New Post has been published on David Beall Photography

New Post has been published on http://blog.davidbeallphoto.com/haneda-then-home

Haneda then home.

NOTE: This blog post is the final, and long overdue chapter of my 2011 trip. (I feel I should add at this point, that I wasn’t taking too many photos inside the airport. I was focused on getting cleaned up, eating and getting to my plane on time.)

I had contemplated the idea of taking the train to Haneda (so as to have a chance to enjoy the Yamanote Line one more time) but in the end, decided that I really just didn’t have the energy to drag my bags through Shinjuku Station, onto the Yamanote Line, and then transfer at Hamamatsucho to the monorail. So instead, I made a reservation on the “Friendly Limousine” bus that departed right from the Keio Plaza and it was the right choice for sure. The ride was nice and short, delivering me to Haneda in no time. Once there, I got off, collected my luggage and headed inside to check in for my flight.

After checking in, I decided that I needed to take a shower and get myself cleaned up for the flight home. So, I made my way down to the arrival level to do just that. However, it turned out that they were all booked for the next half hour, so I made a reservation and headed back up to the departure level and then up to the restaurant level to have a look around. Haneda has a fantastic area that open just a couple years ago that’s packed with restaurants and shops.

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I wandered past the shops and restaurants (including a Hello Kitty store and an electric car racetrack) and found the outside observation deck. I thought I’d have a look at the planes. Immediately in front of me, I could see my plane waiting at it’s gate. ANA flight 1006.

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It was now time to head back inside for my shower reservation, from which I subsequently emerged refreshed and ready for my flight. Of course I should add that as soon as I walked out of the shower facility, I instantly began sweating. My flight was leaving at 12:05am and it was about 10:00pm at this point. So, next up, dinner.

I went back up to where I had just been before the shower and found a restaurant that was still open, and wandered in. The restaurants all seemed to close at 10:00pm, so the one I found was the best one still open- which turned out to be a great choice. The menu was simple and I had a wonderful steak, with mashed potatoes, salad and a drink.

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After eating, I passed this smoking room and found it rather interesting. I guess the vent at the bottom of the glass wall lets the clean air in, that then gets sucked out through vents in the ceiling? And the frosted glass was(is) amusing as it made it look far smokier than I think it actually was- I hope.

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Next, it was down to security. After passing through immigration, I made a quick stop at the gift shop to pick up a few food gifts (including this awesome chocolate that my wife loves) and headed to my gate. Then, after a short wait at the gate, it was down the jetway and onto 777-200ER that was my ride home…

This was an amazing trip that still lives vividly in my mind. I’m going to be writing more about it as well as my most recent trip to Japan in 2013 on my new blog- more info on that soon!

And finally, for all of you who have been following this trip from the beginning, I thank you so much for your patience!

Stay tuned…

 

Homemade Takayama style ramen in Okazaki. Amazing.

Homemade Takayama style ramen in Okazaki. Amazing.

Yoyogi Park and the final day…

(Let me apologize for the huge gap in time between my last post and now.) 

Sunday morning was here (the final day of my trip) and I woke up finding it very difficult to get out of bed. The alarm went off at 9am, and I forced myself to stay awake by turning on the TV. After a half hour, I finally dragged myself out of bed, got dressed and did the last bit of packing. 

Then it was time to eat some breakfast. I brewed some coffee, via the instant drip coffee provided in the room, and ate the last of the yogurt with Frosties.  And as I sat eating, I could see a ceremony (or performance involving drums) taking place on the street far below. I wish I had known about it, I would have tried to get up earlier to see it. Oh well.


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With breakfast eaten, it was time to call home but it was now 10:50am and I had to checkout by 11am. So instead, I took a few last pictures of the room, bid it farewell and hurried to the elevators.

I checked out, left my luggage with the bellhop and found a quiet spot in the hotel lobby to call home. As we talked I decided that it was time to sample the Yamazaki brand Hot Cake Sand or ホットケーキサンド, that I had been carrying around since my visit to Koyasan six days earlier. Why I hadn’t eaten it yet I couldn’t really say. 

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I opened it up with great anticipation! What great deliciousness lay inside- butter and syrupy goodness perhaps? In fact…no, it was pretty terrible, no deliciousness at all. Maybe because it was three days a past it’s suggested freshness date? I doubt that, I think it would have been just as bad if I had eaten the day I bought it.

Anyhow, my call home ended and it was walk. My flight wasn’t leaving until 12:05 am (Sunday night/ Monday morning) so I was going to have a somewhat full day to roam the streets of Tokyo. 

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I took my time wandering through the small streets of Nishi-Shinjuku. After which, I caught the Yamanote line to Harajuku. My first destination of the day was Yoyogi park to watch the Rockabilly dancers strut their stuff.

When I arrived, I was greeted with a whole lot of not-much-going-on-yet. It seemed like they had just recently arrived themselves and were waiting for some more key players to arrive. So I took a seat on a bench and waited.

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After a few minutes, a woman and her son came walking up and asked if they could share the bench with me. We struck up a conversation and it turns out they were Canadian and in Tokyo on vacation. She had worked in Tokyo in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s and this was the first time she had been back since. She talked a lot about how different it was and how being there with her son was a totally different experience. He was 17 and a big anime and photography fan. He and I talked about both but we all ended up talking more about the differences between the USA and Canada and how we are each (country) perceived in the world. It was a very nice conversation and great experience that lasted quite a while actually, as it took the dancing a long time to start. But finally it did, and it was grand.

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After a short while, the action came to a pause and I took that as my cue to move on. I did my best to talk with one of the men (who I had seen here before a couple years back) and he insisted I take his photo, very cool. 

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I was then stopped by this awesome duo.

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So, it was now about 2:30 and I couldn’t believe how fast the day was rolling by! I headed back to Harajuku Station to catch the train back up to Shinjuku. The walk back from the park was short, and I was surprised that there weren’t more people out performing, at least compared to the last time I was there. 

This guy was into it though and was really great to listen to.

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The window of a speeding train at Harajuku station.

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Arriving back at Shinjuku station, I made my way out of the south exit and headed to the landmark Takashimaya department store. I wanted to spend some time wandering through the Kinokuniya bookstore and Tokyu Hands located inside. 

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However, before I did any shopping, I had to eat some lunch. I found the information for the restaurants and decided on tonkatsu (surprise). I caught the elevator up to the 13th floor and found myself quickly seated at my table at Inaba Kazuyuki (いなんば和幸). It was now 3pm and lunch took me about 45 minutes. It was delicious (but not as good as the KYK Tonkatsu in Kyoto).  I think I need to come back and do a project on tonkatsu sometime…have I said that already?

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Leaving the restaurant, I went straight down to the Kinokuniya bookstore, spending about an hour in there looking at photography books. Then it was over to Tokyu Hands where I spent about another hour wandering the floors. I found my big souvenir of the trip there, a bathroom cup that sits on a suction cup! My host family had one and I thought it was the best thing ever. When it was all said and done, it was about 5:45pm and my time was coming to a close in Tokyo.

Resigned to that fact, I started my walk back to the Keio Plaza. I crossed the connecting bridge that spanned the tracks of Shinjuku Station from Takashimaya to the other side so that I could grab a quick little snack (a donut from Krispy Kreme).

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I spied the Narita Express on the tracks below (not sorry that I was missing out on the long ride to Narita Airport. Haneda forever!)

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With my donut from Krisy Kreme in my camera bag, I walked to Koshu Kaido Avenue, turned left and headed back into Nishi-Shinjuku.

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I walked past Yodobashi Camera and all the restaurants I never ate in, past the Lawson which kept me fed with breakfast and then through the doors of the Keio Plaza Hotel.

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It was about 6:30 and at this point I was thinking about taking the train back to Haneda Airport (via the Yamanote line to Hamamatsucho and then the Monorail), repeating the original start of my trip. Maybe in hopes of making it feel like the trip wasn’t winding down just yet. But as I was walking into the lobby of the hotel, I ran into the nice married couple that I sat next to on my flight to Japan 11 days earlier (and who were also on the same flight back with me). They were taking the shuttle bus to Haneda, and after a bit of chatting with them, I realized just how tired my feet were and decided that the bus would be the best option for me as well. 

So, I went and bought my ticket for the “Friendly Airport Limousine” bus and found myself with a little extra time to kill in the hotel. I took the escalator up to the second floor lobby area and found a quiet spot near a plug (so I could charge my phone) and ate my donut. Sitting there, I reflected back over my trip and what a great time it was. As always, too short. But, I knew I’d be back again some time…

Finally it was time to gather my things and get the bus. I put the rented wi-fi router in it’s return envelope, dropped it at the concierge desk, retrieved my suitcase and got on the bus. Next stop, Haneda…

(By the way, I rented the router from a great place in Tokyo that I found online called JCR Corporation- great customer service and price. I will use them again next time I am in Japan for sure. I am receiving no compensation from them for posting this, I just wanted to give them credit for the great service they provided me!)

 

Shinjuku: Kabukicho and Piss Alley

I arrived at Shinjuku Station tired, but in no way ready to go back to my hotel. I exited  the station and decided to head towards the Kabukicho area, just to the north of station, with the hope of finding something interesting. 

Emerging from the station, I found myself on Shinjuku-dori (Shinjuku Street) facing the local landmark, Studio Alta. (Studio Alta is mostly know for the massive TV screen that adorns the front of the building. But it’s also a shopping center with a TV station located on the top floor. I’ve never actually gone inside Studio Alta in all the times I’ve been in Shinjuku, not sure why. Next time I suppose.)

After a short wait for the light to change at the crosswalk, I made my way further north, walking through the small streets and alleys packed with restaurants and arcades until I reached Yasukuni-dori where, on the opposite side of the street, resided the famed Kabukicho area.  And marking the entrance to it, was the familiar (to me) big, red illuminated gate. 

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I walked up and down the streets for a good while, passing the many bars and clubs crammed into the surrounding buildings. There were so many people out having a good time, the streets were packed. I found myself deeply missing one of my favorite ramen restaurants that used to be located on one of the corners a couple blocks back from the main street.

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When I finally decided it was time to go, I headed out of Kabukicho the way I came in, through the illuminated gate and back onto Yasukuni-dori. However, instead of crossing back towards Shinjuku Station, I made a right turn and headed west, on a route that took me under the overhead JR Line tracks and in the general direction of my hotel. I went this way so that I could take a walk through the small alleys of Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane) or ”Piss Alley” as it’s also called. (That quaint nickname comes from the old days when it had no bathrooms inside its tight quarters- it has toilets now).

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However before I got there I stopped just outside of it to watch the local JR trains pass by on the tracks that I just crossed beneath.

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As I stood there watching trains go by, sounds of drumming started emanating from somewhere underneath the same tracks I had just walked under. At first I wasn’t sure exactly where it was coming from but then realized that it was just maybe 25 yards away to my right. It turned out to be a guy who had set himself up in the perfect place to amplify his music to the world. I walked over to have a closer listen. 

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I don’t think he was at all aware of the five or so of us who had gathered around him to listen. And it was probably 10 minutes before he finally ended what he was playing and looked up to see us standing there. He was very gracious and appreciative of the fact that we stopped and I did my best to communicate in my terrible Japanese how much I enjoyed his performance. Definitely one of those moments where I feel I lost out an a great chance to have a more meaningful experience due to my lack of language skills. 

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He started playing again, and after a minute or so more of listening, I moved on and made my way over Omoide Yokocho.

The two alleys that comprise Omoide Yokocho are packed full of cramped little eating establishments that are mainly known for yakitori, but also noodles of various kinds among other things. Most of the places are simply a counter with a few stools, very quaint and inviting. 

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As I was preparing to leave the alley, I happened to photograph a young couple as they were coming out of one of the restaurants. I didn’t think they saw me at first, but they did- which was fine. They approached me with the biggest smiles, and were most definitely a little, shall we say, “tipsy” from all their evening’s fun. (The guy was quite tall, 6 foot something and she was my height. My guess was that they were on a date after a Saturday workday.) They asked me where I was from and and if I had eaten, and if I would take their picture (to which I said sure). They were very cool. 

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They posed for me and were having the best time doing so. Unfortunately though, they had backed me into an area where the light was terrible, and even pushing the ISO to the maximum and the aperture wide open, I couldn’t get a shot of them that wasn’t totally blurry and useless. They were also having a very hard time standing anything close to still due to there “tipsiness”. They had no idea though and loved the blurry images on the back of my camera. In fact, after seeing them they thanked me and went merrily on their way. (I was disappointed that none of their photos turned out.)

So, feeling that was my cue to finally head back in, I set forth out onto the street that took me south along the outside of Shinjuku station and in the general direction of the hotel.  I passed another stall belonging to the ramen business that I enjoyed my first night in Tokyo.

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Then passed a line of waiting taxi’s.

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Then passed the ramen stand I did eat at the other night before coming to the final few blocks of stores and restaurants that lay between the station and my hotel.

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Yodobashi Camera was long closed. The night was winding down here and the crowds were thinning. 

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I was in a strange mood at this point. I wanted to stay out all night as I wasn’t ready for my trip to end, but I was exhausted from the day and needed some sleep. The whole trip had been just go go go, never really stopping to rest except when I was on the train.

So it was with great reluctance then, that I went back to my room (with a quick stop at Lawson for orange juice, water and yogurt to eat with the last of my Frosties), packed my stuff and downloaded the days photographs before finally climbing into bed.

My alarm was set for an early-ish morning. The plan was to be out of the room by 9am or so with my bags delivered to the bell captain to be stored for the day. And since tomorrow was Sunday, that meant that I could go catch the Rockabilly dancers down in Yoyogi park.

One day left!