Saturday, June 27, 2015

I love, love, love having a big city to explore


And Tokyo is truly, by anyone's standards, a big city. As I had never been to Japan before, everything was interesting, new and different, everywhere we went and (almost) everywhere I pointed my camera.

Quite near where we were staying, we came across the Benkei Fishing Club in Akasaka.


Fishing Club, Akasaka, Tokyo

What is now a pond for boating was once part of an old castle moat.


Fishing Club, Akasaka, Tokyo

My wonderful sister, bless her, was much better at planning than me, and always carried a Rough Guide or two. The Tokyo one tipped us off to the gorgeous secluded garden at the Hotel New Otani.


Hotel New Otani garden
The garden is actually hundreds of years older than the 1960's hotel. Part of what made it a bit magical was that you couldn't just access it from outside - we went up a couple of floors from the hotel entry level and wandered a ways through the building to get there.
Koi in the garden at the Hotel New Otani, Tokyo

There were several friendly cats roaming the garden, and lots of colourful koi in the water.

P6060417 O on bridge


from Tokyo Metro Government Building

The next day we went to Shinjuku. First destination was the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, which has observation decks on the 45th floor. You can see a whole lot of Tokyo from 202 metres up. Apparently you can also see Mt Fuji, but it wasn't clear enough for that the day we were there.

Yoyogi park

While there are one or two other, higher, Tokyo towers, this one charges no admission fee, and we had other business in Shinjuku anyway. We had loose plans to stop in Harajuku on the way back as well, but sort of ran out of time - the closest we got was this view of Yoyogi Park (the big green area in the photo above).


Also Shinjuku

Our other business - the many floors of craft and haberdashery that is Okadaya - required getting from the west side of the massive Shinjuku train station to the east side. It was frustrating, but I'm not sure there is any simple way to do it. Although they do directional signs, even in English/Rōmaji, pretty well in stations (and in Japan in general) it's just really hard to find a straight path through a complex station, and avoid paying for trains you aren't going to catch.


By the time we made it out to the correct exit and fresh air, we had picked up lunch/snacks on our way through the station, and were really hungry. We had already worked out that eating on the street is not really done, but resigned ourselves to attracting some stares by eating while leaning on a railing outside the station. It's funny, there is lots of really, great, cheap convenience food available but I guess it's intended for taking home/to the office/eating on the train (though not, it appears, the metro).


During our two weeks such etiquette matters came up a bit. Japan just seems so polite and conservative in many ways (though I'm aware there are all sorts of undercurrents and countercultures), Though it felt like odd tourist behaviour would be pretty well tolerated (within limits I'm sure), we still were probably overly aware of how we were different. We'd catch ourselves talking/laughing on the metro, taking silly photos...

P6050289 ed

The way people dress is pretty conservative too. As well as not wearing very tight clothes, I noticed that most women showed very little skin, wearing flesh coloured hose and socks even in very warm weather (and even sometimes with shorts!) Our summer clothes were nowhere near indecent, but we often felt less covered up than the average Japanese lady. Also less dressy - it seemed that people don't just dress up for work but also for almost any outing (eg) a day trip to an island involving a lot of walking, climbing stairs - the kind of thing Australians would probably dress most casually for.

  In Shinjuku

string shop quartet

A crowd had gathered outside this violin shop to listen to the quartet playing inside, facing the window, with speakers on the outside.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Three Sherwoods went to Japan

Bicycle, Akasaka
The idea of a trip to Japan with my Mum and my sister first came up a few years ago, and we talked idly about it a few times but never really came up with a plan or a schedule. Until the day a clever someone found us an amazing deal with a budget airline and it was too good an opportunity to miss.

In our first few days in Tokyo we marveled at everything.

We admired the lack of rubbish and the amount of greenery everywhere in very urban areas which we expected to be a concrete jungle.

P6050299 greenery

P6050276 e

We also admired the space-saving carparks.

P6050307 carpark

We walked past a whole lot of dried fish. There was a strong aroma.

P6050308 dried fish We picked out a few different districts to explore, some with more success than others. Shimokitazawa provided a very pleasant half day of wandering, taking photos and of course op/vintage shopping. (Sherwoods can't resist an op shop.) P6060354 flamingo P6060384 Shimo P6060389 P