Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tokyo – First Impressions

This weekend was a 3-day holiday and so we decided to take advantage of the time off and head to Tokyo. We totally lucked out and were able to stay at the New Sanno – which is a military hotel. It is very nice and I can see why they book up a year in advance. It is conveniently located to the Tokyo metro and that is how we got around plus – you guessed it lots and lots of walking. You know how when you have babies you bronze their first baby shoes? I just may have to bronze my Dansko’s by the time we leave Japan – I brought along my 2 pairs and they got a hefty work out.

Ginza - Silver Mint

The name Ginza means “silver mint.” From 1600 to 1812 this area was the sight of a silver coin mint. This is also the world’s most expensive real estate, where one square meter of land in the district’s center is worth more than ten million yen (more than 100,000 US dollars at today’s rate).

The first day we arrived we hit the Ginza Shopping area. Now let me just put this out there – we are not a family of shoppers. I swear Jeff made some sort of in-utero pack with our children about shopping – they hate it. Even as little kids just about all I could ever do was window shop – if the stroller slowed down they all hit the freak out button. Not sure what he promised them but it must be something really, really good. They were however, all willing to make an exception to the no shopping pack and seemed to be more than ready to hit the 4-story Apple Store. This store was very cool, even had a theatre where there were ongoing workshops. There were no buttons in the elevator – it just went up and down, stopping at each floor so you, the customer, could step off and immerse yourself in the latest technology. It was Saturday and it was packed but we still managed to find the few things that were on our hit list.

After making our purchases we headed out to walk the main street – the Chuo Dori. On the weekends it is closed to traffic and becomes a pedestrian zone. If you are a serious shopper you could do some major damage on this street - Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermes, Cartier, Prada and of course Mikimoto – where I stood outside and just drooled. And, just for the record, my husband already gave me a beautiful strand of Mikimoto’s years ago that I treasure. For some women, I guess their thing is diamonds, for me it is pearls. I absolutely love pearls and so a girl can stand there and dream … like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

We heard the clock tower chime from the Wako Department Store. I’d like to go back and see the building along with sneak in a visit to the 6th floor where they have an Art Gallery (shhhh, don’t tell the kids). This is the only building in Ginza that survived the bombings during WWII and it housed the Military PX during the reconstruction period. There is also the Hakuhinkan Toy Park which has the latest and greatest toys (eye candy) and the Sony building which would keep the techies in my house happy.

From Ginza we headed back to the New Sanno and then Jeff took the kids out to an observation tower. It was a beautiful day and they said the view was “awesome.” I just needed some chill time and opted to hang at the hotel and enjoy the silence.

Museums, Metros and Harajuku

Sunday we ventured back out with metro map in hand. Jeff and I are used to the DC Metro system – which is pretty darn simplistic compared to the extensive Tokyo Metro. It definitely took some checking and double checking on all our parts to make sure we were on the right platform – but I will give the Japanese credit. All the signage has English, even the metro fare card kiosk has English so it’s not that difficult to get around – and two separate times we had people come up and ask us if we needed help.

The first stop on our marathon day was the Edo-Tokyo Museum. This is a fabulous museum and should be on everyone’s must see list if they are coming to Tokyo – they have English headsets you can use and 2 out of the 3 Cleary kids said this was the highlight of our first trip to Tokyo (yeah! A museum scored a hit). They have 2 sections pre-WWII the Edo era and post WWII – reconstruction. There was so much to absorb that I will have to go back – by the time I hit the reconstruction era my brain was in overload. If you are curious – check out their website http://www.edo-tokyo-museum.or.jp/english/index.html. As luck would have it for me, there is currently a special exhibit going on Japanese woodblock prints – and yes, I made my family go. They owe me … when anyone starts to complain all I have to say is “Civil War battlefields.” It is a fabulous exhibit – I only wish they had English translations, I would have gotten much more from it. The exhibit is in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery which houses one of the world’s largest woodblock collections. Jeff even admitted the video showing the process was very cool – 42 different wood blocks to make this one print!


From the museum we cut across Tokyo on one of the trains to Harajuku Station. Takeshita Dori Street, also called Teenager Street by locals, is the street for looking at the shops that sell Harajuku fashions and doing some major people watching. On Sunday’s teenagers dress up in a variety of styles from babydoll cute to something like Goth Lolita – it’s a fashion style all it’s own and you have to see it to get it. There were many, many teenagers dressed up – I just couldn’t get up the nerve to ask them for a photo but if you want to take a look at the style (or get an idea for Halloween) check out http://www.mookychick.co.uk/style/harajuku_girls.php. The street was packed – probably with as many teenagers as tourists. Squished bodies as the masses flowed down the street. There was nothing do to except throw ourselves in there – with Wrenn and I holding hands in a death grip. It was certainly interesting, but I think I’m good with crossing that off our list and moving on – to let’s say a Japanese garden or shrine.

Our first experience in Tokyo was certainly busy but fun. The city is absolutely pristine – no trash. Oh, that’s one thing you should know if you’re planning to visit – there are no trash cans in public (you will find them outside of quick mart places where you are expected to sort your trash into the appropriate recycling container). You are supposed to carry your trash home. I am not sure that concept would work back in the states – but I can tell you it works here. The streets and cities are spotless. And another thing, no one eats in public – you may spot people eating in a park but walking along the street eating let’s say a Big Mac, would have people stopping and looking at you. And cell phones … ahhh – I love this – it is against the law to talk on your cell phones on the trains! I cannot begin to tell you how many annoying conversations I had to listen to while commuting on the Metro in DC – like I care what you did with your boyfriend last night (and I bet the rest of the train doesn’t either). There are many things about Japan that I appreciate – I guess when you have as many people as they do crammed into a small area they have to figure out ways to be considerate. And, it works.

I have a busy week ahead with several outings so look for a few more entries. Till next time, sayonara.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts