Tokyo (Day 1)

Chizuru and I took the night bus from Kyoto to Tokyo, it was my first experience at taking the night bus so I was really excited and as a result, I didn’t get too much sleep. The bus journey was around 7 hours long (it takes 2 hours by shinkansen) and it only cost about 4000 Yen. A shinkansen ride between the two cities will cost around 13, 000 Yen! The bus was very comfortable and it was completely dark with the blinds drawn. The blinds were even drawn between the driver and the passengers so that the lights from the front of the bus wouldn’t reach us. The bus also made 3 30 minutes stops along the journey for people to use the toilets and buy food. We stayed at Chizuru’s sister, Kasumi’s, place near Shinjuku for 3 days and it was really fun to hang out together. 🙂

Tokyo is really different from Kyoto – Tokyo seems to be the office of Japan with many grey, dull-looking buildings. My first impression of Tokyo was that it is kind of boring looking but after a day of exploring Tokyo by foot, I like Tokyo quite a bit. Tokyo has a lot of contrasts – a big temple in Shibuya, parks in Ginza area etc. Even though there are many people in Tokyo, at least there are big, open spaces for city-dwellers to take a breather.

I used this Tokyo tourist map to plan my routes for the next 3 days. I must say the map is drawn rather poorly to scale. Consequently, I walked a lot more than I probably should. But since I were a tourist there, I have no complaints because it is always great to see a city by foot. Google Map is a lot more reliable when you want to find the fastest way to get to a place.

tokyo_tourist_map

My first stop was Tokyo Tower, well I got off around the Ginza area (JR stop: Shinbashi) and it took me quite a bit of time to get to Tokyo Tower. I guess the hot weather made the walk feel even longer. As compared to Skytree, Tokyo Tower did not have too many tourists so it was quite relaxing to take in the various views of the Tokyo city from the tower. Tokyo Tower apparently is the world’s tallest self-supporting steel tower but today, it is overshadowed by Skytree which is twice as tall. A pity I couldn’t see Mount Fuji because of the substantial air pollution on that day. There was a robot which walked around the tower and introduced the skyline to us. I thought that was quite cute and typically Japanese. 🙂 There were also several “see-through glass panels” on the tower and it is quite fun to put my feet there and look through those panels. I would certainly not recommend any aerophobics to look straight down through the glass panels. What I like about Tokyo Tower is how it is surrounded by open spaces – a big park at one side and a temple (Zojoji) at another side. Zojoji is apparently one of the major temples in Tokyo and I really love the contrast between the tall, metallic Tokyo Tower and the rustic, wooden Zojoji.

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Tokyo Tower, Tokyo

With the use of the poorly scaled map, I made my way to the Tsukiji Fish Market from Tokyo Tower – it was a long walk past 2 parks. Initially I thought I could have a late lunch at the Fish Market but it turned out that I came a tad too late. I reached the market at 3 pm and almost every shop was closed at that hour. What surprises me was how the fish market, one of the more iconic tourist attractions in Tokyo, really looks and smells like a big fish market. I thought it was a fairly peculiar tourist attraction, well, the art of packaging and branding of places can create tourist attractions. I had some sushi from the less famous shops and after which, I headed to the nearby Sumida river to relax.

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Sumida River, Tokyo

I ended my first day in Tokyo in the shopping districts: Harajuku and Shibuya. I had the famous Harajuku crepes but I thought it did not taste special, maybe because I am personally not a big fan of desserts. Harajuku is a really interesting place, there is a very wide range of reasonably priced (relative to Japanese mega-stores) fashion and anime collection items on the streets. I wanted to buy something for keep-sake but nothing in particular caught my eye. It always happens to me when I am presented with too many options! Shibuya is the Times Square of Tokyo and it is the world-famous pedestrian crossing. This large intersection at Shibuya is the world’s busiest crossing – apparently, around 2500 people crossed the road at one time! There were so many tourists standing at the junction just taking photos of people crossing the road. Yet another peculiar tourist attraction in Tokyo. Those neon lights, coupled with the people crossing the road, were quite an overwhelming experience and definitely uniquely Tokyo. I don’t like to over-sensationalize the human experience but when I was crossing the street at Shibuya, I felt as though I was an insignificant fleck in the world – born into and found myself lost in the middle of a large crowd.

“我孤独地投身在人群中   人群投我以孤独” 《异域》 – 席慕容

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Shibuya, Tokyo

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