Our Japan Trip

June 29, 2008

Blue Sky Over Tokyo (written June 24)

Filed under: Japan Trip — Andy Mayer @ 7:11 am

Someone listened to my pleas. There was not a single drop of rain today, and the sun shined brightly. Once, we actually crossed to the opposite side of a street to get into the shade!!

Today, my sister returned to work. Two of her kids were in school, and my brother-in-law watched their youngest for the day. So, the four members of the Mayer family were on our own in Tokyo. I’m happy to report that we’ve made it back safe-and-sound, albeit completely exhausted.

(The day started with a lovely 7:00am conference call with EDS. But, when you take a call from a 10th floor balcony overlooking Tokyo, life isn’t really that bad.)

Our first stop this morning was at Hinode Pier, where we caught a river cruise for a 40-minute trip up the Sumida River to Asakusa, which is the primary area of Tokyo that remains from when it was called Edo. We boarded the boat with about 5 minutes to spare and enjoyed the calm trip up the river. In about 40 minutes, we passed under about 10 bridges. It was very touristy, but worth the relaxation and the sights. We did see an odd-looking building with a Viking horn on top, as shown at the link from “river cruise” above.

Asakusa was tourist heaven. My sister had said we couldn’t come to Tokyo and not go there. From what I saw, it was a row of vendors selling the same souvenir schlock that led to an old temple. (This doesn’t bode well for my trip to Kyoto in a few days, where all I will see is temples!) It did, however, have a nice looking pagoda (see photo), which counts for something.

We walked from Asakusa, by way of lunch at McDonald’s, all the way down Asakusa Dori to Ueno Park. Look on a map if you get a chance, and you’ll understand why my two kids were whining the entire time. My wife and I were enjoying the sights and sounds, but the walk was long. It stretched a two-stop subway ride. Along the way we passed Kappabashi Dori, also known as kitchen town. There is store after store here selling plates, utensils, kitchen items, etc. Ueno Park is like Forest Park in St. Louis or Central Park in Manhattan. It is an oasis within Tokyo, complete with Zoo, Art Museum, Science Museum and many lengths of walking paths. The water pictured on most maps is covered by water lilies and bamboo – see the photo and you’ll get the idea.

From there (get out your maps again boys and girls), we took the Ginza Subway line to . . . the Ginza. This is an area very reminiscent of Manhattan with newer office buildings and top-of-the-line shopping. We came right up from the subway into the Sony Building, where they have four floors of exhibits of their latest technology. Joey and I agreed that there was nothing there that had a massive “wow” factor to it, but quite a few things that were very, very cool. One of them is a new MP3 player called “Rolly” which plays your tunes aloud, while dancing and moving around the house. With added software, you can actually program Rolly’s movements. After Sony, we headed towards Shinbashi and stopped at Hakuhinkan Toy Store, which was very similar to Kiddy Land that we saw yesterday, but is renowned as the best toy store in Tokyo. Four floors of toys and more toys, all segmented by type and age level on each floor – including the remote controlled robot soccer shown in the photo.

This evening, we went out for a traditional ramen soup dinner with my sister, brother-in-law and their family. It was very tasty and very quick. From there, we drove downtown and went up the Tokyo Tower. It gave us great views, but when you don’t really know the town, it is hard to know what you are seeing. The biggest challenge was holding the camera still for the “night” pictures, which opens the shutter wider and longer – but if you move the camera even a bit, everything comes out blurry. However, in the gift shop on the 2nd floor, I found some Spiderman souvenirs that specifically said “Spiderman Tokyo.” Way cool.

Tomorrow, chance of rain 40%. I’m not holding my breath for sun. Today was too good to be true.


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