· 13 min. read
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I woke up expecting bug bites, but happily had none. Neither did Steve. Some of the girls had found other insects in their rooms last night, but not any more cockroaches. Steve thinks they were large water-beetles, but regardless, I didn't want to share a bed with them.
We had a quick, nervous breakfast and left in cabs back to the train station. It was too far to walk, and there was no bus running this early either. Several individual cab trips later, and after a bit of confusion as to where we were supposed to meet, we all found each other and took the train to Tokyo.
Arriving in Tokyo, we found our luggage and our hotel, but were too early to access our rooms. Unlike most hotels that have one wi-fi for all people, this hotel had separate wi-fi for each floor. I later discovered how awful this wi-fi was, which frustrated me because we had excellent wi-fi in many Buddhist temples buried in the mountains throughout Japan, but had spotty wi-fi in Japan's capital city!
We got back on the train and took it to the fish market. The smell was still strong, but the market had closed a few hours past. There were several salted fish kiosks still open around us so we checked them out instead. We then found a raw fish market, and saw the shops and restaurants until we arrived at our own restaurant. It was very busy today, and we all had to sit in different areas. I ordered a similar dish to what I had earlier in the trip, but with some extra raw fish on top. It was a bowl of rice with several pickled vegetables, melted cheese, raw fish, shrimp and chicken and fish eggs. It was just as good as it sounds!
Once finished, we left and walked past the Indian styled Tsukiji Hongan-ji temple on our way to the subway station. We took the subway and got off a few blocks from Tokyo's magnificent Metropolitan Government Building. This building, although only 48 stories, seemed much taller. There was even a massive auditorium-like space in front of it for, I imagine, performances and press meetings. Our guide told us although the building was very beautiful, it was highly controversial. Japan has been under a great recession for several decades now, stretching back into the 80s. This building was built during the beginning of their recession in the late 80s and was considered a waste of money by the people of the city. It's often blamed for the continuing recession in the modern day as the city is still paying for it.
We got inside the building, went through the metal detectors (which, I believe was built as a precaution due to the resentment of the construction of the building) and took the elevator up to the top floor. It was a huge area, with glass walls on all but one wall. It was here I purchased my last Japanese souvenirs and took some excellent pictures of the city. This was also the second place I saw Japanese toilets, with the other place being the temple in Himeji. Much like in Himeji, I passed on using them.
We regrouped and our next destination was announced: Harajuku, a place I only know because of Gwen Stefani. Although the majority of people on the trip had no idea what this place was, Freya was so excited to go there that she happily informed us that Harajuku is the shopping, fashion and cultural heart of Japan, which influences fashion in places like Paris and New York City.
We arrived there, but were only allowed a few hours. Several members of the group went shopping, but Steve and I had no desire to, so we traveled with the tour guide. She showed us the Yoyogi National Stadium which was built for the 1964 Olympics. It inspired a similar building for the 1972 Olympics in Munich. I guess Harajuku also influences global architecture!
With time to spare, we took in some shopping and traveled to the pedestrian shopping center on Takeshita Street. This place was crowded with people, mostly teenagers, all shopping to see the newest and coolest fashion. It was also here that we saw Candy-A-Go-Go, the candy store featured in Avril Lavigne's "Hello Kitty" music video. I bought nothing here, but took in the atmosphere. Once we got out of the never-ending claustrophobic shopping street, our guide left us for about a half hour to arrange supper. Steve and I went wandering, looking for a post office (we discovered earlier in our trip that banks and public ATMs in Japan often reject Western VISA cards, while post offices for some reason still do) and a place to get a drink, because for some reason the ever popular vending machines that dotted Japan, even in mountains and far difficult to reach temples, had disappeared in Tokyo.
We found an ATM a block from the post office and gave it a try. For some bizarre reason it worked! We then headed back and found a Starbucks. I'm not a coffee drinker, so I got a "Mint Lime Explosion" or something like that, and really found it enjoyable.
We met up with everybody near where we separated hours before and swapped tales of different shopping experiences. Steve and Alison were tired, so they headed back to the hotel, but the rest of us took the train south to Hachikō. Hachikō is named after a dog by the same name in Tokyo that had formed a relationship with a professor at the University. Everyday the dog would wait for the professor at the train station and follow him home. I don't believe the professor owned the dog, but he took care of it and loved it. One day while at work the professor had a heart attack and died. Hachikō waited for the professor at the train station every day for a decade, always hoping he would one day return. One day Hachikō died, and a statue of him was built outside of the train station as a testament to his loyalty. A similar statue, but of the professor, was built at the University. The two statues met only once, our guide said, when a group of college students stole the statue from the University and took it to the train station. It has since been returned. For more information about Hachikō, check out the following video:
From Hachik? we went to a nearby shopping center and saw the Shibuya Crossing, the busiest pedestrian crossing in Japan, if not the world. Shibuya is crossed by over a half a million people each day. After watching people cross it, we went down and tried it for ourselves.
We went back to the train station, and rode it back to our hotel. We could get into our rooms now, and everybody took the opportunity to take a well needed shower, especially since many of the tour members refused to use the showers in Hakone because they were "dirty".
When I got to the hotel I found a note from Steve. Him and Alison were in the downstairs lobby and I was to tell them what was happening for supper. I decided to shower first, but while in there the phone rang. I missed it, but it was Steve. They had moved to the top floor. I checked the clock and saw we were meeting for supper in half an hour, so I threw on some clean clothes and took the elevator to the top floor.
On the top floor of the hotel was a large bar with glass walls on all sides. The sun sets early in Tokyo and it was already dark out, with the city lights aglow around me. I found Steve and Alison, told them about supper and departed. Alison said she took some pictures of Tokyo at night from above for me because I forgot my camera, and I thanked her.
Our supper tonight was supplied by G Adventures, our tour company. It was our last meal together as a group. We had many new kinds of food during that meal, including raw horse. We went around and told each other our best memories of the trip, and then took a final group photo. Alison and I both leave early tomorrow so we excused ourselves from the meal. I said my final goodbyes and had some final laughs with my tour mates, and left them to our meals. Writing this, I can't help but miss them and our adventures. I missed some things while writing this journal, like the struggles to find a recycling bin in Miyajima (ended up using some guy's bicycle basket) or when I put a bunch of souvenirs in Katarina's purse for safe keeping, but had to let the girls do my hair so I could get them back (which is an embarrassing video to say the least!) or the countless times I fell asleep writing in my journal on the bathroom floor so not to disturb Steve.
I really enjoyed my time in Japan, and writing this now I wish I had stayed an extra day in Tokyo to say goodbye. I never really even got a chance to say goodbye to Steve. I hope they're all okay, and I hope I can meet them again someday.
I'm writing this the next day on my flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong, so I hope I didn't miss anything. I wonder what adventures will be waiting for me in Asia's World City!
Until then, goodbye.
Editor's Note: Thank you SO MUCH to Alison Snelgrove for letting me use her picture of Tokyo from the top of the Shinagawa Prince Hotel.
Categories: Asia, G Adventures, Japan