Since our hotel was in Tokyo, I decided we would visit Senso-ji first which was in Asakusa. Always see the temple in travel programmes about Japan with its giant red lanterns.
We went out the wrong exit at Shibuya Station on the night we arrived so, we didn't really get to see the famous crossing during the night. This time we did early in the morning. Some fun structures too.
This was the front of the Tokyu Stay Shibuya hotel which was located on a quiet side street. Turns out you needed a key card to go in and out of the front door.
I dropped down to the conbini to buy some breakfast.
Also experienced my first Japanese rail crossing on the way down which again you always saw a lot in Japanese shows =D
This is what the conbini had on offer. Was tempted to get a bento (packed lunch) but wanted something light. The sales assistant will usually ask if you want to have it re-heated for you in the microwave and give you some chopsticks if you do buy one though.
It was just around 7am in the morning and it was quite quiet around the hotel but you can see people starting to head out.
Ended up getting two onigiris to eat again and some bottled milk tea. Pretz was for later in the night if I went hungry, lol.
The toothpaste and toothbrush we were supplied with weren't very good so I decided to go buy my own. Turns out Japan's toothbrushes are really small compared to UK. Maybe 2/3 of the size.
We weren't staying right next to the crossing thankfully. Otherwise I doubt we'd get much sleep from all the traffic and people.
One thing they don't show you in travel programmes are the manholes. Each city has their own designs. Back in the UK, they're just plain circles of metal.
To the Japanese, it was an everyday thing so wasn't surprised when I got weird looks taking photos of them, lol.
This blowfish will definitely catch attention. Competition must be high in this area ^^;
Some early cherry blossoms in this urban area.
The symbolic Shibuya 109 tower at Shibuya Crossing which is really a building for women's clothes.
There's a men's version nearby. Anyone who played SE's "It's A Wonderful World" will recognise this place too. Was quite a unique JRPG for the DS.
And the famous crossing itself which can have hundreds of people crossing at once supposedly. So far, I'm reminded of Mong Kok, Hong Kong. Busy busy place full of people.
Another thing that confused me at first were the pedestrian lights. They looked like they had a countdown with the number 11 on them but, they were actually like sandglasses that decreased in height letting you know how long before they changed signals.
Hachikou, the legendary loyal dog that returned to the same spot waiting for its owner every day. Very popular for photos and this was where we were supposed to exit the station last night!
Not all the trees were blossoming yet. Still cold in the morning, around 5C.
First, it was off to Shinjuku Station to book all our Shinkansen (bullet train) seats for the other cities we were going to visit before getting the train to Asakusa. Shinjuku was one of the places featured in 5 Centimetres per Second but, will cover that another time.
Nice and sunny today compared to last night. Warm too.
Hello Kitty helping barricade the road works. Only in Japan. UK we only have boring orange cones, lol.
I didn't quite get this edutainment ad at the train station but I thought it was amusing. Left one was a request asking people not to be an "annoying strawberry". On the right there were other fruits like the "dashing tangerine" dangerously trying to squeeze between closing doors.
It is true how talking loudly is considered rude on Japanese trains though. Pretty much no one talks on the phone and if they are talking, they do it very quietly which is a huge difference compared to the UK.
I enjoyed the peace very much ^^
After a short trip by Keio subway to Asakusa Station we went to the A1 exit. There were already signs everywhere pointing to Senso-ji and huge crowds of tourists.
Didn't take long before we were at Sensoji. Our next destination Tokyo Skytree was in sight too!
Sensoji is the oldest temple in Tokyo built in 645, dedicated to the god Kannon.
The giant red lanterns were marked with the names of people who donated to the temple. If you like art, be sure to checkout the bottom of the lanterns. There are some detailed carvings on them.
Place was so busy with both locals and tourists alike. It reminded me a lot of Wong Tai Sin, Hong Kong.
This place was probably a lot bigger though. And red.
Very nice to see people in traditional Japanese clothing too. Most people in Hong Kong's temples wear modern day clothes although the old folk still wear their blouses from the old days.
I think these lanterns were also used to display the names of those who donated to the temple. Large companies had multiple lanterns to display the company name.
Some gates had sculptures next to the lanterns.
Black lanterns also had names inscribed on them. Seems to be the custom at temples. Credit where it's due.
Then there were the O-mikuji which again, Anime fans amongst you should recognise them. There wasn't anyone watching the fortune drawers. You were expected to be honest enough to put in 100JPY before asking for your fortune.
It works fairly much the same way as in other buddhism places. Shake a wooden container while thinking of something you want to ask until a stick drops out. Look up the number and take out your O-mikuji fortune from the drawer. They were all English translated here.
If your fortune is a bad one, you can tie it up into a knot on a rank nearby to get rid of the bad luck.
A more modest part of the temple that wasn't too overly crowded. There was a monkey show going on.
No really, a monkey was performing, lol. Sort of felt sorry that it was on a leash though.
Nearby were also Emas, wooden plaques for people to write down their wishes. People from all over the world not just natives. I blame J-drama influence =P
OK, it's more for cleansing your hands.
Looks like the temple was proud to be part of the Shonen Jump magazine Manga, "KochiKame".
We didn't stay for long at Senso-ji because I was only interested in seeing the lanterns and it was too crowded for my liking.
After about an hour it was off to Tokyo Skytree ahead so we could have a nice overview of Tokyo from up high. You can make out plenty of tourists and tour buses along the way...
Quite impressive seeing the NHK broadcasting tower from afar. We could have taken the train to Tokyo Skytree Station but decided to walk instead.
We enjoyed a nice walk along the river as we made our way there. Sakura blossoms weren't quite in full bloom yet but the sun was out and it was quite warm.
It was quite another story when we finally got to the tower... Very, very long queues! We learned that there were fast lane and regular tickets. If you didn't want to pay an extra 800JPY for the fast lane, you had to wait 3 hours in line before getting up the tower!
So, we queued for the fast lane tickets. Some of the locals looked very annoyed we could skip the queue they waited so long in... I probably would have been too ^^;
This was also one of those tourist spots that had a separate line for foreigners so that was good too. Wonder how natives feel about the special treatment...
It was absolutely packed... There were just queues everywhere! Here we were waiting for the elevators and they could only take so many people. Well, at least the staff were still smiling and remained fairly calm.
Something you'd probably find interesting is they all bow to you, wishing you a pleasant visit as the elevator doors close.
Once you're actually up there, there were queues to have a look through the windows overlooking Tokyo too.
We were 350m above ground and the day time view wasn't really that impressive but definitely gave you an idea of how densely packed the city was. Maybe it's better at night when all the neon lights come on and there's some colour ^^;
You had to pay another 1000JPY if you wanted to go higher to the 450m deck. Talk about making money =P
I wasn't too impressed with the glass floor either. There weren't many of them in the tower but at least people didn't hog them. Think there were only 3 panes or so.
Macao Tower has more panes and also let you walk outside along the brim of the tower which was even more exciting.
The queue for the elevators back down afterwards. We had to work backwards because the queue was so long. That said, I don't think it took more than half an hour before there was an elevator back down.
Again, no chaos ^^
There was a mall in the lower levels of Tokyo Skytree where there were Fuji TV goods and lots of Evangelion themed merchandise too.
It was getting late so we hurried on to our next destination before the shops closed.
Next stop for the day was Odaiba, a series of man-made islands that were featured in Anime such as Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 and... Home of the 1:1 scale Gundam statue!
You can only go here by the Yurikamome monorail which isn't covered by the JR Pass so, either you buy a ticket from ticket machines or, have an IC card like the Suica for backup like we did.
There were a series of other exhibition centres including the Tokyo Big Sight, famous for Comiket and other big Anime/Manga related events. Too bad none was on during our time here.
Odaiba is so big we kind of got lost along the way and had to ask for directions how to head to Diver City where the Gundam statue was. Google Maps didn't quite help because there were a lot of ways you couldn't actually walk through.
It was impressive to see when we finally got there though!
This was the RX-78-02 from the very first series of Gundam.
Plenty of people taking photos outside and most were tourists. You were allowed to go underneath the Gundam sculpture but that was about it.
I never watched Gundam (surprise!) but I think it was very detailed. You're going to need zoom to look at the finer details - and I mean optical zoom not the digital pixelly zoom smartphones have. Or just have good old binoculars.
Next to it was a small Gundam Cafe. It was really small. No space to sit and eat even though they sold some Gundam themed food (very simple stuff, like hot dogs with a mini flag on it) and some goods.
We went to browse around Diver City afterwards. Very busy place mostly filled with teenagers. Especially the food court.
Spotted Lum-chan from Urusei Yatsura posing for some Sake. It was quite a fun show and happened to be Rumiko Takahashi's first published work. You'll probably know her other works like Inu Yasha or Ranma 1/2.
And there it was. Fans will probably want to collect this.
We had ramen at the end of the day before heading back to the hotel. I think this was the smelliest Tonkotsu (Pig Bone Soup) Ramen I ever had...
Originally I had planned to visit places like the Miraikan and Tokyo Big Sight but unfortunately, we were out of time and places were closed.
I had planned our itinerary so that we could avoid the rush hours where people get packed onto the trains by dedicated "pushers" but, we ended up on a packed train anyway... It was the "third rush hour" when all the party goers and late night workers rush for the last train home. It was definitely a tight squeeze not just simple body contact. You were literally crushed between people. Hong Kong rush hour subways weren't this bad but the upside is there was still some order. People automatically moved out the way when someone was trying to get off and there wasn't anyone openly grumbling about it all.
I had a woman's hair stuck under my nose and it was hard to breathe ^^;
Since our hotel was in Shibuya, naturally we were going to head back through the crossing during its busier time at night. Lots of people, eh?
I bought some exclusive snacks at Odaiba. The cookies and hard-boiled sweets didn't actually taste that special.
Believe it or not, road works can happen in the middle of the night here in Japan... literally. Some was happening near our hotel every 3am in the morning so I hardly got any sleep. Had to go get these earplugs to help on the way back.
Crows in Japan seem to be so much louder than the UK. Probably because of all the noise they have to compete with.
That said, everything has lived up to my image of Japan so far ^^