Day 4 – Ginza, Hibiya, Shiba, Hamamatsucho

My flight was set to leave at 4:30pm Thursday afternoon, so I woke up early and set off toward the Ginza district. Ginza is known as the upscale area of Tokyo, and is also recognized as one of the most luxurious shopping districts in the world. I’m not particularly interested in that aspect of Ginza, or any other place in the world for that matter, but it definitely brings about some nice architecture and a busy atmosphere.

Ginza feels immensely powerful and modern, I bet it looks amazing at night.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I had to explore Ginza at too early an hour to really get a sense of it. Most places open at 11am, but I was there an hour early. So while waiting for the city to wake up, I went to Hibiya Park. This is a large, beautiful park that bleeds into the Ginza district; it’s not a far walk, and many professionals can be seen walking through the park on their lunch break.

Honestly, I was very impressed with this park. It felt so quiet and peaceful, but also very inviting. When I sat on a bench to take it all in, a women sat a few seats down and started playing a flute. It was all very surreal, and the music worked perfectly to create an amazing atmosphere.

I know you were curious, so yes, there were many fish in this huge pond!

I could have spent all day in this park, there were so many different things to see! Continuing along, I came across an open-air concert area, but it was gated so I couldn’t take any pictures inside.

I wonder what kind of amazing concerts happen here.

Turning 180 degrees from the concert venue, there is a beautiful water fountain!

Beyond here you continue walking and eventually come across another large pond. This pond is more interactive; you can walk along a small bridge and there is also a nice veranda for sitting and enjoying the day.

I know, I know, enough park pictures. Sorry, I really liked it! Well, after spending quite some time here I headed back to Ginza. I ended up at an arcade because I wanted to play Street Fighter IV one more time before I left Japan, so I found a few machines. I didn’t stay long, and there were no challengers, so I soon continued exploring.

I didn’t get a picture, but one place I really wanted to check out was the Kabuki-za theatre. I wasn’t sure if I had enough time to go, but it’s definitely on my list of things to experience next time I go to Tokyo. I’ve always been interested in the theatre, but I seldom go. Experiencing an authentic Japanese Kabuki performance would be quite an experience, so I was a little sad I didn’t get to attend.

Another place I was looking forward to experiencing was the Sony Building in Ginza, so I headed there. The first 3 floors are basically the Sony “Showroom”, where they allow the public to enter and demo their new and unreleased technology. It was a very exciting place to be, and I am so happy it worked out. Sony is really pushing 3D technology in the home; 3D HDTVs displaying 3D movies, and even 3D Playstation 3. They had a unit rigged up with Wipeout HD in 3D, I am a huge fan of that game. I actually got to demo Wipeout HD in full 3D, and it was pretty fun. The 3D is a little obtrusive at times, but it was a pretty unique experience. I even got a compliment from the girl working there, because all of the other people demoing were terrible, and I rocked it! Oh Japan, the land where women compliment you based on your videogame skills.

Other floors were demoing new HDTV technology, which is looking terrific. OLED TV’s are so thin and sexy. They had some beautiful HD Video Camera’s too, which are weird, and really allow you to see all the wrinkles in your hands. Kind of gross, but amazingly clear. They had VAIOs of course, and even a shop where you can purchase products. I had read some people were disappointed with what the Sony Building had to offer, but I am satisfied; I had a great time!

I had a little extra time before I had to report to Haneda airport, so I hopped on the subway and headed back to Hamamatsucho. You might remember this district from Day 1, with Tokyo Tower and what not. Here, I decided to have lunch at one of the side restaurants. These restaurants are interesting, because you choose your food through a vending machine. The machine issues you a ticket, and you grab a seat. Then, the server brings you the food fresh. I had large ramen noodles with pork, it felt really fatty, but it was tasty. After lunch, I had just enough time to check out that temple I missed on the first night. The temple is Zojoji Temple in Shiba, very close to Tokyo Tower, as you will see.

Here is the entrance to Zojoji Temple.

Here is Zojoji Temple, with Tokyo Tower behind it.

Much like Seoul, Tokyo also fuses the traditional and modern. I feel that this picture probably does the best job of conveying this fusion. It is really wonderful to see a culture embracing their tradition, but also allowing for growth to occur. Temples such as Zojoji will forever remind Japan of their heritage, just as Gyeongbukgung Palace in Seoul with forever remind South Korea.

As you can see in the picture, at this point it began to rain. I had great weather for the entire time I was in Tokyo, so rain for the last hour definitely did not dampen my spirits. It also set the mood for the next area of Zojoji temple.

These are Jizo Statues.

They are dressed in childrens clothes and surrounded by toys.

In Japan, Jizo is regarded as the guardian of children, especially children who died before their parents. Since the 1980’s, he is also worshipped as the guardian of mizuko, or stillborn children. Statues of Jizo are often attired with children’s clothes. These are placed by grieving parents for their lost little ones, with the hope that Jizo will offer them protection in their journey through the underworld.

There are rows and rows of statues, each one signifying the death of a child.

Each statue has a windmill. With the rainy weather came a light wind, enough to blow the little windmills around. This created a chilling atmosphere; it made me very sad. I hope I never have to deal with that situation, but life is unpredictable.

Once I ran out of time, I headed back to Hamamatsucho Station. From there, I caught the “Pokemon-orail” back to Haneda Airport. All in all, this was an amazing experience from start to finish. I am so glad I finally got to visit Tokyo, and there are still so many things left for me to do if and when I make a return trip. I am grateful for the hospitality I was shown while in Japan. Almost every person I came into contact with was positive towards me and helped me to have the best time possible. There are definitely some pros and cons to vacationing by yourself, but I am happy with the end result of my troubles. Next time I would love to visit Tokyo with another person, so I can show them really cool places and share some new and unique experiences also.

I will talk about the Capsule Hotel in a completely different post, because it is pretty interesting, but I am tired now. I hope everyone enjoyed reading about my adventure and looking at the pictures I took. I’ll definitely go on another international adventure before my time is up in Korea, and you can be sure I will present it to you in a similar fashion.

With school starting up again on Monday, I’ll get back into the flow and start doing some regular posts. So, until next time!