My Trip To Tokyo
My latest 2-day weekend was fast approaching and I had no idea what I was going to do. Shall I go to downtown Yokohama and explore the interesting malls and shops? Should I go to Sakuragicho and buy more Cold Stone ice cream? Does laundry and ramen noodles fit the bill for my weekend? All of these ideas left a bitter taste in my mouth, not because I don't like Yokohama and delicious ice cream (quite the contrary, in fact) but because I can do any of this on a normal evening after work. No, I needed an adventure; an outing of epic proportions! Therefore, I decided on the biggest, coolest, closest location I could think of. Realizing I only knew one big, cool, close city nearby I decided on Tokyo: Capital of Japan! Home of 12.5 million Japanese folks! Lots of temples, bars and big buildings. It seemed inevitable that this would be my first real destination that I decided to make it my first solo day trip. So I gathered up my important belongings: my sidebag, my camera, my wallet full of Yen, my Gameboy, iPod, and agenda, and hit the road that is actually two parallel tracks that move trains, not cars.
My first stop was Tokyo Station, which seemed appropriate because beginning in the heart of a city is naturally the best way to start. Think of it, where to you start off in Toronto? Queen St. which is not the last stop on the subway but somewhere near the middle! Winnipeg, where do you start? Portage St. which is the main street in that city! So I started at Tokyo Station which held, and still holds I believe, the Imperial Palace. Before I got there though I found a really cool fountain set-up that I took many pictures of (follow along with my picture website for an added feel of interaction!) After that I came upon a closed Imperial Palace. Closed! How dare they! There were many black sedans scurrying in and out of the compund so I can only assume there was a big hoopla going on in there. Nevertheless, I took an assload of pictures of a very cool-looking bridge!
After Tokyo Station I went to Asakusa Station, last stop on the Ginza Subway Line. Once I got off there I walked a little ways to find a gigantic lantern gate! Just massive and swarming with people, as you can see by the pictures. Behind that lantern is a full block of little shops and stores selling tons of touristy stuff and SWORDS!! I found the swords! Not cheap swords, that's for damn sure, but I cannot leave Japan without buying a samurai sword! After I priced swords and searched for souveniers (they will arrive soon...alright, a month or two) I found Sensoji Temple, a huge temple that was swarming with people! I partook (English major, I swear that's the past tense of partake!) in the ceremonial throw smoke in your face ritual, I threw 200 Yen in the donation book, went inside and marvelled in the traditional Japanese atmosphere. Nearby there was a 5-storey Pagoda and a beautiful garnden filled with statues and shrines. Again, more pictures were taken and I finally was overcome with the feeling that I had found a traditional piece of Japan's culture.
With that feeling of tradition came a need to find something modern and new. So I travelled to Hamamatsucho Station and found Tokyo Tower. Tokyo Tower is Japan's answer to France's smug sense of superiority in the Tower Category. Tokyo Tower is taller than the Eiffel Tower and painted bright orange! So it is bigger and more gaudy than its predecessor. Well done Japan! So I went up that, took some pictures of Tokyo's skyscape and travelled back down (what else do you want me to do up there? Have lunch and dance a jig?). The problem with coming down was when I took a wrong turn and was trapped on the stairs going all the way down the tower. 600 steps later, I made it to the ground. As I was travelling back to the subway station I found another temple which was holding a very small ceremony. I wandered in, sat down and watched monks chant and bang drums and bells. It was quite the experience!
Now it was time to do what I wanted to do for a long time! Find the Lost In Translation bar and order a whiskey. I went to Shinjuku and gave my roommate Andrew a call to see if he was interested in that plan. Andrew brought Yimin and we all looked for the place after a bit of food. After 5 minutes Andrew got bored and just wanted to find a pub. Shit, this is why I wanted to do this alone, but I really didn't want to ask some waiter to take my picture of me in a bar holding a whiskey. So I gave in and we went to a bar called the Hub, a very cool English-style pub with cheap drinks and a good atmosphere. After a few drinks we travelled back to Kamiooka Station in Yokohama and I headed home as Andrew hit the late night bar scene again (by this point he was on his 7th straight night of drinking and staying up past 5 AM).
So there you have it! My big trip to Tokyo. Stay tuned, I've got a trip to Sapparo in Febuary and many more places to search here in the Kanto region.