Our Japan Trip

June 29, 2008

Day Three – A Break in The Rain (written on June 23)

Filed under: Japan Trip — Andy Mayer @ 7:09 am

Despite forecasts, we only had a smidgen of rain today, and, in general, none that prevented any of the sightseeing we did. In fact, until we took a drive outside of Tokyo for dinner, we had only felt intermittent drops all day. I guess someone was listening to my complaints. The forecast for tomorrow shows an 80% chance of rain. So much for the break.

Fair warning – this is the longest post of my trip thus far. We did a lot of walking today.

We started our day walking to a subway stop to head into town. My sister lives in the Ota-ku Ward of Tokyo, which is in the Southwest portion of the city. The residential portion of Ota-ku is a combination of apartments and single family houses. The houses comes in all shapes and sizes, some of them shoehorned into the tiniest of lots and built straight up. I suspect many of them have less than the space my sister has in her apartment. She could tell something was a single-family house and not an apartment by the number of entrances. Many of these tiny places go for prices in excess of $1M. It’s San Francisco revisited.

Our first stop was the Meiji Shrine in the center of Tokyo. Emperor Meiji was the great-grandfather of current emperor Akhito and lived into the early 20th century. The Shrine was built not long after the Emperor and Empress Shoken died and was then rebuilt in 1958 after the original was demolished in World War II. We followed the Shinto custom of washing our hands and then praying. We also bought a few good luck charms.

From there we walked down through Harajuku, one of the trendier areas of Tokyo. We first headed down Takeshita Dori, which is a pedestrian alley on which are many stores selling eclectic clothing, some food stores (including a McDonald’s) and, from what they tell me, some gentlemen’s establishments. After stopping for some crepes on Takeshita Dori (see photo), we wandered down Ometesando. To me, this looks like the Rodeo Drive or 5th Avenue of Tokyo. Everything from Ralph Lauren to Louis Vitton to Jimmy Choo to Prada to Chanel had a store here. We spent a lot of time in a toy store called Kiddy Land. We saw very little that isn’t in the US, save what appears to be a Dance Dance Revolution knock-off for the week. Note the man dancing in the photo. Overall, given the English signage on all these stores, it is easy to forget where you are.

We emerged off Ometasando onto Aoyama Dori and made our way to Shibuya. Shibuya is the area most people think of when they think of Tokyo. If you’ve seen Lost in Translation, you’ve seen this area. At the heart of Shibuya, near the train station, is an area where at least five streets intersect and create a “scrambled intersection.” Periodically, all traffic is stopped and pedestrians flood the intersection going from corner to corner. Just outside the station is a dog statue that is a popular meeting spot. The dog is named Hachiko and legend says that from 1923 to 1935 he waited for his master there each day. After his master died, the statue was erected.

After a short rest at my sister’s, we drove south of Tokyo towards Kawasaki City for dinner at a chain restaurant called Kappa Sushi. No menus here. You either grab plates of sushi as they pass by your table on a conveyor belt or order via a touch screen to have your food delivered via an electric train. At the end of your meal, the waitress counts up plates to determine how much to charge you. My brother-in-law (the 3-hour marathoner) had 15 plates, but Joey held his own with 13. I guess conveyor-belt sushi is a big deal. It has its own Wikipedia entry.

Tomorrow, my sister heads back to work, and we’re on our own. I hope to be back here with another posting. That will mean we had a successful day and didn’t get lost.

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