A Travellerspoint blog

March 2011

Tokyo I

overcast 10 °C

I was finally ready to do it, to hit the big smoke, to throw myself into the madness that is Tokyo. Quite coincidentally, the hotel I had booked was on the train line in from Yokohama, so it was a simple matter of jumping off at Shinbashi station and then, according to the directions I had carefully written, walk for quite a long way. I was actually there before I believed it possible and, for a hotel in the centre costing $100, the Shimbashi Atagoyama Tokyu Inn was much better than I expected. It was surrounded by convenience stores, machines selling beer and what seemed to be hundreds of restaurants. The biggest coincidence of all was that it sat directly beneath the NHK Museum, something I'd actually decided I would never find because Tokyo is so big.

My first attempt at going to the Museum didn't work too well - it looked deserted, and I was wondering if it was taking an extra long holiday after Christmas but found a wee sign saying it was closed for the day. I went off to the Ginza district instead - the expensive shopping area (reputed to be the most expensive real estate on earth) and explored the posh shops and department stores. One, Miatsukoshi, has been going since 1673: I was impressed by the way that the shop assistants, before leaving the room, would bow from the corner and then scuttle out. Two shops in particular were standouts for me: Muji, which I knew about from my time in Birmingham as a supplier of cool stationery but discovered they also do homewares, furnishings,


foodstuffs, and all sorts of other interesting goodies.


Apparently their mission is to revive modernism in consumer goods, with a no-brand ideology (Muji actually means "no-brand" according to my sources i.e. the internet).

Then there was the baked donut place, Miel.


I've eaten a few donuts in my time, but never a baked one and never in a place quite as flash as Miel - they made me sit down and came to take my order, almost as if it was a silver service restaurant. It all seemed a bit much for a morsel of puffed goodness, to be honest. After the production they made of getting me the donut, it was three bites and I was off again.

NHK Museum

When I was a kid, one of my hobbies was to listen to radio stations broadcasting from far off places on shortwave. I'd sent them a note to say that I'd heard them, and they'd send me back a kind of postcard to thank me, called a QSL. The Japanese Broadcasting System, or NHK, was a station I regularly listened to. I have not done this for years and have long since chucked away the QSL's but here is a recent one I found on the net


Perhaps not that exciting, when I think about it, but when you grow up in the country, it doesn't take much. Anyway, I was still sufficiently interested that I walked up the hill behind my hotel to see the NHK Museum of TV and Radio. Here is an early version of their radio studio


and a slightly more modern TV studio, with a couple of characters said to be very popular on Japanese TV:


A very early TV and a display of some later ones (there were plenty more, but I'll spare you the photos):


There were also a host of radios, with this old beast


I enjoyed my sojourn in broadcasting history, but it was time to find some lunch.

Posted by NZBarry 03:15 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo Comments (0)


sunny 5 °C

I came here because of the tyres. Nah, not really. There was a museum I wanted to see, one which I thought would be a perfect counterpoint to the Instant Ramen Museum back in Osaka - the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum. Districts all round Japan put their own unique spin on ramen soup: the idea of this museum is to have a collection of shops selling real life ramen, each one representing a different district around Japan. The funny thing is that before I came to Japan, I never really rated it: now that I am back home, I wish I could get more of it.


It wasn't enough that they have a ramen museum - the place is tricked out to make it look like its a collection of shops from 1958


It is an incredibly busy place


although this place wasn't doing so well


Apart from the shops, there's also a souvenir shop, a couple of sake bars and some historical displays. I'm also told there are ramen-themed video games, but I didn't notice them. I could only deal with the crowds long enough to have one bowl of ramen.

I didn't really have any other reason to visit Yokahama, apart from train logistics. As I wandered the shops, I couldn't help but notice


There were hundreds of girls, all dressed up. Back at the hotel, I asked what it was all about and they made a game attempt to explain - they were all celebrating their coming of age. Good old Wikipedia tells me that they do things a bit differently in Japan - instead of having a 21st, they collect together all the people who've turned 20 in the district over the past year and, on the 2nd Monday in January, put on a bit of a ceremony. What I saw was the girls getting ready to go to it (apparently the boys dress up to the nines, but they were far less visible.

Posted by NZBarry 02:21 Archived in Japan Tagged yokohama Comments (0)

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