Sunday, February 08, 2009

Tourist Tokyo

I got myself out of the hotel, bought a Pasmo card for the trains and headed up to Asakusa.

Image credit here

Asakusa is famous for the Senso-ji Buddhist temple. This photo was taken at the same time of year, but it was a lovely sunny day today. I took a couple of photos, but failed to bring my USB cable with me, so I won't be inflicting them on you. The temple was originally built in the 7th century, was rebuilt in the 17th century and then destroyed in WWII. This one was built in the '60s.

Around the temple are crowded markets selling an infinite supply of dangly things for your phone, hand bags, Japanese fans and food on sticks. I chose some random food on sticks for lunch, wandered through the gardens and peered at all the cool (and not-so-cool) things in the stalls. I bought some chop sticks for the kids, a dangly thing for Ben's school bag and a train for Charlie. A lot of stuff there would have been good value when the Yen was worth half what it is now...

I was there for a few hours, it was very pleasant really. Then, since I was on the Ginza line anyway, I got off at Ginza to see why it's a name I know. I possibly should have looked it up before I went, since it is the upmarket shopping and night club district. Not exactly my first choice of location, but I got off at Ginza and walked back to Kyobashi and got back on the train. Now I can say I've been to Ginza. :)

Some things I like about Tokyo:
  • The sound of wind in bamboo
  • Iced water with chunks of pineapple floating in it
  • The fact that just about all the food is sweet
  • A copy of The Teaching of Buddha in my room
  • Japanese gardens
  • How graciously everyone deals with my 3 words of Japanese
  • The dancing red lights on the buildings at night
  • Heated toilet seats
Some things I don't like about Tokyo:
  • Smoking! I forgot how nasty it is when people can smoke inside - especially when you are eating.
  • The insane value of the Yen
  • The fact that there are 5 ways to say sorry (and none is appropriate for all occasions), 3 different ways to say hello (I can only say hello in the afternoon), 4 ways to say thank you (again, none is appropriate for all occasions, and one is the same as one of the "sorry"s) and a word for please that I just can't manage to hear well enough to be able to repeat it.
  • The strange reservedness of the people, even children - I haven't heard a baby or child scream since I got here, and it isn't due to a shortage of kids.
I can see why people fall in love with this city. It's overwhelming at first take, but even in a few days I feel more comfortable. I can navigate the trains (thank god for the World Cup for putting English names on all the stations!), I can get out enough pleasantries to avoid really offending people and there is a serenity in the bustle that lets me keep smiling regardless.

But I do have one question for the gods. Why, oh why, do I always get the noisiest possible hotel room? At least 50% of all hotel rooms I have stayed in have been intrusively noisy. This one has an occasional rythmic crashing noise - thump, thump-thump-thump-thump, thump-thump-thump-thump - which is sufficient to wake me up (3:30am today, 5:30am yesterday) and happens more frequently throughout the day. I tried asking about it, but if they aren't acknowledging it, there isn't much I can do about it. *sigh* Otherwise it is a great hotel, and I have loved drinking their champagne in the club lounge looking over the Tokyo skyline. It's enough to dispel any stress the rest of Tokyo can throw at you. It also provides enough canapes (read: sushi) to supply dinner and thereby massively reduce my costs. :)


  1. Sadly, I am not a world traveler. I might enjoy those heated toilet seats though. I agree with you about the smoking in restaurants issue. Maryland just banned smoking in restaurants about a year ago. What a relief and way overdue!

  2. Brings back memories of Tokyo when I was there teaching about 10 years ago. I remember the tiny hotel rooms, the smoking carriages on the trian, the order in the chaos, and the food!!! to die for.