Ok, so it’s not possible to see all of Tokyo in one day but after my two days at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySEA, I only had one last full day in the city. Before I left for Japan I had made a list of things I wanted to see. I spent a lot of time using Google Maps to figure out how they laid out across the city and in which order it would make the most sense to see them. Since I didn’t have a phone it would be a little difficult to execute the plan without an internet connection if I hadn’t planned in advance. Lucky for me, I grew up in the era of MapQuest so this wasn’t a foreign concept.
1st Stop – Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya is a district within the city of Tokyo and the crossing is the famous crosswalk that has been featured in many movies including Lost in Translation. It is supposedly the busiest crosswalk in the world. I had read that there was a Starbucks on the second story of one of the buildings where you could get a good photo of the crossing from above. I was concerned about holding up traffic so there are not any pictures of me actually crossing it. It turns out it wasn’t exceptionally busy during the day. If you really want to Instagram your crossing, come back at night. And while you’re there be sure to say Konnichiwa to Hachiko the loyal Akita dog.
For those of you who don’t know the story, Hachiko was a dog who was found by a Japanese man at the train station. He would show up at the the station every day at the same time to wait for his owner to come home. One day his owner unexpectedly died. Hachiko kept coming back every day at the same time every day waiting for his human who would never show up. He eventually became a symbol of loyalty to the people living in the area.
2nd Stop – Meiji Shrine
The Meiji Shrine is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. Construction began in 1915 in the park the late Emperor and his wife were known to visit. Built in the traditional nagare-zukuri style, using primarily Japanese cypress and copper, this shrine is slightly more understated than shrines like the Sensoji Temple (below) but just as beautiful. The park is filled with huge trees that almost completely shad the path, a welcome respite in the summer heat.
3rd Stop – Imperial Palace
Getting off the subway at Tokyo station, you’ll find the Imperial Palace. There are a few buildings you can see from the outside, but the current Emperor and the royal family still live in the fortress so there really wasn’t much to see. Plus, it’s surrounded by a moat. But I diligently took my touristy pictures so I can say that I was there.
4th Stop – Asakusa district
Next was Asakusa and the Sensoji Temple. Sensoji Temple is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. It is also one of the most popular to visit. Between the Kaminarimon gate and the Hozomon gate (below) you walk through the Nakamise shopping street filled with all kinds of neat trinkets and things to eat. Then at the end is the temple building and a five story pagoda. The temple buildings are surrounded by a really pretty little garden with other shrines and statues.
5th Stop – Tokyo Skytree & Sumida River
From the Sensoji Temple we walked a few blocks down to the river to get a nice view of the Tokyo Skytree. It’s the tallest tower in the world and you can actually pay to go up to the top of it, which I imagine is a fantastic view. But I decided to be cheap and see it from afar. The river is a nice place to just hang out, and where we ended up had a little park and some places to sit, which was nice after standing and walking in the oppressive heat all day.
Last Stop – Sushi in Asakusa
For dinner I got to check something off my I-hate-the-term-bucket-list-but-there’s-no-comparable-alternative list and eat sushi in Japan. I met up with the brother of one of my mom’s friends who is Japanese and lives in Tokyo. We went to a rotating sushi restaurant down one of the side streets of the Nakamise. I was in absolute heaven! I think I had one of everything, including salmon and sardine which are the only kinds of fish I don’t particularly care for. But I didn’t want to say no to anything and I’m glad I didn’t. Everything was fantastic, I could have died right there from mercury poisoning and I wouldn’t have even cared. I was enjoying eating so much that I didn’t even think about taking pictures of the plates before devouring what was on them. I did however take an “after” picture. This was definitely my favorite part of the trip!
I had a great time in Japan. It was so different from Korea. The people were friendlier, the architecture was more ascetically pleasing, and the food was much, much better. The most interesting difference between the Japanese and Korean people was in the way they lined up. In Korea there is never a semblance of a line, they don’t even let the people on the buses get off before trying to board. In Japan, lines form without any kind of prompting. Honestly, I was a little sad to leave! But I hope to return soon and explore more of what Japan has to offer.