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Live From March 22, 2018 Diamond - 22 Days SYD to Tokyo

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April 14, 2018 – At the Hilton Odaiba

 

Yesterday’s disembarkation went so well I thought it was too good to be true. (My Iphone is currently dead, so maybe it was…) We were in one of the first few groups off, prior to 0800. Barbara & Peter, Judy & I are all staying at the Hilton, so we agreed to share a cab, hopefully a large one, or the backup plan was a small taxi each. It was a breeze going out, no issues, lots of carts, lots of guides pointing you in the right direction. The terminal is rather small, but before you know it, you are outside at the taxi stand. Two lines, one for vans, one for small taxis. A Toyota Alphard was waiting for us. The driver folded down one seat and it was enough room for the 4 of us, Judy in the front, and 4 carry ons and 4 checked pieces.

 

We left the lounge at 0755 and arrived at the Hilton at 0900. The taxi fare, around 12,200 yen or 6100 each, was an absolute bargain for such a quick transfer.

 

The Hilton Odaiba is absolutely gorgeous. And as Diamond we get access to the lounge. No upgrades were available, but the king room is fantastic. More US sized than European. Lots of room to spread out. And the air conditioning works! Plenty of restaurants at the hotel and in the area and the food in the lounge is fantastic. The service, of course, is exemplary and polite, but friendly. I really love international Hiltons.

 

The local area has lots of shopping, the Statue of Liberty, a waterside park and the launch ramp for the DUKW tours of the bay, the Gundham Lightning full scale model, a really futuristic building next door. There are a ton of restaurants in the area. Hawaiian burgers anyone? Mexican-Japanese fusion? Or just plain old Yakatori? The walking paths and overpasses are really well done. No need to dodge traffic and escalators abound for the longer uphill climbs. The light rail station is right there outside the Hilton as well, so downtown Tokyo is only 20 minutes away. A very nice area.

 

Today we have a guided tour of Tokyo. Learn all we can today as Judy and I are on our own for the next few days in the area. Time to try out those Japanese phrases I’ve been butchering lately!

 

Later!

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April 15, 2018 – Touring Tokyo From the Hilton Odaiba

 

I know that technically we are no longer on the Diamond, but I had a couple of requests to continue logs of our travels beyond the ship, so here we are.

 

This morning dawned grey and stormy with blowing winds and rains, so it was a good day to take a break in extreme touring, which is what we did yesterday. Kahoke was a really good tour guide and I learned a lot about Tokyo, the transportation systems, the customs and the area. We did the Fish Market, then the Ginza, then the Akasuka area, back down to the Shibuya area. 8 hours on a Saturday in Tokyo that put about 7 miles on our shoes.

 

First off the Tokyo subway system is a complicated map and maze of lines and stations, but once you get on it and see how it works, it’s not that bad – and trust me, I was worried as all get out about it.

 

One tip, change lines at stations with only 2 lines. It makes it much easier to find the other tracks than major stations that have 4 or more lines joining. Changing at G19/A18 (two lines) is much easier than changing at E09/G15/H16 with three lines. For example, the Hilton is on the Yurikamome line, the light rail, and connects to the Oedo Line at the E19 station. Much simpler than connecting at Shimbashi with both the Ginza and Asakusa lines intersecting at the same point.

 

Second tip, minimize the number of switches by getting on one line that takes you most of the way, even if you have to backtrack a little bit. From Akasuka to the Rippongi area, we took the Ginza line all the way from G19 to G02, added a little walking, rather than the Akasuka line from Akasuka to Ayoma-Itchrome and switching to the Ginza line.

 

Third tip, the lines are for the most part linear with two tracks per line – one going up the line, one going down the line. They are not loops. So a train that goes from G01 to G19 just switches tracks at the end and goes backwards down the same line on the opposite track. And the stations are sequentially numbered with a single letter from beginning to end. G01 to G19 is on the Ginza line from Shibuya to Asakusa.

 

We got a PASMO card and got on the light rail in front of the Hilton – the card machine was in English and easy to understand. Easy access. Tap on at the entry gate, tap off at the exit gate. Your remaining balance is shown in the screen. There are no daily caps. Yesterday’s trips cost about 900 yen total each. We each have about 500+ yen remaining from the initial 1500, after the 500 yen deposit of the PASMO card.

 

Switching at simple stations helped. The LCDs screens in the cars tell you what the next station is and what lines are accessible from that station. Once off the train, it might take a while and a little googling to know what exit to use, but for the most part, the smaller stations limit the number of exits so it is less confusing to the first time user. The trains are bright, clean, modern, but with typical limited seating. Avoid the morning rush. They do pack them in. Take off your backpack. Prepare to be up close and personal. Exit quickly and quite frankly, don’t be overly polite – just insistently push your way off, squeezing out where you have to. The afternoon rush is a bit more spread out in time, but waiting until after 0900 will avoid the morning crush.

 

So about Tokyo on a Saturday. First the fish market.

 

We went into the bowels of the fish market, the producer’s area and were not greeted with open arms. And I understand completely. We are not buyers, we are intruders into an area that is busy and dangerous and we are simply in the way of progress. While you do see some interesting stuff, the majority of what you see is empty Styrofoam fish boxes piled everywhere as you dodge getting run over by those lift trucks, delivery trucks and delivery cycles going every which way. Quite frankly, I recommend skipping this area and going into the wholesale and retail areas early so as to avoid the crowds. In these areas you are welcomed and photographs are also encouraged. Vendors will demonstrate butchering large fish to large crowds in the aisles.

 

And let me say that crowds will dominate your entire day. It is crowded, very crowded and there is little respite anywhere. On this trip we have walked the streets of Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Saigon, Nha Trang, Kota Kinabalu, Auckland, Osaka, Nara and Shimizu. None of them hold a candle to the crowds of Tokyo. The shuffle step will be your friend. You will bump into people – all the time – and they will bump into you – all the time. There will be lines everywhere. Lines into elevators, lines on escalators, lines into restaurants, lines into bathrooms and the ubiquitous line to take a personal or group photo of an interesting sight, or statue or building or wedding party!

 

And just when you find a quiet street or alley, you turn a corner and there looks to be a human wave headed your way. Judy used me as a blocking back, holding on to the straps of my backpack and following in my wake. Center, right, left, it made no difference.

 

In the Ginza, they close the roads to traffic and make one of the major streets a walking mall. It took only a few blocks to fill the streets from sidewalk to sidewalk.

 

People watchers, like myself, quickly go into overload in Tokyo. Even with more people, it is nothing like the semi-organized chaos of Saigon – even the crowds in the Saigon market were a piece of cake compared to this. It is more like Rigidly Organized Chaos of the Structured Order. Is that even a description? I am at a loss for words.

 

Now that’s the bad news.

 

The good news is the variety of sights, sounds, architectures, styles, colors, and smells of a city and a vibe that is simply indescribable. Retail shops of all shapes, sizes and contents. Multi-story shopping malls with a maze of shops and food courts. Food outlets of all types – with the amazing plastic food displays outside – advertising their specials in bright signage or the ancient tradition of barking, as in carnival barker, to attract customers.

 

And yet amongst that chaos are little islands of tourist nirvana. The restaurant with the 9 course Japanese tasting meal with Asahi beer, on tap of course. The knife shop with the exquisite folded Damascus steel blade, acid etched, beautiful in every detail and a price tag to match, with a blade smith stroping a knife on a stone, carefully, almost caressingly, to hone the edge to razor sharpness. The bakers shop with the tantalizing odors of cinnamon and baking bread, the dressed statues of buddha, the little golden buddha statue that was found in a fisherman’s net. The pond of koi, of all shapes, sizes and colors – including the golden koi. The fan shop of intricately hand painted paper dance fans and silk hand fans. The Saki shop next to the wine shop next to the whiskey shop next to the little bar with 6 seats. Welcoming curtains outside when a shop is open, inside when the shop is closed.

 

And then there is the consummate politeness of the Japanese people in the shops, the bars, the taxis, the restaurants. Its almost as if they are over compensating for the inherent impoliteness forced upon them by the crowds. (Quite frankly if you apologized and bowed to everyone you touched in a crowd, you would never get anywhere.) Its quite extraordinary. This will take a while to process.

 

Until then – later all!

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April 17, 2018 – Touring Tokyo From the Hilton Odaiba

 

Sunday was an off day with Judy and her cruise cold. Probably caught it from me, but with sleeping all day Sunday, it was windy and rainy anyway, she was ready to go on Monday. We had planned to do Shubuyia, then the palace. The nice thing about the Metro system is the ability to go almost anywhere and do almost anything at the drop of a hat.

 

The bad news is two fold. First, the Tokyo ‘official’ metro map only lists those trains in the Tokyo Metro system, not the JR system, so the Yamanote line is not shown. Secondly, it matters a lot where you exit a station and Google, with a slow 2G connection, can get confused very easily after existing underground.

 

We caught the light rail to the Ginza line, then experienced the sardine can effect of the ‘pushers’ in Japan. They stacked more people than I thought possible in these trains. We aborted the first train and then got first in line for the next train. The crush was only on for the first 3 stops, then it eased out as we went from Shimbashi to Shibuya. Then I missed an exit and headed the wrong way coming out of Shibuya. Getting to the famous intersection, then the Mega Don Quixote turned into a 45 minute stroll up hills, down hills, through malls, etc. as Google finally figured out where I was and I took the time to let it settle in a parking lot with a clear sky view. We ended up going through an area famous for its 2 hour hotel rooms. A lot of business people stay in those to freshen up rather than go home for the evening after working very late.

 

Once I got turned in the right direction, we found what we were looking for – multi-flavored kit-kats, and after checking out the famous Shibuya intersection, we retraced our steps back to the Ginza line, to Shimbashi then up to the Yurikamome Light Rail and back to the hotel. We had intended to go back to central Tokyo to see the East gardens, but found that they are closed on Mondays, so we switched gears and headed for the Anime center in Akihabara. Once again the exit screwed up google a bit, but this time I waited for the map to settle AND looked for a good reference point – in this case a 7-Eleven. This told me the direction of the streets and which way I needed to go. On the way back, we had to cross the street and enter the Ginza station from a different entrance to catch the train back to Shimbashi. All of these trips were on uncrowded trains with none of the crush like the morning commute.

 

The Akihabara area is interesting. Anime central and home to several of the French maid cafes. Several girls dressed in maid outfits were on the street hawking their café. We did not try one, but there are several on You-Tube. Every kind of anime figurine, manga, video game, dvd or collectible is available in this area. Dragonball to Dragonball Super is the current rage, as is Hello Kitty. The area was not very crowded and we were able to saunter a bit, window shopping and going into several stores.

 

All in all, an excellent day in Tokyo. Today we do gardens, starting with the East Gardens of the Palace.

 

Later..

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April 17, 2018 – Last Day In Tokyo

 

Today marked the end of our journey from Australia through New Zealand, Southeast Asia and Japan. It was everything we wanted in a destination cruise. New sights, sounds, smells, food, people, cultures, new friends. Tomorrow we catch a plane and get ourselves home to deal with real life again.

 

Today we finished what we started out to do yesterday. We made it to the palace, and this time I allowed Google time to settle and carefully read the signage in the stations as we transitioned through two different changes in trains ending up at the Omote Gate into the Eastern Palace Gardens. Beautiful, serene, spectacular in amongst the hubbub of Tokyo. Like a quiet Central Park in New York on an early spring morning. They limit the number of people into the gardens at any one time via a simple ticket system, so the experience is one of enjoying the garden, not fighting the crowds. We could easily of spent the entire day there, photographing the massive walls and gates, the plants, the koi. A contrast not dissimilar to the one we experienced in Hong Kong at the Chinese garden in amongst the skyscrapers of Hong Kong.

 

We easily retraced our steps to the hotel via the three lines – racking up another 7 mile shoe leather day. We arrived in time to try lunch at Sakura, a Japanese restaurant in the Hilton. Although expensive, this was a spectacular meal. Absolutely befitting our final full day in Japan. Sakura has a Teppanaki section, a Sushi section, a Tempura section and a general dining area. Each looks out at a different view. We did the Tempura bar. WOW! Not only did we have a spectacular view of the bay and the rainbow bridge thru an almost perfectly clean huge glass picture window, we had, basically, our own personal tempura chef. Each course he prepared in front of us and upon presentation, told us the best way to eat it. Dipped in salt, lemon or tempura sauce with radish, or some combination of lemon and salt. Each served right from the tempura oil in front of us. Fresh as can be, perfectly cooked, perfectly presented as a work of art in front of us. We had prawn legs, the prawn bodies, shrimp, ****ake mushrooms, sweet potato, onion, squid, Shishido peppers, this was WOW food of the highest order. Subtle Japanese flavors featuring the ingredient, not the cooking method or spices added.

 

The service was exemplary, top notch, with everything in its place and everything having a place to be. Love the precision, the delicacy, the attention to detail. This was not just dining, this was an experience not to be missed.

 

Yes, it was expensive, but well worth every penny for the experience. This is a must do for anyone staying close to the Hilton Odaiba.

 

As I told the staff as we left – Oyshikata.

 

So that’s it for this trip. Until next time. Thanks for riding along. I will be doing a complete illustrated review in the next few weeks which I will post on-line somewhere. If you have any questions, just yell. I will try and answer them.

 

Bye, Bye….

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Great review.

We did Perth to Tokyo last year and then 9 land days in Japan.

Loved every day in Japan. Fascinating country

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Thanks Charles for another great "Live"

 

You're always a good read !!

Srpilo

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Thanks Charles for another great "Live"

 

You're always a good read !!

Srpilo

 

Thanks!

 

Although the CC automatic editor taking the you know what out of ****take mushrooms just made my morning!

 

Charles

 

PS - Just wait until the 60 day Coral in September. That is going to be one extensive Live From...

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Looking forward to it. Hope they don't serve any ****ake mushrooms in the MDR :cool:

Edit...I just had to try! LOL

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Thanks!

 

Although the CC automatic editor taking the you know what out of ****take mushrooms just made my morning!

 

Charles

 

PS - Just wait until the 60 day Coral in September. That is going to be one extensive Live From...

 

This might work: shi.take

 

Had to do that on a MasterChef forum once. Another word that I had to use the dot in was cu.min. Both words are fairly commonly used in competition cooking.

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This might work: shi.take

 

Had to do that on a MasterChef forum once. Another word that I had to use the dot in was cu.min. Both words are fairly commonly used in competition cooking.

I don't wish to detract from a wonderful cruise blog but I know you were on this cruise along with Charles. Please tell me about the dress on formal night.

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I don't wish to detract from a wonderful cruise blog but I know you were on this cruise along with Charles. Please tell me about the dress on formal night.

 

No Problem.

 

From my perspective, formal night wear was a little more formal than a Caribbean or Hawaii cruise and it ranged from 'dressed to the nines' to t-shirts and shorts. A lot more tuxes and dresses from my perspective - with a few more kilts thrown in that are more common on British Isle cruises.

 

It also changed from the 8 day Taz cruise - less formal than the 12 day New Zealand cruise. The 22 day was much more formal than the prior two.

 

Just an FYI - our formalest formal wear was slacks, long sleeve shirt and tie for me, dress and a shrug for Judy. Just not enough room to pack a dinner jacket or a variety of formal wear and I hate tuxes!

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No Problem.

 

From my perspective, formal night wear was a little more formal than a Caribbean or Hawaii cruise and it ranged from 'dressed to the nines' to t-shirts and shorts. A lot more tuxes and dresses from my perspective - with a few more kilts thrown in that are more common on British Isle cruises.

 

It also changed from the 8 day Taz cruise - less formal than the 12 day New Zealand cruise. The 22 day was much more formal than the prior two.

 

Just an FYI - our formalest formal wear was slacks, long sleeve shirt and tie for me, dress and a shrug for Judy. Just not enough room to pack a dinner jacket or a variety of formal wear and I hate tuxes!

I know this'll sound difficult or ignorant but what is a shrug?

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I know this'll sound difficult or ignorant but what is a shrug?

 

I thought it was just a shawl over a dress, but my wife informed me of my ignorance and told me it was a "shrug".

 

In fact, the dresses and shrug she took were from Magellan:

 

https://www.magellans.com/itemdy00.aspx?ID=&T1=MD7434+BK+S&cid=364

 

She really liked them and they packed amazingly easily...

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I don't wish to detract from a wonderful cruise blog but I know you were on this cruise along with Charles. Please tell me about the dress on formal night.

 

Sorry for the delay in replying, wishfulone. I must have missed your post.

 

Formal night dress ranged from dressy separates up to tuxes and gowns. The majority of people made an effort to dress really nicely on formal nights. Most men tended to wear long sleeved shirts, either with a jacket and/or a tie, or a suit. There were a few tuxes (including DH). Quite a few women wore smart trousers or skirts with sparkly tops, cocktail dresses were popular, and there were some long dresses.

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I know this'll sound difficult or ignorant but what is a shrug?

 

I think of a shrug as a very short cardigan, just covering the upper part of the torso, and often just over the shoulders.

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I think of a shrug as a very short cardigan, just covering the upper part of the torso, and often just over the shoulders.

Oh thanks OzKiwi. I know what you mean. I thought they were just flimsy cardis. Pretty though especially if you're skinny.

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