05.10.2010

For those that don’t know, The Slew is made up of turntable extraordinaires, Kid Koala and Dynomite D and ex-Wolfmother members on bass and drum duty. Together they form what could only be described as head banging hiphop. Its what Mike Shinoda wishes Linkin Park would be like!
The live show is just nuts, heaps of energy and you can tell the guys are having a blast up there! Jump on to youtube.com to see them in action.

Gallery Here

Monorail, downtown Tokyo

If you’re staying closer to inner Tokyo or just want a good view of the Tokyo skyline then head on down to Odaiba. Take the JR Yamanote line to Okachi Machi then switch to the Yurikamome line. This will take you through the city, over the Rainbow bridge (lit bridge that changes colour every few seconds) then into Odaiba.

Odaiba is on one of the many man made “islands” in Tokyo Bay it used to be all commercial buildings but is now home to a selection of tourist attractions. The biggest and most obvious one being Daikanransha, the “Tokyo eye” once the biggest ferris wheel in the world its still packs the wow factor with 360 degree views of the city, on a clear day you might even catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji.

The ride lasts about 15min and you can choose between a completely clear capsule or a regular ferris wheel style closed in bottom. There tends to be a 10-20min wait on the all-clear ones, while it is a little easier to see out from a sitting position, its no better for taking photos as the frame work gets in the way, not to mention the windows themselves can be pretty dirty.

It is open till 10pm nightly. If you want to head straight to it, stay on the upper level of the train platform and head south to the freeway overpass.

View of Tokyo from Daikanransha, Odaiba, Tokyo

Other notable attractions in Odaiba are: the “interesting” looking Fuji TV studio, Decks Tokyo Beach shopping mall, Venus Fort (Venice themed mall), the Statue of Liberty replica. Entertainment wise check out Tokyo Leisure Land (24hour gaming, karaoke and bowling) and Zepp Tokyo, Tokyo’s largest concert hall playing host to Jamie Cullum and Erykah Badu next week alone. During the day, there are numerous park areas and “beaches” on the edge of the island great for a bbq in the warmer months, though swim at your own peril.

Leaving Tokyo

So here we are in our hotel room looking down at our 2 week bounty thinking how the heck are we going to get all of this back home. Suticases. More suitcases.
After a quick chat to the concierge we headed back over to the Ameyoko markets. One thing that’s for certain is the quality of merchandise is a lot higher than what you would find in say, Hong Kong. However, this is reflected in the price, but like anything, look long enough and you’ll find what you’re after at the price you’re willing to pay. Another suitcase and carry on later, we were sorted.

Not having a budget gives you one less thing to worry about however you must always be weary of the luggage trade off. So Couple tips on packing:

– Bulky items like shoes are lighter but take up more space (try breaking down the shoe boxes and using them in the suitcase lining. You get to keep the box and have a bit of extra protection from those enthusiastic luggage throwers handlers. For extra space, remember shoes are hollow, perfect for storing t-shirts or your ball pit of Gashapon 😉
– Try to distribute heavier items like jeans across your luggage.
– Put delicate items such as glassware, ornaments, model kits and collectibles into your carryon but leave things like snow globes out. Because of the water in them, they are still classed as a prohibited item so make sure you have plenty of bubble wrap and double bagging handy. The store should normally pack them well, if not, pop into a post office for supplies.
– Lastly, if you run out of room, remember jackets don’t have to be classed as luggage. Its easy enough to carry 2 (one on each back pack strap) and spare some precious luggage space.

There you have it, city #1 covered (in a roundabout way) but we’re not done! Stay tuned for the next instalment when we hop, skip and jump over the pond to the city of angels, LA!

Domo Origato! Sayonara! ^__^

Ueno Blossom Festival

Tokyo part #1 – Ueno for a day
Tokyo part #2 – Getting round Tokyo, Ueno Sakura at night
Tokyo part #3 – Harajuku
Tokyo part #4 – Shibuya
Tokyo part #5 – Kichijoji and Shinjuku
Tokyo part #6 – Akihabara

Photo Gallery Here

04.28.2010

Akihabara, Tokyo

No trip to Japan would be complete without a (rather big) glimpse of what makes the country tick… and whirl, and buzz. Electronics! And there’s no better place to get your geek on than Tokyo’s CPU, Akihabara aka Akiba aka Electric town. Just picture Jaycar or Dick Smith times a million and you’re getting close. Any kind of premade electronic product EVER from radios, to game consoles, to cameras and computers to the components used to make them, replacement parts, capacitors, inductors, circuitry, you name it, if its powered by electricity, you’ll find it here… somewhere.

The station is only about 1km from Ueno, so it’s an easy walk or a couple minute train ride.

The first obvious places are the larger stores as you walk out of the station’s west exit (follow the signs to “Electric town”) being the multiple LAOX and Sofmap stores. These have an army of staff which are helpful and speak quite good English (some stores even have Caucasian staff) and also have duty free. They have similar style layouts, with a level dedicated to a certain type of product eg. Cameras, computers, watches, home goods etc. and a big index sign on the ground level will help you save precious shopping minutes 😉

While you will more than likely find what you’re looking for in these shops, nothing can prepare you for the onslaught from the mothership on Akiba station’s north east, that being the Akihabara Yodobashi Center.

Yodabashi camera store, Akihabara, Tokyo

Eleven floors of every model of every colour of every electronic item release in the last 5years (or there abouts). They even have sporting goods, toys and a floor of restaurants. I’d say its like Harvey Normal times 1000 but Yodobashi actually has good service and good prices (yea, I went there). Speaking of prices, while they are very competitive to the local AU market, they’re very similar to online (overseas) prices so you may want to save yourself some import fees when coming back through customs by not going all out on big ticket items. In saying that, being able to handle and eyeball similar products for a hands on, real life comparison, is indispensable.

After we surfaced from a sea of electric razors and toothbrushes, we headed to Super Potato (I know, right!). They specialise in retro gaming. Forget about your wifi enabled, pizza ordering, “I’m in a rap video” gaming consoles, its back to the roots with the 3 commandments. Shooting, driving, and jumping and maybe even all three! So basically anything prior to the Playstation 1, wall to floor to ceiling of games and consoles. Since very few cartridge games were reissued, they’re mostly all originals but are all still in good to mint condition.

Super Potato, Akihabara,Tokyo

Atari, Nintendo, Mega Drive, Master System to the ill fated Saturn, Dreamcast and Game Cube are all covered as well as plenty of domestic market releases that never saw the light on the world stage and a bunch of quirky little handheld games and mini consoles. Just remember when buying any mains powered devices from overseas, that it will work on your local voltage supply, if not you will need to purchase a separate power transformer. Anything powered by batteries is fine since DC current is universal.

Back out on the main drag amongst the cosplay girls handing out flyers, you’ll see more “Pichinko” (or “Taito”), no not something Elliot from Scrubs would say, but gaming houses filled with slot machines. Half a block away you’ll hear the deafening wave of bells and whistles as the automatic doors open and close. There are also plenty of gaming places dedicated to claw machines, but these are the same the world over. Only enough tension in the claw to give the prize the gentlest nudge of hope so you continue to funnel in your coins. You seriously have more hope getting a prize from a wishing well, so you’re better off just buying one from a toy store.

What’s that? Toy store? You thought I forgot didn’t you? Not at all! A couple blocks north of the station is another Mandarake store. Multiple levels include buying on the ground floor for those with a bit of buyers’ remorse, cosplay and 2 levels of figures and collectibles. They also have items for the die hard fans, like the actual helmets used in filming Power Rangers and uniforms from local productions.

Mandarake, Akihabara, Tokyo

Over near Yodobashi there is another large toy store called Animate. Unfortunately during another “can’t see the forest for the trees” slash “damn you google maps” moment we couldn’t find it but later discovered it in the background of one of our photos! Anyway, what you need to do is get to this store on a Sunday, when they close off a lane and its filled with performers and cosplayers.

Finally if you’re having withdrawals from sneakers or music, there’s still a few ABC Marts and a Music Vox to appease that hunger, otherwise its Gashapon time!

About 2 blocks north of Mandarake off the main street in a small side lane is a dirty yellow signed store that houses a ground floor of Gashapon and 2 upper levels of toys, figures and collectibles. What is Gashapon? You’ll know them as the gumball style machines at the exit of supermarkets that you nagged your mum for change so you could get a toy in a capsule when you were little. The difference here is the toys aren’t a poorly moulded ring, necklace or keyring, they’re highly detailed and painted quality pvc items. Best thing of all, you no longer need to nag your mum, you can buy as many as you want!

Choose anything from your favourite shows/games like Mario, Star Wars and anime characters to the weird and wonderful of light up poo keyrings, telescopic cat paw pointing wands, tote bags, countless mobile phone trinkets and for the (not so) mature crowd, the X rated figures in various states of undress and positions that will have even Paris Hilton taking notes.

The majority of Gashapon cost between 100-500Y, with dedicated stores like this one having a change machine and recycle bin for used capsules. Depending on how many you buy, it’s a good idea to bin the capsules to save luggage space.

FYI, “Gashapon” refers to “Gasha” as in the crank machine that holds the toys and “pon” the sound the capsule makes when it drops. A lot easier to say than click tic tic tac click tacka!

Gashapon

Tokyo part #1 – Ueno for a day
Tokyo part #2 – Getting round Tokyo, Ueno Sakura at night
Tokyo part #3 – Harajuku
Tokyo part #4 – Shibuya
Tokyo part #5 – Kichijoji and Shinjuku
Tokyo part #7 – Odaiba and Leaving Tokyo

Photo Gallery Here

Gallery Here

04.27.2010

Another solid day of broken beats from the ADICTS boys with the Freestylers dropping a variety of hiphop, breaks, dubstep and DnB.

Freestylers. What are you on. Reach for the painkillers. Raw as F*ck!

Gallery Here

Inokashira Park, Kichijoji, Tokyo

Kichijoji is not really a major stop on the usual Tokyo itinerary, well unless of course you’re a sneaker nut, as its home to the famed K-Skit store 😉 otherwise, its a rather small (comparatively) “suburb” lying on the Chuo Line off the JR Yamanote line (change at Shinjuku station). Make sure you catch the right train though, “Rapid” (express) services skip the smaller stops, Kichijoji being one of them. Check the sign on the platform, it shows the stops the train will make. If you’re still not sure you are on the right one after you’ve boarded, just check the in-train route map displaying the stops.

Getting off at Kichijoji station is a far cry from the bustle of Shibuya, which also matches the slightly more laid back feel of the suburb. Its CBD area is quite a bit smaller, but in saying that it still measurable to Brisbane’s own CBD, complete with pedestrian mall. However one thing Brisbane is missing, is a lake surrounded by cherry blossoms!

Inokashira Park, Kichijoji, Tokyo

Inokashira Park is a couple hundred metres walk from the station and is completed with numerous walking paths, foot bridges, temple and my personal favourite, water craft for hire in the form of paddle boats and row boats. 600Y gets you 30min of water time in a paddler (less for a row boat, those of you above 170cm might want to consider the row boat as the paddlers cater more for children and the fibreglass seats aren’t particularly well contoured), which is more than enough time to leisurely work your way round the northern half of the lake and to take in the surroundings re: paddle beneath the blossoms trees arching into the water. Try and get there before 10am, as the lake can quickly get cluttered with traffic making it difficult to dodge those trying to grasp the concept of oars and inertia.

The park itself seems quite popular with the locals for picnickers and artists alike, even more so during Sakura season. It also has a small zoo, museum and temple if you can pull yourself away from the blankets of blossoms.

Heading back up one of the main thoroughfares, after 11am, many of the little shops, cafes and street vendors will start to open. There is also a Starbucks for those missing a “taste of home” and a couple sneaker shops with prices up to 1-2000Y cheaper for similar items in the more built up areas. But save your Yen because we’re heading to K-Skit. A block from the main street and about two from the station it is tucked away in a smaller lane on the 3rd floor but there’s a large sign on the footpath, clearly visible if you’re coming from the station side.

The store is wall to wall, floor to ceiling of sneakers all neatly shrink wrapped and focuses mostly on pre-owned Nikes. Condition ranges from beaters and models that are so old they’re literally falling apart to owned but never worn and brand new. Variety is almost endless, it’s a certainty that you will see a colourway or model that you’ve never seen before. The shelves are sorted by brand/model with a high concentration on Air Force series, Dunks and Jordans. Shoes with multiple tags show the sizes available and their cost. Popular sizes (sz 9-11) on the rarer models are usually more.

Weaving through the narrow aisles you will see sections for other brands like Adidas, Reebok and Timberland along with glass cases for the antique sneakers and the super rares. Staff are friendly and are happy to let you try shoes on, there’s just no where to sit while you do it! I picked up a pair of 2007 Nike Air Force 1 Baltimore 410 “Is Mr. shoe in?” limited editions for only 9000Y (~$100US). Not bad when you consider Footlocker AU hocks current garden varieties for $120-160AU!

It’s a good idea to hit up their website a couple weeks before you arrive to get an idea of what’s in stock. New stock and their “price down” section is updated daily with complete transparency of condition eg. “cracks in upper”, “yellowing of midsole” along with clear detailed photos of the tell tale wear areas such as the sole and inside heal, nothing like the sneaker forums or ebay where “worn about 3 times” really means “worn about 3 years”.

If you’re big on vintage clothing there are several shops in the surrounding block, like Ragtag. Otherwise you can venture north under the train line to LA Avenue. Kind of like the baby brother of K-Skit but with a bit of clothing and a few accessories like G-Shock watches. Of course I couldn’t let a 1995 Guassman in mint condition and original box go begging for only 4500Y 😉

Another block north and you’ll find a 2 level Nike store, an Adidas store, a bunch of little restaurants, cafes, tea houses and burger bars along with the aforementioned mall which houses another Yodobashi Camera store.

Shinjuku

Another big station in another very built up area. The highlights here are camera stores, Yodobashi, Bic, Map, all with in a couple blocks of the station or in the station itself and a few large department stores with the focus towards young women (especially the stores inside the station). The main reason why we stopped here is for the Tokyo Metro buildings, about 600m west of the station towards Shinjuku central park. Two towers with a free observation deck on the 45th floor and opened till 11pm most nights (check the daily times on their site, certain days each month, one building is closed while the other is open), unfortunately on the day we were there, visibility was very poor, down to a few hundred meters at times. It looked like a mixture of low cloud, fog, haze and the usual smog, so it was scratched from the itinerary, still comes recommended as one of the best and cheapest views of Tokyo.

South east of these buildings is Shinjuku Gyoen, a much larger park with feature gardens, recreational paths and water features, another ideal place for Hanami (blossom viewing).

Also while in Shinjuku, look south once you’ve cleared the sky scrapers and you will see the Docomo building, one of Tokyo’s tallest buildings.

Tokyo part #1 – Ueno for a day
Tokyo part #2 – Getting round Tokyo, Ueno Sakura at night
Tokyo part #3 – Harajuku
Tokyo part #4 – Shibuya
Tokyo part #6 – Akihabara
Tokyo part #7 – Odaiba and Leaving Tokyo

Photo Gallery Here

04.22.2010

Shibuya crosswalk, Tokyo

Just one stop from Harajuku, less than a kilometre down a gentle hill, so if youre not carrying too much shopping, its an easy walk, just follow the train line south. If you see Tower Records you’re heading in the right direction.

Coming by train to Shibuya, which lets face it, is one of those Tokyo “musts”, you get to witnessed one of the world’s busiest stations in full stride. But don’t let photos from above fool you, while yes it is busy ALL the time, once you’re in the midst of it, its no different than any other major train station round the world, even if its comparative to Grand Central, Paddington or Guangzhou Rail. Likewise for when you step out of the station and into the infamous Shibuya crosswalk aka Tokyo’s Time Square. From above it looks like ants before a storm but in reality its no different than jaywalking cross Adelaide and Edward streets in Brisbane (though if you’re going to jaywalk here, do so at your own peril!). Just get to the front before the walk signal goes then skew off on the road of the direction you want to go, sorted. A bit of extra pep in your step to keep ahead of the surging masses doesn’t go astray either.

Shibuya, Tokyo

Shibuya could very well be Japanese for department store since the place is littered with them. Shibuya 109 (buildings 1, 2 and 3), Parco (buildings 1 and 2), Tokyu and OIOI Marui City are the notable mentions, though the whole “suburb” is pretty much one department store with a huge variety of stores.

Some of our faves were Bic camera their website says it all, electronics galore, one of the more well known stores with English speaking staff on hand; the Disney store with its Alice in Wonderland staircase and across the road is the 500th KFC (has a plaque n all :p ).

Sneaker-wise there’s another Adidas store, the usual scattering of ABC mart’s and THE KiksTYO, not a large range of sneakers but a few rarer models and of course their famed apparel and tees. There are also a few smaller independent sneaker stores near Parco (and a TGI Fridays 😉 ).

How do you know you bought a genuine KiksTYO tee? It comes in a box 😉

For toys you’ll want to try and find Mandarake. The building isn’t very well signed but it is called BEAM, head up 3-4 blocks on the main street from the Shibuya cross walk in a north west direction and you should stumble on it. Depending on the direction you come from you might catch a glimpse of the “BEAM” on a cyclinder structure on a corner. Its in the same building as RECOfan if that helps!

Mandarake is def. targeted to an older market, mainly because of the vintage collectibles. Wall to wall glass cabinets housing vinyls and figures that either were clearly someone’s fave childhood toy or the yellowing plastic of a original sealed toy from a child with some serious self control, all sporting hefty price tags to match. On the plus side, since they do deal with a lot of used items, you can pick up current stock at a fraction of the price, if the box has been opened. Most are still in mint condition and have all their parts. There are also shelves and bins of bits and pieces and clearance items for those that don’t mind a rummage.

I walked out with a bunch of Revoltech figures, a model kit Space Cruiser Yamato aka Starblazers (one of my childhood favourites!) and of course the obligatory Transformer (and random Gashapon :p).

As mentioned RECOfan is in the same building, one of the larger music stores that also do used items and records. Roughly about 5 times the size of Rockinghorse Records in Brisbane you could easily spend a day crate digging. Good thing is the sections are well labelled in English and are alphabetically broken down into genre and artist with a fair serving of rarities and country only releases. If you don’t get your fill here, there’s also Disk Union and “Dance music records” stores with a block or so.

For some sightseeing novelty check out “Love hotel hill”, basically a small lane dedicated to the oldest profession in the world. Good for a laugh or a quickie.

If you’re hanging around into the evening and want to get your boogie on then Shibuya is also home to Womb one of Tokyo’s biggest nightclubs with matching exuberant entry fee and drink prices. Check the “Womb cruise” party in May 2010 on a boat that looks like its come straight out of the Thunderbirds!

Tokyo part #1 – Ueno for a day
Tokyo part #2 – Getting round Tokyo, Ueno Sakura at night
Tokyo part #3 – Harajuku
Tokyo part #5 – Kichijoji and Shinjuku
Tokyo part #6 – Akihabara
Tokyo part #7 – Odaiba and Leaving Tokyo

Photo Gallery Here

04.21.2010

Yoyogi Park entrance, Harajuku, Tokyo

Amai Undogutsu 😉

Thanks to the ever delectable Gwen Stefani, most people know of Harajuku for its “girls” and its “lovers”, but there’s a reason why Gwen and millions of other people are infatuated by the area and that’s its over the top fashions. Think kandi raving goth punk p0rno star and you’re getting close. A lot of layering, off cuts, frays and safety pins mixed with classic maid or school girl outfits.

Takeshita Street, Harajuku, Tokyo

Straight out of Harajuku station you pretty much fall into the thick of it, ie. Takeshita street (don’t worry, itll get less funny after a day, but then itll get funny again). The closed off street extends a few blocks and is packed with a variety of stores, mostly clothing, with a couple run of the mill sneaker and sport/skate stores. We were there on a Tuesday during school holidays and the street was pretty well jammed moving at a “bottleneck at a music festival” rate. If you’re going to go on a weekend, be prepared to get the elbows out if you want to zigzag between shops.

A side note, watch out for the African looking guys trying to be your friend, they’re only there to drag you into shops or sell you dodgy merchandise/tickets (to who knows what!). They seem to be of European background but speak a few broken languages.

Meiji Jingu Shrine, Harajuku, Tokyo

Speaking of the weekend, it is still the best time to check out Harajuku, mainly for Yoyogi park for its circus of Harajuku girls, performers and those crazy rockabilly Elvis impersonators. While you’re in the park, take the short walk to the Meiji Jingu Shrine, one of the most popular shrines in Tokyo, to stay a few prayers and maybe bless your feet for all the walking you’re about to do 😉

After Takeshita street, *snicker* venture out into the surrounding streets for more of the larger designer stores. A further block or two you’ll find many little lane ways of designer labels and boutique shoe and clothing shops. Brand stores like Adidas originals, Nike iD, Burton, Element along with some of Tokyo’s finest collector sneaker stores, Atmos, Undefeated, Chapter, Kicks Lab and of course for the everyday releases, the Japanese Footlocker, ABC Mart. While you’re in the area check out the many vintage clothing stores, Heatwave is one of the bigger names. There’s a huge variation in quality and selection so you might have to try a few different places if you’re looking for something in particular but like any “op-shopping” the best buys are the ones that you never expected to find.

For lunch I recommend the pocket kebabs. A little store with the long lunch line near Forever 21 (the American version of Supre’ but they sell guys clothes as well). There’s a few of these places through out Tokyo, basically two European guys with a well established little shop, have a photo of themselves in the window and make a killing. Very friendly and picked the Aussie accent straight off the bat. Crikey! The food is little thrown together because of the pace they work at but still fresh and very tasty.

Optimus Prime, Kiddyland, Harajuku

Finally you cant go to Harajuku and not hit up Kiddyland. I know, sounds a bit suss but I promise there’s no Manga p0rn! It’s pretty much the same as Yamashiroya in Ueno but with some floors solely dedicated to one character. So for all the Hello Kitty, Snoopy, Rilakkuma fans your prayers have been answered. For the lads, by pass the fluff and head straight to the top level for all your action figures, collectibles and vinyls needs. They definitely had one of the biggest selections of Kid Robot, Tokidoki and similar vinyls that I saw in Tokyo.

Heading back to the train station pop into the 100Yen store (Daiso) for any last minute travel basics or pretty much anything for that matter. Basically the 99p/Crazy Clarks Japanese equivalent but everything is 100Y (roughly $1US). Some of the items are very cheaply made while others are actually quite good. We picked up luggage straps, padlocks, stubby cooler, belt and a few other bits and pieces all for a buck each!

Tokyo part #1 – Ueno for a day
Tokyo part #2 – Getting round Tokyo, Ueno Sakura at night
Tokyo part #4 – Shibuya
Tokyo part #5 – Kichijoji and Shinjuku
Tokyo part #6 – Akihabara
Tokyo part #7 – Odaiba and Leaving Tokyo

Photo Gallery Here

Moshi moshi!

Well the 10 days or so (who knows with all that date line crossing and red eye flights) in the USA flew by and we were back in the T-Y-O. This time a bit more confident of where we needed to go and what we needed to do to get there.

First up, some tips for traveling by public transport in Japan. Buy either a PASMO (pink and blue) or Suica (green) card from the vendor offices round the airport terminal (basically the “metro card” equivalent for any major city). The company colours are also painted round the respective ticketing machines so its easy to spot them when you need to top up your card. We chose Suica cos it had a penguin on it 😉
The card is 2000Y and comes with 1500Y credit (roughly $20/15US respectively) and can be used on pretty much all public transport in Tokyo and a fair portion of Japan. If you take the Keisei Limited express train from Narita airport this will cost you 1000Y and will take you all the way to Ueno (end of the line). The trip takes about 75min and can get quite crowded. Taking your backpack off and throwing it up in the luggage rack helps save space and your shoulders when you’re standing.

If you want a more luxurious experience with reclining seats, luggage areas, vending machines and a saving of about 10-15min off your journey time then take the Keisei Skyliner. All seating is reserved so check your ticket for your seat number. The premium is double what you pay for the standard ride but it is nice to have a metal bottle of Pepsi and a nap without being squashed up against some stranger or having them fall asleep on you. Even during peak hour it was only half full.

You will also find the PASMO and Suica cards work in a variety of businesses. Convenience stores, take aways, some restaurants, duty free and shops in the airport/train stations, handy if you haven’t had a chance to track down a Travelex which will more than likely happen. They are few and far between, so you might want to cash up at the airport or hit the Travelex site for locations. While a lot of the little market stores have EFTPOS, as it goes for traveling anywhere its always good to have a bit of the folding stuff on hand, just in case.

Generally, getting round Tokyo, if you stick to the JR Yamanote line you really can’t go wrong, just make sure you’re heading in the direction you want to go!

Back into it, I like to think I’ve got a pretty good sense of direction and have no problems reading a map, but when people say “Japanese streets can get confusing” believe them and again, don’t trust Google maps!! Some streets are lanes that look like drive ways, some lanes ARE driveways that go the whole block and a lot of them are poorly signed/unsigned. Travel tip: if you don’t know where you are, you won’t know where you’re going!

So misjudging a bend for a corner we set off on a lovely 45min walk in the wrong direction with 2 heavy suitcases each in tow. After some backtracking and cross tracking we still managed to over shoot the hotel wandering the backstreets in it’s surrounding blocks. Thankfully that renowned Japanese hospitality and courtesy to strangers shone through with locals more than happy to help point us in the right direction. One lady out for a cycle with her toddler on board even circled around a couple times to make sure we were heading the right way. Very much a refreshing and welcomed change compared to the States where you couldn’t even pay for good help, and more than often you had to, even for the most remedial of requests!

But I digress. That night we headed back out to the park, noting on our way in how close we were to the station (bout 15min walk) and how wrong we got it. Though its always nice after a walk around to start spotting familiar landmarks/areas.

By now the majority of blossoms were well in bloom and so were the festivities. Families and people of all ages gathered under the trees on tarps and blankets for the Sakura celebration, most completely oblivious to the mercury barely staying in the positives (though a down filled Northface parka does help with that!). There were even areas roped off and set up as makeshift restaurants, complete with boxes for tables and cushions.

With more than 1000 trees in full bloom, Ueno park looked like it was dusted in icing sugar. Truly beautiful.

Tokyo part #1 – Ueno for a day
Tokyo part #3 – Harajuku
Tokyo part #4 – Shibuya
Tokyo part #5 – Kichijoji and Shinjuku
Tokyo part #6 – Akihabara
Tokyo part #7 – Odaiba and Leaving Tokyo

Photo Gallery Here

You know you’re on a good thing when you need to upgrade to a bigger and better venue! While KGS loses some of the street vibe from the previous under bridge area, it does lend itself to much better viewing for the audience.
One thing that wasn’t lost was the energy, fun and variety of breakers and performers. Props go out to Sammy and her all girl crew showing the boys how its done 😉

Check out all the action Here

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