Tuesday, December 28, 2010

tokyo subway

Tokyo's subway and train system is one the most extensive in the world. most of my trip around Tokyo was by train, though in many ways complicated but is the best and relatively the cheapest way to get around the world's most expensive city.
contradicting to most of the expected impressions of Japan's subway system as being completely modern, it isn't. being one of the oldest subway in the world, it still has that old aspects. but expect some stations that serves its major commercial districts to be extremely modern.
though old, it is well maintained and is very clean. where in Japan is not clean anyway? stations has digital signboards to show the arrival time of the next train. one of Tokyo's subway most impressive feature includes the Chiyoda line which has a platform located about 125meters underground.
this subway was once disrupted when the Aum Shinrikyo group, now known as Aleph, attacked this subway system with Sarin gas in March 20, 1995 killing seven people and injured about 500. remains to be one of the busiest rail system in the world. you can check out Murakami's book Underground for a detailed story on this.
i got confused when i was there because i downloaded online a map of Tokyo's subway system not knowing that this map only covers one company operator. which means the other two with its own line and stations was not included in the map.
the signs on each stations and the guided voice-over are in Nihongo and English. sounds easy but not when one reaches this multi-level subway. when i was there, i had to check it by approaching and asking people to re-confirm that on the right train. what surprised me was, when you approach other passengers to confirm if you're taking the right train, they'll do their best to help you. hardly understanding English but for simple directions, they are able to help. if they find it hard, they'll lead you to the train staff.tickets are sold based on the amount required to go to a destination where one station trip would usually cost to about 160JPY (about 80Php). if you're going around Tokyo the whole day, a day pass is recommended (see how to take a train below for details). normally open from 5:00am until midnight.how to take a train:
1. download or find a copy of the Tokyo Subway System (also available on some major stations and hotels) and check the closest station to your current location.
2. find the best option to get there as there will be several options. some trains pass by fewer stations while others pass by more stations.
3. check the subway map when you reach the station which will indicate the amount needed for you to pay to travel from one station to the other.
4. insert amount and get the ticket. best option when getting around Tokyo the whole day is to buy the day pass which is about 710JPY (roughly 350Php). you'll definitely save from this option.
5. get the ticket and check the level and transit line you'll be taking. this is the complicated part. the train levels or lines are color coded and comes with an alphanumeric code. but best to re-confirm it by asking the train operators in the area.
6. insert your ticket to the line entrance and find the side of your train that leads to your destination. it is best to re-confirm with the other passengers before proceeding.
7. take the train and while in transit, listen to the voice-over as there are times when you need to transfer from one train to the other.
8. when you take off the train upon arriving at the station, find the exit that leads to your destination or else you might get out of the wrong exit which is a bit far from the other exit.
9. exit your way by inserting again the ticket on your way out.

Recommended Ipod Touch/Iphone Application for Tokyo Train:
Tokyo.jp - best to show you Metro Line just by defining current location to destination.
Tokyo City Walks

Saturday, December 25, 2010

tokyo tower

often considered as a tourist trap by many yet when i found out that a third of its material came from the metal remains of US tanks after the Korean war and built as a broadcasting tower also to symbolize Japan's rebirth from World War II, it was worth a visit.
by day, Tokyo Tower seems like an ordinary antenna tower above Shiba Park in the bustling city of Tokyo. but by night it reveals its splendor with its lights and as note that it remains to be Japan's tallest structure. yet, not for long as the rising Tokyo Sky Tree will almost double its height in 2012.
took the lift up with some lighting effects and a typical Japanese voice-over of a lady while we were ascending to the main observatory. the tower has two observatory area with the main observatory having two levels and the special observatory located 100meters higher.
the view from the top gives a 360 degrees view of the Tokyo skyline which is best seen by night time. touch screens are available for you to see and identify the nearby buildings and can even be viewed from different timeline of a day.
below the tower is Japan's Wax Musuem, Space Wax Museum and the Guinness World Records Museum which requires an entrance fee. it also has a food court and a souvenir shop. what was funny was it was only when i reached the hotel did i realized that Tokyo Tower was taller than the Eiffeil Tower in Paris.
main observatory entrance fee: 820Yen (approximately 400Php) adult
for updated rates visit their official website Tokyo Tower

here are some comparison of towers and buildings:
Tokyo Sky Tree (Tokyo) - 634meters (soon to be tallest tower in the world - Year 2012)

Canton Tower (China) - 600meters (currently the tallest tower)
Tokyo Tower (Tokyo) - 332.6meters
Eiffel Tower (Paris) - 324meters
PBCom Tower (Philippines) - 259meters (currently tallest building in the Philippines)

how to get there:
it can be accessed from many train stations but one still requires to walk going to the tower.
from Oedo Subway Line: get off Akabanebashi station
from Hibiya Line: get off Kamiyacho station
from Asakusa Line: get off Daimon station

location:
island: Honshu
region: Kanto
prefecture: Tokyo

escape factor:
historical background: 3.5
cultural value: 3.0
accessibility: 3.5
architectural design: 3.5
overall escape factor: 3.5

GPS location
35^ 39' 31" N
139^ 44' 43" E

Let's celebrate the true reason for this season.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

senso-ji temple asakusa tokyo

a part of japan's traditions were contained in a place like Asakusa normally pronounced as "Asak-sa". being one of Tokyo's oldest district, it still holds the legend that has kept this place sacred.a story which happened about 1,382 years ago, where two brothers found a statue of the goddess of mercy along Sumida river, the river beside Asakusa. often times placed back but returns to them after some time.the temple was then built 17 years after and is still considered as the oldest temple in Tokyo. like most of the old structures in Tokyo, this was destroyed during the world war but was rebuilt as a symbol of rebirth.i was just on time to enter the temple not knowing that after few minutes it was already closing. it was surprising that in contrast with the temple size, there was not much to see inside as the area for tourists is limited. traditions are kept including one that caught my attention where people would approach this large wooden cabinet with small compartments that gives one its fortune. then after reading, it is then tied on a metal rod. a lot of young locals seemed to enjoy doing this.Asakusa's main shrine is often overlooked by tourists as the imposing Senso-ji temple stands beside it. this girl and her monkey entertains attracts tourists with some of their funny antics. they are not out of place as Asakusa still retains its old title being an entertainment district.how to get there:
most convenient way would be by train, just take any line that passes by Asakusa station.

location:
island: Honshu
region: Kanto
prefecture: Tokyo

escape factor:
historical background: 4.0
cultural value: 4.5
accessibility: 4.0
architectural design: 4.5
overall escape factor: 4.5

GPS location
35^ 42' 40" N
139^ 47' 47" E

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

hozomon gate asakusa tokyo

right at the end of Nakamise-dori shops is the huge inner gate called Hozomon gate which is larger than the outer gate of Kaminarimon. in fact this is the largest gate i've seen so far with two floors and three compartments not open to public.it is believed to be holding Senso-ji's treasures thus having the name Hozomon also known as the "Treasure-House Gate". like most of the structures in Tokyo, this was rebuilt after it was destroyed during the war but was originally built in 942AD.since it holds some of the most important treasures and was destroyed several times, the compartments are at present built to survive from disaster. one of the most important item stored here is the Lotus Sutra which is one of the object considered as a Japanese national treasure.this gate also holds two golden lanterns, one large red lantern and two huge statues of Nio, Buddha's guardian on its Southern side. while its Northern side has on it a pair of big straw sandals called waraji which is 4.5meters long and 1.5 meters wide weighing 400kgs.
unlike most gates, the ones here does not have walls. it simply symbolize passage before one reaches the temple. another great attraction as seen in the background is a five-tiered pagoda called the "Gojunoto". it has on it a special finial which also serves as a lightning rod.

how to get there:
most convenient way would be by train, just take any line that passes by Asakusa station.

location:
island: Honshu
region: Kanto
prefecture: Tokyo

escape factor:
historical background: 4.0
cultural value: 4.5
accessibility: 4.0
architectural design: 4.5
overall escape factor: 4.5

GPS location
35^ 42' 40" N
139^ 47' 47" E

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

nakamise asakusa tokyo

the 250-meter long line of shops in Nakamise back in the past, could be compared to Quiapo's Carriedo on a Friday. evolved from year's of devastation and restoration remained to be one of Japan's oldest shopping centers.
tracing back its history, the shops here were established as early as 1688 in line with the volume of people visiting Sensoji temple. now partly covered and beautifully renovated with 89 permanent shops of finger foods and colorful souvenirs mostly handcrafted.
before leaving Manila, i had the chance to talk to a family friend who often visit Japan. i asked what she would recommend me to see around Tokyo and showed me their video of Nakamise and i was immediately convinced to include it on top of my itinerary.
there is a great mix of shops thus gathering a big volume of tourists and even old Japanese locals who would visit the place and try out those tasty finger food. mostly served fresh and hot, others packed in colorful boxes, something that is usual to Japan.the long walk before reaching Sensoji Temple also leads to some special shops of items which reminded of the area of what it used to be, Tokyo's entertainment center. items here may be relatively cheap but not when you compare it with the other Asian street markets.the electric signboards and small lanterns on the whole stretch gives you a great reason to try visiting it by night. shops here are usually open from 10:00am till 8:00pm. i highly recommend this place.
how to get there:
most convenient way would be by train, just take any line that passes by Asakusa station.

location:
island: Honshu
region: Kanto
prefecture: Tokyo

escape factor:
historical background: 4.0
cultural value: 4.5
accessibility: 4.0
food: 4.5
shops: 4.5
overall escape factor: 4.5

GPS location
35^ 42' 40" N
139^ 47' 47" E

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