A full day together in Tokyo after the previous day’s exertions.
We started with a trip to the Starbucks over the road for a relaxed breakfast, because you can’t rush into stuff the day after a marathon, and then we headed off for our first tourist job of the day. That makes it sound like there was a plan, when to be honest there was no such thing. It was a “winging it” sort of a day. The first tourist thing of the day was to take the free lifts up to the observation desk of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which was just up the road from the hotel. It took a little time to find the correct access point, but we got it eventually. This part of Tokyo definitely exists in all three dimensions and it’s very easy to find yourself on totally the wrong level for getting where you’re going. There’s more than one road level, for a start, and then a number of levels of walkways, underpasses and tunnels.
Once we found the right door I was expecting there’d be a bit of a queue, but we obviously got lucky because there really was nothing. I think we waited less than five minutes before getting in the lift. At the top you get a pretty impressive view across the city and in particular of all the tall buildings around the Shinjuku area. We spent a while up there walking around and taking photos before spending ages in one of the souvenir shops but leaving empty-handed as they wouldn’t take a credit card. Ho hum !
From here we decided to go for a bit of an exploratory walk through the suburbs to the Meiji Shrine, which proved somewhat entertaining. There were a couple of stretches where I felt a bit out of place, although I suppose they are probably fairly used to European tourists in most of Tokyo. We found a couple of caches though this section and ended up entering the park where the shrine is located from the north side.
Whilst still being rather busy, this one didn’t feel as busy as the Sensō-ji site that we’d visited on Saturday. Maybe that was partly because it was Monday and partly because it’s a lot more spread out. Wikipedia says that the site covers 70 hectares. The actual shrine forms a very small part of the site, most of which is taken up by trees of some 365 different varieties.
The shrine is apparently popular as a place to get married, and we were treated to a wedding procession through the outer courtyard while we were there.
Next we headed southwards in the general direction of Shibuya so we could go and have a gander at the famous scramble crossing, which is supposedly the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. It was very interesting to sit and watch for a few minutes from the nearby Starbucks, and quite an experience just to cross it a couple of times.
By this time it was mid-afternoon, so we figured we’d probably got one more location in us before nightfall. Sadly we’d failed to pre-plan and so were unable to go to the Imperial Palace, which is closed on Mondays, but we headed off in the general direction anyway so we could go take a look at the impressive outside of the Tokyo Station and its surrounding tall buildings. From here we wandered over to the edge of the Imperial Palace grounds and then southwards towards the Kasumigaseki Station, from which we’d ridden home the previous evening. This gave me a chance to grab a handful of geocaches that had been inaccessible the previous day when the marathon was on.
For dinner we found a small Japanese restaurant in the underground shopping centre that had more or less become our kitchen area for the trip, and then we settled in for an early night, as we’d got a flight at a ridiculously early time the following morning which meant us leaving the hotel practically before we’d gone to bed.
The flight home was uneventful apart from being a little late getting off the ground, and we spent most of the rest of that day watching bits of Russia and northern Europe drift by beneath us.
It had been an interesting and enjoyable trip and, much as expected, the kids were quite happy to see us when we got home.