Sunday, June 7, 2009

Day 10: Tokyo Te Amo

The day started badly. We tried to walk to the Imperial Palace but, get this, we got lost in the Shiodome maze.  In the end we had to backtrack and start from square one.

hmm, we probably passed by this more than once

While HM returned to our room to freshen up after our disastrous start, I took the opportunity to drop by the exhibition that was on in the Shiodome Media Tower.

'twas an exhibition on political cartoons

Obama was the hot topic.

Take two: we start off again.  This time, we first head to Tully's downstairs in the basement for breakfast.  We successfully partake of soft milk bread, a tuna and potato sandwich, and of course, some coffee.  Then we take the train to the Imperial Palace.  We are thwarted yet again.  We weren't counting on being able to visit the palace per se - we knew that the palace was out of bounds to visitors except by prearranged tour -but we thought we'd be able to stroll through the palace gardens.  Little did we know that all imperial gardens close on Mondays.  How frustrating.

We ended up circumambulating the palace.  That's when we realised that the controversial Yasukuni Shrine wasn't that far away.  It hadn't been on the cards but we decided to make the best of the situation and our location.

140 years of commemorating those who died for the Emperor of Japan

the Daiichi Torii, made of steel - a symbol of Japan's military might?

Ōmura Masujirō, the Father of the Modern Japanese Army, with a symbol of peace (sort of) perched on his sword

nationalistic propaganda?

At times the shrine seemed no different from the others.

not just for crusty old soldiers of yore

irises in bloom

winning entries in an ikebana competition

unexpected beauty

a shrine like any other

calling on the gods


But then there was the Yusukan War Memorial Museum, featuring exhibits that celebrate Japan's military achievements, a touchy topic no doubt for other Asians.

a locomotive from the infamous Death Railway

an explanation that made no mention of how the POWs had little choice in the fate ahead of them

Japanese artillery

the pride and joy of the Japanese - the zero fighter plane

Other than that, the shrine seemed innocuous enough.  Almost.

almost idyllic

you have to wonder what he's singing about

Irei no Izumi (Soul-Comforting Spring), dedicated to those who have suffered from or died of thirst in battle

We emerged from the past straight into the future.

Tokyo University of Science

HM wanted to accost this oshiare young man

By this time, we had refined our game plan: to visit neighbourhoods that we had never been to before.  Next up on the itinerary - Jimbocho aka Book Town.  HM was all a-twitter about this.  She had the anime, R.O.D. ("Read or Die"), in mind.

Jimbocho was a Japanese bookworm's dream come true.  For that matter, it was a pleasure to be surrounded by so many books.

alleyways filled with bookstores

stacks upon stacks

something naughty

for film buffs

books, books...

... and more books

visual kei posters!

hopefully not a dying trade

There were plenty of inexpensive places for a quick lunch, no doubt appealing to the many academics who roam the neighbourhood.

Thai food? Maybe not...

a soba shop - our first for the trip

your friendly neighbourhood noodle shop

We had...

duck soba

soba with pork and egg

From Jimbocho, it was a quick ride to Akihabara aka Otaku City.

at the heart of Akihabara

We found the electronics shops but where were the maid cafes and comics shops we had heard so much about?  Either they were in another part of the neighbourhood or were simply less visible from street level.  Anyway, we spent some time in Yodobashi Camera, exploring the seven floors of merchandise that would warm any geek's heart.  We even bought a laptop bag.  We finally left with that overly catchy Yodobashi jingle ringing in our ears... "Yodobashi Camera!" (sung to the tune of "Battle Hymn of the Republic").  No wonder - it was played incessantly over the sound system, ad nauseum.

From there, we resumed our whirlwind tour of Tokyo, but not before picking up a snack from this place:

literally, Glutinous Rice Street

on the train, we marvelled at how polite everyone was

From the slightly seedy to the posh, from the decidedly local to the cosmopolitan, we went from Akihabara to Roppongi...

Roppongi Hills Mori Tower

a sprawling complex

... and were promptly smothered by the monotony of international brand sameness.  It was the peripheral entertainment options that we were engaged by.

art in the park

whimsical touches

even the lift was not spared

There were great views to be had, from the viewing gallery:

Tokyo at a glance

bird's eye view

hey, an outdoor swimming pool

We were endlessly fascinated by the cemeteries:

very neat, very orderly, very Japanese

very small, also very Japanese

Another highlight was the Mori Art Museum.

the exhibition that was on then

Finally, we sat ourselves down...

outdoor seating area

... and put our feet up (well, not literally) for a while.

the tako onigiri we had bought earlier

We washed our onigiri down with a Starbucks coffee and then could not resist checking out L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon aka Joel Robuchon Light hehe.

nicely posh

a chi chi version of the humble croque monsieur or ham and egg sandwich

I surprised HM with some of these

our verdict: Pierre Hermes pwn-ed Joel Robuchon

one last look at Roppongi

In the end, we retreated to one of our happy places, Shibuya, where we couldn't get enough of the quirky and the trendy.

one of our favourite stores selling everything and anything

tempting - multifunctional pouches

face masks galore

When it came to dinner time, youth-oriented Shibuya offered lots of fast food choices.  We couldn't remember where the Freshness Burger outlet was and anyway it was drizzling, but there was always...

good ol' Maccas

and creme de la creme of Japanese fast food barring Freshness Burger

Tough choice?  Not...

this particular outlet had a 'fine dining' concept

check out the fanta melon drink!

a cross between a jambalaya & a minestrone soup



even the placemats were different

As we were leaving Mosburger, we spotted this across the road.


We had to have some so across the road and through the drizzle we dashed.

one of the bigger outlets, we would imagine

made fresh

It was closing for the day but there were still people queuing so we joined the queue and bought a little something before heading "home" to pack and rest for the flight home.

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