Tokyo Tales – Day 15: Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sunday was basically spent lazing around the Hino Experience Room. We were all worn out from last evening’s misadventures. This being the first day of the Chinese New Year, we decided to celebrate it by getting Calvin to cook up a feast and invite our Japanese friends to join us for dinner. Cook up a feast Calvin did. Akiyama-san came with her PA together with Sato-san, Director of Japan Council in Independent Living Centres. A short while later, Wakasugi-san, PA Coordinator for Human Care Association arrived, followed by Maejima-san and Saito-san. Much later, another PA Coordinator whose name I cannot recall now arrived. After dinner, we shared the traditions and culture of the Chinese New Year and the similarities of other festivals that are celebrated in Japan. The surprise of the evening was when Akiyama-san and Maejima-san gave us each a present respectively. I got a mouse pad from Akiyama-san while Maejima-san gave me a box of chocolates and a Daruma doll. Despite my gloom earlier in the day, the new Spring turned out to be a jovial one.

Tokyo Tales – Day 14: Saturday, January 28, 2006

Camwhoring was easy, thanks to Canon Powershot A610’s Vari-angle LCD and two-second timer, and Jolene who initiated me into this shameless art. It was a Saturday. Weekends are free days. The group decided to go sightseeing to Tokyo Tower and then to Asakusa for some last minute shopping. First we had to take the Monorail from Manganji to Takahatafudo, catch the Keio Line all the way to Shinjuku.

The ride to Shinjuku took thirty minutes. I always looked forward to such long trips in the train as there were many interesting sights along the way. It is so true when they say that the joys are in the journey, not the destination. There were times when I felt claustrophobic being in the midst of endless streams of people inside the railway complexes. The view outside the train, on the other hand, provided some serene relief from the hectic programmes we have been following during weekdays.

To reach Kuramae our final destination before Tokyo Tower, we took the Toei Oedo Subway. We were supposed to survey the Oedo Subway on our field trip to Machida but that was cancelled because of the heavy snowfall that time. We had to take several elevators to reach the subway station.

The air was chilly the moment we got out from the subway station. Just around the corner, Tokyo Tower rose up like a showy version of the Eiffel Tower in red and white. It was not exactly an impressive structure. What fascinated me was the stark contrast between the tower and the deep blue and cloudless sky in the background.

The tower was built atop a small hill. It took quite an effort for Calvin to push me up the slope. There was a small temple just before the top. Japan is such an interesting mishmash of a highly advanced society that still hold strong to traditions. It is not unusual to find a temple or shrine (I do not know the difference) nestled among modern high rise buildings in busy downtown Tokyo.

While the rest of them went up to the main observation deck, I hung around gift shops at the lower level. Entry to the main observation costs Y820. I figured that since I have not bothered to visit KL Tower, there is no reason why I should pay that amount of money to do the same thing in Japan. There was a Hello Kitty shop selling a vast range of authentic items. I got a few handphone cords for Wuan. Those are not for sale outside Japan and they were rather expensive.

At a road junction somewhere to the Asakusa Kannon Temple, we came across life-size figures of Doraemon and Ultraman, among others. I grew up watching Ultraman battling giant alien monsters on television and reading Doraemon comics. I was naturally excited to see these figures here in Tokyo.

The Kaminari-mon is the outer gate of the Asakusa Kannon Temple. It was situated at a busy intersection. A huge red lantern hung at the doorway. After that, 200 meters of stalls lined the paved walkway called Nakamise offering handicrafts and Japanese snacks. This reminded me of the bazaars at Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang and Petaling Street in Kuala Lumpur.

We got lost on the way back to Kuramae Station. The temperature was dropping. Unfortunately, Harry’s electric wheelchair ran out of power. Calvin and Kim had to take turn to push us and look for the station. It was a great relief when we finally found the station after going back and forth along the road in that condition for more than one hour. While Harry charged his wheelchair batteries at the station, we were glad to be able to get away from the cold. At the Keio Shinjuku Station, the Station Master allowed us to ride in the women only car back to Takahatafudo. Yes, the car was packed to the brim with women returning home from Shinjuku!

I Am Home!

It feels good to be back in Malaysia again but it is so HUMID here!!! The sky was overcast when we left Hino. It drizzled just before the plane took off. Although the flight from Narita was delayed by thirty minutes, we arrived at KLIA as scheduled at 8.25pm. I caught the KLIA Express to Sentral where Wuan was waiting for me. The moment I got out from Sentral, my skin began to get sticky icky. It is getting to be very uncomfortable. I am going to need a few days to get acclimatized to this weather. Still, it feels good to be back home again. Yes, I am back, for a while anyway.