Day 34/35 – Tuesday August 5th
A long hot day. It started with a little battle with bureaucracy, and then it was into the heat. At least 33 degrees celsius (90 something on the weird scale), but also very humid. On the bright side there were two good things – the typhoon developing to our south produced some nice breezes here and there, and everyone in this program will have safely left before the typhoon makes it anywhere near Tokyo or Aichi.
All participants now have a personalized Suica card for use on the trains and subways. It should speed up our movements around the city, and makes for a nice souvenir.
First destination for the day, the bird’s eye view of this sprawling metropolis from the lookouts at the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings in Shinjuku. Not a bad way to see your first glimpse of this massive city. Shinjuku is the world’s busiest train station (7 of the world’s busiest are in Tokyo, 8 if you include Yokohama in the mix) and the views from the top are amazing.
These towers are of course starting to get some competition from “Tokyo Skytree”, but as entry is free, they will probably remain a popular destination for visitors. It was interesting to note that despite all the signs asking for people to understand the importance of saving energy, it doesn’t really apply to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Everything was illuminated, at 11:40am.
From Shinjuku, we headed to Akihabara. Known locally as Akiba, this became famous in the 1950s/60s as the electronics district of Tokyo. It was the “go to” place if you needed components, something new, or anything electronic. These days it is gradually evolving to include games, software, musical instruments (Kanda is close by) and various cosplay stores.
The large discount electronic stores such as Bic Camera etc, played a part in the changes that have taken place in Akihabara in recent years, but for the past decade, it has been the internet that is driving the transition.
Our lunch was at that wonderful Japanese institution… Dennys
Some skipped lunch and went straight to dessert. The Denny’s in Japan are actually pretty good. You can almost take a date there. In fact some people do. We chose it because we needed an air-conditioned meeting place.
From the modernity of Akihabara to what?
Original plan was to head to the Imperial Palace, and walk via Ginza to the Hamarikyuu Gardens, but in this heat, not a sensible idea. Step up, Asakusa. Apart from Sensou-ji (a famous temple), this is a major shopping district, immensely popular with both visitors and locals, and with wonderful Kappabashi nearby, it draws a constant stream of visitors. The newest addition to the scene is of course, Tokyo Skytree. You can see it from pretty much everywhere.
We then headed across town to Harajuku, where apart from shopping, we had dinner, and a bit of a break from the heat. Harajuku can be a strange place at times. Streets like Takeshita-dori (extremely popular with the young) run parallel to Omotesando (very high end shopping). The main entrance to Meiji Jingu is immediately adjacent to the station, and it is the beginning of the walk to Shibuya. We didn’t have a lot of time left, and the students complained about not having enough time in Harajuku… until after a walk through Yoyogi Park, they discovered the joys of Shibuya.
Shibuya is a bustling entertainment, shopping, business and transport hub. The south side in particular has been transformed during the last half dozen years. From Yoyogi we headed (on foot) straight to the statue of Hachiko, which is a popular meeting point. The reason we did this though was so the student’s first experience of Shibuya, was the massive 5-way scramble intersection, at peak hour. Welcome to Shibuya. One of our sister schools is a short walk from here. So feel free to contact us if you are interested in studying Japanese in Tokyo.
Sadly we only have one more day. Tomorrow is the infamous “mystery tour”. One of the students (Tiger from Chicago, as he had to leave early) made the decision that we would head to “Number 4”. There are five envelopes, which were sealed a month ago, constantly shuffled, and not numbered until yesterday. We don’t know where “Number 4” will be taking us, but someone will find out at 8:30am tomorrow morning (not that Declan will actually tell us).