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Day Two--Tokyo

Tokyo Travel Blog

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Tokyo

Today we woke up early at about 6:45am since we’d gotten to bed so early the previous night—though really I was awake by 5am! Despite the uncomfortable bed, I felt refreshed by the sleep I had gotten. We were the first ones down to breakfast from our group and were joined in the dining room by what looked to be two youth soccer teams! I wonder if they had a tournament during the weekend? It made me miss going to away soccer tournaments and staying with the whole team in hotels back when I was their age! Breakfast was sort of funny because it was a mix of Japanese and Western styled “breakfast” foods. I put breakfast in parentheses because what constituted a western styled breakfast was more like our lunch! They had French fries! For breakfast?! To be fair, they also had toast, eggs, sausage, and cereal, but I was really thrown off b the French fries! I wonder if they mistook stuff like hashbrowns or tater tots for French fries…now that I think of it, there isn’t a big difference between the three!

I wasn’t complaining about French fries for breakfast though, they were delicious! I also really liked the toast and the rice! I made sure to eat as much as a possibly could so that I wouldn’t need to eat lunch.

us at the Train Station
My plan didn’t really work out though, since we ate as a group later on that day.

Anyways, after breakfast I gathered everything I’d need for the day and met the rest of the group downstairs. We walked to Shinjuku station which seemed a lot closer the previous night when we’d taken the shuttle! I began to get the feeling that we’d be doing a ton of walking during the trip! I was prepared though as I’d been on lots of trips before that required a lot of walking. I don’t think many other people were that prepared though. Today we found it much easier to find the right platform and I think by the end of the day we were all pretty comfortable getting through stations and on and off trains.

Today we first headed to Harajuku station and the Meiji Shrine.

sitting on benches in the park
Though Harajuku is famous for the young people who gather there in what’s known as Japanese street fashion (very bright, oddly matched, clothes) and also in cosplay (costumes of anime characters or j-rock stars), we didn’t see very many as it wasn’t the weekend yet, so all the teenagers were still in school.

At the shrine we were required to purify ourselves before we could enter the area. Purifying meant washing our hands and mouth with water from a fountain-type thing. I tried to watch other people do it first, but I don’t think I did it right!  Once inside, Professor Lackey showed us how to pray—toss a coin into a collection box, bow, make a wish or prayer, then clap your hands together. It was sort of similar to wishing wells here in the states though much more ritualized with more belief behind it. I wished I knew more Japanese though so I could read the wish cards and fortune charms that were available; I would have liked to get one.

Saigo
I really like all the superstitious type of things that go on at the Shrine since I’m a bit superstitious myself! I think though, that while some people really hold stock in those sorts of beliefs, most think its just fun! I noticed that a lot of people there were young couples who probably thought it was just something fun to do for a date or an afternoon.

Since the New Year’s festival was going on still, they had a big billboard that had everyone’s fortunes for the year posted. Unfortunately, it said that any girl aged nineteen would have a really bad year…I’m 19!! And the only 19 year old on the trip! So everyone had a laugh at my expense, but I wasn’t angry.

After leaving the shrine, we headed around the block to the NHK station (Japan’s National Broadcasting network.) There we toured the little amusement park they had inside. It was mostly just for kids, but it was fun anyways! I finally found out where that crazy toast looking puppet creature was from! In the little replica of a newsroom, two of our group volunteered to be anchors even though they didn’t understand Japanese. I think that just made it funnier though, especially to the Japanese people who were there with their kids!

Leaving the station, we took the train out to Ueno park and first decided to go on the search for food. We all ended up eating at a stand up restaurant where you pay money to a vending machine and pick out what you want to eat. The vending machine gives you a ticket and you give the ticket to the cook inside the restaurant who then prepares your food really quickly, even faster than the fasted fast food restaurant in America! I had the vegetable tempura with noodles and it was extremely good. I was disappointed that I couldn’t eat all of it though since I’d had such a big breakfast! I thought that the restaurant was pretty uniquely Japanese, you definitely wouldn’t find that type of thing in America, so it was a really fun and interesting experience!

With our stomachs full and our spirits refreshed, we headed into Ueno Park where  we visited the Statue of Saigo Takamori, the famous samurai of which the movie “The Last Samurai” was based upon! I loved the movie, so seeing the statue of the actually guy was really cool, though I’d always had the image of KenWatanabe whenever Takamori was talked about in class, so the statue was sort of surprising! Watanabe is so tall and skinny whilst Takamori appeared shorter and stouter.

After that we stopped by the shrine dedicated to the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu, before heading over to the Tokyo National Museum. I always like museums, and this one reminded me a lot of the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s Asian Art section of its museum. I enjoyed the woodblock prints, the textiles, the swords, and the statues. It was also interesting to note that most of the stuff in the museum was actually of Chinese origin!

Outside, the sun set and our first full day in Japan came to an end. By now we were all old pros at navigating the subway and arrived at Shinjuku without any problems—that is until we left through a different exit and didn’t recognize the way back to the hotel! Luckily, I spotted the New City Shinjuku Hotel sign shining over a bunch of trees.

So far I have enjoyed Tokyo a lot! The people are very polite and fashionable! I liked the fact that all the businessmen wore suits but the younger ones kept their really cool/strange hairstyles! I also saw a lot of cute school uniforms that I wish I’d had to wear in high school! Would have saved a lot of trouble trying to decide what to wear everyday!

 

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Tokyo
Tokyo
us at the Train Station
us at the Train Station
sitting on benches in the park
sitting on benches in the park
Saigo
Saigo
Tokyo
photo by: maka77