So, my second day in Tokyo it rained like crazy. Well, it didn't necessarily pour-- most of the time. But it rained basically all day until about 7 p.m. Still, I was determined to see all the sights, so I did as much sightseeing as possible within about a 12-hour period.
I was planning to go see the Tsukiji Fish Market, supposedly the biggest fish market in the world, but as I didn't have an alarm (and the fun at the market is usually over by about 9 a.m, or so I heard), alas, I overslept. So, I started instead at the Imperial Gardens (near an area called "Ginza"). The Imperial Gardens were quite expansive (near the Imperial Palace, which, in fact, is usually off-limits to visitors), full of ponds and plants and flowers and trees. Oh, and huge, thick rock walls that would've made an awesome defense any day. It was rainy, but still a lovely place to visit.
After that, I went to Shinjuku where I got a free view of Tokyo from the 45th floor of the Metropolitan Building. Shinjuku is the business district (I think) where most of the big skyscrapers of Tokyo are.
There's a free viewing area in this particular building, and most days you can see a lot. Again, it was raining, so I didn't see too far along, but it was nice to see the surrounding area, at least (they say that on a good day you can sometimes even see to Mt. Fuji!).
After Shinjuku, I took the subway to Shibuya (subway was my main mode of transportation all throughout Tokyo), which is the "hip district" of Tokyo. As in, where all the youngsters hang out and shop and have a grand time. It's a pretty happening place. There's all kinds of restaurants and shops and cafes and bars and things. Despite the rain, it was still very busy and frenetic and such. Supposedly, the busiest pedestrian crossing is also there. I tried to take a few pictures of it, because even though it was less busy (again, rain) the masses of umbrellas crossing the street made for a good picture. The crossing is just near the "Times Square"/"Picadilly Circus" area of Tokyo where you can see all the neon, bright, flashing screens you could ever want to see. And, of course, not unlike Seoul and most other
places in Korea, most of the city-fied places were filled with bright lights and neon. Maybe less neon than Korea, but still bright, nonetheless.
From Shibuya, I walked all the way up to Harajuku, which is like the alternative youth area of Tokyo. Now, that was a really happening and pretty cool place, mostly because it was quite unlike what we run into in Korea-- from what I've seen. Korea seems to often be about fitting in-- as such a communal culture, being overly individual is not a good thing. Thus, Koreans, from what I've seen, seem to follow the same trends-- perhaps rebelling against them is not quite as "cool" as in other countries. So, to see this alternative culture was, well, refreshing, I guess. Anyway, first of all, in Harajuku on Sundays, many youth engage in what's called "cosplay" (costume play), where they dress up like their favorite anime characters and whatnot. It's a pretty amazing site. I mean, you're just walking down the street, and then it's suddenly like Halloween-- people made up and in costume walking down the street or hanging out on the street corner-- and some are pretty elaborate. So, that was really
fun. And then, beyond the cosplay, there's the rest of the alternative crowd-- with all the piercings, hair-dos, grungy clothes, etc. you could ever want. Again, after having all the cutesy flowers, butterflies, bright colors, etc., I could ever take in Korea, it was surprisingly refreshing. And surprising.
Anyway, near Harajuku, there's also a huge park called Yoyogi Park. I went there (before all the Harajuku stuff) in fact. It was quite lovely. And then, inside the park, there's a famous shrine called the Meiji Shrine, built for one of the former emperors of Japan. It was cool to see, especially because by now I've seen many temples but far fewer shrines during my time in Asia. It was amazing, because it was like this peaceful oasis in the midst of all the noise and busy-ness of this huge city. So, it was a nice resting place for me, and I sat in the shrine for some time (there was this lovely courtyard with benches (in a dry place)) and watched people come in and out-- and also watched a short, quiet ceremony the shrine attendants performed.
After Harajuku, I went to Omotesando Dori, a nearby street lined
by upscale stores that I'd be interested in if I cared much about high fashion and/or had a lot of money. But it was interesting because this area is shoved up against Harajuku, so it's like the alternatives rubbing elbows with the high brows-- the Coach stores and Louis Vuitton and whatnot. In fact, they call Omotesando Dori "Tokyo's Champs d'Elysees." Well, I've seen both now, and I'm not sure I'd quite agree... but I guess in it's tree-lined way it's built up in the same fashion. I guess you just can't beat grand finish with the Arc d'Triomphe in Paris. Nothing really compares. All the while, Tokyo's version was lovely.
So, once I finished up in that area, I took the subway to Roppongi-- the foreigner district of Tokyo. It was fun to see all the people there-- different faces, different restaurants from every nationality, etc. It was either this district (or another one of similar sort, I feel) that I read somewhere was the basis for the backdrop of Blade Runner
, and I definitely saw why. It was cool with all the diversity, but a little
dingy. It didn't help that it was raining then (making it
look gloomier and more like the ever-raining set of the aforementioned movie). It was fun to drop by (and eat some dinner) there, but definitely not a place I wanted to stay in long. I wanted to go to a jazz club there after dinner, but alas, it had shut down. So, instead, I went back to Shibuya to take in all the bright night lights glittering multi-colored all over the now-damp (it had stopped raining) pavement. A pretty hoppin' place even at night. It was nice to swing by there before heading back to the hostel.
Thus, my second day was finished. Next, on to Osaka to meet my Japanese friend!
By the way, I'm way behind on picture uploading-- my computer is slow at home and at school I forget to bring the USB drive with the pics-- but expect pictures any day now!
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