Anyone, who loves a thriving city, shouldn’t miss an opportunity to visit Tokyo. After spending a week travelling south Japan, Tokyo was the last leg of our journey. It’s possible to see Tokyo in two days. Although, you might be left wanting for more. We stayed for a week in Tokyo, but I’ll try to summarise our journey in two posts. Think of it as a two day itinerary.
From Kyoto, we boarded the ‘Shinkansen‘ to Tokyo. We had a heavy suitcase and a backpack to board. Now, here’s an important tip, you’ve got to stay prepared for the train. It’s always on time and will leave on time – whether or not you’re in it. There are other ways (bus/flight) to travel to Tokyo, but we opted for the Shinkansen, primarily to view the countryside and Mt.Fuji of course. On reaching Tokyo, you can change to the JR East line to head towards your destination. If you’re staying longer, you might want to get a PASMO or SUICA card. We borrowed these cards from our Japanese friends and loaded it when we reached Tokyo. They save transit time and work across lines.
Ikebukuro is a bustling centre for art, electronics, and entertainment. We had booked a service apartment in Ikebukuro, for our one week stay in Tokyo. Staying in Ikebukuro offers you an access to a wide range of shopping – both electronic as well as non-electronic. Mega departmental stores such as Seibu and Tobu compete for your attention, all within walking distance of each other. For the electronic geek, after Akihabara, you might get some excellent discount deals in stores such as Labi and Bic Camera. Tokyu Hands is apt for offbeat purchases or souvenirs to take back home. And then, there is Sunshine City, a 20 minute walk from Ikebukuro station. En-route there are Manga stores, local theatres (I was tempted to watch a Japanese film), and small parks. Besides shopping, Sunshine City has an aquarium and planetarium. I don’t subscribe to aquariums (or zoos), but since the show in the planetarium was in Japanese, I opted to visit the aquarium. I wanted to visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre, but there weren’t any shows during that period. Outside the east exit of the station, there is always a flurry of activity and energetic street performers.
If you’re not a shopper, Marunouchi serves as a bridge between Tokyo Station and the Imperial East Gardens. Tokyo station is pretty impressive. On exiting Tokyo Station, you step into another world. Marunouchi is Tokyo’s premier business district. Formidable brick buildings, cafes, and shops line the street. Walking further leads you to Gyoko-dori Avenue. In autumn, the boulevard is lined with yellow trees on either side. This scenic route leads you straight to the Imperial Palace.
Imperial East Gardens
The weather was whimsical – with sporadically falling raindrops. The temperature dipped considerably, as we walked towards the castle. The Imperial Palace is the current residing place of the Emperor of Japan. Surrounded by a moat and towering gates, the Palace makes for some excellent snaps. Watchful guards, swans (a black one too), and the turbid waters are a pleasure to see and probably let time get by.
The East Imperial Gardens are truly worth a visit. It’s hard to believe that there lies so much natural beauty – few blocks away from the brick walls of Marunouchi. It was late November and most of the autumn leaves had fallen. But, the few which remained, were truly beautiful. Pockets of red dotted the otherwise green gardens. The customary thing to do here is, sit, breathe, relax, and let time escape.
After strolling around the streets, we hopped on a train (Yamanote Line) and got off at Akihabara. If you’re looking for Manga comics or electronics – this is the place to be. The stores are teeming with international and local brands. Occasionally, young Japanese girls – dressed as school girls – call out. It was approaching lunch and we headed to a cafe and grabbed a bite to eat. Later, in the evening, we headed to Zenpuku-ji. A friend of ours was hosting a mixed-media art show. Finding his apartment was quite a task, especially after the long day of walking. After walking in circles, using our sign language, and prodding tired locals; we finally found his location. Zenpuku-ji has a big lake (sorry, no snaps as it was too dark) and a temple.