From old to new Tokyo
After the long day yesterday I was a bit worried that I would not be able to wake up early enough to get breakfast and be in time. The time we were supposed to leave is a little bit earlier than I like to be at work usually. But it seems the taktik to delay worked. And I woke up at 6 o’clock. Before my alarm went of that is.
So after a shower in the tiny bathroom (maybe I’ll write a post about bathrooms in Japan at a later date?) I went downstairs to see what Japanese breakfast would look like. (And I’ll leave this experience to another post as well. Still have to take some pictures.)
Todays agenda was to see some sights in Tokyo and learn a bit more about how to get around. So off we went to another underground station and I finally learned what the Letters, Colors and Numbers where there fore. Getting to the right plattform – still a little bit hazy about that.
The letters and numbers part is of course easy – maybe even more intuitive than the line numbers in other cities around the world. Each line has a name. Most of the time this name refers to the parts of the city this line connects. For example the Ginza line. Now you just take the initials of this name and you got the letters (For example G for the Ginza line). For the ease of use to the tourists these are our letters. Not Japanese ones. Each of the line got a color connected to it so that it is easier to identify the line on the fly. And the numbers? Train stations.
Of course each train station has it’s own name. But how much easier is it for us to remember G16 than a name in a foreign language?
So by navigating the train lines (part underground, part above ground) we went to Tokyo station.
Apart from being the main station in Tokyo this is almost quite close to the emperors castle. The train station itself is based on the old building which seems to be built by brick but has been modernized. To get to the old you first have to pass through the high-rises. The blocks are all owned by the Mitsubishi company. Including the modern glas and steel building of Mitsubishi bank.
And then the whole scenery changes past big moats and trees you get a glimpse at Edo castle. It’s like a small glimpse back to the past. The way goes up over a bridge to a big gate that leads to no one knows where and on top in surrounded by trees sits the castle itself.
Of course us mere mortals are not allowed up there. So the way goes past the moat up to an old pair of gates that are part of the running track that lot of people where using. The track is one way of course. So we tourists where going against the direction of travel. The sun was out by this time and it was not only us but some kids where visiting out this way as well.
Having a look at the gates one had to wonder how much forced it would have taken to break those doors down. A show of force for local lords having ideas for sure.
Next we needed to get back to a train station so we could go on to our next location. This way led us through a small park inspired by European design with a small German style bungalow built in 1910 for park management. Today this bungalow is among other things used as a wedding venue.
Next stop was the Meiji-shrine.
Japanese where definitely a minority here. Fortunately the way through the woods up to the shrine was wide enough and the gates massive so all the tourists had some space. But I get a feeling that this was more of a lucky day for us. On the way up there is a display of barrels of blessed sake and opposite even small barrels of wine from Burgundy.
Next was a display of chrysanthemums which had been grown by hobbiests all over the country. Some where even part of a small setting displaying different parts of Japanese life.
But as our goal was the shrine we our next stop was to clean ourselves. Well not a shower or bath of course but a small ritual cleaning before entering the shrine.
So we washed our hands (left then right) and then the mouth (and depending who you asked the left had again which contained the water for the mouth). Of course here you don’t just dip your hands into the well, but use special ladles provided for you.
Now being clean it was time to enter the shrine itself. And to provide us with a bit more diversity there where even a few families who brought out their 3 year old children dressed in traditional garb and even a couple who got some wedding shots done on the grounds of the shrine.
By now it was almost noon and we went to Shinbashi to find ourselves something to eat.
After the lunch break (Curry for me) we made our way through Ginza. At Ginza 4 we made up a small game for those who did not like to do window shopping to much. – Find a way to get a good view on the crossing downstairs.
So first try was Mitsukoshi. This department store provides you with almost everything you need for daily life if it is produced by a brand. So all a bit upscale. One of the small group I went with did some recon into the wares the Japanese division is selling. It seemed to me that there where quite a few differences between the things sold in Europe and those sold here.
We found out that you can have a view from one of the shops but that the roof terrace which is very nice and a place of quiet solitude does not provide a view to street level. Instead it has a roof garden where herbs are grown.
So next stop was Ginza place. Another high rise that mostly provided exhibition space for Nissan and Sony. But in between there was a small pop up store with café which did have a small balcony. From here on the 3rd floor you had a very nice view down to the street and into the different streets as well.
The other option was a café on the second floor of a building next door where some of the tables where set up at the windows looking out.
Next stop was Ameyoko market. This place was used to be the location of the black market for all the American goods after WW II. So if someone wanted American cigarettes or even a pair of jeans one had to go here.
Nowadays it is kind of a souk with lots of vendors selling almost everything from fresh seafood over trinkets for tourists to hats and street food up to special food people from other countries would like to have. (turtles, chicken feet, fish head and so on ring a bell?)
As the group got smaller with each stop we made only a few went on to Akihabara. Which of course seems to provide the most for your eyes once it gets dark out. With all the lights and music wherever you go.
So what do you get at Akihabara? I’d say everything you want for entertainment. Starting at cables and other electronics (gaming consoles and tvs) you can of course go into game halls and play some games here as well.
For those who prefer something a little bit less electronic her Zou can get your favorite Manga or manifestations of Manga and Anime characters as well.
Last but not least there are some restaurants in with different choices as well. Be it a “maid café” or a meat sushi bar (don’t know how it is called but they use meat instead of fish) usual sushi bars and so on. We ended up at a place that sold Shoba noodles.
After dinner we wanted to make our way back to our hotel. Unfortunately we miscalculated the location of the train station and ended up at the other end of the quarter.
With the implication that we could have another visit at the Buddhist temple we had visited the day before.
Afterwards we tried out a new way and went though a residential area to see how the Japanese actually live.
Back at the hotel I went to write up a report of the day for our group.
Just as I was entering the elevator to go up to my room I was approached by an elderly Japanese businesses man where I would be from and if I’d like to go back down to have a beer with him.
It was a very nice chat and it turns out that he is actually employed at a company that manufactures glas for cars and trains.