Hi from Tokyo
We arrived at Tokyo airport on Tuesday morning at 6am after the overnight flight from Sydney, both tired from lack of sleep. After organising our train passes we made our way to Shinjuku Station where we were met by Phil and Neralie. Shinjuku Station comes as a bit of a shock when you first arrive in a dazed state, it has about 3 million visitors a day making it not only the busiest Metro Station in Tokyo, but one of the busiest in the world.
Tokyo has a population of 12.5 million, 30 million in the greater surrounding area.
After a shower and a freshen up, we began exploring some of the city. We visited Yebisu Garden Place, a huge shopping and commercial area, huge, almost a suburb in itself. We visited a photographic exhibition called Natural Stories. Lots of photos ranging from the way we use the resources of the earth to the recent aftermath of the earthquakes and Tsunami. Then, it was off to the Yebisu Beer Museum. The museum had a very grand entrance, pretty much like the foyer of a very expensive International Hotel with central stairs leading down to the exhibits and a huge copper beer brewing vat as the focal centrepiece. It was then on for a taste, after sharing four, almost pint size beers, ranging from a Lager through to Stout with Phil, I began to fade fast, a late afternoon rest was had by all. Dinner that night was at a great Japanese restaurant with a girl who had been an exchange student with Neralie’s family. Her local knowledge led us to a great experience eating really good food.
Wednesday’s weather forecast was for light showers increasing to rain in the afternoon, however the rain began from the break of day. We spent some time dodging the rain and finally made it to Senso-Ji Temple which enshrines a golden image of Kannon (the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy), this image has remained at this place since AD 628. Successive re-buildings of the Temple have taken place with the present building dates from around 1950. Leading up to the temple are streets of many shops including an extensive area completely undercover.
For me the main event on Wednesday was a visit to the Tokyo Blue Note to see the legendary band from Oakland, California, Tower of Power, I have been a fan of the band since the early 70’s and this was to be my first experience of seeing them live, doing the thing they have been doing since 1968. The band was absolutely fantastic. In their 44th year, they still deliver on every level. They played a great range of their songs from the decades including their most famous, the song that is Tower of Power, “What is hip?”. The Tokyo audience was extremely enthusiastic and the band returned to the stage for 3 encores. We met the band members after the gig and wished them well for their flight and first ever performances in Australia. Thanks to Phil for giving me such a fantastic Father’s Day present, one that I will never forget.
Thursday, the rain had cleared and Tokyo was bathed in sunshine with cloudy blue skies. We visited the Imperial Palace Eastern Garden. The pavement around the Imperial Palace extends about 5 kilometres and is a favourite spot for jogging, marathons are often held here on holidays. It is the only place in Tokyo where joggers can run without stopping to cross roads and wait for traffic lights. The grounds of the Palace cover approximately 1.15 million square metres, it is thought that this green oasis may contribute to cleaning the air of Tokyo where an estimated 5 million vehicles use the roads every day. At the height of the bubble economy in the late 1980’s it was said that the value of the land around the Palace was equivalent in value to the whole state of California in the U.S.A. The fact that the Imperial Palace was on the grounds probably saved this very precious sight from being redeveloped long ago.
The blue and clear skies continued so we visited Tokyo Tower to get a overall picture of how big a city of 12.5 million people really is, the answer, very big!
Friday morning we visited the very busy Tokyo fish market. The traffic at the market is chaotic to say the least. There are trucks, big and small, motorbikes, pedestrians and the little motorised, “one person” vehicles buzzing around in all directions, all without the aid of traffic lights or giving way to the right or left or Police on point duty, however, out of this chaos all seems calm and everyone goes about their business with a minimum of fuss.
We left the wonderful city of Tokyo leaving behind a beautiful clean city full of very respectful, kind, gentle, polite and proud people. The Shinkansen (Bullet Train) takes 3 hours to make the journey to Osaka were we arrived late in the afternoon.
Lance And Barbara