Last full day in Tokyo

by Samm Bennett
Ah, raining again! Oh well, oh won't let some rain get in the way of finishing my itinerary. Firt thing on the list was to head to the Imperial Palace area to view the East Garden. I must admit - I was a bit disappointed. Some highlights included the prefectural trees (each prefect of Japan has a tree representing it, and an area of the garden had samples of them all) and a pond (complete with waterfall). The large stone walls were also impressive, as well as a very old tea house (too bad it hadn't been restored very much).

Next I moved to the Tokyo National Museum for only 1.5 hours (due to my busy schedule). Visiting the museum was great, as I was about to see more of the wooden statues that I have come to love, as well as some Japanese swords and fittings. Lots of calligraphy on display, but it's difficult to appreciate to its fullest extent without understanding the meaning of any characters. Seeing the displays did get me thinking though - how much effort is put into the word choice, given that each character can become a piece of art itself. In western poetry, there is certainly a focus on the meaning of the word, as well as the rhyme and meter. Yet in Asian cultures, I would bet there is an additional component in choosing the best character representation, for pure visual aesthetics. Something I'll definitely need to look into.

Despite desiring to stay longer, I left the museum at 5 pm to move onto the Harajuku region to see the infamous cos-play-zuku, where groups of “dressed up” kids gather every Sunday at Jingu-bashi bridge (I have no particular idea why). Many of the participants of this “circus” as it's been called chose a style which is akin to the American goth style, but with a the dedication of Japanese cosplayers. Very visual kei. In addition to the visual kei type, there were some dressed as maids, and a very smaller set in animal type costumes (very weird, IMO). This little ensemble, coupled with the variety of people and shops in Harajuku made it one of my favorite districts, reminding me of South Street in the early 90s before it was corrupted by the Gap.

My stop in Harajuku was brief, so by about 6 pm I was on my way to Shinjuku to check out the Tokyo Metropolitan Building for a free view of the city 56 stories high. Oh, I should note that by this point in the day, I had only eaten a granola bar and two onigiri, so I was extremely hungry. Still, I carried on. The view from the building was amazing, certainly better than the limited view at the Park Hyatt Hotel only a couple of hundred meters away. I don't think I got the absolute best view though, as a small section was closed off to this Italian restaurant (and it would have made sense for me to finally eat, but I wanted Japanese food, dammit!). The skyline is really one of my favorite things about Tokyo and Osaka, as there are just so many towering skyscrapers and unique examples of architecture that, coupled with all of the neon and video screens, make the city so unique and, well, futuristic. My pictures don't come close to the real experience.

Well, I hit most of the things on my itinerary, and most places were closing down anyway, so I headed to the train station to finally get some food. I had some cold soba (I mistakenly had thought it was going to be hot) and tempura. Not quite the extravagant dinner I was hoping for, but it was something I hadn't experienced yet. Wasn't too bad either!

Now, it's time to pack up and get ready to leave the country :(