After spending our first four days in Japan traveling in and around Kyoto, Julia and I took a Shinkansen east to Tokyo. Traveling by bullet train makes the entire country of Japan accessible. The 320 mile journey only took 2:30, and gave us spectacular views of Mt. Fuji. We arrived to Tokyo Station just after 9:00 and walked to our hotel to drop off our bags. We wanted to get an early start and get some sightseeing in, as we had many day trips outside of Tokyo planned for the days that would follow. We were fortunate in that our hotel was located just outside of the Kyobashi Metro station. We purchased a day pass for unlimited rides and made our way towards Asakusa.
Our first stop in Tokyo was in Asakusa to see Sensoji, a 7th century Buddhist temple. To get to Sensoji we walked through the crowded shopping alley called Nakamise. There were a ton of street food vendors and souvenir type shops along the way. I’m not a huge fan of massive crowds and swarms of people, but somehow, this river of humans didn’t feel so bad.
After walking through Nakamise, we approached the Kaminarimon Gate that leads to Sensoji Temple. The temple itself sits tall just on the other side of the gate alongside a pagoda. All of the buildings on this site are post war reconstructions.
The Tokyo Skytree is a short 15 minute walk from Asakusa, so Julia and I made the trip over to find a place for lunch. The Skytree is a icon over the Tokyo skyline at 634 meters tall. It’s base is actually a large shopping mall with restaurants and an aquarium. We found a nice place to eat and then made our way back to the Metro towards the Imperial Palace.
The inner grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace are not open to the public, so we walked around the Eastern Gardens of the palace which is open to the public. The location of the Imperial Palace is the former grounds of the Edo Castle, where the Tokugawa Shogun ruled from 1603 to 1867. The Eastern Gardens was the location of the inner defense walls and moats. We enjoyed the history of the complex and also the early blooms of cherry blossoms scattered around the garden.
After enjoying the blossoms of the Imperial Gardens, Julia and I made our way back to our hotel to check in and grab some dinner. We wanted to make it a quick stop though, as we wanted to get one more site in for the day, and were quickly back on the Metro to take in Shibuya at night. Tokyo is made up of 23 districts, and Shibuya is one of the most well known as it houses a very popular shopping and entertainment district located just outside of the Shibuya train station. The most iconic site of Shibuya is the large crosswalk by the Hachiko exit. This crossing is said to be one of the worlds busiest. Not a surprise when you consider that Shibuya station gets an average of 2.4 million visitors a day! At night, Shibuya comes alive with neon lights, illuminating video screens, and the hustle and bustle of youth culture come alive. When I think of Tokyo, my mind conjures up visions of Shibuya.
Julia and I spent quite a bit of time walking around Shibuya, but made our way back to the hotel before it got too late. We had an early wake up waiting for us, with our sixth day in Japan taking us to Kamakura.