Sunday, January 05, 2014

A Day in the Tokyo Sun

Well, I am back in Ichinoseki and the difference couldn't be more noticeable when it comes to temperature. Actually today it was around 3 degrees, but coming from Tokyo which now seems like the sunniest warmest place on Earth, I am really feeling the cold. Was very difficult for me to get to sleep last night because I was so cold!
In Tokyo and Yokohama we enjoyed sunny days with the mercury rising to around 12 degrees on every day. I didn't need to wear thermals! Now, well, there was a hint of snow and there's a bit on the ground, but the wind cuts through you like a knife! It's seriously freezing! And the worst is yet to come!
Crowds at Shinagawa.

Still, my last day in Yokohama saw me head into Tokyo. I brilliantly got off at the wrong station which was a good start - I wanted Shinjuku, but I got off at Shinagawa because I still get all my shins mixed up! Outside the station there was a crowd lined up waiting for the runners in this massive 2-day race they have here around New Year every year to pass. Teams (of seven I think) link in a big relay to run a total of 109 km each day of two. It was on television, every second of it! Still, Australia has it's traditional New Year's Cricket match at the SCG too, sporting events are special this time of year. And it turned out to be a special test match, didn't it...
This building is not like its neighbours.

I think the runners were curiously still some time away, like an hour or two if not more. But already there were plenty of people in this area of town with wide streets and shiny buildings. Nestled in between two buildings was this small and ancient-looking temple which I thought was very interesting. Across the road I looked at a map of the area and couldn't work out why it didn't correspond to the one I was looking at in my trusty guide book. Oh... I'm not where I think I am. At all! D'oh! Yes... a proper fool was I.

On the train again, it took 45 minutes plus to get to Shinjuku, more than double the time you'd expect. There were fires near the tracks, according to the information screen in the carriage. So we stopped at Harajuku station for over ten minutes, taking on enough passengers in that time that no more could fit inside the train. We stopped again two or three times, the last time for over ten minutes 200 metres from the Shinjuku station platform!
I have to admit, I like a good whopper. And I enjoyed one at Shinjuku station - McDonald's and KFC are the big winners in the American Fast Food Wars here, Burger King is much harder to find outside a couple of main centres. I was a bit disappointed in the size of large fries and drink, but the meal was satisfying. I'm sure that large in Australia is bigger than Burger King here, the fries are bigger here at McDonalds than Burger King, I am sure of that!

Walkway on the 29th floor of the NS building, Shinjuku.

I revisited the NS building in Shinjuku for some good views of the city with blue skies in the background.
Then I made my way through an interesting residential area to get to the vast Meiji Shrine park. It's a really big park I visited back in 2011, however, this time I was not able to get close to the Meiji Shrine itself, although I'm sure I could have if I waited long enough. Getting to a temple around New Year is very important here, and despite it being the 3rd, the queue to get to the temple was an hour plus long, at a guess. The park was wonderful to walk about, and if you can fade the faint sounds out from Tokyo, you might think you're in woods somewhere. Then there were policemen stationed at different points, not allowing access towards the temple from the north. They wanted to control the flow of people which is reasonable I expect.
More food stalls could also be found and this visit was clearly a family affair for many.
I walked down to Shibuya, wanting to see if a couple of museums were open. The Salt and Tobacco museum had moved when I eventually found it, the Tepco Electricity Museum I couldn't find at all. I suspect it has been closed down completely, probably after the 2011 tsunami - Tepco is the company responsible for the Fukushima Daichi Plant. You know the one.

So, more time spent in Tower Records, where I had a good hard think about J-pop. And, well, I think there's a whole blog in my thoughts, so I won't elucidate here and now. However - Watch this space!
The next blog should be up in the next few days, however I will save J-pop for another time because it's going to require a little bit of research. Around Tuesday - ish you can expect to see the continuation of my top ten destinations - we are up to number five!

I left Tokyo yesterday on the Shinkansen. It's easily the best way to travel in Japan. It's smooth and fast and pops you back at the centre of the city you're heading too. It's raging hot with fires in parts of Australia now, but I can barely feel my feet! Take care 'til the next time...

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