Our story so far... Tokyo

or: the dan dan mien tour

The fates have yet again decided I should return to the Land of the Rising Sun to do some work, spend some time, and continue building worthwhile relationships with the fine people on these islands.  Originally scheduled for the spring, the trip was delayed due to the terrible earthquake and tsunami of 3/11/11.  I waited until things got settled down enough before coming.  But things have stabilized, the nuclear power plants have been more-or-less been contained, and the biggest expected impediment is the mandatory power saving efforts because so many power plants continue to be offline. This means air conditioning being at levels less than we're accustomed to.  I was monitoring this at the TEPCO website and at the excellent english-language local magazine Metropolis to see how things were going.

Anyway, your intrepid traveler being properly briefed on radiation exposure and ready for some hot weather, we departed JFK on 8/31 at sunset, and we'll be flying the terminator most of the way.

Our route took us north toward Connecticut.  KBDR is just above the engine here.

Wasn't very much to see along the way this time, it was about this dark most of the flight, and clouds obscured the ground.

I'll be seeing Sapporo midway through the trip. 

This flight on American went to Haneda airport, which is Tokyo International (RJTT), and is closer to the city than Narita.  Coming in for a landing.

The easiest way to my hotel is the Tokyo Monorail to Hamamatsucho JR station, then take a taxi for the final leg. There is a way via Metro but with luggage it's kind of a pain.  The monorail was put in for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and has been expanded and upgraded since then.  Here's the airport platform.

The cars have some seats at higher levels than others, I assume to accomodate mechanical equipment below.

Energy savings is a major concern, and there is a 15% expected reduction in consumption for the summer.  Electric Saving Polar Bear says: "Switch OFF!  Smile ON!"

<sad> The Pororoca supermarket next to the hotel is no more, having been bought a while back, and the new owner converted them to a Maruetsu petit.  Not much changed inside, other than they seem to carry less sushi than before.

The view from the hotel roof is pretty much the same, the red flashing aircraft alert lights still, to me, signaling "Tokyo!". 

The Tokyo Tower is usually orange, but it was blue on a few nights during the trip.  I'm not sure if the blue was to signify an event, or if it was a power-saving effort.

The Somerset still puts out some items to make your arrival more comfortable.

My first lunch, and naturally that had to be Dan Dan Mien at my favorite place.  Mmm hot and spicy, with a sesame/peanut sauce.  The rice has a sweet bean tofu mixture on it.  The dessert is something like a grapefruit gelatin.  And yes, that's potato salad.

Wandering around Akihabara looking for new stuff, I came across this shrine which I hadn't noticed before.  I've seen several this trip in places I had visited many times, but had not seen them before.

The Akihabara KFC dressed up Col. Sanders.

The Super Potato is still doing well.

There's a huge number of watches for sale from on-street vendors, many for prices in the hundreds of dollars.

Akihabara always draws a crowd.

Went to the Apple Store in Ginza.

The Yamano music store in Ginza is pretty amazing, selling not only CDs but also musical instruments like pianos, french horns, and cellos.  They also have an extensive classical and jazz music score selection.  I saw things on the shelf there that were hard-to-find special orders in the US.  They also were heavily promoting the new Beatles "1" album. Those Beatles posters look familiar.

One day we didn't have time to go out, so I went down to the office building food court, where most of the restaurants have pre-assembled bags with a lunch for 500-600 Yen.  This is from a sushi restaurant and had a nice selection of shrimp, tuna, salmon, scallop, egg, mackerel and squid for 600Y.  Couple that with a Iced Mocha from Excelsior and you've got a nice meal.

I saw these eyes on a TEPCO truck and was not sure what they indicated - Tepco's watching us?

I went over to Zojo-ji, the main temple of Jodo-shu (pure sect) Buddhism, which is right by the hotel. I'd walked around it before, but hadn't felt comfortable walking through.  I've been in Japan enough now to know there's no concern about an outsider going and seeing it, so I went back for another look.  This gate is in the traditional location where it's been since around 1598.  Like most historic buildings, it's actually a replica, the original having been destroyed during the firebombing during WWII.

This is the inside of the temple, with the image of Amida Buddha.

The temple originally housed the remains of six of the Tokugawa Shoguns, who ruled Japan from 1603 until 1868.  During The War the temple was destroyed, and they had only been able to find some of the original remains, which have been put into new graves, which are designated National Treasures.

A view of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower at sunset.

Looking toward the Shiodome area.

I was looking at the top of the Tokyo Tower, and it seemed to me the antenna was bent.  I asked, and yes, it was damaged during the 3/11 earthquake.  It's still broadcasting, though.  There's a new tower being constructed in Tokyo, the Sky Tree, which is higher and will support terrestrial broadcasting.  It's needed because the Tokyo Tower isn't tall enough to be able to support the entire area, as there is signal degradation due to nearby tall buildings.

Some meals from the Pororoca Maruetsu Petit.  Spaghetti-type with a mushroom sauce, macaroni salad, and an odd macaroni and cheese.

The area around the hotel, including a BMW dealer.  Two other custom-car dealers have set up shop within a few blocks.

There's a Taiwanese restaurant in the office food court, and this is a spicy beef, flavored a bit like dan dan mien.  The egg drop soup was really good too.

Had dinner with my friend Jacky, at a little dan dan mien place in Ginza.  Here's Ginza at night:

This was served with pork slices on top and was more peanut oily.  Also very good.

On my first trip to Japan, I came over on Easter weekend, and that was the first Easter I had missed church, because I was new to the area and its ways and didn't know how or where to find a church that might have services in english.  I'm somewhat shamed to say that upon doing some research this trip, the only Anglican church that does english-language services is one block away, on the way to where the old office was.  So this trip, I decided to go to church on Sunday, September 11, 2011, which seemed an appropriate thing to do.  The service at St. Albans was very nice, the pastor gave a good sermon on forgiveness, and the service was well attended.  Next door is the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew, which has services exclusively in Japanese.  Nice people, I'll go back.

Later that day I did some shopping in Shibuya with Noriko, and in the Tokyu Hands there found signs you can use to mark your parking space.

Shibuya crossing.

We had walked by a pizza place which smelled good, and later that week I found I couldn't get pizza out of my mind, and when I returned to the hotel from work, someone else in the building had ordered Dominos and the guy was there.  I found I could create a Dominos.co.jp account and order online, in English.  Mmm Pizza!

Brooklyn-style.  Hot, tasty, crispy, and with that grease that drips down your arm, just like God meant pizza to be.  Sorry Chicago, this is pizza.

Coupled with a single-serving Sake, dinner is complete.

Going to work one morning, I hear loudspeakers blaring some verbal message.  Apparently the Christians are recruiting in Minato-ku.  They tried hard, don't think they were very successful.

Another quick food-court lunch, of shrimp, fish and pumpkin tempura rice bowl.  500 Yen.  Hot and tasty, with purple pickle.

On our way to visit another company, we had some time for lunch in Setagaya, and ate at this Japanese-Italian restaurant.  The food was very good, mostly vegetables, so it felt pretty healthy.  They had a nice salad bar and the bacon and spinach consomme was really tasty (mmm bacon).  One unique element is that the door you walk in (those silver ones) actually take you into their walk-in refrigerator, where they keep vegetables and other chilly items.  After the heat and air-conditioning lite, that was a very neat surprise!

Looking at the rental prices in this area, which is a little off the beaten path of Tokyo, because it's just outside of the Metro service area.  Pretty expensive.

Lots of places for bicycle parking.

This is called the Carrot Tower.

And I'm not sure what this message is, but little commuter kitteh made me smile.

Here's a few panoramic shots which are composed of multiple photos I took and merged together using a Mac program.  Click on them for larger versions.
Here's a view from the roof of the hotel:

Here's a view of east Tokyo and the bay from the office.