London

Japan: Tokyo (Madame Tussauds Wax Museum)

In an earlier blog post, I had written about Madame Tussauds Wax Museum located in Hollywood, California. (https://wordpress.com/stats/insights/traveldreamscapes.wordpress.com )  During my recent visit to Japan, I had the opportunity to visit Madame Tussauds in Tokyo.

Madame Tussaud or Marie Tussaud was born as Marie Grosholtz in 1761 in Strasbourg, France.  She eventually settled in London and by 1825, opened the first wax museum on Baker Street. Today, the museum is a major tourist attraction in London, displaying life-size waxworks of royalty, historical figures, film and sport stars and famous murderers. The wax figures were once roped off from visitors but today the public can get up close and personal with the celebrities, dress up in costumes and take pictures!

If you are unable to visit the original London attraction, do not worry, Madame Tussauds has opened up branches in various countries including China, Singapore, Thailand, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Australia, the United States and Japan.

The Japanese museum opened on March 15, 2013.  It is located at DECKS Tokyo Beach in Odaiba, approximately 32 minutes by train from Tokyo Station. The museum has over sixty wax figures of world leaders, celebrities, music stars and other television and news personalities on display. You can mingle and have your photo taken with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, President Barack Obama, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, you name it.  The museum also features various Japanese personalities such as Prime Minister Abe, skater Mao Asada, television personality Matsuko Deluxe and the famous rock band, XJapan, just to name a few.

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Duke & Duchess of Cambridge

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Nelson Mandela

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Lady Gaga

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Marilyn Monroe

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Audrey Hepburn

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Meryl Streep

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Michael Jackson

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Elvis

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Madonna

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Yu Darvish

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Matsuko Deluxe

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Akiko Wada

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Danmitsu

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Yuko Oshima (AKB48)

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Becky

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Odaiba is accessible via the Yurikamome Line from Tokyo Station, exit at the Odaiba Kaihin Koen stop. DECKS is just a short walk from the station.

 

Web page:         https://www.madametussauds.jp/tokyo/en/

Location:            3F Decks Tokyo Beach Island Mall, 1-6-1 Daiba, Minato-ku, Tokyo

 

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Portugal: Lisbon

Lisbon is the capital and the largest city in Portugal. It is the westernmost large city in continental Europe and one of the oldest cities in the world, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by centuries. This global metropolis has so much to offer in the way of finance, commerce, media, entertainment, arts, international trade, education and tourism that it is impossible to cover everything in just one blog post. However, I hope to be able to provide you with just enough of an introduction to whet your appetite so that you will one day tour this beautiful city on your own.

The city is ranked as the seventh-most-visited city in Southern Europe after Istanbul, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, Athens and Milan, drawing just under 2 million tourists annually. Lisbon enjoys a Mediterranean climate and consequently has the warmest winters among other European cities with average temperatures hovering at 15 °C (59 °F) during the day and 8 °C (46 °F) at night. The typical summer season lasts about six months, from May to October.

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Constructed on seven hills, it is one of Europe’s most striking cities with castles, gothic cathedrals, monasteries, quaint museums, restaurants, and shops all contributing to the city’s colorful landscape. A great way to explore the city is by hoping on one of its bright yellow trams which wind their way through hilly tree-lined streets. In the hilltop district of Bairro Alto, you will find dozens of restaurants and bars with jazz, reggae, and electronica sounds filling the air until dawn. There are nightclubs scattered all over town which make use of old spaces tucked away on riverside docks and 18th-century mansions.

Barrio Alto

Barrio Alto

Lisbon Cathedral

Lisbon Cathedral

One of the biggest tourist draws is Castelo de São Jorge (St. George’s Castle), situated up the hill it offers great views of the city and the Tagus River. If you can, take a walk from downtown to the castle passing through the fantastic old neighborhood of Alfama.

Castelo São Jorge

View from Castelo São Jorge

View from Castelo São Jorge

Alfama

Alfama

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You will also want to visit the Commerce Square also known as Palace Square. This majestic square once served as the main maritime entrance to Lisbon. You can still see the old marble steps leading up to the square from the river. The name Palace Square is a reference to the palace that once stood here for 400 years. It was almost completely destroyed by the 1755 earthquake.

Praça do Comerçio

Praça do Comerçio

On the north side of the square stands a 19th-century triumphal arch that leads to Rua Augusta, one of the main pedestrian shopping areas in downtown Lisbon. The arch is decorated with statues of historical personalities, like Vasco da Gama (a Portuguese sailor) and Marquês do Pombal , who was responsible for the reconstruction of Lisbon following the earthquake. The spacious arcade buildings which extend around three sides of the square are occupied by government administrative offices and some restaurants.

Rua Augusta

Rua Augusta

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake, also known as the Great Lisbon Earthquake took place on Saturday, November 1, 1755, the holiday of All Saints’ Day. The ensuing tsunami and subsequent fires almost totally destroyed Lisbon and adjoining areas. Seismologists today estimate the Lisbon earthquake had a magnitude in the range 8.5–9.0. Estimates place the death toll in Lisbon alone between 10,000 and 100,000 people, making it one of the deadliest earthquakes in history.

One of the buildings that stands today following the devastation is Carmo Convent. The convent is located in the Chiado neighborhood, on a hill overlooking the Rossio Square.

Carmo Convent

Carmo Convent

Another place you cannot ignore is Jerónimos Monastery or Hieronymites Monastery, dating back to 1495. Located near the Tower of Belém, it is one of the most prominent examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture. The Monastery was classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the nearby Tower of Belém, in 1983.

Torre de Belém

Torre de Belém

Jeronimos Monastery

Jeronimos Monastery

Jeronimos Monastery

Located across from Jerónimos Monastery, accessible via an underpass, is the Discoveries Monument, built on the north bank of the Tagus River in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator.

It represents a three-sailed ship ready to depart, with sculptures of important historical figures such as King Manuel I, Camões, Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Cabral, and several other notable Portuguese explorers, crusaders, monks, cartographers, and cosmographers, following Prince Henry the Navigator. Inside the monument is an exhibition space with temporary exhibits. Visitors can take an elevator to the top of the monument for a bird’s eye views of Belem and its monuments.

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Finally, there is the delicious Portuguese cuisine to sample. Most restaurants are very small, family run and generally cheap. Some of them have a sheet posted on the door with the “pratos do dia” (dishes of the day) featured on it. These dishes are usually cheaper and fresher than the rest of menu. Beware that during dinner, the waiter will more than likely bring you some unrequested starter dishes, called couvert. These items are not free so feel free not to touch them and they will not be charged on your bill.

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Portugal specialty, egg tarts

Portugal specialty, egg tarts

There is so much to see and do in Lisbon that this article is merely the tip of the iceberg. I hope you will have a chance to visit this magnificent city one day, explore some of the places I have talked about and venture out on your own to discover the many places I have not even touched upon. So, “boa sorte e viagens seguras!”

Japan: Osaka (Abeno Tennoji Illuminage)

Just next to the Tennoji Station in Osaka, you will find an urban oasis similar to New York’s Central Park or London’s Hyde Park, called Tennoji Koen or Tennoji Park. It was first opened in 1909 and is home to the Tennoji Zoological Gardens, the Chausuyama Tomb and the Osaka Municipal Museum of Art.

Annually, beginning in early November, Tennoji Koen hosts the Abeno Tennoji Illuminage, a light show featuring three million colored LEDs. The highlights of the light display include a 320-foot rainbow promenade (a tunnel lit up with all seven colors of the rainbow) and a 55-foot tall Christmas tree, called the Wonderland Tree. The illumination event supports the reconstruction efforts in the Tohoku region following the Great East Japan Earthquake, a devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake, which ripped through the area on March 11, 2011.

The Abeno Tennoji Illuminage, which runs through January 31 draws large crowds and is popular among young couples as it offers an ideal dating spot this time of the year. The lights are switched on at 5:30 PM and remain illuminated until 9:30 PM.

The park is just a 10-minute walk from the JR Osaka Loop Line Tennoji Station. Admission to the park is ¥1,000 for adults and ¥500 for children (Children under 3 are admitted without charge.).

So if you happen to be in the Kansai region, why not stop off at Tennoji Park and enjoy some winter time magic? Not all large scale illumination events are restricted to Tokyo and her suburbs.

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Japan: Roppongi (Hayato Tokyo Salon)

There are many challenges when visiting or living in a foreign country; the differences in language, culture and gastronomy can prove to be rather frustrating at times. Sometimes it is the inability to address one’s very basic needs that proves to be the most exasperating. For instance, when visiting Japan, where would you go to get your hair cut or styled?  The need would arise at one time or another, wouldn’t you agree?  It is true that the language barrier would pose a problem but even more profound in a nation with so few foreigners, is the fact that the average barber or stylist will not be acquainted with your particular hair type!

407316_332220590147911_466975307_nRest assured that when you are visiting Tokyo, Japan you will be able to find salons where the stylists not only speak English but they were trained overseas in places like New York and London and are very familiar with a variety of hair types and styles.  One such salon is Hayato Tokyo located at the Roppongi Tokyo Plaza:

206 The Roppongi Tokyo Plaza,

3-7-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku,

Tokyo

106-0032

http://www.hayatosalons.com/shopinfo/Etokyo.html

Located in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, Roppongi with its vibrant nightlife, shopping and dining features is a hot spot for foreigners. The Roppongi Tokyo Plaza is a mere 40 minutes from Tokyo Station, easily accessible via the JR Chuo Line or the JR Yamanote Line.

The Hayato Salon was first established in 1994 in New York City and currently has branches in London and Tokyo. The Tokyo salon enjoys a constant influx of foreign clients as the stylists are experts in both women’s and men’s hair styles.  Each stylist obtains on-the-job training at the Hayato New York location for two years where they learn to speak English. Speaking English is not the exception but the norm here.  Further, the salon uses hair products from overseas, some of which you are likely to find in your local salons.

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A simple shampoo, blow dry and “massage” if performed by an associate costs ¥ 7,000.  If you are fortunate enough to get the salon’s owner, Mr. Hayato to work on your hair, expect to spend ¥ 15,000. Bridal services are also available to those who  choose to have their wedding ceremony in Japan.  An associate can come to your home or wedding location for a cost of ¥ 20,000 for a 2 hour session. (Hair only)  If you would like hair and makeup services a 2 hour session will cost ¥ 30,000.  Lastly, although all associates seem to be good, their stylist, Hitomi, comes highly recommended by the salon’s foreign clientele.