Tokyo Metro. Govern. Buildings (都庁, tochou)

Note: Please remember that you see an enlarged size of all the photos in this blog by clicking on them!
After the Tsukiji fish markets I hopped got back on the Tokyo Metro subway and headed to Shinjuku (新宿) on the other side of Tokyo to visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings, or, as they are popularly known in Japanese, 都庁 (tochou).


The reason for wanting to check out this place is displayed in the above photo. It is because of the view. There are of these Tokyo Metropolitan Government buildings, but the one that I will refer to from here on out is ‘Building 1’ (Touchou). Until late last year (06) Tochou was the tallest building in Tokyo. An amazing achievement considering the locality that it is in is known as the ‘skyscraper district’. The roof is just a touch under 250 metres above ground so as I am sure you can imagine the view from the top floor (43rd) is excellent. And that is the floor that is open as an observatory to the public for free. Quite a good deal.
And what was that view like? Buildings as far as the eye can see, literally.

To tell the truth I have actually seen the view from Touchou before, when I went to Japan on a school trip three years ago. On that day it was rainy and overcast though, and because of the height of the building I saw a lot more cloud that I did of Tokyo. It has overcast at least 5/7 days a week while I have been living near Tokyo this time so I was incredibly blessed to find that on the day that I got a chance to once again go and check out Tochou that the skies were crystal clear. It was so clear in fact that I I could even see all the way to the famous 富士山 (Fuji-san, Mount Fuji) in Shizuoka Prefecture. It is the large, snow-capped mountain in this photo.

Here is a photo from the outside of the Building No. 1. I guess it does resemble a computer chip. Perhaps.

Just near where I took the above photo I spotted this guy. Considering the insane size of Tokyo I don’t believe it was that many homeless people. I would bet good money that it even has half as many homeless people as cities a quarter of its size in the U.S.

One thing that you occasionally find whilst living in Japan as a foreigner is people wanting to speak to you to practice their English. Learning English is still seen as being fair cool and a lot of tutors and programs (i.e. NOVA) ar expensive and fraught with problems (or at least rumoured of being so in the news). When I was taking photos I had a middle-aged Japanese lady come up to me and offer to take my photo with the view from Tochou in the background in broken Japanese. I gladly obliged, it was very kind of her. After that we had a bit of a conversation (me speaking in Japanese, her speaking in English when she could and Japanese apart from that) about where I was, what I was doing in Japan and other stuff. It was really pleasent. She seemed like a really nice person. It became apparent after a while though that she wasn’t planning on cutting this conversation short, so I frankly told her that I didn’t have that much time to spend at Tochou as I was meeting friends at Ueno to go to the zoo located there. What suprised me next was that she invited herself along. By now my “Japanese-person-looking-to-score-free-English-lessons” alarm was blaring so I managed to politely decline her and get on my way. Realizing she was rejected she seemed to almost run away from me to the other side of the (wide) observatory, no doubt in hopes of catching another unsuspecting gaijin (foreigner) in her clutches. Haha, I shouldn’t speak about her like that though. I’m sure that normal tourists wanting a local to show them around Tokyo would really appreciate her.
Here is one last photo of the view from Tochou. See all of those small-looking buildings at ground level? There isn’t one of them that is only one story high, they are all at least ten storeys high I reckon. Just about the same size as the highest buildings of my home town in Brisbane, haha.

Finally, completed unrelated, here is a photo that I took at the train station near my school. I really like how it turned it out: black and white with the girl clinging to her boyfriend on the left while the train track runs from top to bottom on the right. Everyone is peering down the tracks while a slight breeze blows in that direction. I was thinking that it would be really cool to title this photo “What are you waiting for?” but then I realised how obvious it is, they are waiting for a train. Enjoy.

Will’s Tsukiji Fish Market (築地市場, tsukiji shijou) Trip

Last Saturday morning I awoke to the loud ringing of my cell phone’s alarm one hour earlier than usual at 5:30am. Normally I would still be half asleep as I ate breakfast, put on clothes and got ready to leave the house. This time was different though. My excitement for the fun weekend ahead had me very much awake as I rode the bike for ten minutes to the local station and got on a train bound for Tokyo. Arriving at Ueno St. I changed to the Tokyo Metro Subway and made a beeline for Tsukiji St. where I was to start the day’s adventure.

First up was the famous Tsukiji Fish Market (築地市場, tsukiji shijou) – the largest seafood and wholesale fish market in the entire world. Each day about 60~65 000 employees handle over 400 different types of 2000 metric tons of seafood. A lot of it is bought by licensed auctioneers for restaurants, but another large portion of it is also sold by the some 900 small stalls located just outside the auction place. Most of the business of the market goes on between five and nine in the morning, explaining why I awoke so early.


I think I got to Tsukiji just after seven o’clock or so. It took me about twenty minutes to find the place as I was postponed taking photos of some neat shrines and temples along the way. Leading up to the main marketplace was a lot of small stalls and shops selling related items: a lot of cooking implements, seasonings, etc. In addition there were heaps of Sushi Restaurants (すし屋さん, Sushi-yasan). Definately it was the highest concentration of Sushi Restaurants I have ever seen in my life. Despite this, the lines outside some of them were phenomenal, as you can see in the below video.

CROWDED SUSHI-YASAN VIDEO.

I worked my way through these and came to the outer part of the market where a whole lot of trucks were being loaded up with the stock that had just been purchased. There were hundreds of these nifty little cart things being driven around. It is incomprehensible that there isn’t at least a few traffic accidents everyday as it is insanely busy and hard to tell what vehicle is going where. Check out this video showing the traffic outside the market.

 BUSY INTERSECTION VIDEO.

Going from the outer part of the market to the under-cover wholesalers part immediately the first thing to hit me was the difference in the ‘fresh’ (i.e. exhaust-fume-filled) air of Saturday morning Tokyo and the inevitable ‘fishy’ smell of the stalls. Judging by the following photo it shouldn’t be hard to see why.


By the time I truly started exploring the place it is past eight o’clock meaning that the majority of the auctions had been completed and the fish was being prepared (i.e. cut up) and set out for display.


The knife that this guy is using is pretty long I reckon. There are actually even longer knives (some as long as a metre!) that are used for carving up tuna and the like.


Mostly tuna, swordfish and the massive stuff is sliced using this type of saw though.


Here is a video of the above guy trying to force this gigantic, half-frozen tuna through the saw and then I walk a little way inside the market.

 CUTTING TUNA VIDEO.

Lastly I have to give credit to Wikipedia’s article on Tsukiji as I stole a few of the above mentioned statistics from there.

From Tsukiji I headed to the Tokyo Metropolitan Goverment Buildings in Shinjuku (the skyscraper district of Tokyo) to check out the view from one of their upper floors (only a humble 243m above ground). Stay tuned for comments and photos on that! Until then, please comment. =)

 P.S. I must apologize about the formatting. I am using to using BlogSpot and can’t quite seem to get the hang of WordPress, hence the pictures are way too big and the embedded HTML videos won’t show up so I have to have normal URL links. The correct formatting for this post can be seen on my personal blog.

Will’s Second Japan-so-far Summation

This is the second report that I have had to write in English for AIIU, the Aussie exchange organisation which has gotten me to Japan. Faithful readers will notice that most of it is just a summation of things that I have previously blogged about. Enjoy =).

:::

Time to write another update for AIIU already? Time passes way too fast in Japan. Since the last report I have become very accustomed to my Japanese life and changed host families.

I am now with my second host family. My last host family consisted of a host mother, father, grandmother, a dog, a 2nd year college and 4th university host sister. There were always people coming and going – a very busy place. My new host family is just myself, my host bro (one year younger) and my host mother who works six days a week. So, this new atmosphere is completely different to what I experienced previously. There is only ever the three of us together at home, and even this is only for two or three hours a night. This is because I am in the Tennis Club, which generally runs from 3:30pm to 7pm weekdays. On top of this, the trip from school to home is between 1hr 15min and 1hr 35min (walk, train, bike) depending on the train times so it isn’t unusual for me to return home around 9pm at night, a far cry from my lax Aussie lifestyle! Despite limited time together I have developed a good relationship with my host mother I think, and I really like hanging out with my host bro. That would have to be my favourite thing about this family – having a similarly aged guy to just chill with. One thing that hasn’t changed with this new family is the independence that I have, luckily. I use it to explore Tokyo, check out local churches and hang out with friends on the weekend (Saturday mornings are devoted to club activities though!).

School is now very much part of my daily routine which I am enjoying it very much. Recent highlights include the athletics carnival and an excursion sightseeing in Tokyo. I have made a lot of friends in my class, my club and other people from around the school which is one of the things that I am most thankful for. My Japanese level allows me to have great surface level friendships, but I don’t have many friendships which go too much deeper than that. By reading some other exchange student’s blogs I have found that they experience something similar. My language studies are going OK. Mostly it is just vocab and a little bit of grammar, I haven’t put any effort into kanji really. I could probably benefit from some more structure: at the moment I study whatever new words I have heard recently. All in all school is going great. Even my classes have turned out to be pretty enjoyable (P.E. and self-study are great, maths and physics not so much).

I have had some awesome opportunities to do these things and more whilst in Japan: check out Sanja Matsuri (one of the three big festivals in Japan) at Asakusa, go to Tokyo University’s Culture Festival, rap some sweet J-hip hop at Karaoke, go to a Manga-kissa (internet cafe with literally tens of thousands of Japanese comics), see real sumos in training at a sumo ‘stable’, bathe naked with a few hundred men at onsens, stay overnight at a Capsule Hotel, see the Tsukiji Fish Markets, win the Saitama Japanese Speech contest, go to Ueno Zoo, explore Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akihabara, Ueno, Omiya, Urawa and other hubs of culture, entertainment and shopping, among other things. Also I have oddly had the pleasure of getting to know people from Denmark, Finland, America, Canada, Singapore, Canada and other places that I simple wouldn’t have if in Australia. I guess that if you stick out (which you do in this largely homogeneous country), you stick together. I didn’t really have any of the aforementioned opportunities offered to me on a silver platter, I largely engineered a lot of them myself and I would encourage other exchange students to do the same to get the most out of their time over here!

Finally, I can’t resist plugging my blog: http://willmbarker.blogspot.com/
As well as occasionally writing a short post about my daily life in Japan I write explanatory articles on different things relating to Japan like sumo, the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, after school club activities, different locations and more (which are actually used as posts for the website of a podcast for Japanese language learners: https://japancast.net/). It may benefit parents wanting to know what the heck their students are talking about when they get e-mails from them about Japanese things, and also students as every once in a while I post in Japanese. Although I am prone to mistakes, it is usually at an intermediate level and with a decent amount of Kanji so it may make for good reading practice.

So far my exchange has been a great success! Thank you AIIU and JFIE! So sad to have to go home in August!! =(