Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Round The World 2004

Exploring Tokyo

I have been to Tokyo once before - as it happens, it was as part of my previous RTW trip in 1991. But I will admit, I had forgotten just how daunting it can be for a Western tourist. I reckon I am a seasoned traveller, with a good sense of direction, good knowledge of how different public transport systems tend to work, and generally 'on the ball' when I am travelling. But this place throws me every time!

To be fair, I got off to a bad start by over-sleeping. Not that I regret it too much - I must have been needing the rest. I had breakfast in the hotel - I had nearly forgotten that it was included in my rate here - and by the time I headed out, it was already after 1000. In contrast to the conditions on arrival yesterday, it was a glorious winter morning. Cold, certainly, but there wasn't a cloud in the sky and you could occasionally feel some heat from the sun on your face. So much nicer than wind and rain.

Anyway, I found it a problem just getting to the nearby Ikebukuro station. I was helped out by a young Japanese woman, who spoke perfect English with a strong American accent. Then, to my embarrassment, I queued at the JR (i.e. national railways) office for a subway pass! But I soon got my act together and when I left the train at the main Tokyo station, I found that I could actually remember my bearings from last time. I enjoyed strolling around and taking pictures in the crisp, fresh conditions. When I moved from what I will call the 'Imperial' district up to the 'Government Buildings' district, I found that the whole place was swarming with police. I don't just mean that there were a few of them to be seen; I mean that side streets were lined with the sort of vehicles used in a situation where there are mass arrests. It looked to me as though some kind of major demonstration was expected, so I took a few pictures (not of the police or their assorted hardware!) and decided to get the heck out of there. I rode the subway to Ginza, where I spotted a very nice Italian restaurant that would do nicely for lunch. It was a lovely place, reminding me more of a coffee house in my beloved Vienna than anything Italian, but to be honest, that simply added to the experience.

I wasn't in there all that long, but when I stepped outside again, I found myself wondering what had happened. The sun had gone and a very chilly wind was blowing through the streets. It just wasn't very nice any more. I had the feeling that the best part of the day was already over. I had a quick look round Hibiya Park and then headed for the Tokyo Tower, thinking that I would follow that with a visit to the nearby central waterfront area - somewhere I hadn't been before. When I stepped out of the station near Tokyo Tower, I had to do a double-take. The first thing I noticed was that it was practically dark and only a couple of seconds later did I spot that it was raining heavily! Just look at the morning photos below and you'll understand my near-disbelief! I quickly decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel for another quiet night in, maybe making a start (at last!) on those DVDs that I had brought along.

I managed to get lost again between Ikebukuro station and my hotel, but soon sorted myself out. I resolved to rise early the next day, in case there was a tendency for the weather to follow this pattern.

Tokyo Station is a notable building, said to be based on Amsterdam's Central Station.

Old and New - a curious fusion of architectural styles

Reflections, ancient and modern Imperial Palace. This is as close as you can get ...

... unless, of course, you use a zoom lens.

Imperial Palace moat Spring? Maybe not quite yet, in general, but it seems to have arrived for this tree! National Diet Building - odd name, but there it is!

Thursday 04 Mar

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