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The Japan Trip: Day Three

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Photo Credit: David July — The Marunouchi skyscrapers beyond the Tokyo Imperial Palace grounds, Tokyo, Japan, 17 March 2008 It was overcast and cool on the third day of my adventure, Monday, 17 March 2008. Walking down the street toward Odakyu-Sagamihara Station odakyu sagamihara-eki , we decided to take a slightly different route to enjoy the local neighborhood. The streets were bustling with life and energy as people went about their business. After browsing some of the shops and markets, it was time to catch the train and proceed to the day's first destination, the Tokyo Imperial Palace kokyo. Making our way to Shin-Yokohama Station shin-yokohama-eki, we transferred to the JR East jeiaru higashi-nihon Shinkansen shinkansen Hikari hikari 412 bound for Tokyo Station tokyo-eki. By now, the trains were becoming less of a mystery and more of a tool, though there were some exceptions. While large and complex, the various interconnecting public transportation systems are relatively easy to navigate once you have an idea of how things work and where places are in relation to one another. Not to mention, signage in English and Japanese helps. Photo Credit: David July — A Series 500 JR Shinkansen departs Shin-Yokohama Station, Yokohama, Japan, 17 March 2008 Not quite thirty minutes after boarding the Shinkansen, we were navigating the enormous Tokyo Station to the Marunouchi marunouchi south exit. Unfortunately, the Marunouchi Gate marunouchi gate was undergoing renovations so scaffolding masked the brick structure built as the station's entrance in 1914. Continuing west from the station toward the Tokyo Imperial Palace on Gyoukou-dori Avenue gyoukou-dori , the Marunouchi skyscrapers loomed ominously as we passed over the grids of crosswalks. Nearby structures of note include the Marunouchi Building marubiru , the Mitsubishi Group mitsubishi gurupu Headquarters Building, the Tokyo Stock Exchange tokyo shoken torihikisho and the Nikkei nikkei (Nihon Keizai Shimbun nihon keizai shimbun ) Headquarters. Crossing Hibiya-dori Avenue hibiya-dori , we leave the city behind and enter the Tokyo Imperial Palace grounds. The grounds exist as an oasis of sorts in the city, a large open green space surrounded on the perimeter by a moat and the skyscrapers beyond. After taking pictures around Babasaki-bori Moat babasaki-bori moat and continuing through the plaza, we pass the Sakashita-mon Gate sakashita-mon gate on our way to the Nijubashi Bridge nijubashi bridge , formerly a wooden structure known as Seimon-tetsubashi seimon-tetsubashi . Photo Credit: David July — The Nijubashi Bridge and Fushimi Yagura Tower beyond, Tokyo Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan, 17 March 2008 While walking through Tokyo Imperial Palace Square kokyo-mae hiroba , a large unpaved street filled with rocks except for one small paved sidewalk, a police-escorted motorcade of vehicles emerged from the Main Gate main gate at Nijubashi Bridge. The cars were too far away to tell at the time, but a close inspection of my pictures shows the flag of Canada canada on the second of eight motorcade vehicles. The next hour was spent walking the vast grounds, capturing images and enjoying the green space and architecture. Although it seemed large while walking around, considering we only saw a small portion of the land, the property once spanned the Marunouchi commercial district, including Tokyo Station and the surrounding landmarks within the outermost boundary (then the old moat). Photo Credit: David July — The wall at the inner moat near Sakuradamon Gate, Tokyo Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan, 17 March 2008 For over 550 years, this land has played an important part in Japanese government and military history. Around 1185, the transition from the Heian period heian-jidai to the Kamakura period kamakura-jidai , Edo edo warriors established a base in the area. In 1457, Ota Dokan ota dokan built the Edo Castle edo-jo . After rising to power, Tokugawa Ieyasu tokugawa ieyasu established a government and took the Edo Castle as his own. The Tokugawa shogunate tokugawa bakufu would hold power from the castle for the duration of the Edo period edo-jidai , 1603–1868, until the Meiji Restoration meiji ishin . Photo Credit: David July — The Statue of Kusunoki Masashige, Tokyo Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan, 17 March 2008 After an accidental fire destroyed the last remaining structures of Edo Castle in 1873, a new Imperial Palace Kyujo kyujo was constructed for Emperor Meiji meiji tenno . This facility was ultimately destroyed in World War II world war 2 and rebuilt in 1948 as Kokyo kokyo . The eastern garden and park was established as Higashi-Gyoen higashi-gyoen in 1986 and remains open to the public today. We did not make it over to Higashi-Gyoen, but we did visit the Sakuradamon Gate sakuradamon gate and the Statue of Kusunoki Masashige kusunoki masashige before descending into Hibiya·Yurakucho Station hibiya yurakucho-eki . Photo Credit: David July — Looking down the stairway into Hibiya-Yurakucho Station, near Tokyo Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan, 17 March 2008 A short subway ride later, we passed the gate into the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market commonly known as the Tsukiji Fish Market tsukiji shijo , the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. The Tsukiji Market opened in 1935 after the former Nihonbashi nihonbashi fish market was destroyed in the Great Kanto earthquake kanto daishinsai of 1923. Photo Credit: David July — A typical stall in the inner market sits empty at the Tsukiji Market, Tokyo, Japan, 17 March 2008 Since it was 1530 JST, the inner market was deserted and quiet. Our original plan was to visit during peak hours (0700–1000) but with limited time available and a daylong trip to the other side of the country scheduled for the next day, this venture was sacrificed. Although it was empty, you could get a feel for how it must be when busy. Building after building contained long rows with numbered stalls for the "middlemen" to display and sell the products not sold at the earlier auction (0530–0700). Even though there were no fish visible, the smell of piscine permeated the air. Photo Credit: David July — Signs advise people not to feed the cats at the Tsukiji Market, Tokyo, Japan, 17 March 2008 Moving into the outer market, it was still quiet but evidence of life was just an alley away. Most of the seafood and cooking/restaurant supply shops were closed due to the time, but many sushi restaurants were open and doing business. I was not yet hungry, so I did not eat at the restaurant with horse flesh on the menu or at the eatery a few doors down with a sushi conveyor belt. Passing more shops, numerous small shrines—which are scattered everywhere in Japan as far as I can tell—and a Tsukiji kitty cat, no doubt well fed given his or her home, we made our way past the Tsukiji Hongwanji Temple tsukiji hongwan-ji to Tsukiji Station tsukiji-eki where the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line tokyo chikatetsu hibiya-sen would take us directly to our next destination, Ginza ginza. Photo Credit: David July — A restaurant menu near the Tsukiji Market advertises horse flesh, Tokyo, Japan, 17 March 2008 Located in the Chuo Ward chuo-ku , Ginza is an upscale shopping district with many large department stores, restaurants and expensive Western boutiques. After exiting the train at Ginza Station ginza-eki , we navigated the underground maze of tunnels, themselves an extensive shopping and dining area. Just as I was about to commit our route (in the wrong direction), Mom saw the sign for which we were looking. The lift doors opened and we walked out into the lobby of the Sony Building soni biru . Photo Credit: David July — Looking up at the Sony Building in Ginza, Tokyo, Japan, 17 March 2008 The Sony Showroom soni shouruumu is filled with fully functional telephones, cameras, computers and other gadgets. Walking up and around the spiral showroom looking at the neat hardware, some of which is not available in the United States, I stopped to use a VAIO vaio notebook to e-mail friends at home. The operating system was Windows XP windou xp but the language Japanese, so it is a good thing I know my way around a computer. It was all for not though as the Sony firewall blocked my access to webmail. Before exiting the Sony Building to explore Ginza, I noticed a sign indicating all Sony Showroom facilities are powered exclusively by wind energy. In fact, there was a certificate from the Green Power Certification Authority green power certification authority and the Japan Natural Energy Company Limited japan natural energy company limited attesting to the generation of 145,000 kWh at the Choshi Byoubugaura choshi byoubugaura Wind Power Station for use at the Ginza Sony Showroom. Photo Credit: David July — The crosswalk maze of Sukiyabashi Intersection, Ginza, Tokyo, Japan, 17 March 2008 Upon leaving the Sony Building, the skyscrapers of Ginza tower overhead while the vast crosswalk grid of the Sukiyabashi Intersection sukiyabashi kousaten sprawls in front of you. Huge lit signs advertising Sapporo Breweries sapporo biru kabushiki-gaisha , Toshiba kabushiki-gaisha toshiba , Nissan nissan jidosha kabushiki-gaisha , Shiseido kabushiki-gaisha shiseido and more flash and glow from high above. There is a palatable energy in the air as scores of people move in and between buildings, cars whiz past but obey pedestrian road rules and trains rumble by on overhead tracks. The area is slightly reminiscent of New York City's nyuuyouku-shi ritzy Fifth Avenue shopping district, but completely distinctive itself and uniquely Japanese. Photo Credit: David July — Large video displays and illuminated signs decorate the Mitsukoshi and nearby buildings, Ginza, Tokyo, Japan, 17 March 2008 Although we were walking around, stopping as we pleased to look inside stores and taking a short break in a little park with fountains, we were in fact looking for the Mitsukoshi kabushiki-gaisha mitsukoshi department store. Mom had read about this and other Japanese department stores and wanted to look inside one. We eventually found Mitsukoshi and went inside. Floor after floor was filled with merchandise, lots of customers and attentive hosts and clerks standing by to assist. We made our way through the store to the food market levels, reportedly modeled after similar markets in Harrods harrods department store in London rondon . Although I have been to Harrods, the experience also reminded me of visting The Broadway Market buroudowei maaketto in Buffalo baffarou in the 1980s. By now, it was around 1800 JST and I was ready to eat. We proceeded to the basement, where restaurants are known to be located in Japanese department stores. After inspecting the plastic food models in the window display, we entered the Shiki San Sai shiki san na restaurant for dinner. Mom had eaten earlier so she had a drink and dessert—one of the best tasting vanilla ice creams she has tasted—and I ordered cold Sake sake and the Nigiri Sushi (Hana) nigiri sushi hana platter. Like many other locals we interacted with, the waiter knew some English and was pleased to use it with us. The food and drink were delicious, but I particularly enjoyed the wasabi wasabi that seemed much hotter than any I have had before. Photo Credit: David July — The window display version of the Nigiri Sushi platter I enjoyed at Shiki San Sai in the Mitsukoshi department store, Ginza, Tokyo, Japan, 17 March 2008 After dinner, it was time to head back to the apartment. I grabbed a few last pictures on the train platform, bringing the day's count to 262. We needed to get to sleep despite the early time of 1900, for the next day's journey would require getting up and leaving by 0400 in order to make all the necessary train connections. The destination is Hiroshima hiroshima-shi , 796 kilometres (495 miles) from Shin-Yokohama Station via the Hikari Shinkansen. Usually getting to sleep this early would pose a problem for me, but the miles of walking are exhausting and I am not in spectacular shape. I quickly drift off—even the characters in my dreams speak Japanese—anxious for the big cross-country trip west.
Mount Sutro mount sutro presents The Japan Trip Series the japan trip series [ Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four | Day Five | Day Six ] Photograph Gallery
Photo Credit: David July david july