Japan 2016 – Day 1

The Tokyo subway, 2 shrines, Akihabara, and Shinjuku in pouring rain

You can surely expect rain during the June rainy season so make sure to bring a rain jacket or umbrella. I decided to be brave and take the subway… from Shinjuku station, the busiest train station in the world! It is like Grand Central station but multiplied by two. Also, there are 3 train systems that overlap: Toei Line, Tokyo Metro Line, and JR East Line. Each train line has many color coded routes and fairly straightforward to navigate and make transfers when needed. Also, Tokyo trains are much cleaner and dependable than NYC’s MTA. One of the most useful routes is the Yamanote line on the JR East which covers most of the touristy spots within central Tokyo. First stop… Meiji Jingu (明治神宮), shinto shrine. From Shinjuku, one could actually walk for 20 minutes or so to the north entrance, which is what I decided to do. This would be my first site of a Tori gate, the first of many during my stay in Japan.

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After a 10 minute walk via a scenic path, you reach the shrine area.

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On a rainy morning, it was rather quiet but its better that way. It’s nice to experience a moment of peace throughout the sensory madness that is Tokyo.

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There was an other shrine that I wanted to check out before lunch, so back on the subway I went. Next stop, Asakusa (浅草). Asakusa is a part of Tokyo which is by the Sumida river; Japanese version of the NYC Hudson river. Also, this is where you can find the Sensoji (浅草寺) shrine/temple. Once you exit the Asakusa subway station, you immediately notice the entrance to the temple, the Thunder Gate (Kaminarimon). Unfortunately, it was under scaffolding for repairs or something but I managed to squeeze my camera through the openings for this shot:

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After you enter, it’s about a 10 minute walk to the inner complex via Nakamise Dori (仲見世通り). The 10 minute walk can easily take 30 minutes or more due to the shops which tempt you left and right.

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The Treasure House Gate (Hozomon), is quite impressive.

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Behind this gate was the Hondo; the main hall. Also, on the left side, you can see the Sensoji 5-story pagoda (which was also under repair; scaffolding, grrr). This is Tokyo’s oldest temple.

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Next stop, Electric town, AKA Akihabara (秋葉原). Although it was still raining hard, I didn’t care because there was not a dry spot on me by this point; I couldn’t get anymore wet. Once you exit the train station and start to walk via Chuo Dori, and once you look up, the little kid inside takes over. If you like electronics, anime, and video games, then this is your Mecca. One can easily spend hours here going through all of the stores and shops. I went through as many buildings and floors as I could before completely exhausting myself as I normally do. There are several worthy mentions such as Club Sega, Taito Game station, Mandarake, Animate, Retro Game Camp, Super Potato, and Gundam Cafe.

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So much to see and buy, so little time. My favorite would have to be Super Potato since it is multiple floors filled with everything related to old school video games from the 80s and 90s. Even the staircases in Akihabara are amazing.

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Just like a kid not wanting to leave the playground, I had to drag myself back to the subway. The body needs sustenance or it will pass out. Back in Shinjuku, we ate like kings. Regarding restaurants, you are greeted with “irashaimase!”, meaning ‘welcome’. And even if you can’t read Japanese on the menu, most meals have a nice picture next to each item. The people are so much nicer here compared to NYC. I tried to order in Japanese whenever possible and I’ve been told that my Japanese if good from quite a few people. Like I said in a previous post, knowing the language helps a lot especially if you are not accompanied by a native speaker. If you like green tea, then you are in the right city! Sushi is one of my favorite foods and I must say, the Japanese do it best.

Before heading back to the hotel, we checked out the Taito Game Station on Yasukuni Dori to play some video games. Multiple floors of video games. It’s too easy to spend all of your yen coins here. With a stomach full of rice and fish, I crashed for the night. Gotta rest up for Day 2…

 

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