Monday, September 03, 2007

Tokyo #2

My second day in Tokyo was so-so. Woke up and enjoyed a western breakfast at the hotel buffet which was included in my room price. Then I packed up and checked out, leaving my bags with the Bell Captain. The various tour packages' times didn't work well for my schedule, but they suggested a good trip I could take would be to visit the Tokyo Tower, the world's highest self-supporting steel tower. I took a simple subway trip about 20 minutes to get there. Here's the view from the Station exit:

Took a 10 minute walk, most of it uphill, to arrive at the tower:

Along the way, I saw this patch of Kudzu growing up the wall under a bridge. Since Japanese Kudzu has invaded the Southeast USA, I thought I should document that it is taking over in Japan as well.

Here is The Stumbler in the lobby at the Tokyo Tower:

When I arrived at the tower, I realized that this was a bad idea. What the hotel staff failed to tell me was that on Sunday, everyone in Tokyo also goes to visit the tower! There was a HUGE line to get on the elevator to the observation deck. I waited about 10 - 15 minutes, and finally got to the front of the line at the elevator doors. There I saw that the man was collecting your ticket, but I didn't have a ticket! He told me where to go buy one, and said I could cut in line when I came back. I went outside to the ticket booth, where I waited another 10-15 minutes to buy my ticket. He did let me cut the elevator line, so finally I was on my way up. This elevator takes you to the Main Observatory at the 150m level. From there, you can take another elevator to the Special Observatory at the 250m level. After walking around some at the Main Observatory, I was ready to go up higher. Well, I look around to find where the next elevator is, and guess what? Another huge long line. It looks to be another 15 minute wait. At this point, I need the bathroom. So before I wait in line, I found the bathroom downstairs one level. Guess what - there was a long line for the bathroom, too! At this point, I just gave up, and decided to return to the ground. Where are the down elevators... hmmmm.... what is this other long line.... oh, I have to wait another 10 minutes in a line to go down! It was pretty frustrating day, but the view was indeed fantastic, and I was only at the 150m level.

Here is an interesting view - they called this the "Lookdown Window", and it certainly lives up to it's name. The kids weren't at all bothered by it. One boy seemed to be testing the strength by kicking at the glass with his toes, almost daring it to break. After my subway accident, The Stumbler was very careful NOT to step on the Lookdown Window at all.

When I finally did reach the bottom, and found the bathroom, I was amused to find this sign at the sink. I guess you would call it "Janglish", not "Konglish".

On the walk back to the station, I passed this VW dealer. It was pretty cool to see a right hand drive beetle, so I went inside and asked permission to take these photos:

When I got back to the hotel train station, I took a walk around trying to find a Japanese restaurant. Problem was, I couldn't find anything obvious to me. There were a lot of signs for places that could have been a restaurant, but I couldn't be sure. This area was not like the area I visited yesterday, where there were dozens and dozens of restaurants. It was easy to see from the menu photos, or just looking inside quickly, what food was served. This area was more of a downtown business district, where the restaurants were more hidden from casual view. While walking around, I stumbled on this nice park with a waterfall and open air flea market

Finally, I gave up and went back to the hotel to eat. Surely I could find Japanese lunch at the hotel? Well, yes and no. It was available, but they wanted about $50 for a meal!!! I couldn't believe it. So I found the cheapest restaurant at the hotel, and ordered something called Singapore Fried Noodles. Not Japanese, but better than McDonald's.

I finally got on the shuttle bus to the airport, and saw this interesting sign scroll by. Thought I would take a short movie and test the Blogger's new ability to post movie clips.

Well, that's all. Made it back to Korea with no problem, except that my legs were a little tired from all the walking around. Overall I had a good trip, but I really felt like a foreigner in a strange land. Not knowing any language, and especially not being able to read even simple signs, it's really makes you feel like a real stranger. I can appreciate how important even a simple understanding of the language can make a lot of difference. If I go back to Japan, I would really like to have someone with me who speaks Japanese act as a guide. I think that would make all the difference.

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