A little detour through Tokyo on the way home.
The “Hidden Japan” tour finished in Kyoto yesterday, however I knew I wouldn’t be quite ready to say goodbye to Japan, so I accompanied five of the group on the bullet train to Tokyo for a final stop.
We had a perfect, clear day for our two-and-a-bit hour train ride along the eastern coast of Japan. This meant that we had a completely unobstructed view of a snow-capped Mt Fuji. It’s a majestic sight which never ceases to amaze me.
After a slightly scenic detour up a thousand stairs and through a beautiful Japanese garden, we finally made it into our hotel in Shinagawa, located in the south-eastern corner of Tokyo. A quick turn-around and we were back on the train, heading north to Akihabara.
Akihabara is known as Electric Town and is famous for all things electronic. You name it, you can buy it in Akihabara. We had an eleven-year-old boy in tow so he was beside himself about what he might find here. I managed to get to this amazing retro arcade game shop called Super Potato. It’s extraordinary – three floors of every 1980’s through to early 2000’s game and console you can image. Sega Megadrive, Nintendo 64, Gameboy, Playstation – you name it, it’s here. I’ve never seen so many thirty and forty-something males in one place – their idea of heaven, I’d say! There is also an electronics megastore called Yodobashi Akiba – half a floor just for iPad covers! Amazing.
From Akihabara we headed back on the train to Yurakucho to visit the Sony Building. Again, it’s a dream come true for any technology junkie. Headphones, 4K televisions, cameras, recorders, music players, laptops – you get the idea.
The Sony Building is on the edge of Ginza, so from here we headed further into the upmarket, brand-centric shopping district of old Tokyo. The area is full of tradition but also boasts very sophisticated boutiques and labels, including Hermes, Dolce & Gabana, Tag Heuer, Chanel, Jimmy Choo, Armani and so on. It’s a beautiful area to stroll through even if the brands are beyond your reach. We also stumbled upon a great little hole-in-the-wall noodle shop to share our last meal together in Japan.
So this morning I bade farewell to my five remaining guests and sent them off onboard their full day Tokyo day tour, called Dynamic Tokyo. As for me, well I had a few hours to spare before heading to Haneda Airport for my flight back home. All packed up and checked out, I left my bags at the hotel and headed out to the station and towards Tokyo Bay. I had a lovely morning weaving my way around the bay, catching the monorail, wandering through Hibiya Park and finally coming to the Imperial Palace. Even though the cherry blossoms were gone – they bloomed a full two weeks ahead of schedule in Tokyo this year – the palace gardens were beautiful and full of lots of other flowers and plants. It was a lovely end to my whirlwind time in Tokyo.
One of the things that strikes me most about Tokyo is the juxtaposition of the old and the new. You’re looking through Otemon at the entrance to the Imperial Palace, and the backdrop is a shiny skyscraper. You’ve got the Renaissance-style red-brick facade of Tokyo Station with a slick, modern interior. It’s old and new wherever you look. I also love all the green spaces in eastern side of Tokyo – the gardens and parks intertwined with express ways, busy roads and high-risers. I can’t wait to come back again and spend a bit longer revisiting this great city.
And now this really is the end of this journey, and I really have seen my last cherry blossom for 2013. I’m finishing my trip as I started – with a cold glass of Asahi beer and a bowl of edamame (green soy beans). It’s been great, Japan. Until next time…