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Back To The Future

September 23, 2015

      “Night” on our way across the Pacific. Outside it’s broad daylight.

      

    Friday, September 11, 2015

    After a ten-and-a-half hour flight, we arrive at Narita Airport and take the Narita Express to Shinagawa station on the Yamanote line, which encircles central Tokyo. We’ll spend our first night at the Shinagawa Prince hotel across from the station (special Delta rate) and then on to more modest digs. It was evening rush hour when we exited the train, and nothing could have prepared us for the onslaught of people leaving work. I probably should have taken a picture, but we were too busy trying to get out of the way.

      
    Shinagawa at night.

    After checking in, we explored the neighborhood.

      
    There are Seven-Elevens just about everywhere in Tokyo, which is a good thing. Besides the usual snacks and sundries, they have ATMs which are a handy source of cash for the tourist.

      
    I had thought that Pachinko parlors would have been replaced by something more electronically au courant, but no. We stepped inside one for a moment, and were overwhelmed by the sound of hundreds of thousands of steel balls colliding with each other. Too loud for conversation. Jet engine loud. Most of these dudes smoke, something else that hasn’t changed.

    We ate a sandwich Peggy had bought from Julienne’s in our room, and so to bed.

    Saturday, September 12

      
    The view from the hotel room. The red-and-white spire in the background, if you can make it out, is Tokyo Tower. Tokyo is the world’s largest metropolitan area.

    This morning we move to Kimi Ryokan, a budget tourist hotel not far from Ikeburo station.

       
     
    The East entrance to Ikebukuro. Station, and the neighborhood just outside. Not the ‘burbs. 

     
    Peggy in the lounge area of Kimi Ryokan. This is not a traditional ryokan, but it’s clean and comfortable, if a bit cozy. There’s a kitchen area with microwave, fridge, drink machines and free hot tea.

      
    Phone booths have all but disappeared from the U.S., but they survive in Japan.

       
    Part of the train station is taken up by the Tobu department store, and the top floor is all restaurants. Here’s one just for children, who have a special place in Japanese culture.

       
    A couple of shots from the west side of the station, decidedly less gritty than the east.
      
    A lot of wiring in the older parts of the city seems like a tacked-on afterthought, and that, coupled with the predominantly gray color of the buildings make some areas look rather bleak from a distance, out of some dystopian novel.

    Sunday, September 13

      
    On our way to Shinjuku. Face masks are not uncommon on the streets. Otherwise, this scene is replicated in every big city we’ve seen.

        
     
    Shinjuku is known for its brightly-lit night life, and it did not disappoint.

      
    Nice to know that Godzilla’s still around…

       
     
    Hmm.

    Winding up, we went to a consumer goods emporium.

       
     
    Hey, foreign visitor, how about a table-top dishwasher?

      
    …or a massage chair?

    Monday, September 14

    Today we got out early (for us) to visit the Tsukiji fish market. We missed the 6:00 a.m. tuna auction – maybe next time.

       
        
     
    Lotsa stuff for sale. I got one of the smaller knives at bottom left.

       
     
    People wait in lines for a seat at the many sushi restaurants. Here’s mine. 

    Tsukiji is not far from the Ginza, Tokyo’s luxe shopping district, so we walked over.

       
     
    A candy-covered display.

       
     
    A common sight along Ginza-Dori, the main drag, is busloads of Chinese tourists looking for luxury goods that are apparently not available in China. Here they wait in line to buy suitcases.

      
    The giant Mitsukoshi department store, which we would like to revisit. Japanese department stores really have no counterpart in the U.S., offering a much wider variety of goods, especially foodstuffs.

     

    Tuesday, September 15

    Today we went to Tokyo station, intending to see the Imperal Palace grounds.

       
     
    We had lunch in the station, and then looked through some toy stores in the basement. Peggy bought a couple of these Japanese comic figures for our grandchildren.

      
    There are street signs in Japanese cities, but they are relatively scarce, and we had so much trouble finding the palace that the grounds were closed by the time we got there.  Here, a swan in the palace moat.

    One last sight for the evening was Tokyo Tower, a popular tourist draw, not far from the Hamamatsu-cho stop on the Yamamote line. (We seldom strayed far from Yamamote.)

      
    On the way, the gate to Zojoji temple, with the tower peeking over the top.

       
       
    The Tower, and a couple of views from inside.

    On the way in, we passed a restaurant/bar that was open to the street, smoke pouring out from the grillled meat on skewers and people (mostly guys) being noisy and enjoying themselves. We decided to check it out on the way back to the train.

       
       
    We sat down and soon a couple of gentlemen offered to help us navigate the menu, and in no time we were well into the spirit of things. Turns out that the bottle of clear liquid a waitress was pouring into everyone’s glass wasn’t drinking water after all. The place, called Akita-ya, is famous thereabouts, and justly so. We’ll definitely return on our last pass through Tokyo.

    Wednesday, September 16

    One thing I definitely wanted to see in Japan was Japanese handicraft work, so today we went to the Craft Gallery of the National Museum of Modern Art. The pictures below are just a sample of the many beautiful things we saw there.

       
        
     

    Thursday, September 17

    Today it rained all day, and Peggy went to her ikebana lesson in Omote-sando.

       
     
    After lunch we went to the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park to see its historical display of Japanese art, covering drawing and painting, armory, swordmaking, clothes, masks and pottery. Photography was allowed, but I opted out this time. The park was beautiful in the rain.  

        
     

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    2 Comments
    1. Where have you two been all my life? Loved the Tokyo shots especially; brought back so many wonderful memories of my ‘traditional theatre study’ in Tokyo in 1993. So good to follow you
      on your Grand Tour!!!

      • Glad you like it. We’re home now, but blog’s unfinished. Osaka, Wajima, and return to Tokyo to come, when I can.

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