Japan: Tokyo

Tokyo really is a city of contrasts. Is it the high-tech, bustling, Bladerunner-esque landscape you see on TV? Absolutely. However not all of the districts are quite as frenetic as Ginza or Shibuya. If you look hard there are also back-waters of serenity in some of the temples.

Straight off the plane I decided to lean more towards the quiet side and went to the Imperial Palace. I went straight for the canonical picture of the palace, Nijubashi Bridge.

And here are the guards outside the front.

Part of the joy of travelling is always the people-watching. I loved this little boys outfit.

Once I’d woken up a bit I decided to see some of the busy cross-walks and hustle and bustle of Ginza and Shibuya.





That last picture was taken from the top of Tokyo Tower, which looks rather like the Eiffel Tower but is painted red. And is in Tokyo.

When I first went up to the observation floor it was still pretty much day light. Very quickly the sun set. A got a few shots before and after. Tokyo really seems to come alive at night.

After doing all the busy stuff, the next day I went to the Meiji Shrine. It wasn’t exactly tranquil — still lots of people about — but it made quite a contrast after all the lights and people elsewhere.

People, both locals and tourists, took advantage of the praying facilities.

And most shrines had these little good luck tiles. Some of them were funny, others were touching. I’m not entirely convinced that this was written by an eight year old, though.

However, I think these sake casks are more in my style of worship…

Meiji Shine has the good grace to be in a park and, therefore, be relatively calm and quiet, if not by the standards of most temples then by the standards of Tokyo as a whole. This description does not apply to Sensö-ji Temple which is situated at the end of one of the most packed markets I’ve seen for a while!

After all the stalls but before the temple you see people wafting incense over themselves, and breathing in deeply. They believe it wards off poor health and cures various ailments. I would think that breathing in smoke is more likely to bring on some unpleasant lung disease, but each to their own I guess.

Of course you expect to see the temples and the bright lights and the commerce. There were, however, some things that I can’t say I was anticipating.

Perhaps the most bizarre is the concept of a “Maid Cafe.” Check out the ad:

“Welcome home, master and mistress!”

As the headline suggests, it’s not just for men. I think in the West something like this would be sexual but, while I understand that regular customers might bring flowers for their favourite maid, people also go to them on dates. I think it’s fair to say that it’s uniquely Japanese.

You might also imagine that it could work as a one-off novelty but there are many of them, so much so that they need to hand out leaflets in the street in order to drum up trade.

Very odd.

Finally, when you think of the Statue of Liberty, where do you think of? New York? Bonus points if you remembered that there’s also one in Paris. A huge bonus if you knew that there was one in Tokyo Bay.

I can’t claim that it looks very much like the Eye in London, but there’s also a ferris wheel nearby.

These last two images were taken in Obaiba in what looks like a new development. Much of Tokyo is pretty new but only this bit is not quite finished yet!

And that was pretty much all of my whistle-stop tour of Tokyo. If you want to see more, there are a few extras on Flickr. After Tokyo I went to see the iconic Mount Fuji, so that’s what I’ll be posting next.