Monday, April 8, 2013

Chilling in Tokyo

The following week I stayed at Tokyo where I met with several of my friends from AIU and the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM). In addition, I also bought the Seishun 18 Pass because it would allow me to travel around Japan without having to worry about transferring when using the train for JR for five days.

I stayed around Asakusa area at a hostel nearby the Asakusa station. My hostel was located near the Tokyo Skytree. Compared to Okinawa, it was really easy to travel using the train so I avoided going to places like the Tokyo Skytree where I was required to pay.

At Tokyo, I went to Keio University to meet with my friend from the UHM, went to the Toei Musem and ate Monjayaki with my friend from AIU, went to Pokemon Center with two of my other friends from AIU, and hiked Mt.Takao by myself.

It was nice to see my friend at Keio because I rarely spoke to my friends from Hawaii after arriving at AIU, and my friend from Keio was one of my first friends I met as a Freshmen at UHM. My friend still looked the same, but he was still very passionate about learning Japanese.

In front of Keio University

Despite having a break that lasted several months, he only traveled to Sapporo to watch the Sapporo snow festival with another friend. Apparently he wanted to save money in order to go to Korea to visit some other friends, and he wanted to study Japanese more because he placed in a low level at Keio even though he finished Japanese 302 the semester he left before studying abroad.

Compared to me, he was a lot better at reading kanji and he had a better vocabulary. Despite having a lot of Japanese friends at AIU, it seems like only my speaking improved. We both thought that after studying abroad in Japan for a year, we would both be fluent, but with about four months remaining until we return home, we knew we had to study as much as possible in order to improve our Japanese.

On the day that I hung out with my friend from UHM, he showed me around Shinjuku and Shin Okubo. He also introduced me to this special type of chicken at the Japanese McDonalds called Shaka-Shaka chicken. For Shaka-Shaka chicken, you add some of sort of powder to the chicken and shake the bag before you eat the chicken. The chicken is oily, but it is very good. According to my friend from UHM, it seems like a lot of the McDonalds in Japan sell Shaka-Shaka chicken.

At Shinjuku, he showed me around the electronics stores and introduced me to Bikuro which is a combination of Uniqlo and Bic Camera. Uniqlo is a clothing chain that allows people to buy Japanese clothes for cheap prices. Bic Camera is a electronic chain that sells not just cameras, but also other electronics. Bikuro is unique because this is the only Bikuro in Japan. In addition, although Bikuro is a combination of Uniqlo and Bic Camera, products located within the Bic Camera or Uniqlo section must be bought from the correct vendor where the product was located.

At Shin-Okubo, we walked around the area and ate delicious Korean food. Shin-Okubo is known as Japan's "Korean town." At Shin-Okubo the signs are in Japanese, but the merchants speak in both Korean and Japanese.
Japanese's style Bibimbap from Shin-Okubo at Tokyo
At the end of that day, I was hoping to introduce my friend from UHM to my friends at AIU, but because he spent a lot of money on that day, he decided it would be best for him to stay home. I was sad, but I cannot wait to see again in Hawaii.
Saying goodbye to my friend from Hawaii
The next day I met with one of my friends from AIU. Originally I wanted to go the Ghibli Museum, but because I did not make reservations in advance, we decided to go the Toei Museum instead. The Toei Museum was very interesting and I recognized popular Japanese animes such as One Piece, Dragon Ball Z, and Sailor Moon.
Inside of the Toei Museum
After going to the museum, we decided to eat monjayaki because I thought it was a specialty dish from the Tokyo area. According to my friend from UHM, monjayaki is unique because Japanese people eat this dish while they are cooking. Therefore it may be troublesome to make. Below is a video of someone making monjayaki from youtube.

Monjyaki: One of Japan's specialty dishes
 The monjayaki was very good, but the day was not over yet so we decided to end the day by going to Ueno to visit the cherry blossoms and visiting Hachiko at Shibuya. Unless I am mistaken the dog Hachiko is a Akita breed from the Akita region. I also heard that at Akita, there is a museum dedicated to the dog. Some day I would like to visit the museum before returning to Hawaii.

In front of Hachiko at Shibuya
The day after, I went to Pokemon Center to meet with two of my other friends at AIU. I wanted to go to Pokemon Center because when I was little I used to like Pokemon a lot. In addition, although I am an adult, I think Pokemon is still interesting, and it will always be important part of my childhood.

It took me a while to meet with my friends because the train station near the Pokemon Center was bigger than expected, and both of my friends that I met with on that day did not have cell phones. Thankfully we met each other at the Pokemon Center, and bought gifts for our families back home. My friends had to leave early because they to plan their trip to Kyoto from Tokyo using the Seishun 18 pass. Originally I was thinking about canceling my night bus reservation from Tokyo to Okayama. However, after learning that their trip from Akita to Tokyo took about 16 hours, I decided it may be more efficient to ride the night bus.
Outside of Pokemon World

On my last day before leaving for Tokyo I decided to go to Mt.Takao by myself. I wanted to hang out with some of my other friends, but because I bought the Seishun 18 pass, I thought it would be better for me to travel to the farthest place possible within Tokyo in order to get the most out of my money.
At Okinawa, I wanted to go hiking and go to the beach, but because I got confused with the bus system at Okinawa, I was unable to.

Below are pictures from my hike at Mt.Takao. The mountain was pretty big, so despite waking up early, I was unable to hike the whole mountain. Some day I would like to return to finish this hike.
Start of the trail

Monkey's from the monkey part at the top of Mt.Takao

A shrine at the top of Mt.Takao