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ISLAND LIFE Posted on: Sunday, August 3, 2003
About Tokyo's entertainment scene is a
Men/Women
Taste/Recipes
Faith calendar family affair
Travel
Comics
Tube Notes • Look at bentos for cheap eats
TGIF calendar • Get good deals on diapers, formula
E¾Postcards
By Peter Erikson
ARCHIVE Advertiser Staff Writer
Today's headlines
Back issues TOKYO, Japan — Including the

FEATURED NEWS giant crows that dive(bomb
Nation/World news pedestrians, I've got a special
Movie showtimes Watch for Top
Special projects affinity for all things Japanese . It's
Jobs coming to
Obituaries the birthplace of my wife, dual
Weather this space soon.
Beach conditions homeland for my two children Harajuku Station in Tokyo
helps connect Japan
Columnists and a place where bentos beat
through a train system
Photo galleries burgers . that's quick and fun to
Video ride.
Blogs We visited Tokyo and its environs
Photos by Peter Erikson •
CUSTOMER for 2 1/2 weeks in May . My wife's
The Honolulu Advertiser
SERVICE father got to meet his grandson,
Help page
Contact us and I returned to the country I
Subscriber services lived and worked in for almost
Reader services four years .
Advertising services
About us
Site map Not much has changed . Tokyo
Corrections remains an easy place to get
Today's front page around, even if you've got small Shinobazu no Ike is a
renowned pond at Ueno
RESOURCES children . Buses, trains and Zoo filled with lotus
Discussion board subways run on time, and people blossoms and migratory
Traffic hotspots birds perched on stumps.
HTYellowpages.com are quick to help you find your
Swaying weeping willows
Hawaiian station or point you in the right line the pond .

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... . . .

dictionary direction .
E˜mail news alerts
RSS news feeds Here are a few ideas for families
Wireless news
Newspaper in on where to stay, what to do,
Education which eateries to patronize and
Blood Bank of
how to get around .
H awa ii

And it doesn't have to be
expensive, if you follow a few The elevated Yebisu
rules : Skywalk connects Ebisu
Station to Yebisu Garden
Place which is the former
Don't rent a car unless you're ,
home of Yebisu Brewery.
sharing the cost — there are
no freeways, only toll roads, On the Web :
and the fees are steep . For details visit the Japan
,
Don't shop in "international " National Tourist
Organization Web site :
grocery stores, whose j etÉset
www.jnto .go.jp . Also of
clienteles can afford to pay interest the English
,
language site of the Japan
$ 10 for a can of tuna .
Travel Bureau the
Eat like the natives — ignore country's larges,
t travel
American j oints such as Anna agency :
www.jtb .co.jp/eng.
Miller's, where a pie costs as
much as Russian caviar, and
try, say, a kaitenzushi
(revolving sushi) restaurant,
which serve plates of the best
raw fish you've ever tasted
for a fraction of what you
pay here . You can also bark
an order to one of the chefs :
"Maguro o kudasai !" ( "Tuna,
please !") .

The wonders of Ueno

A decaying city of grimy buildings surrounds some of
Japan's finest cultural treasures in the historic railway
hub of Ueno on the northern edge of Tokyo .

But the contrast between blight and divine sight is less
j arring when you see the country's premier zoo,
worldÉclass museums and a park where cherry
blossoms bloom in spring and magicians entertain
crowds .

Ueno Zoological Gardens is a fiveÉminute walk from
the train station, making it easy to lug along children
— even if one is in a clunky stroller and the other is
harnessed to your chest in a Baby Bj orn, as was the
case with us .

The big draw is one aging superstar : Ling Ling, a
giant, rare panda born at Beij ing Zoo and given to

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Ueno in 1992 . Pygmy hippopotamuses, giant anteaters,

gorillas, polar bears and thousands of other animals are

also featured .

This might sound rather ordinary — but how many

zoos have a shrine and other centuries*old landmarks?

Toshogu Shrine, built about 1650, is dedicated to

shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, who in 1603 established the

Tokugawa, or Edo, period, a military dictatorship that

lasted until 1867 . Nearby is a five*story pagoda and

military commander Todo Takatora's Tea Ceremony

House, used for the reception of visiting shoguns .

Takatora, who served under Tokugawa, helped invade

Korea and was considered one of the finest castle

architects of his time .

The zoo is also known for Shinobazu no Ike (Pond),

filled with lotus flowers and islands where migratory

birds perch on tree stumps . Swaying weeping willows

line the pond, and Aleutian Canada geese and

red*crowned cranes rest in mini sanctuaries protected

by bamboo fences that look like works of art .

Elsewhere, you can take a ride in a cart pulled by a

llama ; you'll receive a colorful, laminated certificate as

a souvenir .

A Disneyland*like monorail takes visitors from the east

side of the zoo to the west for a small fee .

How to get there : Take the Yamanote Line from

Shibuya, Shinj uku, Tokyo or Shinagawa ; you'll pay

less than $2 each way, per person . The zoo is open

Tuesday through Sunday from 9 :30 a .m . to 5 p .m . The

cost is 600 yen (about $5) for those ages 15 to 64, 300

yen ($2 .50) for seniors and 200 yen ($ 1.67) for

youths 12* 14 . Keep an eye on your children —

hundreds get lost at the zoo each year .

A place to play

If you have small kids, a visit to Tokyo*To Jido

Kaikan (Tokyo Metropolitan Children's Hall) is a must .

This multistory wonderland was established under the

Child Welfare Act of 1964 in a city where "the play

environment for children worsens each year, "

according to the city .

The facility hugs the choked streets of Shibuya but

provides plenty of space to stimulate children . You can

visit the scientific craft corner or the Human Body

Maze playground, work on computers, check out

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library books or create art in Origami Land . For teens

there's a wirelesscommunications room and sound

studio .

How to get there : Take the Yamanote, Saikyo,

Inokashira, Toyoko or Denen Toshi train lines, or the

Ginza or Hanzoumon subway lines, to Shibuya Station,

seven minutes from the Children's Hall . The facility is

open 9 a .m . to 5 p .m . every day except holidays and

until 6 p .m . in June and July . Write to Tokyo

Metropolitan Children's Hall, 1 1824 Shibuyaku,

Tokyo 1500002 . Or call (03) 3409636 1 or (03)

3407 8364 (fax) .

A day with the emperors

Another great place to bring the family is Meij i Jingu

Shrine, where visitors walk lush grounds and learn

about Japan's emperors . Take either the JR Yamanote

Line to Haraj uku Station, or the subway's Chiyoda

Line to Meij ij ingumae Station .

Meij i Jingu, which holds the deified spirits of Emperor

Meij i and his consort, Empress Shoken, was completed

in 1920 and rebuilt after being destroyed in World War

II .

Nearby is Haraj uku and sprawling Yoyogi Koen

(Park) ; Tsukij i market, an enormous barnlike structure

where merchants hold morning fish auctions and slice

giant sea creatures into sashimi ; and Yebisu Garden

Place, former home of Yebisu Brewery, connected by

an elevated, moving "Skywalk " to Ebisu Station .

Where to stay

An excellent choice is Kodomo no Shiro (National

Children's Castle) in Aoyama, which combines a hotel

with whole floors of play areas . There's no fee to use

the facilities if you stay at the Tokyo hotel ; otherwise

it's 500 yen ($2 .50) for adults and 400 yen ($3 .35) for

kids . Our room price, including tax and fees, was $ 123

per night, a bargain in any big city .

Our daughter loved the roofgarden play areas,

finearts studio and a wooden j ungle gym that took up

half of one floor . There's also a wellchild clinic, music

lobby, childcare area, restaurants, a pool and a gym .

The down side : Hallways smell of cigarette smoke, and

the nearest laundry is a halfmile away .

How to get to there : National Children's Castle is about

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a 10ñminute walk from Omotesan do or Shibuya station ;
take the JR Yamanote, Saikyo, Toyoko, Inokashira or
Denentoshi lines, or the Ginza, Hanzomon or Chiyoda
subway lines . From Shibuya Station, walk up

Miyamasuzaka street, past the Shibuya post office,
toward Aoyama Dori ( Street) and Aoyama Gakuin

(University). The Castle will be on your left . You can
also take a bus toward Shinbashi Kitaguchi Station ; get

out at Aoyama University.

From Omotesando Station, take the B2 exit, walk past
the Kinokuniy a g rocery store, toward Shibuya along

Aoyama Dori . The castle will be on your right .

To get to the hotel from Narita Airport, take the
90ñminute Limousine Bus ride to Excel Hotel Tokyu in
Shibuya ; it's about $30 per person . Then tell a cabbie,
"Aoyama no Kodomo no Shiro, onigaishimasu " (Please
take me to National Children's Castle on Aoyama

Street). You'll pay about 1,000 yen total (about $8.35)
for the 15 ñminute ride .

National Children's Castle : 5ñ53ñ 1 Jingumae
Shibuyañku, Tokyo, 150ñ000 1. Call (03) 3797ñ5666.
Check kodomonoñshi ro .or .jp/engl ish/index .htm l or
send an inquiry to k i kak u @ ko d o m o n o ñs h i ro .or .j p.

•••
Look at bentos for cheap eats

You may have to pay about $7 for a small beer or soft
drink or $8 for a morsel of a sandwich at a Tokyo
cafe, but bentos remain cheap and delicious .

A particularly good place to pick up a bento is the
food area next to Shibuya Station . You'll find tempura,

sushi, sashimi, chicken katsu, grilled salmon and

countless kinds of tsukemono (Japanese pickles). One
place sells nothing but onigiri (clumps of rice shaped
like triangles and wrapped with nori, or dried seaweed

— what we would call musubi) with such things as
shrimp tempura inside .

Perhaps the best place in Tokyo for ramen, gyoza and
fried rice is Darumaya, in an alleyway off Aoyama

Dori .

The best ramen dishes are the Takana Soba, which
comes with a plate of takana, a leafy vegetable
particular to Japan ; and the Daruma Soba, with its side
of barbecued pork, bamboo shoo ts, bean spro uts and

strips of nori . The price : about $6. You'll want to try

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the gyoza, which come steaming and juicy, or the fried
rice, made in huge woks over high flames, the familiar
bonkbonk of wooden Chinese ladles banging against
the pan keeping a steady beat. The salad is also great.

Darumaya is at 595 MinamiAoyama, Minatoku.
Open 11a.m.10 p.m. MondaySaturday. Closed
Sunday. Phone: 0334996295.

If you're in the mood for sushi or sashimi, try
Sushiwazen Takumi Tokyo for lunch. The restaurant,
near the massive United Nations University, is at the
bottom of a flight of stairs, next to a patio and a
McDonald's visible from street level. We paid just $95
for six people. The prawnsized ama ebi (sweet shrimp,
served raw) was excellent.

Another excellent place to eat at is Roy Yamaguchi's
restaurant in Aoyama. Call (03) 54748181.

— Peter Erikson
•••
Get good deals on diapers, formula

Japan's wizardry in creating things extends beyond
electronics and automobiles. It's also got a handle on
disposable diapers and formula.

I'd assumed that because both items cost so much in
America, they must be prohibitively expensive in
Japan.

But I needn't have worried. In Japan, the main brands
— including Pampers — are far cheaper and made of
better material.

In America, a kind of premium has been placed on
pullup, or "training," diapers. Buy a box of 20 to 30
in a grocery or drug store and you'll pay $13 or more.
At the Toys 'R' Us in Sagamihara city, a box of 66
pullup diapers from Unicharm was about $15. You
won't even do that well at Costco.

Formula, meanwhile, comes only in large containers at
decent prices.

Could it be that Japanese refuse to be ripped off for
items that will be glowing in the dark 500 years from
now and cost very little to make?

Up in smoke: Tokyo still reeks of cigarette smoke. The
taxi we took to our hotel kept us gasping for air, and
the ManBoo! Internet Comic Cafe in Shibuya, while

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inexpensive and convenient, will make you gag. Even
Ueno Zoo has a special bench for smokers next to
Shinobazu Pond — and exotic birds.

Money: It can be difficult to change dollars because
you won't find familiar names such as Cirrus or Star or
Maestro at ATMs. You also won't find many English
menus. Instead, look for one of the many Citibank
ATMs in Tokyo. Some restaurants and stores take
credit cards, but many don't.

— Peter Erikson
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