Flower Child

Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Aug 27, 2010

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Flag of Japan  , Kanto,
Thursday, April 8, 2010

With so much to see and do in Tokyo, it's easy to let time get the better of you. However, we had things to get done before we could venture beyond the city and so Tuesday became one of those organizational days we need every now and again. We started off by taking the subway to the Government Metropolitan Office building, hoping to kill two birds with one stone as not only can you visit the 45th floor observation deck for impressive views of the city, but it also houses the Tokyo Tourist Information Centre. The observation deck was just as expected having been up many tall buildings in North America, but the view was very good. The tourist information centre wasn’t able to help us, but pointed us in the right direction. We headed back across town to the office of the Welcome Inn Reservation Centre, where we were able to book nearly all of the rest of our accommodation in Japan for the next two weeks, thanks to an amazing multitasking senior-ish lady who had phone, fax, and computer simultaneously at her control. For anybody visiting Japan, this is a great system, the WIRC has a group of hotels and Japanese style accommodation across the country that they can make bookings for. All rooms fit with a reasonable price bracket and the entire purpose of the group is to help promote international tourism and help tourists. With accommodation booked, our plans were falling into place we could now book our trains, so we set off to Tokyo station to get our Japan Rail Passes and reserve some train seats. With all of the organizational stuff checked off, we were free to enjoy the rest of our time in Tokyo.

With so much left to do in Tokyo we knew we were in for a busy day. Starting the day in a used bookstore, you can imagine Lauren’s delight at finally finding the fifth Harry Potter book in English. We also picked up a book on Japanese that would maybe help to smooth our passage a little? Our next stop was Shibuya, location of the busiest cross-walk in the world. Unfortunately we missed the peak crowds at lunchtime and rush hour but there were still an awful lot of people crossing the road at any one time. At the same crossing there is a memorial to Hachiko, a faithful dog of early last century who would walk his master to the station each morning and return to meet him each evening. When his owner died very suddenly, Hachiko continued to return to the station every evening at the same time, sometimes waiting for several days in the hope that his master would return, until his own death ten years later. A fitting replica statue was in place (the former having been smelted during the war).

This was turning out to be an unusually efficient day for us and so it was on to Yoyogi-koen park; a very large park with many attractions, but for us it was simply a pleasant detour to where we really wanted to go. However, on the way through the park we passed by the entrance to Meiji Shrine where there was a wall of barrels of wine from the Bourgogne region of France, where Derek lived for a while and where we hope to visit friends this summer. Apparently, Emperor Meiji was keen to modernize Japan while keeping its spirit and traditions alive; he cut off his top knot and began wearing western style clothing, but his favourite adopted western ritual was to enjoy a glass of French wine with dinner. The wine barrels were all donated by and stamped with different wineries from Bourgogne to enhance the Japanese-French relationship. The even have Givry, one of Derek's favourites.

Shinjuka-gyoen, a park renowned for its cherry blossoms at this time of year. We arrived with minutes to spare before final entry time and were not disappointed. The cherry blossoms were simply beautiful; from a distance the white ones had the appearance of snow laden branches and the petals on the ground look like a fresh snowfall, the pink ones are even prettier. This would be a nice park at any time of the year, but now with the cherry blossoms out it is particularly stunning. We had planned our visit to Japan to coincide with Cherry Blossom season, and were not disappointed at this first sighting. Any tree is only in full bloom for a week or two, and the whole season is over in three or four weeks, so we are fortunate and thankful. 

With a rosy glow to our cheeks (from the cold not sake) it was time to head indoors for a while and so we went to the Sony building. Really not much more than multiple floors of advertising for Sony, but it does provide a chance to play with Sony’s latest technologies, including some that have yet to be released to the market. There was lots of fun playing with cameras, games consoles, mini laptops, etc. but everybody’s favourite had to be the 3D TV / game system….so lifelike you wouldn’t believe it!  On the way out there was a normal looking staircase that played ever-descending notes as you walked down each step so it made leaving fun, if delayed.

Our final day in Tokyo was a short one as we were catching a train at noon, so we had but a few hours for our final activity. Not so bright, but certainly early we made our way across the city to the famous Tsukiji fish market. This is at the port where the fish come in and some of the best fish is auctioned off. It’s also where fish is graded, sold and boxed up to be sold locally and shipped to some of the world’s finest sushi restaurants. We wandered through the maze of fish stalls gawping at creatures we had never seen before and wondering just which of these things we had actually eaten. As it happens most of them were gawping back, but in a permanent sort of way. There were all sorts of sealife from fish so tiny you could hardly tell they were fish to enormous fish as big as the kids, all manner of shell fish, squid lying in buckets of black ink and small red octopi. Some fish were swimming around in tanks, some had already been filleted and others were simply flapping around and gasping in their final moments. Amongst the array of fish it’s very important to be on one’s guard, as hundreds of small manned trucks are flying around all over the market, transferring the many items we were seeing from boat to market or market to trucks. We had a great time browsing the market, but it wouldn’t have been complete without stopping to sample some wares and so we headed down the first side-street off of the market for a fresh sushi breakfast…..delicious and a great way to end our time in Tokyo.

Next up is Nagoya the home of Toyota…. hope the train accelerator doesn't stick!
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