Sunday, October 08, 2006

One Day, 28 Hours, Sore Feet...

I'm not kidding. This was seriously the norm in Harajuku. In fact, this was very mild compared to most!

Agenda for Our Free Day- Saturday:

I swear I squished 28 hours into the 24 yesterday. Here it goes...
Long Run: 2 hours and 40 minutes. I meet with another JFMF teacher, Lisa, and we ventured out around the Imperial Palace and anywhere and everywhere. It made the run seem short. It was probably the easiest run I have had in at least a year or so. Once I get back to Tokyo, we plan on meeting up then.
Shibuya: After breakfast and a much needed shower, it was time to head out with Shannon, a teacher in our Chigasaki group. Our first stop was Shibuya, which is known for having the busiest train station stop in the world. It is also known for a famous little dog named Hachiko. A professor brought his dog to this Shibuya station every day, so when the dog's master passed away the dog continued to wait at the station for him to return. From what I gathered, the dog remained there for over 7 years, faithfully waiting. The locals feed him and took care of him. Below is a picture. I heard an American children's book is based on this story.

Harajuku: There are two fashion districts in Tokyo. The first is Ginza (high end, top model type stores) and the second is Harajuku. The latter is known for its teen appel. It is wild, bizzare, and fascinating. It almost borders on role playing/halloween dress up. Fashion here is all about shock value. Extreme shoes, hair, combinations...even the stores had the oddest names. This was definetly the sort of place you want to buy an outfit just to say you got something there. Of course, I found the most conservative dress in the area.

Disney Sea: Harajuki took up a good portion of the morning. In fact, I am thinking I will return there next Tuesday when we return to Tokyo. But closing in near 4 pm, Shannon and I headed to Disney Sea where the price is discounted after 4. Several train connections, including a special one (the JR) lead us to Disney Sea, which is actually just outside of Tokyo although everything says likewise. To our sad, sad surprise, the 3,100 yen (about 30 dollars) was more like 4,800 (50) as the weekend is a different discount. This was a bad omen. Inside, we were quickly fascinated with the scenery and detail. Being that it was celebrating its 5th anniversary, I was very impressed with the cleansliness and authenticity in replicating Venice, Morroco, and Maine. All themed areas were based on the water (hence the title). Within a few minutes I was watching a worker sing something kin to "Mama Mia" in Japenese on the gondola. Minus that, you would think you were in Italy somewhere. Two amusing things about visiting a familar American icon in another land. One. Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse sound oh so funny when they are speaking Japanese (especially Donald Duck). Two. Riding familar rides with Japanese dialogue makes this trip worth it autmatically and wins brownie points for proving I am easily amused. Long story not explained, we ended up leaving pretty early. I was pretty beat and was quite confident I had logged in at least a marathon (14 by 8:30 for sure). We left purchasing NOTHING, including no dinner, in protest to the steep entrance price. Bedtime- 11 pm.

Monrail, not free. About 2 dollars one way. This ride lasts 2 minutes or so. I will admit that the handle bars and windows were cute. There were neat display cases also, but I'm going overboard on photos already.
The Next Morning/Treasure Hunting:
Before departing for Japan, I thought I'd take another trip through the city. I was so glad to have bumped into Clare, a member of our group who is an avid sailor. She was messing around with her Garmin (GPS navigator). I asked her what she was doing and she said she was seeking gem catches. I asked her what the heck that meant and without understanding what she was talking about, she convinced me to go along. At first, I kept thinking, "Why are you doing this? This is weird," but she quickly impressed me by hopping on and off subway lines landing us in a remote location. She explained that there are international treasure spots around the world, and using your GPS navigation system, it is a little like going treasure hunting for these remote, random spots. She hits the location on her system and a digital compass leads us north. We go down small alleys and streets, not even caring about street names or how to get back. It leads us into a cemetery. I am still thinking at this point, "What a mistake! What am I doing?" But the cemetary fascinated me. It was so tranquil and peaceful. Clare declares we are within .3 miles of the spot. It leads us to a large tree. She finds a stick and locates a small box in the branches. Upon opening it up, there is a log, a trinket present, and some stickers. She enters our name in the logs, takes a boomerang key chain and replaces it with an item, and then places it back in the tree. I was sold at this point. We were treasure hunters! She then notices that her system locates another catche. We head off in that direction and have problems when it stops and says the spot is within 20 feet. Clare then opens her laptop for one clue, which tells us, of all things, that the spot is next to the dog Habichi. The clues also included some descriptions: a maple leaf on the headstone, a gate (found around some of the plots) and the word Mon. Considering there were hundreds of plots and they were all in Japenese, we still struggled to find it. A cemetery worker passes by and we ask, "Arf, arf?" and rest our hands on our face like we are sleeping. The man acknowledges what we are asking and tries hard to tell us that, yes, it is close by, but he is not sure where. We gave ourselves 5 minutes to find it. We lost. Oh well. It was really fun. This was all before 9 am. We made it back in time to get on the bus for Fujisawa.

Fujisawa/Chigasaki: Instead of staying in Chigasaki, our hotel is in Fujisawa. I lucked out and got the big room. It is a great size compared to the others. It even has additional furniture and storage room. But is nothing compared to the Hotel Otani with its Versace and Gucci stores as norm. Our tour guide said it is very, very rare to be able to see Mount Fuji in Tokyo, but on our way out it was very easy to see it. My camera couldn't capture its image very well from the moving bus though. Below is a sad attempt, but we are going to another location this week (compared to the Swiss Alps, including the cable cars on the wires) where we should be able to see it easily and up close. Another neat thing we did during the trip was travel in an underwater tunnel. I thought of Eli, thinking he would just love it.

My first glimpse at Mount Fuji!

First impressions: Oh, you mean not everyone dresses to the nine all the time? I was really under the impression that everyone in Japan dresses extremely sophistacted all the time. Even at Disneyland, the majority wore expensive, elaborate outfits with HEELS! High ones. Although rural, it has more of a rural European feel lined with shopping stores. Two themes for stores. Games and Hawaiian stores. Within a block there were two Hawaiian stores and one Hawaiian resturant. I'll have to find out why. I think I prefer it here over Tokyo. I didn't realize how fast my life had adjusted to the craziness here. It feels nice to have a slower pace of life, with bikes strolling the streets. More info. to come!

Tomorrow: Jokenji Temple, Chigasaki City Museum of Art, Southern Beach, Kamakura, the Great Buddah (if you saw the picture, you'd know it), and Hase Temple.