Monday, April 1, 2013

Tokyo, part 1


We are leaving Tokyo and heading to Osaka/Kyoto for a few days so I thought I'd sum up how we've spent our first 3 days in Tokyo.

We arrived at our hotel Friday night around 9 PM.  We checked into our hotel and then wandered around Shinjuku a little, got some pasta from the Lawson convenience store under our hotel, and went to bed - we were pretty exhausted!

  • Walked around Shinjuku a bit before getting the train to Kichjoji (Shinjuku to Mitaka station)
  • Walked to the Ghibli Museum - we met a couple of friendly Australian girls on the way

  • Explored the Ghibli Museum and watched the current short animated feature, コロの大さんぽ (Koro no Daisanpo) - it was completely in Japanese - with Japanese sub-titles, but the story was simple and cute so we managed to follow along just fine.  We stopped at the gift shop where I got Catbus and Little Totoro keychains and some Totoro stamp sets.

  • Walked through Inokashira Park - lots of Hanami spots and lovely sakura trees 
  • Had lunch at Freshness Burger in Kichijoji before heading back to Shinjuku
  • Walked along a lovely path full of Sakura trees and visited the Yasukuni Shrine 
  • Wandered around the Roppongi area a bit before taking the subway back to Shinjuku
  • Visited the Hanazono Shrine - we didn't find anything about this Shinto shrine in any of our guidebooks, but we could see it from our hotel room so we decided to check it out.  I'm sure we'll see bigger shrines that will make this one seem very uninteresting, but for our first time exploring a shrine, it was pretty cool (we didn't really do much exploring at the Yasukuni Shrine on Saturday - just took a few pictures and took a quick walk through their exhibit of "gifts", I guess.) 

  • Walked around the Shinjuku Gyoen which we loved!  This park didn't seem especially interesting when we read about it in our guidebooks, but again, we were VERY pleasantly surprised!  It is a large-ish, quieter park - unlike Inokashira, alcohol is strictly prohibited and tripods ARE allowed so there is a lot less of the "Hanami action".  It is filled with gorgeous sakura trees, ponds, gardens, a tea house, and some lovely wooded and also open spaces.

  • Walked around the Ginza area and the Sony store - lots of big-name-brand, expensive stores and fancy things of that sort.  We kept seeing the police blocking roads and white vans with loud speakers, but we don't know what they were saying - it didn't seem especially pleasant, though.
  • Took the subway to the Tokyo station to get to the Imperial Palace.  We did lots of walking around the grounds and gardens...and more walking...and more walking…
  • Walked back along the street LINED with bookstores of all sorts - and then the street full of music shops (we'll probably check those out again in Tokyo, Part 2.)
  • We loved the Shinjuku Gyoen so much that we went back - still absolutely gorgeous…
  • Walked to the Meiji Shrine and wandered around there a bit.
  • Had lunch in Harajuku - and braved the SEAS of Japanese teenagers in the Takeshita-Dori.
  • Walked to Shibuya and used all 5 crosswalks in Shibuya Crossing, visited the Hachiko statue, and got some stuff at Tokyu Hands.
  • After returning to our hotel for a short rest, we went to the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices to get an awesome view of Tokyo.
  • We stopped at the arcade for a few rounds of Taiko no Tatsujin and some (mostly failed) attempts at the UFO (claw-grabbing) machines - John did win me a fork-playing Rillakuma with a chocolate-covered strawberry on his head, though.
  • Checked out of the Best Western Astina Shinjuku - we LOVED this hotel so it was sad!
  • Stopped by the massive Kinokuniya bookstore and the Uniqlo/BIC Camera…complex(???) in Shinjuku.
  • I  ended up getting a wee bit sick (dehydration, exhaustion) so we decided to get a taxi to the Tokyo Station and make our way to Osaka!!!
I was feeling fine by the end of the day - just needed lots and lots of water - so stay tuned for our adventures in Osaka and Kyoto!

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