chris vs. the arctic

chris: 72 // the arctic: 47

Tokyo Times

For my first year and a half here in Japan, I have gone around claiming that Osaka was my favourite city. This may have been true at the time, but it's definitely not the case now. Tokyo is the place to be, no question. 12 million people (36 mil, including the surrounding suburbs) can't be wrong, right?

Whenever I make my way to the big city, it's not what you'd classify as a 'trip.' It's more of an 'event.' Something weird, wacky, or wonderful is always sure to come up. My excursion to Tokyo with Amber C. in May was no exception.

We left on the overnight bus Saturday night. Yeah, we're hardcore that way. Most people would opt for the cushy bullet train. Not us! The overnight bus is the most convenient when it comes to packing in as much of Tokyo as possible, which, of course, is always the goal.

Amber and I decided to find an onsen to freshen up before the day began. We went to Asakusa so seek out the famous Asakusa Kannon Onsen. Upon our arrival, we found something bizzare. Asakusa was littered with empty beer cans and overrun by hungover Tokyo citizens wearing nothing but thong underwear and headbands. As we moved closer to the Asakusa Kannon Temple, we noticed a huge crowd of people surrounding something. We couldn't tell what that something was because everyone was standing on step ladders, blocking our view of the movement in front of them! It turns out they were watching people carry a mini-shrine on their shoulders. We had stumbled upon the dying embers of Tokyo's largest festival -- the Sanja Matsuri!

Sanja Festival

We were lucky to see part of it. It's a very famous event in Tokyo. Needless to say, however, the onsen was not accessible. So Amber and I searched through our guidebook and found a much more interesting place. But before we went there, we decided to breakfast in Harajuku and check out Meiji Shrine.

Meiji Shrine ToriiMeiji Shrine

We were luck enough to catch a Shinto wedding. It's always a beautiful sight.

Shinto Wedding

After eating and awing, we finally made it to an onsen. But this wasn't any ol' onsen, my friend. No. It was Oedo Onsen Monogatari -- an Edo period onsen theme world! In this magical land, you wear a funky yukata and wander around a fake Edo period village, buying food or souvenirs with a barcode bracelet. You can also wander outside and soak your feet in a foot onsen, or relax in a sand bath. Of course, you can get naked and use the full onsen at any time. This place was definitely worth the ¥2,800 entry fee!

Oedo Onsen MonogatariShopping in the Edo Period
Lounging Around

Now that we were fed and bathed, it was time for the reason we ventured to Tokyo -- Design Festa! Twice a year, Tokyo hosts a huge art and design convention for independent artists from across Japan. I attended last year and it was quite a show!

This year, the sheer size of the event astounded me! There must have been at least double the amount of booths and artists! Fantastic.

Tokyo Big SightDesign Festa!
More of the Fashion Show
Live Stage
A Reading
Performance ArtArt

Five hours of music, art, fashion, and shopping later, we were spent. There was one last thing we needed to do to complete our full day of Tokyo -- eat with ninjas. Yes, that's right. For years, I've heard about a restaurant in Akasaka ward called Ninja, which boasts gourmet food served by sneaky servers dressed as ninjas! My dream come true.

All good things must come to an end. (Why??) After nearly 17 hours of festivals, shrines, temples, shopping, onsens, yukatas, restaurants, music, art, design, fashion, subways, and ninjas, it was time to return to boring Toyama-ken. I will be back, Tokyo! Don't you worry.
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On June 15, 2006, Blogger Ms. World said:

All I can say is that I'm jealous! I'm on the verge of joining the Peace Corps!    

On June 15, 2006, Blogger mystery meat said:

that crazy tokyo sunday was so fun. everytime i tell one of my old japanese lady-friends about the onsen theme park, they get extremely jealous. i guess it was featured on a tv show awhile ago and so tons of people know about it. and we got to go!!    

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