Hello Tokyo! (Part 1: the Sights!)

I attended college in the U.S., and usually flights home involved a grueling flight, with at least two layovers.  One of those layovers usually included Tokyo’s Narital airport.  I remember sitting in Narita  during a torrential rainstorm and thinking, someday, someday, I was going to come back and visit Japan for real.  Ten years or so later, I finally made my wish come true.  The other best part of the trip was that my fabulous friend, Natalie was able to meet me in Tokyo!

imperial garden (3)

Imperial Palace Grounds

And now looking back a few weeks   months later, I realized that we crammed so much into 5 days!  So, for purposes of clarity the posts about this trip  will divided into three separate entries; detailing what we saw,ate  and some of the items I brought back with me.

我從大學時代的時候 就很想找時間去一趟日本。 後來工作以後 大部分出國的機會都是跟工作綁在一起, 很少有其他的時間出國  “just for fun.”  去年的11 月終於有時間放一個 mini holiday,  出去好好放風五天。 因為不是business trip, 所以我也沒有特別安排什麼行程。 只想好好放鬆 看一些新鮮的景色,跟好姊妹聊聊天,吃好吃的 sushi 及買一些有趣的小東西。

除非是要工作, 我其實很不喜歡有一個很緊湊的 schedule. 出去玩的話, 我大概會訂一些大方向 其他時間就很隨性。 如果看到美麗的地方 就想放慢腳步拍照 遇到好喝的咖啡跟可口的甜點就想停下來喝下午茶。有時候換一個環境可以坐著 安安靜靜的看書或是想一些有的沒的, 我也覺得很有度假的感覺。

Even though Tokyo is only three hours away from Taipei, and shares a lot of similarities, there are some very distinct differences.  For instance, the weather doesn’t get that cold in Taipei, we don’t really see much fall foliage.   So, it was a treat for me to see the fall colors.

gingko leaves

The weather was absolutely gorgeous for the five days that we were there.

tokyo museum(?)

Tokyo National Museum

 

tokyo museum

Tokyo National Museum

The first day, we visited the Meiji Shrine, and wandered around the Harajuku District.

meiji shrine

meiji (heart)

meiji shrine (wishing wall)

 

I wasn’t aware of this until after the trip, but the Kiyomasa-Ido Well is usually a popular, crowded destination spot on the shrine grounds, and people have to take numbers to see it up close.  On the day that were were there, there wasn’t a line, and we just wandered up to see it. It’s situated in a beautifully serene secluded spot, (and the water is icy cold).

 

meiji shrine pond

Kiyomasa-Ido Well at the Meiji Shrine

In addition to the Meiji Shrine,on a later day, we also saw the Sensoji Temple.   This temple definitely had a different atmosphere ~ it was very crowded and crackled with nervous energy. (I’m sure most of the nervous energy came from me. I’m terrified of crowds. Which is sometimes a huge problem because I live in one of the most heavily populated cities in the world)

crowded shrine

The Sensoji Temple (浅草寺)

photo_1. Kaminarimon

Kaminarimon (2)

Speaking of crowds, luck would have had it, on one of the first days in Tokyo, we ending up heading back to Shinjuku on the metro during rush hour.  It was like being squeezed into a tube of toothpaste and then being squeezed back out again.  I’ve never pushed anyone in my (adult) life, but I quickly learned, that’s the way you get on and off the metro.  (Even the elderly push!)  I wondered why young girls wait until the absolute last second to hop on the train~ and it turns out, it’s a brilliant strategy.  You can be the first out the door!

photo_4

After that adventure,  we learned quickly to avoid the metro at rush hour (both morning and night)  Otherwise, the metro was a brilliant way to get around Tokyo.  The hotel actually provided us with this very handy sightseeing guide. It’s a bare bones chart that lists the subway line and the destination.  This really helped give us an idea of how to shape our days.

photo_1

For example, one morning, we decided to go to the Tsukiji Market, and thanks to the chart, we knew that we could also plan to go to Ginza, the Imperial Palace and Kappabashi-dori (Kitchen Town) all in the same day!

The first stop of the day was the Tsukiji Market~ we skipped the tuna auction at 5 am, and chose to wander around the market and find a place to have sushi for breakfast.

fishmarket (1)

Guess what this is? Wasabi! (most of the wasabi I’ve seen is green and comes out of a tube… I know now this is what the real thing looks like!)

wasabi

fishmarket bikes

My attention was caught by this dapper elderly gentlemen. I swear, this is the shrimp merchant from the documentary film “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” His shopping was neatly organized in his basket (In retrospect, I regret not buying one of those baskets! The basket’s sturdy, flat bottom is perfect for transporting baked goods)

Jiro dreams of sushi

After the fish market, we walked towards Ginza, with the hopes of eventually ending up at the Imperial Palace.

Ginza

During my research phase for the trip, I remember reading that Ginza was home to the stationery store Itoya. We walked up and down the streets looking for a a “giant” red paper clip. By happenstance, I happened to look to the left on one of the intersections, and I saw a red paperclip out of the corner of my eye!

iotoya

Needless to say, our trip to the Imperial Palace was temporarily delayed, as I indulged in my washi tape obsession (and other stationery obsessions).

mt tapes

Later that day, we meandered through the Imperial Palace grounds.  Every tree, shrub and blade of grass is perfection here. (I can’t even keep a cactus alive, so I’m always awestruck by gardens)

imperial garden (2)

Imperial Palace East Garden

Then we hopped back onto the metro to head to Kappabashi-dori (Kitchen Town)

photo_2

There are hundreds of shops in this area that sell specialized kitchenware, tools, knives, crockery, etc.  I could have spent hours looking at cookie cutters and mixing bowls, and bento boxes.

photo_1

There were things I never knew I wanted until I saw them.  Good thing this cotton candy machine couldn’t fit into my suitcase!   On my next trip,  I could easily spend an entire day here.  I think my next set of kitchen knives should come from here.  And, if you ever want to update your basket or bento box collection, this is the place to do it.

Speaking of speciality towns, we also made a trip to Nippori Fabric Town during the time that we were in Tokyo. I love the fact that we were able to  intersperse the trip with both tourist destinations and these two towns.  I saw more local people than tourists at both Kappabashi-dori and Nippori.  I also observed that there were  some likeminded people in both towns (fellow kitchenware and fabric enthusiasts!)

nippori

The signs leading to Fabric town. (It’s an easy walk from the subway station).

fabric (1)

Bolts and bolts of Japanese linen

 

 

fabric (2)

I discovered that there were three or four stores called “Tomato,” each was filled to the brim with fabrics, buttons and lace.  There were also other stores dedicated to an enormous variety of sewing notions, trims and beads.  Definitely worth a second trip back.

tomato

If my sewing skills ever become this advanced, I’m going to make Cosplay costumes.

cosplay

One of the last destinations for this trip was the Tokyo National Museum.  It was a good contrast to walk in the orderly grounds.  The gardens and tea houses were intricately beautiful, and of course, the autumn leaves were spectacular.

tokyo museum (2)

The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures

Looking back, I realize that travel really heightens your senses.  For instance, I’m more conscious of color when I’m traveling, and I notice things like the colors of the sky, of the different kinds of fish, of the different kinds of desserts, dishes, etc. I also discovered on this trip that Tokyo is a city that  I would like to get to know well.  There are so things to do and see, so many nooks and crannies to explore, that I’m already planning a  trip for later this year.

後來發覺 即使沒有特別安排行程 我們還是尋到很多寶! 我終於瞭解我周邊很多的朋友為什麼那麼喜歡去日本玩了。 現在回到現實生活  要邊努力工作賺錢~跟期待下一次去日本的機會!

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7 comments

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