Friday, 31 December 2010

Goodbye 2010 Hello 2011

Well after our big Disney day, we needed a bit of a lie in to get some energy back with New Years Eve. We went to Dave and KTs place for our last dinner of 2010 - it was delicious and was really great to see them again! On the way round there we had stopped off at Crispy Creams to buy a big box of doughnuts as a little treat to take around there with us! They were completely gorgeous of course! Everyone loves doughnuts!
We said our Happy New Years to eachother (and the cat enjoying the heated floor) and got on our way to Asakusa!

We had a couple of options for new years but ended up meeting up with Rieko and Cedric and their friends to go to the Temple at midnight to see how Japan really celebrates New Years!
We got there at about half 9 and there was a queue for the temple! Most people like to go to temple at midnight or on New Years Day. Actually as it turned out there wasn't much celebration at the Temple we had gone to. We were hoping to see lots and lots of people crowded in each with a balloon (they write their wishes for the new year on their balloon) and then at midnight everyone lets go of their ballons!
We had a pretty cool night though - but completely random! We waited whilst a few people queued at the temple. Then we decided to have a go ... hm... I don't know what it's called... anyway you shake this metal box until a small wooden stick comes out (excuse the picture... but there's the wooden stick!!!) it has a number on it and you open the draw with the same number on it...
In the draw is a little fortune...
this is your fortune (I'm not sure if fortune is the politically correct way of saying what it is) well a predication of your next year! Mine read (written mainly in Japanese and then translated to English on the bottom half so please excuse the translation - it's not the best)
No. 89 The Best Fortune
Your gem has no flaw and it will glisten better when you polish.
Good character by nature becomes much better when you polish yourself.
You will become known better.
You become wealthy and you may have repeated stroke of good luck.
You hope will be come true.
The patient will be sure to recover.
The lost thing is later to be found.
Building a new house and removal are both good.
It is good for you making a trip
Both marriage and employment are good.
It sounds pretty vague if you ask me but I was totally happy with it! I have to keep it now til the end of the year for it to come true for 2011! Fran on the other hand got The Worst Fortune everything mine had said his said the opposite... as far as "Your house will burn down" hm... nice hey! Everyone said to Fran it only counted til the end of 2010 anyway because we did it around 10:30pm! I think they were trying to make him feel better -aw! Anyway... when you get bad luck you tie it to the frame then it gets burnt so that it doesn't come true! WOOP!
Matt got a good one and he kept his. Rieko and Masato didn't like theirs, so they tied it to the frame!
There were lots of food stalls selling traditional Japanese food and some Korean food and lots of food on sticks of course...
By this point there was a really big group of us... There were people from England, Japan, France, Sweden, Singapore, Philippines and America! We ended up outside Starbucks, where they were giving away free small cups of coffee! By this point the queue was winding around all the main roads in the area, it must have been over a couple of miles long! Crazy, hey!!!
Well there was no count down... no hugging... everyone just said "wahey" and then it was 2011 and that was it! Me and Matt made a little bit more noise and of course us English lot all hugged! We all headed to an Izakaya which is a cheap food and drinks place.
 Me, Matt and Fran stayed there til about half 2 (the trains and subways were running all night long because of everyone visiting the temples and shrines)! We had such a great time with everyone... the company 110% made up for the not so exciting change from 2010-2011! Really happy that I could spend New Years Eve with some great people, great friends and Matthew there too!!!!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Tokyo DisneySea

We decided the night before to get up bright and early - but when our alarms went off we realised it was the first day that everyone would be off work and on holiday for New Years. We all got up, and decided not to go because we knew it would be far too busy! We were searching on the internet to find things to do but everywhere except Disney was shut! Due to the New Year holiday beinga  very important thing here in Japan! After Fran made us a delicious breakfast we decided we would risk it and go to DisneySea anyway...

The train was pretty empty on the way there so we were happy. I think I have said before but ALL train stations in Tokyo have a theme tune that play when you get on and off the train, when we had gone to DisneyLand before it played a beautiful tinkly version of a disney medley - so cute! I was really looking forward to Matt hearing it cuz he'd been going around whistling all the other ones (which is very embarrassing really - hehe, we'd be on trains and Matt would be there whistling the theme song - haha, it was funny) We got off the train and it didn't play :-( I don't know why, and I have been trying to find a copy of it on the internet but can't find it anywhere. Anyway... yeah DisneySea!
We'd decided on DisneySea as it is the only one in the world and Matt might get the chance to go to a DisneyLand! We were both pretty excitable!!! The weather was pretty cold and cloudy and to be honest I thought it was going to rain!
... and it looked pretty empty when we first got there...
But by the time we had faffed around getting our tickets and maps and then waiting for Fran (who - poor thing - had to get back on the train and go to the next stop to go into a konbini to take money out cuz disney wouldn't accept our card)... THE SUN HAD COME OUT!!!!! WOOP!
We decided to head straight to one of the biggest rides to see if we wanted to queue up.... 210 mins for the queue... we carried on walking...
 As we were walking around there were rows and rows of people gathering everywhere to see the show that we going to be performed in the center of the park on water - The music began to play really loud... orchestral Disney music... through every speaker in the park - completely amazing / make you realise - oh my god... I'm in a land... where Disney is real! ha! well that's how it made me feel... and by the look on Matt's face that's he felt to!
Unfortunately we couldn't get anywhere near to seeing anything! Fran stood on his tiptoes and took this photo though...
We hoped that if we tried to queue for a ride at this point then we might be able to get on the end of a shorter queue!
After a LOT of wandering we decided to go on this ride - It was in the Indiana Jones section. 
  • Raging Spirits - "Dare the wrath of two ancient gods as you speed through an archaeological excavation site aboard this roller coaster with a 360-degree loop!"
We waited in the queue for just over 3 hours! Although it wasn't the best roller-coaster ever... It was a big step for both me and Matt... Me - standing in the queue for 3 hours and not... er... panicing! and Matt has NEVER really done rollercoasters before - especially not ones with a loop anyway!!!!

When we left the ride it was dark and we had to concentrate on finding warm places to go because it really was freezing! So we went on a load of baby rides with no queues for the next hour or so
  • Storm Rider - a simulation room, you are in an aricraft that drives into the center of the storm... pretty AWESOME actually!
  • Sindbad's Story Book Voyage - Very cute boatride that tells the story of Sindbad's Voyage
  • Caravan Carousel - I'm not gunna try dress this up... it's just a merry go ride in a fancy building! hehe - good ride for kids though!
  • The Whirlpool - TEACUPS, we couldn't even spin ourselves!

We went and got a drink and Matt had some food, we just managed to catch the end of the New Year celebration Firework display and then we went off to queue for our last ride...
  • The Journey to the Center of the Earth

We queued for nearly 2 hours but it was sooooooooo worth it! As you are queueing you are going deeper and deeper into the volcano (photo above at sunset), then when you nearly reach the front of the queue you go into a lift which felt like we were plumiting down into the center of the earth - when you come out of the lift everything is dark and smokey and red lava lighting up the rocks. Me and Matt got into the front of the rickity train and Fran sat behind us... the train started slowly and we were going through tunnes passing lots of underworld (if that's the right word) creature. Then we got to this huge firey monster... the train suddenly speeds up turning lots of corner then it starts going up up up... and then you can see out all over DisneySea and Disneyland for a split second only (which was completely mind "blowingly" awesome at night) then you just drop going pretty much straight down for what seemed like forever and then... it's over! I was soooo impressed with it and so happy that we had gone on it!

So all in all... (and after talking to other people who had been) we didn't really do DisneySea justice... at all! BUT we did have a really great day, and now we know what to do next time! And there WILL be a next time :-D

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Asakusa, Hama Riku Gardens and Odaiba

Ok... before you start reading... please prepare yourself for what might possibly be the longest post I have ever done with LOTS of photos! We crammed a lot in!!!
Me and Matt headed to Asakusa to check out the Sensō-ji Temple and the surrounding sights. We weren't sure whether it was going to be crowded with it being the lead up to New Years, but it was really fine! There were decoration up for the New Year celebrations. This Temple is going to be completely FULL on New Years Eve!!!
Matt trying to cure himself by wafting the smoke on him - I wonder if he will feel better in a few days, hehe!
I wanted to take Matt on the River Boat from Asakusa to Odaiba... not really something you think of when you think TOKYO but you can travel right down the center of Tokyo from Asakusa to Tokyo Bay via the Sumida river. We were going to go straight to Odaiba, but when the boat stopped at Hama Riku Gardens, CHANGE OF PLAN we got off the boat there and went for a wander in the park!
It was so beautiful, the sun was bright and there was only a light breeze, there were red autumn leaves still and there was an odd stork here and there!!! It is a crazy feeling being in Tokyo where sometime you can't move for people and suddenly you pay ¥200 and you are surrounded by nature and peacefulness! The strangest thing I find, is that even though you have all these green trees and grass in the background, you can see lots of tall building! Amazing!
Look at those amazing red trees... at the end of December - crazy!!!
Matt wanted me to take a photo of this little tea room (which is standard within a special garden like this one), with the tatami mats covering the floor and the sliding translucent room separating doors with people sitting cross legged on the floor, drinking  cups of tea and enjoying the scenery.
We got to Odaiba in time for the sunset! WOOP! We took the special train line from the garden to Odaiba, which goes over the Rainbow Bridge which is a trip in its self, it really is an amazing site! We spoke about brass band stuff that was happening and he caught me up with everything that has been going on since I left England!!!! :-D It was sooooo windy there and sooo bitter cold, we had to find something to do.
We went to the Fuji TV building, which has an observation section on a globe shape where you can look out over Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo. It was a good thing to do with a spare 20mins but to be honest, I'm not going to go again, the view isn't really worth is compared to others, PLUS the FUJI TV building looks so cool and futurist from the outside... why would you wanna go in?!
Matt eating some Japanese fast food! It was really delicious! After this Fran came to meet us and we went to the Sega indoor theme park in Odiaba! Such a long and busy day... just checked my pedometer on my phone and we did nearly 20,000 steps!!!!