Monday, June 27, 2011

Tokyo - Day 1

Here we go on my first girls’ weekend – going on a trip to Tokyo with Kelly for four days! The flight went great – a giant sea of black heads with mine and one other American. That’s a lot of black heads! But I was thankful to be on a flight where I didn’t have to tend to kids and could actually read my own book and take a nap!

Kelly met me at the airport, and after a quick Lawson lunch, we headed out to tackle the public transportation of Tokyo. It’s not as easy as it looks!

The Metro map

Good job this train was going in the other direction!

But if little Japanese munchkins could do it, so could we!

Aren't they cute?

First stop, the New Sanno, our hotel. My first reaction: this is one fancy place for a military hotel! But it seems a little off that the military has money for this but none to replace our air conditioners… oh, that’s another story and this is about Tokyo!!!

So that’s where we headed, to an area called Hirajuku. It’s renown for people watching – the youth of Tokyo hang out in this area in a kind of Victorian goth dress that’s fun to watch. We didn’t see too much of it, but enough to be entertained!

This area is also home to a park with one of the biggest shrines in Tokyo, the Meiji Shrine. The park, which sits just behind the busy Metro and train line, is an oasis of beauty in a busy city. The trees were what amazed me – they were huge! Now maybe it’s just that I’ve been living on an island for two years with tropical plants, but these great pillars of vegetation were amazing. And to be in the middle of a city that’s been bombed to pieces is amazing! The guide book says that the Shrine itself was burned to ashes during WWII and was rebuilt as an exact replica.

Tradition says you're supposed to wash your hands and then rinse your mouth before going into the Shrine.

Prayer plaques outside the shrine.

On the way out of the park, there was a display of sake containers on one side doubled by a display of casks of fine French wine on the other.  Not sure what the significance of these were, but they were neat looking!

From the serenity of the park, we wondered into the hip area of Hirajuku and all its stores. I know most of you who read this wouldn’t be excited to see a Gap or a Body Shop, but I was! It’s been two years since I’ve got to see these places and it was thrilling even though I didn’t buy anything! One of the most fun shops in the place was Kiddy Land – one of Tokyo’s biggest toy shops – and a mecca for all things kawaii (cute). The original store was being rebuilt, so we only saw a scaled down, three story version stuffed full of all-things kid related. A whole section, of course, of Hello Kitty, and another one of Snoopy, as well as the usual, and unusual, toys (Legos, transformers, Mickey, etc.) There were even some pretty disturbing Barbies!

I never saw Barbies like this when I was a kid!

From the shopping at Harajuku, we took the Metro over to the “Times Square” of Tokyo, Shibuya. You know how you think of Tokyo (at least this is what I thought of Tokyo) – throngs of people crossing a massive intersection surrounded by towering buildings and flashing neon lights? Well, that’s where we went. More fun people watching and a quick dinner of flash skillet fried steak and rice (at 9:30 at night!) before heading back to the hotel to rest our aching dogs.

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