Friday, January 30, 2009

Day 1 in Tokyo ( Part 1 )

Leaving Sapporo in the morning, we took a 8am rapid airport express from JR Sapporo station to Chitose airport. We were sad to leave our luxurious suite and plan to come back to Sapporo some day in the near future. Picture above is a shot of us with all our baggage and shopping in fromt of JR Sapporo station. (Above) Took a shot of Gayle with her baggage and shopping bags at the train station waiting for the airport express. It's quite cold as the platform is open-air.

(Above) You can see the snow landscape at Chitose airport, Sapporo.

(Above) Taking a shot while relaxing at the waiting lounge for our flight to Tokyo at Chitose airport

From Sapporo, we took a domestic JAL flight from Chitose airport to Tokyo via Haneda airport. Luckily, we went to the airport early as we found that due to scheduling issues, our intended flight was cancelled. Luckily as we were early, we were able to get seats on another earlier flight.

We had a good flight as the flight was not full so the stewardesses informed us that we could seat at any empty seats and so we stretch out on a row of 4 seats for the two of us. The flight was slightly over an hour.
(Above) The Airport Limousine Bus ticket counter at Haneda airport. The staff there speak English so buying tickets and asking them for information is easy.

(Below) Our Airport Limousine bus tickets
On arrival, we took the Airport Limousine to our hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo - Shinjuku Washington. Transport from the airport is never cheap so one must certainly set aside some money for such necessary transport. Bus fare from the aiport to our hotel was 1200 yen roughly equivalent to SGD$20 per person.

It is quite easy to get to the bus stop, just look for the bus stop no, in our case was 05. They are located outside the airport.
(Above) Gayle posing while waiting for our airport limousine bus.

We reached our hotel and rested. By that time. it was close to 6pm and it was getting dark when we set out for our first exploration of Shinjuku. You can see our first few photos on our first night in Shinjuku.
At the main shopping belt outside of JR Shinjuku station, lined with familiar shops like Zara and Levi's. It is very crowded and a little chaotic at Shinjuku and we had to get used to it after the pleasant and calm Hakodate and Sapporo.
(Above) and (Below) Me and Gayle posing along the walkway to the shopping belt.

(Above and Below) Gayle posing at the Odakyu terrace, another shopping belt which is lined with Christmas lightings. You can see the fast pace and bustle of people in Tokyo as they flash by Gayle.
(Above) The lighted Odakyu Terrace, a favourite spot for photography.

Like all foodies, we ended up at the supermarkets and couldn't resist looking at their delicious and pretty looking cakes.
(Above) Just look at how well cut the strawberry cake is !
(Above) Fruit cake called Lake shower. The origins of the name, we wonder ? (Above) Really intricate and creative cake designs!

We shopped and had our dinner before retiring to our hotel to take a rest as we had to get up early to catch the train to Tokyo Disneyland the next morning. More on our next posting!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Winter In Sapporo(Part 4 )

Last day in Sapporo and we still did not feel we had shopped enough and ate enough haha...Already making plans to go back there in the near future.
We went around the underground shopping malls like Pole Town, aurora and of course the above ground departmental stores, 8 stories of shopping each such as Loft, Esta, Tokyu, Daimaru.
We also drop by Le Tao to get cakes for supper.
(Above) One of the cakes we bought from Le Tao for supper - Strawberry Black Forrest.
At JR Sapporo shopping mall, we passed ABC Cooking Studio which was crowded with many young pretty housewives there to learn finer aspects of cooking. They have a 1 hr cooking class menu to cater to different cooking interests from fine culinary to baking. An interesting concept. Gayle is seen posing below in front of the glass walled studio which allows you to watch the classes in action.
For lunch, we dropped by one of our haunts where they serve tempura udon at 390yen. The cheapest meal there is plain udon ith tempura crumbs at 290yen. They serve free iced green tea and plain water as with many other Japanese inns. There are many such similar food inns in the underground food malls there. You will need to purchase a ticket based on your dish from the ticketing machine and present the ticket to the waitresses and they will serve it to you.One thing though, all the buttons on the ticketing machine are in Japanese so you will need to refer to the window display or menus placed outside the inn and then correlate them to the characters on the buttons. Luckily, most shops have vending machines that also have pictures of the food item on it for easy reference and identification. It would be useful to have loose change for the ticketing machine.
(Above) My bowl of tempura prawn and vegetable udon with complmentary iced green tea. After the whole morning and afternoon of shopping, we went back to our hotel to unload our shopping and rest our feet before setting off in the evening to see the Sapporo White Illumination, an anual winter festival at Odori Park. Nights in Sapporo are quite cold so do keep yourself warm with scraves, gloves, and other warm clothing and gear. Along the way, we saw a horse drawn carriage, actually it was a double decker carriage. Gayle and myself felt sad for the poor horse which had to pull a double decker carriage of humans through a cold winter night. (Below) Gayle is posing at the junction where the horse carriage is behind in the background.
(Below) Gayle posing beside the lightbox sign designating the location of the Sapporo White Illumination festival.

(Above) When we arrived there at 5.32pm, the park wqas already crowded with many people, locals and tourists alike photographing the many lighted displays there, sponsored by different Japanese companies from Panasonic to Japan Airlines. The ground is a little splippery as the wet ground has frozen into a sheet of ice so we had to tread with care.

(Above) Us posing at two of the different light displays there. You can see I am covered from head to toe due to the very cold wind.(Above)In the background of Odori Park is the Sapporo TV tower, lighted with it's usual orange glow. Note that it is only 5.32pm in the evening and it is already very dark.

(Below) At a little past six in the evening, Sapporo TV tower lights up with blinking blue lights like a Christmas tree to complement the lighted displays at Odori Park.

(Above) We were treated to a live keyboard concert amongst the lighted displays at Odori Park by a very talented and pretty Japanese lady sitting in a Yamaha sponsored glass booth who played Christmas favourites on her digital piano to an appreciative audience.

(Above) Us taking a couple shot at the Sapporo WHite Illumination arch, a much sought after photo opportunity there. We queued up like many couples there, locals and tourists alike and it was very nice and civil, each couple in the line helped the ones before them to take the shot. You can see the sheet of ice we are standing on. A number of couples slipped and fell to much laughter. I nearly slipped too. It was a nice winter ending to our last night in Sapporo and we went back with many nice memories to our hotel to rest for our trip to Tokyo the next day.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Winter In Sapporo(Part 3)

As we were very happy to spend our time shopping at Sapporo, we decided to skip Otaru and instead spend an extra day of shopping in Sapporo. One of the attractions to go to Otaru was to try the famous Le Tao pastries there but we soon discovered they had a swanky branch in Sapporo itself. The pastry cafe was housed on the second floor of a small departmental store and we hada hard time deciding which of the delicious looking pastries we should try. We decided to opt for a mixed platter and well, we will let the pictures do the talking. The cakes were just right, in terms of the sweetness, the cream is very light, yet fluffy and the presentation is so good.
(Above) Our platter of cakes prsented with a creamy snowman - about SGD$20
(Above) It came with a cup of English Breakfast tea. The things in the spoon are the white and brown sugar granules.
(Above) Gayle posing with our platter cake set
(Above) Me posing with the cafe interior in the background. Very classy, elegant and cozy place to meet a friend / loved ones. Most of their clientele looked like tais tais. We were the only young couple there. Service was good, polite, discreet .
(Above) They have a see through kitchen where you can observe the pastry chefs at work.

(Above) Cakes on display at Le Tao glass window.

(Above) Christmas Strawberry cheese cakes with sugar trimmings from Le Tao. After looking at this kind of quality, we find Singapore cake shops to be quite 'crass looking' in terms of presentation. The strawberries used look so fresh.
(Above) More cakes from Le Tao.
After a good rest at Le Tao and with much energy from the delicious cakes, we went shopping at Pole Town, one of the underground shopping malls in Sapporo.

(Above) LizLisa, a well known ladies fashion chain of shops that sells all things, white, pink, feminine, furry. Their salesgirls are true blue kawaii Japanese Kogals with their sharp features, beautiful eyes, short skirts - we were wondering whether appearance was a requisite to work there. It was the same in other Lizlisa shops. They also know how to give genuine and sincere compliments and were very good in their customer service. With good and attractive salesgirls plus good range of nice fashion clothes and accoutrements, it is no wonder LizLisa is a runaway success in Japan. Gayle bought a nice white coloured winter hooded trench coat there. Cost about slighty over SGD$200.See Below. The furry lined hoods and cuffs are removable.

We then went in search of the Old Ramen Alley and New Ramen Alley. Quite easy to locate if you follow the map directions. These are supposedly the place to have your ramen from a wide choice of ramen shops there.
(Above) New Ramen Alley
(Above) Old Ramen Alley - the OriginalAlong the way, we stopped at some Neo print picture booths to have some fun. The booths have really huge spotlights shown above.
(Above) cute tiny screen studded with crystals with Gayle's photo for previewing before print.

Robinson's departmental store, one of the big stores in Sapporo. Not related to our Singapore Robinsons. Selling similar fare catering to the middle and upper conservative class - more conservative fashion, household stuff etc. (Above)Sapporo Old Clock Tower in the background behind Gayle, another icon of Sapporo to see.
The JR Sapporo Train station main building. A key point of reference to use when navigating around Sapporo central. It is quite huge with 4 wings - North, East, South West. There are also shopping levels above and below ground leve. You can practically spend 2 days exploring just this building. The Tourist and JR train information counters are located within, side by side. You can also check your emails at the internet kiosk there for 100yen for 10 minutes.

(Above) Us posing in front of the main entrance to JR Sapporo building.