20 May 2006

This is Japan...

Ah, Tokyo. Unlike my previous trip to Japan, I actually had a day to walk around on my own this time.

Basically I visited a shrine, went shopping for camera stuff at Shinjuku, ate some cheap udon, returned to the hotel, went to another shrine, went back to Shinjuku for more shopping and ate more cheap udon (at the same restaurant, no less).

Yes, it was a blast. Well, sort of. The problem was that it was raining every day I was there - and the sky was always white/dark gray, which meant it was hard to get some nice photographs. Plus, it's really hard holding an umbrella in the rain while trying to operate a Nikon D70.

Here are some pictures to tell the tale (in chronological order, of course).

This is the entrance to the Meiji Shrine

Started off the day at the Meiji Shrine with some Singaporean journalists. Unfortunately, I was the "tour guide" and got everyone to get off on the wrong station (which was about 5km away). Eventually we got to this gate (via taxi), which is about half a km to the shrine itself...

The long gravel pathways surrounding the Meiji shrine are covered by big, beautiful trees. It feels magical, especially since it was rather misty that day.

A Shinto priest at the Meiji shrine

The Meiji shrine is quite popular with tourists, as evident on these prayer blocks - notice the number of prayers in English.

Me standing in front of the Meiji shrine

After that, I said goodbye to the Singaporean journalists and PR lady (since they had to fly home early) and I headed for Shinjuku (otherwise known as "that place in Tokyo where you buy cameras... and Japanese porn")

I made it a point to find a whole bunch of camera accessories that I couldn't find in Malaysia. Not that they're expensive or anything - they're just not imported into the country. Plus, it's kinda like an RPG, wandering around the labyrinth of stores and alleys of Shinjuku looking for obscure stuff for my camera.

I tried this place first:
Bic Camera - a super huge electronics store in Shinjuku with shitloads of stuff. You can spend hours there. They even had MacBooks on sale the day after it was launched in the USA!

    Note: And just to clear up some confusion, some major electronics chains in Japan tend to have names ending with the word 'Camera' even though they sell other stuff like PCs, videogames, toys, televisions, home appliances and so on.

Here, I got myself a new ultra-portable tripod (you can never have too many tripods...):
A Velbon P-Max. Weighs only 800g and costs about RM180 (40% off). It's small, but fairly stable and has Velbon's twist-locking telescopic feet.

I also got myself a Kurohige Kiki Ippatsu HG version, but more on that later... ^_^

Unfortunately, the camera section in Bic Camera wasn't well stocked. Or rather, it's probably better stocked than all of the camera shops in Malaysia put together (they've even got equipment for developing your own film!). I mean, they had an entire BUCKET of Nikon DK-21m magnifying eyepieces for the Nikon D70 (something which took two months to arrive when ordered from Nikon Malaysia).

But they haven't got certain harder-to-get accessories, such as colour gels for my flash (if you don't know what a colour gel is, you probably don't need one).

For obscure stuff like that, I had to go here:
Yodobashi Camera!!!

Unlike Bic Camera (which is housed in a huge department store), the Shinjuku outlet of Yodobashi Camera is made up of several shoplots joined together, spanning entire blocks and going up about six storeys high. This is quite confusing as, when you're walking around the alleys, you'll see several stores marked "Yodobashi Camera' and all of them seem to sell the same stuff.

However, the building pictured here is their specialty camera 'section'. The first floor has mostly cheap pocket cameras, the second floor mostly DSLRs (and a huge array of lenses and - *yes!* - colour gels and filters), the third floor with expensive medium-format cameras and lighting equipment, the fourth floor just tripods and other accessories and the fifth floor is just for bags. I think there was another floor somewhere in the middle that specialises in film, but I can't remember... -_-

They sell really cool stuff here, such as a portable camouflaged tent that's tall enough to house a tripod, a camera, a big zoom lens and a photographer in it (it's meant for nature photography, apparently).

Here, I got some diffusers for my flash, the colour gels and some neat plastic-bag case that lets me use my D70 in the rain. Yodobashi Camera ROCKS! (Note, you might remember me mentioning something about the Osaka outlet during my previous visit to Japan).

After that, it was about 2:30pm and time for lunch:
Affordable niku udon (meat udon), with a little salmon onigiri (rice thingy)

And then, I had to rush back to the hotel to drop off my things and take orders for more Kurohige Kiki Ippatsu HG version toys from certain people at home. (More on this later... ^_^):

Boarding the subway at Shinjuku station (O-Edo line)

And then, I went off to the highly controversial Yasukuni Shrine. Yup, this is the one which honours some of Japan's WWII class-A war criminals.

The Yasukuni shrine - this is where the controversy is centered

The fallen samurai who guards the gates of Yasukuni. I think...

It's also the one that Japanese PM Koizumi's been visiting annually - much to the dismay of China, which is apparently still officially bitter about the Japanese invasion of World War 2 more than 60 years ago. On a rather ironic note, they seem to have officially forgotten about Tiananmen Square 1989.

Politics aside, the first thing you'll notice about Yasukuni is that there aren't any tourists there. There are no signs in English leading to the place either (you can walk right past it and not know what it is). There's a supposedly fantastic war museum next to the shrine but I missed it - it closed at 5:30pm and I had only arrived 10 minutes later.

More prayers at Yasukuni - notice that there aren't any English ones by tourists.

At the grounds of the shrine

Having had my fill of history and old wooden buildings, I headed back to Shinjuku to buy more Kurohige Kiki Ippatsu HG Version toys.

Shinjuku at night (from the bridge next to Bic Camera)

HG, of course, stands for "Hard Gay"

Razor Ramon Sumitani (aka Hard Gay)

We've been watching this guy's comedy show (subtitled) in the office recently. We like. A lot.

And this is a Kurohige Kiki Ippatsu HG version:
Note: The hat and sunglasses were purchased separately :)

If you're not entirely sure who Hard Gay is and why I'm so enamoured by some silly child's toy, take a look at the videos below.

Click on the links below for the Hard Gay TOMY videos:


After that, it was back to the hotel and into bed. After a nice hot bath, of course.

The view of Tokyo Tower from my hotel room

And that was my day out in Tokyo. Really wished I had more time. I like Tokyo. It's mad.


Tan Kit Hoong said...

...but is it...Japanorama? oaaaooooh!...

林观明 aka -ming- said...

hi.. can u tell me which shop in japan u bought this ? i wanted to get 1 too.. thanks a lot if u could email me..