Hello everyone! I'm back in England, having returned yesterday.
Thanks very much for your comments while I was away. I have read your suggestions carefully and I'll do my best to improve!
I had a wonderful time in Tokyo, and I spent a bit of time in Yokohama too. Today I'm writing up the first post about my trip!
I arrived on the 31st of December. I managed to do some shopping right away- I picked up a yukata and the latest Gothic and Lolita Bible in the airport! The yukata was on sale in Uniqlo. I've been meaning to get one for ages, so I grabbed it. I wasn't expecting them to be sold in December, even at a reduced price!
It took a couple of hours to get to the hotel in Shinjuku from Narita. I saw Kikirarashoten from the train as it passed through Shibuya! When I got to the hotel I had a nap, and got up to have dinner and see the new year in.
I wanted to have an authentic Japanese new year as possible, so my friend and I watched Kouhaku (Red and White), a variety music program that's on every 31st of December. The colours represent two teams of performers, and at the end there's a vote to decide which team did the best. The team leaders/presenters were Arashi for the white team and a very pretty actress for the red team, with performances by Kouda Kumi, Wada Akiko (who seemed to be on Japanese television for the whole of my two-week stay), EXILE, Lady Gaga, AKB48, a lot of enka singers and of course SMAP. And lots more besides!
As well as Kouhaku, the sun rising over Mount Fuji was broadcast on live on tv, and I ate soba! So that was my fairly authenic seeing-in of the new year. By the way, my Chinese horoscope is Dragon, so 2012 is my year!
I got up at six o'clock to go to the famous Sensoji temple complex in Asakusa. Going to a temple is new year tradition.
This is the main entrance to the complex, Kaminarimon. After you pass under the red lantern, there is a long street filled with stalls and shops selling souvenirs, dolls, wigs and hair ornaments, sweets, snacks, leather goods, clothes for your dog etc. Rather different from going to church! Further up there are lots of food stalls, which I particularly enjoyed.
After browsing the shops, we went to get o-mikuji (fortunes). At the place where you get them there is a little box of long sticks which each have a number on, which corresponds to one of many little numbered drawers containing papers on which your fortune is written. You make a donation and shake the box until a stick drops out of the little hole, then check the number and collect your fortune.
I was not fortunate!
Ouch! To dispel the bad luck, you must tie the slip of paper to a special frame.
A bit tricky with cold fingers, but I tried to tie it as tightly as possible. I hope it stays put! On the left of the picture you can see some of the little drawers containing fortunes. After that we went to the main temple to make an offering and new year's wish. I also got an o-mamori, which I'll show you later.
Then it was time to attack the food stalls! I had sweet sake, takoyaki, yakitori, yakisoba, and one non-fried and oily things, a miso-y, nimono-y thing that was very delicious. I enjoyed the food ever so much! I also felt the need for a cup of tea, so we found a nice little cafe just outside the complex.
Having warmed up a bit, we went back to Sensoji for another look around. It's pretty, and very large, so there's plenty to see. We met a very handsome fellow there!
I think perhaps we met before, when I visited Sensoji for the first time about five years ago. Maybe he remembered me, since he came over to say hello.
He must have felt quite relaxed in my company at any rate, deciding to have a lie down.
This little boy decided to join us! He looked very cute in his puffy green coat, like a pea in a pod.
When we had finished at Sensoji, I suggested we go to Ueno park, since nearly everything was closed that day and at least we could have a nice walk. We actually did a lot of walking that day because we tried to go to Ueno-koen on foot. It turned out to be further than expected, so we had to give up and take the metro, but at least we saw some interesting sights along the way:
Lots of tanuki! Do you like tanuki? I'm very fond of them now, though I recall the first time I saw one of these ceramic ones I wondered what on earth they were supposed to be. In case you are also wondering, tanuki are little sharp-toothed furry mammals native to Japan. In mythology, they are also mischevious shape-shifters, who like drinking lots of sake. I recommend the film 'Pom Poko' if you'd like to know more about them!
I tried to pose like the tanuki, but I think I rather failed. I just look like a giraffe as usual!
Ueno Park has a small but rather nice shrine, which you can get to by walking through these red gates:
I always think these gates look so impressive!
Even the drain covers are pretty in Ueno!
On the way from the station, we found one lively street with a lot of shops open, including a Matsumoto Kiyoshi (it's a drug store), so I did a bit more shopping!
Let's have some materialism after all that culture!
1. Bioré Marshmallow Whip I saw this in Singapore and was very attracted by the name, but it was quite expensive so I decided to wait until I went to Japan. It was a little discounted at Matsumoto Kiyoshi, so my patience paid off. I can report that it's definitely a good cleanser! It doesn't dry your skin, but still gets it very clean and leaves it soft and smooth. Just one pump is enough for your face and neck; it's very foamy!
2. False lashes I wanted to try out these separated-type lashes, since they seem to really open up your eyes. These were only 315 yen, but they are very soft and not too shiny. I don't think they look that great on me though!
3. O-mamori This is a charm my friend bought me at the temple. If I return to Japan next year, I'll take it once again to the temple for it to be burnt. I do hope I will return!
4. Bioré oil-in sheet refill I used to just wash my face with foam cleanser to get my make-up off (horror!) but after reading articles about how dreadfully that practice it will age you, I started to use make-up remover. This oil-in sheet remover was being promoted in Singapore, so I picked it up there. There's a cute pink case that dispenses the remover wipes; this is a refill.
5. Esprique Aqua Drape lipgloss I'm keen on Japanese cosmetics, thanks mostly to the attractive packaging! As well as that they're effective for me personally since I'm Eurasian and have a more Asian skin-type and colouring. I've been trying for ages to find a nice lip gloss that looks natural but gives a bit of freshness and colour to my face, and when I saw this coral one it looked just right. Esprique is a slightly pricey brand but I was totally sick of looking for lip gloss in England so I treated myself. I'm glad I did because I'm really happy with it!
6. Lavshuca eye palette Lavshuca has lovely packaging! I liked this set of natural colours. You can create quite a few different looks with this colours, and they all work well together. The middle colour is super sparkly!
I hope you've enjoyed this first post about my time in Tokyo. I'm looking foward to writing up all the rest! Next up is the first day of sales shopping~