My Winter Travels, Part 8: Tokyo

Tokyo Picasa Photo Album
After visiting Matsushima in the morning, Tim and I headed back to Sendai to get our stuff and then continued on to Tokyo in the evening. We spent two nights in Tokyo before I flew out of Tokyo on February 8th. Initially, I was worried about Tokyo being super-expensive (I've heard it's consistently ranked as one of the world's most expensive cities), but we found nice hostel where we shared a double room for only $20/night a person. Tokyo is a pretty mind-blowing city. It's usually considered to be the world's most populous city (at least, as a metropolitan area--Wikipedia ranks it first at 35 million!). I've ridden on some great metro/subway systems (such as the London tube), but Tokyo's subway system is the world's most extensive. It's got 12 to 14 lines (I guess it depends on how you count the above ground and suburban lines) and 282 stations. It's got a daily ridership of almost 8 million (to put that in perspective, New York is the only U.S. city with a population that large). Very impressive, and convenient, to say the least. But it also can be a bit confusing, especially because there are two companies that operate the metro system. Tim and I ran into a bit of trouble with the machines when we switched lines between the two operators, and we had to pay extra. I'm still not sure how that's supposed to work.

Tim and I didn't have anything in particular that we were going to Tokyo to see (in fact, I can't think of any single sight that Tokyo is famous for!), so we just hopped on the subway system and used a free tourist map/guide to get around town and see some of the suggested sights. We saw a lot, so I'll just mention the highlights.


Asakusa is a district of Tokyo just north-east of the center of town. Our hostel was located here, so it was our "home base" for out 2 days in Tokyo. It had two really interesting things: the Sensoji Buddhist temple and a weird metal sculpture on top of a building that we referred to as the "golden turd", for lack of a better name.

Behold the golden turd in all its glory.

A pagoda near the Sensoji temple.

There was some great souvenir shopping on the street leading to the temple.

The Sensoji temple.

Gotta love the lamps.

Tokyo Tower

Tim and I visited the Tokyo Tower our first night in Tokyo. It's design was based on the Eiffel Tower, and it looks just like it. It was a bit expensive to go up it, but it had some really spectacular night views of Tokyo. When you're at the top looking out on the city, you get a sense for how big the city really is. It made Seattle feel like a village in comparison.

The Tokyo Tower.

Tokyo by night.

Doesn't this intersection remind you of a starfish?

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Tim and I also went up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for some more views of Tokyo. We had already done the Tokyo Tower, but it was free to go up this building, so we figured we might as well. It had some more great views of Tokyo.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

The city stretches for as far as the eye can see...

Tsukiji Fish Market

One of the coolest places we visited was the Tsukiji Fish Market. It is the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. In a lot of ways it reminded me of Pike Place Market in Seattle (since I worked there for 5 years!). One difference is that the Tsukiji mostly sells wholesale to restaurants and other retailers. So it's not setup with a nice arcade and pretty shops like Pike Place is. The Japanese seem to eat anything they can find in the ocean, and I saw lots of stuff that I've never seen sold to be eaten before.

You can imagine how big these fish must have been.

The hustle and bustle of Tsukiji fish market.

Mmmmm....looks appetizing, doesn't it?

A lot of the larger fish was frozen, so they had to cut it on an industrial saw.

Imperial Palace

The imperial palace was a bit of a disappointment. I was hopeful that we'd be able to go inside, but it was closed to the public (I think I read that they open it something like 2 days per year to the public). But we did get a few decent pictures--the Nijubashi bridge is particularly picturesque and famous.

The Nijubashi bridge, in front of the Imperial Palace.

It probably would have been cool to tour this building, but we couldn't get in :(.

There were some swans in the moat around the palace.

Hama-rikyu Gardens

Tokyo has lots of different gardens. Our mini-tourist guidebook had good things to say about the Hama-rikyu Gardens, so we decided to check it out. Unfortunately, there wasn't much to see. I suspect that it's a lot better in the spring and summer, but it was really nothing special in the middle of winter.

I have no idea what these are or what purpose they serve.

Several trees were strung up like this. I think maybe they do this to try to make the branches grow horizontally.

The gardens were right in the middle of the city, with skyscrapers around.

National Science Museum

We visited the National Science Museum on the last day before I had to fly out. It would have been more enjoyable with more English captions, but it had some pretty cool stuff.

This is some sort of Japanese mechanical calculator. Doesn't it make you thankful for the invention of the transistor?

A cow's intestine. I thought it was surprising how long it was!

Around Town

Here are some other cool pictures from around town.

I bet this guy is in really good shape.

As you might expect, McDonald's was everywhere.

Don't these condom cartoon characters just make you want to "give safe sex a chance?"

One of the more interesting buildings we saw. It reminds me of the sort of structures kids build with building blocks and legos.

Enjoying a good meal near the Tsukiji fish market.

Optimus Prime and the other transformers live on in Japan.

I'm not sure what this was, but we saw it in one of the buildings we passed.

After spending 2 days in Tokyo, I flew out on February 8th to Shanghai, where I met up with my parents.
blog comments powered by Disqus

About Me

Husband and father, lapsed musician, software engineer at Square, open source developer, world traveler and Christian.