10.25.2012

Tokyo Trip: Tsukiji fish market, Hama-rikyu Gardens, & Asakura (Day 3)

My last day in Tokyo was... interesting. I left my bag in Jess's hotel room so that I didn't have to lug it around with me all day and Jess was off to business meetings so it was just me! I had my map that Toni had given me and I got a fantastic subway map from the front desk of the hotel and I was on my way. I looked up some things online and decided to head to the Tsukiji fish market first.




It was just like you'd imagine it being. Packed with people, fresh fish being thrown, and sushi being made. Seriously, boning the fish and rolling it right into sushi for you to eat. It doesn't get much cooler than that. I was really surprised that it didn't smell terribly fishy. When I first got there, it dawned on me that it might smell really nasty. Ha! Leave it to me to not think of this BEFORE I headed to a fish market. I walked down a few streets, but I couldn't buy anything and there's only so many fish that you can look at before they all start looking the same.



I will say that I had two "different" encounters on day 3. The first happened right outside of the fish market and the second I'll tell you about later. Anyway, there were a ton of food vendors along one street and I was starving. I didn't want to eat noodles, which is what a lot of the vendors were selling, because I thought it would be too messy. Then, I saw a DELISH beef stew-looking dish over rice. I stood in line, not thinking a thing about it. I was turned away. Why? Because I was female. It was the strangest feeling to have to walk away without making a big deal out of it. Reflecting back, I realized that it was all men sitting and eating. It honestly just didn't cross my mind.... 

Moving onto fun topics: I found out, once I looked at my iPhone map, that the Hama-rikyu Garden was walking distance. Score! When I got there, I was happy to find out that it was "Tokyo Green 2012." It's the National Urban Greenery Fair and volunteers were at the gardens to tell me all about why it was special... and it was free! I learned a lot about the history of Tokyo, the Shoguns, and the Imperial family. 


"At the time when the 6th Shogun, Ienobu, renovated the garden, a large pine was planted to celebrate the renovation." It's 300 years old! The branches of trees are seen as the beautiful part so that's why you see so many trees pruned to the ends.


The cosmos were blooming while I was there and they were EVERYWHERE!

Pretty butterfly.

When the garden was considered the Hama Detached Palace for the Imperial family, one Emperor bought an elephant. At the time, there were no wars so they spent a lot on lavish things. However, he couldn't afford to feed the elephant so they sold elephant poop as face creams and lotions. The sales alone were enough to buy the food that it needed.

This photo really reminded me of Central Park. The water for the pond is drawn from the bay. This is the only seawater pond in Tokyo. They have put in a regulation system to keep the water at a fairly consistent level, but if they didn't it would rise and fall with the tide.

Kamoda, duck hunting sites, feature many narrow watercourses. Duck blinds were used to observe the ducks and feed them grain. When they came down the watercourses, they would shut the gate behind them & throw ravens (later they used nets) to hunt the ducks.

My tour guide was awesome! She navigated the tour so that we would end up at the Waterbus landing. My next stop was Asakusa and taking the waterbus allowed me to see 14 bridges that span the Sumida River.

 The waterbus!

The Rainbow Bridge, which gives the best view of Tokyo (in my opinion).

When I made it to Asakusa, I was able to see the Asahi brewery and the Skytree. The Skytree is a tower that you can go up into to see the city and everything in it. I didn't walk across the river and go, but I know that Mark and I will be going back so I justified not going by saying I'd save some good stuff for our trip together.

The brewery has that funny looking sculpture on top. They just refer to it as an "object" so I don't know what it is. The Skytree is, obviously, to the left.

Instead of going to the Skytree, I walked to the Sensoji Temple. It was crazy! Very touristy, a lot of side street shops, etc. I saw more Americans here than I have since we moved here (exaggerating... but close!). However, it was a very famous historical landmark so I understood. First, I stopped at the Kaminarimon Gate, which I'm sure some of you have seen or heard of. 

This is where the second "different" encounter came into play. Everyone said that when I came here I'd be a "giant" compared to the locals. However, I've never really dealt with anything that brought it to my attention. Actually, I don't feel like I'm any taller than the people I was around in the states. That was until I got to Nakamise Shopping Street. People pointing, whispering, and an old man (speaking Japanese) following me down the street to talk about how tall I am. I felt like a circus freak, in a not funny kind of way.

Kaminarimon Gate

 Nakamise Shopping Street

Then, I walked to the Temple. When you first get there, there are metal cans sitting around and a lot of drawers. This is where you get an omikuji, a written fortune. You shake the metal cylinders until a stick falls out. You match the stick to the drawers and your fortune awaits. If you get a good fortune (like me, yay!) you keep it, if it's bad you tie the paper onto the strings close by so that the wind can disperse the bad luck. 


After I left Asakusa, I went to the Tokyo branch of the Japanese Mint. Why? Because my husband collects coins and I'm an awesome wife. Ha! I enjoyed navigating the subway system and I knew that he'd love it if I got him something from the actual Mint. In Japan, they have prefecture coins (similar to our state quarters). We already have an Okinawa coin so I got him the coin from the places I had been. On it was the "Great Buddha" that I had seen the day before with Jess. The guy working told me that everything I was naming was within this prefecture. Forgive me for not remembering what the actual prefecture's name is. 

I made it back to the hotel without incident and had written instructions on how to make it to the closest Air Force base, Yokota.... or so I thought. I made the 1 1/2 hr trip on a train that was so packed I could touch noses with the person in front of me. I get off the train and see no sign of Americans and no actual signs for Yokota. I realize my directions were for Atsugi, the other Air Force base. 

Unfortunately, I had a hotel reservation and a flight that was leaving the next morning... all at Yokota. I asked the information desk how to get to Yokota and they had no idea what I was talking about. They didn't speak English... grrreeattt! I laid out my handy-dandy map across the table, used Google translate to tell them where I needed to go (on my phone that only had 7% left), and hoped for the best! Thankfully, they had internet in the office and looked it up in Japanese. Then, the amazing man helping me wrote down the instructions and drew a line on my map to show me start to finish. 


After another 1 1/2 hr trip and a few crowded trains later, I made it to Yokota. When I walked out of the train station there was an American walking by. I stopped him, asked him where the Air Base was and he walked me through the hard part and then pointed and said to walk straight and I'd run into it. Finally!!! I made it and I'd be flying home tomorrow morning, right? 

Wrong!! When I left the hotel in Tokyo, I checked the flight status and everything was good to go. When I made it to Yokota, three hours later, the flight was cancelled and there weren't any flights going to Kadena (Oki). So, after all the traveling away from Tokyo, I took a bus the next morning BACK to where I started and flew AirAsia home. At least I know how to get around for next time, right?! Ha!

 View from the Rainbow Bridge on my bus ride to the airport. If you look right in the center, to the right of the two towers, you'll see the tip of the Skytree. I told you the view was awesome!


All in all, it was a great trip and I look forward to visiting again.

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