Japan: Exploring the Eastern Capital … 東京

In 1998 and 2004, Japan was my home and Tokyo was my backyard. On this trip, I only had two days to share with Emily places that I explored for weeks and months.  While I wanted to show her everything, we took our time and explored different areas together and with Masashi.  Our first excursion after riding the Tokaido-sen up from Yokohama was to the Imperial Palace.  It’s amazing that this sprawling metropolis of buildings, trains, and modernity is dominated by an extensive palace complex.  While we weren’t able to get very close to the palace, it was nice to spend time together meandering around the grounds.

From the Imperial Palace, Emily and I headed up to Ueno (上野)and explored the bustling areas of Asakusa (浅草).  On our way, we lost ourselves in the streets and discovered the ‘kitchen’ section of the city.  This area of town is a series of shops that provide everything you would need to start your own restaurant or deck out a kitchen.  I know that if we lived in Japan we would spend our first couple of days in this area of Tokyo and lose our first month’s worth of salary.  After pulling Emily away with a promise to come back later in the trip, we explored the maze of Asakusa around Sensoji (浅草寺) before entering the historic grounds.  It was Emily’s introduction to the temples of Japan.

From the Sensoji, Emily and I made our way to Sophia University (上智大学) where I studied in 2004.  It brought back a lot of good memories and I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to introduce Emily to some of the great people I met during that time.  We didn’t spend too much time there, but we did make our way over to an udon restaurant for a delicious meal of steaming noodles.  Yummy!

After dinner, Masashi was free from work to get together with us in Akihabara (秋葉原), the electronics capital of a city built on electricity and neon signs.  We tried to head over to Shinjuku (新宿) afterwards and were thwarted by an accident, but decided to come back later in the trip.

Our next day in Tokyo began with a walk around the Shibuya (渋谷) area and its famous Barnes Dance.  Shibuya is a fun place to go out in the evening, but was a little quieter in the daytime so we headed to the more suitable afternoon destination of Yoyogi Park.  This park is Tokyo’s Central Park and is full of all sorts of nooks and crannies.  In 2004, Evan Pike and I came down here for the cherry blossoms and the interesting individuals who also enjoyed the area.  On this day Emily, Masashi, and I stopped to smell the flowers in the rose garden.

The relaxing day continued when we strolled into the Meiji Jingu (明治神宮); the main shrine in Tokyo.  The scale of this shrine is massive; the grounds cover 175 acres, the main torii gate is 50 feet tall, and the path from the main entrance to the central shrine is about a kilometer long.  Along the way though there is a wall of sake barrels that are sacrifices to the gods.

From the shrine, we headed over to modern Japan in Shinjuku where we had a late lunch.  This area is a pedestrian only maze of small restaurant that are barely 10 feet wide.  We tucked ourselves into one of these hideaways and quickly made some friends.  One of the other customers enjoyed some beer and was very interested in the foreigners at this traditional, Japanese-only restaurant.  We talked with them, were merry, enjoyed a drink, and left less hungry than when we entered.  From these old alleys, we meandered through the neon signs and bustle of Shinjuku to the skyscrapers.  Fortunately, the Tokyo government keeps their building open to the general public with an observation deck about 45 stories up where we took in the miniature city that spread out below us.

Out in this miniature city were Emily’s kitchen shops that she will never forget.  Of course, we had to stop in for Emily to pick something out. Before making our way back to Yokohama for the night, we headed back over to our new kitchen :).

It was a wonderful couple of days in Yokohama and Tokyo.  I look forward to sharing more of Japan with Emily in the future.  Until then enjoy some of these photos from our exploration.


~ by Rob Page III on November 23, 2010.

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