Friday, 27 November 2015

Tsutenkaku - A Building Leading To Heaven

When I first saw the tower, I actually thought it was really nothing special. Tsutenkaku (or what some of us tourists call the Hitachi Tower) isn't that tall. Rather, it's location in Shinsekai (New World) that caught my interest and later I leaned about the interesting history of the tower itself.
While Shinsekai has the meaning of "new world", it is not "NEW" in today's current view. The area was developed during the pre-war era and was neglected for decades.
Patterned after the Eiffel Tower and with its surrounding; the Arc De Triopmhe, the original Tsutenkaku Tower was the highest structure in East Asia at the time it was built in 1912 at 64 metres.
The original structure suffered a fire in 1943 and was severely damaged and the tower's steel was used for war effort.

After the war, citizens and shop owners in the area of Shinsekai (New World) lobbied to rebuild the tower in order to regenerate the area. An NHK documentary showed how shop owners of Shinsekai bought shares of the tower, when the effort to rebuild the tower started and funds were needed for it.
The current Tsutenkaku tower stands at 103 metres, with an observation deck located at the height of 91 metres and where one can see "Biliken", the Japanese God of Things As They Should Be.
As Hitachi as its sponsor, visitors to the area can see Hitachi name displayed prominently on the tower.

The tower is famous for its neon lights, although it was shut down during the oil crisis of 1974-1976. The neon lights is now replaced with LED lights showing different color sets every two months.

Walking around the surrounding area of Tsutenkaku can feel a bit surreal. For me, at least.
There were shops that seems to have no business at all, with old, sunlight-worn merchandises on display. Shops selling used electronic items. Hubby and Son relished stopping at a shop selling old computer games, both consoles and cartridges.
There were the shops that target tourists, with plenty of items sold for souvenirs and of course feature Biliken. There were performance artistes holding a show at one corner, with old ladies selling snacks seated directly opposite them. A mime at the entrance too. Then, we get to see some quaint cafes selling coffee and sandwiches tuck amongst it all. And of course, long lines at shops selling kushi-katsu; deep-fried skewered food that seemed to be hugely popular with everyone.

We visited the area during the day which was really packed with people.
Then later at night, Hubby and I enjoyed a quiet and lovely view of the area and Tsutenkaku in peace. At 3.00am, to be exact. ^^

At that time, the tower indeed looks romantic and a sight to behold.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

My "Running In Japan" Article In The Star

I wrote about my experience of running in Tango Ultramarathon and it was published in the Star newspaper today. Yeay!
Link to the Star2 article here.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Trip Reports : Capsule Hotel In Shinsaibashi

We've never really bothered about trying the capsule hotel before this, when Son was smaller. Now that he is bigger and does enjoy his personal space; it is an option we look into and tried, during our September 2015 visit to Osaka and Kyoto.

We spent our first night upon arrival in Osaka in a capsule hotel in Shinsaibashi. 

We chose B&S Eco-Cube for our stay because it has both rooms for male and female (on different floors).

Checking in was a breeze. The front desk staff speaks better English than me!

After leaving our luggage at the ground floor and stashing our shoes in the lockers provided, we made our way to our respective floors to sleep and rest.

There is a strict MEN only and WOMEN only policy for the floors where the capsules are located.
To access to the ladies floor, an access card is needed hence the reason female capsule room is a bit more expensive than the male rooms. 
The locker where I have my robe available and stash my stuff in.
The front desk staff advised us to leave our bulky luggage beside the front desk but as I entered my floor, I saw others taking up the luggages and placed them in front of their respective capsule.
The shower room located beside our capsule room.

Toilet is located in the powder room, separated by the entrance door as is the make-up area (to avoid noise from hair-dryers disturbing others).
Basic amenities available. They  provide toothbrush and toothpaste too.
227 was my "pod" for the night. ^^
Quite comfy too.
Despite the modern looking exterior, the capsule room itself feels rather old. 

Just look at the knobs of the entertainment & switch control here! Hehehe
Son looking happy in his own capsule.
He's on the upper capsule while Hubby on the lower capsule.

I was so comfortable sleeping in my capsule room, I was happily rolling about and not wanting to come out even after I woke up the next morning and had actually stayed in for an hour before Hubby messaged me to get ready! Hehehe

We paid around 2,300yen per pax for Hubby and Son and 3,000 yen for me for a 1 night stay there.

Quite a good value and a novelty for us. 

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Getting There : Narita, Haneda & Kansai

For our 2015 trip, our plan was to visit Osaka and Kyoto and for me to run in Tango Ultramarathon in Kyotango.

Initially, we looked at direct flights to Kansai Airport and had wanted to book our flights with Air Asia X.

Then, there was an ANA promo in May for tickets from Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo at only RM787++ as ANA had started their direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Narita starting in September 2015.

Although the plan was to visit Osaka and Kyoto for this year's trip, we compared the flight tickets for MAS and Air Asia X and decided to have fun and try ANA for the first time although we had to make a connecting flight and head to Haneda Airport to get to Kansai Airport.

The fares we paid for our ANA tickets weren't that much different from what we would've paid for a direct flight with Air Asia (with all the add-ons) and we get to fly in a full service carrier this time! Another plus, the connecting flight from Haneda Airport to Kansai Airport  was inclusive in the RM787++ fares we paid.

It may be a tad troublesome for some, with all the travelling from Narita to Haneda to catch the plane to Kansai but we figured that it would be fun and nice to have some time in Tokyo too. And we did!

On our return flight, we managed to slot in some shopping sessions in Tokyo before flying back to Kuala Lumpur.

Son managed to buy the Lego that he wanted.

I bought a pair of running shoes, totally unplanned. ;)

We bought all the souvenirs and snacks in Ameyoko.

And we even managed to meet a couple of friends in Shinjuku who were heading to Kawaguchiko as they were participating in Ultra Trail Mount Fuji that weekend.
We took the morning flight and this was our breakfast of choice. ^^
While Hubby and Son enjoyed all the in-flight entertainment, I tried to do some reading but turned out I mostly slept the whole journey.

I was still recovering from a flu and was still coughing badly and I was actually worried that I might cause others to be uncomfortable about my coughing.

I was sure thankful we chose to fly with ANA because a nice cabin crew would always come and check whether I need candies or hot drinks when I started coughing. Really appreciate her gesture.

Just imagine how much I had to pay for the hot drinks if we were to fly with Air Asia. Haha

I have to say, it sure wasn't fun travelling when one isn't feeling well.

And add to that, I had an ultramarathon to run in just a few days time! But luckily, I survived. ^^
Love the snacks ANA provides too.

By the way, do you know that ANA collaborated with Brahim's to come up with their Halal certified menu for flights from Kuala Lumpur?

Even their snacks and organic tea are Halal-certified.
We arrived to a gloomy, rainy Tokyo and as we took more time than expected at Narita, we didn't have much time to wander around before our flight from Haneda to Kansai so we decided to hop on the train and head straight to Haneda.

We had a few hours at Haneda so we wandered around and had a nice udon dinner at an udon shop.

It think it was just 530yen (or something) for our bowl of udon which was very affordable.

We arrived Kansai Airport the same day, at around 10.00pm and bought tickets on the Limited Express Rapi:t to get to Namba where we would spend the night in a capsule hotel before heading to Kyoto the next morning.
The limited express Rapi:t train.

A nice, smooth journey to Namba and then off we went, finding our capsule hotel.

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