Monday, April 24, 2017

Asia Mega Tour II - Pictures from Sunday #1

There were so many pictures with us doing the photography workshop that I decided to split them into two posts.

Our day started off as we walked to the train station we saw this incredibly long line stretching blocks

We spent ten minutes wandering around following where this line was leading to and what was so hot as to induce folks to go to this length.
We finally reached the end and there was a few people giving out tokens. No store front, announcement, sign or anything.
We still don't know what they were cuing for

Then we took a train to Harajuku to go see the Meiji Shrine where we encountered our a few locals
They were headed to the famous (evidently) Takeshita Street
Which was also very nicely bucolic on a lazy Sunday
Then off to the Meiji Shrine - dedicated to the Emperor
It was different from other shrines and temples we've seen in that it was built and decorated out of raw wood
Various gates along the way

Each year sake makers present a large quantity in honor of the Emperor
But somewhere along the way they decided that as a modern progressive county they should offer French Burgundy as well...I could like being the Emperor with a perk like this
 Naturally when we got to the shrine itself
Most of it was 
Under construction

Here are sections that were not under construction

The shrine had a garden that beckoned to us
With a reconstructed Emperor's tea house (most of old Tokyo/Edo was burned down by air raids during WWII)

Lotus plants
A historic spring that never runs dry and has exceedingly pure water
(which you are not allowed to drink)

And there was an azalea grove that featured unpruned plants
I'd never seen an azalea allowed to grown on its own
Here I captured a rare sequence of a photographic hunter
She spots her prey and makes sure the coast is clear
She goes in for the shot
Other non-stalked azalea


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Asia Mega Tour II - It's All About Photography

And yet you shall be spared having to wade through all the least for now.

Let me start by saying that Tokyo on a Sunday is a freaking madhouse. Everyone is out, about, and around. Streets a filled with throngs of people. I think that Wife and I are both feeling quite overwhelmed by Tokyo. We are loners by nature and we are not really city folk either - there's a reason we moved from the ever more crowded Washington/Baltimore corridor to the relatively sparsely populated Albuquerque New Mexico. Now we've been to plenty of large cities and there cities that are large that we enjoy. We were very comfortable in Taipei. We enjoyed Kuala Lampur and Singapore. I adore Paris. But there is something about Tokyo that seems to take the city intensity to another level, something that we're not quite getting off on. Maybe it is because we're doing this at the end of a long trip. I don't know.

Our big activity of the day was a photographic workshop. This workshop was conducted by the same company that we used for our workshop in Kyoto. So we knew that it would be an intense experience with a lot of ideas thrown at us. We were not wrong.

As the workshop didn't start until 5 PM, we needed to do something during the day. But we didn't want to do so much that we would be exhausted by the time we went to the workshop. We had a late breakfast - McDonald's is our breakfast of choice in Japan. I think I mentioned in our Osaka post that you can get freshly scrambled eggs, sausage, potato thing (that actually tastes like potatoes!) and coffee for $4.50 which is half of what the hotel wants for its buffet of lukewarm food. Then we went to the Meiji Shrine -dedicated to the Emperor - and a garden in a park. Neither Wife nor I had much energy and to be honest neither place was all that exciting compared to other things we've seen this trip.

We knew we needed to rest so it was back to the hotel. We stopped for lunch at a German place of all things - It was actually very good! - and were able to get a solid two-hour rest in before we had to head out again. We had a third person with us for the photo workshop - a surgeon from Melbourne, Australia. We always enjoy these interactions with the people we meet at these tours and workshops.

The workshop was every bit as intense and informative as we had anticipated. We were in the Shibuya area of Tokyo which is one of the major high end districts. We had all kinds of experiences going not only through the crowded areas but also ducking into these alleys and parks that within minutes had you totally away from all the mass of humanity. We saw a lot of aspects of the city we would not have otherwise.

We didn't get back to the hotel until 8:30 PM and then we got some food and took it too the room. I took tons and tons of photos but a lot of them are going to be rejects. It will take a couple of days before I go through them and can get some up here on the blog. And on top of all that we have a six-hour food tour with the company that did our tour in Istanbul, Culinary Backstreets, so I doubt if there is going to be any energy left tomorrow for pictures either!

BTW, if you are not visiting Wife's new blog - -  you are missing an entirely different take on our travels and some really, really great photography as well.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Asia Mega Tour II - Cruising Tokyo

After the long lazy days in Langkawi, Wife and I are back in full on travel touring mode. Even though we said that today was going to be relaxed day we still made our way to two of Tokyo's prime areas.

Things started off the night before. Our hotel is a bit weird. It is a hotel frequented by tons of tourists both from Japan and from all over the world. It is the same brand as the one we stayed in Kyoto. Yet is it is located right on the edge of the Tokyo's major red light district which gives everything (especially at night) a slightly surrealistic tinge. An Australian couple told us about a 'Chinatown' that was just a couple of blocks away. We asked the desk staff and it turns out that it is a Shinto Shrine. They were nearly rolling on the floor behind the check-in desk laughing at the thought of Chinatown.

We wandered around trying to find this place and finally stumbled in on it.
The Shinto faith is all about ancestor worship and worship of various spirits
Surely the spirit of the photo guruess inhabits these parts
Of all things we stumbled in on a free outdoor theater performance
Unfortunately it was just ending and we were way in the back of the crowd...and it was in Japanese 😈
Some obligatory pictures of the neighborhood were required
By a totally unplanned happenstance, Daughter #2 who we just saw in Malaysia just days before was in Tokyo to visit an old college friend who was also stationed in Japan. We only realized this when we were together in Malaysia. So we decided to meet up for lunch in the posh Ginza shopping district.

I have to say after the exuberant architecture of Kuala Lampur, I have not been all that wowed with Tokyo architecturally and that particularly went for the Ginza area. 
 But there were still interesting things to be seen
Woman getting her flower shop ready to go
I've been suffering from major asthma issues on this trip and needed cough drops desperately
Yea for the Tomad's Health, Beauty, Sundry and Food & Drink chain. And thanks to Google Translate for a good translation of 'cough drops'!

Then there is the universal picture of the husband traveling with the wife dressed with shoes that are clearly not going to help with the work of moving the suitcases.
I want to know - Does this make you want to buy this brand more?
And who would have thought there could possibly be a store devoted to only Kit Kat!
I mean seriously who knew there were these high end versions of Kit Kat?
There was even this little museum of Kit Kat history
Kabuki Theater
Statue dedicated to the Mother Photographer teaching her acolytes
It be Asia and there be lots of people
Famous statue in Ginza where we were to meet up with Daughter #2 and friend. It was way, way, way smaller than we thought it would be.
Do it yourself reflexology?
Not for me thank you

A building with actual architectural interest
After lunch with the daughter and friend I noticed that Wife did not look good at all
She was breathing in short, panting breaths
Her eyes were dilated
I recognized the symptoms
We hadn't been in a temple for over a week since Kuala Lampur
I quickly got us on to the Metro and took us to the Asakusa area and the Senso-ji Temple - the largest in Tokyo
They don't mention, the largest visited as well
Doing one of our favorite things in Asia
Visiting a famous site with tens of thousands of our fellow tourists


Paying their respects through the practice of 'selfie taking'
But then on to the Temple itself

 And in the middle of all this people craziness was this island of calm
Of Course
The Buddha
 And here as elsewhere the cult of devotion to the Buddha of Construction was venerated

We had a number of cool interactions with people
This lady was did the reverse paparazzi and wanted us to be with her children while she took pictures
Clearly she loves being in front of the camera
Daughter? Less so
Son? Not at all
And we met a cool couple from Indonesia - East Java - We took their pictures when they were having trouble getting a selfie ( a paparazzi technique)

We also did a bunch of cruising around in the Asakusa district
Surveillance is tight in Asakusa

 Upon exiting the Metro we caught sight of the famous Tokyo Tower and the Carrot Building (actually I have no idea what it is called. It could be called the Sperm Building for all I know)
And when we got back to the hotel there was this little surprise
We couldn't figure out how they knew until we remembered they got our passport information from us when we registered. Nice touch.

And so with only days left of our Mega Tour
The Travelers