Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Tokyo, Japan

After our unsuccessful attempt to go to Nikko, we started our trip on Tokyo early. Our train arrived at Tokyo station and so, we started the exploration here. Tokyo station is one of Japan's protected buildings and contains earthquake protection measures - these allow the building to move 30cm either side to prevent damage and protect users. The main attraction near the station is the Imperial Palace. This was one of the places I was most excited about in Tokyo. However, just like in Kyoto, a reservation was required to visit the main building. The view of any part of the grounds were limited by tall walls and large expanses of fields. This was hugely disappointing!

In the evening we headed to a goat cafe in Shibuya. We hoped it would be similar to the dog cafe in Osaka, unfortunately it was just two goats in a cage outside a posh cafe. What we didn't realise before we got there was how amazing the district was! Shibuya is Tokyos flashy light district. Giant billboards and an excessive number of shops bordered each direction. Shibuya is also home to the world's busiest crossing - it was absolutely crazy! Literally everytime the lights turned green, hundreds of people uses the crossing. It was amazing.

The next day was planned using another one of Matts walking plans (similar to Kyoto). We started by going back to Shibuya to see the famed crossing in the day time - unfortunately it wasn't as exciting as it was a lot less busy. Outside the station was the statue of Machiko - the story of a dog who would wait at this station everyday for his owner.

We then walked to Omotesando hills shopping street which was full of Hugh end designer shops. We even manages to buy a bug tub of brownie and cookie Ben and Jerrys from their store!

Following this we went to Yoyogi park and to see the Meji shrine. At the entrance were very old Torii gates - they were huge and wooden, a massive contrast to the bright orange ones we had seen in Kyoto. The Meji shrine was also really pretty, with the traditional wooden colours of the temple buildings.

We then got the train to Shinjuku and visited the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. It was huge and a welcome break from the sun (it was 26 degrees today!). There was an amazing view of the clocktower from inside the park, as well as a rose garden and Japanese style gardens. Once again we arrived at the wrong time as none of the roses had bloomed!

On the walk to the skyscraper district, we saw a sign that took us through the subway - this meant we didn't actually get to see any until we were at our destination! We planned to go up the government building for views over the whole city but ended up going up the wrong building! All was not bad as we did find a cheap Italian restaurant with excellent views at the top! After lunch we headed back down to find the correct tower. The views were pretty cool - the city seemed to expand all the ways the mountains in the far distance!

We went home via the Ginza shopping area - renowned for its extensive shops. This area was awesome with many of my favourite designers present!

The next day was our final full day in Japan and Matt had planned a trip to the south of the city. We caught a river boat from Asakusa pier down to Hama Rikyu Gardens. Although seeing the city from a boat is always cool, there wasn't many landmarks to view on the way. The Gardens themselves were really pretty. It was another hot day and many locals has time off due to Golden Week, so we found loads of father's playing in the park with their cute children. Even Matt got in the spirit and did some cartwheels!

We took an elevator train to Odaiba - this was meant to be an ultra modern area of Tokyo. The train gave us views of the rainbow bridge and the Tokyo Statue of Liberty...? The area itself was full of malls, we alone visited four of them! It was Sunday of Golden Week and as a result the Malls were very busy, so we didn't spend much time here.
We took the elevates train back to Shinbashi and walked to the Ginza district again to look for a Tissot watch for Matt. Unfortunately Google and the Tissot website struggled to send us to the correct place and we couldn't find the shops! We finally found a mall with a Tissot watch section, but the choice was limited! For dinner we grabbed ourselves a Mos Burger - this was made of soy and was really nice!

The next day we only had a few more hours in Tokyo before we had to catch our flight to Abu Dhabi. We started the day with a visit to Sensoji Temple. This was the busiest temple we had visited with people crowding the shrine to throw coins at it. People ended up throwing coins from a distance, purely because of the queues to get near the front!

We then took a train to Tokyo Tower, to get some closer pictures of this leas impressive Effiel Tower. It was pretty cool, but I wasn't really impressed by the bright orange colour! This could potentially be why the building looked so much better at night!

We then headed to Sensoji temple. This is the final resting place of the 47 Ronin (yes, from the Keanu Reeves film). Effectively, a Samurai attacked another (more influential) Samurai in the hall of Edo - this was illegal. Alongside this law was the law of 'equal punishment' which stated that both Samurais should be punished equally for the attack. Unfortunately this wasn't used in this instance and the first Samurai was sentenced to seppuku on the same day without trial. Following his death, his lordship and lands were stripped from his family and meals. Two years later, in an attempt for revenge, the dead Samurais men attacked and killed the more influential Samurai. They then marched his head to the grave at this temple. All of these 45 Samauris were sentenced to seppuku and were buried in the temple alongside their master. This is one of the favourite stories of the Japanese about honor and loyalty.

Tokyo itself was pretty amazing and not even nearly as busy as I expected. It was an amazing place to end our tour of Far East Asia!

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