Thursday, February 28, 2008

Day One in Tokyo, part 2...

...O.K., back in the room now for the night. Where was I? Oh, yes - changing trains was almost more then I could handle. Here's how it went. Go to the ticket machine. Everything's in Japanese. Then I find the"English" button. Too bad there isn't an "Idiot" button. The English pulls up a chart an says "Press the ticket you want to buy" with a screen full of prices ranging from 130 yen up. Not what the value gets you. So what do I want to buy? Well, the cheap ticket, of course. So sometimes you put your ticket in the slot and it sets off an alarm because you didn't buy the right price ticket. Sometimes it sucks your ticket in & doesn't give it back. A couple of times when I was trying to figure out what platform I needed to go to, an agent just gave me money back, because I guess I overpaid? So - for the train switching I got stuck between 2 sets of gates (it ate my ticket) and there were no ticket machines (that I could find) and no helpful transit employees. I was captive for about 15 minutes (which can be mildly panic inducing when you can't communicate) until the transit guy returned to his post. For some reason he gave me 150 yen and waived me through the gate.

Jen gave me some invaluable tips before I left, like buy a map of Tokyo before I go (because, guess what - none of them over here are in English - thank you Jen!) and buy a compass so you can figure out the map. I picked up Tokyo's 25 best and found out about Roppongi Hills from there.

So it's a neat area - "a stunning new precinct with an urban art gallery, a dramatic observation deck, shops, public art, tranquil open spaces & busy plazas". Sounded great & it was on the same side of the city as the Harajuku district, so that was my next destination.

It was very tranquil walking through, until I came upon the "public art" - which is a gi-normous metal spider.

Once I got over my initial reaction (I thought we needed another sculpture with an even bigger shoe hovering over it) I decided I really liked it. The scale is fantastic.

"Dramatic observation deck". Understatement. I knew I had to head to the top as soon as I saw the building.

That's 54 stories, baby. Sweet. No glass elevator, but it was awfully speedy. And before I realized it I was at the top. Now the first thing I did was cheat - the gallery was at the top too & I checked out the gift shop & saw what kind of stuff was in the exhibit (not that great) & made the judgement call to spend all my time there soaking in the city on the observation deck & just skip the gallery. As far as the eye could see in every direction - city. It left me speechless.

Wow. Seriously. Just wow.

After the last subway drama, I took a cab back to my hotel. I ran into Bill Downey in the Family Mart (he kind of stands out here) and said hi as I was grabbing a bottle of water and a coke zero (at least I thought it was water - I guess I was so busy chatting I didn't read the bottle which said "bottled sweat" (I don't think that translated well) - turns out it tastes like a Lemon DaSani.

We all met in the hotel lobby & headed over through the mall to the attached convention center (this complex is huge - it houses a hotel, the convention center, a mall, an indoor theme park, an aquarium, a theater, a planetarium, an observatory & a museum). There was a large contingency from Sun-K (the Japanese distributor hosting the event), our translators and the other teachers. Let's see if I can remember all the other Americans who came over to teach: Lisa Bearnson (CK), Lance Anderson (Rusty Pickle), Becky Fleck (Basic Grey), Donna Downey (Simple), Brian Tippets (CK), Kamei Smith (FontWerks) and Britney Mellen (CK). There will be over 200 attendees from all over Japan, Asia & even Hawaii. We'll all be teaching 3 two hour classes a day for the next 3 days. I *love* my adorable translator Aya (pronounced eye-uh). I'm looking forward to a fun time with her. I got side tracked...our hosts took all of us out for dinner..and we ended up eating Mexican food. Now, it was good - but let me tell you, Mexican food in Tokyo is very different from Mexican food in Texas! The folks from Sakura and Tsukineko were there and it was very nice to meet them as well. I also met Dee from Scrap the Planet - who I will be teaching for on Monday.

All in all, it was a pretty awesome day. I'm going to turn in now, since I have a busy day ahead of me. I'll do my best to remember to take pictures tomorrow (I didn't at the dinner tonight, but Aya will be sharing her photos with me). Arigato for reading and I'll keep you posted...


Blogger Margie H said...

AH....memories! LOL! Roppongi Hills is where my niece goes to school (The American School In Japan's preschool & kindergarten is housed there). I used to work across the street from the Hills (w/ American Express).

The 2nd pic after your pic of Tokyo Tower (the red tower) is near my parent's house - the bridge is called Rainbow Bridge and hooks Tokyo with the man-made island. One of the major TV stations - FUJI SANKEI is here (the one with the ball in the building. LOL!!!).

You also went to ASAHI TV station in Roppongi Hills! So you covered two of the major TV stations! LOL!!! It's like ABC & NBC status!

The subways are a bit tricky...there are different levels to change trains (depending on the station - i.e. TOKYO, SHINJUKU).

Try and get to a department store's basement where the food is sold. There are samples to try...loved going around there esp. when I'm hungry! LOL!!

Can't remember the guy's name from Sun-K who came to CKU-Chicago a couple of years ago (Naoki - Naoto?). Don't know if he remembers me or not - tell him I said HELLO! LOL!! We were sitting togther during the graduation ceremony and he knew my roomie from Japan (Naoko Kawai).

I'll have to look up his name...if I can find it in my "pile of s@#%" in the basement :0)

HAVE FUN, Emily! Lost or not, it's still a great city to be in!

English-written map, stuff, etc. - try the concerige (sp?) and see if they can help! Or maybe there's a JTB (Japan Travel Bureau) counter or booth somewhere...that's where I get all my stuff for my visiting customers.

Good luck!

12:58 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

If you ever want to see what is in the gallery, I have the catalog at my house. ;-)

Glad you are having fun without me. I'm sad that I'm not there. You have no idea.

8:24 PM  
Anonymous caroline said...

LOL - you were drinking pocari sweat weren't you? my DH LOVES that!

11:23 PM  

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