Sunday, 26 December 2010

Japanese Beauty

Beauty in Japan doesn't come easily. I was in ABAB, Okachimachi recently and was bemused by the beauty aids available....

A nose pincher

A face stretcher - stretch 3 times a day

Roll your mouth for extra beauty

And your neck

Mitsukoshi - a rooftop oasis in Ginza

Mitsukoshi Ginza, arguably the most upmarket department store in Japan, has  undergone recent renovation. I can't say I am a regular customer, but I do appreciate the feast for the eyes in their food hall.      Though the main purpose of the renovations was to increase floor space, the highlight has to be the new rooftop / play area.  Finding a place to sit down, out of the elements,  where you don't need to buy something  to be there can be a challenge in Tokyo.    Mitsukoshi, on the Ginza 4-chome crossing is a welcome addition. 

Roof top garden / play area
Roof top play area
Mimeguri Shrine on the top of Mitsukoshi, Ginza

A place to just sit.  On the RHS is the smoking room.
Seasonal decorations on the roof
A coffee shop
An art / exhibition space

Infrastructure III - more Shinkansen lines

Shinkansen extension work is also happening in  Hokuriku and Kyushu.
The line from Nagano - Kanazawa  is excpected to be open by 2014 with future plans to extend it down the coast to Fukui and then onto Shin-Osaka on a yet to be finalised route.  When we were in Noto Hanto in the summer much of the line seemed to be completed.     In Kyushu, from March 2012 the Shinkansen from Hakata (Fukuoka) to Kagoshima in the south of the island will be running.

What a pity people living in Japan aren't eligible for the JR pass.... I am not sure of the fares on the yet to be opened routes, but Tokyo to Shin Aomori is 16,570 Yen (165 USD or so) one way.
Shinkansen map Nov 2011

Shinkansen Map 2008

The route of the Hokuriku Shinkansen

Hokuriku Shinkansen line outside Kanazawa Sept 2010

Hokuriku Shinkansen line at Itoigawa Sept 2010
File:Kyushu Shinkansen map Kagoshima route and Nagasaki route.png

Hokuriku Shinkansen
Kyushu Shinkansen
The Kyushu line

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Infrastructure II - the Keisei airport line.

OOps I have deleted the photos by accident
I will endeavour to put the back up

The next in the infrastructure series - Keisei's new train to Narita airport.
It cuts 20 minutes off the time the old express took and costs 2400Y - up from 1920Y.
I took it the other day for the first time, coming back from the airport after picking up  Lily and the boys coming back from Canada.
(Usually I opt for the cheap limited express that takes 75 minutes but runs more often.)
IOn the positives, it was fast, there is reasonable luggage storage space, you can move the seats into a 4 configuration, there is a vending machine that has standard rather than inflated prices  but a little more sterile than I expected - stainless steel and harsh lighting - and only a single toilet area in the train - not a real problem for a 36 minute trip through.

Train times signboard
The renovated Narita station

Vending machine

Storage space

Saturday, 4 December 2010

An infrastructure explosion 1 - Hatsu Aomori

Despite an aging populuation, a stagnant economy, politcal malaise, and regional tensions, Japan is undergoing an infrastructure explosion. Today, 4 December,  Japan Rail East has opened the extension of the northern Shinkansen line to Aomori City.  It now takes 4 hours from Tokyo to Shin Aomori station.    Morioka to Hachinohe opened several years ago. A section across to Hakkodate in Hokkaido  is scheduled to open in 2016 and there are plans being make to extend it further north into Hokkaido to Sapporo.
The ticket is not cheap - 16,000Y (160USD) one way, and you usually need to come back, but cheaper than a domestic plane.  For people on tourist visas the JR East 'flexible four day pass'  is good value.  Any  4 days of unlimited JR East travel within a one month period for  Y20,000 yen.

JR has been heavily promoting Aomori as a tourist destination with the slogan  My First Aomori....   A direct translation of the Japanese Hatsu Aomori.   Hatsu  is a useful expression to mean 'first',  it can be first ever or first of the year.  E.g.  first love = hatsu koi,  hatsu yuki  = first snow of the year,  hatsu mode  = first visit to the temple for the year, hatsu mono =  the first time to eat a seasonal food for the year (the food is the mono, not the experience).  First time to Aomori

 I was a bit surprised to see the posters of the rail staff at the stations on the extension of the route.  All have their full names written with the station they work at.... I can't imagine any business getting away with that in Aus.   Aomori is much prettier than the bland, sterile pictures suggest.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

An autumn evening in Marunouchi

I was in Marunouchi, the area between Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace, last night.  Some other time I will try to cover Marunochi more fully, but last night I just appreciated the autumn hues and the balmy evening.
Outside the international forum, Yurakucho

Outside the international forum

Just a few fallen leaves  - there are armies of workers to sweep them up

Towards the imperial palace

Tokyo Station undergoing restoration / renovation.

Shin Marunouchi Building


The renovation of the old general post office in front of Tokyo station.