find Cinnamoroll these days.


The Animate at Shinjuku is pasted with K-On


"Ahahaha-ha, ready to hand over your wallets, Sempai!"... that's all I'm hearing, Azunyan


Tokyo City Hall building


A train of santa/santass? Doing promotions.


A poor reindeer hauling the sleigh (cart) of goods

Time to have lunch… ramen I am meant to have is closed for renovation *cries* so I’ll learn over the next few days, end of years is kinda when small Japanese restaurants have their annual holiday.

I enter the Shinjuku underground once more to avoid the cold while I look for a solution to my lunch.

Ehhh.. where am I?

Once again I’m lost… yaaaay. While I stumble through the endless maze of dimension-defying tunnels and shops, I run across a takoyaki stall.

A long line for takoyaki.. well, a line = tasty, right? right?

I join the line for a takoyaki. Taking the opportunity, I intently studies the guy deftly turn the takoyakis with a pair of sharp skewers.

Turns out they aren’t pre-rolled up into a ball then fried, but made similar to taiyaki. Actually that makes sense thinking now.

Ah, so that's how they're made. That's crazy.


Flip flip flip. Pancake into tako balls



Awesome, I haz takoyaki, nyom nyom nyom. Still lost though. But hey, at least I got food.

Yum. To be honest I’ve never had proper takoyaki before so I’m not sure if this is proper takoyaki. It’s a little hollow on the inside, verdict undecided whether that adds or detracts from the texture.

In Sydney, Krispy Kreme needs to give free vouchers to get people in their door. In Japan, people line up for it.


Coffee break....


Almost night time


Shinjuku Terrace City


Still queuing up. Eh... maybe they got special donuts? I'll find out next time.



Lights on!


Power of Light and Sound

Xmas in Japan is a special occasion for couples, almost like valentines in winter. Most of the illuminations have these of love and romance, drawing in huge crowd (and lines) of young couples. Terrace City has an Xmas tree pyramid that plays a sound and turns to various colors which divines and blesses the couple.

Chart indicating the various color of power


It's a long line. Not as long as some other lines... I get to that eventually


Shiny footpath


The Takashima deparment store on the other side has lit up its exterior panels in the shape of a tree


Southern Lights is the theme for Southern Terrace this year

Terrace city is a strip of department store and shopping complexes on the west side of Shinjuku, together they form a passageway that is filled with lights.

One of the illuminations at Terrace City


A narrow passage way connecting the terraces called the Mosaic Street.


A cone like Xmas tree at the end of the passage.


Entrace to Terrace City


A singer performing nearby, her voice is soft and charming.


I do not understand the pattern here.


After traversing the length of Terrace City, it’s time to hop back onto Yamanote and down to Harajuku, then walk to Omotesando.

It's a real Xmas Coke truck!

Omotesando is a pretty stylish shopping area, not lavish high class, but more classy I felt.

A ginkgo tree with thick foliage that serves nicely for the occassion.


The streets of Omotesando


A nice trendy alleyway.

The destination is Omotesando Hills, one of the craziest department interior designs I’ve seen. Their theme is partnered with Disney. In addition to various Disney special collection items which you can collect when you shop here, the highlight is a fantastic horse drawn carriage. Once again, aimed exclusively at couples.

A romantic horse drawn carriage.


...and that's the line. Still not the longest though...I'll get to that eventually.

Inside, I’m greeted by carols, beautifully sung by a choir beneath a giant crystal tree.

Omotesando Hills Xmas tree


Crowd lines the railings on every level.


Omotesando Hills Xmas tree


Omotesando Hills interior


Notices yet? There are no strict levels. The entire department store is a loop of ramp.

On the way back, I take a detour through one of the side streets.

Side alley in Omotesando


The street is decorated with lanterns


Staircase leading up to a restaurant


For more see the Day 3 gallery

Day 2 (Part 2)

From Kichijoji I get off at Shinjuku, hop on the metro to Roppongi.


Roppongi Hills

It’s 1500Y to get up the Tokyo City View on level 52. There’s a few choice of high rise observation decks, Tokyo City Hall, Tokyo Tower, Carretta at Shiodome…etc. I picked Roppongi simply because it was the more convenient one location wise.

The sun slowly sets


Tokyo Tower from Roppongi Hills


The imperial palace


Xmas market


Display of the K-ON movie. There's adverts for it everywhere in Tokyo

The illumination at Roppongi Hills is supported by Samsung with the theme of Galaxy, tying with the smartphone.

A galaxy of stars


Roppongi Hills panorama




Xmas tree of a different kind


The underground passage below Roppongi Hills

I was going to go to HARBS to try their cake, but the line is way too long. I proceed to Tokyo Midtown on the other side of Roppongi.

Tokyo Midtown

As soon as I enter its grounds I notice there’s something different. The crowd is unusually large and there are guys on speakers directing everyone to go around the side.

I join the crowd and orderly shuffle on.

Going around the side of Midtown


Keep walking

Then suddenly everything opens up. There’s a huge crowd gathered around a field the size of half a football field.

The illumination at Tokyo’s Midtown is called Birth of a Planet, where a musical lightshow with thousands and thousands of LED lights presents phases of a planet forming amidst a sea of stars.

Birth of a planet....


..from a ball of fire


...and sprouts...


...and ocean...







It’s very difficult to record the scene, it’s too crowded for tripods and you’re blown in all directions by the wind.


The crowd watches



Inside the department store there are more decorations.

White Xmas tree


Crystal Xmas tree of little santas


A serene scene a world away from the crowd inside

The original plan was to have dinner at Roppongi, however the queue is everywhere. I decide to head back.

Tired and hungry, I considered searching for the ramen place that’s in Ueno station which so far eluded me.

Nope, it’s already late, just go with the closest thing.

A quick dinner


So ends my second day in Tokyo. I still have not quite figured out my camera and developed a tendency to set the ISO too low. Too many shots are blurred :/

For more see the Day 2 gallery

Day 2 (Part 1)

I wake up and head out just after 7, the aim is to get to Mikata before 9:30 so I have plenty of time to walk to Studio Ghibli.

I had not planned for breakfast beforehand, I figured if nothing else I can always visit Family Mart and buy melon breads (why melon bread? well…..)

Anyhow, the day before I have noticed the fast food place just north of Ueno station, and decides to give it a try.

First Kitchen, just outside of Ueno Asakusa exit

I got the cheese dog set. I guess hot dogs are somewhat popular in Japan, they seem to be a fairly common item on western food menus.

First Kitchen's cheese dog

After that it’s time to hop on the train. I jump on the Yamanote line and transfer at Kanda for the chuo-line. Mikata is on the chuo-line some 40min to the west.

Yamanote train is packed in the morning

Like Ueno, Mikata has a sizable in station shopping area.

Mikata station concourse

On one side of the concourse is a wall of xmas tree wishing cards.

Mikata wish tree wall


A card wishing for the recovery of the north east

Outside the station, a yellow bus waits at the bus stop. It’s the catbus from Totoro! A few people are buying tickets from the machine to the side.

Catbus to Studio Ghibli

I’m walking though, so I bounces past to the scenic walkway. I spot a 7-11 and drop in to get a hot one to ward off the chills.

7-11 just outside Mikata station

The footpath lined street is called Kaze No Sanpomichi, Promenade of Wind. Every few hundred meters there are signs that tells you how  far it is to the museum.

Signage on the way to Studio Ghibli


Kaze No Sanpomichi


Thanks, Totoro!


Even the bus stops are stylized

It’s a very nice neighborhood, with some very nice modern houses, the whole area has an artful atmosphere.

A shot of the autumn leaves

It’s just over a kilometer to the museum. It passed quickly with such beautiful sights.

Museum's entrance


Ichi mai kudasai, Totoro-san!

There’s a giant totoro serving the ticket box. You can get your ticket off him if you remembered to bring some acorns –

-okay not really, the real entrance is around the side.

Entrace of the museum

Photos aren’t permitted inside, neither do I want to spoil the fun for anyone who haven’t been there.

Suffice to say the museum is like a little dream world, where I’m brought back to primary school years when I was excited by the sky pirates of Castle in the Sky. It’s simply a must see for anyone who goes to Tokyo.

There are roughly 3 sections, a section about the evolution of animations and techniques, a section replica of Hayao Miyazaki’s atelier, and a rotational exhibit.

A tip to anyone who visits there. There are coin lockers just outside in the courtyard after you get in, make sure you have 100Y coins.

It’s okay to take photos in the out door areas, including the roof-top and courtyards.

I went in when it opened at 10am and quickly explored all the levels while there’s not so much people yet.

Museum courtyard


Robot from Castle in the Sky

The restaurant inside the museum is called the Straw Hat. I went there at 11am thinking myself pretty clever at beating the lunch rush………


Queue to get into Straw Hat

It’s a long wait. Interesting way they’ve set up the line. A the center of the tent, just left of the standing queue is a gas heater, so either you stand and be warm or you sit but freeze. Just kidding, there are blankets provided, which the staff meticulously folds back into a bundle each time people puts them back into the basket. In the baskets are also some books for people to read.

Straw Hat menu

I chose the 実りの山の放牧豚ごはん (mountain harvest free-ranged pork lunch…or close enough). I’m very grateful that while I cannot speak much Japanese, being a light novel oriented otaku means reading is a-okay!

It took an hour to get in. Well worth the wait.

Inside the Straw Hat


Iced Coffee au Lait

I find Japanese do not really do lattes or cappuccinos, it’s mostly drip coffee, with optional plain milk.

The straw is a real straw, a pleasant nice touch 😉


Free range pork lunch


Nuts and caremel cake

Most excellent, very fine and unique taste. The coffee isn’t burnt (like most coffee in Australia are), and has a very smooth but strong taste. The pork is cooked just right and mixes well with the half-cooked salads. The few tuber items are fried for a nice texture yet retains their refreshing taste.The cake isn’t too sweet (like many cakes in Australia are), nor is the cream buttery.  Portions are just about right,  I think if they offered some bread it will be just superb.

Definitely have lunch there if you visit the museum.

I took my time with the fine dishes. When I came out the queue is even longer. Thankfully I got in before the real rush…

Straw Hat also have a hot dog stand for the poor souls who're starving and cannot wait for the queue.


Straw Hat


Museum courtyard

I go back in for a more detailed tour of the place, staying for minutes in each room.

At last I got to their Saturn Theatre and was shown a short movie about a kid who plants and grows his little planet. I couldn’t understand too much, I can understand the casual conversations and even some of the jokes, but the longer conversations where they talk about the kid’s planet and plot escapes me.

I spent a long time at the souvenir shop, Mamma Aiuto. 3 things caught my eyes.

A brass sculpture of the robot from Castle in the Sky…. outside my price range.

A pvc sculpture of the robot from Castle in the Sky about 26cm tall, in the pose where it picks up a flower in between its fingers and has a bird on its shoulder…. I fought really hard over this one, I really wanted to buy it. Each time I look at its slender hand extending in the air without support however, a voice says “there’s no way you’re bringing that back in one piece”.

In the end I bought a smaller Totoro sculpture (photos later).


I grudgingly leave the place nearing 3:00, crossing the adjacent park to Kichijoji. Sunset is 4:31 and I need to be up the Roppongi Hills observation deck before then.

For more visit the Day 2 gallery