December 20, 2012

The Last Three Days

Have you ever noticed that whenever you sit down to write a blog, you end up just watching Seinfeld until you fall asleep? I mean, what's the deal with that?!

Let's do some catch-up:

A few days ago I said I was amazed that I hadn't gotten sick since arriving in Japan. I was extra careful to knock on wood, but apparently that's not a thing in Japan, so when I woke up Monday, I was a bit under the weather. 'Twas a day of reading and staying bundled up until I met up with Kelly and Yurika to see The Hobbit.


That was Monday! It was good to have a restful day though as Tuesday I was planning on waking up early to head to Nikko with Lizzy (86).

Another World Heritage Site
It was a 2 hour train ride directly North of Tokyo and when we arrived, the air was cool and the mountains in the distance were covered in snow. Really a beautiful sight, but my camera battery was dead so all I could manage were some iPhone shots:

Big fan of this demonic elephant
Child proofing the temple
We caught a little snow
It appears this creature is scratching his butt up against the wall.

Hear no evil, Speak no evil, See no evil

Apparently there's a pagoda in this building. I appreciate their attempt to disguise the surrounding structure.
Nikko is a fantastic day trip from Tokyo as it's two hours away, a welcomed departure from the busy city, and seems to have just enough Temples and shops to keep a person busy for a few hours. We dined on some fantastic Indian food, poked our head in a few temples and shrines, sampled some sweets and tea, and then went back to Tokyo. It was my first time seeing snow in Japan as well, and while it was sparse, I got visions of the red shrines poking through blankets of white; must be gorgeous.

Yesterday was another goal annihilating day as I went to Tsukiji Fish Market (38), walked the Rainbow Bridge (77), and attempted cartography (82).

The highlight of Tsukiji is the tuna auction that happens every morning at 5:30am. I've been told by many that while the hour is brutal, it is justified by how fun it is to see the hundred of Japanese chefs survey the daily catches and place their bids. Unfortunately the holiday season is so busy that they close the auction to tourists from December 1st-mid January. Unfortunate for some, but it gave me a great excuse to not wake up at 4:30am! Also, what does a few tons of tuna smell like? I had no interest in finding out.

I arrived about 90 minutes before closing but found that most of the shops had already shut down. There was not much hustle or bustle, but it was none the less interesting to wander the aisles. I couldn't help but think of Comic-con exhibit hall. Sadly, the Tsukiji Fish Market smells better than Comic-con...

I didn't see the 5:30am auction nor did I eat any fish; it was exactly what you'd expect from me going to a fish market! I would be interested to go back when there is more excitement, but maybe I'll save that for a day when I actually like fish.

From the market it was a short train ride to the entrance to the Rainbow Bridge which connects Tokyo to Odaiba. I was going to walk it a few nights ago but was informed it closes at 6pm in the winters due to winds and the cold temperatures. Daytime it was!

The entrance
I had imagined something more romantic
What views! I think...
Tokyo Tower in the distance
Feeling the winds!
I love getting blown
I made it!
Crossing under the bridge to the South side
Spotted my cartography goal!

A few weeks ago I was with Aziz and his friends and we were discussing how crazy maps are; especially those created before satellites, planes, and other technology that would allow a person to get any idea of what a landscape looks like. How did they make maps in ye olden day? Well I realized that I had nothing but time on my hands while here and so I would attempt to map out an unknown park. While walking on the bridge I spotted the park above and thought it would make a good first try as it wasn't terribly large and I was able to get a basic idea of the layout from the bridge. My game plan was to measure the perimeter in strides and then make an "X", also measuring in strides. From that grid, I figured I could place all the benches, monuments, and other defining features.

My scratch pad
Luckily the area was more or less square (when things are man-made, they tend to have straight lines) so it was easy to create the basic outline. I have yet to measure how long my stride is, but I would I assume I was taking 2 foot steps which would mean this area was a little larger than 81,000 square feet, or just shy of 2 acres. Once the perimeter was measure, I did the same for the inner square, which was a lower area accessible by a few staircases. How they made topographical maps back in ye olden days is WAY beyond my comprehension. I walked around the park, counting my steps and taking notes, and then retired to a bench to draw this more accurate map:

Yeah, I made a key
When I left, I consulted the map which I had been careful to avoid at the entrance and was pleased to find that I did a pretty damn good job! My last step will be to transfer this to graph paper and actually draw it to scale and place the benches and monuments in the correct location. I'm sure you'll all want to be updated on the progress of that map as you may be planning a trip to Odaiba soon.

This photo doesn't fit in anywhere else, but I snapped it on Odaiba. Weirdest. Zoo. Ever.

I grabbed a bite on the island before making my way back. I checked my watch and realized I could still get on the bridge before closing. As I passed the entrance gate, I was whistled down. Literally, the guard had a whistle and blew it and then proceeded to tell me something in Japanese. I kept telling him I didn't understand, so he pointed to a sign that says "gate closes at 5:30". It was 5:15, so he let me pass, but I wasn't sure if he was telling me that if I didn't make it to the other side by 5:30 that I'd be locked on the bridge... And if I was... oh well! What a great story!

Making the journey back over the bridge
Night wind
While the walk over in the afternoon was fun, the night journey was so much more enjoyable. The views were absolutely amazing as all of Tokyo was illuminated and reflecting in the water. The wind was violent and seemed to threaten me with each step, and of course there was the fear that I may be locked on the bridge all night! As I strolled careless, Tom Petty's Something In The Air came on and it was just perfect. The nice thing about walking on a windy bridge at night with hundreds of loud cars zipping by is that you can sing at the top of your lungs without anyone hearing. And that's exactly what I did.

I probably looked insane: hair blowing in the wind, singing at the top of my lungs to no apparent music, and walking a bridge alone at night. But it all felt great! Am really glad I got to complete this goal before I left Tokyo; was a nice way to see the city.
And no, I did not get locked on the bridge

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