Recently I had the opportunity to catch up with some old friends here, some of my former students. We organised to meet at the nearest train station to where I work and went to a nearby Izakaya. It was so good to see them again, as they all were such an important part of why I enjoyed my time here the first time, and that in itself was a motivating factor for me to come back again. We shared some laughs, caught up with what has been happening over the last 8 and a half years, what is happening now, and shared a lot more laughs. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided it would be a monthly happening now, the next one scheduled for the end of this month, a Hanami (cherry blossom) party! Looking forward to that, but I managed to get one of the waitresses to take a photo of us:
Yesterday I also caught up with another couple of friends and former students. One was so nervous about meeting me as she had stopped studying English and was worried that she wouldn't remember how to speak, but as I said to them, I am grateful that they speak anything to me in English as my Japanese is nowhere near good enough to have a conversation! I told her not to worry as I could understand her perfectly. She then noted that "My English is like a quiz!". I don't know, but anyone who can say that has a pretty good grasp of English!!
Unfortunately we forgot to have a photo taken of us, but after catching up for lunch (which was just as much fun as the previous one!) we headed toward the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building as they have an observatory up pretty high. We were a little unlucky with the view as the prevailing winds at the moment are blowing a heap of sand from the Chinese deserts and smog form their cities across the sea and over Japan. It is a phenomenon that happens at this time each year, but I took some photos so you could get a bit of an idea of what downtown Tokyo looks like.
And in the middle of downtown Tokyo:
a massive park!
That interesting looking building in the left hand side background is the Tokyo School of Design which is why it looks a bit artistic I guess.
So today I had another day off and decided to head to a place in Tokyo called Odaiba. Odaiba is an artificial island in Tokyo Bay. It was built in 1853 as one of six defensive posts to defend Tokyo (or Edo as it was called then) from attack by sea. The biggest concern at the time was from an American called Admiral Matthew Perry who had landed at nearby Yokohama the same year demanded that Japan start trading with the US. In 1990 the then Governor of Tokyo decided to develop the island into a showcase for futuristic living and they planned for the area to eventually house over 100,000 people. Development kind of ground to a halt in about 1996 as the full affects of the Japanese economy bubble bursting took hold and a lot of the companies involved in the development went bankrupt. In the late 1990's action re-commenced and it is now a bustling hive of offices, large shopping malls, apartment blocks and varied attractions that encourages a lot of Tokyo residents to cross the Bay on their days off and enjoy themselves.
One of the first places I went to was a man-made beach, complete with beautiful white sand,
and a windsurfer (if you can see him in the picture...
That bridge there is called the Rainbow Bridge and is what is used to get from the Tokyo across the bay to Odaiba. There is an interesting story about that bridge that I will remember to tell you a bit later.
Anyway, it was a warm day, the sand felt great beneath my feet and I was just about to strip off and go for a swim when I see this:
Now just in case you want to ignore the warning about swimming, they have a warning about not having open flames anywhere near the water!! If that isn't enough to stop anyone from swimming there, then they deserve whatever exotic rashes they get!
A little bit later on I see a sight that most people would think you would only see in New York:
Yes, Tokyo has it's own replica of the Statue of Liberty. Just in case any of you thought that I was just making up all of this blog and hadn't really left Australia and I was finding these pictures on the net......
Yep, it is me!
There are a few uniquely designed building at Odaiba, none of which is more unique than this one:
This building is the head office of one of the TV stations here. I don't know why the ball is there or what purpose it serves. I tried to find out, but even Wikipedia couldn't give me the answer.
I moved on from here and went to one of the many large shopping malls. I was getting a bit hungry at this time so I hunted down a food court.
I went to the one right over in the back, with gold letters on black background. The lady who served me was lovely and I uttered one word of Japanese to her and she immediately complimented me on my great Japanese and asked where I was from and what I was doing in Tokyo. I was able to get out a few more words of Japanese (I don't know if my further attempts to speak in Japanese changed her mind at all) and then went and sat down with my steaming bowl of soup noodles and ate a thoroughly delicious meal!
I don't know if you can make out the writing on the sheet of seaweed at the back of the bowl, but it says "thank you" in about five or six different languages.
Nearby, Toyota has a showroom and I wandered in to take a look. It was mostly just cars but they did have a couple of cool things. The first one was a car simulator based on the Gran Turismo 5 game. I burned my way around the track and was complimented on my driving abilities even though if it was a real car I had been driving, I would have been extricating myself from a smoking pile of scrap metal! I moved on to the next interesting exhibit:
It was a driving simulator that utilises Toyota's new crash avoidance systems. In a nutshell, it gives an audible warning when danger is approaching (ice on the road, a stationary vehicle or an oncoming vehicle if you happen to be driving on the wrong side of the road like I was..... If there is no reaction from the driver, the brakes will start being applied automatically and the seat belt will tighten in anticipation of a collision, and to try and minimalise the damage to both car and driver. At the end of my drive, the driver was relatively unscathed, but the same could not be said for my vehicle...... I walked away with more compliments about my great driving.
I made my way out of the Toyota showroom and into another shopping mall. The interior of this one was very classic Italian in it's look.
Fascinating place this one, the architecture was great! I left this place and went for a bit more of a walk and saw a large group of people milling around and headed over to find out what the attraction was.
At first I thought it was Optimus Prime, or another of the Transformers but it is actually from a Japanese animation series. I didn't want to get too close, it looked serious!
I headed back over toward the beach area and got a better photo of the Rainbow Bridge.
So the story about the Rainbow Bridge. A number of years ago, before I lived here previously, a man hijacked a Boeing 747 that had just taken off from nearby Haneda airport, swung the plane around and started lining it up for an attempt to fly under the bridge!! Luckily for all concerned, as he was focused on his task, the flight crew were able to overpower him and regain control of the plane before any damage was done. Now, a highly trained pilot could probably squeeze a Jumbo jet under the plane, but a random crazy man? Definitely not!
It was getting close to 8pm by this time, so I went looking for a place to have dinner then walked outside to see the city of Tokyo lit up and did a quick swing around with the video camera so you could get an idea of what the city looks like at night. Here is the link to the video on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KnrmfxK_W0&feature=youtu.be
Thanks again for having a read.
See you next week with another update! Bye.