30 April 2014

Tokyo - Things to do Day 2

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Me and Lucy always joke that when we go away we have to find an observation point. In Tokyo you can pick from 3 - Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree and this, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. 

The first two options are fairly pricey, but the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is free. It's not as high but hey, there are no queues and you still get the most spectacular views - that would include Mt. Fiji on a good day. 

There are diagrams telling you what buildings you can see, which is useful. Also on the 52nd floor are toilets, a vending machine (of course) and a shop full of random things, so plenty to keep the people not keen on heights distracted.

Cost: FREE
Station: Tochomae (E28) or Shinjuku (01) Shinjuku- sanchome (M09/F13)
Top Tip: On the first floor of the building there is also a Tourist Information Centre for more information, maps, events for the upcoming days and a computer (don't bother trying to get on Facebook - this is an educational computer.) 

Meiji Shrine
This really did inspire me somewhat. There are times when you travel when you just think "My eyes have been opened today" and this was once of those times.

This shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken who both helped to shape Japan today by encouraging the country to open up to the west, whilst retaining its unique Japanese identity. They sound like great role models and I can see why their people were so fond of them. There are some great signs in English.

Empress Shoken encouraged the education of woman and met the pioneering woman who were the first to go study abroad (in the USA).

Emperor Meiji was not impartial to a bit of French wine and so barrels of wine line the path to the shrine along with offerings of Japanese sake. 

The grounds were created in 1920, triggered by their deaths a few years previously and over 200 trees from all over the world were planted by dedicated volunteers. The forest of today is really quite beautiful - 50 shades of green indeed.

To access the shrine you go through HUGE gates. The biggest is made from Japanese Cypress and over 12m tall.

Before you enter the shrine you wash your hands with the water. Left hand, right hand then pour water down allow the stick.

Once you step in, write your thoughts and wishes to the deities on a piece of paper with a donation. This is then put in the main shrine and you must now hope you get what you wished for. 

When you approach the main shrine (no photos here!!) there is a process which is well signposted. Throw in coins, bow twice, clap twice and now bow again.

I was there on a Saturday and witnessed a few weddings which was a wonderful experience.

Cost: FREE - 500 yen each for East Gardens (designed by the Emperor for the Empress to received renewed energy) and the Annexe Museum.
Station: JR Harajuku station or Meiji-jingumae (C03/F15) is a few minutes walk away too.
Top Tip: Dotted around are English leaflets that give you a map of the layout and there is a space for a free stamp as a little momento of your trip to the shrine. As you go through the gates to approach the main shrine turn right and through there you can purchase items and the stamp is to the right at the end.

Believe it or not I initially set out for Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, but changed my mind to Tokyo Comtempory Art last minute. You're wondering what happened and why this is under the 'Roppungi' heading?... I got lost. I undershot it and then the grid system messed with my head. I found the river and a lovely river path (see below) and wound up at a garden, which was already closed by this time. 

So, I decided to head back to the hotel... What for? I didn't really know. I wasn't going out because I planned an early start and there was no need to freshen up if I wasn't going out to dinner, so I used my last ounces of energy to build courage and go to Rappongi. I had nothing planned, but knew there was an Art event going on (thanks to the Tourist Centre at the bottom of the Tokyo Metropolian Building) and that it was lively at night.

Going to Rappongi was the first time I felt like I was in an area aiming their bars at tourists. And I saw some tourists. There were people handing out restaurant leaflets, American bars and edo inspired shows. The lights were as mesmerising as ever, as was the brilliant view of Tokyo Tower. 
I decided before I headed back to go to Rappongi Hills, perhaps to eat, perhaps just have a mosey around and see this building that was 17 years in making. It had an impressive selection of shops and restaurants and definitely a certain buzz about it.

In a half conscious moment and because I hadn't got to a few spots I wanted to that day I plumped for the Tokyo City Skyline ticket. After it registered that for the same price I could have gone to a Warhol exhibition I immediately regretted my choice, but went ahead anyway... (More below on City Skyview and see next post for Warhol and Art Night)
Cost: FREE
Station: Rappongi (E23/H04)
Top Tip: On the 6th floor of Rappongi Hills there is an ATM machine that accepts foreign cards (a rarity) and it is open til 11pm. It may seem quiet after hours but wander round the back and you should find a big green sign marked ATM. Fab!!

Tokyo Skyline View (Rappongi Hills)
The lift up to the 52nd floor gives you spectacular views of the city and I particularly appreciated the view of Tokyo at night. 

There are seats looking out of the window and if you follow it round there is a dimmer room full of canoodling couples. 

Round the corner are some tables, chairs and a cafe.

 I think the view is comparable to the Tokyo Metropolitan Building. So why pay for this?... 
- It's open later than the Government Building (but both are open when Tokyo is in darkness)
- You get a fabulous view of Tokyo Tower
- It is convenient if you would like to tie in dinner or drinks afterwards. If you go up the government building it's just a walk (admittedly not that far) to Shinjuku if you want to find bars and a vast selection of food - there's not much in the immediate vicinity.
Cost: 1,500 yen
Station: Rappongi (E23/H04)
Top Tip: To get photographs without your reflection/inside lighting head to the luuuurv den. (The dimly light room with the curtains.)
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