Saturday, June 30, 2012

Home, home again. (Well, my second home.)

Back in VA! Got back to the US late Friday—Beth picked me up from the airport, and we headed back to the house. Mark and Kami were on a different flight than I and have a layover in L.A. Kami wouldn't be home till Friday night and Mark early Saturday morning.

The plan for the weekend is to take the Megabus up to Boston from Washington DC on the Saturday evening. It arrives in Boston at 6 A.M. in the morning! Suzanne and Eric have said we can crash in their hotel rooms for a few hours to sleep during the day, and then we’re going to make our way over to the pre-show meet up bar across from the venue, see the show, get the midnight bus from Boston down to New York, arrive in NY at 4 A.M., and finally get the 6 A.M. bus down to Washington D.C.

I am looking forward to seeing everyone in Boston. I have a lot of friends attending the show and am real pleased we are both going to make it up there. I was awake at 4 A.M. last night with jetlag, and it’s now 5 A.M. Saturday morning, and I’ve been up since 2:30 A.M. unable to sleep. Beth’s on her way back from the airport after picking Mark up—his flight was delayed, so he didn’t get in till 4 this morning. In fact, it’s now 7 A.M. and we’ve all just got back from breakfast at IHOP! Brent and I met up with Mark and Beth at the IHOP on their way back from the airport, then Kami woke up to an empty house, called us, and headed over to IHOP herself due to being awake with jetlag!


I’m going to suffer for no sleep, however, and I am hoping to get sleep on the overnight coach ride up to Boston tonight.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Tokyo day 7: Wednesday, 27th June

Mark had an early morning work appointment for a couple of hours, so Kami and I left the hotel to go to a couple of souvenir shops and agreed to meet Mark back at the hotel at 12:30.

Taxi door opening itself in the video below

We took the train, shopped for half an hour and then took the train back.

Push the button!                                         Picture on a lamp post.                             Rare sighting of a litter fairy!

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We got back within minutes of Mark arriving and decided to take the monorail out to the island in Tokyo Harbour, a place called Odaiba.

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We got a great view of many of the buildings we saw from the top of Tokyo Tower. A lot of the buildings over here are very futuristic and wouldn't look out of place in a lot of Sci Fi films. There are two tower blocks of apartments that, when seen from a distance, look like they are old and decaying at the top corners. They look like they've been hit by a couple of bombs on the top floors, and no one’s rebuilt them. As we got close to the building, it was clear that this is a very cool effect created by painting those floors and apartments different colours and shades.

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There are about a dozen stations on the monorail, and it goes all around the island. It also goes over the famous Rainbow Bridge, which stretches form the mainland to the island. Mark and Beth walked over this when they came to Tokyo in 2005, and I would have loved to have done the same, but Kami wasn't too keen because of limited time. It would have been nice walking over it at night to see the Tokyo skyline, but we took the monorail back later on. There’s a replica of the Statue of Liberty out there—I believe there are four Statues of Liberty around the world, and Tokyo’s completed me seeing all four—the rest are in Las Vegas, Paris and, of course, New York. We stopped for lunch at a burger place and sat with a great view of the whole bay and the Tokyo skyline in front of us.

Rainbow Bridge and the Statue of Liberty    Lunch, sweet potato fries & maple syrup!     View at lunch

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We had a walk around one of the shopping centres there, and Kami found one of the Purikura picture booths, so once again Kami and I had our pictures done. You can see the results below.

Purikura photo booth                                 Inside the booth, photo selection screen    The words and pictures adding screen

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The huge Ferris wheel we had seen upon our arrival into Tokyo was there on the island, so we took the monorail a few more stations along and got off at the station nearest to it.

There were normal carriages in every colour of the rainbow on the Ferris wheel, but there were also 4 totally see-through glass carriages! We choose to go in the glass carriage and had a 10-minute wait till one came around on the wheel.

The view of not only the island but also the view stretching as far as the Disney complex was fantastic from the top. It was a gorgeous day and couldn't have been clearer!

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Tokyo island panorama small

The three of us then rode to the end of the line of the Monorail just to see all the cool buildings. From there, Mark headed back to the hotel while Kami and I took a wander around one of the shopping malls on the island.

Hello Kitty cookies being made:

Hello Kitty is HUGE out here. They will put the name on virtually anything—including octopus!

Gundam robot outside the shopping mall

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Animals around the shopping mall     Octopus!      Just another wall!                              $8 big mac!

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We then took the monorail back to the train station and the train back to the hotel.

Full album of pictures at the link below.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Large panorama of Tokyo

The image below was made from 12 normal digital pictures and stitched together. Click on the image below, then click on the picture that opens in the link to see an enlarged picture.

Panorama Tokyo island small

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tokyo day 6: Tuesday, 26th June

Mark, Kami, and I were at the bottom of Tokyo Tower at 9:30 ready for our trip to the top. It was a beautiful morning—the sun was out already, and the sky was pretty clear.
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There’s a new tower in Tokyo called the Tokyo Skytree. It’s open already, however, for the first month the tickets were issued on a lottery system. It’s opening to the general public  in mid-July, which is a shame, as it would have been great to go up it. So we went to Tokyo Tower, and although it’s half the size of the Skytree it still provides and excellent full 360` view around the city. It’s visible from all over the city and lights up at night.
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It cost us $20 to go up to both levels—there are two different observation decks—one at 150 metres and one at 250 metres. As it was only 9:30, we bought our ticket and walked right into the elevator to take us to the 1st level. Mark and I were wondering if the opening of the Skytree would affect the business of this tower and agreed it had to do, since if the Skytree had of been open, we would have gone up that instead!
It didn't take long in the elevator before we were at the 1st level, and we walked straight around to get in the 2nd elevator to take us to the top. The view was simply stunning, and we couldn't have picked a better day to come up. As you can see from the Panorama pictures I posted in the entry below, we were higher than all the existing buildings apart from the new tower. As we looked out Mark noticed that we could actually see the top of Mount Fuji!! It took Kami and I a few seconds to see it as the top was snow capped and actually blended into the clouds. It was huge—I had no idea it was that high!
Top of Mount Fuji in the black square
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We spent about 30 minutes at the top taking pictures and looking for places we had been through the city—we spotted our hotel, the  museum we had been in two days ago, and the Ferris wheel and the cool looking Fuji TV building across the river on the island. Kami also pointed out the school she attended when she lived out here. There was also a cool building below us that had an amazing roof but I’m not sure what it is exactly, maybe some type of theatre or venue.
Unusual looking building with cool roof!         Fuji TV building out on the island               Kami, her school over her left shoulder.
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There was a glass floor panel on one of the lower floors, so we headed down to take a look at it. The panel was about six feet long by two feet wide and you could see straight through it. It was nothing much in comparison to the glass box that sticks out of the side of the Sears Tower in Chicago which you can entirely stand in, but it was still cool to see as below.
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As we were about to leave, a group of Japanese people arrived with a little girl, and she was obviously curious when she saw the glass panel on the floor. She stepped right up to the edge of it until one of the party picked her up and tried to put her in the middle of the panel. She totally freaked out kicking her legs and fighting to be put down. I stepped back onto the glass to show her it was safe, then I jumped a few inches, and within seconds she walked out onto the glass and started looking right through it to the street below. She jumped up and down a couple of times on the edge of the glass, too, for good measure.
The three of us headed out of the tower and walked to Kami’s old school. It was really pretty and quiet around the campus. It was cool to see Kami’s small face smile as she walked around and obviously had some fond memories. While walking over to the school we passed some children being taken through the city in the strangest way! Apparently this is the way they take very young school kids out, as its the safest way for them all to travel in groups.They all looked ever so cute and waved as they passed us.
Just been shopping at Babies `R` Us!     Cool street hanging over the river.         Cat taxi logo
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Mark headed back to the hotel in a taxi after seeing the school, and Kami and I made our way to Shibuya as we were meeting up with one of her friends for lunch at a nearby metro station, but we had 90 minutes of time to kill. We ended up in one of the arcades that has photo booths where you create stickers called Purikura. These are huge in Japan, and there are booths all over Tokyo. We had fun for an hour taking some funny pictures. They were a little odd, though, as the machine actually alters your face! They whiten your skin, and you can even choose to increase the size of your eyes! You then use an electronic pen to decorate them with words and pictures on a separate screen before eventually printing them out and cutting them up into individual stickers!
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We met up with Kami’s friend Rob at 1 P.M. and ate lunch at a Hawaiian place near his work. Kami was at college with him when she was at William and Mary. Around 2:30 we headed back to the hotel as Mark had a talk to do at 4 P.M., and Kami was going with him this afternoon. I’ve been chilling out at the hotel for the last few hours and will probably be heading out for dinner somewhere when they get back.
Click the link below to see more pictures from the Tokyo Tower. Thanks to Kurt Gunzinger