A weekend in Tokyo

Sylvia: Saturday 22 October

We had a leisurely start to the day with breakfast in the hotel then headed down the road to the nearest subway station to start our exploration of Tokyo. I had studied a number of guides and come up with the most recommended route for our weekend here.

The subways here are very easy to use. Each line is colour-coded and given a letter and each stop is numbered. I had downloaded a really simple-to-use app so just had to load in the starting station and where we wanted to go, then it told me the line(s) to use and which stops to get off at. The subway stations are clean and well marked with the letters and colours of the lines easily visible, even in the largest and busiest stations – although I am sure at peak hour it can get hectic as many of the stations were very busy even during the weekend. In general people are very patient and line up to wait for the trains, and even queue to get on to the escalators then stand neatly to the left so people in a hurry can rush past.

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Our first stop was the Meiji Shrine, built in 1920 to house thee souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. It is in a lovely forested area, which seems to be very rare in Tokyo. There were several Japanese in traditional costumes including many young children and we were lucky enough to see a very solemn wedding procession.

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After leaving the shrine we headed out through Harujuku and Omotesando to Shibuya. These are all typical Tokyo shopping areas and definitely not particularly our thing. I was impressed though with the Shibuya crossing, an incredibly busy intersection near the Shibuya station. I have never seen so many people crossing the road at once before, and every 2-3 minutes when the lights changed the same number of people were waiting again. It is quite something to watch. We were also quite taken with a robot in Harujuku.

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We stopped very briefly in Shinjuku and then into Roppongi where we headed up to the Tokyo City View and Sky Deck for views over the city. Unfortunately it was pretty smoggy so the views weren’t fantastic.

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We then headed back to our hotel in Shinagawa for the evening. We wandered through a beautiful Japanese Garden out the back of the hotel and found a great bar where Roger could enjoy a cigar, then headed to an excellent Japanese steakhouse for some exceptionally cooked wagyu beef to cap off the day.

Sylvia: Sunday 23 October

Today started in a similar fashion to yesterday but we opted first to head out to the older part of Tokyo, Asakusa, to see the Sensoji Temple. In order to get to the temple we had to fight the crowds along the Nakamise shopping street which is lined with market stalls selling all manner of Japanese souvenirs. The temple itself is quite impressive and it is fascinating to watch the throngs of people as they buy their fortunes, waft themselves with incense and pay their respects. This is the oldest temple in Tokyo said to have been built in 628. There was even a female street artist with her performing monkey outside.

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We wandered around the temple and down to the river then up to the Tokyo Skytree, apparently the tallest tower in the world. The air was less smoggy today so we tried our luck again and despite some fantastic views couldn’t see Mt Fuji. The tower was pretty impressive though with two observation levels (350m and 450m) and even a glass floor some 350m above the ground. The lift ride between the 30m and the 450m observation decks was quite impressive as the roof was glass so we could watch our progress up the inside of the tower.

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Next we headed to the Edo-Tokyo Museum which has a number of models depicting life in the Edo period and also some background on the Tokyo earthquake and Tokyo during the war. Outside the museum is a statue of one of the emperors standing on a tortoise. I am sure this has some major significance but Roger, who has found the crowds somewhat challenging, particularly given the slow pace they move at, suggested that perhaps he was on a tortoise because he wanted to go faster than everyone else.

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We tried to visit the sumo museum but it was closed so we decided to call it a day and head back to the bar instead.

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