Tackling Tokyo's subway

Tokyo Travel Blog

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Imperial Palace

Honest, there will be days when I don't have a long e-mail to send you....just not today. :)


Well, I finally screwed up my nerve and tackled mass transit. And I have this to say about that --- if there was a long way to do anything, I did it!


First, rather than trying to figure out the automated machines, I went into the railroad ticket office and stood in line to buy a ticket. I was probably in line for 15 minutes. It would have taken me 2-3 minutes if I could have figured out the automated machines.


Oh well. The guy at the counter didn't reduce me to tears, as I was afraid the automated machines would.


Then I very proudly march myself down to the platform for the Yamanote line.

Swan in palace moat (note absence of alligators)
This is a loop that encompasses the heart of the city. Stepped on the first train that came along. It had a wonderful multilingual display over each door telling you exactly where you were in the loop, what station you just left, what station was coming up, and how many minutes to the next 8 or 10 stations.


After a few stations I realized I'd gotten on a train going clockwise around the loop and it was going to take about 45 minutes to get to my station. If I had gotten on a train going counter-clockwise around the loop, it would have taken ... 12 minutes.






Let's just sit back, enjoy the ride, and learn from the voice-over how to actually pronounce the train stations correctly, shall we?


Found my way out of the station without any drama and to the Imperial Palace and Gardens.

Imperial palace gardens
You can't get into the Imperial Palace, since the Imperial family is actually in residence. But about 1/3 of their complex is open to the public. It is the remains of the original Edo castle (Tokyo used to be Edo) and a park. 


Nice park. Very ... park-like. Green, etc. etc. etc.


Tina, I took a picture of a waterfall for you.

Karen, I took a picture of a dragonfly for you.


The remains of the castle fortifications were what fascinated me. The walls were HUGE. 10 - 20 meters high (that's roughly 30 - 60 feet). Slanted, thick, huge blocks of stone. 4 or 5 feet thick. And the whole thing is surrounded by successive rings of moats. Wide moats. Green and still full of water. Maybe alligators for all I know. Though there were swans swimming peacefully, which suggests no alligators.

Fortifications at Imperial palace.


I was amazed that anyone would try to attack this castle. But apparently, they did, repeatedly and with a great deal of success.


I wandered around there for an hour or two and then decided to visit the shrine and museum for the war dead. It looked close on the map....


And it was close. Just not the way I went. Mis-read the map. Turned when I should have gone straight. Should have taken 10 - 15 minutes to walk there. Took me 45 minutes (are you noticing a theme here?).


But I *did* find it. Hey, you have really been sightseeing if you haven't been lost at least once!


It was worth the trip.

Explanation of palace fortifications
The shrine is a Shinto shrine. It's quite extensive and quite beautiful. The grounds, the temple gates, all of it is quite impressive. This shrine apparently holds a very dear place in the Japanese psyche.


The museum was about Japan's warrior past and its military conflicts, both internally and externally. Pretty decent display and enough English to keep me engaged.


What I found most interesting (and it's one of the reasons the guidebook thinks it's worth a visit) is the Japanese take on WWII. Effectively, they say they were forced into it by the economic and military policies of the west. In effect, they allied themselves with Italy and Germany to keep the west, specifically the US, from getting too aggressive in Asia


Also, all that fighting with their Asian neighbors?  They were just trying to secure their access to necessary resources like ore, oil, rubber, etc.

Door at shrine


And when they annexed Korea in the early 20th century?  That was just because they felt such a strong kinship with the Koreans and cared so deeply about their freedom. They did it to...protect them, yeah that's it, protect them!


They attacked Pearl Harbor because, well, we'd left them with no choices. If they were going to keep the peace in the Pacific, they had to cripple the US fleet.


The war would have ended 2-3 years earlier except Roosevelt rebuffed all of Japan's efforts to negotiate a peace.


Clearly, they're not teaching 20th century history quite like we, for example, do.


Now, I'm quite sure there's plenty of room for interpretation of events on both sides of the conflict but it was certainly interesting to get the Japanese perspective!


Curiously, they mentioned that the US dropped nuclear bombs on two Japanese cities but don't really talk about it in any detail. I sort of expected they would. But this is a museum dedicated to Japan's glorious warrior past and war victories. I don't think there's much of a good way to spin that devastation and still present the country as strong and indomitable.


After my tour there, I decided it was time to take my sore legs and feet home. I was a little too late to cut back through the palace gardens, so I had to walk around the complex, which is quite large I now appreciate. :)  


I managed to get on the train that got me home quickly this time. I needed a station attendant to show my how to get OUT of the station once I got back but, hey, I was tired!


Jeff and I decided we wanted familiar food for dinner tonight, so it was back to TGI Fridays for burgers and fries. Since I'd had two ice cream sandwiches for lunch, that sounded good to me. My challenge when I'm out and about is finding a place with a menu in an alphabet I recognize. I can't do anything with the menu if it's all in kanji characters!


We also walked back to the train station and with slightly less dense crowds (but more dense than you would expect at 8 pm). We think we've figured out the fare machines. I'll test our assumptions tomorrow. :)


I'll feel unnaturally victorious today, having managed to use mass transit to move my carcass around. I was really feeling stymied yesterday. But between Jeff and I, I think we've got it worked out.


That's one of the big advantages of having a traveling companion -- two sets of eyes, two brains deciphering all the new info, two people working on new experiences together. It really does make it easier.


I have always wanted to be one of those intrepid solo female travelers that could go anywhere I wanted without needing to line up a traveling companion. I've tried it too, and I'm not real good at it. I'm not good about making connections with strangers and I find it twice as much work to work out all the logistics by myself. I can do it when I need to but it's a heck of a lot easier with a buddy.


I envy those people, especially those women, who can just go and make it happen. Blessedly, I can usually talk at least one of my friends to join me in my adventures, even if Jeff can't (or won't!) go. :)


Till my next missive....



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Imperial Palace
Imperial Palace
Swan in palace moat (note absence …
Swan in palace moat (note absence…
Imperial palace gardens
Imperial palace gardens
Fortifications at Imperial palace.
Fortifications at Imperial palace.
Explanation of palace fortificatio…
Explanation of palace fortificati…
Door at shrine
Door at shrine
photo by: maka77