Classical Music, Odaiba, Science, and Pancakes! (yes, more pancakes)

Less than one month from today, I will be back on US soil. I think it will be a little bittersweet leaving Tokyo but mostly sweet and filled with good things… from Trader Joes.

The next two weeks are going to go by in a flash as one of my besties is coming to town! I am so excited and it will be nice to be out and about seeing all the Tokyo sites for probably the last time. On top of that, a week from Saturday… we will be climbing Mt. Fuji!! I am praying and hoping for good weather, but either way, I think we will have a great time.

This past weekened, I started Saturday off with a little miscellaneous shopping and then headed to Korakuen where I met up with a coworker and his wife to watch the Sony Concert Band (one of the many bands/orchestras supported by the Sony Foundation). It was a free concert and it was amazing. Classical music is relaxing yet energizing all at the same time. The most popular of the songs was the theme to a Japanese video game “Monster Hunter” (I admit I’d never heard of it) and 1812 Overture.

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Sunday, I ventured to Odaiba to see the Rainbow Bridge (I want to go back to see it at night). There is also a Statue of Liberty Replica given by France to Japan, it was so cute!

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Odaiba is also home to the Museum of Emerging Science, which I thought was awesome. There were so many great exhibits… although some of them required a little too much reading and not quite enough hands on for me.

The highlight of this museum is the large globe made of tiny LED screens. It also projects a demonstration comparing the world to Japan. One of the funniest, yet accurate, facts of all of them was robberies. Using circles to demonstrate, it showed what would be about the size of a basketball (scaled down for my example as compared to the size of the globe) as the world average and Japan was probably the size of a pea, one single solitary pea. Perfectly shows, based upon facts and data, that Japan is such a safe country.

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Oh and I ate pancakes. Ricotta pancakes with banana and honey butter. I sure did.

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Here’s your sign.

Here are some of the photo worthy signs I’ve seen around Tokyo thus far. I imagine in the next two months, there will be a few more gems along the way.

On the Metro

Getting around Tokyo has been one of the easiest obstacles to overcome during my rotation thus far. The stations have also provided a multitude of entertainment thanks to advertisements posted throughout. The metro system has a campaign out about riding the subway including safety, courtesy, etc. They aren’t in English but thanks to the graphics, it’s pretty easy to tell what exactly it’s talking about. Here are just a few of my favorites:

“You’ve got to leave the cake behind.” If the doors are closing, evaluate the risks. Is it worth the injury to save an easily replaceable item you may have left? This one was made with people like me in mind because that looks like an awfully good piece of cake to just leave on the platform.

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We all know the sound of roosters is annoying, frustrating, and frankly rude. “Please mind your noise level while riding the metro.” The bunnies and the rest of us would appreciate it.

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At the Zoo

Did you know that the crows here are BEASTS? I’m talking, at least two times the size of the crows in the US. It’s creepy and I don’t like it one bit. Their caw is also much deeper and often sounds like a person making a weird noise. It’s creepy and I don’t like it one bit. That’s probably what necessitated these warning signs at the zoo.

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An exhibit was under construction and that poor little bear felt sorry about it. I’ll ‘excuse your mess during construction’ any day with a sad yet cute looking bear like that.

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Just Around

Smoking is extremely popular in Japan. There is even a ‘smoking room’ in my office! Naturally, the smoke cloud is a happy smiling girl with a thumbs up. It’s so cute, I almost want to start smoking but not while walking, of course…. just kidding.

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And the last one… it’s not really a sign. It’s an English translation except I don’t even know what it means or what it’s trying to mean. The Japanese language doesn’t have pronouns, or plurals, or articles so translation can be a little rough sometimes but also provides comic relief every once in a while.

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Have Monday very good!

xoxo

One Month Wrap-Up!

I can’t believe that I’ve been here 4 weeks already, it’s crazy! Time is going by so fast.

Last night, we had a going away party a co-worker who is going back to the UK. The night ended with epic karaoke. The first song I sang was with a Japanese co-worker, “A Whole New World” from Aladdin. Such a classic.

BUT can I just tell you… there really isn’t ANYTHING better than watching 2 Japanese guys belt out “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction. They were so into it. Jumping up and down at the chorus, etc.. One of the best moments of my trip so far.

That was followed up by another lesser known 1D song that was selected by someone on accident. I may or may not have known all the words… by heart.


Today I went to the Ueno Zoo for 2 reasons: 1) Giant Pandas and 2) Giant Pandas. Actually, I do really enjoy going to the zoo. Just so happens it’s another beautiful day here so it was a great way to be out in the sunshine. While the Ueno Zoo is pretty much right smack dab in the middle of Tokyo (read: open land is limited), it felt quite spacious. Although, there were a few habitats that I thought could have used more space.

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Of course, the pandas are extremely popular at the zoo. It’s quite rare to have pandas anywhere. I guess that’s an obvious statement since they are a threatened species. Zoos around the world are working to conserve the giant panda. Who wouldn’t, they were just stinkin’ adorable!

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This image is the visual portrayal of contentedness. I feel like this also embodies what I feel like when I get home and get to change out of my professional clothes. Ahhhhhhhh. _DSC0770

There were a few other animals that I hadn’t really seen before including a stork and some other interesting birds.

Sadly, one of my favorite animals, the tapir, wasn’t out. I’ve grown to love the tapir from my visits to the Denver Zoo (shout out to Becky and Brent!) and the fact that they have the cutest.babies.ever. But even though there was no tapir today, there were appropriate warnings of both llama and tapir ‘abilities.’ I’m going to have a post one of these days of all the signage here, it’s pure genius.

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Whelp, with that…. hope you have a fantastic weekend!

xoxo

Meiji-Jingu, Exploring Tokyo during Golden Week

I should note, this should really be before the Kamakura post, chronologically speaking. I should have thought about that more, especially for purposes of this being a supplementary travel journal. 

Just a quick post and a few pictures from last Monday at Meiji-Jingu. There was a light fog-like mist that really created a very ethereal feeling. Once you enter the park from Harajuku, which is bustling with people, it becomes very peaceful. You’d never expect the droves of people a hundred or so yards away.

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I was much more impressed with the gardens and grounds than the structure of Meiji Jingu itself, although it is beautiful nonetheless. Meiji Jingu was built for the spirits of Emporer Meiji and Empress Shoken and April 2014 marked 100 years since the Empress died. The Empress was and still is greatly loved by the people of Japan and all over the world. She did a great deal of work with the Red Cross, among other philanthropic activities.

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I found out, thanks to informative signs at the shrine, that the tablets to write your prayers and gratitude are called Ema. I found this gem of an Ema at Meiji-jingu.

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If only Jimmy knew that he’d need a heck of a lot more than a prayer and 500 yen to have 12 dogs. And that he probably wouldn’t want to hear his 12 dogs talking because it’d just be about how stupid and easily manipulated humans are…. I digress…

After Meiji-jingu, I took some time to explore the shopping district of Ginza. I bought a pair of sweatpants (like a pair I had seen on pinterest and loved) and pajama pants. If you know me, you know that sounds about right. They weren’t selling cozy/hospital socks or else, undoubtedly, I would have nagged a pair of those too.

All in all, I’d say it was a successful extended weekend.

Starting to Settle In

The weather here has been out of this world awesome. 70 and Sunny. Pretty much my perfection. I know come early June, it gets quite humid so I am soaking up this spring time sunshine while I can. That being said, I have tried to be outside as much as possible this weekend. I’d say it was a success.

Saturday, I walked to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace. It ended up being a little further than I had expected but with the sun shining, I couldn’t have been happier, although by the end of the day, my feet probably would have said otherwise!

The palace is amongst the high rises and skyscrapers. It’s quite the vivid dichotomy of the past and present.

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I spent an hour or so just laying on the lawn of the East Garden. It was glorious.

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The trees and plants here are such a vibrant shade of green, it almost doesn’t seem real.

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Really, ALL the plants and flowers have the most vibrant, saturated colors.  I should note although it may be obvious, I don’t really edit my photos because that would require a skill set I don’t have, so these colors aren’t enhanced. What you see here is pretty darn close to reality and it’s amazing.

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The walls of the palace are massive and quite a feat of engineering and architecture as they have been standing since the 1600’s.

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Today, I went around with a fellow trekker, who had just ended her rotation, to Gotokuji Temple, also known as the “cat temple.” It was obvious that I had to go. While it’s known for all the cat statues (see below), the grounds are equally impressive, so serene and expansive.

_DSC0564This cat, “Maneki Neko,” is said to bring luck. Really, I just think its cute.

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CATS! CATS! CATS!
_DSC0574From there we grabbed lunch in Omotesando with a beautiful view.

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The main street of Omotesando is often referred to as the Champ d’Elysees of Tokyo. This was the first time I felt crowded and slightly overwhelmed by the amount of people that live here. There were so. many. people.

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I ended today in Harajuku and walked down Yakeshita Street, also very crowded. It’s where a lot of the “eclectic” people shop BUT they have shops that only sell socks and for that, I’ll be going back.

IMG_1801I have a lot more to share but I’ve reached the limit of most attention spans with this long one so, I’ll try to share more tomorrow or Tuesday.

Tokyo Time!

As most of you know by now, I have just started a 3 month rotation to work out of our Tokyo office. It’s a program called “Tax Trek” and it sounds so nerdy but accountant folks think it sounds cool and adventurous and now we are all on the same page if I ever refer to this trip as a “trek.”

So here I am in Tokyo. Jet lag has been pretty exhausting, I thought I was doing pretty well after have a full first day, but now it’s 5:30 PM Monday as a I write this and I really want to go to bed now.

On Sunday, I was lucky enough to have one of my good friends from Seattle vacationing in Tokyo and we were able to spend the day together. It was so nice to see a familiar face on my first day out and about in Tokyo. We spent much of the day in the Ueno district and surrounding areas.

Yushima-Tenjin Shrine is located near the University of Tokyo. This is where many hopeful students go to write a prayer/wish that they will get into the university.

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You can make your prayer known through writing it on a wooden block that gets tied outside the shrine.

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I am amazed by the attention and exactness to every detail, even the light fixtures.

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Unbeknownst to me, the Japanese climate can grow outrageously beautiful and HUGE peonies. This one in particular is outside the Iwasaki’s (Mitsubishi’s founder) former residence.

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Akihabara is the electronics mecca with multiple stores at least 7 stories high and packed full. And of course, Anime.

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Today I ventured out on my own, after having a sushi lunch with a fellow ‘trekker’ and co-worker from the Tokyo office, I spent some time in Shinjuku, specifically the Shinjuku Gyoen Gardens that was once a Feudal Lord’s residence, transferred to the Imperial family in the early 1900’s, destroyed during WWII and rebuilt as a public park.

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The last of the cherry blossoms in the park. I wish I could have caught them in full bloom but was glad to have been able to experience them at least a little bit.

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First day in the office tomorrow, wish me luck!