Friday, September 04, 2009

Tokyo September 2008

A bit late, but here's a video I made using the new version of Windows Live Movie Maker. It shows some of the places I visited on my last trip to Tokyo.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Wangfujing and Tasty Eats

After Forbidden City, we opted for something a little more modern. We went a few blocks away to Wangfujing street, a pedestrian shopping area with a foreign book store, toy store, Olympics souvenirs, and many clothing stores. We looked around, but didn't go into too many of the shops. We walked to Oriental Plaza, a huge mall, which had many European and American stores. The prices were pretty high since even the stuff that was made in China had to be exported and then reimported.

We had lunch at Made In China in the Grand Hyatt. The Peking Duck was delicious! After that, we wandered down a side street off Wangfujing known as the Night Market (although we were there in the afternoon.) The Night Market is the kind of place you take someone that you want to dare to do something...

How about some tasting seahorses? cicadas? crickets? starfish? Fresh on a stick and grilled to tasty goodness to your liking. The scariest were the scorpions on a stick...still alive...still wiggling...EEK!

And no, I didn't try any. :)

Enough of the Forbidden City!

After several hours, we decided we'd had enough of the Forbidden City. It was beautiful, but got monotonous after a while. At least the Western end had some lovely enclosed gardens to see before leaving the area.

Pretty Details

Here are some pics of the details around the Forbidden City.

Lair of the Concubines

OK, it's not actually called lair of the concubines, it's just the part of the palace that the many concubines stayed in. This was the only part we saw that included furniture and decorations.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Inside the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City was built in the 1400's and served as China's imperial palace. It is a huge complex of preserved wooden buildings and includes the largest wooden building in China. (As opposed to the Daibutsuden, or Great Buddha Hall in Nara that you may remember from my travels 3 years ago, which is supposedly the largest wooden structure in the world.)

We got there early, so it was crowded, but not crazy-crowded.

All of the stone details were beautiful and some of the paint had been restored. You can see in the pic below an restored section next to a repainted section.

We spent several hours wandering around the Forbidden City. The buildings were beautiful and we had a good time.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Entering the Forbidden City

Separating the Forbidden City from Tiananmen Square is the Tiananmen Gate. It is famous for the huge picture of Mao.

There were huge crowds, even early on a Sunday morning, and the police didn't want folks stopping for long amounts of time. "No photo, move on", yells the police officer.

This lovely garden was just beside the Tiananmen Gate and may have been considered a moat.

Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square is huge. According to Peggy, our tour guide, it's the largest public square in the world. Today it was closed off because the People's Congress is meeting at the People's Hall, which is the building with all of the flags below. There were tons of police all over the area also.

Back in Beijing

I'm back in Beijing again, this time for a whole week. I arrived last night along with two of my coworkers, Brett and Joe. Brett is a user researcher and Joe is an interaction designer. While we're looking forward to working, we're also looking forward to seeing some of Beijing. This is their first time to Beijing (and my second time.)

Thursday, January 31, 2008


Beijing is big. The streets are big, the buildings are big, and the city area is big.

Beijing is also very beautiful at night, especially close to Tiananmen Square. Neon, bright lights, and light strands are used in great quantity. Some parts of Beijing almost felt like the Las Vegas Strip except without the smut on the street corners and a heck of a lot colder.

The only cultural tourist attraction I had a chance to see was Tiananmen Square, which we drove through on our way to dinner one night. How would I describe it? Big.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Welcome to China

My first impression is that Beijing looks more like Bellevue than Tokyo, especially if you compare style and spacing of buildings. Of course, Beijing is huge - it's like downtown Bellevue for miles and miles. Modern 30-story office buildings sit next to ratty, old five-story apartment buildings. There are also smoke stacks, which are apparently for heating. The picture above is the view from my hotel room.
I only saw the new Olympic stadium from a distance (from the taxi on my way to work), but it does resemble a giant bird nest (below).

Time to go...

And now I'm on my way to China. It was snowing on my last day in Tokyo, but that didn't deter the huge line in front of Krispy Kreme. The line was much shorter than the 45 minute wait that you usually see in the early evening. At least it was sunny during the rest of my trip to Tokyo.

I'm all bundled up for China. It's about 27 degrees F in the middle of the day and dips below 20 at night, but at least it's sunny.


Since it was Tony's first trip to Japan, we stopped by the Meiji Shrine near Harajuku. It's only two subway stops south of Shinjuku. The Meiji Shrine is a Shinto shrine (as opposed to Sensoji, which was a Buddhist temple). There are a lot of similarities such as they both have fountains for cleansing your hands and mouth and they both sell fortunes and charms. Meiji Shrine looks a lot more natural with lots of wood and parkland around. Sensoji is more Chinese in style and much more ornate.

Even Meiji Shrine had a few ornate elements. The face below shows the original roof decoration.


Sunday mornings are always a great time to see Harajuku. All the goth-punk and goth-loli types come out in their fancy outfits and hang out or shop. It's great for people-watching, though it does get pretty crowded.

There's also some great stores on Omote-sando including the Oriental Bazaar and Kiddy Land. After all that shopping, Tony and I were hungry so we had lunch at an okonomiyaki restaurant.


Right across from my hotel is Takashimaya Times Square. It's a mall with a department store, three floors of restaurants, Tokyu Hands (similar to Target), a music store, and many more. The department store even has food items and bento on the bottom floor. In the evenings, I often stopped by Takashimaya to do a little shopping or to get dinner.

Shinjuku is very pretty at night. Because of the holidays, they had many lights up on the terrace leading to my hotel.
There's also a nice view from my hotel room.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I walked alone through Geek Heaven - also known as Akihabara. I spent a couple hours in just one store. In fact, I only got to three of the seven grocery store-sized floors in Yodabashi Camera. Imagine an entire grocery aisle with only computer mice! Imagine having several hundred keyboards, mousepads, USB hubs, or headphones to choose from! The MP3s and cellphones took up the size of the average produce section. It was overwhelming!

Besides gadget geeks, Akihabara is also a haven for otaku (anime geeks). I visited several anime stores and even walked past a maid cafe. The clientele waiting in line outside was not the most reputable-looking bunch, so I decided not to go in.

Next to Akihabara station, some wanna-be idol singers were entertaining the crowds. Each one had a small amp, a microphone, and a sign (usually with their URL). I'm guessing that some of the songs were anime theme songs, because the men standing around with video cameras were similar to those by the maid cafe, though there were also salarymen and a woman or two listening. Some of the men must not get out much - they got WAY too excited about the lackluster singing.