Following my venture to Hakuba, I decided to return to Tokyo with Kevin and Joy rather than get a few more days of riding in. Crazy isn't it? I kick myself now for not extending my stay. If I had known about the K's House Hostel up there, I wouldn't have been as worried about lodging costs, it's all good though, looks like we'll be returning there this weekend anyway.
Nagano (in brief)
Getting off the bus from Hakuba, I didn't realize how urban Nagano was. During my first day in Japan, upon my arrival, I walked straight to the back of the station to eat my first meal and to catch my bus to Hakuba. That rear area was relatively dark and had few business establishments (mostly restaurants) along the road parallel to the station and the narrow street perpendicular to it. For a ski resort town, that was as much as I was expecting.
Little did I know, the other side (front) of the station opened up to a fully developed city complete with requisite skyscrapers and wide boulevards. I should have done my research because it looks like I'll be making the 1.5 hour trip out there next week before my JR Pass expires. Guess what's located in that lovely city? A museum dedicated to the Prince Skyline.
For the uninitiated, the Skyline is not a Nissan creation. It was developed by a company called Prince before Nissan bought them out in the 60s. Though I can't find any article mentioning it online, I read in the past that within Nissan, there were warring factions siding with the Z, and others with the Skyline. Because the Skyline wasn't a true Nissan, some felt that development resources for the car should have ceased and instead, more effort focused on the Z. Of course that's all history now since much is shared between the two models.
Spent two days in Tokyo visiting various neighborhoods with Kevin as my tour guide. During my first morning there, we stuck around the Roppongi area where Kevin lived, had a quick meal before seeing Joy off. Afterwards we went to Shibuya, that Times Square-like area to check out the stores. If you've seen photos of Tokyo in the evenings with digital billboards plastered everywhere, I'm almost certain it's a photo of Shibuya Crossing.
Of the many stores we walked through, including Disney where it's apparent that Stitch (of Lilo and Stitch) is still very popular, Loft interested me the most. Even Muji which I expected to like very much took a back seat when compared to Loft. I must've spent 20 minutes looking through the shelves upon shelves of available pens, picked up a pretty cool calligraphy-like pen. Though I was disciplined enough at the time to limit myself to one (well actually two) pens, I think I'm going to go back to grab some things for Mike and to stock up on other sketching supplies not available in the states.
*The photo of Shibuya Crossing was taking by Kev on a prior trip when the other CMU guys visited.