2 May 2014

Tokyo Things to do - Day 3

Asakusa - Tourist Centre
It may seem weird to include this as 'something I did, however it is a good start to the area. Collect a map and head to the second floor. You'll get a brilliant view of Thunder Gate and there's free wifi if you make up a Japanese email to log on. 

Now head up to the 7th floor where there is a map of self-guided tours of the Asukara area. And finally the 8th floor where you get a good view out. There are labels to show you what you're looking out at and it was helpful in order to locate the water bus (see below). 

At the weekends there are guided tours round the Asakusa area for free. I just missed mine as I was too busy on Skype (very excited for some human contact), but anything free has got to be worth a shot.
Station: Akasura (G19/TS01/A18)

Senso-ji Temple
When you think of Japan this may well be what springs to mind. 

First you enter through Thunder Gate and its huge lantern. 

Next walk along the stalls - they sell various foods and gifts to tempt the tourist. 

You can watch them make traditional little cakes, but apart from this I would head straight for the shrine.

The main shrine itself is very atmospheric and very busy. 

Don't forget to wash your hands - first left, then right then pour the remaining water down the stick back towards your hand. Pay 100yen to get your fortune by shaking hexagonal tubes. If you don't fancy your fortune tie it to the wires and your fortune will stay in the temple.

Pay 50 yen for some incense and follow the crowds wafting it over themselves in the hope for clearer thoughts or hair regrowth. 

Around the shrine there are many more minor shrines to see - minor but no less worthy of your time.

If you head to the roads to the left of the shrine there are some traditional shopping streets, a theme park and a free craft museum (that isn't worth going in to detail about).

Cost: You will want throw some coins in and bow to show respect (get rid of those 1s) and you can get some of the extras listed above.
Station: Akasura (G19/TS01/A18)
TOP TIP: The shrine opens at 6am and I would get there EARLY as this is a busy place.

Water Bus
This came recommended as a way to travel from Askura to Hamarinkyu Teien Gardens. As the cruise began I thought it was overpriced and overrated...

By the end I had to agree it made a real change to the tube and loved it. It was great to see all the industrial bridges and was a dramatic way to enter the gardens.

Cost: Around 900 yen (including garden entry) 
Station: The line I used was Askura to ... Gardens, but there are also stops... ... ...
TOP TIP: Brave the cold and sit up the top - you'll get the best views. The combined ticket gets you a slightly discounted ticket to the gardens. If you aren't interested in the gardens get the water bus to a variety of locations up and down the river.

Hama-rikyu Teien Garden
This was beautiful and one of my highlights of Tokyo. Other gardens I've been so far were pretty but this garden was the standout thus far.

 I was lucky as I was here in peony season and they are my favourite flower. There is a whole garden dedicated to their beauty. Just a few pictures (it was hard to pick my favourites.)

 But the lake, with its traditional tea house, was wonderful and gave the gardens a good pinch of traditional Japan. 

The contrast between the garden and Tokyo's urban jungle in the background was really special.

Cost: 300 yen or 240 yen if bought with the waterbus.
Station: There are several nearby Shihimoe, Shinbashi, 
TOP TIP: Once you've crossed the river (and passed the tea house) follow the sign for the hill - the stone steps should be in front of you - to get a brilliant panoramic view.

Akihabara - Electric City
I wasn't 100% convinced I would be impressed by this - Shinjuku and Roppongi had delivered the bright lights and crazy crossing. I was proved wrong and Akihabara is a firm must do in my opinion, but you have to be bold enough to GO IN when something intrigues you. They don't seem to mind you wandering around or walking through and 'using the loo'.  You can also watch people... Ok ok you're wondering WHAT it is you're going for? WHAT is the big deal?

...Gaming arcades
These are complete madness. You go in and there are rows and rows of games. The lights flash, the anime models wrap round the screen with their lengthly limbs and the sounds make the floor vibrate. Have a walk through and maybe stop to watch someone. I found the SEGA building the least intimidating to actually stop and watch someone play.

I was watching this girl kick butt. The character had a six pack, legs Beyoncé would be jealous of and a fierce pout when she won. She smashed the hefty guys every time, grabbing them round the neck with her thighs, slapping them, whipping them (?!)... I was impressed and came over all 'girl power sistaaaa'. Then the girl who played this awesome character got up and left and IT WAS ACTUALLY A BOY. (WOOPS)

...Costume shops
You can get the dress up outfit for just about every anime character you can imagine (I can't actually imagine anything beyond Pokemon, but if you're a little more well read I'm CERTAIN you'll find it here) and if you go downstairs things heat up. Don't be shy - no-one is blinking an eye in Akihabara and when would you see these people again?
Cost: FREE
Station: Akihabara 
TOP TIP: The shops may shut around 8ish with some open later, but the maid cafés and gaming arcades are open til reasonably late.

Maid Cafés
You must do this. MUST. Once in your life. It will last under an hour (maximum amount of time you can stay) and you will even come away with a photo to remember the event by. You're not allowed to take your own photos so your Polaroid will become sole proof.

A super super sickly sweet girl in an, an, an outfit (?!) from some cartoon/anime/something else came up and offered me animal shaped ice cream sundaes, or bear omelettes, or cakes. She had a little light up pink tealight, which lit up when you counted to three (one, toooo, treeeee). She got me doing actions and making heart shapes and called out things in her sweet name. 

So you may drink, eat and act like you're at a kids tea party, but don't pretend you're not intrigued... If I haven't intrigued you yet them you're a boring boring person.

I went to 'maidreamin' opposite SEGA. It's on the third floor and you must get the lift up. There are many girls advertising maid cafés on the street behind SEGA (if you're coming from the direction of Akihabara station). I think this is a fairly tame one, but I hear there are ones where you can pay to be spoon fed, be in a recreated womens' tube carridge as well as school and nun themed maid cafés. I guess not knowing is half the fun?

Cost: Will vary depending on where you go but, my package of ice cream + drink + commemorative photo + keyring + cover charge was around 2,600 yen. You could order only a cocktail and it may be slightly cheaper, but you want some souvenirs right?
Station: Akihambra station (H15)
Top Tip: BE BOLD. I was sooo close to not going thinking it would be some sort of weird strip club. It's not!! It's innocent - they wear bloomers under their skirts!
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