Given the crappy weather and the state of my foot I debated going anywhere today. In the end, I cancelled the trip to Nagano and decided to walk around some parts of Tokyo and re-visit some places I went to when I was here previous.
I started my journey on the West side of Shinjuku in what is known as the Skyscraper District. It is from here that local government convenes and manages the city, though frankly I cant even imagine governing a city bigger then most of the countries in the world. As it turns out, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Its two towers are among he tallest buildings in the city offering an impressive view of the city and surround, for free. This is in stark contract to Tokyo Tower, which is considered to be overpriced but a nice tourist trap for the locals.
This is seriously the nicest city hall I have ever seen. And the view was simply breathtaking as you would expect. Given where it sits, it is surrounding by many large buildings both of residential and commercial nature.
After relaxing at this spot, I headed for my next stop: The Meiji Shrine in Harujuku.
You really cannot begin to understand how much respect the Japanese have towards their emperor. Just about every Japanese (old and young) leave or entering was bowing. It was the Meiji emperor who brought Western culture to Japan and led to its modernization, away from the Xenophobic policies of the Shogunate. The arrival of Perry in the 1850s unleashed a great divide in Japan, mainly from in the form of other, more developed nations, being a threat to under developed Japan. This turmoil led to the fall of the Shogunate and the rise of Emperor Meiji. The Meiji still exists today, though only as a figurehead left in place by the US and its Allies at the end of World War II. Many believe that by leaving the Emperor, the US was able to help Japan rebuild much faster then otherwise, despite the decision being very unpopular with key allies at the time.
The temple is very beautiful, especially the approach: its a long windy path with long trees that hang over you and give you a sense of serenity.
Once I left, I decided to have lunch at TGI Fridays in Shinigawa. I went here for the nostalgia (me and Dave visited here when we were studying abroad). No offense to the Japanese, I like their food, but there is seriously nothing better then an American Cheeseburger.
One other note, I found this place purely from memory. I remember the station and its relative position when i was here last time. After eating I decided to walk around an do some exploring. Like more things in Japan, Shinigawa has a purpose. It is the mainly arterial link between Tokyo and the cities to the Southwest. Shinkansen passes through here on its way to Shin-Yokohama. Most of the major train lines pass through here, in particular the long distance ones not used for inner city travel.
Yet despite this, from the street, you could never tell this was a train station. The Japanese are really so good at blending things in that often times you dont even know you are looking at a busy train station, aside from the signage. It goes with what Dave was telling me when I was in Mito. The Japanese goal is to make things seamless; for instance, you never immediately realize when you are outside vs inside. The same is true with their busy train station.
So after this it was time for a bit of nostalgia: Shimbashi and the Yurikamome line. First Shimbashi is, impressive. Its one of the big business districts in Tokyo, with huge glass buildings stacked high with offices.
The Yurikamome line is a fully automated line which runs without an operator intervention; much like the Airtrain in New York city. It runs through much of Shimbashi and out into Tokyo bay through the reclaimed islands.
Let me explain this, according to what I was told companies needed to build buildings for transmitting and receiving but the buildings around them in Tokyo were so big and numerous it was interfering. This being the case, and with no land available, the Japanese made some land in the form of “reclaimed” islands. You gotta love some of the buildings that were built, very futuristic
Following this it was time to head back to Shinjuku to rest up for the next day. Unfortunately, I learned that my friend Mami-chan had other plans for tomorrow night, so I would have to figure out something on my own. Kind of difficult as my budget is dwindling and my rail pass expired today, but I am sure I can figure something out. Just one more full day here and then back to the states and business as usual.
To answer the question; yes I do plan to return to Japan again. When I am not sure, I think next I would want to go to Europe, London perhaps.