Tokyo is not a hard city to love. It’s filled with people without being too stifling; eclectic without going overboard; modern without sacrificing the rich history that makes its culture one-of-a-kind. (Okay, maybe that last bit applies to the whole of Japan.) It’s a city bursting at the seams with life that’s both unique and electric, and to not breathe it all in would be a big mistake. I can only try to capture it bit by bit through my Tokyo snapshots.
You wake up in the morning and start your day with a stroll in the park, and your typical companion would be those of the older generation doing some morning exercises or going to the market. We dropped by the East Garden across the street from the Imperial Palace, and were greeted by the statue of Kusunoki Masashige [楠木 正成]. Kusunoki is an icon remembered for his loyalty to 14th Century Emperor Go-Daigo. He lost his life fighting for the Emperor against many of those who ended up as betrayers.
The East Garden is a nice place to frolic amongst nature, but from there it’s easy to find your way toward the Imperial Palace. Considering it’s the main residence of the Imperial Family of Japan, we weren’t allowed to go into the compound. It’s quite picturesque from the outside though, with the Nijubashi bridge framing the palace perfectly. The palace grounds is mostly only open to the public on January 2nd, when the Emperor and his family greet their loyal subjects from their balcony.
From here we did a lot of jumping from one place to another throughout the day. Late morning was spent shopping in Ginza, where I spotted the most adorable Anpanman plate on display outside a restaurant! (And by the way, I recommend buying clothes from the very affordable GU brand by Uniqlo.)
By lunchtime we were at Asakusa. How ironic is it that lunch was at the same place I ate in the last time I was here with a completely different tour company? Nonetheless seeing the sea of food laid out before us that form parts of our kaiseki was enough to drive us all hungry, so we sat down on our cushions and dove in with gusto.
Year-end Asakusa is completely bonkers. Last time I was here in late April, there wasn’t any special event so the crowd was quite thin. In contrast, this time I had to make my way through a continuous stream of people trying to enjoy their year-end holiday via all the food the shops here were offering. If you want some people-less photos of this location you can check out my previous post about Asakusa.
Even Sensoji Temple at the end of the Nakamise Shopping Street had a queue to get inside! I decided to sit and people watch instead. 🙂
By late afternoon we had driven all the way to Odaiba to get a bit of Japanese snack shopping done. I personally love the unique omiyage selection at the different malls in Odaiba, but if you only have time for one stop I think DiverCity should be it. There is a store here called The Daiba which carries a lot of snacks you don’t normally see anywhere else. I also found that their line-up changes every few months, since the stuff we bought last April were no longer available. But apart from that I got the chance to catch the golden hour in this very iconic location.
Golden hour looked especially exquisite against the Flame of Liberty Gold statue.
The Gundam sure looks different in this light! I’ve only ever seen it in the evening.
After just a few minutes the sun began to set in earnest. I must say, it’s really amazing what a slight change in light can do to a view. The sunset in particular brings out the most vibrant colours.
That evening, I walked around freely for the first time around Shinjuku and it really drove home the idea that the best way to enjoy Japan is by foot, amongst the wave of bodies of locals and tourists alike. You can find the city’s pulse that way, and each of the main cities in Japan dance to a different beat. Also, I find that when you’re walking around you will never run out of things to do. Even the simplest of things like crossing the giant intersections, or lining up for ramen (and even the purikura), seem to take on a new meaning when you’re doing it in Japan.
Do you see Godzilla peeking out from that building? There are so many random things that pop out everywhere you turn! I really love living in Shinjuku. I’ll probably stay here the next time I come back as well.
No visit to Japan would be complete without a visit to Don Quijote, so just look out for that little crowned blue penguin and prepare to be transported to at least an 8-storey building full of anything from food to cosmetics to electronics to designer bags. This is a good place to collect Casio watches for a low price if you’re into that. DonQi is also great for omiyage shopping as well since their food floor has a wide range.
I understand completely why people want to keep coming back to this country, this city. I am quick to admit I’m one of them. There’s just so much to experience and to explore, and the people are lively but still kind and respectful. And in case you didn’t know, the food in Japan is fantabulous– whether you buy it from a restaurant, or from the convenience store.
I highly recommend this Matcha Ice Cream by Meiji. I only ever saw it at 7-11 so I’m not certain if the other konbini‘s have it, but it is the best commercial matcha ice cream EVER!
Well, that about wraps up this edition of my travel diary. I don’t know about the drama part that this billboard is saying, but the money part rings true to me. I’m currently saving up for another trip to Japan because I want to keep going back probably for the rest of my life! I honestly can’t wait for my next adventure there!