So far the best thing I’ve found about Tokyo is how all the things I find most beautiful are usually found tucked away in the most unlikely of places. I had an extremely slow day today. I didn’t get out of bed until around 9, didn’t finish breakfast until around 10.30, and didn’t leave the hostel until 11.30. I’ve been struggling to come to terms with this solo travelling mentality of “You’re your own boss, today, yesterday, tomorrow, everyday!”. I felt guilty about taking so long to get outside and I don’t know why, who am I keeping schedule for?
I spent most of my morning planning tomorrow’s jaunt which will be a mighty tiring adventure through several suburbs of Tokyo, so today I decided to keep it light and just head on over to Tokyo station and explore the centre of this great city.
Getting there via subway has become a breeze and I’m not anxious about their transport any longer. I already know my route to Tokyo Station better than any in Brisbane, mainly because once you have your bearings it’s incredibly simple to use. After arriving I decided to give the station a tour and I wasn’t disappointed. Immediately I found Tokyo Station’s “Ramen Street” and I was lost for words. It was coming into lunch time and every single restaurant and store had a line at least 10 people deep waiting for their turn to eat. This went on for a few hundred metres until I found my way to the retail stores. These were endless it seemed. The smell of the kitchens creating such lovely things had me hankering for a spot of lunch so I wandered down one of the quieter paths and found a nice restaurant with less people hovering about – usually to me that’d be a sign of lesser quality food, but I genuinely think it was bad location as the food was fantastic. There is nothing more awkward than not speaking a lick of the language and having them not be able to speak any English – my ordering technique came down to pointing at the menu and hoping what turned up was tasty. Turns out it was that and then some. I ended up with some sort of fermented fish dish with rice, miso soup, beef broth and these strange pink pickles. All in all I was satisfied.
After having my fill I wandered out into the bustling Tokyo streets and toward my first destination – the Meitoku Inari Shrine. If I hadn’t pre-planned this, and made sure to mark it on my map there was no chance I’d have ever found it. It’s a basic walk from Tokyo Station along Eitai-Dori street/road/something which runs adjacent the Station and you follow it for 15 minutes. I thought I’d be tricked as I looked at the map and noticed I had to walk down this dark alley, but I did anyway. What I found was spectacular; hidden away down this alley was this quaint little shrine being engulfed by multi story buildings. It was so quiet, and so isolated that I thought that it must be closed down, but I ventured inside anyway and found it to be so charming. There was only one other person there apart from the guard, and she was as surprised as I was. I love how the old and the new mix here in Japan so easily.
I am very glad I ventured out and away from the city to find this little gem. I highly recommend you mark it down before you head out, it’s near impossible to see from the street.
Afterwards I returned to the windy streets and headed towards the Imperial Palace. Yesterday I tried to visit but found it to be shut due to it being Friday, but today I was in luck. The walk was peaceful, if not a bit cold, and again I found it to be lovely to see the beauty of Japan in full force as I rounded the corner to see the Palace before me. I likened it to a flower blossoming in amongst the weeds – no offence to the people who designed the sky scrapers but in comparison the palace was a thing of beauty. The world opens up as you get closer and what was all buildings crammed in one by one along the street becomes trees and flowers and an expanse of emptiness (I assume to house all the tourist busses in peak season). I didn’t realise you couldn’t enter the palace itself, and neither did a few others, as we were all ushered out and away towards the main entry gate for the Palace East Gardens. I’ve been trying to do everything in Tokyo that’s free and this is another activity I can recommend to those on a budget. The walk isn’t hard, except for a few steep uphill climbs as you make your way deeper into the garden. Everything is beautiful and well kept and I can see why it’s a must see while in Tokyo. The only draw back is like all major attractions it is quite busy, and even though I got there later in the afternoon before closing (I tend to be making a habit of that) it was still quite crowded. It makes taking lovely photos difficult and enjoying any kind of serenity the place should have near impossible. Nevertheless, if you’re nearby, definitely go see it!
That was pretty much the day done and I knew tomorrow would be an all out affair so I headed home and was fed and relaxing in the common room before 5pm – grandad would be proud.