Sadly, we leave Japan today.

There were no plans for today, just a few last minute things here and there, check out of our hotel and head to the airport.

Rob F decided that he wanted some more souvenirs from Studio Ghibli because one of the things he had intended on getting, he left at the shop, so he got up early that morning and made his way out there by himself. We planned to meet him later that day in Akihabara.

We checked out of our hotel at 11:00 AM and did our last run to the local Family Mart. Having a convenience store and/or vending machines on every corner is really incredible and it's one of the things that we'll probably miss the most, let alone the weird and wonderful variety, like "Hot lemonade", "Vitamin C", "Chocolate Thickshake", "Corn soup" and "Bean drink". It was pretty cool to be able to get hot tea at any corner in the cold weather!

I think my "Guide to Tokyo" still holds pretty true even after two years had past.

Robert and Sarah had also gone shopping that morning, so after checking out we stored our luggage at the hotel and went for our last walk down to Akihabara with Jono and my parents. Rob ended up getting back from Studio Ghibli earlier than we had anticipated, so he met us there and we all headed back to the hotel to wait for Robert and Sarah.

When they got there, Robert led us to the airport and we said good bye to Japan!
While we were at the airport, there was a nice sunset, which was pretty fitting for the occasion and we boarded our flight home.

Japan is really an amazing place to visit and I highly recommend it, there's something for everyone!

The end.
Today is our last full day in Japan, tomorrow we will just be slowly making our way to the airport and going home.

As we wanted to make sure everyone in our group got what they wanted from this trip, Jonathan was very keen to see Ginza, so the three of us went there. Ginza is like a big CBD with lots of shops, so we knew today was going to be another day where Jonathan wanted to spend some solo time shopping, so Rob and I hung around for a little before going our own way. Being a big CBD, there are some pretty cool building around though!

Pioneer Plaza
Bvlgari buidling
A multi-storey glass-brick building!
First stop was the Nissan Gallery. There actually wasn't too much on display, there were only two cars and a small shop up stairs selling a few smaller items, like model cars, etc. One of the cars was a Nissan GTR signed by Usain Bolt (I'm sure one of many of his cars). The other one was a Nissan Leaf, a full electric car. Jono bought some souvenirs/gifts and we headed out in search of the Sony building.

The two cars in the Nissan Gallery
A happy shopper!
When we found the Sony building, it hadn't opened yet and there was a small crowd gathering at the door. By complete fluke we timed it just perfectly, the doors opened within a minute of us getting there. Out the front was a light display that played music, etc. but during the day it was a bit hard to see it illuminating. It would probably be better at night.

The Sony building
We actually spent a fair amount of time in the Sony building and it was yet another place where they don't let anyone take photos. While the products here are the latest and greatest, they are mostly already available around the world, but it's still pretty good to see all the products in one place and have a bit of a play with them.

One of the things that stood out for me were the "Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras". They look just like any other compact camera, but they generally have a relatively large lens mounted to them. I had seen these camera's before, generally with a micro four thirds sensor, but there were some here with APS-C sensors, which is the same as my dSLR, and even some with full frame sensors in them! The full frame dSLR's are pretty big, and too see the same sort of sensor in a compact camera was very surprising! Of course they weren't much cheaper than the more common full frame camera's, but it does give a glimpse into a possible future for photographers.

Jonathan was interested in some Sony headphones, so we took a look at a few of them. They had a pretty big range from the tiny in ear variety to so big it looks like you'd be wearing cans on your ears.

There were some pretty cool video camera's too. 3D camera's are starting to become more mainstream, so alot of them had two lenses for stereoscopic recordings. For the display models, they had them hooked up to 3D televisions so we could also see the end product. A lot of the video cameras also had little projectors built into the outside of the screens so you could preview the recordings on a near by wall on the go.

They had portable bluetooth speakers that had an NFC sensor on the top, so instead of trying to find the device amongst others by doing a bluetooth scan, you just tap the phone to the device and it automatically pairs them together, which was pretty convenient.

Sony are also making Windows tablets and had some on display. They are a proper laptop, but the screens flip around to be folded flat like a tablet. They had a water painting program loaded on them, so Rob and I had a paint-off! We asked the near by sales assistant to judge which was better, but he gave the diplomatic answer of "They're both good". Rob did have the advantage, being artistic and all, but I think I still won!

My painting is totally better! ...sortof
We eventually left the Sony building, spending more time that we imagined and went to get some food. We came across a building that had the word "Restaurants" on it, expecting a food court it was actually a building full of quite fancy restaurants on each floor. We had a look at a couple and they seemed a little too expensive, except one of them. It was a Japanese/Chinese restaurant called "The Metropole" and their menu looked pretty good, they even had dumplings! The restaurant was pretty nice and we got a soup dish with dumplings and tea and it cost around $10-$15. The dumplings were really good! My soup was too big for me to finish, but it was a good feed either way.

Lunch at The Metropole in Ginza
From there Rob and I left Jono to do his shopping and we started looking for things to do. We had already walked around the main CBD and didn't really feel like shopping, so we went to the station. Rob asked what we did last time that we weren't going to be doing this time and one of those things were seeing Odaiba. Odaiba has some similarities with our Docklands, but more developed and much much bigger! It's a small island that sits in the bay just outside Minato and has a very futuristic feel to it. The buildings are pretty creative and one of the stations is called the "Tokyo Teleport", so it's like you're teleporting to the future!

We took a private train like to Odaiba and the train was pretty interesting! The train had wheels with tyres and instead of having train tracks, the "tracks" was just a concrete road, but the road had two strips of a more course concrete for the wheels of the train and rails on the side of the track to keep it in line. The train was pretty long too, so it was sort of a cross between a long bus and a train, but wouldn't know it unless you happen to see the bottom of it, or another train elsewhere on the track.

The train went through a few stations before crossing the water. Just before the train got onto the bridge that led us to Odaiba, there is a massive circular bridge leading up to it. This was indicated on the map as a loop (that kind of reminded us of the warnings on the roller-coasters at DisneySea).

Big loop bridge on the way to Odaiba
On the way we could see some of the cool buildings around. From the station we didn't really have any goals, and Odaiba is a bit too big to walk around the whole thing, so we saw a bridge and headed for that. We thought if anything, it would give us a nice view and we could decide what to look at from there.
Cool bridge in Odaiba
At the end of the bridge was "Palette Town". As we got off the bridge, the first sight was a large ferris wheel to our left and a big shopping centre, Fort Venus, straight ahead. It was nice, but the whole place was deserted! DisneySea was a lot quieter than we expected too, but out here, it was hard to spot anyone! Being so quiet, we didn't bother checking if any shops were open and just continued walking around taking in the sights of all the interesting looking buildings... and massive empty car parks!
The ferris wheel and Fort Venus
One of the empty car parks!
Another fancy building in the distance
More fanciness
As we kept walking, there were more people up ahead, and we could see the silhouette of a giant robot. As we got closer we realised it was the giant Gundam! Last time we came to Japan we had one member of our group, Sarma, who was (and is) crazy about Gundam, a Japanese anime series. As part of our research last time, we saw pictures of the giant Gundam on the internet, but we never found it, and this time we just accidentally stumbled across it! As we got closer and closer, we realised why there was a crowd, the giant Gundam was moving! We just caught the end of a demonstration, but all we saw was its head go back to the center position and the lights turning off. We went to the official Gundam shop to find out when the next demonstration was and they told us it was a 5:00pm, which was two hours away! We didn't plan on hanging around for that long, but kinda wanted to see it and I wanted to record it for Sarma, so we decided to kill two hours until the next show.

Me and my pal the giant Gundam
Side view
We walked around a little and went inside the shopping centre where the Gundam was being displayed, but soon got bored, so Rob suggested we check out Sega Joypolis, which we caught a glimpse of during our walk. Our group last time went into the park, it was pretty good but I'm not a rides person so it wasn't anything special for me. They do have an indoor rollercoaster though!

Inside the shops near the Gundam
The Sega Joypolis entrance
All Rob wanted was a plush toy of Sonic the Hedgehog, but even though there were shops nearby, we couldn't find any Sonic toys and the only Sonic giftshop is inside the park, which we didn't want to buy tickets for. After Rob complained about Sega's terrible marketing efforts, we headed back to see the Gundam demonstration - and here it is....

Yep... that's it...
We saw the head move two hours prior and were expecting a little more, like the arms, or anything! Nope, just some dry ice, a small flap on the stomach with a tv behind it and the same head movements. It was pretty disappointing, but I'm sure that would have been much more exciting for people who have actually seen Gundam before or if we understood what they were saying or for kids. It was getting darker, so we took a few more photos and made our way back.

The ferris wheel at night
For most of the trip I had a bit of a sore back. I think I re-aggravated an old back injury, so carrying a backpack everyday slowly made it worse and worse, so almost everyday I said I was going to get a massage, but our days where normally quite busy and I didn't want to miss out on anything, so I just put off. Today, being our last day, I didn't want to miss out! We had seen massage places everywhere, so it didn't really matter where we were, just not Odaiba! Rob wasn't really interested, so I thought if we went to Akihabara, he could kill some time looking at games, etc. and I'd meet up with him after the massage and it's close to our hotel. Well, walking through the streets of Akihabara looking for a massage place wasn't as easy as we had thought. Most of the places where "Maid cafes" or "Maid massages". I've never been to one of those places, but it seemed too dodgy to try. We kept walking around until we found a respectable, non-maid looking place. After quite a while of searching, we found a sign that had massages and no signs of maids, so we thought we'd give that a go.

The sign said it was on level 7, so we went up a dodgy little elevator to the seventh floor and when we got out of the lift, it was just a tiny room with about 5 doors. One of them had trinkets on it, so we thought that must of been it. At this point Rob was looking at me with a facial expression that said "This looks dodgy, lets get out of here!". I knocked on the door and waited, but nothing happened. I knocked again, and still nothing, so I opened the door and took a peek. There was a hallway with a few curtained off rooms, which looked like massage beds. I got the attention of one of the staff members and they invited us in. As I was walking in, there was someone else getting a normal massage, so that made us feel a lot better. I asked about back massages and they said yes and gave us prices. I ended up getting an hour back massage for $50 and Rob even got convinced to get one too.

The massages were actually pretty good. While we were waiting, Rob actually said "What are you getting me into Steve", but it all worked out well in the end, and all fully clothed! The masseuse that was massaging me was able to apply a lot of force, which is what I needed for my back, it wasn't just a soft relaxing massage, it was a proper remedial massage, except at one stage she was literally walking on my back, which wasn't that normal.
When I got out I tried to meet up with Rob, but my phone had run out of credit and he wasn't anywhere to be found. I waited a while and then started walking down the street. I found him looking at games, no surprise there and asked him how his massage went. He had the same feedback as me, they were pretty strong and his shoulders felt a lot better, so did my back, so that was good and it would help with the plane ride home.

We grabbed some Japanese fast food and headed back to hotel. On our way back we saw the strangest thing! There were two guys walking down the street, one had a couple of parrots hanging off him and the other was walking a duck! The duck even had special duck walking shoes! We got a good laugh out of that and headed home.

We met up with Jono back at the hotel, he had a big day of shopping and ended up buying the fancy Sony headphones he saw earlier, but he ended up getting them that night from Yodabashi instead. He had also already packed, so Rob went back to his room and we both started packing for the trip home.

A couple of guys casually walking a duck and their parrots
After a big day yesterday, we had a well deserved sleep in. We left my mum at the hotel today as she wasn't feeling up to it and the rest of us ended up leaving the hotel at around 11:00 AM to go to the Studio Ghibli museum!

The museum is a little bit further away than the other attractions and is one of the only places that we got recommended to take a train and a bus to. The train part of the trip was pretty easy, but then trying to find the right bus was a little harder, but we did it eventually. The buses aren't as easy as trains for foreigners. The bus took us the rest of the way, but in hindsight we probably didn't need the bus, the walk wasn't that long.
Studio Ghibli Museum
Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take photos inside the museum, but I was outside. It's a real shame too because the building is very cool inside! As we walked up the path to the building, an assistant checked for our reservation that Robert had organised back in Australia (through JTB I think) and directed us to the service desk. From there another assistant issued us with our admission tickets, which were pretty cool, they were little movie strips and each of us got a clip from a different movie. These tickets also got us into the theatre inside the museum to watch a short Studio Ghibli film. They stamped the tickets when you go in to make sure people only go in once.

Our admission ticket
As you enter the front door to the museum, you instantly look up and you can see the three floors of the museum. On the right, there is a antique looking elevator with a steam punk looking gauge to indicate which floor the lift is at. Straight ahead there is a 'normal' staircase up to the next floor. Directly above the entrance, on the second floor there is a small bridge from one side of the floor to the other. To the left there is a small spiral staircase that was a bit of a tight squeeze. The entrance to this staircase was small enough that you had to duck to get in and tall people would have to stay hunched to climb up it. At the top there is a small landing that leads into the wall, where you have to duck to get through there too. It's obviously designed for kids, but there were a lot of adult Studio Ghibli fans going through too. The museum is like a huge playground for kids! ...and certain adults.

The main attractions on ground floor were the theatre and another small room where they showcased some animation models and techniques. Some where quite simple, like a spinning wheel where if you concentrate on one part of it, the character will appear to animated. There were some more advanced ones too, one of them was a large spinning platform with what looked like a series of clay models attached to it (on the floor of the platform and attached to a centre axle above the floor), then periodically it would start spinning, the lights would dim out and a strobe light would flash, which resulted in a large 3D animation that looked really effective! They also had some projection machines setup with a reel of film running through so we could the inner workings.

We climbed the spiral staircase and ended up on the third floor. There was a "cat bus" from the movie "My Neighbor Totoro". This area is definitely for kids only and had some assistants to watch over the kids climbing around the bus and stop people like Rob F from getting in.

The Cat Bus (photo source:
This floor also had a book shop and a small outdoor area. The book shop was pretty busy, there was quite a few books on display for visitors to read through. Most of them were in Japanese, but a lot of them had a focus on the art style used and were mostly images. Both Rob's ended up buying "The Art of Porco Rosso" book. This floor also had access to the roof where there was a large model robot and a cube from the movie "Castle in the Sky" amongst some gardens. With the amount of greenery up there it's easy to forget you're actually on a roof!

Robot on the roof
On the second floor there were a couple of rooms, one that showed a series of the sketches and another that had posters and books - this room was set in an old library and was guarded by a dragon. There were more stairs on the outside of the building and an outdoor food court. There was also a gift shop which seemed to be constantly busy!

That's probably the best I can describe it without photos (and I have a pretty bad memory), but it is well worth a visit, especially if you're a Studio Ghibli fan! There are lots of little things that fans will notice, like particular door handles, stained glass, badges on the gates, the drinking fountains outside and bunch of small details that look like they come straight from one of the films!

After watching the short film and spending some time in the gift shop we left the museum and followed Google maps through some back streets and made our way back to the station. We headed towards Asakusa to check out the new Tokyo SkyTree.

Last time we went to Tokyo, the main observation tower was Tokyo Tower, but since then the Tokyo SkyTree has been constructed and is now a popular tourist spot. The project was completed on 29 February 2012, with the tower opening to the public on 22 May 2012*.

From Asakusa we caught the Tobu SkyTree line (a private train line) to the Tokyo SkyTree. The walk to the entrance includes a few shops (with more inside) and some nice gardens, all with a sort of "tree" theme.

We bought our tickets and took the elevator to the first observation deck which sits at a height of 350 meters. When the doors open you're greeted with a nice panoramic view of Tokyo and it makes you realise just how big this city is, especially in comparison to Melbourne! The lights at night looked very nice and makes it easy to see just how far the city spans, but as the windows where angled up, not only is it hard to get a photo without reflections but there are purple lights everywhere that reflect down along the window. I also didn't have a tripod (and don't think they were actually allowed) so the photos don't do the view justice.

The city views from the Tokyo SkyTree
Inside the first observation deck on the Tokyo SkyTree
The information boards explaining the view
After spending some time taking in the views, we paid a little extra to go up to the next level. This level sits at a height of 450 meters and has a spiral shaped "tunnel" wrapping around the tower. The view at this height is not really that much different to the previous level, but walking through the tunnel is quite nice and due to the spiral shape, the feeling of going higher with every step is a nice touch.

The last stop was the glass floor where you can walk over a glass panel that looks straight down to the base of the tower.

From here we went back to the hotel and ended up in Akihabara again. Having Akihabara so close to our hotel is nice, it's quite easy to spend time there and with a spare hour or two, it's quite likely that we'll get to see something interesting! My brother had other plans, but he asked us to keep an eye out for the PC game "Exile" and I wanted to buy a polariser for my new lens to go with my ND filter for extra darkness, so with that shopping list in mind we headed down.

We went back to the same place I bought the ND filter and found the filter I was after. I ended up buying the polariser and a mini tripod. I spoke to the same sales assistant, who didn't speak much English, but the one word he did get out was "dangerous". This was because I was mounting quite a large dSLR on a tiny tripod, but with good reason. I brought my large tripod, but with a sore back and a low likelihood that I'd need it for many shots, it wasn't worth carrying it everyday, all day, but the mini tripod I can slip into my bag and I'll barely notice it. This would have come in handy for those times where all I need is some stability to get a long exposure, instead of resting it on my wallet or something and trying to get the angle right!

We went into a few other shops and kept an eye out for Rob's game, without much luck. We went to the store Rob found his obscure game and asked the attendant where the PC games where. He casually told us they were on level 3, so we took the lift. When we got there, we realised we where in the wrong place... it was a whole floor of adult PC games... a whole floor! Needless to say we left there (without buying anything) laughing at how normal that is for people there. If that was in Australia, I don't think the sales assistant would have been quite so casual about it.

On our way back to the hotel we thought we would try the last shop before leaving Akihabara. I had typed out 'Exile' on my phone in large font, so we walked in and asked the sales assistant where the PC games where (they were normal PC games this time). I showed him the name of the game on my phone and asked if he had it, where he replied back with a confident "No". But then, out of sheer luck, right behind him I spotted it! Out of all the games on the shelf, it was the only one showing the front cover, the rest were just spine out. So I told the guy, and he turned around, saw it and turned back with a sort of embarrassed smile on his face. He had a bit of a laugh and apologised. In the end we didn't end up getting it, but it was a pretty funny story either way. Goes to show you can get anything in Akihabara!

We ended up getting some Japanese fast food and heading back to the hotel. The fast food is pretty good here, for about $4 you can get enough food to fill you up!
Today we went to DisneySea! This is another place we went to on our last trip, but it is a pretty impressive park and Rob had such a good time last time that he couldn't stand still with excitement this time around.

Because I've already blogged about DisneySea on my last blog, I'll keep this one fairly short because not much has changed.
The good thing about this time around was the timing. Compared to last time we went, the park was practically empty! All the rides had about a five minute wait time without a fast pass, where as last time, the fast pass was the only way to get through the queue in a decent time.

Rob F, Rob O and Sarah went on all the rides multiple times, even one of them nine times! I spent most of the day walking around the park taking photos and checking out the other non-ride entertainment.

Sarah's friend actually works in DisneySea as Ariel in The Little Mermaid. The theatre for this show is obviously set as an underwater scene, and Arial among other characters are suspended by cables and fly around the theatre, it looked pretty good and seems like a much more exciting job than most! Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take photos inside.

During the afternoon, Jono and I went get a drink at a food court and because there was barely anyone else where, we had a pretty good service! There was staff to greet us at the door, another to direct us to the counter to order, three staff members to serve us and the rest where just cleaning. Jono managed to spill his drink all over the table and tried cleaning it with some small serviettes, so I called a cleaner over to help and she was really apologetic... for Jono's screw up. She moved the trays to a new table and seated us, called another staff member over and got her to fetch Jono a new drink (for free!) and continued to clean the table until it was spotless! If that was in Australia, I don't think the cleaners would have showed so much enthusiasm and he probably would have had to buy a new drink himself.

Here a bunch of photos from the day...

We had TGI Friday's for dinner near DisneySea and I had an awesome steak with Jack Daniels sauce... so good it was worth mentioning here!