Japanese Freshwater Minnow (Zacco Platypus)

Japanese Zacco platypus
Zacco platypus at the Sunshine 60 Aquarium

I saw this photo of a rather exotic-looking fish in my desktop slideshow, taken at the local freshwater display at the Sunshine 60 Aquarium during our visit in September 2012. There is a metallic sheen to the fish and the iridescent flames on its side adds to its beauty. Further research online reveals that this is a Zacco platypus, a type of Cyprinid. I thought it looked like some sort of freshwater shark.

Here is another link that was helpful with identifying the fish.

Ikebukuro from Sunshine 60

Ikebukuro from the Sunshine 60 Observatory
September 23, 2012 – Ikebukuro

Guess my desktop slideshow is biased towards Tokyo 2012 right now, as another interesting photo from that trip has come up. This one is of Ikebukuro, as viewed from the Sunshine 60 Observatory at night. From 700-plus feet, the cars and buildings look like something out of SimCity.

Finishing Up Tokyo

It’s been over a month since we left Tokyo. Between then and now, we’ve been to Hong Kong, London, Paris, Aberdeen (Scotland), and now New York City. I must admit to suffering from a little travel fatigue. Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, however, I finally have some time to rest and catch up and post about our circumnavigation of Earth. This should be the last post on Tokyo, a summary of the other things that we did that I haven’t posted yet. Here goes…

Our Hotel, the Subway, Tokyo Game Show

Our hotel was located in an area called Shiodome, which is more of a “downtown” in terms of business rather than tourism. Again, japan-guide.com has an excellent overview of the place, so I won’t reinvent the wheel. Still, our hotel was pretty close to Shimbashi station, one of the major train stations in Tokyo.

Whoaaaa
Our hotel was wayyyyyyy up near the top of this building.
Tokyo Tower
View of the Tokyo Tower from the hotel lobby.

Tokyo’s subway has a reputation for being one of the cleanest and most efficient subway systems in the world. Having now traveled on various subways from California to London, I can say that this reputation is well-deserved. The seats are comfortable and the cars are clean. There are no signs telling people not to eat on trains, and people do, and they clean up after themselves (not that they make a huge mess to begin with). There is no graffiti or other defacing of public property.

Do Not Rush
Do not rush, mofo.

Having such a clean subway to ride on was a delight and much appreciated during the relatively long trip to Makuhari Messe, the site of the Tokyo Game Show. As I mentioned before, I’ve read about the TGS for years and it was unbelievable to actually participate in it. Unfortunately, most events and activities were in Japanese only and I was not able to immerse myself as much as I would have liked. It was still fun, though, and we scored a number of promotional items, including a Sega tote bag!

Entering TGS 2012
Wow, can’t believe I’m here!
Super Crowded
A sea of people.

Ferry to Odaiba

Odaiba is a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. On this day we took the ferry from Asakusa to Odaiba, sailing along the Sumida River and passing under many, many bridges. We even passed by the famous Tsukiji Fish Market. Of course, the most famous bridge we passed under was the Rainbow Bridge.

Ferry to Odaiba
The ferry to Odaiba.
Tsukiji
Passing by the famous Tsukiji Fish Market.
Rainbow Bridge
Within sight of the Rainbow Bridge.

Odaiba at Night

We spent the entire afternoon and early evening on the island. After dinner, we stopped by a retro arcade and played games like Sega’s Outrun. There were also table-top versions of Namco classics like Pac-man and Galaga. When we went back outside, the stunning night view of the Rainbow Bridge greeted us.

The Rainbow Bridge at Night
The Rainbow Bridge at night.
The Rainbow Bridge at Night
A closer look.

It was getting late so we made our way back to the hotel, but we wanted to come back to ride the ferris wheel, which we did a few days later.

On the Rainbow Bridge
On the Rainbow Bridge this time, riding the Yurikamome line.
Daikanransha Ferris Wheel
One of the biggest ferris wheels in the world.
Viewed from Below
Viewed from below.

Goodbye

I have always wanted to go to Japan, especially Tokyo. I finally got my wish, and it was everything I had hoped for. We didn’t see everything on the list, but that just leaves something to do for next time. Until then, I shall cherish these memories and photos. Sayonara!

Goodbye!
Until next time!

I Love Sega

Ever since my father bought me my first video game system, the Sega Master System, I have been a fan of Sega. While still a child living in Hong Kong, I would write letters to Sega of America telling them how much I loved them, and they would actually respond and send me the latest catalog.

Once I moved to the United States, my PAL SMS wouldn’t work, so I traded it in (yes, the guy at the electronics store actually wanted my PAL system) for an NTSC model. I continued to contact the company. I would call 1-800-USA-SEGA and request Helpful Hints sheets (basically what the reps read off of when gamers called in for game help), and a few days later I would get them in the mail. I still have them all, and perhaps will scan and post them someday.

Then, Sega Genesis came out, and of course I had to have it. Later, it was the Sega CD. Those days of the early 1990s definitely have a soft spot in my heart.

Today, Sega no longer makes consoles, but I am still a fan. I get excited when I see the Sega logo, still the same as the one on my very first video game system. Imagine how excited I was when I saw my first Sega amusement center in Akihabara. It seems Sega today makes a lot of amusement machines, just as they always have, but in a different form. They are less video game, and more skill-game such as those cranes that pick up stuffed animals or other prizes. I was perfectly happy pumping 100-yen coins into those machines.

Later on in Tokyo, we went to the Tokyo Game Show. Of course, Sega had one of the largest booths, showing off their latest games such as Yakuza 5. If only I spoke Japanese!

Sega at Tokyo Game Show

I should find my old catalogs (found some) and post them here, especially the one I received when I still lived in Hong Kong. For now, enjoy these photos of Sega centers in Tokyo. Long live Sega!

Eating in Tokyo

Eating in Tokyo was a delight. Japanese cuisine, as well as Japanese interpretations of foreign cuisine, really appeals to me. It’s about the presentation, the meticulousness and formality of it. There is also the variety, even within a single meal. Eating a bento is an adventure. Which part do I eat first? Or perhaps I should eat it out of order? The possibilities are endless.

Favorite Japanese TV Commercials

After scrounging around I was able to find YouTube versions of my favorite Japanese commercials, all viewed while we were in Tokyo. I wouldn’t say nonstop bombardment, but these commercials came on pretty often. As with all advertisements, they have catchy tunes and interesting concepts, and watching them brings me back to our little hotel room in Tokyo. Good times!

First, Takuya Kimura (木村拓哉) and the Autumn Jumbo lottery:

Next, Suzuki LED Eyes:

Kirin Beer:

I love the part when he gulps the beer and lets out a sigh of pleasure. Talk about enjoying life!

And finally, a really weird one, Meiji Galbo Twist:

Sunshine 60 Observatory, Final Thoughts on Ikebukuro

…continued from Sunshine Aquarium.

After a long day of viewing cats, fish, and pelicans, what better way is there to unwind than with a nice dinner and then a leisurely stroll on the 60th floor viewing 360 degrees of Tokyo? As the elevator from the basement shot upwards (and it really did shoot, going as fast as 400 meters per minute), the lights dimmed and the once-white walls and ceiling became dark. A black light turned on and the walls came alive with depictions of the zodiac signs and a sky full of stars. What an experience!

View from Above
From up here, we could see all the places we went to that day.

The night view was splendid, but of course we would have liked to have seen the daytime view as well. During the daytime, there is an additional open-air deck above the 60th floor that is open to the public. Since it was raining that day, it wouldn’t have done us much good to go out there anyway, so like the trains Blu-ray, it will have to wait until next time. For now, the brochure will have to suffice.

Sunshine City Observatory Brochure (Outside)
Sunshine City Observatory Brochure (Outside)
Sunshine City Observatory Brochure (Inside)
Sunshine City Observatory Brochure (Inside)

After we went back down, the mall was pretty deserted, and we realized that it was closing. We decided to go to one more place that was nearby, a Honda car dealership to see if they had any Honda Accords on display (the Honda Accord in Japan is equivalent to the Acura TSX in the United States). Unfortunately, no Accords were to be seen anywhere, but I was happy that I at least visited a Honda dealership and tried to view my beloved (ex) car. We took the M line back to the hotel and I snuck in a couple of photos of the empty train:

Empty Seats, End of the Line

Empty Car

Finally, I must have had too exciting of a day, because I could not fall asleep that night. I stayed up until 6:00 AM and used the opportunity to snap some photos of the dawn as viewed from our hotel room. I should have gone to the Tsukiji fish market, but again, that can happen next time.

Dawn Breaks
The beginning of the dawn.
Almost There
Almost there.
A New Day Has Arrived
End of a good day, beginning of a new one.

Sunshine Aquarium

…continued from Cat’s House Nekobukuro.

Continuing on our nature theme, we next went to the Sunshine Aquarium on the roof (10th floor) of the City World Import Mart Building in the Sunshine City complex. I don’t remember if I saw a sign that said this was the highest aquarium in the world, but it was most certainly the highest one I’ve ever been to.

Most of the aquariums I’ve been to have the standard “Nemo” fare to please the kids, and then a few highlights of local species; this one was no different. Highlights in my book were the freshwater habitat (gee, I wonder why?) and the giant pelicans. We were there near closing time so it was already dark on the rooftop, and the pelicans just stood there, completely still. When I first saw them, I freaked out because they were so big and so still, like statues. It’s what I would imagine dinosaurs looked like millions of years ago. Unfortunately, I was already so tired from walking around that I didn’t feel like taking my camera back out of my backpack, so the only photo is the blurry one seen in the gallery below.

After spending a couple of hours at the aquarium, we went back downstairs for dinner, and then went up to the observatory on the 60th floor of the Sunshine 60 building.

Next: Observatory

Cat’s House Nekobukuro

…continued from Ikebukuro.

Next up in Ikebukuro was Cat’s House Nekobukuro. What in Sam Hill is that, you might ask? Well, it’s essentially a cat petting zoo and pet store atop the Tokyu Hands department store. JC and I both like cats, so coming here was a refreshing change from the typical tourist attraction. You pay 1,000 yen for a couple and you can spend as long as you want inside. There are scratching posts everywhere and little tunnels, nooks, and crannies for the kitties to crawl through. Staff members help to coax out the shyer cats, and will even get the cats to pose for pictures. Meow!

Next: Sunshine Aquarium