I’ve been in Tokyo for over a week every year since 2007, so I know the city sights well. This 2010 trip saw me serving as a tour guide for Roy (who came on the same plane as me from Toronto), as well the many of the other visiting researchers. On the first night, Sunday, the group convened at the usual hotel near Tamachi station. We randomly chose a pub, where we puzzled through a Japanese menu and ended up ordering a hotpot from a waiter who spoke no English.
Early Monday morning, we took the train over to the Tsukiji market. Coming by a different route than before, we encountered a temple where businessmen were making offerings.
In mid-morning, some of the tuna were still in recognizable forms, with fishmongers rapidly creating portions with saws and knives.
On this visit, I discovered the reason that some tuna are called yellowfin. These had a yellow fin smaller than a thumbnail.
Down the street, the BIC store is one of the larger electronics retailers in town. The variety of cameras, mobile phones and electronics fills up multiple stories in the Yurakucho building.
The main hall of the Tokyo International Forum was open, dwarfing the few people inside.
Roy was curious about the statue at the north end of the Forum, that I hadn’t noticed before. It’s Ota Dokan, a monk, and architect of the Edo Castle in the 15th century.
On the Ginza, we stopped by the Nissan showroom. The model on display wasn’t for export.
The sounds of music drew us in from the Ginza into the Yamaha showroom, where a keyboardist vigourously exercised a variety of computer patches.
A little further along, we stopped for lunch at an old favourite: Hanamasa Steak, in Ginza 9. Ordering food by putting coins into a vending machine, and then eating at the counter is a modern (if not economical) Japanese experience.
The group agreed to next visit Asakusa. Many families paused at the main gate for photographs.
On the shopping street behind the gate, a few women in kimonos stood out from the rest of the visitors.
Behind the street of commerce is the Sensoji Temple. Inside, tourists mixed with visitors with more spirtual interests.
Beyond the temples, it’s s short walk to the Nishisando Arcade. We we unsure of its location until we found the gate.
Inside the arcade is the Edo Shitamachi Museum of Traditional Crafts.
Handmade crafts, such as these lanterns, aren’t in the everyday stores in Tokyo.
Our group got smaller, as jet lag set in. Roy and I were to only two to continue to Shinjuku, eventually having sushi dinner in a restaurant amongst the pubs.
The next day, Roy and I went over to the east side of Tokyo, crossing the Sumida River.
The Ryogoku neighbourhood is off the beaten path for western tourists, with two very large Japanese attractions. We were early for both.
The mural outside of the Sumo Museum leaves little doubt of the sights for visitors.
For a building about historical times, the Edo-Tokyo Museum is certainly a modern edifice.
After lunch, we visited the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.
For an evening experience, Roy and I continued to the Naru Jazz Livehouse. Gary eventually found us there, after resolving some confusion about which exit of the rail station was near the club. Mabumi Yamaguchi was an experienced sax player, leading younger yet accomplished sidemen.
For a change of pace on the next day, Yoshi met us, and took us to the Japan Auto Federation head office, where there’s a automobile simulator that we each tried out. It’s not the same as a real car!
Under the elevated highway of the Inner Circular Route, the canal boats reminded us of water routes through the city.
On the way to lunch, we stopped by Shimizu Cycle, which stocks parts for gearhead enthusiasts.
In Mita, Yoshi guided us to his favourite Korean restaurant for lunch. Toko had the daily specials on display, although we had already pre-ordered to improve speed.
These trips to Tokyo aren’t all sightseeing. The researchers actually have meetings, where we spend days at the Ookayama campus, in an invited discussion.
On campus, we walked by some students out juggling, presumably as a way to work off stress.
On this particular visit, the weather was exceptionally clear, so that a view of Mount Fuji was possible.
After two days of invited discussion, the public is invited to attend open lectures in the main building of the Ookayama campus of the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
This year, the lecture room was filled to capacity.
With the main formal activities completed, we had a night at Toko that included dinner …
… and karaoke.
Since international flights generally leave Narita Airport around 5 p.m., there’s a chance for some sightseeing in the morning and afternoon of the last day. We hadn’t yet seen Harajuku. Takeshita-dori was full of umbrellas on this grey day.
Nearby, the Togo Shrine was closed to visitors, but we could see a wedding party through the gate.
Design Festa Gallery is a regualar “starving artists” stop for me.
In the west galleries, one wall is shared by multiple artists, each section marketed off with yellow tape.
The display of cards would be more portable as gifts.
The east gallery is newer, and less populated.
Some artists were still setting up. Power tools were in play.
Etsuko came to meet us in Harajuku. She hadn’t tried the fast food takoyaki before, so we sampled a shared order.
Eight days after we had arrived, we were back to Narita for the plane home. There’s always a lot to see on our visits to Tokyo.
daviding January 18th, 2012
Posted In: travel