Shinagawa Station - 8:15
Buying Shinkansen tickets and going through the gates went a lot more smoothly this time since I knew how it was done. The ride was kinda long, though. Which I expected, but it was long enough that I almost took a nap once or twice. In any case, at 8:15 I arrived at Shinagawa Station in Tokyo. Right away I got to see a sight that really said to me “This is Tokyo”. When I walked into the main concourse, I found a huge line of people all walking towards the exit. No, not a line, a FLOOD. It showed no signs of stopping, either. It was like there was a train at the end of the concourse that was unloading a car of infinite passengers. I had originally planned to see a temple near Shinagawa Station, but when I exited the station, I couldn’t find signs for it anyway. And when I looked on the maps it wasn’t listed, which hinted to me that it was just past the borders the map showed. I didn’t want to spend so much walking time just to get to one temple, so I decided to skip it and go on to the next planned station. When I went back in to buy a Tokunai Pass (1 day of unlimited usage of JR trains), the flood of commuters was STILL going.
Hamamatsucho Station – 8:55
My first stop was Hamamatsucho Station, which is the closest JR station to Tokyo Tower, a tower that was designed after the Eiffel Tower. Actually, it’s a little bit taller. It was about a 10 minute walk from the station, but I saw some nice city scenery along the way. Also right next to the tower is Zojoji Temple. I didn’t spend very long there, but I took a few pictures of things that caught my interest. At the tower, I bought an “Amusement Pass”, which gave me access to the main observation deck (150 m off the ground), and to a few other attractions on the ground levels. I wish I hadn’t bought that because those other attractions turned out to be less then stellar. The observation deck was very nice. It was basically a room with clear glass on all sides where you could look out at virtually everywhere in Tokyo from in the air. I got a lot of nice pictures in there, and it was cool because I was looking at some places that I would be in later that day. After that, I had to wait ‘til 10:00 because the other attractions didn’t open until then. The first was a wax museum, which was only mildly amusing at times. Then there was a Trick Art Gallery, which in truth wasn’t all that tricky. The third attraction was called “Space Wax”, which I thought sounded cool. But when I found the entrance, it appeared to be exhibiting a 3-D movie of some kiddy anime that I’ve seen advertised a lot over here, and it was an anime that annoyed me whenever I saw it anywhere, so I passed it up.
Tokyo Station – 10:55
The Shinkansen also goes to this station, but I wanted to stop at an earlier stop so I could go to Hamamatsucho and then just keep going forward. My main plan was to only take the JR lines. One in particular – the Yamanote Line. That one is probably one of the most popularly used, because it circles around all of Central Tokyo and hits all of the major stops, including all of the stops that I had planned to go to. So I had decided from the start to just take the Yamanote to each station I had planned to go to and then walk to all the sights I wanted to see. Anyway, this area of Tokyo felt very interesting – the station complex on the outside looked like something out of the Victorian Era. It had a bit of class to it – perhaps due to the close proximity of the Imperial Palace there, which was where I was going. Not the whole palace; that’s off-limits to tourists. I went to an area that’s open to the public all the time – the Imperial Palace East Gardens. I didn’t explore the whole garden, but what I saw was indeed very nice. Also, the area outside the gates had a moat around it, which also amused me. It was around this point in the trip that I was beginning to notice how many foreigners you can in Tokyo – virtually everywhere I was going I’d see an American or a European or African or someone else. I also began to realize that Europeans really don’t look all that different from Americans when you get right down to it. I would pass by a lot of people who I thought were American, but then they’d talk to whoever they were with when I passed, and I’d hear French or Polish or something. It was nice, though, because I felt a little more around good company with so many foreigners like me.
Akihabara Station – 11:55
This is probably THE place I wanted to see in Tokyo. It is famously called “Electric Town” Akihabara for having a large amount of stores for electronics and computers and things like that. But it’s ALSO known for having a wide array of sub-culture shops for video games and anime. In a word – it’s a place for boys. And I’ve really wanted to go. When I got here, just before noon, I immediately saw lots of tall buildings filled with anime advertisements and electronics ads. There are, for the most part, three kinds of stores you can find in Akihabara. Electronic stores, anime/video game hobby shops, and video arcades. I didn’t have interest in electronics, and I knew that if I sat down to play in an arcade it would be hard to make myself stop, so I spent most of my time there exploring the hobby shops. Most of them had the same general set-up; 1st floor – video games, 2nd floor – anime, 3rd floor – manga, 4th floor – figures, 5th floor – models, and then anything else above that, and a basement floor for hentai/porn/etc. Don’t worry, I didn’t go into the basements. I spent about an hour and a half in Akihabara, mainly just enjoying the sights and browsing the shops, but I did buy a few souvenirs for myself as well. All anime-related, of course. But no video games. There’s not much point in buying video games in Japan because my game systems back home are American-region, and most game systems are not region-free.
Ueno Station – 1:45
The main attraction in Ueno is Ueno Park, one of the more well-known parks in Tokyo. I didn’t have a major plan here; I sort of just wanted to find a place to relax and eat lunch, and I figured that a park would be a good place. The park was very nice and friendly, but I couldn’t find a place to eat. Well, not a good one, anyway. So once I was done in the park, I went back to a Soba Noodle Shop I had seen right outside the station exit and ate there. By this time it was about 2:30.
Ikebukuro Station – 2:55
Just before 3:00 I arrived in Ikebukuro. This is another popular teen culture area of Tokyo. In fact, if Akihabara can be said to be for boys, Ikebukuro could be said to be for girls. “For girls” in the sense of there are a lot of clothing stores. I didn’t go to any of those, of course. My main purpose for going to Ikebukuro was to see the sights, and to go to a section of the area called “Sunshine City”; a complex within a large hotel with various stores and attraction. I went for one attraction in particular – a place called “Namja Town”, which is an amusement area based on the products and properties of the Japanese entertainment company Namco. It’s rather hard to describe the area to those who haven’t seen it, but the best way I can think to describe it is a mix between a fun house, an amusement park, and a haunted house. The walls and passage ways of the different areas and games of the “town” were intricately designed to the point that it almost seemed kind of creepy, in a cool way. There were several games going on that I would have loved to take part in, but I could see that they were long, involved games that I really didn’t have time for. Still, it was a very amusing and distracting attraction. Once I left and headed back to Ikebukuro Station, it was getting past mid-afternoon and was starting to get kind of crowded in the streets. Also by this time I was beginning to feel the effects of having walked around for at least 6-7 hours, but there was still a few more places I wanted to go.
Harajuku Station – 4:30
The truth is, I had originally planned to go to Shinjuku Station after Ikebukuro. I didn’t really have a plan for what I wanted to see there, but I had heard it was a popular spot. However, I spent a little longer in Ikebukuro than I had intended – partially because the walk from Ikebukuro Station to Sunshine City was rather long, so I decided to skip Shinjuku and go straight to Harajuku. Here I went to see the Meiji Shrine (which I assume was made in honor of the Meiji Restoration? I don’t really know) right by the station. I had heard Harajuku was a big teen culture place as well, but I didn’t see a whole lot of that. Probably I just wanted in exact area where all the shops are and stuff.
Shibuya Station – 5:00
It would be more accurate to just say “Shibuya”, because this was the one time I did not take the Yamanote between destinations. Shibuya Station and Harajuku Station are right next to each other, and because the place I wanted to see in Shibuya is practically right on the border of Harajuku and Shibuya, I decided to walk. The place I went to here was an NHK Studio Complex. NHK is the national television broadcasting station of Japan. Literally, they own practically every station that can be found on Japanese TV. In here I went to the NHK Studiopark, which is basically a behind-the-scenes museum/tour of the processes behind Japanese television shows. I don’t even watch Japanese TV over here, really, but it was a very interesting attraction. The part I found most interesting was a hallway where there were little area with a few TV screens and some glass panels. If you looked through the glass, down below there’d be an actual television studio set where people were actually filming an episode of a show. Pictures weren’t allowed in that area of course, so you won’t find anything like that in my pictures.
Ebisu Station – 6:25
This was the last stop of my trip, Ebisu. I had read online that there was a place here called “Yebisu Garden Place”, which is somewhat of a multi-purpose outdoor annex with several stores and restaurants. I figured that would be a good place to find dinner, so I had planned to eat there and then head back to Nagoya. I ended up eating at 6:40 in a place called Ginza Lion. It was your standard dinner location, with a big beer station because Yebisu Garden Place has its own famous brand of Yebisu sake. I had a reeeeally good sirloin steak there, which was nice because I haven’t had steak in forever. One nice thing about Tokyo is that waiters/waitresses in restaurants here can tell if you’re a foreigner and are prepared for it. So mine just started talking to me in English right away and offered me an English menu. Obviously, it would have been fine either way, because it’s not that hard to order a meal in Japanese, but the convenience was quite welcome. After finishing at about 7:30, as I had planned, I headed back to the station and took the line all the way back to Shinagawa, and hopped on the Shinkansen again. The ride back this time didn't feel as gruelingly long as the ride in the morning did for some reason.
And that's it! Here are the pictures I took. At first I had around 140 pictures, but I cut a lot of them out later, 'cause it felt like way too much and there were a lot of redundant images. Well, from here on out, anymore updates I make will be regular LJ updates again, so who knows when on earth I'll be doing that again, eh? :p I'll most likely do an update on how I'm settling back in once I get back home, probably. Anyway, I hope that everyone has enjoyed the stories of my time in Japan. I had a really great time here, and I hope that I may get the opportunity to return some day, even for a short time. I don't know if I'd ever want to live here.......living in another country kind of made me realize how much I like America, honestly. XD But Japan is still a great place, and I highly recommend it to anyone thinking of coming here, or just trying to decide to go anywhere in the world. So, later everyone! Next time I talk to you I should be back in the good ol' USA. :3