Statue near the Imperial Palace
Apologies for slacking! I know I'm a day or so behind, but I've been sick and running around trying to see a lot of Tokyo!
I am surprisingly more jetlagged than Larry, I think. He’s been able to sleep very well the last few nights, while I stay up late and listen to my IPod all night. Then I struggle to wake up at a decent time. On Tuesday morning, he was already up and rushing me late in the morning. We decided to walk from our hotel to the Imperial Palace and around the grounds of the palace.
We walked through the Ginza district and up to the palace.
We took lots of pictures and then walked the entire lap around the grounds. Larry and I debated as we tried to guess how long that walk was. We decided the walk around the palace grounds must be at least 3 miles. The Imperial Palace was built where Edo Castle used to be during the days of the Tokugawa shogunate. It is now the home to the 125th emperor of Japan. The palace was rebuilt after it was destroyed during air raids in 1945. Larry and I were hoping to get to see more, but a lot of the grounds are off limits to tourists. We could have tried to register to go in and get a guided tour, but we decided to just walk around the outermost limit. We did get to visit the East Garden. That was nice and peaceful. We sat for a while too and chatted about what we had observed. The walk around the palace and moat was good for me, as I haven’t gotten enough exercise while traveling. So though it was cold, I felt like I got a workout in.
Larry... being Larry
After walking around the entire palace and moat, we decided to walk to the Tokyo Tower. We could see it at a distance so we thought it would be a decent walk. Wow! What a long walk. We walked, and walked and walked. We stopped at a McDonald’s along the way. I know… not very adventurous today in the food department. Though some would say McDonald’s is adventurous (we don’t even eat McDonald’s at home)!
When we got to the Tokyo Tower (which was modeled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris) we were told they didn’t take credit cards, and we had spent our last Yen at the McDonald’s. Good going!!! So we walked and walked and walked looking for a bank machine that would accept our check cards, and couldn’t find one. We wound up walking almost all the way back to our hotel.
We finally found an ATM that did take out international cards, but by then we were too tired to go back to the Tokyo Tower.
One of the guards at the Imperial Palace gate
We went to Pronto Bar and Café where I had a delicious shrimp pasta dish and Larry had a beef and noodle dish.
Then we called it a night. I think the walking wore us both out.
One interesting thing I’ve noticed is many locals wear masks (like the ones people wear in hospitals) to avoid catching germs. They wear them everywhere, on the subway, at stores, walking around the streets, etc. It appears I’m catching a cold or something and Larry suggested I obtain one. I have yet to find one of them for me to wear.
On Wednesday, Larry and I had a very productive day.
We got up and made a list of things we wanted to see this day. On the list we had the Sensoji Temple, the Asakusa neighborhood, the Tokyo National Museum and a performance at the Kabuki-za Theater. We went to the metro stop first to try to figure out how to take the Tokyo Metro. It couldn’t be too hard, right? We’ve taken metros in other cities before. Well… it was a little harder than expected only because you have to buy your metro card from a machine and not all of the machines have English translation on them. We messed with several machines before we found one that allowed us to select our desired options in English.
Map of the East Garden
The train ride was quick. We took it straight to Asakusa, where we found a quaint little old neighborhood.
We walked down Nakamise Dori (street), which was lined with souvenir shops with neat stuff we could purchase. Larry and I people watched as we walked along that street to the end where Sensoji Temple was.
The temple itself was pretty. The architecture of the building outside was cool. There were so many people outside the temple participating in what I think are traditions there. First there were people purchasing incense that they would then burn in a stove-like structure in the middle of the entrance to the temple. Off to the side there were people purchasing pieces of paper they would then burn (Larry and I were unable to figure this out). It seemed almost like they were making wishes with these papers. Then off to another side, there was a water fountain lined with cups that people were using to wash their hands and mouths before going into the temple.
I washed my hands and mouth and then went inside the temple. I’m not sure if I was following the tradition correctly, but I sort of just did what everyone else was doing.
Walking to the Tokyo Tower
Larry stated then that he felt privileged. He said at this moment is when it hit him that he was in Japan, a country he had always wanted to see since he was a child.
After visiting the temple, we walked along Nakamise Dori and bought a few souvenirs. Some young kids went up to Larry as we were walking and asked him if he spoke English. He told the teenagers he did. It turns out, they were taking English classes in Junior High School and were given an assignment to interview several English-speaking individuals to practice their English. The students asked Larry where he was from, what his favorite sport was, and a few more things.
Their English was decent, and Larry was enjoying speaking with local students. The one boy got very excited when Larry told him his favorite sport was Judo. He told Larry that was his favorite sport, as well and shook Larry’s hand. They ended the conversation by giving Larry an origami piece and bowing to him.
In front of the Tokyo Tower
Along Nakamise Dori we saw a lot of street vendors selling candies, and other baked goods. I was in the mood for something sweet. So we stopped at one of the shops to order what we thought were sweet-like pancakes. They looked so delicious. It looked almost like French crepes, except they were small. They seemed to be dipped in some type of chocolate.
I have no clue what it was, but whatever we bought was nasty. Neither one of us liked what we ordered.
Larry ate one whole piece to say he at least tried it. I took one bite and realized it was salty, and not sweet as I expected and decided to put it back in the bag. Larry said it tasted like salty popcorn, but I can tell you it didn’t taste that good.
From there were took the train to Ueno station, and walked to the Tokyo National Museum. The museum was large. There were 5 buildings total, of which 4 were open. We only visited 3 of them, as there was just so much to see. Larry liked the military artifacts, which consisted of armor and swords. I liked the sculptures, especially those of Buddha.
After spending a good 2 hours at the museum, we decided we had had enough and took the train to Ginza station.
From there, we walked to the Kabuki-za Theater, where we purchased tickets to see a Japanese performance. We rented English headsets to listen to a translation of the performance. The performance was very good. We watched Tsubosaka Reigenki. This was a Meiji period play that captured the story of Sawaichi, a blind man who tried to commit suicide to avoid being a burden to his wife, but is saved by the merciful Kannon. The music during the performance was smooth to listen to. It was so easy on the ears. I appreciated Larry sitting through a performance, as he’s not much of a theater guy. Having the headphones to listen to the English translation was key, as it helped to understand what was going on. Had we not had the headphones, Larry and I would not have understood the performance and probably would not have enjoyed it as much.
The decor at the temple buildings
After the play, we went and had dinner at Casual Tempura restaurant, where I ordered shrimp tempura with rice.
I have been forced to practice eating with chopsticks, and I must admit, I’m getting the hang of it. It still takes me longer to finish meals and the end of each meal is spent with Larry giving me pointers as to how to hold and maneuver my chopsticks correctly, but I’m getting there.
Me and Larry near Sensoji temple
On the first night we were in Tokyo, Larry and I discovered this great place where we’ve been buying chocolate mini waffles for dessert. We’ve stopped here every night since then, to get dessert. It’s on the way to the hotel and these mini chocolate waffles are delicious!
One interesting phenomenon Larry and I have noticed is what we call the “mini-skirt” phenomenon. First of all, it’s freezing in Tokyo. I look like I’m going out to play in the snow every day when I leave the hotel room.
But here, locals must be accustomed to the cold weather, because they dress extremely light for the weather. On top of that, Larry and I have noticed so many local women wearing leggings (that look very thin) with mini-skirts over the leggings. Larry and I think it must be the fashion right now. Women wearing mini-skirts with leggings in Tokyo is a must-do! But I keep wondering if the women are cold. They have to be cold! It makes me cold to just look at them. The other thing is that women here are very made up. They wear make-up and look very polished everywhere we go. I haven’t seen too many women “dressed-down”.
I am washing my hands before entering the temple (I think this is what I am supposed to do, everyone else was doing this)
Overall the Japanese keep to themselves. They are short but polite with us when we ask questions.
I am officially sick now.
I have caught a cold or something and have spent the last 2 days with sinus problems. I hope I get better quick, otherwise not sure how I can keep going for 2 and half more weeks if I continue so sick. I’ve been taking Dayquil and other medications Larry and I brought along with us. It appears I may have to visit a pharmacy, though, for stronger medications and a mask.