Monday, June 30, 2008

The Magnificent Kegon Falls

The elevator is bored through the lift"
a signboard in front of the elevator
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When the elevator is doing the similar routine everyday all year round, it is not surprising to see it got bored.
We were supposed to get to visit Kegon Falls after a couple hours of bus ride from our last stop at Toshogu Shrine. Kegon Falls is dubbed as among the top three most beautiful waterfalls in Japan. I seriously think that we should take Japanese as example in this regard. They have the top three most scenic view in Japan, the three most famous carvings in Toshogu shrine and now, the three most beautiful waterfalls in Japan. Perhaps we can start the ball rolling by selecting the greatest minds in Malaysia. Like this, maybe?
I better shut up now before things got out of hand, and continue with this entry.
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Lake Chuzenji, located just a few steps away from Kegon Falls. A variety of water sports like kayaking and boating are available here, but we didn't try on those.
Anyway, back to our trip to Kegon Falls, we were suppose to board (not bored) an elevator down nine floors and walk for another further few hundred meters through a tunneled lane before we came out to a viewing platform outside.
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This is not Kegon Falls, but just some small waterfall I saw.
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This IS Kegon Falls, although the picture perhaps didn’t justify the height of the fall standing majestically in front of us. Next to Kegon Falls, there are a further twelve small waterfalls flowing through the cracks that was caused by an earthquake happened one time ago.
Some group pictures we took at Kegon Falls.
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Let me start with me posing in front of the waterfall.
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The force from the waterfalls was so great that we got a little bit wet when we were standing in front of the falls to take this picture.
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And finally a group picture, although it was not a complete one. Anyway, if you notice that tall guy in white shirt on the left, that is Bogi from Mongolia and he is almost as tall as me.
I said "almost", which means I am still the tallest here ;)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Toshogu Shrine In Nikko

Nikko wo minakereba, kekkō to iu na"
a famous Japanese saying
That phrase translates into, "Your trip will not be complete, if you have not seen Nikko" and I guess my trip has become over-complete because I went to the similar spot yet again in the space of less than three months. But since this trip is a sponsored trip, so I am not complaining. The first picture will be the Sinkyo Sacred Bridge but we were not given any time to get down from our bus and take a closer look at this bridge, which is dubbed as one of the three most famous bridge in Japan. So, we just took a glance of the bridge from our sits inside the bus. This much-photographed red bridge separates the shrines from the town of Nikko. In feudal times, only the shogun was permitted to cross the bridge, and even today it's barred from pedestrian traffic - although there's a 4-lane highway rumbling right past.
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The reflection from the seat is clearly visible, but I still post this up 'coz I feel that the tone of the picture is very much balanced. Just look at the contrast between the red Sinkyo bridge and the crystal clear blue river flowing through a gorge underneath the bridge. Beautiful.
Our initial plan was to visit all three temples of Toshogu, Futarasan and Rinnoji. However, it was approaching the closing time to enter the last two temples when we got there, and that forced us to make some last minute changes to the schedule of the trip. In the end, we only got to visit Toshogu shrine, which is the burial place of dynasty founder Tokugawa Ieyasu and the most extravagant of the lot.
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Some sense of dignity is restored by a magnificent forest of over 13,000 cedar trees, covering the entire area.
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Just like these two huge cedars at the entrance of the shrine. It is especially more so during the hot weather nowadays, at least we didn't have to walk under the hot sun and it was actually still relatively cold that evening.
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Unlike most Japanese temples and shrines, the buildings here are extremely gaudy and ornate, with multicoloured carvings and plenty of gold leaf, and show heavy Chinese influence.
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This is the place where visitors are supposed to clean their body before stepping into the shrine. Well, it is not a compulsory thing to do, but I usually get myself there not to clean myself, but to quench my thirst. That white board on the right tells you that "No Smokig" is allowed there.
During my first time here, I didn't enter another section of the shrine because an extra entrance fees is required. But since this time it was included as one part of our entrance ticket, I got to enter this section. We didn't know what was on offer at the top of the 200 steps. Our curiosity made us take the effort to go all the way up only to be surprised with a simple grave site in the end.
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This is what we got to see - a barren looking leyasu's tomb, after climbing up so high and worse still, the entrance fee to this section cost 520yen (RM17) =.=
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However, it was not the tomb that is the reason people pay to enter that section of the shrine, but this carving of a sleeping cat. This is the only thing that eluded me from a complete visit to this shrine during my previous time here. Can you spot it? *clue - look for the red arrow*
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I wonder when this cat will wake up. Or will it wake up in the first place?
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There are two other carvings which are said to be the most famous ones in this shrine and the second one is at the top of wall on the left of this picture. It is an interesting approximation of an elephant, carved by an artist who had clearly never seen one in a country like Japan.
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A close up picture of an elephant that was almost molested by a lion. The facial expression of the elephant explains how it was savoring the moment trying to escape from the gay lion which has a perverted face wtf.
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Of the three carvings, this must be the most famous one - the carving of the three wise monkeys. They're part of a curious series of carvings about the life cycle of a monkey, from giddy childhood to fearful old age.
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"Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil".
Apparently, we had nothing better to do and decided to make it an extra addition to the carvings.
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"Smell no evil" too. *refer to Zul standing on the right*

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Railway Museum

Haven't we had enough of trains?"
trains, being the main transportation in Japan

Our annual school trip for the international students this year took us to a few places in Tochigi and Saitama prefecture in the north east of Tokyo. Unlike previous entries on my trips where I will usually talk so much about the history and detail on the location itself, I will take a different approach this time. After all, I guess most people will just skim through the lines only more often than not. So here it goes.
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The design made it looks mor
e like a nuclear plant.
The first location we were taken to were the Railway Museum in Saitama City. Perhaps the name itself sounds boring, but I have to admit that I do not have much interest in trains. Same thing applies to the majority of us and we have no idea why we were taken to such a place. It may sound comprehensible if we are taking some unrelated course like medic or pharmacy. However, everyone of us are in the engineering line, yet we don't have that much enthusiasm on trains. How ironic is that?
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Miniature operating train - These trains are replica trains that operate with ATS-P, ATC and other signal safety system. One ride cost 200yen (RM7) but I didn't hop onto one of those because I was too long tall to fit in them =.=
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History Zone - Here is where various types of coaches are displayed that dated back almost a century ago. Among them that can be seen in this picture are Class
Kiha 41300 Railcar (top right) and Class ED17 Electric Locomotive (middle left, brown in color).
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Also taken from the History Zone from a different angle. Class
Kiha 41300 Railcar is in the middle of the picture.
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Class ED40 Abt Rack-and-Pinion Electric Locomotive. The brown paint on the coach makes it look like it was made of wood.
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Class C57 Steam Locomotive. The first thing I recalled after seeing this black train was my birthday present I got when I turned four or five year-old last time. You know those train toys that even have railways and smoke comes out from the front locomotive. I will let it run on the circle railway and sit in the centre admiring the train. Sweet childhood memories ;)
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Kumoha 40 Electric Railcar behind the platform. But I am more fascinated with the blue signboard "Tokyo" 'coz I think they look cool and classic. They are no more to be seen nowadays.
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How the seats used to be last time. I guess it is more comfortable to have wooden seats than the steel ones we have nowadays 'coz it would be more cooling. But there are a few shortcomings as it will be super cold during the winter and if there happens to be a fire, the coach will be burned down very quick.
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Class 9850 Mallet Steam Locomotive. The blue tubes behind look more like blood veins to me. Blue colour means deoxidised blood, am I right?
Class Kumoha 455 Electric Railcar (Series 181 Electric Multiple Unit). It is written the word とき (Toki) on the white board in front of the train.Class Kumoha 455 Electric Railcar (Series 455 Electric Multiple Unit). It is used as express train and is still being used nowadays.
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The only difference is that the design is much more modern today.
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Series 200 Shinkansen. I am quite surprised that not many people understand when I tell them about
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Well, shinkansen refers to the bullet train in Japan.
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How the signboard used to be before the invasion of technology. Everything is handwritten and electronic boards are no where to be seen.
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Among the equipments used around the railway tracks that are displayed in a room.
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The evolution of the seats in the train over the years. The oldest one is the most front one that dated more than a century back.

There was no cushion on the seat that time and I bet our butt will suffer a lot especially during long train rides ;)
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The timetable for shinkansen. It really looked different from what we see today.
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A replica showing how Tokyo Station used to look like many years back. The original building was burnt down during a fire which broke out some time ago.
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This is one of the section of the museum that received the most attention from the visitor called Operation Simulator. We can experience a precise simulation of actual railway operation, from the normal trains until the likes of shikansen. Unfortunately, the queue was too long and we didn't have ample time to try on this simulator.
You know what I was saying in my heart when I know I couldn't try that simulator *points to the guy's T-shirt (on the right)*.
Literally, I mean.
~ to be continued ~

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Short Update On Myself

I have been blogging so much about my travels recently and the events that unfolded for the past few weeks that I realised that this blog has turned into a travelogue once again. Hence, I will take some time out from that topic and post up a short updates on what I have been going through over these several weeks as a whole. I expect it to be full of words, but you can always choose not to read it and press the red button at the top right corner anytime you like ;)
My mid-term exam has officially ended last Thursday, which spanned over more than two weeks. Like I said, it could be a good thing or the opposite, depending on how you see it. Since there are gaps of a few days in between the papers, so the preparation time is more, but when it lasted that long, you will always wish that the last paper finishes as soon as possible. Talking about exams is boring, ain't it?

More so when you are studying for an exam =.=

Anyway, there was a school trip sandwiched in between my exams and it was over the last weekend. I will not be blogging on that yet as for now though. It was only so so, compared to last year's trip to Sado Island. This time, we ended up spending most of the time in the bus, because the locations are separated quite far apart, and hence we didn't get to walk at the places as much and as long as we would have hoped for. Anyways, it was a free trip sponsored by the school and I shall not complain much either.

It is heading towards the end of June and that means summer is coming. Am I excited about it? Yes and no. Yes, because I am going back this August and no, because I will have to endure the heat first before that. Of all four seasons here in Japan, I guess I loathe summer the most. I know the condition in Malaysia at the moment is not much different, but when it is summer here, you will sweat like hell and the high humidity makes your body feel sticky like elephant glue. No matter how many times you bathe, it will still be the same thing. I will sweat so much that I feel like staying in the shower room for the whole day =.=

Talking about the heat, I had a sudden headache last night. I guess it must be due to the hot weather nowadays. And just like girls having their monthly PMS, obviously my mood changed. Who said guys cannot have PMS? It was quite bad that I quickly went to wet my hair and I found out later that I was not the only one having headache. The rest were complaining about the same thing as well.

Is this due to the global warming problem that is getting more alarming these day? I guess it does. That is why starting from a couple of days ago, there is this annual event called Candle Night launched in Japan. The objective is to reduce the usage of electricity within this two-week period and it is actually very simple to contribute to this campaign. Just turn off the lights for two hours from eight to ten every night and imagine the quantity of energy saved within this period. It started last Saturday and will continue up until July 7th.

As if I haven't had enough on the killing heat nowadays, Pinksterz have the heart to make me even more stressed by giving me a link of a game called Po's Awesome Appetite. Unless you are planning to increase your blood pressure, I advise you not to try this game because it is damn addictive, and also it will make you feel tension. Seriously! Stewpid black bear. I tell you that panda is damn bengong and mangkuk tandas can! (sorry, I don't have a translation for both terms).

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That someone always tease me being a noob when it comes to games. So, try beating this score, although I guess most people will surpass my best score easily wtf.

Football fans out there who are following the EURO '08 tournament, do you notice that all the group winners have crashed out? Is this a coincidence or what? Holland has been beaten soundly by the Russians last night and I don't think I will be watching the remaining of the tournament anymore. More so when there is a possibility of a repeat of what happened four years ago.

A Turkey-Russia final, anyone?

Friday, June 20, 2008

I Really Respect The English In Japan

I have always made it clear that going to the English lessons as one of the subjects here is something I loathe so much that I would prefer to be assigned with a Bahasa Indonesia class instead. Just as it seems that I have to endure another year of English lesson this year, I got exempted from attending English classes, all because I have passed the TOIEC exam - the English test that is used by the Japanese to measure you level of proficiency in the language. I am not trying to boast myself, but everybody knows very well on how low the standard of the test is. The full mark is 990 and an average Japanese student will score around 400 marks. That is why when they are told that our scores are over 900, they will give us that "OMG!-YOU-ARE-A-GOD-FOR-GOODNESS-SAKE!!" expression. Well, just pure Japanese style for having the tendency of over-doing in their attitude most of the time.
To be truthful, that has little to do with this entry because the main thing I will be highlighting here are a few encounters with how creative the Japanese can be when it comes to translating something into English from their mother tongue. Unfortunately as it seemed to be, they just screwed everything up in the end. What you would see from this point onwards is a compilation of powderful Engrish I got to witness during my last spring vacation.
As a starter, take this signboard that I saw in Toshogu Shrine in Nikko. They are trying to deter people from smoking within that area, but they didn't get it that correctly.
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What is "smokig"? Some Finnish language maybe.
Since it is just a starter, I will be nice here. I will take that as a spelling error but still, they should have at least taken the initiative to correct it instead of confusing the Japanese kids on the English version.
Soon, it slowly got worse.

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This is ambiguous because it could be either a spelling error, or the person who was responsible to put up this notice was sleeping all the way during his English grammar lesson. My bet would be for the latter, and I think he likes the letter "E" very much.
However, I reserved the best for the last.
Earlier of my trip, when I was walking around Shibuya looking for the Indian buffet restaurant, I came across one restaurant, although this one doesn't offer buffet service. The signboard looked just as appealing as how the name suggests itself.
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Spicy curry, but I can bet that it will never go any near to our real spicy curry.
Unfortunately, Indeira Curry House had yet to open business when I was there. So I decided to only take a look at the menu pasted on the glass of the door. That was the very moment that I burst out laughing out of a sudden. But luckily enough for me, nobody was looking at me thinking that this dude is better off to be admitted to a psychiatric ward immediately.
How can I not laugh when they show you a menu like this?
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Dei, use the spelling checker next time lah!
I understand if they wish to emphasise on how nice their food is, which explains why they came out with a new adjective to describe their "deliciouse" curry. I reckon that new word is waiting to be added into Bombay Dictionary (Revised Edition). One more thing is that I could not make out is what they meant by "stile". Certainly, it is surely not to be the sets of steps that help people climb over fences and gates, which I can't relate with Japanese curry at all. I suppose it should be spelled as "style".
I find their new words are far more interesting than the grammar errors on the menu. If there is an award for the most hilarious new word on that menu, it will surely go to this one.
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Bejitable nowadays are so damn expensive - ¥950
I think this restaurant must be using some high-biotech manufactured vegetables that have to be spelled that way. It is highly unlikely even for a standard one primary student to make such a bizarre error. I would just like to offer my full respect to the boss of this restaurant. You are a real bejitable lor.
Scroll a little bit down the menu and the nightmare continued.
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They have coleslow, but don't have mess poteto =\
Here, we have two different salads - one that will turn cold slowly, while the other will pose while saying "cheez" to you when you are to put them into your mouth. Sounds not bad, isn't it? That aside, they modified the usual tandori chicken using chickens that are served with its beak still intact. I just have to try this restaurant one day and see if I will transform into a Donald Duck.
In the end of the day, I laughed so hard at the menu that it made my stomach felt full without even stepping my foot into the restaurant.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Old Tokyo Of Asakusa

Short note: I have finally come to my final post on my spring break trip and it took me almost three months to finish posting all of them when it's already going to be summer now wtf. I know I took like ages to be done with all of them and you must be bored to be dished out with so many travelogues all these months. Bare with me for one last time, okay? And soon enough, I will blog about my summer trip pulak. Haha, no lah, I am bluffing only.
As one of the final stop during my spring trip more than a couple of months ago, I went to Asakusa, the centre of Tokyo's shitamachi, (literally it means "low city"), one of Tokyo's few districts which have preserved a certain atmosphere of the old Tokyo. Similar to the first two days of my trip, I got someone to accompany me to Asakusa. When I asked Joann if she would like to join me there, she jumped to my offer immediately even though she had just touched down in Tokyo from her spring holiday in Malaysia. We went out early to avoid the crowd as Asakusa is one of the main spots during the New Year celebrations in Japan which sees people coming in thousands crowding the place at the beginning of each year.
For many centuries, Asakusa used to be Tokyo's leading entertainment district. During the Edo Period, when the district was still located outside the city limits, Asakusa was the site of kabuki theaters and a large red light district. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, modern types of entertainment, including movies, set foot in Asakusa. Large parts of Asakusa were destroyed in the air raids of World War Two. While the area around the rebuilt Sensoji has regained its former popularity after the war, the same cannot be said for Asakusa's entertainment district. Asakusa can be easily explored on foot as all the places of interest are within the proximity of the train station. Alternatively, a guided tour on a rickshaw called 人力車 (jinrikisha) is also available, but they cost quite a bit. A 30 minute tour for two person costs around 8000yen (RM270). Shorter and longer courses are also available.
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Sensoji Temple.
The main attraction of this small district would be Sensoji (also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple), Tokyo's most famous and popular Buddhist temple. Built in the 7th century, it makes this temple as one of its oldest, although the current buildings are post-war reconstructions. The legend says that in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, Sensoji was built there for the goddess of Kannon. The temple was completed in 645, making it Tokyo's oldest temple.
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Kaminarimon, the outer gate.
When approaching the temple, visitors first enter through the Kaminarimon, the outer gate of the Sensoji and the first of two large entrance gates leading to Sensoji Temple built more than 1000 years ago. It is a symbol of Asakusa and there is never a time that area is free without people taking pictures there. Kaminarimon literally means "Thunder Gate", and I bet a picture featuring the "Thundercats" posing in front of the gate will fetch hefty cash.
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The shopping street of Nakamise.
Sensoji Temple is approached via the Nakamise, a shopping street line by over 50 shops of over 200 meters that has been providing temple visitors with a variety of traditional local snacks and typical array of Japanese souvenirs such as yukata and folding fans. The shopping street has a history of several centuries. Nakamise, leads the outer gate of Kaminarimon to the temple's second gate, the Hozomon.
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Hozomon, the main gate.
Beyond the Hozomon main gate stands the temple's main building and a five storied pagoda. The Asakusa Shrine, built in the year 1649 by Tokugawa Iemitsu can be found close by the temple's main building.
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Sensoji main building.

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Five storied pagoda within the area of Sensoji Temple.
I entered the interior of the temple to perform some praying rites, along with the other visitors to the temple. Initially, I didn't know that it is a Buddhist temple as I thought it is another Shinto temple, until Joann told me about that. One of those times when I didn't do some slight research on the places I was going to visit.
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The main hall where people offer their prayers.

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Another dragon painting on the ceiling inside the temple.

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A Buddha statue outside the temple.
The weather turned bad when we were leaving Sensoji Temple as it started to drizzle. However, it stopped after a few moments and we thought of walking around Sumida Park which is just a few steps away from the station. This riverside park stretches along both sides of Sumida River for several hundred meters. The timing was perfect when we were there because the cherry blossoms were at their full bloom, although it didn't offer the sight as magnificent as Ueno Park.
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Sakura blooming along Sumida River.
At the same place, there are also services for cruises along Sumida River. Sumida River sightseeing ships operate every 30 to 60 minutes from Asakusa Pier via Hama Rikyu Garden to Hinode Pier, where transfer to a ship to Odaiba is possible. In addition, there are some direct ships from Asakusa to Odaiba. All the cruises are offered at a reasonably price that ranges between 450yen (RM15) to 1,500yen (RM50).
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This is one of the unusual ships with a futuristic design.
Just opposite Sumida River will be the sight of Asahi Beer Tower. The Asahi Beer Tower and Asahi Super Dry Hall with its characteristic Flamme d'Or were, completed in 1989 and host the headquarters of Asahi Breweries with several restaurants can be found in the complex.
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With nothing much left to go, we left Asakusa by mid-day, not before I walked passed this stall selling Paris kebab.
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This bloke looks like he was posing to my camera.