Posts Tagged ginza

August 14, 2006 – Shopping in Tokyo

Today I went to Tokyo to do some shopping. From Numazu to Tokyo station it’s only about an hour on the shinkansen, or about 2 hours on the Tokaido line.

My first stop was the wonderful Blue Parrot book store near Takadanobaba station, home to used English books, movies, and CDs. I really should have done this last because I ended up carrying heavy books around for the rest of my day.

My next stop was Ginza to look for a long overdue sympathy card for a friend of the family who had passed away recently. Sympathy cards are very different in Japan – I hadn’t had any luck shopping in Numazu. I had heard good things about Ito-Ya, the 100 year old Stationary store in Ginza. It’s located between Tiffany and Co and Bulgari, both stores that I can’t afford to window shop in. Ito-Ya’s selection was HUGE – I never thought I would be entertained looking around a stationary store. After some searching I found something that would work as a sympathy card in Canada.

My final stop was Akihabara, which is always a fun place to explore when you have free time. I was trying to find stores that sold English language video games. It’s very easy to find places to buy games in Japan, but there are only a few places that import English language versions of games. Finding these is not easy, but it’s still easier than learning enough Japanese to play RPGs.

I’m lucky that I live only a few hours away from one of the worlds biggest and most exciting cities. Not everyone can just hop on a train for a shopping trip to Tokyo!

 

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April 2, 2006 – Kabuki in Ginza

Kabukiza

Today my parents, The Penpal (my fiancee) and I went to Tokyo for some sightseeing. This was the first time that my parents got a chance to spend some time with their future daughter in law without her parents around.

The plan for the day was to attend a Kabuki play at the famous Kabukiza theater in Ginza. We drove together to Mishima station, and then took the shinkansen to Tokyo, followed by a quick subway ride to Ginza station. Ginza is one of the richest areas of Tokyo, featuring Japan’s oldest department store, Mitukoshi, along with all kinds of other high end retail that we couldn’t afford.

Kabukiza is a Kabuki theatre which was originally built in 1889. The building has been destroyed, rebuilt, and upgraded several times since then. The design stands out among the tall steel and concrete buildings of the area. Tickets to see full plays are expensive, but there is a 1000 yen ticket that allows people to view one act of a play from the upper upper level. We got this along with headphones that played an English translation of the dialogue.

Kabuki dates back to the 1600s. At the same time William Shakespeare was writing famous plays in England, Japan was developing their own unique style of performance. Like original Shakespeare, Kabuki is performed entirely by men. It is famous for its colourful, energetic performances, which provides a stark contrast to the more traditional (and in my opinion extremely boring) Noh.

Coincidentally, the play that we got to watch was the story of the siege of Osaka Castle. We had just been to Osaka castle a few days earlier, so we knew a bit about the story. This allowed us to focus on the stage. The first scene we watched included fighting, action, and an insane fall down a giant flight of stairs on stage. The second act had a lot more talking as the characters were hiding in the castle wondering what would happen after the battle. I personally preferred the first scene, but it was nice to get some variety during my first Kabuki experience.

The most surprising part of my Kabuki experience was that the crowd would shout at the performers. Apparently this is a tradition where you yell out the name of the acting family of certain key actors. Usually Japanese crowds are known for being quiet and reserved, so it was quite interesting to hear the shouting.

After Kabuki we wandered around Ginza for a bit, then returned to Tokyo station. Before we returned to Mishima, we browsed the large selection of restaurants available at the station. We ended up at a kaiten sushi restaurant.

The first time my parents came to Japan, I took my dad for kaiten sushi while my mom and sister went for McDonalds. This time my mom was feeling more adventurous. Usually she prefers rolls and avoids raw fish, but thanks to The Penpal’s reassurance and advice, my mom tried some fatty tuna nigiri sushi and loved it! My parents also enjoyed the incredibly hot green tea that was available at our table.

We took the shinkansen back to Mishima while talking about plans for our upcoming stay in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). The adventure continues!

(Author’s note) Apparently Kabukiza has been rebuilt yet again to comply with modern building codes

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July 6, 2004 – Ginza and Sensoji in the heat

A hot day at Senso-ji

A hot day at Senso-ji

Today was a great example of why checking weather information before traveling is important. It was WAY too freaking hot.

After taking a day off yesterday, my family and I were back on the train for another day of sightseeing in Tokyo. The first stop was Ginza. We wandered around the area, checking out the high end stores and the iconic Kabuki-za theatre.

By noon, the temperature was creeping above 30 degrees. There are 30 degree days in central Canada in the summer, but there are two main differences between Tokyo heat and Winnipeg heat; humidity and urban heat islands.

The humidity today was in the high 80% range. To compare, the average summer humidity in Winnipeg is around 50%. Humidity in the 80% range feels like walking around with a hot damp towel wrapped around you. This makes a hot day feel even hotter.

Urban Heat Island is term used to describe cities being hotter than rural areas. Tokyo is largely concrete and steel with little green space. The general idea is that heat is absorbed instead of reflected, and plants are not able to cool the air by expelling water vapour. The effect on a hot, humid day is not very pleasant.

We cut our trip to Ginza short due to the heat, but we did make sure to walk as close as possible to the automatic doors of the stores in the area. Every time they opened, we got a frosty cold blast of air conditioning. We retreated to the relative comfort of the subway system, and then moved on to Asakusa.

In my opinion, Sensoji temple is a required visit for all tourists in Tokyo. In my 9 months living in Japan this was my third trip to Sensoji, but it was still enjoyable. I helped my family buy souvenirs for friends and family at home.

We didn’t have the longest day of sightseeing due to the heat, but it was still fun. We were all happy to get back to Hello House and turn on the AC.

(2014 Update) My mom and sister still use the folding fans they bought in the stores leading to Sensoji 10 years ago. I did eventually get to watch kabuki in the Kabuki-za theatre, but not until 2006. Stay tuned faithful readers… stay tuned.

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May 4, 2004 – First time in Don Quijote

Donki Numazu

I had the day off due to a shift swap to help another teacher, so Lux and I went out to explore Tokyo. We started by going to Ginza, an upscale shopping area of Tokyo. It is home to some of the biggest and most expensive department store chains. Even the subway station looks nicer than other stations. We had very expensive coffee in a great place overlooking one of the major intersections.

After Ginza we moved on to Roppongi. Roppongi is very, VERY different in the daytime. We checked out the new massive Roppongi Hills complex, which features a 54 story building filled with very expensive shopping and restaurants, as well as several corporate offices. When a store only sells about 10 different high end purses and there are no prices displayed, it’s too expensive for English teachers.

After some wandering around we had dinner at TGI Fridays, which was just the same as back home except more expensive. Finally we finished off our day with our first ever trip to Don Quijote, one of the most fun stores in Japan. Don Quijote literally sells almost everything. DonKi Roppongi has 6 floors, all packed floor to ceiling with anything and everything you could ever want to buy. Finding a specific item is difficult to impossible, but wandering around is part of the DonKi shopping adventure experience.

The highlight was a trip to the adult goods section (they do sell everything). We were surprised and by the variety of products available. In addition to the conventional items you would expect, there was one curious product called “Anal Violence”, which didn’t sound like a good time for anyone. While we were looking, a Japanese woman came in and selected a “personal massager” from the shelf. Lux shouted out in English “OH MY GOD! That woman is buying a vibrator!”. Apparently the woman could understand English, as she turned beet red and left the area.

Exploring Tokyo is a lot more fun with another person. We took a lot of pictures and had a great day. Also, we learned a valuable lesson that you should be careful – you never know who in the area can understand your language.

(2014 Update) I was still using a film camera at the time, and managed to confuse a full and empty roll of film, causing me to lose all of the pictures I took that day 😦

(2014 Update 2) I changed the spelling in the article from “Don Kihote” to “Don Quijote”.

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