So, what is there to do in Tokyo for about a day? Well, first thing is, get the daily subway pass for the Toei and Tokyo metros. Yes, there are two subway lines, and yes, they require different daily passes, and nope, no free transfers. See what I mean about monetizing what they can? And the Japanese people are so nice, you have no problem shelling out about 1200 JPY for a day pass. I covered Tokyo in about 2 days. The first day was solo, which meant, walking a lot, no maps, getting lost, and hunting down my anime stops before I met up with my good friend from work. We’ll call him Work Buddy (“WB”). WB and I then had more focused areas of hanging out, which I’ll share in the Day 2 post.
Day 1: Fun & 30,000 Steps (Fitbit don’t lie)
Asakusa Shrine/Taito Area (Morning 8am to 11am)
Northwest area of Tokyo where the famous shrine is located.
- Asahi Beer HQ
Giant Golden Poop! Yes, the child within me called the Asahi Beer HQ tower that the entire time. Took photos of the poop during the day and at night. But the entire reason to be there was the shrine. For you photo nerds, the bridge is a great place to work on some long exposure shots at night. During the day, the park below the bridge looks to be an ideal running spot…if only my hotel wasn’t across the city.
- Asakusa Shrine (Day)
During the day, this is a bustling tourist area with small shops for people to purchase souvenirs and snacks. It’s also a place of worship. The Japanese do a great job of segregating the place of worship from the busier shop area, where you wouldn’t see long lines and loose cash flying about where you speak to the gods.
Exit the immediate temple and then it’s helloooo ramen, melon buns, and ice cream. And by ice cream, I mean 7 degrees of bitterness to your matcha green tea gelato, where the servers can speak to you in perfect Japanese, Chinese, or English.
- Get Lost:
I totally got lost when I exited the subway, but most of the fun in visiting a city by foot is to wander around, when completely unplugged. Found my way back en route to the Asaskusa shrine, but not before bumping into Goku.
- Anime City:
I found a Gundam Café! Ordered a Heero Yuy latte, tried to press my luck as one of those machines where you shove a quarter in and hope something useful pops out. But for food, you’d want to hit up an actual restaurant.
Chiyoda (12pm to 2pm)
Center of the city, where Tokyo Station and the Imperial Grounds are located. Also the location of the controversial Yasukuni Shrine.
- Yasukuni Shrine:
This is where Japan pays respects to their modern warriors. Yes, the shrine does honor the soldiers who lost their lives during World War II. The controversy being, during WWII, many of theses soldiers were kamikaze pilots, whose suicide mission was crashing planes into Allied ships in the Pacific.
The aura around the shrine is surreal. You have to show an appreciate for how the Japanese honor their warriors, no matter what your background was. Yes, they performed horrific atrocities across the Eastern Hemisphere during the war. Yes, it’s unforgiveable what they did in Nanjing, Shanghai, and pretty much all of China. The POW walks in southeastern China, Pearl Harbor, etc.
But all that should be temporarily washed away, as you cleanse your hands before entering the gate. There’s also a rotating set of letters at the entrance gate, written by a young soldier to his family, telling them he/she misses them and hope they understand the magnitude of their current duty.
Walk in the museum and you see how the Japanese humanized the war. The lack of propaganda in the descriptions of the events indicate a sign of remorse, in my opinion. But there are still flashes of pride in military victories. The museum tells history. The evolution of how Japan went from a pre-modern feudal society with swords and arrows to one of the leading military powers in the modern world.
At the center of that history is the goal of preserving the Japanese people. Not wanting to become like China or India. The isolationism strategy under the Tokugawa Shogunate would not last, and as the government recognized the need to evolve to preserve its people, Japan rapidly moved into the modern era.
The most stunning room is the last one. Where they place names and faces to actions. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed to be taken in the halls of the museum. Here, photos of as many individuals as they could find who had perished in the war, with letters penned by the person in the frame. Future baseball stars, nurses, young men barely out of school. If one should condemn Japan’s government for its actions, I agree, it’s an overdue apology to more than half the world. If one should condemn the families of the soldiers, and the place where their memories are honored, then you’re asking the equivalent of DC to shut down its Vietnam Memorial.
- Imperial Grounds
Sorry Japan, not impressed. I understand an appreciate the simplicity. But, word of advice, grass and trees I can get at Central Park. Perhaps the most impressive thing was the fact that I couldn’t find a single water vendor and, without my reservoir pack in my backpack, I’d be dying of thirst. So, *deep breath*:
Tsukushima Island (2-3pm)
Called Moon Island, this feels like a suburb of Tokyo. I can here specifically for food: a bunch of seafood grilled in front of you with cabbage and okonomiyaki sauce. Yep, my pointing, smiling, nodding, and gestures came into great use here. But they had English menus!
Center of city with plenty of food options. Just avoid the Shake Shack…why get a burger in Japan? That’s like getting McDonald’s in China…
- Tokyo Tower
It’s just like how I saw it in Digimon! Tall and red. I was pumping myself up for Fuji, and, given that I wasn’t really looking to take large panos of Tokyo, I didn’t pay to go to the top. But, a nice photo op is by the shrine close to the tower. You have the juxtaposition of old and new. And, if you’re patient, tourists on go karts may swing by, Mario Kart style. I totally would’ve done that had I known about that option!
- 47 Ronin Shrine
Not the Keanu Reeves movie. This little shrine is hidden in a pocket in the southern part of Minato. Walk up the steps and you’ll see the graves of the 47 ronin who took revenge for their master and then subsequently committed seppuku.
Western Tokyo, yay! Here we have shopping, people, more shopping, more people, well, you get the picture
At Shibuya station, there’s the famous cross walks that everyone knows to be distinctly Tokyo. Also here is the statue honoring the loyal dog, who waited for his master to come back every day for over 10 years, even though his master had suddenly passed away during work. The Japanese were touched by Hachiko’s loyalty to his master that they erected a statue to honor his memory.
- Sunshine City Pokemon Center
Probably not the best idea to head here at night. This place was totes dark and creepy as I learned that street lights are not that bright in Tokyo. Plus, there wasn’t a giant sign telling you “HEY! Mall here, come in!”
So after walking in the dark for about 15 minutes, through an empty parking lot, and turning 2 corners, I stumbled upon a mall near its closing time. Walk in and it’s quiet. Yay! Great setting for a slasher movie! But, to my relief, I heard a bunch of high pitched squeals not too long after. Walked towards that noise and saw (imo) hundreds of school girls ogling over 2 identical looking pop stars on a stage. In a legit Asian mall, phew.
Went up a floor and inner child just went wild:
Lots of shopping in this area. I did none of it. But, rather, I hit up the samurai history museum here the next day before Fuji. The guides were extremely nice, presenting guided tours in English. Though small, the museum prides itself on having original armor and weapons, explaining the significance of armor pieces and the fact that me, at 5’4”, would be considered taller than the average samurai. Win. Too bad I couldn’t ship a sword to myself from the gift shop.
Diver City (9pm-10pm)
It’s a Gundam! It’s actually a giant mall, but I took a special tram that required an extra ticket so I can visit the Gundam Base. Because, what else does a girl do for her favorite anime? Exhibited a lot of self control here, aka I didn’t go nuts buying up models of gun toting robots with laser swords from the entire store.
But, I did go trigger happy outdoors, where they were putting the finishing touches on the life size Unicorn Gundam by the mall’s entrance.
Oh, other girls…there’s also a Hello Kitty shop here too…if you’re into that sort of thing.
Well, there you have it, Tokyo in one day. I went all over the map. Next up, Tokyo with WB! We do more focused areas, such as: food, animals, and night time at the temple.