Monday, December 30, 2013

Kidd's Top 3 Tokyo Spots (Part 1 of 2)

First things first, a disclaimer - the title does not necessarily mean that these are my ultimate favorite spots in Tokyo, I can't really decide on that one yet when I haven't fully explored the metropolis, but when I decided to go to Tokyo this year, I immediately identified 3 destinations essential for my first visit. There are many places that I want to go to, but given the time and financial restriction that I had, I thought of 3 places that I MUST set my feet on at all cost. You might have thought that it would have been easier if I came up with a title that would describe the context of this post but the creative juice isn't really pouring right now, thus, a disclaimer.

Anyway, on to my top 3...

Tokyo Tower

 photo DSC00178_zpsec568840.jpg
Tokyo Tower behind Zojoji Temple

I don't really want to start with negative stuff, but this needs to get out of the way. During my research, I've read a lot of bad reviews about Tokyo Tower. It's not because the place sucks, but because going in the observatory is expensive (JPY820 on the first deck and additional JPY600 on the second deck), and they are pretty reasonable (the reviews). I mean why would you spend that much when you can actually get a bird's eye view of the city at no cost. There are skyscrapers with open-to-public observatory deck for FREE. But, I'm no ordinary traveler, I don't just visit a site for it's beauty and historical importance. I also take pop culture references into consideration. Huge consideration, I must say. The main reason I wanted to go there was because I'm a huge fan of CLAMP and we all know that Tokyo Tower plays a significant role (landmark that is) not only on many works of CLAMP but other famous anime and manga like Please Save My Earth and Sailormoon, plus, Always Sanchome no Yuhi is one of my favorite films, there's no way I'm gonna miss it just because some budget conscious tourists think it's not worth the buck. Seeing it in my favorite movies and anime made me want to go there and recreate similar scenes. I also see Tokyo Tower as a symbol of the Japan's impressive rise to power after the devastation of World War II. It's just one of the many things I really admire about Japanese people.

 photo DSC00255_zpsb82d287d.jpg
Always Sanchome No Yuhi is a nostalgic film about life at the time Tokyo Tower is being built

 photo DSC00254_zps51e10bb4.jpg
Diorama display of the setting of Always Sanchome No Yuhi

There are lots of attractions inside the Tokyo Tower, at the base of the tower is a four-story building at the called Foot Town. There's an aquarium, wax museum, hologram gallery, and more. They have separate admission fees so I didn't try them. I only get to see souvenir shops and nothing really appealed to me. In the main observatory, there's a cafe, souvenir shop, a stage for musical performance with a DJ and you can request songs too, and a Shinto shrine. I tried the soft ice cream at the Cafe because I remember Sakura Kinimoto and friends having that when they went to Tokyo Tower. It's not bad, but I don't find it spectacular either.

Collaboration between Tokyo's night scene and music

Now let's talk about how I feel about my overall experience. Let me just stress the fact that I love Tokyo Tower. It's an impressive structure and I really think one must not miss it when going to Tokyo. But some things were missing and they could have made my first visit a perfect experience.  For one thing, there was an ongoing maintenance work. When the tower lights finally lit up, there was a portion unlit, so from afar, it looked like some sort of a gap. It kinda disappointed me.

 photo DSC02376_zps17caf1d6.jpg
Beautiful but the gap was a disappointment

Another thing is, The place is a popular spot for couples. Being single doesn't really bother me, but sometimes, when I go to places that are obviously invaded by couples, I can't help feeling a little bit out of place and lonely. When I hopped in the elevator on the way up, I was accompanied by 4 couples, each pair was occupying each corner of the elevator, while I was in the middle all alone. At the observatory, seeing the city night lights shine like stars, again I can't help but think how romantic it would be to watch it with someone special.

 photo DSC00229_zps84753f81.jpg

 photo DSC00223_zpsc4b3d343.jpg
A Shinto Shrine inside the main observatory is said to be responsive to fulfillment of love and school success

But those things I mentioned were minor stuff. I will definitely definitely go back to Tokyo Tower someday. I would love to see it again in daytime and fully illuminated at night time. I'll have to think twice if I'd go inside the Foot Town and the observatory again. Maybe when I have more pocket money or if I have someone special with me hehehe.

 photo DSC00266_zps81e108e2.jpg
Tokyo Tower is celebrating its 55th year

Mount Fuji

Another disclaimer, Mt. Fuji is not really located in Tokyo, it lies about 100 km southwest of Tokyo, but it's part of my "Tokyo trip" and it is visible in the city on clear days. Now here's another huge symbol of Japan. I anticipated Mt. Fuji just as I anticipated Mt. Mayon last year. I kinda think of them like a pair of maternal twin sisters. I booked a day tour to Mt. Fuji through Japan's largest travel agency JTB. The package I got included a stop at Oshino Hakkai, Shiraito Falls and Shengen Taisha Shrine. This is the nature leg of my trip, I was really excited for this one, unfortunately, Typhoon Wipha made a landfall the same day my Mt. Fuji tour took place, it rained all day so it didn't turned out the way I anticipated it to be. Funny how I imagined Mt. Mayon to be Mt. Fuji when I was in Albay, but looking at the clearest image I got of Mt. Fuji, one can easily mistake it for the other. I wanted to see it with an ice cap, but the weather betrayed me.
 photo DSC00360_zps0f1102cd.jpg
Summit view from Fifth Station

 photo DSC00413_zps7bb1a7a0.jpg
The clearest picture I got

Mt. Fuji is divided into 10 stations, with the 10th station being the highest. The tourist buses can only go as far as fifth station. Climbers can go further but climbing season is only on summer (July-August) due to severe cold weather. At that time, the temperature in 5th station was 2°C, it may not be so much for some, but for someone living in a tropical country, that is COLD (the coldest I've ever been, in fact). Our tour guide, Emiko-san, told us, that if somebody questions us for claiming of having been to Mt. Fuji, we can always show our picture with the marker, and in my case, this is it:

 photo DSC00364_zps1a0fd3c6.jpg

I may have not see Fujisan in its full glory, but I did get to enjoy it in other aspects. Ever wonder where the melted snow cap goes? Of course it goes down in all places and it is beautifully laid.

Oshino Hakkai is a set of (8) pristine fresh water springs of melted snow that has sunk into the ground over long years. It was absolutely gorgeous. A tranquil ambiance dominated the rain, the thatched roof farmhouses were lovely. A fine weather would have made a perfect experience.

 photo DSC00387_zps03bda0f9.jpg

 photo DSC00393_zps4b62fb8b.jpg

 photo DSC00378_zpsac857a07.jpg

 photo DSC00401_zpsf9cc3b1f.jpg
With Claire, a British woman who was traveling alone, some of my pics on the tour was taken by her

Another snowmelt fed site is the Shiraito Falls. It is said to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls of Japan. It is 200 m wide and 20 m tall. I love waterfalls, the bigger the better. I crave the idea of swimming in cold water, if only I could take a dip. But it's a protected area, I think they don't allow allow people to swim there.

 photo DSC00421_zpsfa9a854e.jpg

 photo DSC00418_zps3b4420e7.jpg

 photo DSC02406_zpsdaa6ff4c.jpg

The last leg of the my Fujisan tour touched the religious aspect of the mountain. The Sengen Taisha shrine deifies Mt. Fuji itself, and its okumiya, or "inner shrine", is located at the very peak of the mountain. The main shrine is a registered important cultural property.

 photo DSC02412_zps49fc9827.jpg

 photo DSC02415_zpsb82e6967.jpg
Omikuji tied in a wire surrounding a Sakura tree to repel bad fortunes

Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha is located in Fujinomiya City in the southwestern foothills of Mount Fuji. Originally built over 1000 years ago for the protection from volcanic eruptions, it has become the region's most important shrine and the head shrine of over 1300 Sengen and Asama shrines (a type of Shinto Shrine centered on the worship of the god of volcanoes) nationwide. The grounds has about 500 Sakura trees and is a popular hanami spot during spring. I could have taken better pictures but I was already tired at the time and the weather started to intensify, also my camera's battery got drained so I switched to my phonecam, most of my pictures here are really not blogpost-material, but heck!

 photo DSC02409_zps1561142c.jpg

 photo DSC02423_zps433b78cf.jpg

 photo DSC02429_zps41e00c76.jpg
Meet Yuu-chan, a very cute Akita dog, I couldn't resist

At the end of this tour, Claire asked me if I think I wasn't meant to see Mt. Fuji, all I said was, "I think I am meant to go back". Oh I will definitely go back, maybe I'll try another season, spring perhaps. I am not one with you yet Fujisan!

To be continued...

No comments: