Memoirs of a Gaijin: Sights of Tokyo

Memoirs of a Gaijin: Sights of Tokyo

Japan is a country of many sights to offer: from its rich traditional history to what seems to be, an Asian preference for everything bright and big, there is always something that will cater anyone’s curiosity. To make things simple, I’ll break it down by city, then by ‘districts’ when necessary.

So what’s a district in Japan?

Well, a ‘district’ is what North Americans would call a neighborhood; their little neck of the woods that when put together, encompasses the whole city. It actually gets a bit confusing at times and I think I’m going to have trouble remembering them all.

Do you think you can break them down?

I can try…

Cities

– Tokyo
– Osaka
– Kyoto
– Hiroshima
– Kobe

Wards

– Tokyo
* Shinjuku
* Akihabara
* Ginza
* Odaiba
* Roppongi
* Shibuya

– Osaka
* Umeda
* Shinsaibashi
* Namba
* Dotonbori

This is only a few that I can remember.

Yeah, yeah… SO the sights. Where’s the pictures?

Maybe if you wait(!), you’ll see them! I’ll start with the tourist-y places first then head on down to random spots in Tokyo.

Get on with it already!

Hold on to your hats. This is going be a long one.

Let’s start things off with home base, Shinjuku:

With our hotel based there (New City Hotel Shinjuku), this was home turf. Being there felt normal but compared to other districts within Tokyo, Shinjuku was a bit rough.

‘Rough’? What does that mean?

Well… Shinjuku is not as posh as the upscale districts like Roppongi or Ginza but they offer a lot of neat things like watch shops, used camera stores, a lot of food places and random statues like these,

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Well that’s neat. Do you have more info on those statues?

I have one (from Wikipedia):

LOVE is an iconic Pop Art image by American artist Robert Indiana. It consists of the letters LO over the letters VE; the O is canted sideways so that its oblongnegative space creates a line leading to the V. The original image, with green and blue spaces backing red lettering, served as a print image for a Museum of Modern ArtChristmas card in 1964. In much this same form the design soon graced a popular US postage stamp. Its original rendering in sculpture was made in 1970 and is displayed in Indiana at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The material is COR-TEN steel [1] Indiana’s LOVE design has since been reproduced in a variety of formats for rendering in displays around the world.

Awesome. Do you have more pictures? 

Actually, I climbed that sucker:

IMG_3353This is actually a lot higher than it looks. I almost had trouble getting down!

So are you done being so daft and get on with it?

Right. So Shinjuku within its’ own has interesting parts, especially at night.

Like what?

Through the nooks and crannies, you can immediately get entrenched in different atmospheres; one minute, you’re in the food section, then one turn brings you into the red-light area where my Japanese conversation went as follows,

A Japanese man calmly approaches us but looks around before speaking,

“Hello”, with a smile.

“Hi…?”

“Sex?”

“What?”

So did you?

From him? Hell, no. I also have to this PG! Jeez.

In general, you’ll always find something interesting in Japan in any district, as long as you’re willing to venture out beyond the tourist-y things.

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So Shinjuku looks to be the place to get an old film camera and lapdance. Sounds like a good deal to me. What else you got?

… Uhm, right. Well, next up is Shibuya:

So what’s the big deal about this place? More lap dances?

Get your mind out of the gutter, please! Shibuya is known to be a great shopping district with a busy nightlife. I mostly know about Shibuya because of this scene:

Really? ‘Tokyo Drift’? What a terrible movie and a horrible reference.

What?! It’s the only time where Shibuya crossing was discussed to me beyond this trip. It’s actually quite a sight seeing so many people cross a block,

WP_20130804_024Fun fact: One of the people here looks like our friend and NOT(!) because he’s Asian.

WP_20130804_028Victor is amazed!

Shibuya is definitely a hustle-and-bustle place and by the end of the night, we were pooped:

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Wait a minute. That was only one night?!

OH yeah. Wait till you see the next bit: Roppongi and Odaiba:

Now, Roppongi is known for its’ posh atmosphere, great nightlife and the Mori Tower:

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Typical Asian pose.

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Feeling powerful!

It also houses many Japanese companies like FujiFilm, Konami, and a Pokemon Center!

Meanwhile, Odaiba has a giant Gundam:

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It’s a bit dark there… 

Yes, we got to Odaiba too late as we got preoccupied in Roppongi. There’s too many things to do in one place and so little time!

You might begin to see a pattern here.

Next, we head on over to Central Tokyo with the Imperial Palace as our main event:

That’s a lot of pictures of one place. How big is this Imperial Palace?

Massive. Over a sq. kilometer and it was disappointing.

Disappointing? How? It looked like you saw a lot.

Oh, we did. After a while though, all the gardens look the same and the most disappointing part is that the Imperial Palace is not open to the public. Osaka Castle (which will be featured below), is a better bet to go to. At least it’s open and renovated to accommodate viewers. I’ll make a stern statement that the Imperial Palace is a tourist trap.

I will respect the great work that the government did in restoring the many moats and structures that the Imperial Palace encompasses. A lot of intuitive engineering and human ingenuity went into building the Imperial Palace,

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That was before modern machinery. Amazing.

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Central Tokyo Station was an amalgamation of tradition and modern style.

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One of my favourite sights of Tokyo.

By now, the clouds started to reign down upon us and it started to rain. So we huddled on over to the closest underground station and headed off to Ginza and then Akihabara:

So what are these two places all about?

Ginza is more high-end shopping, really. There was no point of us going here because I’m sure one of the chauffeurs driving these people around more than likely makes more money than we do but we had to see where the high-end boutiques are stationed. On the other hand, Akihabara was all electronics and anime goods. This is where I bought a lot of R/C car parts!

The one thing that amazed me was this huge Uniqlo store in Ginza!

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They sure their LED’s.

So this is where we started to have ‘me’ days and where it starts to deviate from the tourist-y side of things to the random.

Finally. Let’s see where you ended up.

First, I ended up in Yanaka and Ueno/Taito:

What was great about this place was how close it was to the busy districts like Shinjuku but when you get off the train, it was dead quiet. Peaceful and serene.

Something I didn’t expect when heading to Tokyo.

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This was one of my favorite places in Tokyo because it was so peaceful, traditional, and the food was cheap! There are more pictures in the later sections but I just wanted you to absorb the simplicity of this district, which is away from the busy mentality of downtown Tokyo.

Ueno was just a district full of neat streets, including blocks upon blocks of kitchen supplies! (Kikuyabashi near Asakusa station).

Great for the inner chef in you.

Next up was Ryogoku, which was the sumo district of Japan:

Oh sweet, so you were able to see a sumo wrestling match? How was that?

Unfortunately, they only do exhibitions in the fall and when I went there, I went into a business conference instead haha!:

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As an economist, I’m intrigued as to what is being discussed using graphs!

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That’s it for Tokyo!

Next up is Osaka!

– Don

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