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Golden week in Tokyo

This year, I stayed in Tokyo for Golden week – a week of consecutive holidays in Japan. It’s a rare occasion to actually go somewhere but with everything happening around recently I just wanted to stay put and enjoy my GW as I used to do when I just came to Tokyo.

One of my favorite activities was spending time in Odaiba on the beach reading book or strolling down the flower fields in front of Palette town.

Odaiba is a large artificial island in Tokyo Bay. It was initially built for defensive purposes but then was turned into a seaport district. Now, it became a major commercial, residential and leisure area.  Odaiba, along with Minato Mirai in Yokohama, are the only two places in the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan area where the seashore is accessible and not blocked by industry and harbor areas.

So, there is an actual beach in Odaiba where you can swim, surf and sunbathe all the while enjoying Tokyo skyline on the horizon and the proximity of everything you might ever need – shops, restaurants, multiplex cinema, amusement park, museums and even a TV station. I used to go there a lot when I was freelancing as a model/extra.

On Wednesday, I met with Laura who was actually working for Fuji TV that day in the evening so we could spend some time together before her job.

Last year, poppy flower fields were relocated farther to the west from the Palette town. It is actually close now to the Museum of Maritime Science which is convenient if you want to later go to Shiokaze park or Odaiba Seaside park (decks beach).

Lilacs, poppies and cornflowers are my favorite flowers so I always take a chance to go see them whenever I can. In Odaiba, you can see both poppies and cornflowers and also Susuki – Japanese pampas grass.

This is a grasshopper Laura caught in Susuki. He was extremely patient while we were taking pictures of him. ^-^ Don’t worry he wasn’t harmed at all!

After the poppy field, we went to Shiokaze park to say Hello to Jenya who checked-in in Facebook saying she was having a BBQ there. ^-^

You can rent all the equipment, tent, table and chairs right there at the beach and it is not crowded at all so Shiokaze park is a really nice place to have BBQ – much better than let’s say Tamagawa river where you have to fight for a spot under the highway bridge.. ^-^

Jenya’s friends were wonderful! They have prepared tons of food which was perfect because me and Laura got tired looking for a place to eat.. Odaiba during GW is crazy! Everywhere are lines of people, even to a food stand, let alone restaurant..

Then, I left the girls in Odaiba and went to meet with Dasha and Inna. Our Facebook group “Stop panic” wrote a support letter to Fukushima workers and it somehow reached NHK who then contacted our group and asked for an interview. So we went to meet with them and other members of the group. We had a tea or what we call in Russia “chaepitie” and talked about the events in Japan after the earthquake and the reason we stayed and made that group.. They cut a lot in the final version but it anyway turned out to be good.

You can see the interview here. It’s in Japanese though..

After the interview, we all went for yakiniku at a local Korean restaurant but since there were just too many of us, they put us into a karaoke next door. ^-^

Tom, who does all the updates on radiation and the situation at Fukushima came specially from Niigata to party with us so of course we had to go to Roppongi. ^-^

Somebody (I am not to point fingers here) got so wasted, we had to drive them home in a taxi to the other part of Tokyo. It was quite the adventure to try and get the correct address out of that person. ^-^ Fortunately, everything turned out to be good. But really, it’s impossible to party with those guys. They have friends everywhere which almost always results in tons of free tequila..

A week later, we had another fundraising party where we auctioned a book of radiopoetry (poems on radiation that talented members of our group came up with) and other funny stuff like t-shirts and coffee mugs with TEPCO logo turned into Cheburashka – CHEBCO. ^-^

We had a public reading of poetry, music performances and other fun stuff. It was a really good party! ^-^

Now, the group is actively organizing deliveries of food and clothes to the shelters and also planning to go out to Tohoku region with an entertainment program for children. If any of you want to participate in charity activities or just want to read the latest information on radiation, look for “Support for people in Japan and please STOP panic!” on Facebook. ^-^

Journeys in Japan – Nagoya & Mie prefecture

This is a post on my trip to Nagoya and Mie a week after the events of March 11th. Originally I was supposed to go to Kyoto but with everyone fleeing to Kansai, it was impossible to get any train or even bus tickets. A night bus to Nagoya was practically the only option. I have been to the city only once before on a business trip that was so short I couldn’t even try Nagoya’s famous “tebasaki” – chicken wings. So, I took the opportunity to visit it again and since I was in that area – also see the attractions in the neighboring Mie prefecture.

Japanese night bus is a great way to travel when you are on a budget. It is three times cheaper than Shinkansen – bullet train and it is less affected by heavy snow, rain or earthquake that almost always make the trains stop.  The buses usually depart in the evening and stay at the highway rest area for a couple of hours to arrive to it’s destination in the morning. I used to ride those a lot back in the days when my husband was studying at Kyoto university.

They are quite comfortable especially for female travelers that have designated single seat area with curtain partitions that guarantees privacy. Each seat can recline to an almost horizontal position and there is also a support shelf for your feet and ankles that you can lift, turning your seat into a bed. The only downside is the lack of sufficient space to actually use the chair to it’s full capacity. If you recline all the way to the back and a person in front of you does the same, you become completely trapped in your seat for the rest of the trip. If you need to go to the toilet, well.. let’s just say you either have to demonstrate some gymnastic abilities or wake that person in front of you and ask to let you out. ^-^

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How I met Dalai Lama

On Friday, April 29th his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama came to Tokyo for one day to pay his condolences to the victims of Great Tohoku earthquake and pray for the souls of deceased to reach safe harbor in the afterlife. In Buddhism as in Christianity, it is believed that the soul of a person lingers for a certain number of days going through ordeal before it reaches the gates of heaven or move onto their next stage of existence. In Buddhism, it is 49 days which was the exact time Dalai lama came with the visit.

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Journeys in Japan – Atami

On the last days of Golden week, my friends and I went to Atami – a small hot springs town in Shizuoka prefecture, roughly in between Hakone and Izu. I always pass it on my way to a more exciting destination never realizing that Atami has also a lot to offer. I was indeed pleasantly surprised that this once glamorous (back in the bubble days) resort is still quite fun even though it doesn’t look this way at a glance – old hotels, outdated theme parks and closed pools may look sad to anyone but it still has a beautiful Sun beach, gorgeous Japanese and English gardens, nice hot springs and seafood to die for. ^-^

It is only 1 and a half hours away from Tokyo. We took Tokaido line train from Shinagawa and got out at Odawara first to see the famous Odawara castle.

With a typical Japanese castle, as much as it is gorgeous from outside, there is pretty much nothing to see inside – usually a small permanent exhibit of ancient swords, scrolls and kimono and an observation tower with a view to the city. Odawara castle was no exception – it fit right into that pattern all the way to the Hello kitty souvenir doll dressed as a samurai.. ^-^ But I liked it anyway because the exhibit was well put with a lot of explanations and historical maps.

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Ipad2 (because I had to…)

OK, after a big disappointment that was Ipad first generation, I told myself I wouldn’t buy Ipad2 simply because there just wasn’t enough positive changes.. But that small shift in weight did make a difference for me after all. It became bearable to carry it in the bag on a daily basis and with all the new HD games, magazines and workout applications it got exciting all over again. So I decided to give it another chance and bought WI-FI 16Gb in black.

I am also hooked up on Angry birds now. I have been ignoring that game for a long time but ever since my husband downloaded it on Ipad I can’t stop playing. It is very addictive… ^-^ Last night i played well into the small hours. Damn, you angry birds and pigs with mustaches!