Old Jul 16, 15, 4:56 pm
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Programs: AA2MM LIFETIME PLT, Marriott Plat
Posts: 975
PART 4: Tokyo, Japan

We had two full days of enjoying the excitement and sounds of Tokyo. Since we were seven people, I booked us into a great house that I rented through Airbnb that was located near the Tokyo Opera Plaza just west of Shinjuku. It had four bedrooms and we fit comfortably. It was much more interactive that if we had booked four hotel rooms.

We were in between two different subway stations on different lines which gave us more flexibility. The odd thing about Tokyo is that the subways are not part of the same ownership. This means that sometimes you have to but a ticket on Tokyo Metro and then another ticket on Tokyo Subway. It’s much easier to connect on lines from the same system. Once we figured this out, we started making better decisions of routes.

Google Maps was very useful and choosing public transport. We even ended up taking buses at times which I much prefer to the underground because you can see more of the city.

We had lunch at the chain restaurant Genko in the Shinjuku area. We were all happy to be having sushi in Japan. This would simply serve to wet our appetite for going to the Tsujiki Fish Market one morning for the freshest sushi in the world.

Jane and I at sushi lunch

It was like Denny’s but with sushi!

Our first tourist destination in central Tokyo was Meiji-jingu, Tokyo’s largest and most famous Shinto shrine. We entered a peaceful park with gardens and large trees which was a welcome change from the craziness of Tokyo. I knew we were getting close to the shrine when we passed the offering of barrels of saki.

The shrine offered lots of opportunities to spend money to make wishes and prayers to the gods. We shook a wooden box of sticks which told a fortune. We were fortunate to have a Japanese friend with us who helped explain all the procedures. The highlight of the visit was the garden where the emperor and family would relax and fish in a small lake. It was beautiful and very peaceful.

At the gate. Corbin is almost as tall as me!

The barrels of sake for the gods

Wishes, many of which were about the upcoming school exams

After a more spiritual moment, we decided to go full consumerism and head to the LINE Friends store in Shibuya. Lots of cuddly brown bears welcomed us to buy merchandise. These characters started as part of a messaging app on smartphones. Now it’s a full retail industry fully embraced by the Japanese shoppers.

A big brown bear at LINE Friends

For dinner that night we found an underground yakitori restaurant and enjoyed lots of meats and beers. The smoky flavor of the skewered beef, chicken, and pork were all delicious.

Overflowing sake at a yakitori meal

Us with the yakitori chef

I had never been to a gay bar in Japan so a few of us headed out to sample a variety of places that were all hopping on this Saturday night. Two of the three places were tiny and reminded me on someone’s living room.

The next day we metro’ed over to Senso-ji Temple which was built over a thousand years before Tokyo got its start. As we approached, the tourist stalls slightly overwhelmed but we managed to finally reach the temple and pagoda. Once again the actual temple was chaotic but the surrounding gardens were lovely and enjoyable.

Approaching the Senso-Ji

The pagoda at Senso-Ji

We finished the afternoon with a river cruise down to Hinode. While it was nice to be on the water, the buildings and cityscape weren’t that interesting. The teenagers used the time to play quietly on their phones.

A view from the river of Tokyo

One of the people of our group and I have known each other since my freshman year of high school. Later we were roommates for two years at university and our families have grown up together. Through Facebook we saw that one of our classmates from high school had lived in Tokyo for many years and we arranged to meet up. We hadn’t seen him since we graduated over 30 years ago but immediately clicked back in and had a fun evening of laughing and reminiscing. He took us to a wonderful restaurant featuring the food of Kyoto. It was delicious and once again we all ate too much.

At the craziest intersection in the world

Tomorrow morning we leave on our hike up Mt. Fuji!! We are all so excited.

Last edited by olafman; Jul 16, 15 at 5:12 pm
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