Tag Archives: with

Purikura at Ueno

After leaving Asakusa, we got the train to the nearby station of Ueno. Ueno is one of the main points of Tokyo, probably one of the most important. This is because it is sited on one of the main corners of Tokyo on the train line that goes round like a circle.

At first Ueno seemed a bit like Camden Town in London, because it has a market along the rail bridge, but still Tokyo style. Mari and I didn’t stay long at Ueno and because it was already getting late and we still have to go for dinner, she took me straight to an entertainment shop. Once inside the shop we went straight to a Japanese style photo boot. That photo boot is not one of the classic photo boots that are used to take classic photos, such as passport photos, but it is like being inside a photo-shop machine.

We had to stand inside the photo boot and there was a screen with a lot of different options and everything was in Japanese, and because at the time I could only read Hiragana, some Katakana characters and my Japanese was limited only to few words, I really couldn’t understand anything of what was written. Anyway, we put around 500 Yen into the machine and then she started playing around with the screen by choosing different options and then we had to pose to take photos. Mari did everything and I just had to pose when she told me to.

The machine started taking photos very quickly, every few seconds. I can’t remember how many photos the machine took, but they were quite a lot.

After taking all those photos, we came out from the machine and she started playing around with another screen attached on the outside of that photo boot. With a special pen that can be read by the screen we started decorating the photos and we started writing few things on the photos in different colours. That machine was really powerful. When finished to decorate the photos, she had to enter on the screen her phone email address. Then we waited few seconds and a set of different photos came out from the machine in the same way a normal photo boot does. Then she also received an email with the photos taken. We cut the set of photos, I took some and she took others and then we left to the next destination.

Asakusa: Beauty of Sensōji Temple

While we were leaving Tsukiji Fish Market area she suggested to go to Asakusa (Pronounced Asaksa). For me anyway it didn’t matter where we were going to because I was sure that was going to be a surprised, because as I said in a previous post (see First Time in Akihabara (With Mari) – First Day in Japan), I didn’t know anything about Tokyo.

As soon as we arrived at Asakusa, Mari took me to see Sensōji Temple. Inside the entrance there were many traditional Japanese food stalls in both rows of the way towards the temple. All those food stalls gave me an impression of real Japanese culture that have been passed through generations and generations.

Food Stalls

The food stalls impressed me a lot for different reasons. One of the reasons was because they all looked very colorful. Another reason was because they gave me the impression that I really was in Japan, in fact, they really looked very Japanese with all the Japanese characters written above the food stalls. Another reason was because there were so many people walking along the way and stopping to buy some of the delicacies that they were selling. Another reason was because there were many girls (18-20 years old about, maybe more or maybe less) that were selling food in most of the food stalls.

Each food stall was selling different food, much different from the food stalls found in UK or in the Western countries in general. I was so glad to be there in that country that I loved for so many years, even though I had never been there before. The food that the food stalls were selling was made fresh on the spot. Some of them selling chicken such as yakitori, others selling sweets made with rice and others were selling other kinds of food.

I remember that at the end of the stalls there was a gate with two paper made (I don’t know how to call them) balls that were hanging from the ceiling (one of them is part of the background photo of the blog, also see below), one in each side, they were red with white stripes with written something in Kanji and Katakana characters. The pathway was in the middle. I decided to took photos because they looked so beautiful and interesting.

SAMSUNG
The Paper Balls (I don’t know how to call them)

After the gates there was a square with a big open temple at the end and a tall pagoda on the left. I really loved that place because it looked so traditionally Japanese, I would love to go there every day because it would relax me and would make my heart warmer (like I was feeling at that moment).

SAMSUNG
Asakusa Temple from outside
SAMSUNG
Asakusa Temple (View from Corner)
SAMSUNG
Me in front of Asakusa Temple

When I reached the temple I decided to go inside to have a look. As I can remember, I think I wasn’t allowed to enter properly inside the temple. Anyway, I remember that I took photos of the temple inside and at the ceiling. Then I went to have a walk around. The overall environment is to beautiful. I took the photo at the pagoda near the temple, at the trees and at everything that was surrounding the temple.

After that we decided to leave and grab a coffee at Starbucks. I didn’t really want to go to Starbucks, I had preferred go to a Japanese style cafe’ rather than going to Starbucks, we just went there because I needed internet and I knew that Starbucks would have provided it. While we were going to look for a Starbucks, we had to go through an arcade of shops. At first we couldn’t find it and then I saw a McDonald and I said to Mari:

– Look, there is a McDonald, if a McDonald is there it means that Starbucks should be nearby.

I was right, Starbucks was like 30 seconds away just round the corner and across the road. However, that Starbucks provided wi-fi only to Softbank customers (Japanese mobile phone provider), however, we had already spent the money for the coffee so we stayed there for a little while.

After leaving, near the Starbucks I saw a statue of a man in Kimono  in pose and I could see Tokyo Sky Tree not far away, then decided to take a photo with the man in Kimono and giving him a high 5. Then we left to the next next place…..)

Tsukiji Fish Market

As soon as I woke up and had a shower at the Ryokan after my first night in Tokyo, I went down the stairs at the reception. The lady that could speak at least 3 languages greeted me and presented me with the breakfast before going to meet Mari again. I really cannot remember what I had for breakfast because I am writing this post one 1 1/2 years after the experience. Anyway, after the breakfast I picked up my ruck sack and left the Ryokan greeting the lady.

While I was waiting for Mari at Yotsuya station, I noticed that the few western tourists (or residents) were wearing the same white safari hat, I was wondering why, probably because of the sun (it was really hot in Japan those days) but I decided not to wear anything like that and be myself with my Oakley shades, t-shirt and Jeans.

After Mari arrived, we headed to Tsukiji. Tsukiji is famous because there is the biggest wish market in the world, even though I just heard that few months ago they shut it down and moved it somewhere else. As soon as we arrived we found that the market was closed, so we decided to ask around why it was closed. They said because Sunday is the only day that the fish market is closed.

However, we didn’t leave the area. We decided to stay there and go to a restaurant to eat some sushi and sashimi. While we were walking to find a restaurant, we also realised that in that area also the most of the restaurants are closed, however we still managed to find one, and according to Mari, that restaurant is actually quite popular.

We entered the restaurant, Mari asked me if it was OK to sit at the counter and I answered that was fine to me. Then we looked at the menu before deciding what to order. While deciding, Mari told me that she couldn’t eat some of the fish because she doesn’t like them, I don’t have any of those problems and I will tell in a blog I will write down in the future what fish I had when I went to Osaka and if I will remember I will do a link from here to there. Anyway, we both decided to order sashimi.

When the sashimi came to the counter where we were sitting, the sashimi was just looking amazing. I really loved looking at the sashimi because it looked so good and so colourful so I decided to take a photo at the sashimi. I really would had loved to eat that sashimi all day long and everyday (this is what I was thinking before eating it). Both of the sashimi dishes ordered were on a bed of rice.

When I started eating it, I realised how good it actually was. It was so tasty and I really wanted to order more but I decided not to be greedy. So we just had one dish each. Anyway, the sashimi was not really cheap and we ended up paying 3000-4000 yen each (£17.50-£23.50 each or $29-$39). I wanted to save money because I might need them to do something else.

After eating we left the restaurant and took a photo outside together in front of the restaurant and kept the photo as a great memory. Then we left Tsukiji and headed to….(day 2 continue on the next post)…….

Second Day in Japan

Akihabara: The Electric Town

While walking around, Mari told me that Akihabara was also called the ‘Electric Town’ because there are a lot of shops which sell electrical stuff such as computers, phones, televisions and so on. In few words, it is an heaven for people interested in those things. Once we were walking, Mari showed me a big colorful building which sells electric stuff. From the outside, it looked like a building different from the standard building. This is because you could see the escalator path way from the outside that looks like a pipe. Something that seams come out from the video game ‘Super Mario Bros’. I do not know if the two main characters (Mario and Luigi) ever lived there, but one thing I realized was that the building surprised me.

Mari asked me if I wanted to have a look inside and so we did. On the ground floor they were selling phones. I was interested to buy a ‘pay-as-you-go’ phone because I knew that I would need it (11 months is a long period and I was planning to make some friends and having a phone would be very convenient to me to get in touch with them). Mari then told me that in Japan they do not sell pay-as-you-go phones and all the phones were with a contract, but we decided to go to the phones department to enquire about the options they were doing. We asked a man there and that man told us that they actually had two phones which are pay-as-you-go. They had one which cost ¥7,000 and another one which cost ¥10,000. The were not fancy phones, apart from calling and messaging it could also take low quality photos and get access to emails. They were not touch screen, but like a shell which when open there is a screen in the top part and a keyboard (not qwerty) in the bottom part, which included a button to access Yahoo! Mail and other buttons for few other functions. I did not buy it because I wanted to have time to think about it and at that point I had only few friends in Japan, all of them Japanese, Mari from Tokyo and Miki and her sister Chise from Nagoya. I had another friend, Noriko, from Kagoshima in the South of Kyushu, but she had been living in Canada for a while and married a Canadian guy and that was it. The phones in Japan differ from those found in the UK, they have a much wider selection of Japanese brands, such as Sharp Aquos, NEC, Toshiba as well as a wide selection of Sony. After looking at the phones we went to have a look around the store and I was surprised at the laptops because they look thicker and much heavier than those found in Europe. I do not know why they are like that, but it is interesting. We stayed in the store only for a short time before leaving to go to Tokyo Tower.

‘Meido Kissa’ experience

Kawaii!!!!!!!!!!

After we left the shop she asked me ‘Shall we go to a Maid Cafe’?’. I remembered she mentioned about the Maid Cafe’ when she came to London earlier in the week, I did a very brief research in London before heading to Japan but I did no go deep into the details because I wanted it to be a surprise. While we were walking on one of those streets of Akihabara we met a cute (‘kawaii‘ in Japanese) girl dressed as a maid and handing out leaflets about ‘Maidreamin‘ maid cafe’.

Then Mari asked me if I wanted to go there and I said that anywhere would be fine. That girl pointed where that maid cafe’ (or ‘Meido Kissa’ as Japanese call it, ‘Meido’ is how traditionally Japanese people pronounce English words by adding an ‘o’ at the end of each word and ‘Kissa’ is the short for ‘Kissaten’ that in Japanese means cafe’/coffee shop) was. It was just inside the building behind where that cute girl was standing. So we decided to head there.

Japanese Videogame/Manga

To get there we had to go through a short corridor and get the lift (or ‘elevator’ for American English or ‘erebeta’ for Japanese pronunciation) to the 4th floor. As soon as we arrived there I was surprised for two reasons. The first is that when we reached that floor with the lift there were no corridors or doors, just the erebeta’s door and the Meido Kissa was just there, the entrance of the Kissa was the erebeta’s door. Secondly, I felt very weird at  being at that place because it seamed like being inside a Japanese video game or a manga. The atmosphere inside was weird, I felt strange and I was wondering how can such places exist. This was just my first impression. As soon as we entered, a kawaii maid came to us and shown us where we could sit. The Meido Kissa was not big but had many people inside and all of them (or almost) were Japanese male customers.

Childish?

As soon as I went inside the Meido Kissa I realized that the girls were speaking with an accent that to me resembled how children talk, that made the experience even more weird and strange. After seated, a kawaii girl came with the menu on our table with different options and different set menus. The selection was not wide, they had three choices of food, three different kinds of cocktails, including one that is non-alcoholic, and the third option that included having a photo taken with one of the kawaii maids of my choice, a plastic folder with Maidreamin printed on it and something else which I forgot. We opted for the set menu. I had Japanese style rice omelette (omorice), one of the alcoholic cocktails and the photo. Mari instead had Japanese curry, alcoholic cocktail and the folder.

What am I saying? (Embarrassed)

When the food came, and given me the omorice, the Meido that was serving us came with two different kinds of sauce and she said to me that she was going to draw a picture on the omorice with the sauces. She did it in an entertaining way and she drew a kitty on my food. Then she said that we had to say a magic phrase (in Japanese of course, I didn’t have a clue what I was saying and if I was saying right) to make the food taste nicer. But we had to say it together otherwise it would not work. At that point I felt embarrassed but I played along because it felt funny and interesting.

Learning Experience

This place was probably the only place which I encountered culture shock throughout all my 11 months in Japan, but at the same time I found that experience as a part of learning about the Japanese culture. I did not dislike that adventure at all, I really found it very interesting and amusing at the same time, and also the way that the Meido were treating the costumers was just unbelievable, something that you cannot find anywhere else in the world outside of Japan.

Magic Cocktail

As for the cocktail, we had to say again the magic phrase. But at that point I was starting to get used to the experience. When we finished the meal and the drink, the Meido came with the folder, which Mari gave to me, and asked me to have a photo taken. They said that I could take the photo with two of the Meido of my choice, so I chose two of the most kawaii that were working there. We took a Polaroid photo together in a funny pose, I was in between of the Meido. Our overall experience lasted for about one hour, they gave us a Maidreamin Loyalty Card called Dreamin Passport (just before leaving) and then we left.

Anyone can go

That was the most unique experience I had all my life. I really enjoyed that experience and I suggest everyone to go to a Meido Kissa in Akihabara if you ever travel to Japan. I am sure that you will love it. Also children and girls/women can go there because is not an erotic place even if though the girls wear a sexy costume. It is a place where to have fun, at least once in a lifetime, with good humor and nothing rude!!!

 

First Time in Akihabara

How can a Japanese person could possibly speak Italian?

When I went back to the Ryokan at around 2.30, the lady that owns the Ryokan was there and after saying hello (she could speak English very well) she asked me ‘Are you Italian?’. I was surprised that he knew where I came originally from, I asked her how she knew my country of origins and she said she saw it from my passport, which I gave to her when I first entered the Ryokan in the morning. The biggest surprise was when she started speaking to me in a very fluent Italian and she told me that she learnt Italian while she was working for Alitalia, she has been working for the airline for 30 years.

Waiting for Mari

At the moment I felt a bit tired and sleepy so I soon went to my room resting while waiting for Mari. It didn’t take long for me to fall asleep. At around 4 PM someone woke me up by knocking my room door. I found it difficult to wake up but I managed through my hard effort. Was the lady at the Ryokan that told me that my friend Mari had arrived. I got changed and went downstairs and I greeted her just in a normal way. This was not because of Japanese culture, but because I had seen her 5-6 days earlier in London because she was there for business. Every time she came to London, either on business, holiday or living there, I kept telling her about my wish to go to Japan. And that was the day.

 

First destination: Akihabara

I was very pleased to have met her there and she also told me that I finally made it to go to Japan. After the greetings she asked me what I wanted to do and what I wanted to visit. At that point my mind was blank because I knew I didn’t do any research or what so ever about Tokyo or Japan in general. This was not because I was not interested in Tokyo or Japan, but because I know for experience that if I do a lot of research before travelling, everything I visit is not interesting and therefore I do not get surprised. At that moment I said to Mari ‘I do not know anything about Tokyo, please surprise me!!!’. I have to tell you that she actually did!!! She then said ‘Let’s go to Akihabara’. We went to get the train together at Yotsuya train station and we headed to Akihabara.

AKB48 & Gundam cafe

 

After coming out from Akihabara train station she took me to a square and she showed me a building with two shop on the first floor (ground floor for European people, from now on I will tell the floor number in Japanese style) and then she said ‘That one is ‘AKB48 cafe & shop’ and that one on its left it is ‘Gundam cafe’. 

I knew about Gundam was a popular manga and I was surprised they had a cafe’ but about AKB48 I never heard them in my life. Mari then said that AKB48 was a very popular group of singers in Japan. Then she took me for a walk inside the AKB48 shop just to look around for a minute. After that we left and decided to visit a ‘Maid Cafe‘.

 

Purikura at Ueno

After leaving Asakusa, we got the train to the nearby station of Ueno. Ueno is one of the main points of Tokyo, probably one of the most important. This is because it is sited on one of the main corners of Tokyo on the train line that goes round like a circle.

At first Ueno seemed a bit like Camden Town in London, because it has a market along the rail bridge, but still Tokyo style. Mari and I didn’t stay long at Ueno and because it was already getting late and we still have to go for dinner, she took me straight to an entertainment shop. Once inside the shop we went straight to a Japanese style photo boot. That photo boot is not one of the classic photo boots that are used to take classic photos, such as passport photos, but it is like being inside a photo-shop machine.

We had to stand inside the photo boot and there was a screen with a lot of different options and everything was in Japanese, and because at the time I could only read Hiragana, some Katakana characters and my Japanese was limited only to few words, I really couldn’t understand anything of what was written. Anyway, we put around 500 Yen into the machine and then she started playing around with the screen by choosing different options and then we had to pose to take photos. Mari did everything and I just had to pose when she told me to.

The machine started taking photos very quickly, every few seconds. I can’t remember how many photos the machine took, but they were quite a lot.

After taking all those photos, we came out from the machine and she started playing around with another screen attached on the outside of that photo boot. With a special pen that can be read by the screen we started decorating the photos and we started writing few things on the photos in different colours. That machine was really powerful. When finished to decorate the photos, she had to enter on the screen her phone email address. Then we waited few seconds and a set of different photos came out from the machine in the same way a normal photo boot does. Then she also received an email with the photos taken. We cut the set of photos, I took some and she took others and then we left to the next destination.

Asakusa: Beauty of Sensōji Temple

While we were leaving Tsukiji Fish Market area she suggested to go to Asakusa (Pronounced Asaksa). For me anyway it didn’t matter where we were going to because I was sure that was going to be a surprised, because as I said in a previous post (see First Time in Akihabara (With Mari) – First Day in Japan), I didn’t know anything about Tokyo.

As soon as we arrived at Asakusa, Mari took me to see Sensōji Temple. Inside the entrance there were many traditional Japanese food stalls in both rows of the way towards the temple. All those food stalls gave me an impression of real Japanese culture that have been passed through generations and generations.

Food Stalls

 

The food stalls impressed me a lot for different reasons. One of the reasons was because they all looked very colorful. Another reason was because they gave me the impression that I really was in Japan, in fact, they really looked very Japanese with all the Japanese characters written above the food stalls. Another reason was because there were so many people walking along the way and stopping to buy some of the delicacies that they were selling. Another reason was because there were many girls (18-20 years old about, maybe more or maybe less) that were selling food in most of the food stalls.

 

 

 

Each food stall was selling different food, much different from the food stalls found in UK or in the Western countries in general. I was so glad to be there in that country that I loved for so many years, even though I had never been there before. The food that the food stalls were selling was made fresh on the spot. Some of them selling chicken such as yakitori, others selling sweets made with rice and others were selling other kinds of food.

I remember that at the end of the stalls there was a gate with two paper made (I don’t know how to call them) balls that were hanging from the ceiling (one of them is part of the background photo of the blog, also see below), one in each side, they were red with white stripes with written something in Kanji and Katakana characters. The pathway was in the middle. I decided to took photos because they looked so beautiful and interesting.

SAMSUNG
The Paper Balls (I don’t know how to call them)

After the gates there was a square with a big open temple at the end and a tall pagoda on the left. I really loved that place because it looked so traditionally Japanese, I would love to go there every day because it would relax me and would make my heart warmer (like I was feeling at that moment).

SAMSUNG
Asakusa Temple from outside
SAMSUNG
Asakusa Temple (View from Corner)
SAMSUNG
Me in front of Asakusa Temple

When I reached the temple I decided to go inside to have a look. As I can remember, I think I wasn’t allowed to enter properly inside the temple. Anyway, I remember that I took photos of the temple inside and at the ceiling. Then I went to have a walk around. The overall environment is to beautiful. I took the photo at the pagoda near the temple, at the trees and at everything that was surrounding the temple.

After that we decided to leave and grab a coffee at Starbucks. I didn’t really want to go to Starbucks, I had preferred go to a Japanese style cafe’ rather than going to Starbucks, we just went there because I needed internet and I knew that Starbucks would have provided it. While we were going to look for a Starbucks, we had to go through an arcade of shops. At first we couldn’t find it and then I saw a McDonald and I said to Mari:

– Look, there is a McDonald, if a McDonald is there it means that Starbucks should be nearby.

I was right, Starbucks was like 30 seconds away just round the corner and across the road. However, that Starbucks provided wi-fi only to Softbank customers (Japanese mobile phone provider), however, we had already spent the money for the coffee so we stayed there for a little while.

After leaving, near the Starbucks I saw a statue of a man in Kimono  in pose and I could see Tokyo Sky Tree not far away, then decided to take a photo with the man in Kimono and giving him a high 5. Then we left to the next next place…..)

 

 

 

Tsukiji Fish Market

As soon as I woke up and had a shower at the Ryokan after my first night in Tokyo, I went down the stairs at the reception. The lady that could speak at least 3 languages greeted me and presented me with the breakfast before going to meet Mari again. I really cannot remember what I had for breakfast because I am writing this post one 1 1/2 years after the experience. Anyway, after the breakfast I picked up my ruck sack and left the Ryokan greeting the lady.

While I was waiting for Mari at Yotsuya station, I noticed that the few western tourists (or residents) were wearing the same white safari hat, I was wondering why, probably because of the sun (it was really hot in Japan those days) but I decided not to wear anything like that and be myself with my Oakley shades, t-shirt and Jeans.

After Mari arrived, we headed to Tsukiji. Tsukiji is famous because there is the biggest wish market in the world, even though I just heard that few months ago they shut it down and moved it somewhere else. As soon as we arrived we found that the market was closed, so we decided to ask around why it was closed. They said because Sunday is the only day that the fish market is closed.

However, we didn’t leave the area. We decided to stay there and go to a restaurant to eat some sushi and sashimi. While we were walking to find a restaurant, we also realised that in that area also the most of the restaurants are closed, however we still managed to find one, and according to Mari, that restaurant is actually quite popular.

We entered the restaurant, Mari asked me if it was OK to sit at the counter and I answered that was fine to me. Then we looked at the menu before deciding what to order. While deciding, Mari told me that she couldn’t eat some of the fish because she doesn’t like them, I don’t have any of those problems and I will tell in a blog I will write down in the future what fish I had when I went to Osaka and if I will remember I will do a link from here to there. Anyway, we both decided to order sashimi.

When the sashimi came to the counter where we were sitting, the sashimi was just looking amazing. I really loved looking at the sashimi because it looked so good and so colourful so I decided to take a photo at the sashimi. I really would had loved to eat that sashimi all day long and everyday (this is what I was thinking before eating it). Both of the sashimi dishes ordered were on a bed of rice.

When I started eating it, I realised how good it actually was. It was so tasty and I really wanted to order more but I decided not to be greedy. So we just had one dish each. Anyway, the sashimi was not really cheap and we ended up paying 3000-4000 yen each (£17.50-£23.50 each or $29-$39). I wanted to save money because I might need them to do something else.

After eating we left the restaurant and took a photo outside together in front of the restaurant and kept the photo as a great memory. Then we left Tsukiji and headed to….(day 2 continue on the next post)…….