Konichiwa! So we knew given our short timeline in just getting to Japan that our opportunities to explore would be limited. We had one full day in Tokyo to explore and we made the most of it.
First we took the train in from the Narita Airport to central Tokyo to see the Edo Period Imperial Palace. As it turns out, most of it was closed although neither of us could figure out why because all the signs were in Japanese. We did walk through the palace’s East Garden though and then caught a train to the Shinjuku district. We literally (cue reggae music) walked down to electric avenue.
Shinjuku is known for its electronics stores and arcades and has earned the name electric walk or avenue. From there we went to the TMGB or Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Sounds about as exciting as a tax audit but it was actually really cool. The TMGB has two observatory lounges on the 45th floor, one in the North tower and one in the South tower, and its free. My favorite price. We got a good view of Tokyo and then caught a train a couple stops away to the Meiji Shrine.
The Meiji shrine is a massive park that is frequented by travelers, shinto followers, wedding guests and tourists. For an in depth write up of Meiji shrine, checkout introvertjapan. Following the JR train tracks for about a 15 min walk from Meiji directly south put us right smack in the center of Shibuya. Shibuya crossing is that famous intersection that is always seen in time-lapse videos. We found a nice seat at Starbucks and watched the crowd for a while before checking out a department store since Shibuya is the center of cutting edge fashion culture in Tokyo.
Another venture in to the Tokyo subway system put us in Roppongi which is the home of Tokyo’s best nightlife, the red light district, and one of the wealthiest areas of Tokyo. Roppongi is also a huge artistic center in Tokyo and there were several exhibitions going on in the Tokyo Midtown. One exhibit was a giant bounce house for children shaped like a Hefty trash bag. Another “art” installation involved people wandering aimlessly on a small lawn playing brass instruments (poorly) and they were being followed around by other people carrying around Japanese lanterns on the end of long poles. There was also a guy playing a table as a musical instrument. Not like drumming on it… like blowing into as if it were a tuba. Tokyo Midtown is also a very large mall that is connected to Konami and Fujifilm headquarters and has a lot of very high end boutiques, restaurants and even a 24hr grocery store called Pecce. Pecce had samples like Costco. Pecce’s samples were better.
Our final stop of the day put us in Ebisu which isn’t really a tourist destination but it is where local 9-5’ers go after work to get dinner. There are no signs in English. Most of the restaurants specialize in one type of dish and this all they serve. One restaurant might serve only udon noodle soup but it wont even be all kinds of udon. Instead it will be beef udon with two flavor options and that is it. We went to a local’s yakitori restaurant which I cannot name because everything on the outside of the building was in Japanese. (I have since found out that the name of the restaurant was Tagosaku). Thankfully they actually had a menu with some rough translations on it. We had skewers of pork heart, liver, and temple (which I’m pretty sure was pork cheek) as well as chicken gizzard, thigh and “meatball.” It was absolutely fantastic. I also tried a special drink called “hirosu” which has some dubious ingredients, “Soju, Soda Water, Ice, and Chinese Medicine.”
From there we had a ended up having a 2 hour train/subway ride back to Narita because it is no where even close to actually being in Tokyo. All in all though a pretty good day.