Our Japan Trip

June 29, 2008

Finding Godzilla and Some General Observations (written on June 25)

Filed under: Japan Trip — Andy Mayer @ 7:12 am

No rain today – again. Cloudy, overcast, humid – but no rain.

We took the train mid-morning to an area called Ryoguku that is known for two things – Sumo Wrestling and the Edo-Tokyo Museum. We were there for the latter, although we did see a few sumo strolling about the area. The museum is just over 10-years old and tells a very compelling story about the history of Edo/Tokyo from the mid-10th century or so through the present. In case you are wondering, Edo officially changed its name to Tokyo late in the 19th century right at the time when it returned to imperialism with the advent of the Meiji era.

The most remarkable thing about the exhibit is the repeated disasters that have befallen the city. As Wikipedia notes, every 25 to 50 years from 1600 to 1945, the city was hit by earthquakes, fires, tsunamis or some other disaster. The exhibit featured the Great Fire of Meiriki in 1657 that killed 100,000 people, the Kanto earthquake in 1923, and the air raids during World War II. The museum also had a few hands-on exhibits, including a rickshaw that we could sit on.

After the museum, we returned to the Toys R Us store in Odaiba to purchase a Tamagatchi that Jessie had found earlier in the week. At the time, we assumed we would see it in other locations, but we never did. The Tamagatchi was marked at 3,400 yen, but when scanned came up at 1,000 yen. Lucky me.

We then headed back towards the Ginza and, for the first time all week, separated. My wife and kids went off to find a Japanese department store to wander through. They ended up at Matzusakaya. I went off in search of Godzilla.

Eric Lowing threw down the gauntlet overnight, sticking a comment on my last post about a Godzilla statue in the Ginza. Wanting to prove my “Amazing Race” worth, I set off in search. I did use Google a bit, and I had Eric’s vague directions, but most of the guidance on the Internet was similarly vague. Only one posting showed the general area on a map, and that was good enough. It is a very unassuming statue that isn’t on any map or in any guidebook. It took a little wandering and some repeated stopping to look at my map – but I found it. Eric – this photo as right is for you.

Eventually, I’ll post a blog with some general observations, but here are a few to build on my bullet points several posts back:

  • There are beverage machines everywhere. You can buy some soda, a lot of water and green team, some vitamin drinks, and a jillion types of coffee (mostly lattes) in a can or bottle. I’ve never seen that type of coffee in the US.
  • All toilets, public and private, have the ability to spray water to clean you and then air to dry you. Honestly, I can’t get up the nerve to try. My sister, who lived her for 7 years earlier in her life, has never tried it either. My brother-in-law, who is Japanese, uses it every time.
  • I’m almost used to the driving on the left. It is so hard to learn to look right when getting ready to cross the street. By the time I routinely look right, I’ll be on my way home.
  • There are very few trash cans around. We’ve walked blocks with trash in our hand unable to put it anywhere. My sister says it’s security to prevent bombs. However, when you do find a trash can, there are separate slots for plastic, aluminum, and everything else. The whole country recycles.
  • The mobile phones in Japan are much larger than ours. However, they do so much more. People are regularly watching television programs, listening to music and playing games. On the subway and train, my guess is the 50% have earphones in.
  • Commercial establishments occupy all floors in a building. It’s not unusual to see signs (I’ll have photos later) for restaurants or stores located on each floor of a six-story building. Very few have street fronts. I think it’s hard to know whether a restaurant is good or bad without being able to at least see the atmosphere.

So, tomorrow (Thursday) we get on a bullet train for a day in Hiroshima, followed by two in Kyoto, before returning on Sunday to Tokyo. I don’t know yet whether I’ll be able to post from either city. I think, for simplicity and lighter load, I’m going to leave my laptop in Tokyo. I will post if I can. There is a business center in our hotel in Hiroshima, so that may afford me an opportunity to post, albeit without pictures. In Kyoto, where we are staying in a ryokan – and sleeping as a family on tatami mats – it is less likely.

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