Trip to Tokyo Disneyland

On August 11th my husband and I went on a trip to Tokyo Disneyland. Even though I had stayed in Tokyo three times over longer periods I’d never had the opportunity to visit the famous amusement park.

Despite it being on a regular Thursday, the park was like just like most of the densely populated areas of Japan, filled with people. Making me grateful I didn’t have to witness the park on a Sunday. My husband and I had tried to avoid the unmerciful Japanese summer sun, by arriving at the park around 2 pm, which made walking around the park more bearable.

The weather and the amount of people was of course wasn’t what surprised; it was more the size of the park. I’m not sure why, but for some reason I had expected Disneyland to be bigger and offering a lot more of interesting scenery. Not that the park didn’t have any scenery to offer, it was divided into several areas with unique Disney themes, like the Toy Story/Monsters Inc, Alice in Wonderland and Lilo & Stitch. There were also areas inspired by things such as the old west, New Orleans and others. Everything seemed very neatly done, even the famous Japanese vending machines were designed to match their assigned area.

There is no doubt that Disneyland is foremost catering the small children, which was obvious for many reasons, of course one was the fact that small children was the most populous people in the park. There was no scary looking rides, except the haunted house which is a bit disappointing to a rollercoaster loving person as me – since Disneyland only had one rollercoaster to offer, but I didn’t even find that interesting enough to stand in line for. And then there was the overwhelming amount of strollers waiting outside each ride.

There is no doubt that the biggest minus concerning Tokyo Disneyland is the amount of people. When we were just walking around in the park I didn’t notice it much nor were I bothered, the problem came when we looked at signs outside rides informing on the expected waiting time. 75% of the times the sign could inform us that we were expected to wait around 110 minutes and that was if the queue actually started where the sign was put. That resulted in the fact that my husband and I only tried one thing.
We did get in line for another thing, thinking that maybe 100+ minutes didn’t feel as long at they sounded – we were wrong. After waiting around a half an hour I started mentioning the option of giving up, but we continued. After an hour of waiting I suddenly remembered the famous “Disney Dream Lights” evening parade. We checked the clock and knew if we stayed, we would not make it. So after having waited for around 70 minutes we left the line and started to search for a place to watch the parade from. We were guided to a “sitting spot” along the main “street” were the parade would come by. Then 19:40 the music started and the parade had begun.

For me choosing the parade over the ride was the right decision, since the Dream lights parade was the biggest high light of Tokyo Disneyland for me. I loved the sparkling and colourful lights and the wonderland feeling.
After the show was over people, including us, headed for the exit. I kind of regretted not having tried more rides, especially since the tickets are far from cheap which made me feel that I owed my husband, who had paid, the have enjoyed the day more, but overall I saw it as an interesting experience, but not sure I would return.

Ueno Zoo.

Today we went to Ueno Zoo, which was my second visit to this park. the first being two years ago. And just like that day 2 years ago, it was a typical Japanese summer day – meaning very hot. This Zoo located in Tokyo is relatively big and the 600 yen (around 8 USD) ticket price reasonable, especially for me who grew up with ticket costing around 27 USD in Denmark.

So the main attraction is without a doubt the two Chinese Giant Pandas, which arrived to the zoo 6 months ago, replacing the panda that died back in 2008. A male and a female, named Liilii (Riirii) and Shinshin.

 

There is even a “line” to stand in if you want to see the pandas, though there weren’t really any waiting time when it came to the line for adults. People with children stood in another line, since they got closer to the pandas (easier to see for small children).There is also sold panda merchandise everywhere in the see and there is also a lot of panda decorations. Just, if you in case should forget that the zoo has pandas.

Besides pandas, my favorite animal in penguins and it’s one of the animals I always look forward to see and take pictures of.

Ueno zoo has a lot of animals to offer, more species than any other zoo in Japan, which I think it makes it worth a trip. Especially now where the giant pandas has returned. I have heard complains about a lot of the animals are kept in too small areas – unfortunately that is often the reality of zoos. I though have too agree that some of the animals, especially the big ones (like the elephants, hippopotamus and Rhino) could use more space.

 

Odaiba & a new camera.

So I’ve now been in Tokyo a week, but since I have not been doing much, I found it difficult to update. Two days ago my husband bought me a new digital camera. A Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX7. I had an old Sony Cyber-shot, so I had been thinking about buying a new camera for some time, especially since I love taking pictures.

So yesterday I got to try this new camera out, when we went to Odaiba. Our main reason for going there, was my because my husband wanted to look at furniture for future preferences. He often acts like we’re moving to Tokyo next month, and not in a few years. Well the Odaiba bay area is famous for its’ view of Tokyo bay, including Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower.

Odaiba is also home for the Fuji Television building, which is famous for it atypical design and of course also draw in fans of Fuji TV who wishes to get a tour inside. Then there’s also the chance to got to the top by elevator to enjoy the view, which though includes paying a certain fee.

One of my favorite things when it comes to Odaiba is probably the night view, which offers Tokyo’s glittering skyline and colorful small boats. This time around Tokyo Tower was lighting up with a blue color.

Also got to try out the panorama settings on my new camera.

Odaiba panorama view. (click for bigger)

Tokyo, tourists and earthquakes.

So today is my 3rd day in Tokyo and one thing I cannot complain about is the lack of earthquakes – caused by the aftershocks in the Tohoku area – mostly located in Fukushima. We’ve had two noticeable earthquakes in the past two days. The last one woke us up around 03:50 am with it’s shaking.
There is also several posters everywhere advising people to save electricity.

But, besides that, foreigners seem to have returned to Japan. When I went to Japan back in March I was the only foreigner on the plane surrounded by Japan and didn’t spot a single foreign looking person in Narita airport – even though it was the popular cherry blossom season. Without a doubt the effect of the great Tohoku earthquake and the problems with the Fukushima nuclear power plant. This time around, half of the airplanes passengers were foreigners – even a lot from my own small country; Denmark and also Narita airport showed an increase in foreign tourists, the same with the streets of Tokyo where a foreigner now don’t have to feel “lonely” in the crowds.

So far we have not been doing much, mostly just wandered the streets of Shinjuku where our apartment is located. Yesterday we decided to make “しゃぶしゃぶ (Syabu Syabu)” for dinner.

AKB48 – memoirs from a fan anno 2006.

What is a Japan related blog, if there is no entry about AKB48? I mean, AKB48 has officially managed to become one of Japans most popular and adored idols – together with Arashi. To be honest, I used to be a huge fan of idols – whether it was Morning Musume (or anything Hello! Project), Johnny’s (especially NEWS) and of course AKB48 as well. Because of my big passion for girl groups back then, I was also one of the first to become a fan of AKB48, back in 2006, when they only had one team and around 16 members. Yes, there was such a time.

I bought their indie singles “Sakura Hanabira Tachi” and “Skirt, Hirari” for around 10 USD each. Singles that are now out of press and costs 30+ USD on actions. I watched team K debut and later on team B as well, I saw them grow from 16 members to 48 + members – and I knew all the names. Back then there was no Watanabe Mayu or even Oshima Yuko. At that time the front girls were the “Skirt, Hirari elite”, the 7 most popular members from their second single.

Kojima Haruna, Narita Risa, Asuko Maeda, Takahashi Minami, Itano Tomomi, Nakanishi Rina and Oshima Mai. Four of these girls still managed to stay front girls through all of the years, Nakanishi Rina and Narita Risa saw their popularity fail and they were pushed in the back when the Team K members started to make themselves more known. Later on they graduated. Oshima Mai did that as well, though she was still considered a top member. The addition of Team K, meant more names to remember and more members to cheer for.  Though of course some members seemed easier to remember than others and new front girls was discovered.

Which included Shinoda Mariko, who was added to Team A just before Team K was announced, Oshima Yuko – the member who last year even managed to beat Maeda Asuko. Ono Erena who later graduated while still on top and the popular duo Akimoto Sayaka and Miyazawa Sae. Other Team K members also got to enjoy a brief peak of popularity before they were once again forgotten – some faster than others. Like; Kasai Tomomi, Umeda Ayaka and Tojima Hana.

Their 4th single “Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru” gave us a darker AKB48 – the edginess we know associate with RIVER and Beginner. They sang about sex and a school uniform getting in the way, making people remember the group Onyanko Club – the group AKB48’s creator Akimoto Yasushi created back in the 80’s, who had their hit song “Seifuku wo Nugasanaide” (Don’t take off my school uniform. AKB48 stayed in the dark side for a bit longer when they released  “Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou” a single that had school bullying as a theme and the music video showed very well that certain human cruelty and the suicide of Oshima Yuko in the end. After that fans hailed the group to be the ones who forced people to realize the harsh reality of the Japanese modern society. (Teenage prostitution, bullying and suicide.) That was quickly turned around though when Team B and the single BINGO! Followed and showed all the characteristics of an idol group.

With Team B new front girls made their debut, the most memorable is of course Wantanabe Mayu and Kashiwagi Yuki who are still, today, among the top girls. After that a long streak of happy singles followed, like Boku no Taiyo, Yuuhi wo Miteiru Ka?, Sakura Hanabiratachi 2008, Oogoe Diamond, 10 nen Zakura, Namida Surprise and Iiwake Maybe. Romance, Irane was of course also released during that time span, that single tried to bring the more “cool and egdy” AKB48 back, but it wasn’t really the same. It was around Oogoe Diamond that AKB48 started to climb the ranks of various charts and their name started to become common knowledge, it was here my own fandom was failing though. My interest in idol music was going down – also when it came to Hello! Project and Johnny’s. AKB48 was “in” and a popularity wave struck and it suddenly seemed like everyone loved them. It felt like too many people worshipped every step they took, every song they released and performance they gave. I felt like a small drop in a huge ocean and I didn’t like it. RIVER was then released.

That song showed an attitude in AKB48 I hadn’t seen for a long time and I liked it, but overall it was too late. Members graduated and members were added and I started to lose track and suddenly there was a lot of unfamiliar faces.

What AKB48 has become today is amazing, they are everywhere and people love them. I still listen to their songs, but I don’t buy their CDs anymore and I have given up learning the new names – I’ve become a casual listener. The first time I went to Japan in 2008, I also managed to see all 3 teams live in the AKB48 theatre. It was an amazing experience seeing the girls in real life, being in the same small room as them and feeling them so close. I have respect for all of the girls, they are hard workers since most of them are still in school and they have so face many things. Not just dance lessons, performances and media appearances. They also have to face grim reality when popularity suddenly gets a number in the “Senbatsu elections” and the fact that one may be popular one day and forgotten the next. There are a lot of individual feelings, which are not allowed to be either heard or seen.

My favourite member? When AKB48 first debuted it was Takahashi Minami. When Team B was added Takahashi Minami unfortunately become second, since I then got my eye on Kashiwagi Yuki. Takahashi Minami moved a step further down when Sato Amina was added to Team A and I saw her live. For some reason the girl mesmerized me and made me forget about Takahashi. So that is my top 3: Kashiwagi Yuki, Sato Amina and Takahashi Minami.

So will this post include any rants? Maybe one. I don’t like how it seems like we’re forced to like some girls. Lately I’ve been annoyed with how forced Itano Tomomi media appearence have seemed. She got on an 8th spot in the senbatsu election, but always get a lot more screen time than f.ex Kashiwagi Yuki, who became 3rd. Itano has a solo career, but it didn’t help her from falling out of the top 5. They need to start giving the screen time after how they actually place in the elections instead.

Last off, my collection (up until RIVER)


The Oogoe Diamond single had covers with individual members and I managed to trade to get my hands on the Kashiwagi Yuki one. The DVD & Photobook also shows that I was a big fan of Team B.

Rules of Japan

Back in January I wrote about a book called “Osaka Rules”, well later on during that trip I decided to buy the rest of the books in the series. When I went back to Japan in March, a new one had been released “Hokkaido Rules”. So now I have the following (from top left): Hokkaido Rules, Tokyo Rules, Osaka Rules, Nagoya rules and Hakata Rules. There is also a “Okinawa Rules”, but I haven’t bought that, yet.

These are very fun and interesting book about social “rules” in different areas in Japan. Even my husband had a lot of fun reading them. The books ranges from everything when it comes to “shopping”, “food”, “words”, “living” and etc. in the certain area of interest.

Like Tokyo people loves to shop expensive brands, in Osaka you should not use the word “jyan” and people in Hokkaido are well prepared for the cold winters. The rules are well written, in a more easy Japanese, in well-divided categories and some rules are even followed by a page of humorous manga to explain further.

I wonder if more books will come, like Hiroshima or from an area in Tohoku.

Bags in Tokyo style

Bought these bags in Haneda Airport before going home to Denmark. Though it’s been ages since I was actually in Tokyo the last time. (if not including the airport and taking the bus between Haneda & Narita airport). Think it’s been almost two years since I last wandered the streets of Tokyo.
But, the bags are nice, I think. 😄

The empty Narita airport.

In the last minute I decided to change my flight tickets from going to Japan Thursday morning, to go Wednesday afternoon instead. So I had classes from 10 to 12, then I got on a train to Copenhagen airport around 12:30. Arrived at the airport around 3:50 and got checked in and such and then my first flight to Frankfurt took off at 5:50.

In Frankfurt I first had problems with finding my new gate, because I was given wrong information. I finally found my JAL flight to Tokyo and sat down and waited with all the other,… Japanese. I was the only non-Japanese boarding this flight. Normally non-Japanese are limited on JAL flights, but it’s the first time I’ve been the only one. The flight was quite full though. After 10-11 hours we landed in Tokyo. As always I quickly went to the immigration area, where people get divided into people with Japanese passports and people with foreign passports. There was no queue  for me at all, since there was no foreigner in sight at all, which was a first for me. Normally immigration procedures can take quite some time because of all the people lining up, but today it was a breeze and over within minutes. Then it was time to wait for my suitcase, also here only Japanese people was lining up and considering the size of the room, people seemed very limited.

After that I went out to the arrival hall, which was also quite empty, it was easy to see that a lot of people had cancelled their flights to Japan due to the Fukushima nuclear plant and earthquake. I got a bus ticket for Haneda airport and got on the bus. We drove by the other arrival terminal in Narita, also here there was no foreigners in sight. After leaving the airport area, everything looked at it always had. The same amount of cars and people on the streets, nothing seemed changed. In Haneda it was time to check in for my final flight to Miyazaki.

This flight on the other hand was very empty, compared to the other times I’ve taken this flight. Not even half of the flight was filled.

Then I finally arrived at my final destination. It felt a bit weird being back in Japan after all that has happened with the earthquake and still struggling nuclear power plant. I’ve even got several messages from friends and family urging me not to go. On the other hand the Japanese show no worries and also the news gives an relaxed feel about the whole thing. Trying to avoid any kind of panic, compared to the news I’ve heard up until now.