Day 8 (20 June): Ochanomizu, Asakusa and Odaiba

Another beautiful summer day.  We are loving the convenient location of the Disneyland Hotel - a 15 minute rapid JR line service into Tokyo terminal which we can use via our rail pass.  From there, multiple subway or overland train lines can take you anywhere in the city or beyond.

Our first stop today was Ochanomizu, which is colloquially know as 'Guitar Street'.  This is a rock musician's heaven - a street lined with guitar stores on both sides, with creative names such as "Guitar Planet" and "Big Boss Music".  Merchandise was displayed on the footpath and we saw new stock unloaded into each store literally by the truckload. We saw guitars of all makes, shapes and sizes. For the record, everything is about 20% cheaper than in Australia. How would one get something home without paying shipping costs? If buying a guitar, purchase one with the bolt-on neck - it can be unscrewed so the guitar is in two pieces and then it fits in a standard suitcase.  If only this was not the beginning of our journey! 

Now we headed off to Asakusa, via Asakusa-bashi.  The Navigator's sextant was a little astray - he assumed this station was closely located to the main Asakusa temple. Instead, Asakusa-bashi is a whole suburb, approximately 3 kilometres away from the tourist area! The walk was a joy as we wandered through local stores which we never would have otherwise found. Asakusa-bashi appears to be the leather district, as many of the stores were displaying hides, leather shoes, handbags and even a leather furniture store.  There was also a collection of jewellery makers and suppliers.

Further along the street, we found a tiny shop selling second hand kimonos and obis and of course we bought some. We also found a shop which makes its own natural dyes from materials such as cherry blossom, yashabushi (a Japanese birch), akane (which gives a deep red colour) and many more.  They dyes were used on canvas to make scarves, bags and clothing. We purchased a lovely bag of soft pink hues.

We found a pet store and looked at how much was that doggy in the window.  A very cute white toy poodle was priced at JPY300,000 - about AUD3,600.  No wonder one does not see many dogs walking with their owners!

Prices in Japan are a mixture compared to Australia. We have mentioned before the prices for recycled silk kimonos rather than new cotton mass produced yukatas selling at up to 30 times more. The yukatas are favoured by younger women as a more modern, cooler and lighter option. Traditional kimonos are still worn by older women on a daily basis. They are very restrictive with the tight four metre long obi bands secured around the waist and if worn with traditional footwear makes walking quickly impossible (for Westerners). The high end retail shops in Ginza are expensive but UniQlo compares favourably to Australia although the range is larger.  The Navigators fuel index is JPY122 per litre (approx AUD1.45), so also similar to home. However food (especially in the ever-present 7-Eleven or Family Mart stores are cheap - sushi rolls are about JPY150, fresh sandwiches approximately JPY250 and the Big Mac Index is JPY600 for the burger, fries and drink combo.  Soba noodles can be found for JPY500 making eating everyday street food an inexpensive culinary delight.

It was mid afternoon by the time we made it to Asakusa.  There was a short wait for the cruise down the Sumida River so we gazed at the Asahi Beer Hall on the opposite bank and the Tokyo Sky Tree (at 600 metres high it is the second tallest building in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai) in the distance. The Beer Hall is a curious structure - can you imagine the discussion when management were reviewing the design:

"... and then we will put this 3D interpretative sculpture on the the top."
"Won't it look like a... well, you know?"
"We will paint it gold. It will bring great honour to our company."
"Approved!"

The Tokyo Cruise took us down the river to Hinode and Odaiba.  It provided a different outlook on the city compared to the subway, which provides people watching only). The river and canals are a vital distribution gateway to the city.  There are many low bridges over the river which reminded us off the bridges over the Chicago River.  We also saw the huge floodgates which protect the communities alongside the canals.  Apparently if it floods then over 70% of the subway would be out of service.  We were able to go up to the observation deck after passing all the low bridges. There were two families with two year olds in tow, one from Hong Kong and another local extended family. Both little boys gravitated to us and we gave each of them a small koala. In Asian culture, a gift and especially showing your respect for family will always start a conversation. The Navigatrix was made an Auntie by the Hong Kong family and was asked to have a photo with their beautiful boy, who then did not want to leave her side. The Japanese family tried their best to get their little one to bow and say arigatou gozaimasu (thank you).  Instead, he just wanted to laugh and giggle like most two year olds.

We disembarked at Odaiba, which is a commercial area with lots of offices and also the Tokyo exhibition hall.  There was a lovely beach (we assume the white sand was trucked in) where people were sunbathing and swimming.  We met a Nepalese family, whose teenage kids were up in the trees picking berries. "We have these at home," said the father. "The kids love them." They sure did -  they already had a full plastic bag and were intent on stripping the tree. We tried one - it tasted like a grape but had a textured skin.

In the evening we went to DisneySEA, which is the other park in the Disneyland Resort.  This is quite different to Disneyland and indeed any other Disney park we have been to around the world. There are a few familiar rides but most were completely new.  This is clearly the more popular park as wait times were longer for the best rides.  

This was a VERY busy and exhausting day. The FitBit says we walked over 22,000 steps. It certainly felt like it by the time we got into bed.