When I lived here in Japan the first time, I worked in a suburb of Tokyo called Akasaka Mitsuke. A couple of years after I left, the company I worked for went bankrupt (I am sure it had a lot to do with their choice of logo, a pink rabbit with huge ears and a beak-like mouth). A lot of teachers and students had a lot of problems as a result of this, but luckily I was not around to experience any hardship. In two visits to Japan since, and after six weeks of living here again, I had not been back to Akasaka Mitsuke. Last Sunday night, I decided I would stop there on my way home from work (it is on the same train line that I use now) and have a look to see how much had changed. The first thing I noticed after getting out of the station is the area has a Hooters restaurant now (after I move away from the neighbourhood, they choose to open it!!). The biggest change was that my old school no longer exists. The building now has a dental clinic where the school used to be, on the first floor (or second floor for my North American and Japanese readers) and a convenience store on the ground floor (first floor).
I wandered around the neighbourhood for about half an hour and found a few of my favourite restaurants were still there, but a fair bit had changed (the girls who wait at the intersections for men to walk past tempting them with a "sexii massagii were still there).
Here is a shot looking down the street my school was on:
I am glad that I did stop in, and will probably go back again now, it did satisfy any curiosities that I did have.
A few days ago, I double checked on the location of Ameyoko-cho, the place that I wanted to find two weeks ago and discovered that I had gotten off the train at completely the wrong station, so armed with the correct information and a photo of the location from google maps I met up with my friend Daniel again and we set forth again for Ameyoko-cho. After getting off the train at the right station, we found it very quickly.
A bit of history about Ameyoko-cho as it is quite a historical area. Ameyoko-cho literally means "candy shop alley "It was one of the few places that survived the Tokyo firebombing at the end of WWII and as a result, pretty much all of the buildings are the ones that were there at the end of the war. Soon after the war finished the area became home to one of Tokyo's black markets. American soldiers could be found here selling candy to the locals, and from that came it's name. Now it is a thriving, bustling lively shopping street with shops and stalls selling everything from clothing and shoes to weird and exciting food from Japan, Korea, and China. Shop vendors shout to people passing by, letting them know what they are selling, how cheap it is, and how delicious their food is in order to tempt them into buying something. It really is a vibrant area that was pretty crowded when I was there on Thursday, and is jam packed on the weekend days!
Daniel enjoys playing UFO catcher games and today he won a big Panda bear soft toy.
As we were walking out of the shop, two young girls looked at Daniel with a mix of utter awe and envy as he carried his hard earned prize with him.
After walking around reminiscing enjoying the atmosphere of Ameyoko-cho again, I bought some kim chi (korean spicy pickled vegetables) and Daniel and I made our way out of Ameyoko-cho and across the street to Ueno park. This time of year is a celebrated time of year as it is Hanami time, cherry blossom time. The cherry blossom period only lasts for a short time and came a little earlier than usual this year because of the warm weather that arrived early. There are many famous places to view the cherry blossoms, and a lot of people have Hanami parties under the cherry blossom trees with friends or co-workers.
There is a lake near the park with a temple nearby so we wandered over there to have a look and a bite to eat.
You probably noticed the sign in the lake there, and wondered as I did what it says.
It had a very stern looking seagull sitting on it, so I took a photo so I could ask a Japanese friend what it said. I was told it says "No fishing". I assume the seagull was there enforcing the rule.
A few photos of the temple. Another one of those "lucky" incense smoking things that helps you to not lose your hair......
We sat down to have a bite to eat and we were talking and I noticed a Japanese couple (probably in their late 30's) walking toward us. About 2 metres away from us, the lady stopped and was staring at Daniel's panda that he had won playing the UFO catcher. She said "sugoi, kawaii!" (great, cute!) and I gave her a smile as she and her husband walked on. Daniel hadn't noticed this so I told him what had happened and he told me I should have said something because he didn't really want it and would have given it to her. So we chased them down and Daniel (whose Japanese is pretty good) explained to her what I had told him, and he then gave her the Panda. You should have seen the look on her face, she was so happy! She then did something completely unexpected. Public displays of affection are not common at all in Japan, and just don't exist between people who don't know each other, especially toward a foreigner. She stepped up and gave Daniel a huge hug, in the middle of the Park!! Daniel and I are big believers in a concept called "ichi-go ichi-e" which literally means "one time, one meeting" a really great concept in Japan that says you may only meet a person once in your lifetime, so you should make a good impression of yourself so they remember you. This happened to me at the airport when I arrived (you may remember me writing about it) when the Japanese guy helped me with my luggage to the next terminal where I was to pick up the sim card for my phone. Daniel had just performed ichi-go ichi-e!
We then headed off home and I stopped to have a beer with another friend Charlie to finish off another great day in Tokyo.
That's it for this week, see you again next week for another update.
P.S. I might not be able to take any video footage for a little while. I think i have left my video camera charger in Australia and the battery is flat!