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Published: July 12th 2009
A pedestrian scramble, also known as a diagonal crossing, is a pedestrian crossing system that stops all vehicular traffic and allows pedestrians to cross an intersection in every direction at the same time.
I was excited about heading off to Tokyo, to see a futuristic metropolis, possibly a glimpse of what's to come. However, it also gave me the opportunity to ride the legendary Shinkansen bullet train for the first time.
As expected it was comfortable, clean, on time and reasonably fast. There's so little noise and the fact its very smooth makes it hard to get a sense of how fast you're actually moving, so it's extremely efficient but somewhat disappointing as I hoping to slammed back into my seat like some NASA astronaut as we pulled some heavy negative "G's". No such luck as the food cart slowly passed by with multi coloured crustless sandwiches on it and the usual noodles, sweets and something that would be deemed the Japanese equivalent of a ration pack.
Arriving into Tokyo (and rain), me Matt and Alex decided on a Ryokan (type of traditional Japanese inn) from the lonely planet guide just off the Sendagi stop on the Chiyoda Line. It was clean, comfortable and more modern than a traditional Ryokan and the owners were friendly and helpful (website http://www.katsutaro.com).
The first day me and Alex went on a mission visiting various temples
The Edo Castle, formerly the Tokugawa family's residence, was opened in the Meiji Restoration and later renamed as the Imperial Palace.
in the morning and managing to get a lot done using the extremely again, efficient subway system, which is so easy to get your bearings being named, numbered and colour coded.
We also checked out electric city which is an area of endless electronic stores in multi-levelled buildings selling everything electronic, so yes it does have an apt name, but do you really need to see 1000 different types of camera on one floor. IN my experience, with Internet selling and the information gap between places like Japan and Europe has closed significantly meaning that there was nothing on sale that was super advanced or, not that we could find. It seemed to be the same sort of products you get back home which was a bit of a let down or maybe we didn't go to the right places or possibly that's a typical western stereotype of Japan. That you will get off the plane to be greeted by a Sony C3PO (minus the "fabulous") who drives you immediately to a destination of your choice.
Tsukiji Fish Market
Getting off the subway I had a rough idea of where the market was situated but was clueless as to
where in the market the actual fish were, let me just clarify that its a huge area of warehouses that contain more than just fish . However, I could smell them so I knew I was close (within 10 miles at least) but at this point people were packing vegetables and fruit so I wasn't in the right area (that's what you call "Holmesian" deduction) and then suddenly I was amongst mechanised carts, flying past me with fish on them and tuna being cut with large band saws.
The strange thing about this whole situation is its a completely functioning market, people are busy getting on with their work, cutting, preparing, transporting fish and it felt weird just walking around amongst them, sometimes getting in their way as they went about their daily work. Like sitting at your desk at work and suddenly there's a bunch of tourists snapping your photocopier and fax machine!?!, which is why I can understand that they banned cameras for a while. So I tried hard not to get in their way as I looked round and tried to be as respectful as possible (the Japanese do love respect).
The market it has
to be said is incredible, it seems to go on forever in every direction. In the whole of my travels I have not been to a market like it. There was every kind of sea food possible on display and it just went on and on and on, this was quite a shock to me just due to the sheer scale of it. It was like a giant hoover had sucked up every living thing, swimming, floating or scuttling and filtered out the water leaving just the sea creatures behind and its easy to understand, when confronted by this that we are clearing out our oceans at an alarming rate with the demand for sea food only increasing.
New York Bar
I woke up to my alarm like a veteran crack head gone cold turkey. For some reason I had been sick for a good few days (plane flight possibly) feeling feverish. That night it was pretty bad being sweat soaked and a little weak, but when you travel so far for so short a time you have to make the effort right? I headed out to the station to catch the subway, first to make my way to
the famous Shubuya Station, Hachiko Exit. The great thing about travelling in Tokyo is you can buy an all day ticket for around 700 Yen which covers most of the lines you need, there are a couple of private ones but they're pretty rare.
So I made my way to the Ginza line and headed for station number one and after getting off (the train) was suddenly amongst a lot of people and, apparently this happens at other stations and only at certain times too. So it appears quiet and then suddenly all hell breaks lose and there's a plethora of people everywhere, well this was definitely one of those times and one of those stations.
Stepping out into Shubuya Crossing is a mad, mad experience as there's huge throngs of people milling around and waiting to cross the famous intersection under massive screens and neon lights. Its similar to Times Square in New York but better, bigger and brighter. It's amazing how when the lights turn red for traffic there are literally hundreds of people crossing the intersection and every single time too, its like a production line in a factory. It really does epitomise Tokyo and it
There are lamps placed on the wires supporting the bridge, which are illuminated into three different colors, red, white and green every night using solar energy obtained during the day.
would have been a shame to have left Japan without seeing it.
Next up I was back on the subway heading to meet Alex at the New York Bar in the Shinjuku district, known for its many skyscrapers. The New York Bar is to be found on the 52nd floor of the Shinjuku Park Tower and is featured throughout the movie Lost in Translation, minus Scarlett Johannson (I looked...........hard) and seemed like a worthwhile place to go.
As you come out the lift on the 52nd floor you are greeted by soft jazz music and floor to ceiling windows with panoramic views over the whole of Tokyo giving it a very trendy relaxed atmosphere. There is a 2000 Yen cover charge which is more than worth it and after having payed it, we were seated in a good position to see the both jazz band and views of Tokyo. The band was brought over from Chicago to play their tunes all the while me and Alex perused over the menu. The prices were not cheap but due to the setting and atmosphere I took the opportunity to have my first dry martini (shaken not stirred) and it came with
You can just see Tokyo Tower on the left there.
a huge olive and having dressed in a simple t-shirt and jeans and with current stomach/fever problems it was hard to feel anything like James Bond and more like Hunter S Thompson.
Tokyo is a great city but like any great city to fully appreciate it you need time and plenty of money and unfortunately I had neither but it is somewhere I would like to get to know better in the future. The next day me and Matt were off to Hiroshima with Alex moving on to the island of Miyajima close by.
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