I was at Shinjuku Station en route to Square Enix’s HQ. It was a wet day so my clothing was a little damp. For the whole time, my shoes were not playing nice with me by untying themselves. As you do, I regularly knelt down and tied them up again. Unfortunately, one of those times, this happened…
My first thought – was I was going to be arrested?! Fortunately I was right next to a taxi rank when this happened. I didn’t have to endure a 30 minute train ride back to the hotel.
Moral of the story: Make sure you pants are dry, and wear proper shoes!
If there’s one aspect of Japan that I loved so much that I actually miss it – is the rail network. I consider myself a bit of a rail buff. This started when I was little toddler. We lived near a train station and a trip on a Queensland Rail EMU inbound to the City was a regular thing. I’ve always been fascinated by trains. Well…Japan is the train buff’s heaven.
Just in the JR East network itself, there are a variety of trains on the numerous lines. From the E231-500 Series of the Yamanote Line, to the E259 series that runs on the Narita Express – Japan is full of trains. The flagship service of them all is the Shinkansen, or as it’s known colloquially outside of Japan – the Bullet Train. It is a well constructed piece of railway.
I was able to board the Hikari Shinkansen to Kyoto. There are 3 levels of services on the Tokaido Shinkansen line. Nozomi being the fastest, Hikari in the middle, and Kodama as the all-stops service. The Hikari service is the highest level of Shinkansen that you can ride with a Japan Rail Pass. I was able to board both the 700 Series and N700 Series of trains. They both look elegant and the ride is smooth. So much, I nearly fell asleep! I struggled doing that on Queensland Rail’s Tilt Train but that is comparing apples with oranges.
This is a video montage of my trip on the Shinkansen.
There is so much Queensland Rail can learn from the JR Companies. We should look to Japan to improve our rail network.
Okay, I’ll admit. I’m not a big ramen or sushi guy. I’d eat it still though. My favourite Japanese cuisine…okay, Japanese-adopted cuisine is カレーライス, Japanese curry with rice. It has become one of my staple foods as well. The sauce is perfect with the katsu chicken/pork.
My chance of eating curry was in Tokyo Station – at ホームメイドカレータイム (Homemade Curry Time). This curry bar is located near the Marunouchi South exit. This one is tourist/foreigner friendly. All you have to do is order your meal at a ticket machine, hand your ticket to one of the cooks inside, take your seat and your meal will be served to you. Quick and easy. The meal was nice too.
Again, back here home in Brisbane there are very decent eateries that serve Japanese curry. My personal favourite is Kadoya on Elizabeth St in the CBD. They used to have a store at Sunnybank but that closed down. Nonetheless, the curry Kadoya served at both places was awesome.
If there was one landmark in Tokyo that was a must see for me, it would have to be Tokyo Tower. Sure, Tokyo SkyTree is now built (I didn’t get the opportunity to go to SkyTree because I went to Japan during the peak season) but this tower is the original. Originally purposed for analogue television broadcasting, Tokyo Tower had turned itself in to an icon of Tokyo. Analogous to how the Eiffel Tower in Paris did for that city, Tokyo Tower is a strong symbol of the city itself. There are two observation decks – the Main Observatory which is 150m above ground and the Special Observatory which is 250m above ground.
This is the main entrance sign to Tokyo Tower, showcasing an artistic perception of the tower.
The view from the Main Observatory (150m):
The view from the Special Observatory (250m):
This segment from the NHK World show Begin Japanology goes into the history of Tokyo Tower and what it means for the locals who live around it.
Even if Tokyo SkyTree is now the premier viewing tower of Tokyo for tourists, if you’re in town make sure you do drop by Tokyo Tower. The crowds are less!
This is my souvenir from Tokyo Tower – a miniature version!
I’ll admit – I’m one of those tourists that still eat from take-away restaurants. This one’s different though. MOS Burger is Japan’s second largest fast food chain. They emphasise on quality and service – and it shows. The excellent service starts as you walk through the door. The attendants greet you with a cheery ‘Welcome to MOS Burger!’ greeting. Unlike their competitor McDonalds, once you order what you want you are given a number and your drink on the tray. The burger is made fresh and presentation is key. An attendant brings you a basket with your condiments and burger. In this case, I only ordered the MOS Cheese Burger – only because it’s the only menu item I could say in Japanese! MOS Burger has an ‘upmarket’ feel to it, and it feels more special when dining there.
This was a restaurant I found near my hotel in Shimbashi – MOS Burger Shimbashi Nichome. It is a good 5 minute walk from the West Exit of Shimbashi Station on Hibiya Dori.
Fortunately for me, the MOS Burger experience continues back home here in Australia. Brisbane is home to MOS Burger’s Australian operations – and so far only in Brisbane and the Gold Coast. How does the service compared to the Japanese mothership? It’s authentic. The same customer service experience replicated here. The burgers here are slightly different as they are adjusted for Australian tastes. The burgers are larger than their Japanese counterparts – but the detail in presentation remains! It’s this experience that makes me a regular MOS Burger customer.
みんなさん、こんにちわ！ Back in 2013, I was lucky enough to have a holiday in Japan for more than a week. It had been a dream of mine since I was little. I had studied Japanese as a second language throughout my 12 years of formal schooling. As a result I always had a soft spot and a strong interest in Japanese culture. Being a huge Final Fantasy fan added fuel to the fire.
My interest in Japanese culture started when I was 7. It was through my Language Other Than English (LOTE) lessons that this interest was nurtured. I dreamed of seeing Tokyo Tower, having a day to myself in Akihabara (I love my video games!) and of course riding the Shinkansen. I often dreamed in my sleep doing these things. Even as I went through my phases growing up, those three childhood dreams I had still kept to myself. 18 years later, the opportunity arose. I had just returned from Brisbane after my first stint in Rockhampton on a teaching contract. Diligently putting excess money in to my savings account, I remembered my childhood dream – to see Japan. The timing seemed right. The Yen to the Australian Dollar was on par. I said to myself that this is the time to go. I was able to gain a teaching contract in Brisbane. After a few weeks, I had enough for 1 week and a few days in Tokyo plus spending money. This was it. I was getting excited! Finally, my childhood dream is about to be realised. All the emotions and memories of my childhood flowed back. Euphoria, curiosity – it was a feeling I couldn’t explain.
That’s off the list. I was able to see Tokyo Tower.
Another one off the list. I spent quality time in Akihabara.
The final childhood dream off the list. I was able to ride the Hikari Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto.
There were many other things I was able to experience that I’ll expand on later so stay tuned! My interest of Japanese culture never stopped after the trip. I found even more things I want to see and do even after I arrived back in Australia! That would be for another trip in the future.