Oniko's Travel Diary:
The Three Mountains

(August 5-31, 1998)

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Tuesday August 18th, 1998
As mentioned before, today was planned as a take-it-easy day. I needed to get the rest of my excess stuff mailed off, so after breakfast I took the two boxes I had prepared the night before to the small Ikebukuro post office that I like and sent them off. Then I walked to the JR station and hopped on the subway over to Chuo ward.
My destination was the shopping district known as "Ginza", one of the best places to waste money in Tokyo. We're talking $500 plush dolls and $3000 kimonos here... this is where the rich go to blow dough, and where tourists are shuttled to in the hopes they'll do the same. It's also, however, home to Tokyo's famous Kabuki Theater, and I was headed to said theater to try to buy some gifts.
I arrived in the Ginzaq pretty early in the day -- around nine in the morning -- so not much was open, and it wasn't too crowded... but it would be, soon enough. I initially visited the Ginza shopping district back in 1990, but that was for just a couple of hours; the Ginza is about a ten block stretch with side streets, so I didn't really get a good chance to look around.
The place I came out of the subway at was unfamiliar, but it was definitely in the Ginza -- there's a distinctive look to the whole shopping district. I knew I was going to have to scout around if I was going to locate the Kabuki theater.
But first, breakfast! After looking around and finding that most of the restaurants wouldn't open until eleven, I settled for a meal at the local Lotteria, one of Japan's very own fast food restaurant chains. The Lotteria, like most fast food franchises in Japan, offers a variety of 'meal sets'... for example, set 'A' in this case was a burger, fries, and drink. I only mention this because, for foreigners, this can really simplify making an order. (On a side note... you can't get ketchup with your fries anywhere in Japan that I know of. I don't know why. [UPDATE 9/1999: This year you can get ketchup if you ask at most places now. I'm thinking it's slowly catching on; this year there are a lot more fast food restaurants offering potato food products in general, also.])
After that, I wandered around until I found a koban ("Police Box" -- a miniature police station, common in shopping districts throughout Japan), and next to this was a map of the area. I was about five blocks from the theater, so I started walking, now that I knew which way. The Ginza is an interesting place to visit, but I guess my tastes are too specialized (and cheap)... I really didn't see anything that interested me enough to investigate. So I reached the Kabuki theater in record time.

The Kabuki Theater
in Chuo ward.

Back in 1990, I went to a play here with the class of students I was traveling with; it was fun, but hard to follow from where we were seated... up in the highest seats. Now, looking at the prices, I'm impressed the school I was with spent the money to see the show even from those seats. There are cheaper Kabuki theaters in Japan, but not convenient to Tokyo tourists and not as well known as the Chuo ward theater. Ah, the price of fame (for the customers!).
Luckily for my pocketbook, I wasn't here to see a show. The theater has an extensive gift shop, which was my real goal this trip; I wanted to get some decorative wall hangings for my parents that I knew the gift shop would have. Unfortunately, the whole place looked closed, except for the lady in the front booth selling tickets for the coming week's performances. As I approached her to ask about the gift shop, she got that little panicky look I've gotten used to... the "I don't speak English and I'm afraid you do" look. She automatically handed me an English brochure about the theater and the ticket prices; and then I asked her about the gift shop in Japanese. I wish I had a picture of the look on her face.
The gift shop, like the theater, was closed; and since I'm not going back tomorrow, I pretty much gave up on the wall hangings. Besides, I expect to find some nice presents after I leave Tokyo and hit some less visited areas, so it's no big deal. So I started back, on the opposite side of the street that I had walked down before, looking at a different set of shops; and, lo and behold, ran across a small specialty shop selling nothing but wall hangings! So I was able to get the presents I wanted after all, and I suspect I had more of a selection to choose from than the Kabuki theater's gift shop would have given me.
Having accomplished that, it was time to head back to the hotel and pack up; I'm pulling out tomorrow, so I need to have everything ready to go, and need to get my rest. So I spent the rest of the day just walking around Nishikasai, and taking it easy. Night.

On to August 19th, 1998

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