Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Part 4 - Christmas Day In Tokyo

The whole reason I went to Tokyo was because I didn't want to stay home for Christmas and in retrospect it was a good decision.

It was now Christmas Day in Tokyo and one thing I didn't tell you about is that in Japan Christmas Day is like date night and every bakery was selling a version of a Christmas cake.

I was invited to a Christmas Party at friend of a friend's apartment later for a few of us expats so I decided to visit Senso-Ji Temple in Asakusa in the morning.

Can I tell you how much I love the Tokyo train system, they mark off where the door will open and what car you'll be on.
 There is usually a display telling you how many stations to go and where you are. This was a Tokyo Metro train.
 Arriving in Asakusa the first thing I found was a big market.

 As you walked to the temple these drawings led the way.

 It's a beautiful temple

 Different process at this one instead of washing your hands  you bathe your face in smoke to ward off illness.

 This was one of the stores along the front walk of the temple but so typical of many stores in Tokyo with a huge amount of phone accessories.

 I couldn't get over all the unlocked bicycles. Theft brings dishonor on to you family so there is very little crime in Tokyo or Japan.
 The Asakusa train
 I stopped for noodles for lunch, same process as before - order from machine, pay, get ticket, hand ticket in. Though this time I was sitting next to a Buddhist Monk.

 More of the very packed market

 I was then off to Ueno, in hopes of going to a museum. Ueno is museum central unfortunately all of them were closed from Dec 25 - Jan 1. Oh well.
Instead I went to the Ueno Zoo, I have to say admission fees are very reasonable in Tokyo, the zoo was 600 yen ($6) and so would have been the museum. 

 My personal favourite the Tiger.
 Again I love the Tokyo train system not just for it's efficiency but everyone is so well behaved, no cell phones, no loud talking in fact the cars are pretty quiet.

 The other thing I love is small serving sizes, I got this from a vending machine.
Later on it was off to Tamachi Station where I was meeting Chris. I was early so I had some time to explore nearby.
 A packed Pachinko place and remember it's Christmas Day - date night.
 The frantic selling of New Year's cards in the station.
 Then it was off to Chris' friend's place for Christmas dinner, I was so impressed by this tree.

 The spread, so impressed by our host who was in fact Jewish so throwing a Christmas party for 2 Canadians, an Aussie and an American was super nice.
 Dessert was Pannacotta and sooooooo gooooooddddd.
 View from his balcony, now they all assured me this was a really nice apartment and though again very small compared to North America had one incredible view.

Part 5 tomorrow which will cover my last full day in Tokyo with the temple of the 47 Ronin and Karaoke!!!

Good bye 2013

Last night I wrote all my Tokyo posts and scheduled them over the next few days, yeah that's the first time I've ever used the schedule function or even the label function.

I'm quite happy to say goodbye to 2013, it wasn't a fun year for me. It was overshadowed by my father passing away. The first half of 2013 is a blur as June 16th 2013 will be marked in my memory forever. The day I lost my father and the day I became an orphan.

However 2013 did end on a high note, I loved Japan and I'm so happy I went. That experience of seeing something new and exploring to my hearts content meant the world to me.

A hastily cropped photo of my last day in Tokyo, what I look like in my head does not correlate with what I look like in real life, in fact I was surprised by this photo as I look bigger then I thought. Ah but pictures don't lie. However I do look happy and it's been a while since I've felt happy and I did really feel happy.

I'm not happy with my appearance in this photo though.

To say weight loss has been a priority over the past few months would also be a lie, I've had no get up and go. I have a half marathon in 3 weeks that I've hardly trained for. It felt like my whole world came to a crashing halt in June so training also fell off as a priority. It never occurred to me to not do it. I'll go and do my best - that's all I can do. Heck if I could finish Dumbo, I can finish Tink 10K and Half, and the GSC at Disney World. I did sign up for Expedition Everest in May but I'm also rethinking my race goals. I'm not signing up for anything else until I get myself sorted.

I now start to see the light at the end of the tunnel and look at 2014 as a fresh start and an opportunity to figure out who I am and what I want. I start grief counselling on the 28th. When I go back to work on the 2nd it will back to a super busy project. The project will be finished before I start grief counselling though which I think is good thing.

I want to get back on track weight loss wise as well and I'll be going to Saturday's meeting, I had intended to go this past Saturday but I was super tired from my flight and the 16 hr time difference.

I want to give that Simple Start a go too starting next Sunday when I go grocery shopping, in the meantime I'm back to tracking. The only person I can do this for is me. In 6 months I turn 42, I don't want to battle this anymore. I don't want to write about losing weight on another New Year's Eve. .

Starbucks will no longer be a daily habit but a twice weekly treat. I will pack my lunch and not buy everyday. I will use the gym memberships and build a stronger me.

I did have a wee aha moment today. I was cutting up strawberries and thought I should go to the corner store for whip cream and then I thought why?

In 2014 I will get to goal, I will get the key and I will be a success story.

My New Year's eve is staying in with Sally the dog and will most likely be asleep by midnight.

I wanted to wish all of you a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2014 :)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Part 3 - Ginza, The East Garden and Tokyo Disneyland

Hello again my friends,

Happy eve of New Year's eve,

Today's post will recap Dec 23rd and Dec 24th and it's pretty picture heavy - just a warning :)

December 23rd is a major holiday in Japan as it's the Emperor's Birthday, based on that and all the walking I did the day before I decided to stay close to the hotel and explore Ginza.

I always woke up early on every single day of my trip and the 23rd was no different so I'd turn on the TV to check the weather.

 Christmas is all over Japanese TV note the reindeer and Santa but no elves

 Every morning the english version of The Japan Times was slid under my door and it made me realize that I don't pay enough attention to international news. The Fodor's guidebook which I took everywhere I went, best guidebook ever. I was using it for scale in this picture as the newspaper is super wide.

 I then went in search of a latte, luckily there was a Starbucks super close by.

 They had origami coffee and the instant packs but you could tell just based on merchandising that origami is more popular so wish we had this at home.

 I noticed these blankets over the chairs and couldn't figure it out until I saw this at another place, there for your laps.
 The Japanese seasonal Starbucks offerring, I had the Crushed Marron Pie one quite often. Marron is kind of like chestnut.
 I was then off to explore Ginza noting the holiday decore. Ginza is like the Rodeo Drive of Tokyo with many stores and name brands you'd recognize in North America i.e. Armani, Gucci and etc.
 I came across a grocery store and decided to explore a little, that is a $20 cantaloupe,
 Brie Doritos anyone?
 How about some Wasabi Kit Kat, I bought this and am going to take it work to tempt the brave.
 I found a great store for souvenirs called LAOX which is duty free store, that's where I got the Kit Kat and for only $6000 you can own Samurai armor.
 Another great store is Uniqlo, think of it like the Japanese Old Navy with better quality and way better merchandised. The Ginza store is 10 floors, one thing I noticed about any department store or multilevel store is the floor plans are small compared to North American stores/ malls.
 I then came across the Japanese department store Mitsukoshi, this is a beautiful store with many expensive clothes but I got myself a couple of items here where I'll tell you about when I show you what I brought back with me. The picture above is from the food floor where you could get anything you're heart desires to eat. Look how beautifully the strawberries are packaged, they are $10 strawberries.

Tokyo has amazing clothing stores but I also didn't see very many big people actually I could probably count them on one hand. There is no obesity epidemic in Japan. Actually they have lowest obesity rate in the developed world. Clothing sizes are tiny in the stores. In fact Uniqlo has XL which would be L in North America. Plus the style is much more fitted in Japan I didn't see anyone in sweatpants unless they were a tourist.

 I was on vacation and not tracking whatsoever. I figured all my walking would be a good counter balance.  I was zonked after walking up and down Ginza so it was McDonald's for supper I had to try the sundae with the apple pie in it.
 I then wandered around the Shiodome taking in more seasonal decore.

 I found this in a stationary store and figured I needed a tree for my room, there are loads of these tiny knick knack sort of stuff.
It's now Christmas Eve in Tokyo
 And my first chance to observe a regular day in Tokyo as it's not the weekend. I was off to Tokyo Station as the Imperial Palace is walking distance from there. The train stations are busy all the time, I was telling you about everyone stands on the left and passes on the right on the escalator. However walking about it's all over the place and I had to practice my bob and weave skills from working downtown.
 Display inside Tokyo Station
 Beautiful model of the station.
 This guy greets you at the Centre exit, no sign telling you what he is but he got my attention.
 Exterior view of the Station.
 Gate to the Imperial Palace East Garden, the Palace itself is well protected and can only be seen on two major holidays when the Royal family greets the people, one of those was the 23rd.
 The moat around the Palace
 Map of Garden

 Guard house

While walking around I decided I have to come back in Spring, to see this garden again. I was then off to Tokyo Disneyland, now they have two parks Disneyland and Disney Sea but they're passes are different then the US. There is no real park hopper option, well you can buy a 3 day pass and be allowed in one park day one, the other park day two and then on day 3 you can visit both.

 I opted for Disneyland as it was there 30th anniversary, this Disneyland is constructed on top of an island made out of garbage.

 This gorgeous tree greeted you as you walked in.
 It was lunch time and I opted for a waffle, I love Mickey waffles and have now had them in 3 parks.

 Cinderella's Tokyo  Castle
 There were two parades in this park, The Happiness Parade and I couldn't resist taking a photo of Grumpy in the Happiness Parade.
 As Parades go I thought it was alright

 The lineups for rides were crazy with 90min wait times, this wasn't even a busy day for Tokyo Disneyland but compared to a really busy day at Disneyland in California or Disney World - this is the busies I've ever seen a park and that includes on a US holiday weekend, it was craziness. I did line up for the Pooh ride but it was a little surreal as of course it was all in Japanese.
 Then it was time for the Christmas Parade. I loved Mickey and Minnie's Japanese Christmas costumes.

 Oh yes Santa was there. After all Japan is one of places he visits first.
 What's interesting about Tokyo Disneyland compared to the US parks is there are very few pins, where if you go to Disneyland or Disney World there are whole walls of them. Not here, here it's all about small stuffed animals attached to your bag, so there were walls of that. The snack of choice at Tokyo Disneyland - Popcorn. I saw loads of people with bucket around their neck, sure there was chocolate popcorn, caramel popcorn, soy sauce and butter popcorn.
 The Japanese visitors in the park get decked out in Disney and I mean head to toe to go to the park, with like 6 stuffed animals on there bags.

 I was on a mission to find a Japanese Mickey and Minnie and tada I found them, and apparently I was just in time as they weren't out the week before. They do have 2014 embroidered under their sandals. They also had a Donald and Daisy version but I had to rationalize with myself and just get Mickey and Minnie, hey if I go back in Spring I can get them :) These are the type that pin on the bag, on the back is a chain link and a safety pin.
Tokyo Disneyland was freezing as it's a very windy area, I was not prepared so I had to get a toque.

Tomorrow Part 4 - Christmas Day in Tokyo