Saturday, April 25, 2015

Japan 2015 - Day 3 (continuation) - Ikebukuro Station 8:30 am

April 9, 2015

As promised here is a short video clip that I took inside of Ikebukuro Station. Luckily, me and Sweetie were standing in front of a pillar which the people had to go around anyway. I held the camera at stomach level.  The actual footage is cut by about a minute, so as not to bore you too much.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Japan 2015 - Day 3 - Ikebukuro to Niigata

April 9, 2015: Furusato Mura, Northern Culture Museum

We started the day with a breakfast buffet.  Here is Sweetie's natto.
IMG_2883a

This is my breakfast.
IMG_2882a

Group departure time was at 9:00 a.m. which gave us about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to kill.  I had learned earlier that the nearby Don Quijote was open 24 hours so we decided to go check it out.  After getting directions from the hotel staff, we set off.
IMG_2902a

I'm guessing that this guy is there to prevent cars from hitting you.  Maybe?
IMG_2900a

I had actually seen this bicycle parking structure while exploring Ikebukuro on Google Maps while back home. It was cool to see it in real life.
IMG_2885a

I like these underground tunnels that you can use instead of having to cross busy intersections.
IMG_2889a

Don Q was pretty easy to find. I always look for the duck guy. Wait. Is he a duck? Sweetie found her favorite instant matcha tea from there. We drank it every morning and every evening.
IMG_2890a

On our way back to the hotel I asked Sweetie if she wanted to check out the inside of Ikebukuro Station to see if there might be a rush-hour crowd for her to witness.
IMG_2896a

When we entered the station it was pretty calm. We were about to leave when I heard the stampede coming.  I caught some of the action on video.  I'll have it for you in the next blog post.
IMG_2898a

After witnessing the stampede we returned to the hotel to meet our group and we all headed right back to the train station again.


We needed to catch a train to Ueno where we would hook up with a bullet train to Niigata. I kept thinking what a brave person our tour guide was to be leading thirty-something Hawaii people into Ikebukuro Station, the second busiest train station IN THE WORLD.IMG_2909a

We arrived at Ueno Station with no problem.
IMG_2928a

IMG_2930a

Our group learned quickly to stay to the left side when riding the escalator. That's so that faster-moving people can pass us if they wanted to.
IMG_2931a

Shinkansen!!!!!  Click, click, click.
IMG_2939a

Typically Japanese to be polite and considerate, yah.
IMG_2952a

I was surprised to see snow on the ground in some areas.
IMG_2956a

IMG_2954a

In about two hours we arrived in Niigata. Our first stop was Furusato Mura where we grabbed some lunch and did some shopping.
IMG_2959a

You pay for your meal at this machine.  It spits out a ticket which you then give to the attendant, or in this case, the cook.
IMG_2964a

This is my miso ramen.  It was a bit too potent for me. It actually came with a second bowl with some kind of broth to water it down with, but it still tasted very strong. I hope I didn't offend the guy, but I couldn't eat too much of it.
IMG_2968a

Here is Sweetie's shoyu ramen.  Her's looks kinda thick too, yah!
IMG_2969a

After lunch we shopped around a bit.  This is called sasadango.  It's a Niigata treat made with mugwort-flavored mochi and red beans wrapped in bamboo leaves.
IMG_2970a

Sweetie bought two, one for me and one for her.  We actually didn't get to eat it until two days later.  I got pictures of it for you later.
IMG_2971a

There were a scattering of a few sakura trees outside in the parking area.
IMG_2975a

IMG_2979a

Our next stop was the Northern Culture Museum, former home to the Ito Family, a local land baron. This photo shows where we stored our shoes.
IMG_2986a

IMG_2987a

IMG_2995a

IMG_3018a

IMG_3002a

Panorama1a

IMG_3025a

IMG_3035a

IMG_3038a

IMG_3029a

We stayed at the Hotel Okura Niigata which is next to the Shinano River. This was the view from our hotel window.  
IMG_3052a

After dinner me and Sweetie took a stroll.  That's when Sweetie took this beautiful photo with her iPhone.
IMG_0046a

She also took this one.
IMG_0049a

Okay, okay, I know . . . where's the dinner photos?  I think I got lazy and didn't take my camera or my iPad to dinner with me. I think that's what musta happened because I can't find um anywhere.  Sooooooorrrrryyyyy.
  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Japan 2015 - Day 1 and 2 - Honolulu to Ikebukuro

April 7 and 8, 2015

The day finally came. The start of our trip! Me and Sweetie were so excited. We were supposed to meet at the JAL lobby at 7:30 a.m. We got there at around 7 a.m. And guess what. A lot of the tour group members were already there. Throughout the trip it was pretty much just like that. Me and Sweetie would usually arrive earlier than the designated time and always there would be a lot of other people already there waiting ahead of us.  I liked that.

IMG_2816a

Because I want to get my money's worth from this $35 rip-off Airport CPK breakfast, I'm posting the picture again.  We realized afterwards that there had not been any prices posted. I guess in our excitement we never bothered to find out. But then again, we never expected to be so ripped off. YOU SO RIP-OFF, CPK!!! 
IMG_2818a

Ok. I feel better now.

The flight was fairly empty, so me and Sweetie scored an empty seat between us! The seats were very comfortable with a lot of leg space.
IMG_2819a

And I looooooved that I had my own movie screen in front of me.  I watched three movies!  Actually, I watched one movie twice . . . the latest Hobbit one.  I love the Lord of the Rings movies.
IMG_2828a

Unfortunately, I didn't care for the meal or the snack.
IMG_2831a

I was surprised that the food tasted blah to me. I loved everything else about the flight. I guess you can't have everything.
IMG_2833a

We arrived in JAPAN at around 1:30 p.m. Yee haw!!
IMG_2834a

After checking into our hotel, Hotel Metropolitan Ikebukuro, we had a bit of time before our scheduled dinner buffet, so we decided to take a walk despite the chilly rain. I took this photo right outside of our hotel. A lot of places provide these plastic bags for your umbrella so that you don't go dripping water into their establishment.
IMG_2842a

I wondered what this was for. A blind person somehow finds the red button and pushes it for some reason?
IMG_2844a

After strolling a bit, we ended up at Lawson. Do they only make suits in black in Japan?
IMG_2845a

!!!!!!
IMG_2846a

Do you remember back in the day when we used to have cigarette vending machines here in Hawaii?
IMG_2848a

Back at the hotel, I asked Sweetie to pretend to be on the phone so that I could take this shot.  Right after taking the photo I heard her say, "Oh sorry." She said that somebody answered the phone!  Is this not a pay phone?
IMG_2849a

!!!!! OMG! First day shopping only.
IMG_2854a

We met for our buffet dinner in our hotel at around 6 p.m.
IMG_2863a

IMG_2864a

IMG_2865a

IMG_2872a

My first meal of this trip. !!!!!!! It turned out that we would be eating like this A LOT. 
IMG_2875a