Friday, August 28, 2009

Tokyo

Justin and I decided to take 2 extra days off to explore Tokyo. I haven't been back to Tokyo since our orientation a year ago - so I was excited to explore the crazy crazy city of Tokyo!!!

During Tokyo Orientation I met some fellow TOAs (Tokyo Orientation Assistants) who lived in and around Tokyo. I asked what I should do. Everyone started with the usual Tokyo Tower, Edo Museum... blah blah.... but I wasn't in the mood for sightseeing as such so I asked them for something crazy, wacky or fun....... this is TOKYO!!! oooooooh... then I found out about THEME RESTAURANTS!!!!! YES!!! right up my alley! Tokyo has a few theme restaurants dotted around Shinjuku, Shibuya and other places... The most famous one is the one from Kill Bill which is set in a gorgeous old fashioned Japanese restaurant and has a NINJA theme!!!! I guess they do flying ninja shows and have amazing food... but it sets you back over $100.... so we asked for another option... then we heard of LockUp... All I was told is that it has a police/prison theme... oooh.... and is A LOT cheaper. I was SOLD!

So Justin and I went off to Shibuya to find this place... We first stopped off to say hello to Hachiko. He is pretty famous these days since there's a movie about him (Hachiko: A Dog's Story) with Richard Gere which was coming out the following weekend.







We wanted to go in and make reservations for later on in the evening, but as we walked in we were instantly and magically transported into a crazy haunted house!!! there were mummies in electric chairs screaming, the floor was moving and shaking, smoke was flying and we were screaming our bloody heads off..... Justin and I were NOT fans of being scared.... we held onto eachother for dear life and made a mad dash through the haunted maze until we FINALLY got to the 'reception desk.' We said FUNK IT - we'll eat RIGHT NOW cause there was no way we were going to have to go through that haunted house again!!!!! hahah.... we sat for about 15 minutes in this dark hallway with crazy scientific electric neon currents under our feet before a Japanese lady in a sexy police outfit came up to us - put us in handcuffs and led us through this dark tunnel to our jail cell. she opened the bar doors, un-handcuffed us and then locked us in!!!!!!! WT!?!??!

Then we were brought our drink menu.... there were soooo many fun awesome science horror drinks... Justin went for the smoking lethal long island iced tea and I went for the blood beaker syringe one. Even the food was a bit wacky yet delicious... and it only set us back about $20 each for drinks and food and poopin our pants. I wanna come back to Tokyo to explore the other theme restaurants. There's also an Arabian Rock one!!!!!





















We stayed with my friend Lindsey who was in Peace Corps Kenya with me. Now shes living just outside of Tokyo teaching at a pre-school/kindergarten. It was great to reminise about Kenya and catch up with her new crazy life in Tokyo.

Another stop we made in Tokyo was shopping in Harajuku, with all the crazy colorful cosplay (crazy anime costumes and maid outfits)...































We also went into the 6 story toy store which was CHOCK FULL of crazy cuteness...













... and creepy dolls and trendy Hello Kitties...















2 months before we came to Tokyo we booked tickets to go to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka.
















We weren't allowed to take pictures inside of the museum, but the museum transported us into the creative worlds that Hayao Miyazaki creates...

I highly recommend watching his films... and then visiting this fun fun fun museum. I only wish I was a child so I could jump in and around on the neko bus!!!














We also went to Akihabara, the electronic district. The streets were FILLED with electrontics.... TVs, video games, electronic dictionaries (all the electronic dictionaries in this store were playing Obama's speech! haha)

We also wanted to see the otakus (weird geeks) who are out and about around the electronic stores and zillions of maid cafes.

Below you can see a pic of the many many billboards advertising the maid cafes!!! Sadly I couldn't convince Justin to go. Maybe next time.



















Instead, we went to Odaiba which has great views across to Tokyo. We went to little Hong Kong for some grub and took a stroll outside around Odaiba and the walkways...






















In one of the zillion shopping centers in Odaiba there were fun American Gladiator type courses and also this brainwashing kids game where they made vacuuming into a fun sport.... maybe the hope was that when the kids go home the parents could convince them that vacuuming up the house is fun!






We then headed over to the technology/robot museum. We met ASIMO the robot, creepy group robots, a baby seal robot which SCREAMED when Justin tried to pet him... and I got to try on my very own robot tail!!!!


































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what a fun time in Tokyo.... there is waaaaaaay too much to see and do! i def need to make another trip down there ;-)

Tokyo Orientation

After the fireworks everyone headed home around 11pm and then I had to be up the very next morning at the crack of dawn to catch a taxi to the airport to go to Tokyo for Orientation!!!! 3 ALT's (Wayne, Justin and myself) were chosen to go down to Tokyo to represent Hokkaido as TOAs (Tokyo Orientation Assistant). We now call ourselves TEAM HOKKAIDO! whoop whoop!

I arrived to Tokyo with a bit of time to spare so I caught the JR train to Harajuku to hopefully catch some crazy cosplay (costume role play) gals but sadly they were all still sleeping... so instead I headed over to Meiji Jingu... a beautiful shrine right in the middle of Tokyo. I was also lucky to catch a traditional Japanese style wedding. It was gorgeous.... but I hate to say it but the bride looked more like the young chap's mom than his wife.... but HEY! good on her!!! Maybe that will be me one day ;-)

















The rest of the day we were briefed at the hotel about our jobs as TOAs and then at night we were taken to a hotel in Narita. My dad came to Japan 15 sum years ago with one of his students after winning a competition. His homestay family from Akita now lives in Narita so they were kind enough to come pick me up at the Narita hotel and take me out for dinner! We stayed out til midnight eating and chatting. Their little girl was the cutest thing and wouldn't let me out of her sight. awww...

















The next day we spent the entire day at Narita airport welcoming the new ALTs as they flew in. We ushered them through the airport, helped to make sure they had the right VISAs, their bags were OK and got them on a bus to Tokyo. One of the flights had been delayed 6 hours (they had to wait IN THE PLANE on the ground!!!) so the poor guys were exhausted by the time they got to Tokyo. I was their bus leader so tried to cheer em up a bit and then let them crash.

























Monday was a full day of orientation for them... I remember how draining it was to sit through so many talks and presentations while being jet lagged so in the evening for the fancy welcome reception TEAM HOKKAIDO decided to welcome and cheer our group up by doing a: "give me a H!!!! give me an O!!!!... what does that spell!???! HOKKAIDO!!!"

We're not too sure if it eased their tensions or made them a bit more nervous to be heading to wacky Hokkaido ;-)



After the reception we threw our Hokkaido Welcome Party at a Japanese izakaya in Shinjuku.

















Tuesday was another FULL day of orientation and workshops... At night I was somehow put in charge of helping the British JETs get to the British embassy for a welcome reception. There were 3 other American TOAs there who were outcasts like myself... so we just stood in the corner and scarfed down yummy snacks!!!! hahaha

The TOA's had crazy schedules since there was a hospitality center which had internet and ironing which was open 24/7... It was open all night in case the new JETs got sick, homesick, couldn't sleep, etc.... so some of us had 2am, 5am shifts... in order to keep each other company thru the redeye shifts, we all stayed up in the hotel lounge area chatting and threw a few cartwheel and butt race competitions...






Wed we got up early and said our goodbyes to the Hokkaido JETs as they ventured off to Hokkaido to meet their supervisors and start this wild and crazy new adventure in Japan.

Still can't believe that was US a year ago!!! Time sure does fly when you're having fun!!! ;-)

gooooooo team HOKKAIDO!

give me an "H"!!!!!!

Summer Fireworks in Sapporo

In Sapporo everyone is breaking out their yukatas (summer kimonos)... All the shops are putting out their displays.... and they even advertise yukatas for your DOGS!!!!!





I decided to throw a little yukata wearing party at my house and invite some students, friends and other English teachers from Sapporo to come and watch the Toyohira River Fireworks which are literally in my frontyard.


I returned from HEC camp and had only one day to unwind and scrub my dirty dirty wet stanky camp clothes before the Sapporo Toyohira River Fireworks!

A bunch of us gathered at my house before the fireworks to get ready...






















we ate, chatted, and enjoyed the fireworks with hello kitty seeing glasses which made each spark on the fireworks appear to have a rainbow hello kitty dancing head.... quite trippy.















It was also the last time I'd see Nina, Emma and Michael who were all finishing up their JET program. boooo.... farewell you guys........


My night came to a perfect end when I ran into a little chubby chihuahua wearing a yukata!!!! We became new best friends and even exchanged phone numbers!!! ;-)