Tokyo – Day 1

28 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.

Charles: We were up early today, around 6:00 AM. I just couldn’t sleep anymore, no matter how hard I tried. (Sandy: Jetlag is the worst – I hate getting the “your head feels like it is in a tight helmet all day” feeling)

We wandered around Ginza looking for breakfast, but nothing would open until 8:00. One street in Ginza reminded me of the Champs Elysee. All the major French and Italian luxury designers have boutiques in Ginza, and there is a myriad of bistros and cafes. In fact, it seems difficult to find traditional Japanese breakfast anywhere, because the Japanese seem to prefer French pastries. Eventually a cafe opened and we had pastries and coffee for about $10. So yes, it was just like the Champs Elysee.

Sandy: Here’s a pic of a side street in Ginza. It’s so cute!

Ginza side street

Charles: We checked out of our hotel in Ginza and headed for the conference hotel in downtown Tokyo, near the Imperial Palace. We couldn’t check in yet, so we left our luggage with the bell desk and went on our next adventure, the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. Mitaka is a suburb of Tokyo, so we took a commuter train. I really liked Mitaka, it was a little more laid back. People were jogging, going for walks and riding bikes. The Ghibli museum is in a giant park. In case you don’t already know, Studio Ghibli makes animated movies in Japan. They’re the Japanese equivalent of Disney.

Mitaka
Since Sandy saw lots of Ghibli movies as a child, she really wanted to see the museum. The museum was a lot of fun. It was just like a children’s museum back in the U.S.

Sandy: Studio Ghibli is the famed animation studio headed by acclaimed director Hayao Miyasaki and Isao Takahata that was responsible for such wonderful films as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and more recently Howl’s Moving Castle. Disney distributes the English language version of these film in the US, so you may have heard of them.

I am obsessed with all things Totoro. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside the Studio Ghibli museum. I need to post a picture of my Totoro collection one day.

Charles: After the museum we took the train back into Tokyo, but we got out before reaching downtown in an area called Nakano.

Sandy: Nakano Broadway is a very long covered arcade filled with little shops that is right next to the train station. There are a few floors, with specialization in certain areas. We went there because I heard that this was a good place to find anime stuff. They have a branch of Mandarake there. It looked like there were lots of different anime figurines there – like vintage Godzilla, masks, etc..

It seemed like a place where more locals went since we saw no other recognizable tourists there. It is like a market, with gift shops, clothing shops, trinket shops, restaurants, and snack stands. I liked the shops at Asakusa better for traditional gifts though. Nakano Broadway is not flashy at all and was more like other markets in Asia, and seemed older than other shopping streets in Tokyo.

Nakano Broadway

Charles: We shopped around for a bit and then headed to Shinjuku. Shinjuku is a really crowded area. There are lights and TVs blasting images at you from the sides of large buildings. In Shinjuku we went to Isetan, a large Japanese department store. The bottom floor of Isetan is a huge gourmet food market, and our jaws dropped when we saw all of the great desserts. Sorry, but we could not take any photos inside the store and it was pouring rain outside! We had lunch ( I had some great tempura) and then went back to check in to the hotel.

Next: Asakusa, Akihabara, and Shibuya

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