Empire at night

We get a double dose of the gorgeous Empire State Building as our city pass lets us enter twice in one day.

So as night falls we headed back up this iconic slab of NYC real estate to see the Big Apple all lit up.-PAXP-deijE

 

The dazzling lights are spread beneath us like so many fallen stars landed on the sidewalks.

The Empire State itself becomes a huge light show that is visible for miles around.

Even though it is very blowy and incredibly cold we still enjoy picking out the landmarks.

Enjoy this unflattering video of me being blown about in the high rise winds!

And a more pensive angle of yours truly……..

The glow from Times Square is visible even from way up here! Bright lights indeed.

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Times Square by night

Suckers for punishment that we are we decide to make a second pilgrimage to the tourist trap that is Times Square. But this time at night to check out the ads in all their glorious, eye wateringly neon glory.

If the place was bad by day you could multiple the crowds, noise and frustration by a million at night!

It was as if the whole of NYC was out on the street, cheek by jowl, elbowing each other for space and prime Instagramming spots.

We literally shuffled through the streets as it was impossible to walk due to the sheer volume of people crowded onto the streets.

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So enjoy these few snaps of the bright lights of this big city as I couldn’t wait to get out of there TBH!

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Watching the water taxis

More spectacular views of Lower Manhattan can be seen from the Fulton Landing Pier

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Fulton Landing Pier it’s perfect place to linger and people watch. As well as being the home of the famous Brooklyn Icecream Factory.

Fulton Ferry Landing pier, at the foot of Old Fulton Street, is one of Brooklyn’s most historic sites, marking the location of the first ferry service between Brooklyn and Manhattan in 1642.

It forms part of the Brooklyn Bridge Park that encompasses a variety of parks, greenaways and beaches.

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The refurbished pier was re-opened in 1997, offering amazing views of the harbour, Brooklyn Bridge and the Lower Manhattan skyline.

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The landing is still a great place for watching the comings and goings of the East River.

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The landing includes custom-designed marine railings that feature words from Walt Whitman’s famous “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” poem.

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There’s also a lovely, but very expensive, place to eat in the form of the five star River Cafe. Quaint and cute looking but SUPER COSTLY… but with a view that almost justifies the price!

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Top of the Rock

Our first day in New York is a real tick list of iconic sights. We stop off to check out the famous Radio City onroute to Top of the Rock.

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Then we’re up the first of our high rise hotspots – the Top of the Rock and our first glimpse of Manhattan spread out like a concrete blanket beneath us.

The green oblong of Central Park provides a focal point amongst the myriad of grey and glass.

One of the best things about the view from here is that you get to actually see the icon that is the Empire State building within the skyline. When you’re actually up it you can’t see it!

So lots of pictures of the grande dame of the Big Apple – from all angles!

There are three levels to check out at the rock – the first deck includes the Radiance Wall. The second, featuring the Breezeway, is entirely outdoors.

The third observation deck, located on the 70th floor open-air roof deck, is completely outdoors and free of a glass enclosure so gives you uninterrupted views of Manhattan.

Top of the Rock sits on top of the Art Deco 30 Rockefeller Plaza and its upper decks are 850 feet above street level.

The stunning views include some of the city’s most prominent landmarks from the Chrysler Building to the Brooklyn Bridge; from Central Park to the Hudson and East Rivers

The observatory was originally designed to look like the upper decks of a 1930s grand ocean liner and it still retains that feel today.

 

Illuminated Osaka

We head back into the bustling heartland of Osaka in the evening to see it transformed into a throbbing neon paradise.

It is the most iconic and enduring image of modern Japan – eye splitting coloured lights as far as the eye can see. And Osaka does not disappoint!

Whether it’s giant puffer fish or octopus, to these jolly giant with his huge TV screen where you are the star, there is something to gawp at around every corner.

We head back to  Dōtombori canal side to check out the huge skyscrapers.

They reach dazzlingly into the night sky. Each tower making garish, neon promises.

These ultra high tech paragons of consumerism are truly captivating and we linger for a while, just watching the people, watching the neon.

Naturally we have to visit our old friend the iconic Glico man as well, to check out his night time splendour.

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Alas, the days are ticking down quickly towards the end of our trip . . . . still makes me sad to think of it ending, even a year later!!

So long Shinjuku, toodleloo Tokyo

Before we head onto the glorious Japanese Alps we have one final night in the neon heartland of Shinjuku.

The man is both intrigued and then delighted by this vending machine restaurant. Just pop in your money, make your selection, get your ticket and take it to the counter.

Seconds later – a meal is handed over. Proper fast food!

More futuristic eye popping neon sights await us, including this entrance to a girly bar that I force the man to pose in . . .

Tigers graffiti, cute kitty stickers and gigantic demons are just common place sights in this sleepless city.

But you can still find more traditional Japan if you look hard enough. I love the decorative kanji script. Even if I have absolutely no idea what’s being sold!

Below is the icon Kabukicho Red gate and it signals you’ve arrived in the district.

Or in our case it signals a last, lingering look at one of the most exciting cities on the planet.

But for now it’s so long Shinjuku, toodleloo Tokyo and onwards with our hectic journey across Japan.

Sayonara Shinjuku

Here’s one last neon whirl around Shinjuku’s flashing lights and garish nightlife.

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I’m missing the frenetic city again! The temptation to book flights and head back is increasing with every photo I post!

A last look at Godzilla is a kitschy reminder of the wealth of cultural influences that Japan has gifted to the world.

And if anything sums up the zany, colourful craziness of Tokyo it’s this unlikely pair of tiny dancers!

Sensory over load in the metropolis

Eager to make the most of our limited time in the bustling metropolis of Tokyo we head out into the bright lights of Shinjuku again.

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It’s a whirlwind of colour and sounds, endlessly scrolling sky high adverts and a flock of humans.

Coming from a tiny rural town in the midland of the UK, it is just about as far away from home as can ever be possible.

Every single wall, building, shop or arcade is an eyeball blasting shock of colour and pattern.

The proliferation of girly bars jar against the saccharine sweet, relentlessly cute decor and plastic tat vending machines that seem aimed at children.

Moving on just slightly we come to Kabukicho – the largest red-light district in Japan, without the official red-light prostitutes. Instead, it is full of host and hostess clubs, bars, and love hotels.

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Godzilla rears his huge head above the skyline to once again terrorise the city’s inhabitants.

Kabukicho is  often called the “Sleepless Town” and the district’s name comes from late-1940s plans to build a kabuki theatre. It never happened but the name lingers on.

It is truly an assault on the senses – almost fit inducing with its strobing neon, incessantly scrolling billboards and  . . giant neon robot women!

If ever there is an image that sums up the wild ride that Tokyo is – these are it!

Primarily used as a lure to get you into the Robot Restaurant (a robot techno neon nightmare) you can sit in these immense ladies and manipulate their arms up and down!

While the candy bright colours and flashing lights are disconcerting enough, the area also has a very seedy, downright dangerous, underbelly.

In 2004, according to a spokesperson of Metropolitan Tokyo, there are more than 1,000 yakuza members in Kabukichō, and 120 different enterprises under their control

There have been concerted efforts to clean up the area’s reputation with crackdowns on the gangs and illegal brothels.

However there were a lot of sharp suited young men hanging around the clubs who left us slightly unnerved. Whether gang members or toutes trying to get the single men into the girly bars, we moved on quickly!

Next up the rabbit warren of bars that is the Golden Gai. Stay tuned!

 

Awesome Akihabara

After sating my desire for all things kitchen related we head onto get our first glimpse of one of the ubiquitous sights in Tokyo – the neon jungle of Akihabara, AKA Electric town.

Akihabara is named after the fire-controlling god of a shrine built after the area was destroyed by a fire in 1869.

Akihabara gained the nickname Electric Town after World War II as it became a major shopping centre for household electronic goods and the post-war black market.

It’s a popular shopping district for video games, anime, manga, and computer goods.

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Anime and manga shops abound and numerous ‘maid cafés’ are found everywhere.

Everywhere you turn are a plethora of skimpily clad, doe eyed manga dolls. Illustrating a curious sexual but cartoonish vision of womanhood.

Another feature of Japan is the proliferation of arcades with machines for grabbing all manner of fluffy toys and plastic trinkets.

While we associate them with children in the UK, we saw lots of adults putting money into the slots. It all links into the Japanese obsession with Kawaii.

Kawaii is all about cuteness. It’s a prominent aspect of Japanese popular culture that features in everything from entertainment, clothing, food, toys to personal appearance, behaviour, and mannerisms.

I feel the blue fuzzy things might be making eyes at me . . . .

Around Akibara are huge colourful billboards and screens with male or female dancing and singing groups.

These are idols – media personalities in their teens and twenties who are considered particularly attractive or cute and who will regularly appear in the mass media .

Another common feature to be found dotted around are Maid cafés.

These curious, cutesy affairs are a type of cosplay restaurant. In these cafés, waitresses dressed in maid costumes act as servants, and treat customers as masters and mistresses in a private home, rather than as café patrons.

Below I manage to grab a snap of one of the many, very camera shy, maid cafe toutes.

All in all it’s a jaw dropping array of neon highrises, billboards, flashing lights and cartoonish overload.

There isn’t a surface that’s not smothered in cutesy cartoons, or garish advertising. It’s a sensory overload!

I’ll leave you with these colourful snaps of another common feature – vending machines.

The Japanese love to vend things! Whether it’s food, toys, plastic tat or even flying fish in oil – there are literally 1000s of machines on every street corner.

We’ll head back to Akihabara later to see it all lit up at night.