Tokyo – Day 2

29 07 2007

Note: We went to Tokyo in May 2006. Please scroll down to the first Tokyo post, titled “Tokyo – May 2006” to start at the beginning of this series of posts.

On Day 2, we went to Asakusa, Akihabara, and Shibuya.

Asakusa is a must-see for anyone going to Japan for the first time. Yes, it is touristy, but its popularity is well deserved. The main attraction for Asakusa is the Sensoji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo. When you first walk out of the station, it looks like any other city block in Tokyo except the buildings look a little older. Then you get to Thunder Gate, a grand entrance marking the beginning of the temple grounds that is guarded by the gods of Thunder and Lightning.

Thunder Gate

After you pass the massive gate, you come to a long outdoor arcade of shops selling touristy trinkets, traditional snacks, and other souvenirs. Even though most things being sold are knick-knacks, we found some great souvenirs here.

After walking past the shops, you finally come to the temple itself. Tourists and pilgrims come here to make incense offerings in the outer courtyard before this Buddhist temple. Inside the temple itself, you can pay a nominal fee for a fortune. If you get a bad fortune, you tie it to a tree and the bad luck will be taken away from you.

Sensoji Temple

Next to the Sensoji Temple is a five story pagoda dedicated to Kannon Bosatsu. (I had to look that up, as I couldn’t remember to whom it was dedicated.) There is also a beautiful temple garden that has trees, ponds full of carp, and small monuments and little houses.

Sensoji Temple garden

Sensoji Temple garden 2

After leaving the temple grounds, I discovered there was a Studio Ghibli store right outside of Thunder Gate (on the left coming out of the gate). I was really excited and dragged Charles inside to look at everything Totoro. It wasn’t until later that I realized that there are Studio Ghibli stores EVERYWHERE. There is also a Studio Ghibli store in the underground mall at Tokyo station, and of course in the Studio Ghibli museum. I heard there is a big store in Odaiba, and one near the Tokyo Tower. But I digress…

Our next destination was Akihabara, the electronics section of Tokyo. This area is popular with students, tech geeks, and anime fans. While the area is said to be not as good for electronics as in the past, it is still a great place to poke around. There are still tons of electonics shops, both little ones lining a shopping arcade to 8 story stores with several departments featuring different appliances.

Akihabara

In addition, we found a street off of the main drag where there was a row of cheap eats, including a ramen shop, a tonkatsu (port cutlet) shop, and an udon shop, among other choices. We had a great lunch in the ramen shop, and it was pretty easy to make our order understood (again, the order by number via the plasticized food menu). We only stuck around a little while here, but I wish we had more time to browse! We saw some tiny Canon cameras that the US mostly wouldn’t even see in stores for at least a year.

Our last stop of the day was Shibuya, the famous trendy area of Tokyo where the young and fashionable come to shop. We first stopped by Hachiko the statue, a monument to the famously loyal dog that is now a popular meeting place.

Here’s Hachiko:

Hachiko the dog

And here is the famous Shibuya crossing, the Japanese version of Times Square. Amid humongous flashing screens hawking ads is a large 3 road intersection. The coordination between the pedestrians walking and cars driving is amazing. The intersection is so large that all pedestrians walk at the same time and all cars drive at the same time.

Shibuya crossing

We walked around Shibuya, gathering in the atmosphere. Imagine pop music blaring, ads flashing, bright shops selling all kinds of things and throngs of people everywhere and you might get a hint of what Shibuya is like. There was an underground arcade full of teenagers and a first floor area that had dozens of claw machines where you try to pick up different stuffed animals. From my knowledge of Asian culture gleaned from watching Hong Kong movies, winning a stuffed animal from the claw game seems to be a mandatory date activity a la “He won me that giant panda – our relationship must be fate!”

We also saw a bunch of American fast food chains represented in trendy Shibuya.

KFC Shibuya

We returned to our business hotel after our busy day and had dinner inside Tokyo Station. Here I am going to rhapsodize about Tokyo Station and its underground mall. It is fantastic, convenient, and huge! It has a gourmet supermarket where you can grab groceries or pre-made dinners! It has a Studio Ghibli store, an arcade, a drugstore, and other random clothing stores. It has restaurants, including a breakfast place, a traditional Japanese lunch place, and a conveyor belt sushi place! We actually ate at the conveyor belt sushi place for dinner, and it was great! The sushi was fresh and there was quite a selection (at least compared to the Americanied Japanese places in the US). Seeing that we are so close to the Tsukiji fish market, it comes as no surprise that the sushi is fresh even at the little sushi place next to the train station.

Ah, another satisfying yet hectic day in the rambling city of Tokyo.

Next: My last day in Tokyo, walking around the Imperial Palace and the Marunouchi business district.

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2 responses

31 03 2013
Cheryl

Hi! Thank you for a lovely update. I’m heading off to Japan in a month so knowing there’s Studio Ghibli stores everywhere is awesome. I know it’s been quite a while since you’ve been there last now – you planning to go again?
Cheryl

31 03 2013
travelswithsandy

I definitely want to go back to Japan, but we don’t have anything planned in the immediate future. Have fun in Japan! I’m so jealous. 🙂

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