Where We Be
|Welcome to Tokyo! This is an easy city to explore because it has the most extensive urban
rail network in the world. You definitely CAN get there from here. (Click here for city maps.)
|Tokyo, Japan -- Key Sights (Day 1)
In two days you can see most of the key sights
of Tokyo. Here's what we saw on our first day:
Hamarikyu Gardens: Located near Tokyo Bay at
the mouth of the Sumida River, this park offers
terrific views of Tokyo's skyscrapers fronted by
green lawns and water.
Imperial Palace East Gardens: Where the palace
of the shoguns once stood is now a broad green
lawn. To get here you'll pass imposing defensive
walls, a moat, and guard towers. Inside is an
oasis of peace and quiet in the heart of the city.
Shibuya Crossing: This is the famous spot where
pedestrians cross from a bunch of directions all
at once. Also here is the statue of Hachi the dog
who patiently waited for his master each day.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office: We took
an elevator up to the 45th floor and got a free
view looking down on the entire city of Tokyo
from above. Especially worth doing at night.
|Get ready for a busy day! First up: a buffet lunch while overlooking Hamarikyu Gardens
(on the left). This is one of the oldest gardens in Tokyo and is located right next to Tokyo Bay.
|Here at the mouth of the Sumida River, the view of the Tokyo skyline is dramatic.
(Note: We didn't get to see Tsukiji Fish Market but it's located near the gardens.)
|After lunch we visited the gardens themselves. The powerful Shogun
Tokugawa had his villa and hunting grounds here back in the 1600s.
|Landscaped gardens surround Shioiri Pond, with the park
itself surrounded by a seawater moat filled by Tokyo Bay
|This is a great place for a casual stroll. We enjoyed the wide-open views
over both water and green lawns of the surrounding Tokyo skyscrapers.
|The free audio guide automatically “bings” whenever
you get close to a site with some history to it
|The mortarless, tight-fitting walls built by the Japanese reminded us quite a lot of those
built by the Incas in Peru. What a wonderful juxtaposition of ancient and modern here!
|We walked to Tokyo Station, which is a worthwhile sight
in its own right with its red bricks and decorative trim
|The walk to the Imperial Palace provided more juxtapositions of old and new:
skyscrapers on the one hand and ancient fortified entry doors on the other
|Wow, now that's an impressive wall! Which makes sense once you
realize this used to be the main residence of the Emperor of Japan.
|The site of the old Edo Castle was well defended
with stone walls, moats, and guard towers
|We walked up this broad road, alongside high
stone walls, to the site of the old Imperial Palace
|This is the foundation of the main tower of Honmaru Palace -- the central, innermost part of Edo Castle. The five-story tower
that once stood here in the 1600s was the highest ever built in Japan and symbolized the power of the Tokugawa Shogun.
|From the top of the stone foundation you get a terrific view. The large lawn
used to be lined with buildings that were all part of enormous Honmaru Palace.
|We wandered through the extensive grounds, which
essentially form a nature preserve inside central Tokyo
|The traditional Japanese pool and gardens are particularly lovely
|Right outside Shibuya station is the statue of Hachi the dog, who faithfully
waited for his master each day, even long after the man had passed away
|We got back on the train and headed to Shibuya Station. Here we saw the famous Shibuya Crossing,
where all the pedestrians get a green light at the same time and cross from a bunch of directions at once.
|We ventured across Shibuya Crossing -- it's quite the sea of humanity! Note the
Starbucks (second floor on left), offering fine views down on all the madness.
|We followed a pedestrian-only street and happened upon this strategically located McDonald's,
where we ate a snack on the second floor while looking down on all the bustling activity
|We took the train about three more stops to Shinjuku Station. This was right around 6 pm during the height of the rush hour --
we were crammed in like sardines! Then we walked through a long pedestrian walkway to Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office.
|Why come here? For the free views of course! We took an elevator up to the
45th floor and got terrific views looking down on the entire city of Tokyo.
|The view becomes even more impressive at night. We drank milk tea from a vending machine
while waiting for it to get dark, since two beers at the restaurant would have run us $26!
|We enjoyed window shopping on the way home, past displays of comic books (manga), elaborately decorated
cupcakes, fine clothing, and more. We stumbled in the door around 9 pm, exhausted but happy from our full day.
|Tokyo is a city that never sleeps, so the streets and trains were still crowded as we made our way home.
Many Japanese businessmen napped on the trains, clearly exhausted from their long day at work.
|Imperial Palace -- East Gardens
|Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office