Japan (day 2) – Tokyo
Sunday, 19 October 2014
We had breakfast at Doutor cafe near Shinjuku train station. It is a common coffee shop chain that is available in many districts in Tokyo. At the cafe, I had difficulty ordering in Japanese so in the end we only ordered food with photos on the menu.
Around 12 noon we went to Shinjuku station and bought a 1 day Tokyo metro ticket for ¥1,000. The Tokyo metro is not included in the JR pass as it’s a separate company. We took the metro to Tokyo Station, an impressive looking station that serves as the main intercity rail terminal in Tokyo. Completed in 1914, the architect designed is as a celebration of Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War in 1908. The facade of the building is said to based on the Amsterdam Centraal railway station (built in 1889).
From Tokyo Station, we walked to the Marunouchi building. We wanted to take the Sky Bus hop-on hop-off tour at 12:30PM, but the queue was too long.
So we decided to have lunch nearby while waiting for the next bus. We went around the block and spotted Gastro-Pub Coopers. Turns our they served excellent fish and chips!
After lunch we headed back to the Sky Bus. We bought a 1 day ticket for ¥2,500 and boarded the 1:30PM bus on the Odaiba route. The Odaiba route took us to the south-eastern side of Tokyo. The stops include Tokyo Tower, Fuji Television City, Venus Fort, Tokyo Bay, and Kabuki-za Ginza before heading back to the Marunouchi building.
From the Marunouchi building, we walked along the Marunouchi Street Gallery. It is a pedestrian area with interesting boutiques lined up along the street.
At the intersection near Babasaki-dori, we spotted the Marunouchi brick square. The square has restaurants with alfresco dining, a nicely designed garden, a water feature and an art installation in the middle of the area. There were people sitting chatting, enjoying the cozy space, and a few were sketching the art installation. We bought crepe ice creams and sat at a bench to enjoy the view.
After that we headed to the Imperial Palace.We approached the palace grounds via the Kokyo Gaien, a national garden in Tokyo well known for its 2,000 Japanese Black Pines trees. From the garden area, we walked to a large stone square were the public could view the palace. Too bad for us that there were some restorations being performed to the facade of the building so we didn’t get a good view.
The current palace was built on top of the old Edo Castle (built in 1457CE). However, over the years, many of the buildings in the castle grounds were rebuilt due to fires and other incidents.
After viewing the palace, we took a spot in the garden and admired the scenic pine trees. The weather was just perfect for us to sit there and admire the area.
As we were walking out, I visited the statue of Kusunoki Masashige. A famous samurai that fought for Emperor Go-Daigo in the 14th century in attempt of gaining control of Japan from the Kamakura shogunate. Kusunoki is remembered as the ideal of samurai loyalty.
From the Imperial Gardens, we took the metro near the Imperial Palace and went to Ginza. Ginza is a well known shopping district and it definitely lived up to it’s reputation. The density of shops and the variety it offers is definitely one of the best I’ve seen so far (compared to 5th Avenue and Oxford Street). We stepped out from the metro and arrived in front of the famous Ginza 4 chome crossing.
As we were exploring Ginza, I came across Kyobunkwan. Established in 1885, it is a well known publisher and bookstore in Tokyo. They had an interesting collection of old maps which was the perfect addition to my map room. I bought an old Edo (Tokyo) map from the early Meiji period.
We walked around the area admiring the many shops and later explored the famous Mitsukoshi department store. We had a late tearime at Ladurée, at level 1 in Mitsukoshi. We got a table with a nice view of the Ginza 4 chome crossing.
After that we explored the area further. I wanted to visit the Sony building but the showroom was closed (it was 7PM). Among the interesting shops we saw were Mikimoto’s flagship store and Uniqlo’s 12-storey shop!
We took the metro back to Shinjuku. For dinner, we decided to get McDonalds which was 1 block next to our hotel. It’s always interesting to see how big fast food chains (like McDonalds or KFC) differ around the world.