Thursday, October 9, 2014

My Brother in Japan - Take Two, Part One!

Hello all!

I had a new visitor stay with me here in Japan! A while ago, I wrote about my brother visiting me in Japan. Well, my other brother, Edward, arrived in the country two weeks ago, and stayed for a week and a half. I was so happy to have another visitor, and to show him around Japan! This means that now, all the members of my (immediate) family have visited Japan. I'm so pleased they could make the most of me working here to experience another country, especially one as different and interesting as Japan. :)

So, what did we get up to? Well, I hate to say it, but my brother's trip got off to an awful start! He was due to arrive at 5:00pm, and considering I only finish work at 4:45 (and couldn't leave early that day) we decided he could wait at the airport and I would come and meet him there. It takes me about 3 hours to get to the airport by bus or regular train, but he said it was fine cause he had a kindle and could read a bit and have a look around.

Everything was going smoothly, and I was on track to arrive a little late (about 9:00) when suddenly, I realised I had transferred onto the wrong train. Usually I'm pretty good with trains, but this time I had caught the wrong one, and been on it for over an hour!!! So I was an hour into the middle of nowhere, not even close to the airport, all our devices (his phone, my phone etc) were going flat, so it was hard to keep in contact, and basically it was very stressful and worrying. After a painstaking wait at a station, during which a very drunk salaryman tried to chat to me for about fifteen minutes (couldn't he see I was upset?!),  eventually I got on what I THOUGHT was now the right train to Narita airport - but this ended up being incorrect too. After talking to an extremely friendly and helpful man on the train, I realised it was going to end up at Narita station, not Narita airport. By the time it got there, it was 11:20, which is when I said I would be at the airport by after the first mistake. All our devices had gone flat, so we couldn't keep in touch. I quickly hopped into a taxi, and took a 20 minute ride to the airport. I finally got there, but he was gone :( I was very upset and worried, because it was his first time in Japan, and my mistakes with the trains had set him up with an awful start to his trip. I managed to plug my things in to a power supply at the airport, and messaged him. He'd ended up catching a taxi to our hotel, so I was relieved he was okay, but then worried about the cost of the taxi! My brother said I should also catch a taxi, but as I thought the cost would be too much, I decided I'd sleep at the airport, and catch the first train to the city at 5:45am.

In the end, sleeping at the airport wasn't too uncomfortable. Probably the worst thing was all the shops in the airport had shut down, and I was pretty hungry. Can you believe Narita Airport, Japan's main international airport, shuts down at all? I thought for sure it would run 24/7, but everything is closed from about 9pm - 7am, from what I could tell. Anyway, I got about 3 hours of proper sleep, I think. I finally got to the hotel by about 7:30 the next day. Edward's taxi was expensive, but not as outrageous as I thought it would be, so I could pay him back for it. Luckily he isn't the sort to hold a grudge about that kind of thing, so we both just put it behind us. In the end, it's a kind of crazy story!

The next day (after a well-deserved sleep in for both of us) we got up and set out to explore Tokyo. I'd had a craving for burgers earlier that week, and a friend recommended a place in Harajuku that had good veggie and meat burgers, so we headed there for lunch. She was right, the food was really good! I didn't actually take a picture of the burger (whoops) but I took one of this elaborate cream soda. Yum!

It looks like a Japanese cell phone charm, really!

After that, we walked around Harajuku and checked out a few shops. I thought about visiting Yoyogi park, but actually a friend of mine told me that some recent outbreaks of dengue fever had been traced back to Yoyogi park, so I decided to avoid it. Next up, we went to Shibuya. We saw Hachiko, and then visited Tower Records to look for any Japan-only release CDs. We didn't have much luck, but I was finally able to buy my dad a CD of Sadao Watanabe, a well-known jazz saxophonist from Utsunomiya. My dad loves jazz, and as Utsunomiya is something of a jazz town, I wanted to give him a CD of one of its best musicians! It will be a late Father's Day present, actually. ^^; Edward and I then walked around Shinjuku a bit more, and stopped for drinks while I looked up movie theatres, as we'd decided to go see a film that night.

I like the title of his album: "The Best"!!!
Toho cinema in Shibuya had meagre offerings, so I found one in kabuki-cho in Shinjuku that was showing a few more. We decided to see Lucy at 7:00. After the train mishaps the previous day, I felt like I redeemed myself a bit by being able to find the theatre. We were initially worried it might have been sold out, but actually it was a huge theatre with only about 15 people in it, so we were fine. I took a photo, since it seemed quite big and a bit fancy inside.

Rather large theatre.
The movie was very interesting! I didn't really like the ending, or some of the director's choices editing-wise, but apart from that it was entertaining. We had a good time. We were both still pretty tired from the day before, so we went back to the hotel for some sleep.

On Sunday, we went on a mission to track down a baseball batting cage that Edward had found online. There's not really anything like that in New Zealand, so it seemed like it would be fun to try. Again, thanks to my trusty phone and google maps, we were able to find it! The place we went to was Oslo Batting Centre, in Shinjuku. There's not much information about it online, so I'd like to explain a bit about it, in case anyone else is thinking of going.

Keep an eye out for this guy!
The Oslo Batting Centre is located in kabuki-cho. It kind of sneaks up on you out of nowhere (at least it did the way we came from), but it is instantly recognisable, as it has big green nets, and a picture of a guy batting (with little sweat drops coming from his face, very appropriate considering the temperature when we were there). You go up some stairs to get to the level where the batting cages are. First, go to the counter, and buy a ticket to use the cages. The man at the counter could explain the fees to us in English, but they were very easy to understand even if he hadn't been able to. The price is 300yen for one "game" of 20 balls, or 1000yen for 4 games. We chose the 4 game option, and split it so we could play two games each. There are about 8 batting cages, including one for left-hand batters. The batting cages have machines with different speed settings. Each machine has three settings you can choose from. About 4 cages have 80km/h, 90km/h and 100km/h. Another 3 cages have 100km/h, 110 km/h and 120km/h. One cage has 110km/h, 120km/h and 130km/h. When you go inside the cage, you insert your ticket into a machine at your end. If you only want to play one game, you can put 100 yen coins straight into the machine. You then choose the speed. It will be the same speed for all 20 balls. Then, press the red start (スタート) button. There are also two bats to choose from, a lighter and shorter blue bat, or a heavier, longer silver bat.

The complex from the outside.
There is also one other cage, where you can practice your pitching by throwing at a target on a machine. This records the speed of your pitch. They had a leaderboard with photos, and it seemed like the highest score was 144km/h. Wow! From what I could tell, there was no extra charge to use this cage, but we didn't use it, so I can't be certain.

Me, in the worst batting outfit ever!
We had a really good time at the batting centre. I tried two games at 80km/h, and I managed to hit most of the balls one way or another. I got 3 particularly good hits in, which was super exciting! Edward tried 100km/h and 120km/h, then paid 300yen more for a third game of 130km/h. That speed looked so scary! But he said the baseballs didn't seem like real baseballs, but rubber baseballs, so they probably wouldn't hurt too much if they hit you. Either way, he was able to make heaps of good shots!

Oslo Batting Centre has a few more entertainment options. There's a darts area next to the batting cages, and on the bottom and top level, there are a lot of arcade games, like drumming games, driving games, air hockey, strength-testers, basketball games, and UFO-catchers. We tried the strength tester (I was useless at it!) and Edward tried the basketball shooting game, where he got a good score! It was a really fun place to spend an hour or more, and I really recommend it.

My brother got a great score on this basketball shooting game!
Next, we went to Akihabara. We actually wanted to try track down some sports trading cards or cool models, but although I came across heaps of those last time I was there, this time we didn't really find any. We still had a good look around though, and I got a pretty cheap 64GB SD card for my camera. I'm hoping to shoot a few videos of my life in Japan to put on youtube, so I needed a lot more space.

Well, by then it was about time to go back to the hotel, so we went back for another early night. The next day, we just went back to Shinjuku for lunch and to get Edward's JR Rail Pass exchanged, then we caught a train up to Utsunomiya. I had to work for a few days, so Edward relaxed at my apartment before we headed down to Hiroshima and Osaka on Friday for a long weekend. I'll be sure to update about our trip there in my next post, and I might include a few videos I took, too!

Hiroshima bound - more details in my next post!
It may have gotten off to a rocky start, but we had a really fun weekend in Tokyo. :)

Have you ever had a stressful start to a vacation? Tell me about it!
Or, if you've been to Tokyo before, I'd love to hear your must-do's in the big city!

- Annabelle

P.S. Part two of my brother's trip is now up! Read about the second half of his trip here.

4 comments:

  1. Nice article

    ReplyDelete
  2. Baseball batting cage is looking so beautiful. Thanks for share your traveling experience in Japan.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Awesome, thank you for sharing the wonderful experience of Japan.loved it

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great post, Japan indeed seems like an amazing and rich culture. I have almost moved there once, but i will definitely take time to visit in the near future.

    ReplyDelete

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I've been a high school English language teacher on the JET Programme since August 2013. Read about my experiences, advice on being accepted into the JET Programme, and travel tips around Japan on my blog:
 
 
よろしくおねがいします!

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