April 27, 2013

Tokyo, Japan 2013 (Day 2)

Happy Easter! Jesus is risen, Hallelujah!

We attended the Easter Mass at one of the few Catholic churches in Tokyo that celebrate the Eucharist in English.  The Franciscan Chapel Center is located south of our hostel, in the Roponggi area. Travel time by subway took about 20mins, which is a pretty long commute for a (relatively) traffic-free city.

Attending the Mass outside the Philippines, especially in services catered for foreigners like me, somehow makes me appreciate my faith a little bit more.  People who attend these services are people who are a bit more serious about their faith, as they really make the effort to go to Church despite being in a foreign land.  For this particular Mass, I was particularly happy and proud to see that the most active parishioners are Filipinos.  I noticed that the choir and a couple of readers were kabayans.  Nice to know that we are keeping the faith and sharing it to the world.

A melting pot of people from other nations, sharing one faith in one God.

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Franciscan Chapel Center
4-2-37 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032 JAPAN 
Phone: (03)3401-2141      Fax: (03)3401-2142

City Life

The Mass that we attended was the 8AM Mass, so by the time we left the church, Tokyo was already starting to get busy.  Here are some of my observations, which I think could help the average tourist explore the city without getting in the way of the locals' day-to-day activities:
  • Keep left! Tokyo is right-side driving, ergo reverse-side in our point of view.  This means, when crossing the road, look to your left first, then right.  Also, when walking down the sidewalk, or idling on the escalators, keep to your left.  It is VERY appreciated that you always leave space for people who are in a hurry to go wherever they are going.
  • When in a fast food joint, eat FAST. Space is very important Tokyo, such that most fast food places are arranged in such a way that tables are counter bars in front of the cashier.  The usual routine is order first, eat second, pay last.  Some other fast food places don't even have cashiers at all; instead, you choose your food from a vending machine that produces food stubs, and you take them to the server to receive your food.  Regardless of payment mode, fast food joints are designed for locals on the go, and lines grow fast during the busy hours.  So, as courtesy to the hungry person behind you, eat fast.
  • When eating in a restaurant, a la carte isn't usually honored. We made a couple of mistakes ordering at cafes, where our initial intention was to order their cake and just service water.  Turns out, we can only order the cake IF we order a beverage to go with it.  And, no, it isn't a combo meal, you have to buy it separately.  Either coffee only, or coffee and cake.  But not cake only.  But it's not just cafes, as I was also declined when ordering just a plate of o-toro sashimi, as I need to order one of their set sushi first BEFORE ordering the sashimi.  I don't understand why, pero ganun eh.
  • When queuing for a line in the public restroom, do it by the entrance, NOT in front of the door. We also do it here, in some of the malls.  The only difference is, there are no signs/dividers in Tokyo, so you wouldn't know the marker on where to start queuing.  Also, some public restrooms only have squat toilets, so you kinda have to learn how to pee sans toilet bowl.
  • Plan your travel first, especially if you need to take the trains. Yes, there are a lot of transfer/connections between the subway/train lines, but you should always search for the best possible route.  http://www.hyperdia.com/en/ is a good site to plan your route, and they got apps for smartphones, too.


After the Mass, it's time to spend the day searching for... what else?  Cherry Blossoms, of course!  Here's to give a few details (and pictures) of the sakura sites that we were able to visit:

Ueno Park (again)

Admission Fee: Free, but there are other surrounding places that charge for entrance fees.

This time we took a little more time strolling down the cherry tree lined paths and pond sides.  Green leaves are starting to sprout on the trees, and some trees are starting to lose the petals due to the wind and rain.  Still, the trees are a sight to behold.

Shinjuku Gyoen 

Admission Fee: 200 JPY, closes at 4:30PM (accepts visitors until 4:00PM)

Shinjuku Gyoen (trans. Shinjuku Garden) is situated on the southeast of Ueno Park, and is accessible from the JR Yamanote Line (Note: The Yamanote Line is one of the most convenient train lines of Tokyo, as they have stops in most of the major tourist spots like Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya, Ueno, etc).  At this park we saw a lot of cherry blossoms still in full bloom, as there are varieties that bloom much later than the ones in Ueno Park.


Admission Fee: 800 JPY for 30mins worth of boat ride

From what I read, the area was once the place of the Imperial Palace, during the Edo Period.  There is a surrounding moat, that is now being used for tourists to have scenic boat rides inside the city.  The boat ride itself is pretty much DIY, as you will have to purchase your stub at a vending machine, and that there is no accompanying staff to row the boat for you.

Still, the views of the cherry blossoms by the water are spectacular.  As you would expect from cherry blossoms.


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