Cherry blossoms, Shinjuku Gyoen park, and Mount Takao.

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The 2 week period from the end of March to the beginning of April, when the cherry blossoms are blooming, is a very nice time to be in Japan. 🙂 I’ve been on a one week break from my Japanese studies (I passed all my tests and made it to the next level), so together with friends I’ve been going to Shinjuku Gyoen park, and climbing Mount Takao, among other things. If you want to look at cherry blossoms, Shinjuku Gyoen is a very nice park, with lots of nature and nice scenery, and I can recommend it. By comparison I would recommend staying away from Ueno Park, as it’s nowhere near as nice a place, is mostly concrete, is much smaller, and more importantly, when you get there you will most likely be in for a shock as to the sheer amount of people that are there. At its most hectic, it feels like you can barely move around in the main street with the cherry blossoms. :-/

Mount Takao is a mere 1,5 hour train ride from Tokyo (that’s from Shinjuku). It’s only 599 meters tall, and has lots of nice scenery. It’s popular with hikers, but there aren’t too many people or anything. You can see Mount Fuji from the top as well (granted you can see Mount Fuji from a lot of places in Japan. It’s a gigantic mountain, so it can be seen from extremely far away). I highly recommend it. 🙂

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Tokyo’s Vending Machines

One of my favourite fun and convenient aspects of living in Tokyo are the vending machines selling various drinks, which are EVERYWHERE! Seriously, you can walk down the street and see one, two, or sometimes even three of them next to each other, and then you only walk for a little longer, and hey, you find two more, on another street corner. I can’t even imagine the work that goes into refilling them all, or how many people are working on that, because Tokyo is a very big place, with very many people, and those vendig machines are quite popular…

Anyway, what makes these vending machines so great apart from how abundant they are, are that the prices for drinks are generally (for me anyway) very very cheap, and that the selection of drinks is great. The selection of drinks on offer in each vendig machine varies a lot, and if you combine them all, there are very many different types of drinks, most of which I have not tried before of course, which makes finding new vending machines, and trying out new drinks, quite fun. The prices can vary quite a bit too, not just between individual drinks, but between all the vending machines as well, with prices generally being between 100 and 160 yen for each drink. If you’re lucky, you can even find a few rare vending machines that have these special sale prices, clearly advertised on the front of the machine itself, and they can have prices as low as 80 yen for a drink, which is…honestly, that’s almost like giving it away for free, seriously. All of this can make hunting down different vending machines, to try different drinks, and to find the cheapest ones, quite fun, and also very addictive, and you might end up using them a lot. You’ll love your 100-yen coins. I generally buy at least one drink every day, since I walk a lot, and because the HOT drinks are amazing in the morning when it’s cold. 😛 That’s right, there are hot drinks as well, just to make things even better. Hot chocolate, coffee etc. The hot drinks are all marked in red on the vending machines, so you will know.

The red vending machine in the first picture is right below the staircase up to my apartment, right next to the garbage disposal bins of the building I live in. I kid you not. I don’t really use it though. It’s mostly just coffee and water. The black one is an example of a different, normal vending machine with a much better selection, and more variety. Then there’s the special pink one that I found, which has drinks as cheap as 80 yen, and with the rest (except two types, which are 120 yen each) all being just 100 yen. I wish that one was closer to where I usually walk…

Anyway, the point is, the vending machines in Tokyo? Totally awesome! 😀

-Roku

Square Enix Office Building

So, while I was walking towards school in Tokyo, I happened to stumble upon the Square Enix office building. I didn’t even know it was in the area, so that was an interesting surprise. It’s in Shinjuku, in case anyone’s wondering. It’s a HUGE building, and it has an architectural design that is quite recognizable, so it’s kind of hard to miss. Then you spot the sign and the logo on the building of course, and you’ll know for sure.

Overcoming a few initial difficulties

Phew! I’m finally able to go online. I encountered some initial problems (all taken care of now) over the weekend after arriving at my place in Japan, so I haven’t been able to post anything until now. First, I realized that the adapter I had bought for my various electrical power plugs back home in Norway, which was supposed to allow me to use those electrical plugs in Japan, didn’t actually fit for my laptop computer’s electrical plug, the most important one. So I couldn’t charge my laptop until I found and bought the right adapter, which left me with only around 4 hours of battery life on my computer in the meantime. Then, to make matters worse, I suddenly had some trouble with my cellphone data no longer working,  which meant I couldn’t use Google Maps to find an appropriate electrical store where I could buy an adapter (and I couldn’t use it to find my school and various other things either…), and since it was the weekend, and since there is an 8 hour time difference between Norway and Japan, I wasn’t able to call my cellphone company until late Monday afternoon…

I eventually got my cellphone data back though, and I was able to find both my school, a good electronics store that had the adapters I needed, and the ward office in my district where I needed to go to take care of some things that foreigners staying in Japan long-term need to do within 14 days of finding a place to stay in the country (in case I wasn’t clear enough about it before: Japan is VERY strict both about letting foreigners in, and about letting them stay there. The various procedures seem to go on and on…I think I’m finally all done now though, at least for a year…). My bad luck didn’t end there though: Just when I finally found the ward office, after having walked around for god knows how long (I didn’t get my cellphone data back until several hours after I started searching for everything), I arrived only to find out that it was closed, because apparently it was a public holiday (I had no idea, and if you don’t know beforehand, then it’s hard to notice, since most shops in Japan seem to be open for a long time anyway, even on holidays, apparently)…Coming of Age Day as it’s called, where families, schools, and others celebrate the young people who have turned, or will turn, 20 between April 2 of the previous year, and April 1 of the current year, which is when they are finally officially considered adults in Japan (and can legally drink, among other things. :P). There are various local celebrations, and pictures being taken etc.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coming_of_Age_Day

So I will have to visit the ward office early tomorrow morning before going to school, and hope that they can take care of things fast, since I’m supposed to have certain documents from them with me when I show up for the first day at school. If not…well, hopefully the school will be understanding if I need a day extra. It’s not all bad though, the Coming of Age Day meant I got to see lots of pretty girls in really beautiful winter kimonos, which have these nice scarves that summer kimonos and yukatas don’t have. 🙂 The boys just wear boring, regular uniforms. 😛

Anyway, that’s what’s been up. I’ll probably be writing two more, much smaller posts over the next few days, one about something I found, and one about something about Tokyo that I like. Oh, and this is, for the most part, what my room looks like (before I moved in that is)!: http://www.mmtl.jp/english/detail.asp?id=10044 I’m in the 1DK type2 type. The bathroom is really cramped, and the bed is bad on my back (probably gonna have to get a new, better mattress at some point), but otherwise the place is fine. I have it all to myself, so I’m not complaining.

That’s it for now. Cheers. 🙂

-Roku