Tremendous Tokyo


Advertisement
Japan's flag
Asia » Japan » Tokyo
August 10th 2009
Published: August 10th 2009
Edit Blog Post

ShibuyShibuyShibuy

Tokyo's finest!
I couldn't believe it was already 6:30pm, 36hrs after arriving Tokyo and it was literally the first time I had taken time to absorb and fully take in everything and where better to take the time to reflect than sitting in a coffee shop in Shibuka overlooking Tokyo’s finest! Tokyo really is just brilliant!

I arrived around 12ish the day before but by the time I had collected my luggage , always a fun past time...NOT, exchanged JR rail pass vouchers and navigated my way across the city to Asakusabashi it was already 3pm when I got to Khaosan Tokyo Ninja backpackers(KTN). It is safe to say that KTN is one of the nicest backpacker’s hostels that I had stayed in to date and what added to the coolness was the fact that I was booked into their capsule bed type dorm which was fun and actually far more pleasant than staying in a normal dorm, you actually have some privacy!!

Since time was of the essence with only a week in the country and a mad amount of things on my list to do I quite literally checked in, dumped my bags, patched a couple of calls home
Welcome to TokyoWelcome to TokyoWelcome to Tokyo

Biding time at Narita Airport train station.
and not an hour later my lonely planet and I were on a Tokyo city exploration mission! I started my exploration destined for Shinjuka (Admittedly I thought I was heading to the Time Square of Tokyo, Shibuya, but clearly had the names muddled). In a way its fortuitous when you muddle things up cause you land up visiting spots that you would otherwise have skipped.

I have to say Tokyo doesn’t have nearly as chaotic a feel, on 1st impressions, compared with Seoul and a Sunday actually feels like a Sunday not just any other day of the working week! What is even more awesome is that the train conductors here actually give the passengers a chance to board the train they don’t close the door in your face just as you have completed the 20m sprint up a flight of stairs!

I absolutely love riding trains, especially ones that makes stops. On rout to Shinjuka I did what I do best when riding stop start trains, I spend some time drifting, hopping on and off when I saw something interesting. On arriving at Ichigoya station half way to Shinjuka I looked out the window and spotted a
Welcome to TokyoWelcome to TokyoWelcome to Tokyo

You know you are in Japan when Pokemon headgear is the order of the day
classic sight a sport fishing pool just chilling there in the middle of a Tokyo suburb alongside the station, so random but so classic! Naturally I had to hop off and see what goes down at a very busy sport fishing spot on a stunning, blue sky, 32°C Sunday afternoon! Turns out all you need is to be older than 40, have a fishing rod and the rest well... cast, chill, catch and release....all afternoon classic to watch!

I definitely spent some time being intrigued by the fishermen and women before the next train arrived and I was then once again headed towards Shinjuka. Admittedly I was expecting to be overwhelmed by 1000’s of people and massive video screens on imposing buildings but like I mentioned I clearly had my Japanese names crossed so instead of Tokyo Time square I landed up in the neighbourhood adjacent to Tokyo’s red-light district, Kabukicho. None the less the Shinjuka-Kabukicho area is really interesting it houses tones or interesting shops from fancy stores to some low key ones, tones of restaurants and on the seedier side of town a bunch of dicey adult DVD bangs all alongside tones of Pachinko (pin ball-gambling) halls!
Welcome to TokyoWelcome to TokyoWelcome to Tokyo

Taking in Tokyo's out skirts Narita to Tokyo center
Seems I was a little too early to spot any late night harlots, luckily, but I did get a glimpse of some of the resident teen punk crowd!

Once Shinjuka was suitably explored I headed to check out the Akihabara electronics district in hopes of being blown away by awesome ipod prices. Turns out the Korean Won gets you pretty few Yen and should be deemed useless in any country but its own! I’ll continue to hope that lotto ticket pays off ;-)! Like everything in Tokyo there are no half measures and the shop after shop of electronics products at Akihabara rivals Yongsan 10 fold and best of all its duty free! After plenty of time spent flirting with my desired item I figured it was best I left before I got overexcited and looked to Discover credit department for help. I also figured that is was definitely time to head back to Asakusabashi to freshen up since flight + lots of walking + 32°C + 70% humidity ≠ pleasant odour!

{Incidentally, before I headed for Japan I sucked up the price and bought a JR rail pass and it would turn out to be the best
Welcome to TokyoWelcome to TokyoWelcome to Tokyo

Train - Narita to Tokyo center. Taking in the sights on the out skirts
money I had ever spent cause already at this point I hadn’t had to fork out any money for extra transport since Tokyo has two JR lines that interlink the subway, what a pleasure!}

Quick freshen up and time to see what Tokyo night life had to offer! Since it was Sunday I didn’t expect much but I headed to the Itaewon of Tokyo, Rapongi, none the less to see what was going down. I left the subway and sauntered down a side street when I spotted Tokyo Tower so I decided it would be cool to check out the Tokyo night lights from 333m above. On my way I met a hell of a nice Finnish guy who was also headed in the direction of the tower (I love travelling cause you meet such cool people along the way!). Sadly the observation deck of the tower was closed so we headed back to Rapongi crossing and then headed our separate ways.

I have to say Rapongi is a little dicey, even when compared with Itaewon (and that’s saying something) cause it seems there has been a mass importation of massive African usher/bouncer types trying to get people
AsakusabashAsakusabashAsakusabash

Approaching Khaosan Tokyo Ninja
to go into the 100% of tiny bars and clubs and they are so persistent it’s really not cool. I was grateful that I was walking alongside the burly Finnish dude while passing the club street! Happy to be back at the main crossing I opted to go in pursuit of a quieter more bohemian location rather than being forcefully ushered into a dingy underground club. Sadly Lonely Planet’s directions are a little too open to interpretation and their major “you can’t miss it” land mark is, no longer so I managed to walk flipping far before I realized that finding a cocktail at a suitable location was not going to be the order of the evening so I did a 180 and decided that maybe I would indulge in some of Japans finer cuisine. I wasn’t really in the best area restaurant wise so I definitely wasn’t spoiled for choice but again it turned out to fortuitous that I only really had the choice of Italian food (as if that would be my choice for my 1st meal in Tokyo) or Sushi, what a bummer... NOT!

I happened upon a really fabulous sushi restaurant and I ended up
Khaosan Tokyo NinjaKhaosan Tokyo NinjaKhaosan Tokyo Ninja

"capsule bed" type dorm
sitting next to a really great Parisian who was happy to chit chat over some very yummy sushi! A couple of hours later I bid Sebastian farewell I managed to avoid a very expensive cab ride home by making it onto the last train of the evening. I retired to my very cosy “wooden capsule” suitably content that my 1st few hours in Tokyo were rated a definite 10 out of 10 on the unreal scale!

It was officially, my body had automatically kicked into Julie-Anne travel mode cause it woke itself up at 4:45am just on time to get ready for an early morning trip to Tsikiji Fish market and to hopefully watch the Tuna fish auction. Unfortunately it seemed to take me ages to get ready and I forgot that the trains run at longer intervals at that time of the morning so I didn’t make it to the auction but regardless the market was very charismatic and not just your usual run of the mill fish market which made exploring the alleyways packed with stalls and then dodging speedy delivery carts, delivering the mornings catch, a whole bunch of fun! After that early a wake up
Khaosan Tokyo NinjaKhaosan Tokyo NinjaKhaosan Tokyo Ninja

their take on Japans capsule bed
and that much walking I had a massive appetite worked up so I ducked into a back alley and came across a really cool little spot to enjoy a sushi breakfast! Yes I know twice in almost as many hours but there is just no limit to the amount of sushi I can consume! And let me just say that it was by far the most unreal sushi I have ever eaten in my life! I did manage to committed a couple of faux pas while savouring the gastronomic sensation; I first snapped a photo which was apparently an absolute no-no (I didn’t realize that no flash photography meant no photography at all) and I then proceeded to stand my chop sticks upright in my rice also a complete no-no so I was not winning favour with the locals frequenting their local for breakfast. Luckily I managed to redeem myself when I tried my very best to thank the lady, in my very politest Japanese, for the meal in fact I even manage to get an appreciative laugh out of her when I successfully managed to say “dechiso sama goshita” instead of “gochiso sama deshita” It seems that mastering a Japanese courtesy takes a little longer than two minutes out of the lonely planet glossary section but thankfully she knew what I was getting at and I managed to get rid of the naive westerner label that was pinned to me head after steeling the “illicit” photo of her store .

By 8am I had had my fill of Sushi and general market exploration so I headed for an early morning stroll in the Hana Rikyu gardens heading towards the pier for a boat trip on the Sumida River. Turns out the gardens haven’t co-ordinated their opening time with the fish market operating hours so I had an hour to bide before I could set my eyes on a true Japanese garden. Turns out biding time on the outskirts of Ginza doesn’t offer much and banks in the immediate area are non-existent not idea when you have time and a need for some Japanese Yen! I did happen upon a very shwavie hotel (note that the lobby of the hotel was on the 16th floor nog al) so I totally thought that they would simply convert my $ into ¥ and I would be heading back to soak up
Ichigoye StationIchigoye StationIchigoye Station

Sunday afternoon sport fishing anyone?
the sun while waiting for the garden gates to open. What I stupidly forgot though is that hotels only provide a forex service for guests so I was politely turned away by the concierge but not before I spent some time taking in the stunning view over Ginza from 16 floors up!

A whole bunch of kilometres and about an hour later I was directed, by a very helpful Police officer (there is a police booth on just about every corner in Tokyo and they all ride bikes it’s amazing!) towards a completely non-descript sky scraper which was apparently a bank. Admittedly there is absolutely no way I would have known it was a bank even if I had gone inside cause this was the most ‘unbank’ bank that I have ever been to! You walk in and you are very loudly but politely greeted and bowed to by two Japanese gentlemen and only then did I take in the sheer massiveness of this bank, it was like an economic factory I swear it was the kind of bank that I had in my mind’s eye after reading Dan Browns description of the Swiss bank in the Da Vinci
Ichigoye StationIchigoye StationIchigoye Station

Sunday afternoon sport fishing anyone?
Code. 15 very efficient minutes after arriving I was presented with my currency (after being address as Miss Marchington) and I was happily heading back to Hana Rikyu and not 15minus after opening time!

Hana Rikyu is a really stunning botanical garden, I was completely amazed at the tranquillity and beauty of the garden even though it is a green oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle of imposing sky scrapers! I’m not sure what it is but a very similar type garden in Seoul would be completely consumed by the city around it while at Hana Rikyu the complete opposite is the case, the garden holds its own it is spectacular!

Halfway through the garden, on rout to the boat pier, I stopped in at the tea house where I was served a traditional cup of iced green tea and a Japanese sweet meat and I then attempted to follow the taking tea etiquette (you get given some instructions to follow when you arrive). It was a truly lovely experience sitting there in the heart of Hana Rikyu in a Ryokan style tea house taking tea (and the most amazing green tea I might add, not
Ichigoye StationIchigoye StationIchigoye Station

Sunday afternoon sport fishing anyone?
that watery tasteless stuff they call organic in Spar). I could have sat there for hours just sipping tea and taking in the tranquillity. Alas time was tight so I bid the tea house arigato and sayonara and on-on to the pier it was!

With half an hour till the next boat I took the opportunity to befriend a lovely French girl and in no 30minutes of chit chat had passed and I was on the boat bound for Asakusa. Boat rides on city rivers are always a fun way to see a different side of the city. I happened to be sitting next to a very friendly Canadian-Chinese expat who was holidaying with his family so he helped me avoid resorting to the dreaded self portrait photo to document my ride and he was also happy to engaging in some general chit chat, yet another wonderfully friendly traveller to swap some banta with and someone who will take in my 2010 world cup marketing bid (I think I should be getting a salary from SA FIFA committee the way I have been promoting!). A fun filled 45minutes later and I arrived in Asakusa for my first taste of
ShinjukaShinjukaShinjuka

Tokyo's law and order
Japan’s cultural sites.

I started my Asakusa trip by meandering through Nakamiso dori (pretty much the Insa-dong of Tokyo tones of traditional souvenir and snack food stores) and I then made my way through to Sensoji Temple. Sadly the main temple was under restoration/ maintenance so all I saw was a huge amount of white PVC and scaffolding but I took my sip from the fountain of life and I cleansed myself in to aromatic smoke of the incense burner before heading on my way.

Tommy, my Finnish acquaintance from the night before, had been polite enough not to laugh at my doffness at confusing Shinjuka was Shibuya and he redirected me to the intersection of mad lights, video screens and 1000’s of pedestrians waiting for that little green man to flash (that’s for you mom). Now everyone has heard about Shibuya ‘s main intersection when at the changing of the lights the intersection is consumed by, quite literally, 1000’s of pedestrians all crossing the road at once and then scampering down one of the many tributaries off the main street but to be there truly is mind blowing you can’t comprehend he foot traffic that that intersection
ShinjukaShinjukaShinjuka

I love the Japanese Taxis
sees! Coupled with the imposing buildings, lights, TV screens and sounds the whole place is like walking into a computer game, it’s the most frenetic place I have been too! The day had been a serious scorcher so I was met with a refreshing early evening shower when I exited the subway . People watching in Shibuya is fun but I think it’s even more entertaining on a rainy day cause it’s a real art the way that many people manage to maneuver both body and umbrella between each other without any blinding incidences!

The lonely planet says Shibuya is a perfect spot to people watch and to get a taste for Tokyo’s All Sorts and they are completely right it’s a very intriguing precinct. Shibuya is much like Myeong-dong in Seoul but coupled with
ShinjukaShinjukaShinjuka

one of 100s of Pachinko type gambling hall
the big brand stores are side streets with some really great little, out of the ordinary bargain shops! I happened on a very comical store at one point, as I approached the entrance I noticed two seemingly friendly Caucasian guys who I exchanged a good chuckle with as I entered the store. When I finally emerged from the store suitably entertained they two guys were still standing there, as I passed by they said hi and asked if I had time for a coffee, since I’m all for making new friends and didn’t precisely have another engagement I figured why not and agreed to head in the direction of a coffee shop. On rout I started asking the usual run of the mill, suss out your company, type questions and while they seemed nice enough I did start to get the feeling that perhaps this impromptu coffee engagement wasn’t exactly going to be comfortable! Now since I didn’t have a dolly friend on hand to pull an emergency call I had to resort to my own get out of jail methods AKA glance down at watch hella obviously and then exclaim “oh my word is that the time....I have to get to a performance”, before reaching the coffee shop (ok I know that’s super bad but hey I wasn’t sure I wanted to be sitting alone with two eastern European guys that I had met not 5 minutes earlier making small talk over a cup coffee) so after my sudden exclamation I made a calm but very rapid and skillful (weaving your umbrella through 100% of other oncoming umbrellas is tricky) get away and once I figured I was well absorbed by the sea of people and clear umbrellas I continued my exploration of Shibuya attempting to avoid the corner where they had been standing at all costs otherwise that would have been right embarrassing!

So there I was an almost solid 13 hour days worth of solid activity finally enjoying the most wonderful cup of English tea seated on the second floor of a coffee shop looking down on the pedestrian street feeling suitably content with the days exploration and activities. By this stage though I did think that If I was going to maintain the energy then perhaps a little more than four hours sleep (something that had not been achieved for four nights running) was in order. So off it was back to the Hostel with fingers and toes crossed that there would be a summer weather phenomenon that would allow me to get a glimpse of Mt Fiji from Hakone.

One and a half days in Tokyo is not nearly enough in this amazing city and I have to admit I was already congering up a scheme so that I can get back here while I’m still on the Asian side of the world, what a really amazing city!



Additional photos below
Photos: 77, Displayed: 35


Advertisement

Shinjuka Shinjuka
Shinjuka

DVD bang with a difference
ShinjukaShinjuka
Shinjuka

DVD bang with a difference
ShinjukaShinjuka
Shinjuka

Teen Punk population
ShinjukaShinjuka
Shinjuka

Teen Punk population


10th August 2009

Tokyo ah la Jools
Wow - you are getting around. What great photos too. When do you come home? Or is that not even on the horizon yet? T C home and La arrives tomorrow morning. And then the wedding plans have to fly!! Good to see that you are experiencing so much different stuff - and bravely a lot on your own. Love Sharon

Tot: 2.712s; Tpl: 0.024s; cc: 14; qc: 32; dbt: 0.0186s; 2; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb