When I was planning this trip, I thought
it would be nice to schedule some vacation so I could get out and see
more sights than I could last time
On that trip, there was a 3-day national holiday that gave an
opportunity to do some touring, but it was still 3.5 weeks of work out
of four. This time, there were no holidays on the calendar that I
could leverage so I planned 3 weeks of work and a week of
vacation. As it turned out, there is a national holiday during
this vacation week as well, but not an official "close the office
one". Called Obon
it's a time for honoring your deceased ancestors. It's customary
to be around August 13-15, which is the end of the vacation week, and
many of the people I needed to meet with are going to be out at this
time. Oh well...
So Saturday August 9 Jen came to visit and we were going to Narita
(most people pronounce it na-Ree-ta) to meet her that afternoon.
While preparing, we heard loudspeakers outside as we had heard two years ago
We were expecting some protests or activity at some point, since the Hiroshima
remembrance was August 6, Nagasaki was August 9, and the surrender
was announced on August 15. Since the hotel looks out on
Sakurada-dori, Route 1, and leads to the Imperial Palace, we didn't
know if this was related to that. The hundreds of cars and trucks
flying the war
got our attention. Also, the effort everyone put into
mounting loudspeakers, apparently permanently, onto all these vehicles,
as well as the decoration, and organizing the rally, sure made us know
they were serious about this weekend endeavour.
We saw this car flying the Japanese flag in front, and weren't sure if
it was a dignitary. The white license
ownership though the particulars are complex.
We asked at the front desk what was going on, and she laughed, telling
us that it was a protest against the Russian Embassy up the
street. Every year they hold a protest over the continued Russian
occupation of islands that have been held since World War II, in
, and they want them returned. We were leaving to go to
the airport anyway, so we chose to head north past the Russian Embassy
and see what the scene looked like. Here's the scene, with the
embassy being those two white buildings in the background.
The chants were coordinated, and we weren't sure if they were recorded
or live. Live. We recorded some videos, which are large and
unedited. This one (70 MB)
early in the procession, and the crowd starting to build at the
intersection. The blue buses are loaded with police, and more came as
the hours went on. This one (60 MB)
shows a different group, yelling what sounds to us like "Banzai
Took the Narita Express from Tokyo station to the airport, which takes
about an hour. One thing that can be confusing about their train
system is sometimes you get two tickets to ride, one gets you through
the first turnstile and the second into the high-speed or Shinkansen
lines. You also have to show your passport when you leave the
train to enter the airport, which you don't need to do if you arrive by
road. Here's the "B" area where people exit from AA or JAL
On the way back we let Jen soak in the scenery, which you can find on
her Flickr site. I won't repeat other shots I've already posted,
but here's the very large IBM building downtown:
Since I had
about eating many meals out of a box, Jen thought we should
seek out a nice dinner. She looked through the Time Out guide and
searched through Ginza and was able to locate, with a little assistance
from a local, the restaurant Ten-Ichi by the address.
best-known tempura restaurant in town, and is regularly visitied by
dignitaries and celebrities. You choose the set meal, depending
on how much you want to eat (or spend). We chose the least
expensive set which was ¥12,000 per person. While it came
with soup and salad, and drinks were an extra ¥700 each, the focus
was on the tempura. We had fresh eel, shrimp, prawn, a variety of
fish, vegetables, squid, and scallops, each dipped in front of us by
two chefs dedicated to just we three. It was incredibly light and
flavorful, not like the greasy heavy stuff we've come to think of as tempura
out to be or Portuguese origin). There was a little dish with two
spots for salt and fresh lemon juice to dip, and a separate bowl of
shredded japanese radish with soy sauce. Depending on the item,
they told us which to dip in. I found the radish not so tasty,
kind of like bitter turnip, but I thought the salt and lemon added just
the right taste. The service was exellent and very
memorable. If you can afford it, it's recommended.
On our way back, we stopped in a Pachinko parlor and Jen tried it out,
but since we didn't know how to play, and the attendant gave up
explaining to us, she lost her 500 Yen. On the street by the
hotel we noted lots of these signs, which weren't usually there. We
suspect they're notices of the rally, or "do not park" signs.
The next day we went to Akihabara to introduce Jen to the Electronics
area. We went over to Daimon to pick up the JR Yamanote line
Akihabara, and also stop at Tully's for coffee and. I wanted to
show this sign which is in most stations, which shows the actual
schedule of the train per station. From it you can pick out what
"rush hour" is and I'd say it's accurate.
We happened to be in the front of the JR train so we could watch the
operator at work. Sorry about the incorrect focus (Jim!).
Finally, back at Electric Town. You've seen pictures and we
didn't buy anything of substance but it was a fun visit anyway.
We got back not too late because the big traditional Tokyo fireworks
display was supposed to start at 7, and the hotel roof looks over Tokyo
Bay. Got some decent shots of the show, which went from exactly
7:00 to 8:20, which is 80 minutes. Since 8 is
a lucky number
, is that a coincidence?
This is a smiley face, which was used liberally during the show.
There was a heart as well, and possibly other symbols I just couldn't
The clouds of smoke wafted our way after about a half hour, and you
could smell the powder.
Here the fireworks are obscured by the cloud of smoke.
So far so good! Later.