I was going through my Japan pictures and wanted to add a little commentary on some of the more interesting photos herein. This is both from my trip earlier this year in April-May, as well as the more recent one in September. Jessica was working most of this time, so it was mostly John and I.
This is John and I in Asakusa, pretending to be overwhelmed by the giant paper lanterns. They were pretty large.
We were minding our own business when this group of girls wanted their picture taken with us. We obliged, and took one of our own.
The outdoor market in Asakusa can get pretty crowded. The stalls that line either side of the street sell mostly junk, but there are a few interesting things to be had. Here John is stopping to take some pictures.
After Asakusa, we walked over to Ueno Park. Below is a photo of a shrine replica, that is much hated-upon as the beams pictured here are actually made of plastic. Construction quality aside, it makes for a nice photo.
This is a monument to peace in Ueno Park. There is an eternal flame lit inside statue, the fire in which was taken from the ruins of the first atomic bombing at Hiroshima.
In this photo John is trying very hard to be noticed in Harajuku. The main shopping street becomes unbearingly crowded during the weekends.
The main four-way crosswalk in Shibuya.
I mentioned this in my blog post on Japan, but these guys, whom we'll call the Dancing Japanese Elvi, perform for the entire weekend in a park in Harajuku. In fact, several groups of Dancing Elvi perform simultaneously in some kind of dance-off. Their shoes are so worn they are rebuilt with black electrical tape which flies apart during the day-long performance. They weren't even that good.
The first part of our trip to Japan we stayed at this hotel, the Park Hyatt Tokyo. It was quite nice. After we returned from Kyoto, we stayed at the Shinjuku Century Southern Tower, which ironically looks directly at the hotel. I woke up at 6AM one morning by chance and saw the sun rising against the building and took this picture. I then went back to sleep.
John and I toured the Yebisu Brewery museum. Its not the brewery, which is no longer in Ebisu, but a museum that celebrates the rich heritage of Yebisu beer, which one several gold medals at the World's Fair in Paris in 1900. The Yebisu brand disappeared during World War II, but was resurrected by the Sapporo Company during the 1970s. I highly recommend the tour, which is entirely in Japanese, but gives a sampling of their beers and useful pouring demonstration. John had this beer on his way in.
We toured the Imperial Palace, but you can't really see much. This is the only view of the Imperial Palace the public can see why touring the grounds. It was nice, but I wouldn't rate it highly on our list of things to see. The gardens were much more impressive.
We took a day trip to Nikko, which is home to many of Japan's UN World Heritage Sites. Nikko was also spared the allied bombings during World War II and it was one of the few sites with truly ancient buildings. The trip to Nikko is a few hours by train from Tokyo, but I highly recommend it.
John and two strangers recreate the famous Three Simians carved into the eaves of the building in the background. The Holly Hobbie look was all the rage when we were there, with lots of girls wearing long lacy dresses and straw hats. By the time I returned in September, nobody was wearing that stuff.
We missed the cherry blossoms by a few weeks, but in the high altitudes around Nikko there were still several in bloom.
The trains that run to Nikko are privately owned and operated by a tour company that takes throngs of tourists up into the mountains during the summer and winter months. The trains were decently appointed and efficient, but not nearly as nice as the JR lines, especially the Shinkansen. John took my camera while I was sleeping, and I'm pretty sure this isn't a staged photo.
The last full day we spent in Tokyo was in the very cool neighborhood of Daikanyama. Here we sat outside for lunch and hit several of the specialty boutiques on Jessica's list of "must-see" shopping. That evening we ate the tasting menu at Morimoto's old restaurant and it was pretty amazing, with prices to match.