Konichiwa friends & family! On our second day in Tokyo we woke up around 3am, a) because we were really excited and b) because it felt like 1pm our time. Our hotel rooms oversaw the Diet, Japan’s bicameral legislature, and the Imperial Grounds (2.86 square miles inhabited by only 2 people, the Emperor and Empress). At the peak of the Japanese real estate bubble in 1990, real estate was so expensive that the land under the Imperial Palace was worth more than all the real estate in Canada! Sorry aboot it. We met Sue-san in the lobby of The Capitol Hotel Tokyu after eating a traditional Japanese breakfast, which was quite… exotic. (The next day we sheepishly switched back to Western-style breakfast.) Our first stop was the Tsukiji Fish Market, the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. While perusing the market’s selection, we were able to identify a lot of the sushi we ate the previous night, which we had mixed feelings about. Haley, we made sure to include a picture of the HUGE King Crabs we saw — my sister is terrified of crabs and always manages to get chased by one during our visits to the beaches of San Diego. Next, we swung by the Tokyo Tower for a quick photo op. By the way, we were advised not to wear sunglasses during the day, especially while talking to people, as sunglasses are generally associated with movie stars and the yakuza, the Japanese mafia. Yikes. After the Tokyo Tower, we paid a visit to Harajuku, a fashion capital of the world. We walked down Takeshita Street, where we ran into a lot of young Japanese people wearing some “out there” stuff. My dad made a friend (see picture)! We stopped for lunch in Giza, a major high-end shopping district. Per Sue-san’s recommendation, we ate “Shabu-Shabu.” She explained to us that the name is actually an onomatopeia describing the sound that thinly sliced meat makes while being stirred in a hot pot. The food was excellent, but I must’ve missed the talking meat. After lunch, we visited the Imperial Grounds. We toured some of the gardens of the Imperial Castle (which is itself closed to the public) and the entry gate and guard houses, whose architecture is, as my dad describes it, “completely in harmony with nature.” Throughout the tour, we were surrounded by majestic pine trees, which were favored by the samurai back in the day because they are evergreen and thus, never die. Afterwards, we strolled through Yanaka, an historical part of Tokyo, developed as a temple town in the Edo period (1603-1867). The neighborhoods of Yanaka still retain the charm and warmth of the past with many historical, traditional-style buildings and numerous old temples. Walking along the narrow, windy roads, peering into cozy, wooden houses and watching children ride their razors home from school, we really felt a sense of peace and calm. Very different than the concrete, fast-paced, metropolis Tokyo we had seen before. The real charm of Tokyo, we found, is in its juxtaposition of old and new, traditional and modern. At this point in the day, my dad had to walk behind me in case I fell asleep standing up near oncoming traffic. Nothing a Coca Cola couldn’t fix, though! And so I was back in action. We made our way to the last highlight of the day, an amazing Buddhist temple called the Asakusa Kannon Temple. We did some souvenir shopping at the Nakamise Shopping Arcade nearby, and I also purchased a fortune to see how my luck will play out in the job market. I began to read the my handpicked fortune aloud to my dad and Sue-san. It was titled “The Lowest Fortune”… Awesome. Basically, things may turn out OK for me but there was a LOT of contingency. Thankfully, there was a process for taking a mulligan on this one, “Leaving Bad Fortune Behind.” Gotta love the Japanese — so accommodative and practical. My fortune joined about 20 others, tied to a rejected fortune rack and left behind in the hopes that bad fortune can be avoided (see picture). Crisis averted. Speaking of crisis, Tokyo seems to be (almost) back to normal since the earthquake. People are going about their business, power is largely restored, construction on new buildings is proceeding, trains running on time… the big exception: tourism. We have felt like we’re the only American tourists in the city. There are no tour buses, no big group tours, and very few tourists of any kind. In fact, people keep thanking us for being here. It’s too bad because the radiation fear is way overblown; the radiation levels in Tokyo are minimal (Sue-san checks them every morning). We assured Sue-san that we would encourage Americans to come back to Japan… So come on, people!! About to start blogging about Kyoto, Day 1! Oh, and did I mention after our day-long tour of Tokyo we slept for 12 hours, straight through dinner?
Wall on Luang Prabang Rachit Tiwary on “People Don’t Rush… sydney66 on Tonle Sap Julia Martin on Japarazzi sydney66 on Geiko Entertainment / So-long…