Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tokyo - Day 2

We headed out the door by 8:45 so we could get over to the Imperial Palace. Kelly had been lucky enough to get us a reservation for a tour of the Imperial Palace – which is really a misnomer since you can’t go in the Palace, just gawk from the outside. Normally, you can’t get behind the guarded gates to see much of any of the Palace grounds. But with this tour we were able to see a very limited amount. We saw pictures on a video of the inside of some of the buildings, and they’re not what you expect from a “Palace”. The rooms are very stark, very open and not at all ornamental.

Being lead inside the Palace gate by the security guard.

As we took our place beside the others on the tour – all 65+, small Japanese men and women – we felt Amazonian. But they were so cute!

Waiting for the tour to start: there were warm up exercises on the TV!

Heading out with all the old folks.

Kelly and the Japanese old folks.

The tour provided us with a tape recorder so we could understand part of the tour, which included seeing the Mt. Fuji-view Keep, the Lotus Moat, the Imperial Palace, the Imperial Household Agency Building and the Fushimi-yagura Keep.

See that circle carved on the rock?  That is the symbol of one of the shoguns.

Yes, this is the Imperial Palace.  Not at all what I was expecting - far from the castles of Europe!

The Mt. Fuji-view Keep

The Fushimi-yagura Keep

The doors to the main entrance were opened because they were expecting dignataries so we caught a rare glimpse inside the inner garden.

The Lotus Moat

The Mt. Fuki-view Keep again.

After the tour and the peace of the inner grounds, we were pushed back to the outside of the gates and left to confront the urban chaos of the rest of Tokyo.

The moat outside the Imperial Palace.

The Fushimi-yagura Keep from the outside of the gate.

Kelly wanted to go see a building she had visited before which had really cool architecture called the International Forum. It was an amazing building to look at and a good place to have lunch. We chose a bagel restaurant after our first choice, a rice restaurant adjacent to a rice (gohan) museum was closed. But the bagel restaurant was interesting with flavors like soy edamame and green tea with white chocolate (both excellent, I might add).

Inside the International Forum

With tummies full and feet rested, we headed back down the street to find a Japanese antique mall. But first, we stopped into this Ikea-like store to peruse and meander and purchase a few food items and gifts. See, this is one of the great luxuries of traveling without our kids and hubbies, no one complained when we forewent our afternoon plans to spend 2 hours looking at antiques and shopping! It was awesome!!!

Anyone for sweet and sour squid or squid carpaccio?

How about salt tomato candy?

At the antique mall, we got to talking to this man who had a shop full of antique charms (among other stuff). He had the most amazing charms and I wanted to buy several, but alas his prices were as high as the skyscrapers above us. So I resorted to a cute little pagoda charm which was made in Japan in the 1920s and exported to England. This Japanese man had then purchased the charm in England and brought it back to Japan to sell here. An interesting evolution and one that seemed relevant to my life. So now the charm is heading to America (in another year)!

Antique charms

After the antique store, we went to find the kabuki theatre where we were hoping to get tickets to a show. Bad news, the Kabuki-za theatre has been torn down so that they can re-build it. So we were referred to another theatre further down the road. Bad news, they were sold out. It was time to head back to the hotel and regroup after a little pit stop at a park with a little shiatsu station.  We attempted to walk on the various stones to soothe our feet, but it hurt more than walking all over Tokyo!

We stopped to pick up dinner on the way back to the hotel – sushi from a little walk-up stand. Yum! Between that and some fresh fruit we were set for dinner in the room while we caught up with family and planned tomorrow’s tour. Good news! Found tickets for a kabuki show tomorrow morning.

Kelly at the walk-up sushi window.

Dinner in the room - see the Tokyo Tower in the background?
One last trip before day’s end – Kelly had been wanting to go see Tokyo Tower (we can see it from our room, but she wanted to go stand under it). It was actually quite a hike to get to it, but it’s a national landmark (looking remarkably like the Eifel Tower), so now we can say we’ve been there! We also got to see the Roppongi Hills area of town at night and it was bumping. This is where the young (and old) come to dine and dance and drink at night and the atmosphere was definitely hopping. But our very tired tootsies had us heading straight back to the Metro so we could call it a day (a very busy day!)

Tokyo Tower at night

Tokyo Tower - daytime

Rappongi Hills

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