Distractions, reflections

David Ing, at large … Sometimes, my mind wanders

2011/03/01-09 Harajuku, Aoyama, Enoshima, Kamakura, Yokohama, Mizonokuchi

Since Tokyo is so many time zones from home, I arrive a few days and go sightseeing to beat jet lag.  On my fifth visit to Japan, I was the first of our meeting to arrive, with the group gradually gaining mass.  I checked into the usual hotel, in an high rise tower overlooking the tracks by Tamachi station.

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On a mission from DY, my first destination was Harajuku.  I went looking for crafting supplies at the Daiso (100 yen) store.

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The products aren’t made in Japan, but the variety is wider than in other branches internationally.

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A few blocks further east, the Design Festa Gallery changes its installations rapidly, with emerging artists showing their work for nominal costs.

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The variety of work includes paintings, photographs and sculpture by mostly Japanese artists.

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While most rooms are barely large enough for an overnight stay — Design Festa also offers artists accommodations from late evening to early morning, when the gallery is closed — this week featured a wall where artists could claim an 80 x 80 cm display space.

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While taking the train to the next museum might have been more direct, my maps suggested continuing east for a short walk would get me there.  This route led through the fashionable Cat Street.

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In Jingumae, I found a major shopping street, with famous brand names, as well as the Viacom studios.

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When I reached Meiji Jingugaien Park, I figured out that I was headed the wrong direction.

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I found some English-speaking clerks in two stores, and got directions to the Watari-Um building.  The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art houses an extremely small collection of very famous international-class works.  It took more time for me to find the museum than to view its contents.

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Walking to the nearest train station, I noticed that Aoyama has many striking architectural features, as well as shops targeted at wealthy Japanese.

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To complete my shopping mission for DY, I visited the Itoya store on Ginza.

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By the next morning, Gary, Teri and Mary had arrived.  I had planned a full day trip out of the city.  We took the less direct route via Ofuna, so that we could experience riding the Shonan monorail, one of four suspended railways in the world.

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The cars of the monorail sway when rounding a curve.

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The monorail station at Enoshima terminates on the side of the village away from the sea.

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Passing by everyday village shops, we found the Benten Bashi (bridge) leading to the island.

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On the island of Enoshima, a gate channels visitors up past a series of souvenir shops.

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A torii marks the entrance to steps up to the top of the mountain.  For speed, we chose to pay the small fee to use the escalators.

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At the first level, the Hetsunomiya shrine is the first of three on the island.

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After the second escalator up, we passed by the Nakatasunomiya shrine.

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From that level, there’s a great view north of the marina.

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Up a third escalator to the summit, and there’s a view south of the sea.

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While the escalators got us to the top of the island, it’s a long walk across the summit, and then down to far shore to the caves.

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There’s a more modern building guarded by two red statues.

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On the west side of the island is the third temple, Okutsunomiya (the heart shrine).

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There aren’t escalators on the west side of the island, to get to sea level.

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The walk on the south shore is smoothly paved, with a high rail.

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Inside the Enoshima Iwaya Caves, some crystals are considered sacred.

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The long walk back across the island seemed shorter with a lunch break for sushi.  Returning east towards Tokyo by a different route, we rode the Enoden (Enoshima Electric Railway) to Kamakura.

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The station at Hase, on the west side of Kamakura, is closer to the temples.

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The Hasedera temple is the primary attraction in the area.

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Down the road is Kotoku-in, the Great Buddha of Kamakura.

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We were watching the clock, as we had agreed to meet Jennifer in Yokohama.  Riding the train, we accidentally got on the ladies car, but enforcement is only in effect during rush hour.

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Yokohama is a modern city, rebuilt first by after an earthquake and then after bombing during WWII.  We met Jennifer at the Nihon Odori station, and then walked around the neighbourhood.

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The Yokohama Silk Museum was closed, but the shops downstairs were still open.

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We walked down to the waterfront.  The  Osanbashi Yokohama International Passenger Terminal didn’t have any ocean liners docked.

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By the seaside, a long paved promenade marks the edge of Yamashita koen park.

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The Yokohama Customs (Queen’s) Tower is a landmark for the port.

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The Red Brick Warehouse was a customs building on the waterfront that has been converted into a shopping mall.

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We walked back to Yokohama Chinatown as the sun set.  It’s the largest Chinatown in Asia, with a cleanliness that is more Japanese than Chinese.  We found dinner prices at the level of western restaurants in Japan, rather than the cheap Chinese option in other locales to which we’ve become accustomed.

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After a full day meeting in Ookayama on the Friday, Jim suggested that we might have a shorter day on Saturday.  For a quick lunch, we agreed to experience a ramen restaurant on the main street of Ookayama, east of the university.

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Jim described the menu options on the vending machine, and we deposited coins for ticket to order from the cook.  Jim suggested that we not drink too much of the broth, as the salt content is high.

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We were led, by train to Mizonokuchi, and by bus to a traditional Japanese bathhouse.  Men and women follow different paths inside.  The ladies were less comfortable with the rituals of communal bathing, but then all joined in to the unique experience.  I found the water too hot, and am thus not inclined to go again.

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On the free evening with the larger meeting group, we walked around Shinjuku.  We browsed the technology at Bic Camera, but weren’t in the buying mood.

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In a supermarket, we were again impressed by the quality — and price — of melons.

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The formal meeting closed with an evening in a Jiyugaoka pub.

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After the many courses in the izakaya style, I had the opportunity to try a unique Japanese dessert:  cold arrowroot noodles with brown sugar syrup.

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On the last day, since my flight from Narita to Toronto leaves around 5 p.m., there’s a half-day opportunity for last-minute sightseeing.  Gary and Teri and I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo for a quick look.  The installation of the 2005 Rocking Mammoth by Kenji Yanobe was up front.

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The central atrium of the museum was covered by a spider web installation.

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On the route back to the hotel, we stopped by the Carne Station Ginza for a Korean grill buffet.  The meats and vegetables are a nice change after a week of Japanese-oriented cuisine.

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I caught the connecting trains to Narita Airport, and flew back to Toronto.  To make the Resilience 2011 conference in Phoenix, I was home for less than 24 hours before getting on a plane connecting through LAX.  When I arrived in Phoenix, I heard on the radio about the tsunami in Japan, leading to power outages from nuclear accidents.  I was less than 48 hours away from having been caught in that tragedy.  This made the tsunami warning signs that we had seen on the Enoshima coast less funny.

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[See the Tamachi-Takashita album of 16 webphotos (with a slideshow option)]

[See the Design Festa album of 26 webphotos (with a slideshow option)]

[See the Aoyama-Watari-Ginza album of 27 webphotos (with a slideshow option)]

[See the Ginza album of 9 webphotos (with a slideshow option)]

[See the Enoshima album of 135 webphotos (with a slideshow option)]

[See the Kamakura album of 18 webphotos (with a slideshow option)]

[See the Yokohama album of 18 webphotos (with a slideshow option)]

[See the Ookayama album of 28 webphotos (with a slideshow option)]

[See the Mizonokuchi album of 6 webphotos (with a slideshow option)]

[See the Shinjuku album of 3 webphotos (with a slideshow option)]

[See the Jiyugaoka album of 5 webphotos (with a slideshow option)]

[See the Contemporary Tokyo album of 7 webphotos (with a slideshow option)]

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