Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tokyo Trip Part 5: The Quirks and Final Thoughts

Tokyo Tower
 I am always eager to see how the world looks through the eyes of another person and how that person chooses to express his or her vision. There was once a very poignant line from perhaps the most soul-touching anime/manga that I have ever seen, when the protagonist Takemoto Yuuto wishes "How I wonder what it is like to see the world through Hagu's (his main love interest and fellow artist) eyes." That is why I love animation so much, because it is one medium that is a direction interpretation of the director's vision and needs to be planned out panel by panel; nothing is left to chance whereas in say a movie, each actor, set conditions, etc. all bring in their vision and interpretation into how a certain scene will unfold. In animation, there is really nothing left to chance, every little movement, every blink of eye, every little bird and critters in the backdrop, are all planned (save the limitations caused by budget restrictions). A friend once commented that the ingenuity of Japanese animators and mangaka is that they have taken a landscape that is very ordinary to the Japanese people and made them great symbols and landmarks. Miyazaki Hayao can take the idyllic country side or something so simple like a girl going up stairs and somehow reinterpret the mundane into something charming and new, or the way Makoto Shinkai uses light filtered into the classroom or trains takes the everyday and transforms it into a surreal, brilliant world which makes your heart ache a little bit because its so beautiful. Whenever I see a Ferris wheel, I cannot help being reminded of Honey & Clover (the circularity of life being a major theme), and when I saw Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge, I couldn't help being reminded of CLAMP (and destruction).

And life goes on... Odaiba Ferris Wheel
Fuji TV in Odaiba
I had so much fun in Tokyo, and this trip really was just an overview trip, where I could see, do and eat as much as I can in a limited time, hence it was like a preview trip. Now that I got a good preview, I would love to return and see all the places I didn't get to see and delve into places in detail. Though it's really hard to choose what my favorite place was, I think Odaiba was the most impressionable to me. There's something strangely surreal, a bit futuristic about Odaiba, which is an artificial island made in the Tokyo Bay. It was tourist friendly with shopping, dining, onsen and great scenery, and yet, it was still more quirky than commercial. There was a cat cafe (the Japanese love cats), the strangely eerie (in my opinion) Fuji Television building with the globe, the Urikamome monorail which gives you an awesome view of the Bay area, the Ferris Wheel, supposedly one of the largest in the world, and the great view of Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Tower and the Statue of Liberty's mini-me. There was even an onsen called Oedo Onsen Monogatori, which is designed in 1800 Edo-style, where we got to wear a yukata and soak our poor, tired feet. There are many cute shops in there as well.  

Cat Cafe in Odaiba... Reminded me of the Nekobasu in Totoro ^^
Urikamome Train Station
Oeda Onsen Monogatori
I actually understood a lot more Japanese than I thought I would (thanks to all the anime and drama I watched), but I think this trip really taught me the more practical languages used when shopping or ordering food. After all, being able to say "You are my most important person" or "the hurt in my heart could be heard like the sound of rain" or something nonsensical like that is of of no practical use. The single most useful word I found was "sumimasen" which an translate to "I'm sorry" or "excuse me" depending on the situation, whether you are calling a waiter, or you are pushing through a crowd of people up the stairs in the subway, or you are about to ask a question. On the first day we arrived in Tokyo, my friend and I were walking down the street late at night and a man, a bit drunk, started up a conversation with us, first asking us (the tourists) directions, then tried to invite us to karaoke. We said "sumimasen" and we excused ourselves. After many failed prior attempts to take a good shot, I was able to snap that full shot of the Ferris wheel dangerously sticking my head out of the taxi window on my way to the airport. "Sumimasen," I told the taxi driver and he chuckled. 

CLAMP Manga Galore in Shibuya
Wall of mangaka in Shibuya... I didn't see the no photo sign until after I took the photo. Can you spot a mangaka you know?

Cosplay store in Harajuku...
The problem is, I can utter enough of the language to minimally get by, but that's it. And then, they begin speaking so rapidly that I lose track. On my way back, at Haneda Airport, I was checking in my bags and the man assisting me rapidly began listing off all these questions, to which I just replied, "Hai, hai." I did understand the first couple, but then, I completely lost track of what he was saying. Either way, when I arrived back in Seoul, my luggage was the third one out because it was labeled with a "Priority" sticker. I have no idea why, but I can assume it must be thanks to my lack of language skills.

Maneki Neko... (Lucky Cats)  everywhere!!! I wasn't supposed to take photos in this certain store in Asakusa.
Lastly, on our way back, I was unluckily in the center aisle seat, but I was able to catch the timing to see Mt. Fuji. The seat belt signs hadn't gone off yet, and the flight attendant initially told me I couldn't go over to the window area, but I went "Sashin o kudasai" which was the only words that I could think of. And the flight attendant understood right away and went, "Ah, Fuji-san..." And so, I was able to snap this beautiful shot of Mt. Fuji up from the sky.  
Mt. Fuji submersed in clouds...
I don't know why, but still, the best part of a trip is coming home. "There is no place like home." 

Tokyo Trip Part 1:The Places
Tokyo Trip Part 2:  The Shopping
Tokyo Trip Part 3: CLAMP x Blythe Dolls
Tokyo Trip Part 4: Food
Tokyo Trip Part 5: Final Thoughts


  1. I'm so incredibly jealous Wish-chan! You've renewed my desire to go to Japan! I WILL GO THERE SOMEDAY DARN IT! Glad your trip was amazing. Keep up the good work, hon! :)

    Layne Taylor

  2. I am impressed at the lengths you will go to to get the best picture, Wish-chan. :) Sticking your head out of taxi windows, getting out of your seat on a plane during seat-belt-on signs -- almost like a journalist. But I heard the best way to get around Japan in any situation is politeness. I wonder if you had a chance to visit home since you were so close.

    And here's a picture (or two) of the Singapore Flyer for you, since you love Ferris Wheels so much (HachiKuro is one of my favs too):
    Excuse the blurriness.. I couldn't find my hi-res pics.

  3. @Layne Taylor
    Of course you will go there. ^_^ I waited a long time too.


    Wow, the Singapore Flyer is so awesome... Love the palm trees in the foreground. ^_^

    Teehee... I knew there was a journalist in me somewhere. I did intern for a newspaper one summer. ^^; I think I'm just obsessed with taking the perfect photo because photos never comes out exactly the way I want to. Sometimes, I wish I had a camera with a better zoom and lens. Sigh. Blurry pictures make me want to cry.

  4. It all looks so amazing!

    I hope you do get the opportunity to go again and experience all the things you wanted to explore in more detail!

    I think I'm seriously going to try my Japanese Audio Lessons again so that I can gain enough confidence to maybe work towards a trip to Japan myself. I don't know anyone who would want to go with me and I wouldn't want to go on my own unless I can say more than 'Sumimasen, nihongo ga sukoshi wakarimasu demo mada jyouzu ja arimasen. Eigo ga hanasemasu ka?'. 'Ikura desu ka?' would be hand in all those lovely shops you've photographed (which you weren't supposed to do!) but I need to pick up far more conversational Japanese before I could go there on my own! And by the time I've gotten enough language under my belt, I might have saved enough to be able to afford it!

    Anyway, you photos and descriptions have been wonderful! Very inspiring!

  5. I have to try my hand at translating what Selenity wrote: "Excuse me, I know a little Japanese but I'm not yet that good at it." Is that right? That's all I understood, I have no idea about the next sentence except that 'hanase' means 'let go'?

  6. Eigo ga hanasemasu ka... do yo speak English? ^^ And "Ikura desu ka (how much is this)?" is one of the most useful phrases you can know. Truthfully, shopping-wise, you can get by with English because they punch the prices on the calculator and salespeople always can communicate somehow (I successfully bargained in the Beijing markets at age 15 without knowing any Chinese except for "xiao" when asking for a smaller size (thanks to a certain Little Wolf). I was at Shibuya 109 Cecil McBee and the pretty saleslady there was quite good at English. I met quite a few salespeople who were interested in Korean culture and knew Korean phrases. ^^

    I think the key is familiarizing yourself with the subway system, food terms and how to order stuff (restaurants would have menus in English) but if you want to buy stuff from street vendors. I think part of my problem though was that because my friend was fluent in Japanese, people assumed I was as well, and because I'm Asian, they start speaking to me in rapid Japanese and that completely intimidated me to the point where I forgot I could speak English. Especially in the airport, halfway through the gates, I finally recalled that people there should understand English and switched over and it felt so good. I have a funny story in the airplane, I sat in the wrong seat and this girl was like "this is my seat" in Japanese... And the man next to me was like sumimasen I need to get past to the middle seat" in Japanese... Granted I was riding a Japanese airlines, towards the end of the trip, I looked over and saw that both their passports were Korean and I rolled my eyes.

    Anyhow, I'm saving up again for another trip someday (when the yen is less inflated). We didn't get to go to the Ghibli Museum because it was too far away. My friend said the best time to go is during a matsuri (festival)... I'd like to experience dressing up in a yukata and all. ^^

  7. That's a funny story about your fellow plane passengers. ^^ When I was in Singapore, I really thought it would be easy to get by since the majority do speak English - but I was having such a difficult time deciphering their accent, it really sounded like another language. We were in a restaraunt once, and the waitress was confirming our order with me, but then she asked me this question in English, and I really had no idea what she was saying.. I just left it to my brother to answer, since it seemed he was used to it. Hehe. Travelling is such fun though.
    Hm, I've had the inspiration to start my own blog since a while.. I really think I need one, haha, so I can stop haunting other peoples' blogs and spamming their comments. I need a specific topic though first.

  8. @Kirei-chan

    Yeah, "English" is one thing, when each culture, country and region has a different derivative of it. I myself grew up hearing so many different English accents that I'm somewhat accustomed to most of it. I also find myself changing my English depending on where I am, especially when I'm in Asia. I try to tone down the "American" English, which I think is probably more difficult to understand than "British" English. But I thought they were really good at English in Singapore. :)

    You should totally start a blog, Kirei-chan... ^_^ I'm more of a pens and paper person, but it's nice having a blog. Part of the reason I wrote out the Tokyo Trip here was to have a written record for the sake of my deteriorating memory.

  9. It sounds like you had a really fun time. :) Btw, how's the next chapter of New Trials coming along?