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3 Weeks Japan – Day 1

May 13, 2010

Welcome to Tokyo 22/03

The most crucial thing for traveling Tokyo must be the Yamanote train line. Like a big transmutation circle it connects the most important places in town, with short intervals and a highly adventurous rush hour. Our gateway to the holy Yamanote is Ueno station, a 20 minute walk from our hotel. Next to the station is Ueno Park, the only large piece of greenery in this part of Tokyo. It’s also home to the national museum, the city zoo and some other museums and historic sites.

Search the sakura

It’s a beautiful day and a lot of people are strolling down the main park avenue searching for the first blooming sakura branches. These branches can be spotted from far away due to the groups of amateur photographers beneath them. There is even a camera team from a local tv-station. We observe some people, watch a junior baseball game and go visit the national museum. Afterwards we choose a yakisoba stand out of the row of food stalls and enjoy some fried noodles with a japanese beer.

Baseball is everywhere

Crazy gaijin entertains the crowd

We had to pose with the giant whale

Yakisoba!

Our next stop on the Yamamote line is Tokyo station in the middle of the Marunouchi business district. Walking between skyscrapers we suddenly end up in a great empty space filled with japanese pines. It’s the ceremonial plaza before the entrance of the Imperial Palace. If you consider the price of land in downtown Tokyo, the display of wealth and power is obvious. There are only glimpses to catch of the actual palace buildings behind the photogenic entrance bridge, but we got the impression.

Pines and scrapers

Nijubashi: main entry to the palace grounds

Impressive steel structure at Tokyo International Forum

Compared to home, the sun goes down pretty fast in Japan. Before we know it we are walking around Ginza in the dark. Ginza, just south of the business district, is one of the prime shopping areas in Tokyo, with big expensive shopping malls and flag stores of designer labels like Gucci, Swarovski and Louis Vuitton. It’s a splendid spectacle of rivaling buildings who try to outshine their neighbours. My favourite is definitely the Mikimoto boutique by architect Toyo Ito. All shops are open until 9 pm, but it’s way out of our budget anyway.

Mikomoto building

What do we remember from Japan? ..shiny clock!

On our way back to the hotel I convince my friends to make a brief stop at Akihabara. A sneak preview for me and an unplanned visit for Karen and Bart. They are oblivious to Japan’s shady otaku underground so they don’t have much reason to go there but they are impressed by the electronic stores’ advertising and slightly freaked out by the idol dvd shop we ended up in, fully understandable. Back in Asakusa we have diner in a noodle restaurant. I eat a spicy noodle bowl with an raw egg on top, which is totally delicious, again. Tired after a day walking and having such a good meal, we leave for our hotel. Only to come back 15 minutes later to pick up the backpack I left under my stool. I get another portion of bows, thankyous and goodevenings and head back. Time for japanese tea and tv.

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