Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday, April 21 - Last Full Day in Tokyo

Hey everyone, Mark here. As you may be aware, we haven't blogged the final full day in Japan yet, now that we're approaching the one year mark since our trip, I figured we'd better get it out there. The reason we haven't done it is that was that it was the only day for which we hadn't written a journal entry, so there was nothing to transcribe. So, I'm going to have to go by memory, following along the photos.

Since it was our last day, we decided we were going to fit as much sightseeing in Tokyo as we could for the day. We started with a walking tour of Kagurazaka, which was nice, but it was awfully quiet and not as bustling as we expected it to be. We ran into a few temples on the way there, some of them more modern than others we had seen previously.

Our next stop was Shibuya. Now at this point we realized it might be incumbent of us to get a day pass for the subway. We opted to just get one for the Tokyo Metro - there's actually two municipal subway systems in Tokyo, the Metro and the Toei subway. Since we didn't get one that worked for both systems, we had to be a little creative to get from place to place.

Shibuya is one of the most famous and popular wards of Tokyo, associated with shopping and being a popular hangout spot for teenagers. Of note is the Shibuya crossing, right outside the main train station, which stops in all directions so that pedestrians can cross. Watching the sea of humanity cross the roads is something to behold for sure.

There is also a statue of an Akita dog named Hachiko. The story of Hachiko is that he used to wait faithfully outside the train station for his owner to come home - after his owner died, he still waited there every day for the next nine years of his life, always right at the same time the train was supposed to arrive. Kind of a sad story, really. I got my picture taken with the statue.

We walked into the Shibuya 109 building to see what we could find. After perusing it, I can safely tell you, if you are a guy, you have no business being in that building. There is nothing for you there. Liz couldn't find anything that interested her, either, but we weren't here for clothes shopping.

We wandered into the Tokyu Hands store next, and I think we were looking for any weird gifts we could find - we ended up grabbing some fans for my nieces, as well as a headband for my friend Laird.

We were getting pretty hungry at this point, so it was time for lunch. We hadn't had sushi yet, so we looked for a sushi place - and boy did we hit the jackpot on this one. It was a kaiten or conveyor belt sushi place, and each plate was the same price, no matter what was on it (120 yen). And it was delicious to boot! We especially loved the nigiri with grilled tuna on it. Sure beats Blue C Sushi with its plates that cost as much as $4.50. I don't remember how to find this place, but if I'm ever in Shibuya again, I'll definitely look for it.

Now it was time for our next stop: Shinjuku, home of the world's busiest train station, which is where we got off. It wasn't too busy for us since we weren't transferring to a JR train this time. Our destination was the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, easy to find with its notable twin towers. The observation deck is free, so we rode up and took in the sights. From this vantage point, it becomes really clear how insanely massive this city is.

After a break, our next destination was Asakusa, on the eastern side of town. The first thing we noticed was the Kirin golden flame building, but unfortunately, it looks like something other than a golden flame (I'll let you use your imagination). We saw a nearby temple, which is pretty large, and wandered about a fair ground and a small garden. We had to drop by a Mr. Donut, which my co-worker Mike had mentioned to me once.

We had to re-visit Akihabara to pick up an artbook for John, which we eventually found at a store that specializes in such things. We did take a wrong turn and wandered into a section of the store I would rather not have seen, but we weren't too traumatized. We ate dinner at a nearby cafe that was pretty simple, and snapped a picture of the neighboring Gundam Cafe - a sure sign you're in a neighborhood that's meant for nerds.

The last stop of the day (and indeed, the last sight on our trip) was Tokyo Tower. I was excited to see this, even if we didn't go up it, because it was one of the earliest symbols I associated with Tokyo. It was great to finally see it up close, but at this point we were getting really tired and were ready to call it a day.