Our first full day in Tokyo and I couldn’t resist stealing the title of today’s post from The Vapors’ 1980 pop-punk classic, Turning Japanese. A cliche, but I like it.
We were awake fairly early and quickly realised that the industrial chic decor of our AirBnB doesn’t do a lot for keeping in the heat or keeping out the cold. We switched on the heater and waited for the room to heat up a little before starting our day. The intention for today was to see some of the guidebook sites for the city, so we decided to head over to the Meiji Shrine. The Emperor Meiji, a near contemporary of Queen Victoria, was the 122nd emperor of Japan ruling from 1867 until 1912. It was he who liberalised Japan to a great extent, laying the foundations for it to become the industrialized power that it is today.
He, together with his wife the Empress Shoken, is still greatly revered by the Japanese people and the shrine was built through public donations and was officially finished in 1926. It’s a Shinto shrine; a religion about which I haven’t previously had much knowledge but is not based on a deity. Or, it’s based on the belief that deities are everywhere. I’m still not sure which.
We had a pleasant wander around the grounds here, and were interested to discover that there was an exhibition of schools’ calligraphy as part of a competition.
We also discovered that, during his reign, the Emperor Meiji not only started eating western food but, on occasion, would enjoy a glass of wine with it.
That’s why there were several barrels of burgundy donated as part of the consecration ritual for the shrine.
From here we decided we would go to the Tokyo Tower to get a good view of the whole of Tokyo. It was a cold, crisp, sunny day so hopefully a good time to enjoy the view from the top. To get there, we once again took the subway. On the way to the shrine, we had acquired Pasmo cards – the equivalent of London’s Oyster cards (or Hong Kong’s Octopus). It is really very convenient and you can speed your way through the subway system. I believe it was not always the case in the past, but the system is now very easy to negotiate as there is plentiful bi-lingual signage and most announcements are made in English as well as Japanese. Having the stations on each line sequentially numbered is also very helpful.
So we arrived at the Tokyo Tower, and faced the decision of whether to buy a ticket to go just up to the Main Deck, or all the way to the Top Deck. The tower is a little higher than the Eiffel Tower which it closely resembles, but the Top Deck is at 250m, some 25m below the highest observation deck on the Parisian structure. If you recall, I mentioned Ishbel’s unhappiness with heights when we were on the cable car at the Wynn Palace in Macau. She was a little reluctant to go to the Top Deck, but she agreed to try it after a little gentle persuasion. I still have fingernail marks in my hand where she was holding it as we took the glass lift up to the last level. Nevertheless, she got used to it and the views were definitely worth the ascent.
After getting back down to ground level, we took a little stroll around the area. There’s an interesting phenomenon here around how restaurants attract passing trade. Some of them have menus with pictures on them which allow non-Japanese speakers like ourselves to simply point and smile to get what we want. Others go one better.
They display what I sincerely hope are artificial reproductions of the food available inside. This isn’t something I’ve ever encountered before and I really like it.
We didn’t have dinner in this place, despite its tempting window display. We ate instead at a place called Kushimura, a Yakitori restaurant in Roppongi, a 15 minute walk from our flat. The food is skewered and cooked over charcoal right in front of you and it is truly delicious. We enjoyed about a half dozen skewers each, which was plenty. I don’t mean to tell tales but the guy next to us had about 20 all on his own. I guess it all depends how hungry you are when you get there.
And so ended our day as we walked back to the flat in freezing temperatures. Japan is really our only true winter stop on the entire journey. As such, we compromised somewhat in our packing and don’t have any winter clothes with us. And it is cold here. We’re throwing on multiple layers to try to cope with it and so far, so just about bearable.