Virtual date: 2007-03-27
After much in the way of modern, high-tech Japan, we decided to get a bit of a change, so after breakfast at a Shiodome French bakery and coffee at Tully’s, we took the subway to the central Tokyo Station, which is close to the Imperial Palace. The Emperor still lives there, and it’s not generally open to the public, but it’s very picturesque even from the outside.
The palace is mostly surrounded by a broad moat populated by ducks, swans, and very large fish.
If you look closely at this picture, you can make out the shapes of the fish. They were about as long as the swans’ bodies, and seemed to be harassing the birds, maybe assuming that they were getting handouts.
These modern fountains are nearby.
A popular photo spot, for good reason.
Most cities seem to have statues of heroes on horseback. Here’s one located near the Imperial Palace.
Making a loop back to Tokyo Station, we returned to the modern world, courtesy of the International Forum Building. This modern wonder was designed by Rafael Vinoly and completed in 1996.
It’s pretty amazing inside. Note the decidedly un-modern statue straight ahead.
Then we went back to the station and hopped on the Metro for the Asakusa area. This is a pretty typical scene in a Metro station. Note the mobile phone usage. Aside from occasional napping and makeup application, sending and receiving text messages is the main activity of riders.
Aw, what the heck, another Metro photo. Note the sleepy young woman. She’s sporting a very popular Japanese fashion.
While it’s far from the center of town, Asakusa has a few modern touches, such as the Asahi Beer Building. The tower on the left is supposed to resmble a giant glass of beer; I'm not sure what the shape on the right building is suppsoed to represent. As you might imagine, it has a number of nicknames.
But that’s an anomaly – here’s what the area is known for. This is the entrance to a street lined with shops leading to the Senso-ji temple. The little shop on the right side under the green awning was full of Studio Ghibli items, including many that were not available at the museum in Mitaka.
We had yet to see much in the way of real cherry blossoms, but artificial ones were a popular form of decoration everywhere. Shops consisted of various kinds of souvenirs and finger food.
At one booth we watched a man pour batter into metal molds and then heat them over coals. We bought a bag to see what they were like. Sort of like doughnuts, with a sweet filling of some kind. (Picture by D)
This is the main temple. There was a ceremony going on inside behind a screen, and we could hear chanting. I’m pretty sure I saw a head of blond hair inside. Nobody minded picture taking – I suppose any religious site with a gift shop inside is not overly concerned with that kind of propriety.
Just off to one side of the main temple is a spectacular five-level pagoda.
They also have a lovely little garden with a stream and several Buddha statues.
Tokyo has more different modes of transportation coexisting than any place I’ve ever been: walking and bicycles, all manner of two- and three-wheeled motorized vehicles, cars of sizes ranging from miniscule to American-style grandiose, buses of various sizes, and trains from quaint old-fashioned trolleys to sleek Shinkansen. I particularly liked these little three-wheeled scooters. The canopy section (and sometimes the cargo container, depending on the design) tilted when turning, while the rear wheels remained flat on the road. In one intersection I was particularly amused by the sight of a gray-haired old man zipping through a just-changing red light, banking for his turn.
Speaking of miniscule cars, here’s a model Subaru doesn’t sell in the US.