Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Day 9: bags at the Keisei Ueno Station, the pleasure of a break in the Museum of Western Art

We were down to last bits of money in wallets, last bits of brain to squander, last shreds of feet to wander... packed and taxied to the station (the entrance convenient to the taxi coming from our direction is the one with nothing but steps to drag our baggage down), tickets bought and seats booked on the Skyliner for later in the afternoon, bags consigned to lockers.

We had time to visit something among galleries in Ueno Park, some were changing exhibitions, we elected to go to the National Museum of Western Art.

Multiple railway stations, multiple museums in a large park. The park where we had started.

This museum has an unusual history, having been built around the collection of one man with a shipbuilding fortune... and only a small part of that collection, made during the early 1920s, much having been lost by misadventure in Europe before the remainder returned to Japan in the early 1950s, having been confiscated during the war. The building is by Le Corbusier, my photo of the outside rotten, please go to this link, the Museum's information on the building.

It is an elegant place and most people looked more elegant than did I, especially in the place where we stopped for coffee.

My companion looked refined.

I had the view of Japan outside, she had the view of Japanese style inside.

The Google Cultural Institute link offers a good view of some works.

The building itself is art, also satisfying with its simple statements of the Modular or Modulor.

There was some great work to see, though I do not seek to represent it here other than with people present, for the mood of the day and the place

We were not alone in seeking rest... and being tired is OK in Japan.

Though certain people who must remain nameless, 
because we don't know their names, had snagged the best seats.
You can buy your own Le Corbusier chaise longue here.
That ad (at time of writing this blog entry) says: 
"A gentle warning. Once you sit your body in the Le Corbusier Chaise Longue (LC4), you may never want to get up again."
The evidence is before your eyes. I saw no prospect of getting a turn on this one.
But if considering getting one, when you look at that advertiser's video at YouTube
you realise that the chair 
will look nothing without the museum, so be prepared to dig deep!
The same advertiser says that the other chairs here,
 the "Grand Confort Spécial" are filled with duck down. Again, not free soon...

Finally, we should not leave unmentioned that this fine museum stands with many other fine places in Japan in offering superlative toilet facilities. 
This a disabled/family toilet on the ground floor, I confess to declaring myself unable to get down the stairs to the regular toilets at this end of the day, which was certainly much the case, but it was an exhibit needing to be inspected.
Even some ordinary railway toilets boast the clever seat to hold the infant. 
Why do we not consider such thing?
The bidet and wash function buttons are on the wall. 
I was initially alarmed by the location of ... was it a urinal?? ... on the left wall, in an impossible position. It was a handwashing basin accessible from wheelchair. No taps of course, no touching anything. Similarly, pass your hand in front of the flush non-button, and it flushes. 

and so out into the late afternoon for a short walk around Ueno Park

before introducing ourselves to the departing-every-20-minute Keisei Skyliner (the sharper, pointier one, forget that mildly sluggish gaudy creation on the right)

to be whisked at enormous speed to Narita Terminal 2 in time to wait quite a long time for our flight out at 7.45pm, with just enough cash for a pleasant 'Indonesian' curry while looking out the window.*

Sayonara...  sigh... 
Such an amazing trip, such an excellent amount of time to feast, remain coherent, remain upright, be quickly and completely blown out of home preoccupations and into another universe.

* I note that in contrast to experience of queues in other international airports, as we approached the check-in area of Japan Airlines at Narita 2, as unentitled cheapest Economy Class passengers, we were met by a polite young person who directed us to an empty counter, went behind the counter and proceeded to do everything instantly and brightly.
And then off to Sydney for cheerless soulless cold dealings by Border Protection staff at the airport there, mean manners imitative of a Morrison. Hard landing home...

Day 9: bags packed, walk Asakusa, Sensoji, finally through the tourist magnet in our front yard...

We were packed early, checkout midday, a couple of hours to spare.

So we set out to cruise the neighbourhood, stopping for the lights with some elegant shoppers

and on into morning quiet time in the playgrounds of Asakusa, first past this opportunity surely to bless the entrepreneurial and entertaining world of Asakusa

where the fairground was having a warm up spin

and things becoming spruce

till we reached the eaves of the Sensoji, oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo

where we turned first to see the small and beautiful Asakusa Shrine, Anja-Sama, 
the Shinto shrine which honours and protects the Buddhist Sensoji,

which stands to the right, here, across this laneway, 
and where school excursions are the main early feature of the day

though some, including the drinks machines, are still languorously enjoying the sunny morning morning, 

while waiting for the wisteria, which we only get to see in first moments of bud-burst this week

See the blue sky? 
We have had fair weather since we arrived... and rain is forecast for tomorrow, after we have gone.

and then it's time to leave Sensoji, as regular tourists arrive

We head down a back street and find a fine park

before looking into the astonishing fancy food arcade under the Asakusa Tubo Station.

Then we head back to the apartment, crossing Nakamisedori, 
the covered shopping street that delivers tourists via Consumption Central to the Sensoji.

Here's the movie.
Watch for the conversation between the rickshaw man and his passengers,
his bewilderment that they want to be parked looking away from the temple.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Day 6: Tokyo, Monday, regrouping, counting cash, making movies, going across town for another massage

We had arrived on Tuesday night, been busy every day, now Monday, time to do some planning for days before departure Thursday evening... also catch breath and ride the subway back to Koenji to get another shiatsu massage. Also a quick trip to Kappabashidori for some minor purchases.

Also needing calculate money needs. Japan is not a place where a credit card can be used everywhere. Foreign cards cannot be used to draw money from ATMs other than at post offices and Seven-11 stores.

We had brought with us ¥150,000, at that time about $US1,500. Cash obtained from Australia Post, ordered online ten days before departure, available to collect at local post office several days later.

We calculated on Monday that we would make it to Thursday night. We did, leaving the country with ¥138 ($1.50) and two Suica cards drained to not much, which we passed on to Emi and David back in Australia. We are known for our generosity.. ;-)

In terms of total holiday cost, add the approx $AU1300 for the apartment, $1070 each for Japan Air return tickets booked earlier when on sale, $300x2 for the seven day Japan Rail Pass, $220 for a room in a hotel in Kyoto for a night, about $200 on a card in Kappabashidori and $50 for our ride to the airport, to a total cost from Australia of a bit more than $5000.

  • Today's train portrait, something serene about the Chuo Rapid at lunchtime Monday
  • The beautiful lady with the beautiful koala-adorned clothes-and-more shop in Koenji
  • Evening view from our veranda

We will never know how much is intellectual discourse on the phone, how much is killing ninjas...
Is Hollister saying: "I wish I had their friends", or "I wish they's stop killing ninjas"... or "Did I turn off the stove?"
click to enlarge
This is a panoramic view (the road is straight, the camera moves) from our veranda, at night, to the east.
The first, small building, on the left, is the elevator entrance to the Asakusa (Tsukuba) subway station.
The laneway straight ahead leads to nightlife Asakusa, relatively genteel.
The figure silhouetted against bright entrance of ROX department store
(tell a taxi driver "LOOKS" not "ROX")  mostly likely at this hour coming from the 24 hour supermarket.
The first street to right of ROX leads straight to the Asakusa Tubo Station, 600 metres or so.
Second side street after ROX leads to the closest onsen, we never got to use it,
too much amenity including big bath at home,
 but we found it early one morning when closed. Head down that lane and MacDonalds is on the left...
slip into the first tiny lane on the right and there you have the onsen looking as shown at link.
Down the main road 300m on the right is the Tawaramachi Station of the Ginza subway line, for Ueno and the world.
To the west (behind the camera) nice quiet streets to Kappabashidori, then much longer walk to Ueno Station.
Taxi to Ueno Keisei station ¥1050 from down below our veranda.
There is railing along each side of the street below.
Taxis wait at the end of railing sections, by the pedestrian crossings.
Minimum taxi fare first two km ¥710. Generally speaking train is faster and easier than taxi.
Take a taxi with baggage.

Day 8, Tokyo: Hammamatsucho's Hama-Rikyu Garden, Korean lunch, Harajuku

Here's a map:

H top right = home. South to a beautiful park in Hammamatsucho, on further clockwise on the Yamanote Line to Shinokubo for a Korean lunch, three stops back for a brief stop in Harajuku, then run away quickly home.

In the middle of Tokyo business, this beautiful garden dates from the 1650s when it was initially a seaside duck hunting preserve for the Shogun's family, later a palace built there.

The imperial family gave the garden with most of its palace and other buildings destroyed, to the city of Tokyo in late 1945. More information here. More lively account here.

And my movie here


We went on to lunch in Shinokubo, known as Korea Town. Well worthwhile. 

In a street parallel to the Yamanote Line, we found a musical focus...

and ate well, here

opposite this

Then we all jumped on the train to drop in to Harajuku

...where we spent a moment in crowded commercial Takeshitadori
the appeal of which seems to be spending money, mainly by the young

 and then ran away exhausted