11 Aug Tokyo sightseeing
Our first sight for the day was Tokyo Tower. From Yoyogi Station, we took the Oedo line to Akabanebashi station and walked towards the towering orange structure ahead.
Tokyo Tower is a communications and observation tower, built in 1958. Modelled on Paris’ Eiffel Tower, Tokyo’s version stands slightly taller. For air safety regulations, it is coloured white and orange. The tower has an observatory at 150 metres and a special observatory at 250 metres. There are other attractions on the ground floors, each with separate entrance fees. Tokyo Tower was over-taken as the tallest in Japan after the Tokyo Skytree was opened in 2012.
We weren’t interested in paying to enter the observatories as we planned on seeing Tokyo from the Government building, which was free to enter. We viewed the tower from the ground, walking around its base and came across the tower’s mascots, which are rather strange looking.
A short walk from Tokyo Tower is Zojoji Temple. This is where you can view traditional Japan together with the modern. From the temple grounds, Tokyo Tower can be seen standing behind the main hall, showing two different architecture styles within the city. Zojoji was founded in 1393 and moved to its current location in 1598. The temple’s main gate dates from 1622, having survived many fires, wars and earthquakes. The other buildings have been more recently rebuilt, with the current main hall constructed in 1974.
Walking in Tokyo
After viewing Zojoji, we headed towards a station to get a train to Tokyo Station. Fletcher walked along side us but started getting tired, so we put him in the stroller for a nap. We ended up walking 4.5km through the streets of Tokyo. He got his nap and we got to see some more of the city.
Tokyo Imperial Palace
We walked to the Imperial Palace, cutting through Hibya Koen on the way.
The Imperial Palace, home to Tokyo’s Imperial family, is located on the site of the former Edo Castle. The castle was the seat of the Shogunate whom ruled Japan since 1603. In 1868 he was overthrown and Emperor Meiji moved from Kyoto, changing the country’s imperial residence and capital. The new Imperial Palace was constructed in 1888 and rebuilt after being destroyed during world war two.
There is a large park area surrounding the palace and from outside of the grounds, large stone walls and moats can be viewed. The bridges leading into the palace inner grounds are popular view points for visitors. The stone bridge is called Maganebashi, which means ‘Eyeglass bridge’, due to its appearance. The bridge located behind it is called Nijubashi, which means ‘double bridge’. It is called this as it used to be a wooden bridge with two levels.
There are guided tours of the palace grounds available. They must be booked in advance through the Imperial Household Agency. The Imperial Palace East grounds can be entered by the public throughout the year. Upon entering we had to go to a counter and collect a token for each person that had to be returned upon exiting.
Fletcher had woken up and I changed his nappy on a fold out bench in the ladies bathroom. Unfortunately, what we had seen of the gardens didn’t fascinate us. After a quick stroll around we decided to leave to have lunch. I later found out there is a foundation of the former Edo Castle, which would be good to see. We handed our tokens in and left the grounds. Outside of the entrance, Fletcher loved watching the water birds flying around and landing in the moat.
Tokyo Station is only a short walk from the Imperial Palace. The west side of the station was recently renovated and restored to it’s original striking red-brick appearance. It dates back to 1914, when it opened with four platforms. Today the station sees more than 3,000 trains per day, including the high speed shinkansen.
Tokyo Station is a great place for kids. It has a designated ‘character street’ full of fun stores. Fletcher had a great time playing with a toy train set up in the Tomica store. While he was busy playing, Tim purchased a toy bullet train set for him that would be a Christmas present as well as a souvenir for our nephew.
We came to a store selling Studio Ghibli merchandise. For myself, I chose some thick Totoro socks and a small Totoro plushie . I then wanted to find something that Fletcher could play with without having to worry about him wrecking it. I found the perfect little bag containing small plastic figurines. Inside were characters from the movie My Neighbour Totoro. It had the Main Totoro and the two smaller ones, the catbus and Mei. It turned out to be a great purchase, he played with them at the apartment, on the plane home and still enjoys playing with them now.
We wandered around, looking at all the different stores. We let Fletcher choose a toy from the many gachapon machines lined up. He chose a fish toy and this kept him occupied on our train ride.
We then took the Yamanote line for almost half an hour back to Yoyogi station. It was my turn to head out on my own and I chose to explore Harajuku. Tim stayed at the apartment with Fletcher, who spent the time playing with his new Totoro toys and showing them to his grandparents on Skype.
My time in Harajuku
I took an extremely crowded train from Yoyogi station to Harajuku station. Luckily it was only one stop. After pushing my way out of the train doors and following the crowd, I found myself outside of Harajuku station.
I had a WiFi device from the apartment with me but it hadn’t remembered the password. Without a working map, I had to rely on my memory of Harajuku. I browsed in a souvenir shop and Kiddyland then, headed up Takeshita Dori. I looked in the large Daiso store and bought a top from a little store along the street. After Takeshita street I hopped back on the train at Harajuku Station and made my way back to the apartment. It was great to get some time to look in the stores by myself.