My last day in Tokyo

Doctor's Log 11-16-2016 Wednesday Kyoto, Japan 8:40pm

Oh man, another travel day, this time not as hard on us as the first day, but challenging, and a couple of weird turns of events.

But first a confession.

Yesterday I mentioned that I wanted to go to two places before leaving Tokyo, the first was Cap Bar, the second was Artnia a Square Enix Cafe in the Shinjuku area. Now on the first day, when I thought about going I didn't search it out on Google Maps. As the week progressed I started relying on a combination of Google Maps, Japan Travel (that shows the rail lines), and Google Translator.

Once I felt confident about my ability to switch between the apps I looked into Artnia again. I was staying LITTERALLY around the block from it. In fact, I took a picture by a Square Enix sign thinking it was just a random advertisement. In fact I could see their building from the apartment I was staying in this whole time!

I knew today, before leaving Tokyo I would atone for my ignorance by going directly to their cafe, and I am so glad I did. As soon as I walked in music from the Final Fantasy VIII sound track was playing. I was ecstatic.

They were celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Dragon Quest so there were pictures of Slimes, Monsters in a Box, and other baddies from their RPGs all around the store. The food was great, and themed based on their games. I had pancakes with a Chocobo burned into it. Compared to Cap Bar, the menu wasn't as robust, but the swag, oh man! The swag was strong with this one.

There were tons of plushies, from Cacataurs to the Heartless, and mind you I wanted to go on a shopping spree as soon as I entered but I kept my cool.

There is one other thing I have to mention, their good stuff, their statues, and jewelry was kept in a separate room, a special room, the Crystal room. They had a separate room , where water fell from the ceiling and surrounding a mound a Crystal and at the bottom was pink, green, and yellow Materia. The whole scene coupled with the music blew me away.

If Cap Bar was about a kinitic excitement, Artnia felt more like peaceful reprieve before going back out on our grand adventure.

Something you really haven't heard me talk is the poor or homeless in Tokyo. I meant to go into it on another post but there was a special friend we made today that is pertinent to this part of the story. We had to get reimbursed for our deposit and our remaining balance for our subway passes, once in Kyoto we were going to rely on our JR Line pass only.

As we left the office for the metro I made a rookie mistake. I kept the map they handed us in my hand instead of putting it away, we had no use for it, we knew where we were and were we were going. In most cities, I do my best not to look like a tourist, but in this situation with a map and luggage I couldn't help it, and so enter the drifter.

This guy targeted us quick, told us how to get we were going and offered to carry our bags for us. The whole time I am trying to tell this guy we don't need his help, he continued to move alongside us. Once we got to where he thought we were going, and I told him we didn't need him that's when he asked us for money. He asked for 300 yen saying he was hungry, we gave him 100 for being a hassle. Had he asked for the 300 upfront rather than try to hustle me I would have given him the money. Either way he left peacefully.

This was the first time we were approached for money during our whole visit, even after walking by what can only be described as a homeless village near the government buildings the other day.

After that we worked our way to the bullet train. I had never seen one of them up close. Once on board, we got to see parts of Japan fly right by us in a blink. Other than the constant pain my ears have been in since it was rather uneventful.

When we got to Kyoto station I immediately missed Tokyo. The look and feel of Kyoto station felt similar in that it was a train station, but dark and drab by comparison. Getting off the train there was a large crowd of people in dark business suits and school uniforms. At this point I was starting to think the whole city will be in darker tones, but Kyoto Station at rush hour was pleasant compared to Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station. It was all much more manageable even with our luggage in tow.

So after almost 3 hours of travel we were nearly to our next Air BnB, and then we got lost. The directions the host gave us for the place was really lacking, compared to our Shinjuku apartment host. Also, Google Maps was having trouble identifying the exact location, and the sun had started to go down.

Add to the issue that this was the most residential part of Japan we have seen thus far. With all the houses stacked right alongside and on top of one another like Lego pieces, this quickly became a recipe for failure. After climbing three flights of stairs to the first place I thought we were going to go, I realized that this building was wrong.

I had my wife stay there with our things while I went and checked the next building over. At this point Google is directing me towards what seemed like the back of these apartments, but was really just an open field. While I am doing checking the next building over a man poked his head out of a door, he looks at Emily, closes his door…. and begins to scream.

I was oblivious to that little exchange but had already started making my way back. I was about to explain that I think we may need to go around the block when I saw an old man. He started waving at us from the ground floor crossing his arms like an “X” and beckoning us to follow him.

At this point I figure we got nothing to lose, we were obviously lost and he seemed very annoyed. I think we scared the guy in his apartment and he called the super to get us away from the building. It may have only been 6pm but compared to Tokyo this area was very dark, with few street lamps. It appeared like half the neighborhood must have been asleep. The old guy half shooed, half showed us around the block and told us to just keep walking (all in hand gestures, no English).

By the time we got settled in we were tired, a bit culture shocked, and really not in the mood to jump through the hoops necessary to order dinner. So we took a walk to a local Lawson, think Wawa or 7-Eleven. We bought instant dinner and breakfast to put in the fridge. Pork chops and rice for dinner and pork chop rice balls for the morning!

Oh by the way, this apartment does not have three prong outlets, my laptop just died. I'm typing the rest of this from my cell phone. I get the feeling we are screwed.

Hopefully I can take a hot shower tonight.

 

Doctor's Log- 11-15-2016 Tuesday, Tokyo 11:30pm

You know, every day I wake up and I think, this, this will be the day where I don't have to talk about problems with the JR Line. And every day, I am wrong.

Reaping what we sowed with the JR line is kind of how I think today’s situation. Last night after seeing the magnificent Gundam we transferred from a monorail to a JR line, without punching out our Passmo cards. Think of the Passmo as less of a Metro Card (al la NYC) and more of an EZ-Pass Card, where you get a slight discount for buying in bulk.

And just like an EZ-Pass if you don't scan on both tolls you get fine for the whole route. When our fine hit, it cleared out all the reserve funds from both cards. It acted like we hopped from one end of Tokyo to another without paying. The problem was simple enough to cause and honestly simple enough to fix, with the right English speaker and proof of why it happened. Once we switched to the 2 week JR pass we started using it without having to scan. It’s a piece of paper you show and they show to an attendee and they just let you through.

After that mess was taken cared of we worked our way to the Sword Museum, or as I like to call it, the art I cannot share. This museum is just a small exhibit, one large room, but absolutely no pictures are allowed,

What I loved about this museum is that it did something other museums did not, it showed the origins of each sword. They described the age, who made it, and what prefecture it came from. The beauty of each piece of the sword was emphasized as well as the structuring process. Some of the pieces displayed are well over 700 years old. There will be photos of swords later but none of them were from here.

From the Sword Museum we worked our way back to Ueno Park. We had a long list of things to do. We needed to eat on the go, but not just any junk food would do. Oh man, sweet potato bread is amazing, and using Google Translator to figure out that I will be eating chocolate covered wheat was a life saver. Once we gathered some supplies we ate by the water fountain in Ueno Park, then we crossed the street to go to the Tokyo National Museum.

Upon entering the museum, I worked my way to the second floor, on the doorway between sections they give you a rough estimate for how long it would take to see a collection. For just the highlights tour, no less than two hours. Each major topic within the highlights had their own section somewhere else in the museum.

While on the two-hour route, there was also auxiliary rooms that had unique items in them. Mind you all of what I am talking about is, standard admission. The museum had its own set of special exhibits that we didn't even come close to having enough time for. Especially since we got there after two and the museum closes at 5.

The exhibit was amazing, it is interesting to go to a museum that has a large collection focused only on Japanese culture. A couple of years ago, I went to an exhibit in Philadelphia, PA, that focused on Japanese art and history. This blew that away hands down. As I mentioned in a previous post I am way into pottery, and swords a lot of my pictures on looking at the art from different angles, and distances. What really stood out for me was the calligraphy, sculptures, and time periods. I couldn’t’ help compare in my head what was in Europe at the time especially with bronze and steel work.

Another oddity of my trip, while at the Tokyo National Museum I tried a hi-tech toilet for the first time. It was quite inviting, and if I was ever going to go on a bathroom adventure it would be now. I won't get into too much of the details but going here helped ease the trauma from the other toilets that I was too afraid to even try. Nothing like heated seats and music to help the time pass by.

Afterwards we took the JR Line back towards Shinjuku Station during rush hour! At least now we knew what we were walking into. There was another couple in our car, tourists, the woman looked terrified, the man looked very frustrated, and they were holding luggage. I wanted to warn them that it would get worse before it got better. Instead I said nothing, I didn’t want to ruin the experience for them. We got off the stop right before the madness that is Shinjuku Station.

Our goal was clear, make it to Polar Bear Cafe by any means necessary, but there would be distractions

As we exited the subway, we passed a mural of Astro Boy, it had his city and most of the characters from the show around it. I felt energized and started humming one of the upbeat themes from the Halo series. I was ready for the long walk ahead of us.

About half way through we got distracted by meat on a stick, and boy we were well rewarded. We had been looking for a nice place like this for the last two days, and the staff was really kind to foreigners. They had an English menu but parts of it was only in Japanese. The waiter was stunned when I pulled out my Google Translator to read the rest of the menu. In all honesty, I wish we had started using it sooner.

After refreshing our bodies we were ready for the last leg of our uphill trek, the Polar Bear Cafe. First allow me to add a little history here. If you are not familiar with Polar Bear Cafe it’s an anime our friends put us on a while back. The premise is that the cafe owned and operated by animals.

In the show, it is common to see a chair filled by Panda and Penguin, and as soon as we walked in that's exactly what we saw. You go to the Polar Bear Café for the atmosphere, if you like the show, or really just want a cafe that features anime animals and crazy music. There was some great drawings on the walls but we were not allowed to take pictures of that. We bought drinks with a panda and polar bear itched into the foam.

Now for the real reason this was the longest of days. Tomorrow we leave Tokyo City for Kyoto, I did not want to leave without going to two places the first is the Cap Bar or the Capcom Bar. Tokyo is a big city, but the subway here is so good that nothing feels out of reach. Now here is something to keep in mind, and I kid you not, I was less than a block away from Cap Bar and didn't realize it. Last night we went for a walk in Golden Gai area, and had we turned out of it at the right time, the whole night would have been different.

But now, at last I arrived at the Cap Bar.

In all honesty, it wasn't much size wise, in fact I walked past it the first time. It feels like a pub inside a larger restaurant or hotel. But man was it filled with its own theme and flavor! Posters all over the place, trailers for upcoming Capcom games played on flat screens, while screens were set up to play different games if you wanted.

I sat across from the Japanese versions of Street Fighter V and Street Fighter IV. We went there for a couple of snacks before bed but I nearly lost my mind when my waitress asked if I knew about fighting games. I replied, “Yeah of course Street Fighter, Ryu, I love fighting games.”

She stopped what she was doing got into a horse stance and yelled “HADOKEN,” finishing the classic fireball motion as she aimed her hands at my face!

I swear I almost died laughing. As some of you who listen to the podcast may know I have a love hate relationship with Capcom right now, but SFV played super smooth. The menu screen was in Japanese, I didn't know the button layout, I never used a PS4 controller, and I still got 11 fights with no problem.

I was playing survival mode, had I realized I wasn't getting any health back even after getting a couple of perfects I probably would have played more cautiously. I swear the whole experience made me want to get the game on Steam.

I left CapBar, but not without buying some random Monster Hunter swag, I paid 800 yen for the chance of getting a Rockman Cat Monster Hunter.

Tomorrow my last stop before leaving Tokyo, and the beginning of my trip to Kyoto.

Oh, and I been currently trying to figure out a Japanese washing machine as I typed this. Drying failed. Nothing like traveling with cold wet clothes.

An unexpected day

Doctor's Log 11142016 - Monday Tokyo 9pm

The day of a few happy circumstances.

Things don't always go as planned, and in all honesty I am not much of a planner. When it comes down to it, I’m more of a fly in the face of fate and see what happens kind of guy. As I mentioned earlier we were staying at an Air BnB in Tokyo, well as it just so happens the host is away in Germany, and the hot water stopped working. Now I'm not new to being stuck without heat, I’ve been without electricity when the money was bad but this I wasn’t prepared for.

The coldest, quickest showers, that is what we had in store for the rest of our stay in Tokyo. We tried to email our host to fix the problem but no reply. I can't even be that mad, our location is perfect, what's a couple of cold showers compared to being in the heart of a major city, a block off the train line.

Side note it seems that the JR line and Monorail can be transferred into one another.

Step 1for the day, get our Japan Rail Line two-week pass activated. Done and done.

Step 2 Go to the Japan Sword Museum.

As I was about to start following the Google Maps directions on my phone, I got a notice that the Museum was closed. Ok fine, no problem, time to go to the Tokyo National Museum instead. We redirect ourselves and off we go. Mind you some of these transfers are 30 - 50 minutes today to get from one location to the next. It’s not the subway’s fault just that mainly the museums require a walk to get to from the train line.

In all honesty, it's no big deal, the Tokyo National Museum has swords as well. So, after getting there we walked through this large park and passed their Western Museum. We decided that we didn't want to see the Western Museum and instead went straight through the park. Had we checked we would have found out that the museum was closed, in fact all the museums are closed on Mondays.

Between the cold water, the Sword Museum and the National Museum it seemed like we were about to strike out. To make matters worse, as we sat in the park it began to drizzle. We decided that we would not let the day go to waste and instead would head to Diver City (more on that later).

I felt bad about immediately turning back, especially since Ueno Park is so beautiful. I checked online and found out that the park had a bronze Buddha head from the 1600s. What started out as a mild interest turned into a unique moment. As we walked past the Buddha we worked our way through a Shinto Shrine. It seemed regal to me, it's age and architecture contrasting sharply with the it’s surroundings. For the first time since I arrived in Tokyo the old and new, natural and construct, seemed to be at such odds with one another that it was disorientating. To be clear, looking out of the Shinto Shrine and seeing what seemed to be an electrical substation boarded on visual blasphemy.

After that we went to the fish market district of Tokyo. At the risk of sounding cliché the sushi there is to die for, I mean I nearly did. I'm allergic to shell fish and still went to a sushi joint. I limited myself to different types of Tuna and Salmon. But without any hesitation I can say that was the best sushi I ever had.

And before your all like, "Well you’re from New Jersey what do you know about fish." I've eaten Tuna and Salmon while in Maine, that was great, I’ve had fresh swordfish in Long Island but this, this was off the charts. It was a conveyer belt and they had a machine that scanned the plates you picked up, and at the end when your done it tallies it all together for you. For the quality sushi we got I easily would have paid two to three times the price for the experience.

You know how earlier I said that all the museums were closed, well I was wrong. I find one museum to be fully operational in Diver City.

The GUNDAM Museum!

Oh man, I took the free tour, mainly because we were trying to be out of that area before it started raining. I'm so glad I didn't linger. I appreciate the Gundam series, I started with Gundam Wing and watched some of the older series, but seeing hundreds of pre-built Gundams together in one room, and some of them well over a foot tall, I wasn’t prepared. I couldn’t help but imagine the time, effort and shear love that went into putting each of those units together.

For those who aren't familiar with the Gundam "toys," think giant robot meets modeling kits. Oh, and they had the tools and everything there! Within the museum was several stores and those little vending machines that are all over the place in Japan, but these were all Gundam related. With as much as I geeked out over the sheer magnitude of the history and swag available in that museum that was nothing compared to THE STATUE.

Diver City is a rather large mall and in front of it is a 1 to 1 scale replica of a Gundam Statue. The timing was perfect, when I got there it was already night time, they started lighting up statue...and then it's head moved!

Look I'm not a huge Gundam fan, and in fact I know I sound insane, but if you give me a giant robot, make it light up, while music from the tv series is triumphantly playing all around me, I'm all in! Take my money and my time! Mind you by this point it started full on raining and I was out there recording this whole 5m production. And I wasn’t alone, I was surrounded by men, women, children, all basking in the light of a giant robot.

Lastly, we went to Shibuya, to cross the street. If you have never seen pictures of the cross-walk I am talking about, imagine your local 5 corners. You know, every town has an intersection that really shouldn't be that large, it’s dangerous. Now times that by 10, 15, 20! Every couple of minutes the cross-walk becomes a free for all. You got people crossing in one diagonal, in another, and yet another, x, y and z shaped cross-walks on either side of this block. Oh, and now fill that with about 1000 people at a time on average. I've been to Time Square around Christmas, I don't know if I ever seen that many people walking around me at once. When people cross traffic stops for blocks. It's well worth the wait of being stacked inside a train like a bunch of sardines at rush hour, just to go top side and watch it all play out.

Tomorrow I go to the museums, for real this time!

 

Doctor's Log 11-13-2016

Sunday Tokyo 9pm

I really hate having to start every post with the importance of the rail system. I feel it gives a sense that all I did was ride the rail ways. But since this might be helpful to someone somewhere here we go.

Prior to coming to Japan, we found that one of the guide books mentioned getting a JR Rail Pass for two weeks. The requirements, you have to pay up front, and have your passports (visitor, non-student visa), and order them a month in advance. The upside, unlimited usage of the JR line for those two weeks.

Is it worth it, YES!

 

The JR line can be used to get around Tokyo pretty easily, their subway can get you anywhere with maybe a 10-15m walk if what you want is off the line. But the pass can do more than that. If you’re in Tokyo, it can get you part of the way to Mount Fuji, and bounce you back and forth on day trips from Kyoto.

So, we went to go get our passes thinking they would carry us the rest of our trip. But that’s not how the passes work. They have strict timing, so if we activated them today, they would have ended midnight, the night before our last day. That wouldn’t due. We planned on using the passes to get to the airport as well. The information staff were very helpful, spoke English and walked us through everything, and warned us that once you activate the passes you can’t make any changes to them.

After organizing everything with the JR pass we took the train to Rikugien Gardens. The place is beautiful, the name "Rikugien" comes from the six classifications of Waka poetry. It is a man-made garden and if you're lucky you can catch the grounds keepers pruning the trees to grow. I've never seen trees with so many supports, the gardeners ensure they grow in the aesthetics suited for the garden.

The Rikugien was originally designed to have 88 Sekichu (stone pillars) to symbolize each beauty that the gardens had to offer. Like the Imperial Palace, it is a forest in the middle of the city, with hills and even a tea house in the middle. Words will not do this place any justice, and even the pictures will only point you in the direction of Rikugien’s elegance. Walking over a stone bridge while the koi are swimming all around, ducks paddling and cranes fly nearby boarders on the surreal. I was in shock by the craft and care that they put into every tree, building, hut, and stone on the pathway.

After taking in those sights we ventured off to Sunshine City Mall, or the antithesis to Akihabara (Electric Town). In Electric Town, you see hordes of men going in and out of video game, manga, anime, and electronic stores. The strip right across from Sunshine City Mall, it was nearly all women.

One store on its own had 8 floors and an Anime Cafe on top. Each floor was its own store and carried different aspects of anime/manga fandom. Specifically, this is the spot for cosplay supplies, wigs, outfits, gear, everything down to the contact lenses. If it wasn't that they didn't have my size I could have come back with full head to toe Naruto or Freeza cosplay outfits. They had a ton of swag, a lot of the memorabilia I could find in Akihabara I could find near Sunshine City.

It did have some items unique to their clientele, for example a focus on anime about J pop stars. Oh man, I nearly forgot, sometimes stores in Japan will play music that clash with their merchandise. For example, when I went inside a Hello Kitty store I could hear death metal playing turned all the way to 11. I kept laughing to myself as English and Japanese hard rock was being played amongst all the cute. It was as if Batzmaru got to pick the stations himself.

Hara-juku near the Meji Shrine.

To be honest the day kind of ran away with us. The original intention was to get to Hakabara early enough on a Sunday to see people dressed up. One of the guide books suggested that if you could get there on time you would see people dressed up like American Greasers or weird pop cosplay. Unfortunately, we got there after dark but the place was teeming with people.

We went down a side alley that hordes of people were pouring in and out of and we were treated to a myriad of stores. Some of the stores reminded me of a Japanese version of Hottopic, others looked as if manga and women's wear were fused together. Amazingly, the same place you could find bra's on the first floor, had statues from Attack on Titan on the second. It was interesting to see different Disney products as well, like T-shirts with characters like Chip and Dale. It kind of felt like this perfect mixture between Akibara and Sunshine City, but most of the statues were priced a bit higher compared to other stores, and it seemed to have an all-around younger crowd. I probably saw more teenagers in that area than anywhere else. Like much of Tokyo Hara-juku seemed safe despite the large crowds. Lastly, we didn't go into it but we saw an owl petting store and cat cafes in the area.

 

By the way, there was a ton of crepe shops!

Back to the future

Doctor's Log 11-12-16 Saturday 7:30pm in Tokyo

Back in from a full day of adventuring. Finally figured out and fixed some of our subway problems. I will probably create a separate post just on how not to screw up in the subway system. But here is the long story short, have a "Passmo" card for each person who is traveling in your party!

Let me clarify this a bit, as a certified New Yorker, I can't imagine traversing the Tokyo Subway system without big city experience. Having experience with New York City, Philadelphia, and Toronto were all just a warmup for today. Like the NYC, once you understand the numbers, colors, and platforms, your heading in the right direction. Unlike anywhere else you’ll have to translate times, the numbers that represent minutes remaining until your stop but not your actual stop location, you'll be traveling like a... tourist.

So today we went to the Japanese Folk Craft Museum. No photos were allowed inside the museum but I did take some outside and around there was art everywhere. As soon as guest walk in, they have to take their shoes off and are handed slippers. The museum is in a different part of Tokyo, a quieter more residential neighborhood.

I am really into pottery so to be given an opportunity to walk into a Japanese home, filled with pottery and other crafts well over a hundred years old, it was amazing. I saw giant jars made from clay and the smallest tea cups. Different types of traditional drip and ash glazes, I was being bombarded with different simple ideas to try with my own pottery work. If you are into pottery it is the perfect place to nerd out.

Amongst the work there was a piece of wood, it looks like it could be a part of a door, but it was filled with large locks, door handles, and had kanji carved into. But what really stole the show were these old gloves and boots that seemed to have been made from straw or hay. I had never seen anything like it.

Once a month, another exhibit is opened and we were lucky enough to experience that. Across the street was an old home that you can tour. It was like walking through time and space, and get a glimpse of the last hundred years. The furniture was old, the floors covered in tatami, and the library breath taking. It was a quick walk but you really got a sense of the layout and set up of an older Japanese home. The stark contrast between the museum homes and the other homes in the area is reason enough to pause and reflect on Japanese history and architecture. The juxtaposition is something that feels right at home in Japan though.

 

 

Our next stop after navigating the subway...mind you, everything involves that. In Tokyo from one spot to another is usually a combination of train and walking. I am not going to take a single taxi while I am in Japan, I've played that game in Manhattan. It is rarely fruitful and it doesn't look tempting at all in Tokyo.

So, our next stop was the Imperial Palace. There is really nothing I can compare this too. I have been to El Morro in Puerto Rico, Quebec City, and the Cloysters in Manhattan, and this seemed like an amalgam of them all. When you view it for its original intentions, to protect the Emperor, you cannot help but wonder what fool would ever try to sneak in. The Imperial Palace, is a visual treasure, no two ways about it.

The Lower areas of the palace has a stream that pours like a waterfall into a pond filled with huge koi fish. The creatures created beautiful mixtures of blue, white, orange, and gold swirling about in the water. There were times when I was surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature and I completely forgot I was in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world. Within the gardens of the palace were smaller exhibits such as scrolls of calligraphy. It is important to remember that I only got to see a portion of the palace, other portions you have to reserve a tour at least a month in advance, and some areas are still use by the imperial family and cut off to touring.

Lastly this day, this great and glorious day ended in Akihabara, also known as Electric Town. As soon as I neared this part of Tokyo, it was like walking through the very best comic-con, anime-con, toy-con, merchant’s alley, festival all rolled into one. And that was just the outer fringes of this district of Tokyo.

Within the first few minutes I saw statues of figures from Anime that only just released in JAPAN. The art, I mean, I seen fan art, but nothing like this. Some of it is still presented in the same format that the drafts of manga pages are drawn on. Meanwhile other pages of work looked like cell art from anime. Once you past, the toys, plushies, statues, art, t-shirts and so on then the real Akihabara begins.

Once you past that first block or two, the ones that looks like a giant flea market, then your hit with lights, sounds, and images from manga, anime, and video games are all around you. People promoting stores, or restaurants while cosplaying. Imagine Christmas at Times Square, that level of business and mass of people, but each block is filled with electronics, anime, manga, vending machines, slot machines or video games.

I walked into one store and it was a retro game store that had everything from Play Station One all the way back to systems predating the original Nintendo and Sega systems. They had row after row, after row of little vending machines that spit out toys, buttons, or other charms from famous anime series like Gundam Wing and Sword Art Online. I cannot even begin to express how easy it is to get lost peeking down a side street.

I would be remiss if I did not add one other thing. Today was the first real authentic meals we bought while in Tokyo, as well as the first time we had to order something. And wow was that intimidating. In the morning, we walked across the street and bought rice balls wrapped in seaweed. Luckily, we picked vegetable, tuna, and bean paste. I survived another day. Earlier I may have mentioned that certain parts of town have a lot of vending machines. Well, some restaurants do to, and it's a godsend. We walked into the restaurant the guy pointed at a vending machine. That machine prints out a ticket for what we want to order. None of it was English by the way, so we had to match the picture and words from the menu to the Japanese on the vending machine. All intuitive and you pay at the vending machine, then you just hand the tickets over. Within minutes you have a hot steaming bowl of soup and noodles. The food was better than anything similar State side and cheaper too. In all honest, I am going to eat on average better, healthier and for less per day than what I usually do driving up and down New Jersey.

Well I am exhausted after a long day, with only 3 more left to explore with Tokyo I need to get some rest so I can hit the town. Tomorrow, Sword Museum!

 

Time Traveler

Doctor's Log 11-11-2016

Friday- Tokyo, Japan (Shinjuku District)  9:30pm

 

 

            After a long day of traveling through time, I find myself in an Air BnB in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo. The room is small, nothing fancy but the location more than makes up for that and honestly I have been in smaller hotels in Canada. Visually I can only compare where we are staying to spots in Toronto or Manhattan. Places where if you walk down the block your surrounded by skyscrapers, restaurants, and pubs.

            During that last flight I kept getting woken up. Seriously the flight attendants would bump into me and wake me up every time I started dozing off. Some guy was pacing up and down the lanes as well. I don't know if he was paranoid about being on planes, or just knew something I didn't know about surviving long flights. With everyone else's pacing I never really got any sleep on the flight from Toronto to Tokyo. Couple that with my excitement for my first real trip overseas and I have been up for well over 25 hours.  

            For the most part the landing was uneventful, but as soon as I got off the plane that sense of being a foreigner (an outsider) kicked in even more. In customs they had what I first mistook as a fingerprint scanner, but was in fact to see if I had an elevated body temperature or other flu like symptoms. This was a little disconcerting since some of the Japanese people around me started wearing face masks.  Seeing the face masks created an uneasiness which only built up more once we got on our first train.

WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WE ARE IN FOR

WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WE ARE IN FOR

            Oh man, my first taste of the beautiful nightmare that is Japan Rail (JR) and their Passmo cards. Usually I will sometimes judge a city based on its public transportation but Japan is in its own league. Nothing compares to Shinjuku Station at rush hour, I've heard it called the busiest train station in the world and after firsthand experience I believe it. Wearing a backpack and carting around our luggage I have never been crushed by such a large living mass of people in my life. Nothing, not even Manhattan's Time Square near Christmas time compares. I was completely surrounded, no breathing room, waves of people crashed into me at the slightest jostle. People poked and pushed their way through me in order to get on or off the train. If every trip in the subway system is going to be like this I don't know what I will do. To make matters worse we had a problem with our rail passes when transferring from the airport train line to the the JR line. This issue was further complicated by our inability to find someone who could explain what was wrong. More to come, but I need sleep my body demands it.

            I'm not going to lie, I am much more nervous and intimidated now, and it's not even the first real day.

 

So it begins...

 

Doctors Blog  11-10-2016

Thursday - Toronto, Canada 12:49pm

 

In our attempt to add new content to our website we thought I should blog my first trip to Japan. At the moment I am waiting to board my second plane. The first flight was from Newark to Toronto , this next one will be Toronto to Tokyo. Now for the first time since planning this whole trip with my wife, I am beginning to get nervous. In 15hrs I will be in a country where I know next to nothing of the language. I haven't even watched any new Anime series as of late. As I sit next to the gate for the flight this notion becomes even more clear, women around us are speaking Japanese.

 

 

With the United States Presidential election having just passed I've had a lot to think about. For not the last time, I wonder what a Trump President means for me and my international travels. What it means to be an American and yet still feel like someone or something other. I will probably write again once we settle in our Airbnb. 

 

Welcome to the Dr'.s Blog

The Golden Temple in Kyoto Japan

A wild Dr. B has appeared!

Welcome to the Doctor's Blog, or the many misadventures of Dr. B in Japan. Over the last couple months we at Degrees of Gaming knew that I would be taking a trip overseas. For all of us it was a big deal since we have talked about one of , or the group of us flying out there. So it was decided that not only should we talk about it on the cast, but write about it, and take some pictures to boot. I'm not going to lie, this trip had some ups and downs, and at times was anxiety inducing. I am hoping that my friends, family, and listeners to Our Personal Interests enjoy some of my stories from afar.