As promised, here I am writing about my adventures I had with Tokyo. Although I was there for a good 6 days, I only had a chance to go around Tokyo for 3 days. In those three days, I was able to see Yokohama at night, Yoyogi Park, Meiji Shrine, Harajuko, Akihabara, Ueno, and Tokyu Station.
Yokohama at night. Our host, Prof. Nobuaki Otsuki, graciously offered his time to bring us around quickly to Yokohama after the day’s work. We had a pleasant walk from the station to the Landmark Tower. On our way there, we had a nice view of the (one of the many) ferris wheel showing off a play of lights that lined its steel bars as it changed its colors. At the Landmark Tower, we paid ¥1,000 each to ride the fastest elevator to the 69th floor moving at 750 m/min! It took us exactly 40 seconds to get to our destination. (Math geniuses, compute the distance we traveled. LOL!) On the 69th Floor, you will be able to have a spectacular 360˚ view of Tokyo. It’s a romantic sight at night! There is souvenir shop located on the floor to buy some gift items. Or you can opt to have your picture taken at the self-service photo booths and choose Mt. Fuji as your background, which we did! We then went to the Landmark Tower mall, passed by Toffy store that sold really nifty and cutie stuffs like flat origami lunch boxes and others. Had dinner at a Tonkatsu place, and visited my first 100¥ store.
Shibuya, Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine. Our first stop for the morning was Shibuya. Here you would have a good view of the Tokyo version of Times Square. I also heard that if you stay at the Starbucks shop on the 2nd of the building for a view of the crazy rush hour wave of men and women in black and white. Just go with the flow! At Shibuya, you would have a chance to have your picture taken with the famous Hachiko dog. Get ready with your rubber shoes and walking endurance for the Meiji Shrine. From the entrance, you will still have a walk a few hundred meters to actually reach the shrine. At the shrine, we were lucky to witness a traditional Japanese wedding ritual. It was very solemn. Once there, you could also write your wish on a wooden plaque (¥500) and hope that your wish may come true. I read through some of the wishes and were written in different languages!
Harajuko.From the Meiji Shrine, you could actually walk to Harajuko. Once you reach the Harajuko station (Yamanote Line), you can walk along the other side and look for the shopping street. The street is lined up with bargain specialty shops. There is also a 3-storey Daiso (¥100 store) there for you to grab your gifts for the people you left behind. There are more clothes stores here than any other items. But if you want to buy clothes for costume playing (cosplay), you can get them here. Mind you, Japanese anime dressing is normal in Japan. For the foreigner’s eyes, they all look like they’re cosplaying everyday. After shopping, you can grab your lunch or dinner at Yoshinoya near the corner of the street across Harajuko station.
Akihabara and Ueno. From Harajuko, we took the train to Akihabara. Akihabara is the digital town of Japan. No tourist will let their Japan trip past without visiting Akihabara. Japan is known for its advanced technology. What is trendy now in your country, is already being phased out in Japan, and most likely get your PC much cheaper. You can also find the latest in gadgets there. Just stop by one store, and you’re good to go. Prices are competitive, so there is really no need to go around more to compare prices. Prices don’t vary too much that you would mind not buying from the other store because it was ¥100 cheaper. Cameras and accessories are also replete in Japan, however, if you are from the US, the prices are just the same since both countries are the main sources of camera products. If you are from the Philippines, DSLRs and accessories are cheaper in Japan because they go on sale more often than not in the Philippines, and because Canon and Nikon do not have a factory in the Philippines. Only distributors if I’m not mistaken. Oh, and you can buy second hand iPhones here using your credit card. Now that’s a great deal! The Apple iPhone is probably the most ubiquitous phone in Japan. It’s the lowest end phone you can get for the cheapest plan at ¥3,000. That plan already includes unlimited data plan and free texts and calls within the same network. Not a bad deal to get an iPhone. From Akihabara, we walked to Ueno. Now this is their bargain market (in the Philippines, “Divisoria”). The difference here is that everything in Ueno is original — no matter what. Good deals here are rubber shoes and perfumes. However, when I was trying to look for Christian Dior Cherie Eu de Toilette, I wasn’t able to find one. You’ll most likely find the older brands and common perfumes like CK Summer and other perfumes. All you need is time and a lot of patience to get a good merchandise for a good deal.
Tokyu Station. On my last night at Tokyo, I had to make some last minute shopping, and I was referred to Tokyu Station. Without have to swipe or scan my Pasmo card, I was able to go from one specialty store to another. There is a store there where you could buy great souvenir items for Tokyo. You can also get Landmark Tower souvenir items there if you regretted not buying when you were there. You can also get typical Japanese cookies and other delicacies here specially packed as gifts. This is a great place to do your last minute shopping.
So these were the most memorable places I went to during my stay. But if you’re on a budget, you can always be amused with the local Combini (e.g. Lawson and Sunkus) and get your food items there. I got those nifty personal drip coffees and instant UCC coffees! Japan is coffee world. I love coffee, and so I love the way Japan loves its coffee. 🙂
I had an interesting insight from a very casual and lighthearted conversation with the Japanese principal who toured us around Yokohama. He talked about Japanese being more single than ever — that there are a lot of single Japanese men, and commented, “Aging. Aging population the Japanese” and laughed a bit as if this little truth is something to laugh about. I laughed with him though. My laugh was borne out of the thought that in the future, the Filipinos will occupy Japan and inherit its technology if they don’t do something about their “aging population”. This is why I wonder why reproductive health measures like encouraging the Japanese to take birth control pills is still strongly advocated and promoted here.
When I spent a few minutes in Yoyogi Park, I had similar observations of an aging population: Families only had two children each. Rarely, three. Commonly one or two children. Single men spending their time in the park walking their dogs, or practicing on their instrument.
Aging Japan. Why don’t population management experts address this very real problem, and leave it to the government (sans UN aid and funding) to encourage their people to get married and have children. Let’s learn from our elderly Japanese.