Friday, January 25, 2008

Supersonic sightseeing in Tokyo

We arrived in Tokyo on Sunday and we were leaving on Tuesday morning. We’d planned to do some sightseeing during the day and attend the Bon Jovi shows at night. But once we got to Tokyo we found out that the concerts started at the insanely early time of 17:00! And I had to pickup my fanclub tickets a couple of hours before the show, which meant I had to be back at the Tokyo Dome around 14:00 on both days. Well, seeing as we arrived after 12:00 on Sunday there wasn’t much time for us to go roam about an unknown cosmopolitan, so we decided to chill in the Tokyo Dome vicinity. After the concert, it was simply too cold to voluntarily be outside so we hung out in the hotel bar instead. But we didn’t come all the way to Tokyo to not see anything in this huge city, so we decided to get up (uncharacteristically) early on Monday and play tourist for a couple of hours in Tokyo.
First of all, I really wanted to see the huge crossing they show at the end of the movie ‘Lost in Translation’. I thought that crossing was somewhere in Shibuya, but I couldn’t find it in my travel guide, but it did say something about Tokyo’s busiest crossing being in Ginza, and that description really fit the crossing in the movie. So out first stop was the yon-chome crossing, which is Ginza’s main intersection. When we arrived there, it seemed eerily deserted, especially when your travel guide tells you it’s one of the world’s busiest crossings. It was so empty that we were wondering if we were in the right place, but then we turned around and we were facing the San’ai building. So yeah, we were on that 'busy' crossing alright. Some friendly guy handing out free maps of the area told us that it was so empty because it was early and a national holiday (coming-of-age-day), which is why there were hardly any people about, yet. Well, it was for the better because I never really enjoy being stuck in a Japanese crowd.

The glass building named San'ai

Lou and Kirstin on Ginza's 4-chome crossing

Even when I imagined a couple of thousand extra Japanese people on the street this somehow this didn’t seem to be the place where Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray said goodbye to each other. And it turns out it wasn’t, because a little research on the almighty internet told me that it was actually the Shibuya scramble crossing, where they filmed the last scene. Shibuya is where we just got off the train to take a picture in the station and then immediately got on the next train again. You really have to prioritize when you have limited time, and my travel guide told us that Shibuya didn’t have anything to offer that we might find interesting.

Well, we were wrong! Not only is the crossing there, which according to Wikipedia is the busiest in the world, hence busier than the one in Ginza, hmm maybe I should ditch my travel guide? It is also the location of the busiest Starbucks of the world (It would have been fun to drink a Caramel Macchiato there, probably after having stood in line for at least an hour, in true Japanese-style. But hey, we got to sip some coffee at the very first Starbucks in Japan ever in Ginza, so that rocked too! And the line was very minimal there, I mean with the neighborhood being nearly deserted and all.

First ever Starbucks in Japan

But when one departs on a supersonic sightseeing tour through Tokyo one has to accept not to be able to see everything, so we settled for just a little of everything, like Shibuya train station! And we still saw plenty of interesting stuff in quiet Ginza on Monday morning. Like a girl all dressed up in a traditional old-style Japanese kimono having a chat on her contemporary high-tech Japanese keitai (cell phone), an interesting mix of typically Japanese things. Later that day we saw hundreds of girls like her sporting kimonos and keitais at the same time (it had something to do with the holiday), but this is the only picture I have:

Also Japanese dogs are very special, especially this weird specimen we saw crossing the yon-chome crossing in Ginza with his owner. When he walked he looked like a hunched-over Yeti or something and Kristin thought the dog was so freaky that she couldn’t sleep at night, because images of the dog kept flashing in front of her eyes. I didn’t think it was as much scary as it was fascinating, so I wanted to take some pictures of it. But how do you take pictures without the owner feeling weird about it? You just loudly exclaim ‘kawai’ (cute) and point at the dog before you raise your camera, so that the owner feels flattered and even makes his dog pose for the picture. Mission accomplished:

Another place in Tokyo which was just briefly visited by us was the Akihabara Electronics District. It sounded interesting in the travel guide, where it was described as a place where you can buy anything electric from Christmas tree lights to the latest chip, and it certainly looked like that was very true, but once you get there and you’ve seen the 30 shops in the first street you’re kind of over it already, and we didn’t feel compelled to turn the corner at the end of the street, and instead we turned back and caught the next train out of Akihabara.

One of too many electronic stores in Akihabara

Next was Tokyo Tower. With our hopping on and off train after train while traveling up and down Tokyo, we found ourselves very happy with our earlier purchased day pass for the JR trains. When we got to the station nearest to Tokyo Tower, we found out that the walk there was about 20 minutes, so we decided not to go up Tokyo Tower to enjoy the view. Not that we were in a lazy mood or anything, but going there and back to the station would at least take 40 minutes and going up the observation deck and checking out the view would at least be another 20 minutes, and we just didn’t have an hour to spare for just one sight. We still wanted to see a lot more of Tokyo and we had just about 2 hours left to do it in, so we just took a quick walk into the Tower’s direction, took some pictures and headed back for the next train.

In Japan you can find massageplaces everywhere! But this one looked especially interesting! I wonder if it hurts as much as the neck-shoulder-back massage I got at the hotel later that night.

Our last stop was Harajuku. The ultimately hip place to be in Tokyo when you’re young, well we’re still (kind of) young, so we headed to Harajuku. I had my camera ready the entire to snap some shots of weirdly dressed teens, which I had seen hundreds of pictures of online and in travel guides, but I guess it was just still too early for them. They probably all started to get dressed by the time we headed back to the Tokyo Dome, or something. Still, Harajuku was interesting and it seemed to contain all the people we had missed at the crossing in Ginza.

We mainly walked Takeshita-dori, a street with dozens (but it seemed like hundreds) of shops selling a loads of weird clothes, which had big signs telling us tourist that we weren’t allowed to take pictures… oops:

Honestly, I hadn’t seen the signs before I took the picture, but if I had I probably would have still taken the picture, because not being allowed to do it makes it only more desirable.

Harajuku browsing

We did some browsing around and a little shopping, I got some perfume and birthday gifts for people back at home. But we got over it really quickly and decided to go back to the hotel. So all in all we spend about 4 hours roaming about the streets of Tokyo with a JR day pass and an outdated travel guide, but we were satisfied with the amount of sightseeing we did in such a short amount of time! To quote Kristin: “We pimped the shit out of Tokyo!”

More pictures

2 comments:

krista said...

Holy smokes! That dog! I'm curious as to what kind of dog-baboon species it is!!

Love your Jovi write ups by the way!

Minke said...

Thank you for this tour!;)
Minkekekeke