Let me warn you first. There is a huge side effect of visiting the One Piece Tower. And that is a strong unbeatable urge to rewatch the entire damn series from episode 1. If you are a One Piece fan, you would know how dangerous this could be for your social life. I couldn’t fight it and now I’m stuck in Baratie waiting for Enies Lobby to happen and all those feels to hit again. So, consider yourself warned.
- If you’re travelling on a Tokyo Metro pass, you can take the Hibiya Line to Kamiyachou station and then walk towards the Tokyo Tower (700 meter walk). The red tower is really easy to spot so you wouldn’t have much trouble.
- Alternatively, if Toei line works too, you can take the Toei Mita line to Onarimon station (850 meter walk to Tokyo Tower) or the Toei Oedo Line to Akananebashi Station (650 meter walk after that).
Tips before you go
- Try and get the tickets online here if you want to save on the 200 yen.
- If you can, take atleast one person with you so you don’t have to randomly ask strangers to get that pic with Law. Go on a One Piece fan hunt if you have to. Going alone is not that bad either, just a little inconvenient
- Check the timing of the live show when you reach and keep it in mind so you don’t miss it. There are machines near the entrance of the show where you can get tickets in advance and you need those tickets to get in. On a day with more rush, don’t forget to get those tickets as soon as you reach.
I cannot begin to describe what the One Piece tower meant to me. It was an afternoon of wonder and pleasant surprises. There are a lot of activities so maybe going in a group will help. But if the group is devoid of One Piece fans, you’ll find yourself in many awkward overexcited situations with your companions giving you a blank look probably rethinking your friendship.
The one piece segment spans three floors of the Tokyo Tower. The entrance ticket costs JPY3000 if you get it online and JPY3200 on spot. It is a horde of picture points and games. The picture spots made me regret going there alone a little but it was a successful visit nonetheless. There was one game for every member of the crew and also, a live show.
As soon as you enter, after watching a 360 degree theater with heartfelt scenes from across all seasons of the series, you end up in a dark room with the Strawhats lurking in every corner. The figurines are so realistic I almost lost my mind.
Zoro’s Soul of Edge
The entrance to the attraction is an exhibition of all kinds of katana’s. You’d waste no time in spotting Mihawk’s huge sword hanging down the wall to your right as you go in. The line leads you into a small booth where they give you one (unreal) katana and make you stand facing a screen. You then have to fight a pacifista and random cannon balls as the software registers your real life moves. When the pacifista shows up, you have to get into a particular stance which is also the time when they take a sneaky little pic you can buy later for a 1000 yen. I didn’t have that much money so I just took a pic of the pic but I encourage you to make a decisive and amazingly Zoro like one so you are proud of yourself instead of laughing maniacally and spoiling the pic.
Robin’s Finding Poneglyph
Here they give you a real talking denden mushi. You heard it. A.real.talking.Denden Mushi. And you know who is talking from the other side? Can you guess? It’s Robin. Robin. She was talking in Japanese so I didn’t understand shit but I think I can rest in peace now.
The game itself is about finding hidden poneglyph marks all over the place, scanning it with the denden mushi and finding more of them. I drifted into all sorts of dark and probably non-visitor places in the amusement park carrying it, so the game can be a bit dangerous for overexcited people with no sense of social boundaries. While the game itself is pretty enjoyable, you feel like a stalker sometimes when you follow other groups with a denden mushi hoping they’d lead you to other poneglyphs. There are also nicer people who’d tell you where they found the hidden symbols themselves so you do not have to resort to your baser instinct. I turned out to be pretty bad with this though with a measly 56% of the poneglyphs found.
Brook’s Horror House
The name says it all. For me the funniest part of this attraction was the family in front of me. In particular, the son in the family in front of me. It was like a comedy skit. The boy was so scared of the house that he ran out of the place and then came to tell me it was too scary for him and that I should leave too. Two seconds later, his mom came rushing out looking for him trying to take him back in. Seeing her brother get all this attention, the little girl stomped out of the house and away from the attraction followed by her father asking her to come back. Somehow the entire family gathered and went back into the house, before the boy apparently decided he really couldn’t take it, got out again and walked towards the exit from the outside to wait for his family.
The horror house was not really scary (‘You’re a scaredy cat, little boy’), and if I’m saying it’s not scary, you can probably skip through it taunting all the wannabe demons. It was an alright attraction. The best part was catching a glimpse of the ghost woman, Perona.
Chopper Southend sunny issue Exploration
You have to go here. Actually there will be so much time you’ll probably go to all the attractions but I really took my time with this one. It had Sanji and the kitchen, Nami’s and Robin’s room with their cabinet and clothes and little animation snippets with Chopper and Brook.
Luffy’s Endless Adventure
Can I just say this is the best part? It is like an interactive animation of the entire series and a retelling of the precious moments of all the Strawhats. I almost cried here. There was Shanks giving Luffy the hat, the Enies Lobby scene with Robin, a model of Nami’s map room at Arlong’s that Luffy destroyed and… Ace. It was like a tribute to all that has happened in the series till now. They played little parts of the movie on a huge screen at the end too.
The Live animation
Frankly, this was not as interesting as I thought it would be no matter what the pictures make you think. Infact it was a bit funny and kiddish at some points because the characters’ faces did not really match with the characters. A great experience nonetheless.
Mugiwara and Tongari store
The Tongari store is inside the amusement park. The best thing I found there was the Franky hand pillow (you heard it). The mugiwara store on the ground floor of the Tokyo Tower has a huge collection. The best part is the One piece soundtrack playing in the background while you shop.
I think that the One Piece Tower is a place all One Piece fans will enjoy. It is a half day in Tokyo you would never forget.
More on travelling in Japan
Each morning on the 25th, the first thing I do is look under my pillow. And each morning on the 25th, for as long as I can remember, I without doubt find something or the other there – a box of chocolates, a little toy, a book. So it has become a habit of sorts. These days, my younger sisters wake me up before I can look myself with the standard – ‘What did Santa get for you this time?’. Before I can tell them, they rattle off with their own list of under the pillow goodies. It seems this time our Santa did a little upgrade. He finally found the socks we’d hung near the bedpost so there was less danger of us waking up while he sneakily tried to stuff gifts under our pillows. Maybe this Christmas, we can pat ourselves on the back for becoming more considerate.
I remember having a fight with my friends when I was in the fifth grade. All because they had the gall to suggest that Santa wasn’t real. With narrowed eyes and puffed up cheeks, I declared, ‘Maybe you are just not good children’, and stomped away. Because I believed in Santa. Despite all my rationality. I had years worth of gifts to prove it. Every 25th without fail. And even as Christmas creeps near this year, I see my younger sisters writing a letter to Santa and asking their dad to post it, with all the surety that it will be read that only children can have. And I wonder if they fight with their friends about Santa’s existence or not. And if they reply in the same pompous tone as I did or not.
It took me, after all, quite a long time to realize that there is no such thing as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ kids, there are just some which are incredibly lucky.
And in some ways more than the others, I have been quite so. Rather than being bad children, maybe my friends just did not have any person in their house who believed in Christmas or wanted their children to. It is not our festival anyway. We already have enough with Diwali and Holi and Dussehra and Janmashthmi.
But festivals are fun. And carols jolly. And as I shop with my Aunt reading off from a list of gifts that her husband handed her which she needs to get before 24th eve, I still find one box of chocolates stuffed beneath my pillow when I wake up on the 25th.
PS. Talking about Christmas music, I’ve been listening to this for about 3 years now.
True I had been super excited to visit the Ghibli museum.
True I had expected it to be amazing (unsuccessfully trying not to get my hopes too high).
True I had been waiting for the originality and beauty of all those movies to flood my brain again.
But I was still unprepared. I had still undermined how perfect it could be.
With breathtaking manuscripts of stop motion animation, oil paintings that looked like windows to other worlds that I know all too well, little unexpected animated features and reels and reels of film, they flaunted their skills unabashedly. And I could only stand and watch, trying not to gape.
- I would suggest taking the JR Chuo line to Kichijoji Station and then walking to the museum through Inokashira Park. It’s not too far and the park is beautiful enough to make you forget about the distance.
- Alternatively, take the JR Chuo line to Mitaka Station and the bus to Ghibli Museum
Tips before going
- Tickets! Ghibli museum requires tickets to be booked one month in advance, so this needs to be planned. You can get them here.
- If you get the 4 pm slot, keep in mind that the museum closes exactly at 6, and you might not be able to see the remaining parts of the museum after that. You might also want to get to the Laputa robot before it gets dark, as there is not much lighting around it, so put that first.
- Brace yourself for the feels.
First, is the way to the museum itself. I had a 4 pm entry pass, but I left at 2 from Shinjuku station so that I would have a one hour margin. Though I had taken the ticket to Mikata, I got off one station before at Kichijoji, just because I could see a huge park in the maps on the walk from Kichijoji to Ghibli Museum. Retrospectively, this has been one of my best decisions of the trip. The Inokashira pond and the park enclosing it is a feast for the eyes. And as I was going to the Ghibli museum, the park and the autumn splendor really set the mood for it. It was a relatively peaceful place blanketed by shed leaves and dotted with numerous park benches. Here and there, you could spot students trying to capture the beautiful scenes in their drawing pads (I gave it a shot too, but the results weren’t exactly flattering). I spent an hour in the place, sitting and drawing and looking around, and almost got late to the museum. If I had any inkling about how pretty it could have been, I would have went with more time to spare.
You could imagine my excitement as I rushed to the museum. This could be the highlight of my trip to Japan. It was the first thing I had marked on the map when it was finally decided that I was going to Japan. Ghibli, and specially Miyazaki’s, movies have meant so much to me through all these years. They have been my inspiration, my solace, my musical haven and my friends during the shittiest moments of my life.
Inside the museum, I rushed to the Laputa robot at the rooftop as it was getting dark. The only way to access the rooftop is a spiral staircase which was a nice touch. Inside the museum, there are many rooms dedicated to the creation of Ghibli movies. The animation studio has wonderful live stop motion features that look magical even in real life. Then there is a catbus room where you can look through different models and sit in a life sized model of the bus from My Neighbour Totoro. My personal favourite was a room where original paintings and drafts by ghibli artists were pasted all over the walls. I was mesmerized by the level of detail that goes into each panel. The watercolors looked beautiful but the oil paintings were on another level completely. At first, I was sure they were photos and not real paintings. I could not imagine the skills, devotion, love and respect that went into each of them. And for the first time I felt as if the movies did not do enough justice to the quality of the artwork of Ghibli.
In addition, there is a shop, a cafe and many other rooms in the museum. They also showed a cute little motion picture about a dog, Koro, in the museum which was around a 15 minute short story. There were no Engllish subtitles when I saw it, but there was not much being said in the movie and the story was pretty simple to follow. I could not get any pictures in the museum as it was not allowed >.< But take my word for it, it feels like an escapade into the Ghibli world, the most beautiful there can be.
The museum closes exactly at 6, so I did not have much time. Leaving was much harder than I had expected, and I felt a little jealous of the people working there (though I guess dealing with ghibli crazed fans who did not want to understand that 6 is the closing time no matter what could be a pain). Even if I had not been a fan of ghibli movies before coming to the museum (in some impossible parallel world), I would become one yet again after a visit here. I believe that it is a must for all those who’ve been grateful to studio ghibli ever in their lives.
PS – While I loved the experience completely, I do wish there was something about ghibli music too at the museum. They covered just the animation part. For me the music, especially by Joe Hisaishi, is as wonderful as the animation and story in the movies.
More on travelling in Japan
After much deliberation (and postponing), I finally made a trip to see the wonderful and much hyped winter illuminations at Nabana no Sato flower garden; I found them to be one of the best illumination shows I’ve seen in my life and I’m glad I chose to go.
The major hurdle for me when considering the candidature of Nabana no sato was, as always, the yens involved. Being a student in Japan sadly becomes a constant drain on your purse, and so a wise, well-thought choice becomes paramount. The question for me was whether it would be worth it. But as you’ll find through the course of this review, it was indeed a wonderful experience.
Ticket fees for Nabana no Sato – ¥2300 (includes two ¥500 coupons which can be utilized anywhere in the park)
Winter illumination dates – Mid-October to May
Illumination starts somewhere around 6 pm
- A wonderful Begonia garden (fees – ¥1000)
- Lighting displays across the park
- Two Light Tunnels, one of which was Autumn themed
- Animated light show
- Rotating Observation Deck giving a bird’s eye view of the illuminations (fees – ¥500)
- A number of restaurants
- From Nagoya Station, take the Kintetsu-Nagoya line to Nagashima station (¥400).
- From Nagashima station, take a bus to Nabana no Sato (¥220). The final destination on the bus will be written as Nabana no Sato (in English too), and the bus stop is right at the exit of the train station.
Tips before going
- Nabana no sato pass is available near the entrance to the Kintetsu line at Nagoya station. The pass is for ¥3,170. It includes return journey from Kintetsu to Nagashima, return tickets for the bus to Nabana no Sato, park entrance alongwith coupons. It’s a great way to save on money.
- Check temperatures before leaving. It can get pretty chilly in the park (as compared to Nagoya), so dress accordingly.Otherwise you’ll be too cold to completely enjoy the park *cough* like me *cough*.
- Try to reach at around 4:00 so you can look around in the park while it is not completely dark. The lighting aside, the park itself is very beautiful, so it will be a good experience. It’s also fun to see the park completely transform as the lights came up.
- Carry some food with you if you don’t want to spend extra (as you will get hungry). But the food joints in the park are very good too.
I was quite skeptical about how good the park can be. I started with the Begonia garden. The entrance fee was ¥1,000 which I paid through the coupons I got with the ticket. The garden is a world of its own, seeped in a palette of colors. The range of flowers was huge, and across dimensions, with some flowers staring at you from small vases, some looking down at you from hanging pots and others tumbling down exotic shrubs. The garden ended with a small cafe amidst the hanging vines and a pond dotted with floating flowers, a scene as picturesque as a painting. Even with my poor skills with the camera, I couldn’t get it wrong.
Following the garden, which took longer than I expected, I moved towards the chapel while walking along the lake at the center of the park. Specks of golden had stated lining the bushes all over, and the people moving around in the park had also increased. I could hear bell tolls in the distance and as soon as I reached the chapel, with a final toll, the trees around me suddenly lit up in a blinding flash of white on one side and blue on the other. It was as if the entire park gasped silently as music began to pour in accompanied with light from all directions. I realized the show had started, and hurriedly moved to the other side of the chapel towards the lake. The view was breathless. Even as I tried to print it into my memory, the colorful lights running along beautiful paths chased each other into the distance. I stood, mesmerized and waiting for the people to clear up a bit so I could get a better view.
At 5:45, as it was dark enough, I moved towards the observation deck and stood in line to buy tickets and then to get into the deck. It took two turns for me to get into the deck, but the wait didn’t feel long (particularly because I was carrying food and the child behind me was convinced that the deck was a UFO). The deck was my favorite part of the trip. I have never seen a more colorful display of lights from this height and try as I might, I couldn’t capture it through my camera. The light animation was visible from the deck too, and I decided to go there next.
I was surprised to find that the way to the animation goes through a light tunnel (this day was getting better and better). But even the tunnel could not prepare me for the splendor of the light show. The theme was ‘The beauty of Mother Nature’ and it was grandly depicted in a sea of lights. There were small snippets of animations played on a large canvas of lights, paying homage to one or the other element of nature. The way back from the animation goes through a different tunnel, themed around ‘autumn’ and lit in alternating yellow, green and red.
The entire experience was much more beautiful than I had expected. I spent around four hours in the park and only after seeing it could I understand the throng of people who had traveled this far to be able to enjoy it. It just wasn’t another light show. And if you happen to be in Nagoya (or Tokyo) around that time, it is definitely a must experience.
More on travelling in Japan
I swear I will never drink again.
Not even a swig. Ever.
Even if I’m in a bar and under the expectant looks of my friends
The waiter asks, ‘And for you, ma’am’,
I will make a solemn face, and unnerved by my peers’ views,
Say, ‘I would like some orange juice’
Or a mojito perhaps, when my palette needs the taste to differ,
But it will have to be one without any liqueur.
You see. I’ve sworn I would never drink again.
Even if it is that bubbly beer mug in the gent’s hand there,
Or the fine rose wine that the lady is swirling there,
I will pay no heed, and sip from my meager alcohol-less treat.
You see, alcohol seeped in my life through ink
Even though I had found, to much dismay, that butterbeer was clean,
There was still mead, and taverns and tweeny dwarfs chugging down mighty jugs
And there were barrels and ships and swanky pirates draped in rowdy music cheering rum
And in case you lean more to the quieter and pensive side, you’d still find
the bookish guy with toppled glasses sipping a red blood wine.
And even as I held them bound in my hands,
This emerged as the one aspect I could live of these fairy lands.
You see, I am a little of romantic. And I love to glorify things
With characters as numerous as the number of letters in a book.
So I’ll order a whisky, a Johny Walker preferably,
assuming I had enough money,
And sit on a bar like Tony Stark,
The loner who has everything and is yet somehow sometimes distraught,
And act the part.
Until, I bring the shining glass to the edge of my mouth,
And take a whiff.
And scrunch my nose.
And keep the damn thing back down.
You see, I can’t help it. My friends don’t get it,
“Why do you have to smell it?” they ask.
But how are you supposed to not?
I can’t help that the effective radius of my nose,
Kind of covers my mouth
And when I tilt the mug
The rim of the glass and the tip of my nose may get a bit snug
And you really can’t take a sip while breathing out!
So I guess I’ll put the perfect Iron Man imitation on hold. Indefinitely.
But you see, I still like beer. And other alcohols – mostly the colorless ones.
And the sweet wines. Those still work.
And I’ve had rum before, but it terribly screws up my stomach,
So I’d eliminate that option.
And hence we gain peace.
Until I get home, and sleep.
You see, I hail from a family of careful eaters.
Imagine my stomach as the newbie in the gym
where others of its kind have honed their strengths
by pulling up on spices coached by packaged meals.
Now give this stomach an overexcited brain
which cannot accept that ‘getting high’ and ‘the amount drunk’ are two different factors
each having its own tracker.
So not being drunk (yet) does not mean that I have not drunk (much)
or that it’s not affecting my (over-nourished) stomach.
You see. The drinking part is fun.
As is the trying out different tastes part.
And the I can feel the world spinning as I pee part.
And the I still feel I’m the most sober part.
And the occasional ‘what the fuck are those guys doing?’ part.
And the ‘Okay. Let’s carefully check the bill (as if)’ part.
It’s all fun!
Until I get home, and sleep.
And my poor stomach can’t hold it in anymore.
You see, I feel my body in its entirety reject
All the shit that it had been forcefully fed
And with each tremor and retch
Tell me of the utter torture it underwent.
I try to reason with it, still.
With water, sugar, ORS, juice,
But it does not listen.
And has forsaken all trust on my judgement.
One whole night it continues the toil
And I, forced to resort to aid packed in silver foil,
complement it, as if to not draw attention, with a small swig of water.
And with that, finally, it starts getting a little better.
Through all this I believe I’ve finally learnt my lesson.
I swear I would never drink again.
Except maybe a little sip.
All our lives we’ve been taught to sort stuff into squared slots and shelve them
into little recurring time tables when we were kids,
perfect cubical wardrobes when we grew up,
and as justified lines and paragraphs of text as we got introduced to paper.
So that we are organized, easy to understand, fit into definitions, thus normalizing our lives.
So that we establish brotherhood, rely on similarities to recognize our kind.
And it is necessary, as uniformity feeds into the stability machine.
But what is stability?
A glass bottle kept on a table with all legs of equal height on an even platform?
A flexible building made to adapt to earthquakes a rigid one won’t?
A tight-rope walker performing on his best day?
One leg following the other in a perfect line suspended in mid-air.
But how can it be all?
A glass bottle may shatter sooner than the wink of an eye,
Quakes do not define buildings like people do,
and the very notion of stability in mid-air is truly laughable.
But we wish for stability.
Like swimming ropes we stick to the notion,
And if we happen to lose grip on it, we search for it –
within a lover’s arms, in conversations with friends,
scrolling under the blinding glares of our white screens,
in paragraphs of text, in our daily buses and routines,
at our workplaces and our homes, in our food,
in little choices, through our attires and things in our room.
We search for it – like running through mazes of gibberish mind-paths
to find that perfect word we cannot find in the most organized thesaurus,
now on the tip of our tongue, now slipping to another black-hole in our brains.
Because we forget, even as we search frantically through lines of nested definitions,
that no two words can ever have the same meaning,
and stability does not mean happiness.
Or family. Or the perfect career. Or friendship. Or love.
It just means itself. And it is transient.
Because we forget, in our quest to employ our hands to control everything we can, that we can’t.
No matter how many times we go through the numbers and justifications,
we are not seers, and we are not the only ones running the world, or living in it.
That we cannot be sure of anything, but change.
That stability is the sandcastle which will not stay no matter how grand we make it,
That when worldly waves wash over it, it may put up a mighty fight,
with all the battalions and toy soldiers we fashioned ourselves,
but it will even out to be sprinkled with shells just like all the surrounding sand,
That this admirable fight may only be remembered in our memories,
That even this is alright, and acceptable, and commendable, even,
For this is how new sandcastles can be built.
Thud. They laid the first plank.
They knew they had to be patient
After all, theirs was a thorough plan.
Two girls they were.
Two islands they belonged to.
Two different islands connected by a string of land.
A string of land frayed in the middle,
so a little leap was what got one into the other’s place.
But two different islands they belonged to.
One where the sun would rise
And the other which better bade it goodbye.
One which soaked its hands every day
to reap from fields of water on all sides,
And the other which picked up trinkets washed to its feet
to make wondrous treasures acclaimed far and wide.
Thunk. Thunk. They nailed another plank to the side.
A boat should be sturdy and strong at heart
if it was meant to ferry two souls through nature’s treacherous tides.
Droplets of sweat dripped into the sands
as the Sun glared at them hovering in the center of the sky.
And even though their villages would not see eye to eye,
the two girls looked at each other and shared a smile.
Kreesh. Another plank cried as they trimmed it the right size.
The daughter of the fishermen holding it tight,
as the progeny from the artists’ side
sawed at the doors to their future dreams and life.
For the first, while her people saw an expanse of nature to monetize,
She saw a sphere, a shell, engulfing her from all sides,
Gravity that pulled her to her house with all worldly strength
everytime she’d try to jump to the other side – the haven her heart desired.
And so she looked at her friend tying their makeshift sail to a pole,
weaving plans of flying to faraway lands in each knot,
knowing all too well that she held in her hands every dream she sought.
For the second, her hands were steady, as much as her mind was in a frenzy
Painting wild pictures of strange lands on the face of the sail in her hands.
She looked up into eyes that reflected her own thoughts,
for travelling to ever newer places to sell their store
was a work she could have sooner made her ideal world
than running between her house and the shore to collect worthless stones.
Two different girls. Each with the other’s wish,
they watched each other throw it away
with every plank laid as the boat was made.
They did not care for tomorrow but for days still farther
They did not know the sea as they knew their promising vessel.
They did not grasp anything of the world except what they wanted of it.
And so they dragged their cradle of dreams into the starving sea
the wanderer mooring it while the artist took a leap.
She stretched out her hand offering freedom to her human anchor,
and in taking it, she in turn, set them both free.
Just yesterday we met in my dreams
not like old friends nor lovers or strangers
but as equals, as partners
not separated by words or silences.
Together we walked down paths
gazing at memories pouring over walls on both sides.
Never have I known a silence so understanding
or a scene more serene.
With a smile as ever a mystery
you’d pick a particular flower and hand it to me
and in its heart I would watch us talking and laughing
at a place I’d forgotten in my pride
but you’d saved as a somber painting
to look at and travel back in time.
And in return I gave you a feather
which I could dip into seas of remorse
to scribble down thoughts I never conveyed.
And so we strolled. Flowers, feathers and the past.
I stopped for a minute as you kept walking
never looking back
I stopped for a minute as I saw a majestic scene
I knew you’d love as much
I stopped for a minute thinking you’d only walk enough
for me to catch up with a small run
But I lost track of time and you didn’t think of the distance
And as I woke up with sunlight flowing into the expanse of reality,
I smiled grateful that our souls could meet again
in a place without pain or sound
where reality meets the subconscious
and time and distance take a break.
Image Credits: https://pixabay.com/p-164754/?no_redirect