I needed to get a new Canadian passport, so I decided to make the trip to Tokyo and get it done in person. I had never been to Tokyo and so I was quite excited. I live in Ohtsu, which is a medium size city in Shiga prefecture, which is a fairly quiet, rural area. I grew up on a mall island off a small city in Canada, and big cities really arent my cup of tea. Regardless, I was determined to enjoy my time in Tokyo. I took 3 days off from work at my school (SSE Ohtsu), booked the night bus (return trip was about Y12000), and was on my way.
Day 1: I arrived at Tokyo station at 6:30 am on a beautiful long weekend Sunday morning. I wandered around the Imperial Palace Garden, found a place to sit, and read my book for an hour while happy early morning joggers jogged by. At 8:00, as I walked back to Tokyo station, I saw some people setting up a huge flea market of mostly antiques. I saw some very neat knick-knacks and Japanese antiques, as well as beautiful old kimonos and WWII paraphenalia. I found a guy selling old cameras, but unfortunately he wanted Y25000 for the camera I have been looking for, so I didn’t buy it. But it was a very fun flea market anyway!
Next I went to JR Shinagawa, where I met up with Kyle, a Canadian university friend who is doing as 4 month co-op work program at TUMSAT (Tokyu University of Marine Science and Technology). He kindly offered me a place to stay for my 2 nights in Tokyo, and acted as my local guide. We decided to hit all the big spots on the east side of Tokyo on day 1, and then head to the west side for day 2. So off we went to Asakusa, a traditional area that came highly recommended by my students at SSE Ohtsu. We saw some impressively huge lanterns at the gates of the main temple, as well as a gorgeous 5-tier pagoda. Kyle is heading back to Canada soon, so he bought lots of souvenirs in the traditional souvenir shopping street leading away from the temple main gate.
After Asakusa, we went to Akihabara, notorious for its manga culture and high-end pc gaming shops. We were quickly overwhelmed by the volume of people walking the streets and in the shops. For a small town Canadian kid like me, this was quite amazing. So many people were dressed in cosplay outfits! We went into a few pc shops, the most high-end of which had 52″ monitors and I even saw a computer listed at Y1,500,000! Yikes. Kyle took me to his favourite shop, Don Quijote, which is a giant duty free superstore. You can get… pretty much everything there, and at rock-bottom prices.
Next we took the JR Yamanote line to Tokyo Tower. We had to wait in line for 45 minutes just to buy our tickets to go into Tokyo Tower. Once inside, we found ourselves in an even bigger line for the elevators. So we decided to walk up Tokyo Tower. This was an excellent idea and I highly recommend it. Let me explain: great exercise, great view as you climb up, sense of achievement (at the top you are given a certificate stating that you climbed Tokyo Tower) and on a hot summer day the shade on the steps plus the cool breeze is quite refreshing. At the top of the stairs (all 600 of them) is the lower viewing area (150m), comprising 2 floors. For an extra Y600 and another wait in line, you can go up to the upper viewing platform (250m). On the 1st floor of the lower platform you can walk on sections of glass floor and look down to the ground 150m below! This was very scary and it was fun to watch people fearfully stepping on and off of these sections. The 360 degree panorama was breathtaking!
And so day 1 ended with the long walk down Tokyo Tower and then a seaside walk back to Shinagawa. Come back next week for A Canadian in Japan: My First Time in Tokyo Day 2!
Edward, SSE Ohtsu