Monday, 21 April 2008

Day 12 Part 1 - Tama Center

Today we decided to head out of Tokyo towards the sprawling western suburbs of Tama New Town. This was a massive residential development project straddling four municipalities located around Tama Hills.

Tama Hills is approximately 45 minutes by a private train line, so in comparison to Sydney it would be like visiting Parramatta. The commercial centre of Tama New Town is the commercial district around Tama Center Station.

Why did we want to visit Tama New Town? Two reasons.

The first is to visit Sanrio Puroland - an indoor theme park for fans of Sanrio characters. Sanrio is a company that specializes in producing cute stationery items, greeting cards and what's known as "character merchandise" - a range of goods featuring a fictional "character." Sanrio's most popular and enduring character is Hello Kitty - a white cat with no mouth and a red (sometimes pink) bow next to her right ear. I remember collecting Hello Kitty stationery when I was a child - they were very expensive because they were imported from Japan and I had to save up for a long time for each item

The second reason is a little bit more esoteric. One of my favourite anime film is 「耳をすませば」 (Whisper of the Heart), a "coming of age" story about a junior high school girl nurturing a talent for writing fantasy and also falling into love with a boy who is her schoolmate. I was thrilled to discover from a fan web site that the story was largely set in a real location - specifically the area surrounding the Seiseki-Sakuragoa station (聖蹟桜ヶ丘駅) which is located within the Tama New Town.

We headed off the to the Shinjuku Keio where I enquired at the ticket counter on the best way to visit Sanrio Puroland. I asked the girl whether she could speak English and she kind of hesitated and was a bit shy so I ended up asking in Japanese. Luckily, she understood my request, went off to ask a colleague, and returned with some good news - apparently Keio will sell a combined all day train pass together with admission into the theme park - for the same price as the normal admission price to Puroland. This was great, and represented a significant savings so we happily purchased two tickets.

This is the ticket gate to the Keio platforms:

And the train timetable information board:

Boarding the train as it pulled up to the platform:

Arriving at Tama Center:

Apparently Tama Center is also known as "Hello Kitty's Town":

The Tama Center station:

A huge pedestrian mall/boulevard leading away from the station:

And looking back at the station in the distance:

Tama Center does feel like a suburban satellite town (similar to Chatswood or Parramatta in Sydney) complete with it's very own Mitsukoshi department store (the most prestigious department store chain in Tokyo):

Turning into a side street leading to Puroland, I was struck by how "Westernised" Tama New Town is - with McDonalds, Subway, Warner Bros cinemas ...

This pigeon caught my eye:

Bicycle parked at the mall:

We crossed a pedestrian overhead bridge:

An interesting sculpture in front of an office building:

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