international travel adventures part 3 – fish

Today… was exhausting.  I woke up bright and early to start my journey to the Tsukiji Market.  This market is Tokyo’s world-famous seafood market and it’s apparently quite the sight to see.

Yesterday I spent a RIDICULOUS amount of money on transit fare, today I used my open-ended day pass and only spent about 1000 yen. Funny how I get smarter at this city, just when I’m preparing to leave it.  Today was my last day in Tokyo and I still wanted to see a ton!

I had planned to meet up with Marta, Rui, Jean-Simon, and Patrick – but no one returned my text messages (shame, shame), so I was on my own! I travel extremely well by myself, so I was excited for the day ahead – I had a lot of ground to cover.

Free Hotel Breakfast - Sakura Hotel

The plan: take the Oedo line to Tsukijishiko to see the Tsukiji seafood market; walk to the upperclass fashion zone in Ginza; take the Ginza line to Nihombashi to see the Imperial Palace; take the Ginza line to Akhibara to see “Electric Avenue”; continue on the Ginza line to Ueno to take in temples at Ueno-Koen; last leg on the Ginza line would be to Senso-Ji, a grand old temple in Asakusa; and return to Shibuya to see the dog statue and check out shopping.

I managed to get everything done, if not more in 7.5 hours – but let me tell you, my whole body is a bad kind of sore.  I have never in my life climbed as many stairs, rode as many escalators, and walked the distance I covered today. I rode 7 different train lines (Keio New, Oedo, Ginza, Marunounchi, Hibiya, Tozai, And Fukotshni. I got off/on at 13 different stops (Hatagaya, Shinjuku, Tsukijishijo, Ginza, Nihombashi, Otemachi, Kayabacho, Akihabara, Ueno, Asakusa, Shibuya, Shinjuku-Sanchome, Shinjuku-Nishiguchi). I am tired just thinking about the logistics of my day.

The journey to the seafood market was quite straightforward (now that I’ve learned how to read maps and subway signs J).  Once arrival at the market though, mass chaos.  The market opens at 3am, so I’m not sure if that’s why there were no tourists around – but seriously… I was the only girl in the market, and the only white person. I frequently shrieked (from almost being run over) and gasped at the smell of dead fish. I walked the market for an hour, taking in how complex of an operation these markets are – a well-oiled machine. A few interesting finds…

Tsukiji Market

Dead Fishy - Massive Eh?

Octopus I think...

I then walked about 25 minutes to the Ginza district. Ginza reminds me of Robson Street in Vancouver or the major drag in Los Angeles – very posh, very Burberry, very fancy.  It was early in the morning, so most stores were closed, but a very nice rainy walk through a nice part of town. I think this is about when I started on my Starbucks hunt. We have seen a trillion Starbucks in the last 24 hours, but now today… NONE.

I took the train over to Nihombashi to find out that the Imperial Palace is not actually at this station. Slightly flustered and back to the map, I realize it’s at Otemachi station and head on over. I am greeted at the Imperial Palace (royal family lives here) by a sign that says “CLOSED”… yes on Mondays they are closed. Oops. A few quick peeks around and back to the station to head to “Electric Avenue”.   In my head, I totally thought Japan was cheap from a clothing and electronics standpoint. I must have been totally confused, because that’s definitely Hong Kong and not Japan. Electric Avenue is where you can buy discounted electronics – but the prices are very similar to back in Canada.

I had been wanting to go to Ueno but didn’t think I would have the time  – so I made the time, seeing Ueno-Koen was a new priority.  This area of Tokyo is absolutely beautiful with a fantastic hustle and bustle.  I strolled through the park visiting the island on which Benten-Do (temple dedicated to the Buddhist temple of the arts, wisdom, and sea) stands and Kiyomizu Kannon-Do (a red temple that relates to children and Kyoto).  I tend to forget about eating and hydrating when I “tourist,” so I bought a wafer ice cream bar from a vending machine and was on my way back to the subway.

A "Friend" from Ueno.

Asakusa appealed to me from the minute I started learning about Tokyo – but the distance from our hotel was substantial. I had planned out my whole day, so that I would end up at Asakusa. It was the home of Senso-Ji, a beautiful and grand old temple.  Sensjo-Ji has millions of visitors annually so the area was extremely busy. There was a quaint shopping street called Nakamise-Dori that led to the temple and I managed to snag my friend Cory a beautiful set of chopsticks.

Senso-Ji

Yesterday we were planning on going to Shibuya, but we ran short on time (after getting lost all those times), so I incorporated it into my day today. Shibuya is the home of the Hachiko Statue, and the tale of a dog and a professor making the daily commute to Shibuya station.  Shibuya is also the home to the craziest crosswalk system on earth (I took video – stay tuned).   Lastly, Shibuya has a store called “Shibuya 109” and it has a bazillion, seriously – a bazillion, floors of just young trendy clothes. Considering it was the end of the day, it was a fairly overwhelming last stop.

Lonely Planet recommends the following 16 highlights when visiting Tokyo:

Sumo Tournament, Harajuku Girls, Tsukiji Market, Golden Gai, Ghibli Museum, Roppongi Art Triangle, Edo-Tokyo Museum, Ginza, Electric Town, Meiji-Jingu, Shimo-Kitazawa, Ueno-Koen, Shibuya, Sumida-Gawa, Senso-Ji, and YoYogi-Koen.

In 2 days, I managed to hit 9 of them, and I would have done anything to see a Sumo tournament, but sadly out of season.

So I headed back to the hotel to grab my things and make my way to Tokyo Station to take the bullet train to Osaka.  Considering how sore my body was, I was DREADING the “commute” to Osaka. This involved taking the train from Hatagaya to Shinjuku, transferring lines to take the train to Tokyo Station, transferring companies and lines to take the train to Shin-osaka, transferring lines and companies to take the train to Osaka, and lastly, transferring lines and companies to take the train to Higobashi station (which is apparently walking distance from my hotel).

Jeesh eh? I am now on the train to Osaka – it wasn’t as complicated as it could have been, primarily because I chose to go before rush hour began. My bags are heavy – really heavy (or I’m weak… or both). More to come on heavy bags and packing tips in a future blog post. I will have to do all those transfers when I get to Shin-Osaka, but c’est la vie! It’s already pitch black, as long as I arrive before morning ;) I’m good to go.

Everything is small in Japan... my space on the train...

More importantly – I am starving and thirsty. It’s been hours since I ate and apparently there is no food or liquids on this train. I believe I have a “layover” at Shin-Osaka, so as soon as I have an opportunity to get some nutrients, I am taking a break!

What will it be today? Hot Lemonade? Eel? Panties in a vending machine?

Kyukyusha o yonde [that means call an ambulance – CAUSE I AM STARVING.]

Until next time… XO.

PS – I managed to see/do a lot in the past two days pre-conference.  The conference will be very standard during the day (training, etc) – and very unpredictable in the evening (nation nights, karaoke, and gosh knows what else). More Japan posts coming to a blog near you soon. :)

 

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