10 APRIL 04
our final full day in tokyo... we're a little sad. we plan to rent "lost in translation" as soon as we get home just to refresh our memories! and then after that, maybe watch a few japanese soap operas! we're not ready to let go!

just finished packing - it was quite a challenge! good thing we took a 2 hour nap before attempting it!

today we went to the more eastern parts of tokyo - ueno and ginza. we were going to try for shinjuku again, but we were exhausted after ginza! ueno was an interesting experience. we mainly stayed in the ameyoko arcade, which was a large market filled with sneaker shops, clothing stalls, restaurants, and fish shops. we didn't buy anything, but the browsing was fun. we had lunch there - i ordered ten don (not tendon!), which is tempura shrimp/vegetables over rice. andrew had seafood don (that's self explanatory). he said it was really fresh! on our way back to the train station, we bumped into another 6 story toy store!! we were able to exercise some self-control, especially keeping in mind our limited luggage space!

ginza was more like fifth avenue or madison avenue. nice high end stores and loads of department stores. we also went to a large music store there and andrew bought a ton of picks to add to his colletion. after that, we spent most of our time in the food hall of matsuya. we're not ashamed to say that we picked at the little samples of food that were displayed!

our final thoughts about tokyo:

  1. we would love to come back someday, but we need to spread out our activities a little more. so much to do, so little time!
  2. there is way too much smoking in this city! for a place that is so obsessed with hygiene, they sure aren't concerned about the effects of smoking!
  3. we realize why we love this place so much. everything is so neat and tidy, as in their packaging, little gadgets, bathrooms, mannerisms. (you should have seen how they packaged our happy set!) it fits with our somewhat anal personalities!

well, we hope you've enjoyed reading our tokyo journey daily updates and viewing the pictures. we would have loved to bring all of you with us, but since we couldn't (tight budget, you know?), this is the best that we can do! sayonara for now and see you when we return home!

09 APRIL 04

learning our lesson from yesterday, we decided to take it easy today. we stayed in ikebukuro (where our hotel is) in the morning. most of our time was spent at sunshine city (a shopping complex), and we spent another 2 hours at our now new favorite store - tokyu hands. (fyi, we went to another branch of tokyu hands on tuesday and spent almost 3 hours at that one!) (andrew wants to think of a way to bring them to the united states!) we can't really explain what kind of store it is. they call it a "creative life store." basically, they sell everything from sporting goods to stationery to housewares to toys. after hands, we had lunch at a place that specializes in rice omelets (recommended to us by andrew's sister, vivian). mmmm oishii desita!! (it was delicious!) we walked in sunshine city for a little bit after lunch and went back to the hotel to rest. we took a nap (didn't realize how tired we had to wake up and simply could not!), and after our nap, we went back to shinjuku to find a place andrew looked up - tesuka osamu world - the creator of astroboy. andrew almost hyperventilated when he saw this place. it was FILLED with astroboy stuff. we spent a good 1 1/2 hours there. it was unbelievable! we took the train back to harajuku after that to finish walking the area we weren't able to last night. tomorrow is our last full day in tokyo. we have to plan our itinerary. ok, turning in now, oyasuminasai!

08 APRIL 04

today, we hit two neighborhoods - shibuya and harajuku. both places were very crowded (we kind of miss the tranquility of odaiba). shibuya was not very eventful for us except for a manga store we happened to walk by. we went down three flights of stairs and found ourselves in a dark, musty and hot haven for japanese animation lovers. while we were not able to buy any of the comic books (all written in japanese), andrew found a few goodies in the toy section at the back. we then walked up a major road called meiji-dori, towards harajuku. we were rather tired by the time we got to harajuku, but got a second wind when we found a 6 story toy store called kiddyland - and there were plenty of non-kids there shopping alongside us! we bought some gifts for friends and ourselves. =) we continued to walk through some interesting streets in harajuku, but alas, our fatigue overpowered us and we had to head back to the hotel. we bought dinner at a local "healthy food" place and took it back to the hotel. it wasn't too long after we ate that we both just fell asleep. it was 9:00pm then. that's why we're writing this update a day later! sumimasen! please read on...

07 APRIL 04

hello again! this is going to be a quick one because we are both really tired.

greetings from new york! we had a chance to see the statue of liberty today. ha ha!! we were actually in odaiba (tokyo bay) today. it was a nice departure from the hustle and bustle of places like ikebukuro and shinjuku. we spent a very long time walking through a shopping center called decks, that had many vintage and very cute japanese specialty shops. we also spent an insane amount of time at a toys "r" us there. i looked more than bought. andrew went a little nuts, as usual!

we finally did something very touristy tonight. At a place in Odaiba called Venus Fort, we rode a giant ferris wheel called, "Giant Wheel." (a very creative name!) at its peak, we were 115 meters off the ground (sorry, don't know the conversion to feet). it was nice to see the tokyo skyline at night.

06 APRIL 04

WOAH, i think the jetlag is finally kicking in. either that or we overworked ourselves today! we just took a 3+ hour nap! my mind is a little more focused tonight so hopefully, i'll sound more coherent than last night. actually, andrew had to edit my writing before he sent out the final product. i was basically just rambling on and on... =) actually, that may happen again tonight!

we spent the entire day in shinjuku. there was SO much to see! every direction we turned, there seemed to be interesting things to look at. we walked and walked. we went to shinjuku east, south, west. as we were headed for the subway station to come back to the hotel, we discovered another very happening area, but we just didn't have the energy to walk anymore. we may go back one night later this week.

well, the top 5 things we LOVE about tokyo so far: 1. the freedom to slurp one's noodles with full enjoyment; 2. noodles, noodles, noodles; 3. again, can't emphasize enough the japanese people's superb politeness. (today at a store, andrew and i wanted to get a duty-free refund. the woman was extremely apologetic because we were a few hundred yen short of meeting the minimum required. she bowed her head slowly and in her softest voice said, "i'm sorry."); 4. toys, toys, toys (see below pictures of my new toy and andrew's new toy... and this is only the beginning!!!); 5. immaculately clean (and hi-tech - check out the bidet function!) bathrooms! not to mention an occasional noise the toilet will make to mask any embarrassing noises one might make while going!

there are actually more than 5 things that we love, but we'll save them for another update (hopefully, this will keep up the suspense!).

ivy's proud of herself because she spoke 3 sentences in japanese today: 1. arigato gozaimasu ("thank you very much," ok, that was the easy one!); 2. sumimasen, eigo o hanasemas ka? ("excuse me, do you speak english?"); 3. happy set o kudasai. ("please give me the happy set" - read below to find out what that is.)

andrew's proud of himself because he is now able to casually say "domo" to everyone as if he was a native! =)

we vowed not to eat at mcdonald's during our trip. but how could you resist when the happy meal (or "happy set" as it is called here) includes an ASTROBOY toy?!?! andrew said we need to go three more times to complete the collection!

ok, i think we'll call it a night now. we've been up since 6am and we probably walked for a total of 11 hours today (minus an hour for meals)! we'll need some energy for tomorrow! ja ne!

05 APRIL 04

konbanwa! greetings from tokyo, japan! it's 11:30p now and we're getting ready to turn in for the day. we arrived safely in tokyo today at 2:30p. the customs line was insane and chaotic! we then headed to buy tickets for an airport limousine to take us to our hotel. we are just so impressed by the excellent manners these japanese people have! it's actually quite amusing! we got to our hotel at 5:30p. the bell hop took us to our room and we were not sure whether to tip him or not. we didn't have anything smaller than $10 US or 1,000 yen. so we didn't have a choice. we gave him 1,000 yen - what a tip! then without wasting another minute, we went out to explore our neighborhood of ikebukuro. on our way walking, we saw dozens of eateries, all with very appetizing pictures of what they offer. we first went to uniqlo where we bought a couple of things. it's so amusing to us how the people continue to speak non-stop in japanese even though we've already identified that we could not. after walking around for about an hour or so, i had to put something into my stomach. we finally decided on a ramen joint. we both ordered a miso ramen and placed that order at a ticket machine that then spit out little tickets for us to hand to the waiter. the noodles were yum, but made our mouths a little dry afterwards (msg?). we continued to walk around and wound up at sunshine city. almost everything was closed by then so we just walked back towards the hotel. on our way back, we stopped at a 7-11. we both got ourselves some dessert. i got ice cream wrapped in a wafer and andrew got mango jello (which he said was so good, he plans to have one every night while we're here!). that's it for now. we're going to turn in now and get ready for a full day ahead!! oyasumi nasai!