Sunday, 29 December 2013

Gut's Soul

I eat shabu shabu more often, but I think I really like yakinuku better.

Back in the old days I'd go to Gyukaku, but unfortunately a lot of the ones around Tokyo didn't do an "all you can eat" menu, or the cost would be kind of pricey. One of the other teachers once mentioned a place called Gut's Soul in Yoyogi that was incredibly cheap.

I'm a bit wary of yakiniku being too cheap after we went to one in Shinjuku ni-chome that had the worst fattiest pieces of meat you could imagine. Thankfully that little s*thole has closed down.

I'm happy to say that this place was MUCH better. The cheapest all you can eat is 1,280 yen for 90 minutes. Pretty amazing huh? This course didn't include beef so we "sized up" for the 1,580 yen one. Be careful not to over order though as you will be charged extra for the meat you can't eat!

My first impression was that the beef pieces were a little anaemic compared to other places I've tried but it tasted good. You can get salty or sauce flavoured meat. The pork and chicken also tasted real nice.

We went to the Yoyogi one. Make sure not to sit facing the window. The Yamanote line is very close to the window and passes by every few minutes. Seeing it speed past a million times gave me a bad sense of vertigo I didn't need.

It is a chain restaurant so you can also find Gut's Soul in Nakano, Koenji, and Takodanobaba. Yoyogi is easiest if you're in Shinjuku. It's only a stone's throw away.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Two Towers Part I - Going Up The Skytree

When it was being built I was sadly thinking I wasn't going to still be in Tokyo when it would be completed. For a Christmas present, I was gifted a ticket to finally go up and I have to say I was kind of excited!

Unfortunately you can't use a FOREIGN credit card to book a ticket. While I'd love to say this is because Japanese people are inherently racist, it's probably to stop tourists from booking it completely out every day. On this weekday it wasn't too long. It took about 40 minutes to get in. A ticket to the 350m level costs 2,000 yen. To go to the 450m level is an additional 1,000 yen and can only be purchased on the first observation deck.

So how was the view?

Pretty damn spectacular! From this height you are far above the city. While the 450m is nice, I don't think it's really worth the extra cost. The view is not so different. I was surprised to see Shinjuku almost in the dark. You can easily see Mt Fuji in the distance as the sun sets. Amazing!

The closest station to the Skytree is Tokyo Skytree Station or Oshiage station. I got off at Kinshicho station which was the cheapest way, but there's a bit of walk from there. Overall if you come to Tokyo you HAVE to come here.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The 2nd Happiest Place On Earth?

Did you know there are TWO Disneylands in Tokyo? Although it's called collectively Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland and Disney Sea feel like completely different theme parks.

After whetting my appetite with Disneyland I had to try out Disney Sea a short time later.

It's been said that Disney Sea is the "adult" Disneyland. The rides are faster and more appealing to older "kids". To me it actually didn't feel like a Disneyland. The Disney characters are not as overtly in your face, and it looks really picturesque! Also it feels quite a bit larger than Disneyland. From the first walk around I was drained.

To get to the entrance from Maihama station you have to get the Mickey train. It's Disney-fied well with Mickey-shaped windows and grab handles.

As soon as you enter the park it's hard to miss the Tower of Terror. I was nervous about riding it. On arrival we got our first fast pass for Journey To The Center Of The Earth. While waiting we tried out 20 Thousand Leagues Under The Sea as there wasn't a line at all. I quite enjoyed it! The illusion of being underwater was really effective.

From there we went on Aquatopia. Looking at it I thought it would be enjoyable. It features a similar trackless system to Pooh's Hunny Hunt, but riding it felt pretty pointless.

The nearby Stormrider bears a resemblance to Star Tours being another simulation ride, but it was just so-so. Getting wet wasn't really necessary as it didn't make it any more believable to me.

The Indiana Jones ride was maybe too intentionally jerky for my tastes, but it was fairly memorable.

From here I was to face my fears of the Tower of Terror. This ride is pretty cool. The buildup story was excellent. Even without understanding much Japanese the storyline was fantastic giving the looming dread of what awaited us. The ride felt like it actually pulls you down faster than gravity. On the third drop I'm pretty sure I said "Not again", but I kind of regret not going on it one more time before leaving.

One thing that stands out here is Duffy. Do you know it? The Mickey-faced bear that it seemed every Japanese girl had. I got so sick of seeing them that I wanted to throw them on the ground and stomp on their faces. But seeing that I'm not a violent person I relented.

Anywhoo where was I?

Oh yes.. By now it was time for the "Journey" ride. Again, lots of animatronics. Not bad. The fast thrill at the end of ride was unexpected. Nice. Later on in the day we'd ride it again. Unfortunately repeated riding actually made me rate it less. YMMV

At this point I have to mention the big gyoza sausage bun. It's around this area so we gave it a try. For 420 yen it's a little pricey but not bad for a hungry stomach. Speaking of food, I got the curry popcorn again. I saw the mickey popcorn bucket that I couldn't find in Disneyland. Bit overpriced too, but it's cute. Handy for popcorn nights at home I suppose. Later I bought strawberry popcorn. The least favourite to me. Kind of wished I got black pepper instead.

The Arabian Coast was a little boring (but pretty!). We rode the Flying Carpets and Caravan Carousel.

Next fast pass was Raging Spirits. Some people don't like it much. I think it's because it's all over too soon. I didn't mind it and I liked the 360 loop. Fun.

Mermaid Lagoon is what Toontown is to Disneyland. This is where the younger kids rides are. Jumpin' Jellyfish was so short it felt like it finished before it began. The teacups-like Whirlpool would've been better if it didn't hit the groove on the track so hard on the centre of the figure 8 so much.

The longest wait of the day was easily Toy Story Mania. This was the best ride of the day for me. The 3D, the shooting game, the movement. Lots of fun. A close tie would be the Tower of Terror simply for the great storyline.

To end the day we took the Transit Steamer Line back to the Meditteranean Coast, and rode on the last gondolas of the day. Funny that it was my first time on one even though I'd been to Venice.

So which is better, Disneyland or Disney Sea?

Now that I've been to Disneyland I'd have to say Disney Sea. It just has more overall enjoyment (for adults). BUT like I said it doesn't feel like Disneyland. It mostly misses what Disneyland is about - the characters!