Field Report: Tōkyō, Japan (02 February 2014)

02Feb14 Tokyo 007

Day 1 may have been a bust, though Day 2 was anything but. Church, art, and piping hot ramen – all that a solo traveller needs to make his Sunday as great as it can be.

Despite this being a fairly busy day, large chunks of my travelogue will appear in separate posts so this present entry will actually be quite short. (More on that later.)

Given my preference for going to church as early in the morning as possible, I found myself standing on the cold, quiet westbound platform of Asakusabashi Station before the sun was even up.

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I like these older Tōkyō-area stations. Careful inspection is so often rewarded by glimpses of lovely architectural detail.

02Feb14 Tokyo 002

After attending the first Mass of the morning at St. Ignatius, I returned to my hotel for breakfast, then started making my way towards Odaiba for the second of today’s appointments. At Shinbashi Station, I hopped off the JR network and crossed over to the newer Yurikamome, Tōkyō’s first fully automated transportation line.

The stark modern appearance of the station offers a bit of contrast to the lacy, almost Victorian elements we saw earlier at Asakusabashi.

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Unlike conventional trains, Yurikamome vehicles run on rubber tyres that roll upon a concrete guideway, instead of hurtling along steel rails. The difference becomes apparent when one looks at the tracks – or lack thereof – on the elevated route, as seen in this shot taken later in the day (when I was making my way back from Odaiba).

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My destination on Odaiba was the sprawling Tōkyō Big Sight convention centre.

An appropriately named landmark, I might add, for a place that happens to be in Tōkyō, happens to be very big, and happens to be quite a sight.

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The sprawling complex is just plain massive, and there’s massive art on the grounds to match.

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Right, we know where we are, but why are we here?

One word: COMITIA.

If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s a dōjin convention that happens four times a year and provides a venue for thousands of artists, writers, and illustrators to showcase their self-published work. The event is similar to the more famous – and much larger – twice-per-year Comiket dōjinshi convention, except that Comiket mainly features derivative works (often based on popular anime/manga series) whereas COMITIA focuses on original creations.

COMITIA may be a smaller event than Comiket (which can draw in over half a million visitors at a time), but “smaller” is a relative term and the queues were already monstrously long by the time I arrived.

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My account of this event more properly belongs on my other (anime/manga-themed) blog, where you’ll find a detailed description of what went on.

After spending much of the day browsing through the thousands of stalls at COMITIA, I was feeling quite tired (in a good way) and feeling quite peckish. Time for my third appointment of the day – a visit to one of my favourite ramen joints.

I’ve set out my account of dinner in a separate post – click here to savour the mouth-watering experience.

For dessert, I popped by a convenience store and bought a prepackaged version of a world-famous pastry that I never got to try on its home turf (even though I spent several days there during my trip across Japan last year). Were it not for a recent post on a fellow blogger’s site, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought, but after reading her account I decided I had to try it for myself.

02Feb14 Tokyo 013

No doubt castella tastes infinitely better fresh out of the oven than out of a plastic wrapper, but I’m far far far north of Nagasaki at the moment so this’ll have to do. Besides, it wasn’t half bad.


6 responses to “Field Report: Tōkyō, Japan (02 February 2014)

  1. I think it’s wonderful that you still go to church during your travels. Although I’m not Catholic, my best friend is and sometimes I will go to church with him. I would like going to Mass in Japan during one of my future travels. While we were in Nagasaki, we did go to Oura Church and peeped in for a bit but we didn’t actually stay for the service.

    We went to Odaiba for the first time on this last trip. We’d always been meaning to go on previous trips but always ran out of time. I enjoyed riding the Yurikamome, especially when we went over the Rainbow Bridge. I don’t think we made it to the Big Sight area, that building does not look familiar, nor does the big saw sticking out of the ground. You can’t see it from where Decks/Aquacity/Diver City area is, can you?

    • Mm, not sure but I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t visible from that vantage point, as they’re some distance apart from each other. There’s not much to see and do at the Big Sight (unless you’re attending an event), apart from gawk at the monumental architecture. Then again, they’ve got a fairly busy calendar year round so they may well have something you’d like to participate in.

      Now that you mentioned Decks/etc., that reminds me of something I was planning to do at Odaiba but never got around to doing: wander around the commercial area (where the shopping centres are). Not to shop, or at least not primarily; just go for a casual stroll through the malls and pedestrian walkways. I’ll mark that down for next time.

      Anything particularly fun or interesting that I should look out for in those parts?

      • Like you were planning to do, we mostly just wandered around that area of Odaiba, I will confess that I spent a ridiculous amount of time in one Hello Kitty shop as well as in a store selling Ghibli souvenirs but nothing much else stands out. One disappointment was the Tokyo City Showcase being practically empty due to remodeling, I was surprised their doors were still open as there was nothing to do inside. M and I both drive Toyotas so we were interested to see some of the new models being sold in Japan. I think if we’d had more time we would also have liked to go to Oedo Onsen Monogatari. We’ve written that down on all of our itineraries to Japan and never managed to make it. We might have actually got the most enjoyment out of seeing the “Statue of Liberty” and the Rainbow Bridge. To be honest, I had always thought they looked kind of hokey in pictures but in person they provided some very nice views, especially at night.

    • Interesting that you mentioned Toyota. I’ve just been to Nagoya (they’re headquartered in the same prefecture) and I visited the Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology there. It tells the story of Toyota’s origins in the textile industry and how they got into automobiles, progressing onwards into the modern era. Really great place, they’ve put a lot of effort into its creation and it shows. (I’ll have a post about that in due course, though we’re a long way off from it as it was close to the end of my recent trip to Japan.)

      Toyota also runs plant tours and showcases their latest technology at their HQ – or so I’ve read (didn’t have time to go there myself). If you’re ever in those parts, I’d suggest checking it out.

      • I’m very interested to read about your time in Nagoya! We only spent one night there in 2012 and it acted more as a hub for a day trip we took to Gifu. Because our hotel was inside Nagoya Station, we never even saw any part of the city at all. I do remember the station being very large, I wish I’d had more time to explore just that.

        The Toyota Techno Museum sounds so interesting, does it also showcase the various models Toyota has put out over the years? We do hope to make it there and to the Kaikan Museum in Toyota City someday.

      • Oh yes, they’ve got quite a collection in there, all the way from their first passenger car: the 1936 Toyoda (yep, different spelling back then, the museum has a whole exhibit just about the name) Standard Sedan Model AA. It comes up to recent years but doesn’t seem to have a lot of the very latest stuff, though that’s understandable given this facility’s focus on the company’s origins and development. From what I’ve read online, the Kaikan next to Toyota HQ will have the cutting edge models – I hope I’ll make it there someday.

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