Day 3 – Asakusa, Ueno, Akihabara, Shibuya

I planned for a pretty busy day on Wednesday, so I got up early and headed from Shibuya to Asakusa. If you look at a subway map,  Shibuya is at the beginning of the Ginza line, and Asakusa is at the end, so I rode this particular line from start to finish! It only took about 30 minutes, not too shabby! So the first place I visited was Asakusa.

The most popular landmark to visit in Asakusa is the Sensoji Temple, and it was amazing! This is the entrance to the temple, then there is a long walkway devoted to merchandise, even at an early time it was really busy.

It is a beautiful atmosphere, but as is the case with most temples and shrines, it’s very touristy. I don’t want to flat out say the temples and shrines of Tokyo are tourist traps, because they have a real significant religious value, but… very touristy.

Also interesting is the surrounding area of the temple. It is extremely beautiful, and I really enjoyed walking through it and relaxing, not too many people ventured beyond the temple itself.

I’m a sucker for a good bridge, I have no idea why. I guess we can call it, Rural Idyll.

Especially when the bridge is overlooking an awesome Koi pond.

It was a very relaxing and spiritual experience, even with so many people there. Afterwards I was hungry, but the sushi place I wanted to eat at wasn’t open for another 45 minutes. So I decided to explore while waiting.

This is the Asahi building; They handle a large portion of the beverage industry in Japan.

The river seen here is the Sumida River, it runs through Tokyo, and while you can find some amazing pictures of it just by searching, here are some that I took.

So you have traditional boats on one hand…

Then there is this awesome tour boat! Next time for sure!

I had brunch at a conveyor-style Sushi place. Basically, each coloured plate has a set value, so as the plates pass by, you grab what you want, and then in the end they just tally up your total based on the plates. I had 11 plates, it ended up being about 1200yen, which is like $14-15. Not bad, and a fun experience! Seeing all that food pass by is so tempting hah. After filling up I headed to Ueno, which is 2 stops back.

Ueno is a really beautiful area, I wish I could have spent more time exploring, but I had many things I wanted to do there, so I had to stick to the game plan. My first stop was the Tokyo National Museum. In this area there is so much going on: Animal Museums, Science Museums, etc. There was so much to see just by exploring outside of the museums. Like this!

I didn’t take any pictures inside the museum, but it was extremely nice. They had archaeology exhibits, traditional Japanese exhibits (like Samurai Uniforms and weapons, and also Geishas and really beautiful Kimonos) I decided to stay in the museum for longer than I originally planned, but it was worth it; the museum was amazing.

Tokyo National Museum – it’s much bigger than this picture suggests.

Afterwards I walked through the park, and went to Ueno Zoo! It’s as if they knew I was coming, because the first showcase was the Red Panda! And they had four of them, all different colours! They are the most awesome animal ever, I want one seriously hah. Throughout the Zoo, all you could hear was girls saying “Kawaii!!!” which means “Cute!!!”, and yes there were tons of cute animals.

Go for it, little buddy *heart*

Also at the Zoo, I saw this guy:

Sumo wrestlers are one the many prides of Japanese culture, but it is not uncommon to see them randomly out and about the city. For a big dude, his significant other was extremely pretty, so they definitely carry that celebrity status, especially when you notice they are always wearing their robes instead of normal street clothes. They are very well-respected, I wish I could have seen a sumo match while I was there. Again, that’s what return visits are for!

After my relaxing walk through the zoo, I headed to Akihabara. If you are a nerd like me, then you know what Akihabara is all about. It was definitely my number 1 most anticipated place to visit when going to Tokyo, and it did not disappoint in the slightest! Akihabara is known as the Electric City, and as such, it is packed with flashing lights, tons of people, and loud music.

But the biggest attraction in Akihabara is the Otaku scene (Otaku is a Japanese word referring to people with obsessive interests; particularly anime, manga, and video games). It’s kind of a played out word nowadays, but it still applies to today. I was blown away by how devoted the stores are to indulging peoples obsessions. You can find absolutely anything video game related there; I spent a very long time browsing through their collections.

My point and shoot camera does no justice here, it is such a vibrant area.

At each street corner, there is a girl dressed in costume, handing out flyers. Excellent marketing for the type of crowd that frequents this area. I felt like I never wanted to leave this area, it was definitely the highlight of my entire trip. I checked out the arcade scene because I wanted to try Street Fighter IV on an actual arcade, rather than Playstation 3 like back home. So I went here:

It was awesome! The only downside is that you are allowed to smoke inside of places here, just like in Korea. So even though I was slowly blacking out from smoke inhalation, I played the Street Fighter IV arcade version. It wasn’t long before someone walked by and challenged me, and of course they won. It really got my adrenaline pumping to play against someone though, it was different from playing against my friends. I hadn’t played in over 7 months, so of course I was terribly rusty, and using the arcade stick compared to a game controller is completely different too, but it was still an awesome experience!

Look closely…. Name that Game!

Throughout the city they had gigantic flatscreen TV’s playing videogame trailers, gameplay videos, and the speakers were just belting out the soundtracks. It was amazing! And I got to see the Japanese retail copy of Final Fantasy XIII, I was really excited. In most retail stores in Japan, the game cost 8700yen, which is over $90 Canadian, but in Akihabara I found it for 6200yen, which is the same price as we pay for games back home. Too bad it is completely in Japanese, or else I would have jumped all over that. Places like this made me glad I came by myself, because coming with someone else who may not share the same interests really wouldn’t have been the same experience.

I had dinner at a Standing Sushi restaurant. There are no seats, you just stand at the bar area and tell the person what you want. Then he makes it right in front of you, super fresh. Then they place a leaf in front of you and serve the sushi onto your leaf. It was about the same price as the conveyor belt place, but the sushi was even better! At both restaurants, they knew 0 English, but they were still very nice to me and helped me order through the menu. I had about 20 pieces and was full.

After walking around a little longer, I got really tired (it was a pretty full day!), so I headed back to Shibuya. Shibuya is much like Time’s Square, there are tons of people, and the area never sleeps. It is also home to the famous Shibuya crossing, which is a massive. I didn’t get a great shot if it, but when the lights go red it’s basically just a massive amount of people crossing the street, it’s really amazing.

You can see the aftermath here. So many people!

If you look here, there is a Starbucks that overlooks Shibuya Crossing. It is one of the busiest in the world! I had a White Hot Chocolate that night, and I actually got a window seat! So I relaxed and watched the thousands and thousands of people walking by, reflecting on the day I had, among other things. At ground level, I watched a guy set up an entire drum kit, and then he started playing for the people walking by. He was alright, he seemed nervous, but people were positive towards him so it was great. He was singing at the same time, James Brown and stuff like that. After the hot chocolate, I went out and listened for a while, it was very nice.

I realized another thing about Japan pretty quickly too: They are absolutely in LOVE with Michael Jackson. The Blu-ray version of “This Is It” was just being released, and they had it EVERYWHERE! They had Playstation 3 bundles, gigantic billboards, music blaring in every store. Almost every person I saw in the music stores had a copy of it, amazing! I love the guy too, I didn’t expect it to be this intense in Japan. What a profound influence his music has had on so many people.

Small Regrets: Ryogoku is in the same area as Akihabara, Ueno, and Asakusa. But because of the action packed day I had, I was unable to go to Ryogoku to see the Sumo Stadium and the Sumo Museum. Also, in Ryogoku there is the Edo-Tokyo Museum. I was really looking forward to seeing these places, but you can only do so much with the time you have. I will definitely get there someday.

One more day to report, oh no, it is all coming to an end so fast! I hope everyone is enjoying the summaries and pictures of my time in Tokyo!

Next is Day 4 – Ginza, Hibiya, and Hamamasutcho. See you then!