The Last day of 2014
Posted by Heliocentrism on March 13, 2015
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
On New Year’s day we went to Odaiba, an artificial island built for the glory of shameless capitalism. I knew that the stores on this island would probably be open. But, if for some crazy reason, none of the malls or shopping centers in the island were open, we could always just walk around looking at the many statues (including a replica of the Statue of Liberty), TV studios, or beach where no one is allowed to swim.
During one of our many subway or train transfers, we came across a clock. Since it was almost noon we decided to miss the next train and wait for the chime. The resulting song, Mark took to make his video of our entire trip.
There was a lot of things to do and see on this island. Most of them being very overpriced. First we walked around looking at all the giant or small replicas of statues, flames, or robots. Mark wanted to exchange some cash for an item he could remember the island by.
There was a t-shirt art expo set up right next to the Gundam statue. Mark headed there. He thought that he could get himself an overpriced Gundam t-shirt to take home. But, the shirts had nothing to do with Gundam.
It was just a bunch of t-shirt vendors trying to make names for themselves. Some of the art of the shirts were okay, but most were just plain weird. Since neither Mark nor I had ever heard of any of the artists and didn’t understand the themes of any of the brands, we weren’t willing to shell out $30 for any of their t-shirts.
There was a long line, so clearly the t-shirt vendors had found their target audience. Mark and I were just in the wrong place.
We found an amine themed restaurant. One of the signs for the restaurant showed the characters from One Piece chowing down on some delicious looking cartoon food. It looked like fun. It must be, the place was packed. All the tables were full and there was a long line of people waiting to get in.
We stood in line too. I wanted to check out the menu so I could figure out my order while I waited in line. It was just regular non-One-Piece-related food. The walls were painted with scenes from the show and there were statues of the main character out front. For this the restaurants happily charged $25 for curry rice and other typical Japanese family restaurant food.
We ended up eating at Subway at the food court of the mall next door.
We walked along the beach and then across Rainbow Bridge. It was cold but we enjoyed the view of Tokyo on our 45 minute walk. Mark complain about how I had tricked him into exercising, but he kept stopping to take panoramas.
We walked to the nearest train station and took the subway to our hostel. We rested while Mark figured out the best place for us to go to see a good New Year’s ball dropping.
First we went to Meiji Shrine. We wanted to look around and take photos, but somehow ended up in a crowd of people waiting for something. Mark kept telling me that any moment we would start moving and then we would see the rest of the shrine. I took out my tablet and started reading an e-book.
After 20 minutes of waiting in the cold and not moving an inch, I questioned Mark’s theory of what we were waiting for. Mark got out of the line and stopped one of the passing police men. He asked him what our line was for.
The cop told him that these people were waiting for midnight to hear the bell in the shrine to ring and pray. It was 21:00. These crazy people were standing out in the cold with the intention of waiting for 3 hours doing nothing. None of them even had e-books with them.
“This is totally CRAY!” I told him. “I agree!” We got out of line and followed some cops into the shrine. It turned out that if all you wanted was to walk through the shrine and take photos, you could. You just could not stand there or move too slowly.
We spent the next 3 hours wandering around Yoyogi Park. We passed many food stalls. There were vendors everywhere, but they were all just setting up and none of them had food ready to sell. After a while we found a subway station and made our way towards Tokyo Tower.
We were hoping to see the ball drop there.
We stopped by a 7-Eleven and got some snacks and hot coffee. There was a park bench with a view of the tower. It was also away from the crowd. We sat there and talked about how neither of us had ever seen a ball dropping on New Year’s eve. It was very cold but I was excited.
When it was almost midnight we got up and move towards the crowd for a better view. Then Tokyo Tower lit up then flashed a bit. Then it said, “2015”. That was it.
There was no big ball of lights slowly moving down the tower. There were no fire works. Later we found out that they had drop thousands of balloons from the top of Tokyo Tower. But only the people standing really close to the tower could see any of them.
How to get there:
You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.
Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.
- Emergency Numbers:
- Police 110
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Important phone numbers to know while in Japan
- Comfort Woman
- The Commoner
- Empire of the Sun
- Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
- Geisha, a Life
- Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission
- The Last Concubine
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
- Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan. Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
- InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
- ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
- The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
- You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)
Ace Inn Shinjuku
- Coordinates 35°41’32.2″N 139°43’22.3″E
- near AkebonobashistationontheToeiShinjuku line
- Exit #3
- ￥3,300 ~ 4,500 per person per night
- Check in 16:00
- Check out 11:00
- There is a receptionist available 24 hours a day.
- The wi-fi is pretty decent throughout the whole hostel.
- There is one parking space. (You can see our white k-car in the photo above.)
- ￥1,000/ night
- My Hostelworld review:
“Tokyo is expensive, so I can’t expect too much from a budget hostel. The place was clean enough for the most part. My bed, sheets, and towels looked pretty clean, but I did get run over by a huge roach in the common area. The kitchen is quite small, and dirty looking. Because the place looks a bit run down in the lobby, some travelers don’t make as much of an effort to pick up after themselves as they should. But, if you just want to stay for a night or two this place might be okay.”
(Tōkyō no chikatetsu)
- 0120-104106 Customer Service (Japanese Only)
- 03-3834-5577 Lost and Found
- Lost property is kept at in Ueno Station’s (Hibiya Line) Lost & Found Center (across from the pass office) or 3-4 days.
- Regular Tickets
- Discount Tickets
- 500 JYN 1 day pass for Toei Lines Only
- 700 JYN 1 day pass for Tokyo Metro lines
- 1,000 JYN 1 day pass for Toei and Tokyo Metro lines
- 1,500 JYN 3 day pass for Toei and Tokyo Metro lines
- PASMO (prepaid transportation card)
- 5:00 – 0:00 (actual time varies from station to station)
- The trains run later on some holidays.
- Rush hour:
- Getting to the Airport
- Special Cars and Rules
- Some cars are only for women (and children under 12) during the rush hours.
- No eating or drinking.
- Don’t put luggage on the seat beside you.
- Do not talk loudly or make too much noise.
- If you’re having trouble remembering what line you need, just remember the first letter of the line’s name. For most of the lines a tourist will use, the line’s symbol will be the same as the first letter of the line’s name.
- This is not true for all the lines of the Tokyo subway system, just the ones mostly used by tourists.
- There is a steep learning curve. At first the Tokyo Subways system will confuse you, especially when you compare it to more logically planned subway systems like that of Seoul or London. But you will get a hang of it.
- The Suica card can only be used to ride the JR Railway.
NI-TELE Really BIG Clock
- Coordinates 35°39’50.8″N 139°45’35.9″E
- designed by Hayao Miyazaki, the guy who did most of the anime you’ve heard of
- It’s in Shiodome, in front of the Nippon Television Tower.
- Coordinates 35°37’29.1″N 139°46’33.6″E
Daiba, Minato, Tokyo Prefecture 135-0091, Japan
- Shops’ and restaurants’ hours vary
Things to do on Odaiba:
- Rainbow Bridge ((レインボーブリッジ) (Reinbōburijji) – Cross Rainbow Bridge on foot.
- The walk across takes about 30-45 minutes
- April to October: 9:00 – 21:00; November to March: 10:00 – 18:00
- Find the Gundam in front of the DiverCity Tokyo Plaza.
- The plaza is open from 10:00 – 9:00.
- Venus Fort
- Shopping Mall
- 11:00 – 21:00
- Coordinates 35°40’34.6″N 139°41’57.7″E
1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya, Tokyo 151-8557
- Park 5:00 to 20:00 (until 17:00 from mid October through April)
- Shrine 5:45 – 16:30
- Coordinates 35°39’30.9″N 139°44’43.6″E
4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato, Tokyo 105-0011
- +81 3-3433-5111
- main observation deck (150m) – ¥900
- Special observation deck (250m) – an additional ¥700
- 9:00 – 21:30
- The tower is not as expensive as Tokyo Skytree but, just as crowed. I preferred going to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It’s free and has a great view of both Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower.