After an 11+ hour flight, 2 and a half hour bus ride (which should have been 40 minutes but there was traffic), 45 minute walk in the rain (which should have been 15 if I didn’t get us lost), we found our house we rented for our stay in Tokyo. Complete with a formal dining room for people with very short legs.
One of the big considerations we made when picking our rental house was that it had to have cable TV. I don’t normally watch much TV while on vacation but I really wanted to watch some crazy Japanese television (and drink beer), I had absolutely no idea what was going on.
This is the street our house was on. Only a 2 minute walk from the train station and plenty of food options (more about the food later), it was the perfect location. But enough about that, lets go explore Tokyo!
First stop is Akihabara or Electric town. Akihabara has every kind of electronics shop, anime and arcades packed into a small area. The Sega arcade in this picture is many floors high and has an enormous range of video games to play. Even the department store in this area has two floors of arcade games within it.
This would be the first, and last time this happens: B-ri actually makes it under the watch your head sign inside the Sega Arcade.
Still in Akihabara, this would become pretty normal for B-ri. Japan wasn’t made for people over 6 feet tall.
In Akihabara you can buy a hat for your cat that looks like an apple from a vending machine. I bought one; even though I don’t have a cat (I’m allergic).
From Akihabara we headed to the Meiji Shrine. What is the best way to get around the crowded metropolis of Tokyo you may wonder…. You dress up like Mario, Luigi or Yoshi and drive a go-kart or Mario Kart for short. During our stay we saw this numerous times all around the city but didn’t see any bananas thrown, red shells shot or squid shooting ink.
This is the largest Tori gate in Japan just outside of the Meijing Shrine. We were told once you see one shrine, you have seen them all so I’ll only post pictures of the more spectacular ones. The Meijing Shrine is dedicated to the souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken; the first emperors of modern Japan. Sian is smiling because she heard there were barrels of wine and sake hidden somewhere around here.
Sian was right. Every year, special sake and wine is made, placed in barrels, wrapped in straw and stored near the shrine. The sake is offered to dignitaries and people held in high regard in Japanese culture. They must not have been aware of my arrival as I wasn’t offered any strangely enough.
While on the topic of booze, we made a stop at the headquarters for a popular beer in Japan, Asahi. The building is supposed to look like a giant pint of beer with a frothy top, delicious!
Tokyo has many very small hidden streets that are packed with tiny restaurants and bars. This particular area is called Piss Alley. It got its name as there are numerous bars packed into this tiny alley but previously had no bathrooms. So when nature called…. Well, ya gotta do what you gotta do.
Each Restaurant is very small. This particular one held about 8 people total. Yup, this is the entire restaurant.
Apparently, they serve everything from Horse penis, raw frog or pig testicles. We cheer some Sake and order some mystery meat. I say apparently because the menus are only in Japanese, which we can’t read.
Now might be a fitting time to discus toilets…. They run the range in Japan from this fancy hi-tech toilet that will play music to mask any sounds you might make and clean your bottom side with streams of water. Of course the buttons are labelled in Japanese so you might get a bit of a surprise.
And at the other end of the spectrum. Note there are instructions for use on the wall. This is a public toilet in Tokyo. In a city of roughly 40 million people, it is amazing how clean everything is, even public toilets.
Tokyo has more neon signs than any other city in the world. They are everywhere and some are enormous, all competing for your attention. Did I mention it rained everyday during our trip? It did.
More neon signs, more advertising, more umbrellas.
This is what it looks like when it rains every day, your city has 40 million people with 40 million umbrellas and tiny side streets. Complete chaos.
We received a tip that you could go to the top floor of the Metropolitan government building for free. At the top you would be rewarded with vast views of the city of Tokyo. You can see here this handy sign showing all the different sites, which were obscured by clouds.
Wow! Look over there! More rain and clouds!
The umbrella infrastructure in Tokyo is extensive. Every store has little bags to keep your umbrella from dripping inside. This particular one even had an umbrella lock up.
We had also been told that to get into the Imperial palace was very difficult. Much to our surprise, we got in without any problems (minus a sensual pat down) and were given a tour of the imperial palace; by this guy with a megaphone….. in Japanese,
With 200 of our new found friends, who also didn’t speak Japanese.
The imperial palace grounds are very picturesque. Here you can see the gardener trying to hide to not ruin tourist’s photos. I can’t tell you anything about the significance of this building, as the tour was all in Japanese.
Just outside the Imperial Palace B-ri and Sian are overly enthusiastic, that it stopped raining, for a little while.
A sobering reminder that you are in a tsunami area. It was just over 2 years ago when over 2500 people died in Japan after a tsunami.
Speaking of important warnings, what is upskirting?
Ohhhhhhhh I get it.
From the Imperial Palace we head off to some place we were told about called Robot Restaurant. The subway system in Tokyo is incredibly efficient, clean and covers the entire city. People waiting for trains are incredibly polite and organized waiting in lines for their turn. Also note all the suits. People in Tokyo are very well dressed. Even bus drivers wear white gloves.
What the subway wasn’t built for however was people over 6 feet tall, or even 5 feet tall for that matter.
We arrived at Robot Restaurant which can only be described as sensory overload. Yes, that is a chrome robot playing a grand piano in the background.
B-ri and I grab a Ninja Beer and head down the hallway, excited about what could possibly come next.
I can’t describe in words that would properly convey the show we then saw at the Robot Restaurant, but I guess pure Japanese craziness would summarize it nicely.
Another popular way to get around the city is by bicycle. This is an underground bike parking station at a subway.
While on the topic of bicycles in Tokyo. Notice that they are not locked up. There is very little crime in Tokyo so people just leave their bikes in the street unattended, which is unbelievable in a city of 40 million people. Also note the complete lack of litter, graffiti or gum.
Of course no visit to Tokyo is complete without a visit to the Shibuya Crossing. The famous crosswalk where at times over 1000 people cross during a single light. Arm them all with umbrellas for extra entertainment. Here they are waiting for the light to change.
You may wonder how we got these nice aerial views of the famous Shibuya Crossing?
Wonder no more. Being tall has its advantageous even if he didn’t fit in most buildings
With the rain letting up temporarily we take advantage and go up the Tokyo Tower for some views. Built in 1958 the tower is intentionally made to look like the Eiffel tower in Paris but is 13 meters taller. For some time this made it the tallest free standing structure in the world.
The views from the observation deck are expansive and it appears that the city carries on forever. For comparison; the city of Tokyo is home to more people than the entire population of Canada, the 2nd largest country in the world.
Even in a city this large, they still maintain a number of green spaces and parks.
Spot the B-ri.
We spent many hours just wandering around the streets of Tokyo taking in the sights, sounds and smells.
We also spent a good deal of time betting on whatever we could think of. Will it rain today, how long till the train arrives or the infamous is something heavy or light. Here is B-ri collecting his winnings.
Speaking of Japanese currency. The one Yen coins were almost useless (about 1 cent CND). Some coins do not have the value printed on them so we had to Google what they were worth.
This is Senso-ji, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo dating back to sometime around 628AD.
Where they don’t appreciate Pokemon Go.
A short way from the temple is the eternal flame of Hiroshima. The story is that a gentleman named Tatsuo went to Hiroshima after the bomb was dropped to find his uncle. He did not locate his uncle but found flames burning from the A-bomb. He brought some of the flames back with him to Tokyo in memory of his uncle where he kept it burning for many years. Eventually, a proper memorial was built not only in dedication to his uncle but also to keep the flame burning for hope of peace on earth.
We were supposed to then leave Tokyo to ride bikes down the coast when we received this news; an approaching Typhoon. As we decided what to do, the storm was upgraded from a Typhoon to a super Typhoon (or Godzilla sized). After great debate (and more Typhoon related betting) we concluded that riding bikes down the coast in a super Typhoon wouldn’t be the best choice. We decide to wait out the storm in Tokyo and then as it approached Tokyo we would leave on a Bullet train.
What do you do if you find yourself in a super Typhoon? Gortex, Umbrella and Ballast. Next stop, Hiroshima, hopefully.