A Walk Through the City

Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, November 10, 2006

In my opinion, the best way to explore a city is on foot. Metros are handy, but you can't see anything. Buses let you see some things but can be difficult to figure out. A guided tour means you have to hang out with tourists, and who wants to do that? So we set out (at just after 6:00 a.m.) with our undetailed and relatively useless map, and started walking.

Asakusa Temple was just across the river from our hostel, so it was our first stop. There is a very cool market leading down the road to its gate. Japanese travelers generally buy small gifts for friends and family, even on weekend trips. So the stalls are full of cool items like fans, hair sticks, small mirrors, charms (they put them on their cell phones), post cards, tea cups, coin purses, chopsticks, lanterns, masks, and various other sundries.

The temple provided interesting glimpses into Japanese life. The busy walkway housed a large vat with burning incense. Passerbys would fan the smoke toward them as if to bless themselves with it or imbue themselves with some positive properties. There was also a fountain they would drink out of at the foot of the temple. The main temple was surrounded by countless shrines and statues.

From the shrine we walked down alleyways lined with shops and restaurants, through quaint residential districts, and eventually stumbled upon Yanaka cemetery. It wasn't on our map and we weren't looking for it. But a several mile stroll in the wrong direction will lead you to things you had no intention of finding. And this was quite a fortuitous accident. The cemetery grounds were expansive and stunning. We strolled through them leisurely for a couple of hours. At every turn we would find something new to inspect. I'll post the photos separately because there are a few dozen.

From there we found our way to Ueno park. It's a huge grounds and is home to several museums, a fountain lined with park benches, dense sections of trees, a zoo, and a pond dotted with paddle boats. The park provides a respite from the chaos of Tokyo that surrounds its borders.

From there we got lost again, which is less fun at the end of the day than at the beginning. But we found a great place to eat and explored another area of the city we had no intention of visiting. And the beautiful thing about Tokyo is that no matter how lost you are, or how far from your destination, there is a metro stop within short walking distance. Then you pay your couple of bucks, have a seat, and speed away.

The metro is quite nice and has more stops than any city I've ever visited. In many places they're only a few hundred meters apart. And while they can't compete with the $.25 price of the Mexico City metro, it's also not standing-room-only for 6 hours of the day. And in Tokyo, you get to read manga over someone's shoulder.

The day ended early. We were exhausted. And there was plenty more to see tomorrow.
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auntie_bev on

following instructions...
Does the age of the child matter for the cigarette height? And they have a point, coats are expensive.

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