Tokyo never ceases to inspire me. It’s a city that has both feet planted in reality and fantasy. For most Japanese, Tokyo may be a normal place in their daily lives, but for most of us gaijin (foreigner in Japanese), exploring the city is like dreaming while wide awake. Theirs is a culture that has both the structures of a 1st-world city, and yet you get pockets of the outrageous peppered all around. The old is juxtaposed with the new in such a harmonious way, you could feel how they embrace their past at the same time build for a future.
This is my second trip (of perhaps more) to the city. Whatever we missed out during the 1st round, we more or less covered on this one in a more relaxed pace. We were pretty much done with the tourist mandatories, and so a bit more time could be devoted to enjoying the fine details of what the city could offer. Even as simple as hanging out in a Starbucks in Ueno Park proved to be quite a treat.
Since the train system was already familiar to us, it was pretty much easy going to most parts. Day 1 was devoted to all the anime places I didn’t get to go the last time.
|Yes, I have to take a picture in front of the Gundam RX-78 in Diver City.|
|Yoshinoya beef bowls won’t taste the same after you’ve had the one in Japan.|
|Even the wall decor in some anime shop looks awesome.|
|They have entire bookstore chains dedicated to anime and manga.|
One of the trip high lights is dining out in Omoide Yokocho in the Shinjuku district. It’s made up of several alleyways cramped with eateries (with seating capacities of less than 10 for some of the stalls). Most yuppies and working types end up having drinks after work in this area. Food is mostly beef bowls, noodles, yakitori and the quick service type. And there is something with Japanese food, no matter how “cheaply” bought, still way better than eating in the most expensive restaurants back in Manila.
For a cultural experience, we checked out Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. As it turned out, there was some design exhibition / awards going on that week.
From one park to another, we checked out Ueno Park. They have a zoo and several museums and art galleries in the area.
|Yes, you can ride Pikachu.|
|Thanks to the wife for indulging me in this rare occasion of vanity.|
We spent our last day getting out of the Tokyo area, and discovering Kamakura. It was an hour out, and you could actually sleep most of the way through without the fear of missing out on your station. From Kamakura, we had to transfer to the Enoden line which is not listed within the Tokyo train map.
The walk to the giant Buddha was about 500m from the station. We were given heads up that since it’s out of Tokyo, conveniences of restaurants, stores, etc… were a bit sparse. So we gladly stocked up, only to discover there are numerous food places every other step going to the shrine. This was the place where I saw more Caucasians than Japanese walking about the streets.
|Cute coffee truck, complete with manga to read while you wait for your brew.|
|From the other side of the Hase (Enoden Line) station, there was a wind surfer’s beach.|
|Pancake-ish desert filled with red mung beans.|
|Their local version of the pedicab.|
Tokyo would see more of my fat ass this year for sure.