Journal 20081003 Japan

Although I didn’t get to bed until about midnight, I woke up wide awake at about 5am. I double-checked that my photos uploaded successfully overnight (they did), then sent an email message to friends and family, with corresponding link.

Madame Oui got up early, too, and we enjoyed our breakfast. Our waitress was concerned that we ordered the Japanese-style breakfast, but we confirmed that’s what we wanted. This meant rice, seaweed, and miso soup, but also included a fried egg and sausage. I particularly liked the loose apple tea leaves.

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After breakfast we agreed the day’s itinerary. First stop was nearby Sensoji Temple, apparently one of the most popular in Japan. Indeed, the first thing we noticed upon arrival were several school tours. The gate with enormous red lantern is unmistakable, and a great photo opportunity. We enjoyed slowly walking down the aisle, lined with market shops on both sides. I purchased a boxed biscuit set featuring caricatures of the new Japanese prime minister.

The temple itself is very impressive, and I could see why it was so loved. It was a hive of activity. Thankfully, there was a modicum of reverence by separating those who were there for serious reflection, from the throngs of tourists, like us, snapping away with our cameras.

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Next stop was an indulgence for me: to the House of Councillors (legislature), the Diet. I tried following the guide book instructions, but still managed to find the wrong entrance three times before the fourth door proved right. I achieved my mission of getting a mug to add to my set of round-the-world legislature mugs. I didn’t think that I’d actually accomplish this on this journey, being an obscure diversion for Madame Oui (good sport she is)!

We strolled around the Diet building in the sunny and humid weather. It was warm enough for shorts. We then returned to the Tokyo Metro for our next destination: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings. There, we stopped in at the useful Tokyo tourist office, where we bought some postcards, some to keep and some to send.

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Per guide book advice, we went to the South Tower (by day, North Tower by night) and took the lift to the observatory level on the 45th floor. As soon as you leave the lift you notice the spectacular views of Tokyo city. This building seems like the Japanese equivalent of the former World Trade Center, New York City.

After taking in the views, with some photos and video clips, we had a civilised lunch and tea in the cafe on the same floor. We stretched this out, taking our time and soaked up the experience. We left with a couple of souvenirs: a Tokyo 2016 Olympic Candidate City pin for me; a Japan fridge magnet for Madame Oui.

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Having spent so much time in the Metropolitan building, we cut it a little fine for our final destination, the Meiji Shrine. But we arrived with enough good light to enjoy the late afternoon stroll through the park. Not so many people, a couple of hundred compared to the thousands at Sensoji Temple. There was much more reverence here. I didn’t take any photos of the Temple interior itself, as it just didn’t feel right. Later I learnt that it was forbidden to do so!

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We exited the temple and park just in time, as they closed the gates behind us. We got the added bonus of seeing some Harajuku girls dressed in costumes, as if going to a hen party (as Madame Oui described it). I read that this frequently happens at this spot, especially during the weekends. They were a focus of attention, and even I sneaked a photo.

Back at our hotel we rested for a bit, then glammed up and headed out to a specific restaurant/bar that I particularly noticed the night before, Kamiya Bar. Preparing ourselves for no English menu, we wrote down the hiragana labels of the plastic versions on display outside, of what we wanted to order. As it happened, we were provided an English menu, but our hiragana scratching still proved useful. I really enjoyed the experience. It was loud and brash. Loads of salarymen washing down their Friday afterwork meal with sake. Indeed, when we left we noticed one particular salaryman who had too much to drink, bent over getting sick with his colleagues laughing while assisting him!

Madame Oui and I went for a leisurely stroll across the bridge to the Asahi Breweries building, and she noticed the river and boat tours. It was a great day of fun, one I will remember well.

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