I’m pretty proud of myself! I had to make my way from my hotel on the Tokyo Bay to Tokyo Station in the heart of the city using the train system. And I totally did it! I walked to the Bay Station monorail, then jumped the Keiyo Line to Tokyo Station. The monorail is a part of Disney and has the cutest windows ever!
Tokyo Station is huge! I had to take a particular exit, and I think I had to walk a good mile underground to get there. Also, there are exits into a bunch of department stores all around the station. I did finally make it back up to daylight, and then met up with my tour company. They actually took us from there to the central bus station, not everyone at Tokyo Station was going on the same tour, so they took us to the bus station to reshuffle us. I only mention it because I used the bathroom at the bus station which had some very helpful toilet related advice:
Since my time in Tokyo is somewhat limited, I had decided to do this day tour. Also, I thought it would mean less walking on my bad ankle while still getting to see a lot. I did see a lot, but the walking was not as limited as my ankle would have liked. In any case, the tour was great and I’d recommend it! I ended up being adopted for the day by a trio of ladies from Florida who are in Tokyo for work; with it being a weekend they got some time to explore the area. They were so lovely and fun to hang out with! Our tour guide was Keiko, and let me tell you something, Keiko loves a good building. We drove all around Tokyo and Keiko pointed out everything from buildings that looked like glasses of beer, to building of popular hotels.
Our first stop on the tour was the Meiji Shinto Shrine. This shrine was first built in between 1915 and 1921; it is dedicated to the deified Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. The original temple was destroyed during World War 2, it was rebuilt in 1958.
When you first enter the shrine complex you purify yourself at a special washing station. You take a bamboo ladle of water, rinse your left hand, then you’re right, then with your cupped left hand wash your mouth (don’t drink the water), then rinse your left had again, before rinsing the handle of the ladle by pouring the water down it.
To enter the complex, you go through a gate. The proper way to enter the gate is stop in front of it, bow once, and then enter as close to the side as possible.
To visit the shrine, you place money in a box, bow twice with your hands palms together in front of your chest, then clap twice, then bow once more.
While we were there we got to see a Shinto wedding processional. Our guide said that although most Japanese either consider themselves Shinto, Buddhist, or both, it is more common for weddings in Tokyo to be Christian weddings. Very interesting! Also, I really like the idea of someone always following me around with an umbrella!
As cool as it was, I really enjoyed the wooded path we walked to get to the shrine. You can build all the amazing buildings you want, but really nothing brings me closed to the Creator than just being out in nature. I loved it!
Our next stop was the Hamarikyu Gardens. This area was originally the villa of Tocugawa shogun; today it is a garden open everyday except Mondays and Fridays. Since we visited in the winter there wasn’t much in bloom yet, but there were still some pretty things to see.
I also really enjoyed the fact that the villa was surrounded by two motes! Two of them! Some might say overkill, but I say why only have one mote when you can have two? Also, the swans swimming in the mote were huge!
Up next was Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist Temple, Senso-ji. The story goes that two brothers were fishing in the nearby river and found a tiny Buddha statue in the river. They took it back to the village and villagers decided to build a temple. Much like Meiji Shrine, the temple was destroyed in World War 2 and then rebuilt.
The grounds of the temple also have a Pagoda. This is a five-story building that contains the ashes of the Buddha that were inherited from Isurumuniya in Sri Lanka. I’ve always enjoyed a good pagoda; in fact, growing up I made sure to get a “Friendship Pagoda” firework every year to light on the Fourth of July. What can I say? I loved how the little building would just spin and pop up!
There is also a small Japanese style garden, and a collection of statues.
Also, as this has become a major tourist destination, they have 89 different shops lining the road leading to the temple. A lot of the shops were for souvenirs, but they also had food stalls. Some of that food smelled SO good!
It’s a good thing that our next stop was lunch. We had lunch in the top of a 21-story building overlooking Tokyo Bay. The food was good, but the view was remarkable!
From there we headed to the bay itself for a short cruise. The boat ride as only about 40 minutes, which was long enough to take us out past the Rainbow Bridge and then back. Being on the water is always so nice!
We had one more stop after that, which was the Odaiba. This is a manmade island across from central Tokyo. Its sports some great shops, restaurants, but most importantly it has an amazing view. According to our guide, the best time to be there is at night. Not only does the island get lit up, but the skyline of central Tokyo as well. Plus, they have a small statue of liberty. It was a lovely spot to end the day’s tour!
After that they dropped us back off at Tokyo Station to make our way back to our hotels. I did need to do one more thing before heading back to the hotel, and that was to hit up a grocery store. So, one thing I have an issue with in Asia is the food. Namely, I have a sensitivity to MSG and its used pretty generously over here. While I am looking forward to tasting some foods, I have to be careful about what I eat, too much MSG will definitely ruin my day!
I ended up finding a small grocery store inside Tokyo Station. Yes, inside! The place is so big that it can house souvenir shops, specialty food shops, restaurants, and apparently grocery stores, and that’s all on top of being connected to several department stores! I was able to get some meat, cheese and yogurt to help my MSG-free needs, but they also had more local specialties. Like containers chalk full of dried fish. All those little fish, just staring at you from an eye-level shelf. Freaky man!
From there it was back to my hotel. I’m suffering from a little jetlag this leg of the trip and ended up falling asleep way before I actually planned to. The kind of unplanned sleeping that involved the lights still being on.
Tomorrow I head into the parks, I’m really looking forward to it! There is something about being at Disney that feels like home.