Day 7 - Tokyo
|Saturday, February 27: It was another chilly day in Tokyo.
|We had another full day tour booked, so we got picked up at our hotel and brought to the bus terminal to meet our tour bus. There, we found this very rare vending machine that actually dispensed food -- the Kit Kats and chips in the bottom row. We also snagged one of the Tokyo Tower water bottles on the top row.
|Our tour bus featured neon green upholstery and enough cup holders for royal milk tea, fruit juice, water, and Tom's GPS.
|We passed this cool building with trellises built right into the surface.
|Our guide, name long forgotten, pointed to a map of our destination: the Meiji Shinto Shrine.
|We passed the Provenance of the Bourgogne Wine for Consecration. Why are there wine barrels at a shrine? Don't know.
|This is the gigantic torii gate leading to the shrine.
|Here's a smaller one just further down the path.
|Here's a courtyard outside of the shrine.
|This is a large display of prayer cards, called eva.
|For a mere paltry payment of 500 yen (about $5), you can buy one, write your wishes on it, and the priests will convey them at the morning ceremony.
|Suddenly, a giant group of Japanese people in black suits walked by in neatly spaced rows of two people each.
|We saw this sign on our way back to the bus and decided we had to try one later on.
|This is the famous Harajuku neighborhood. We didn't stop so we had to content ourselves with one perfectly-timed shot through the window.
|We passed Akasaka Palace ...
|... and got out to visit the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace.
|Of course, there's a moat. Moats are awesome.
|Moats with swans are even more awesome.
|Let's go in Door Number One.
|Cool fish statue. Every garden needs one.
|And now through Door Number Two.
|The gardens consisted of some Japanese buildings, lots of extremely sturdy rock walls that made Tom jealous, ...
|... and cute little lamps.
|Gardens have flowers and flowers must be photographed. Up close is best.
|These leafless, budless trees are cherry trees. They'll be gorgeous in a month.
|The daffodils back home weren't in bloom yet, so it was nice to see them blooming in Japan.
|These neat piles of dirt will be Japanese irises soon.
|Everyone loves the big bamboo.
|On our way back out, we passed three different colors of flowering shrubs. Yay for spring!
|Japan is famous for gaming, and we saw entire buildings devoted to it. Check out the escalator windows in the left side of this Sega building.
|More gaming paradise.
|This one's for Tom. Sweet memories of yout'.
|Our next tour stop was Asakusa Kannon Temple (also known as Senso-ji). Here is a pagoda ...
|... and a Buddha statue.
|The grounds are a mix of kiosks, lanterns, gardens, and statues.
|Koi are always fun, but the bright orange ones are best.
|Inside the temple, there was a crush of worshippers and tourists so we didn't stay long.
|This is called the Kaminarimon or "Thunder Gate."
|A huge paper lantern hangs inside the gate. See the people below it for a sense of scale.
|Next, we shopped our way down Nakamise-Dori, the shopping street just beyond the Thunder Gate.
|We found a crowd outside this stall, where a couple was doing a brisk business selling freshly deep-fried buns.
|The outside was like a very delicious funnel cake. We didn't know what was inside until we bit into it. Bean paste. Yay.
|Many of the stalls were selling small shaped cakes made in little assembly lines. Tom bought a couple to try.
|Aren't these cute? Want to know what's inside? Bean paste. Yay.
|We drove back through the city and passed this kabuki theater.
|Restaurants like these were everywhere, tucked under the freeway.
|Our next stop was the Pastel-Tei restaurant, a restaurant on the 12th floor of a building overlooking Tokyo Bay. We had a nice little table for two by the window, ...
|... so we had this view, ...
|... and this one, of the Hamarikyu Garden, the only surviving Edo-period seaside garden.
|We had a nice lunch of steak, salad, bread, and pretty, pretty dessert with no bean paste anywhere.
|Our next tour activity was a cruise on Tokyo Bay.
|A wedding was being performed onboard, so we were able to watch through the window of one of the lounges.
|Up on deck, we looked around a bit. There were container ports up and down the shore, but not a Maersk in sight.
|There's Odaiba, where we'd be visiting later.
|Here's a closer look at Aqua City and the cool silver Fuji TV building.
|Straight ahead is the Rainbow Bridge.
Here's a panorama of Odaiba Island ...
... and here's the Rainbow Bridge to the Tokyo mainland on the left.
|After our bay cruise, our bus took the ramp up to cross the Rainbow Bridge. We'd be coming back this way by tram later in the evening.
|We separated from our tour when we got to Aqua City, because we knew we wanted to spend some time in Odaiba. Our nice tour guide told us how to get back to our hotel by tram and train. First stop: checking out the Statue of Liberty. It turns out that France gives these out to pretty much everyone.
|Aqua City is a large mall, and the very first store we encountered was Lush! Squee!!
|Almost nothing was labeled in English, so we purchased a few items based on the scent alone, including the Japanese version of our favorite Lush liquid shampoo, I Love Juicy, and a few solid shampoo bars that we didn't recognize.
|There's the Rainbow Bridge again. It's not rainbow-colored at all -- our guide told us that it was named that because it resembles a rainbow. Things that make you go hmmmmmm....
|We get very brave about trying new foods when we're out of the country, and this stand was selling what looked like gooey-egg-batter squid balls. Here, a cook is ladeling the batter into round tins. Next, he'll drop a spoonful of squid onto each ball, then he'll flip them over so they cook all over.
|Then, they put six in a container and top it with sauce and other toppings. Here's our selection. We each ate one and commended ourselves for eating something so bizarre. Then we stopped.
|From Aqua City, we figured out the ticket kiosk and tram map, and took the tram to ...
|... Palette Town.
|It had an outdoor food court with a McDonald's sign completely in Japanese but we did not eat there since we were still a little queasy from the squid balls.
|Next door was the Toyota City Showcase.
|It featured an indoor track where you could ride teeny tiny Toyotas, but the wait was a little long.
|So, we admired the other cars instead, such as this decorated tiny car ...
|... and these personal vehicles of the future ...
|... and this car with the most awesome passenger door ever.
|The real reason we were here was to ride Palette Town's 377-ft. tall Ferris wheel: Daikanransha.
|The colorful cars seat up to 6 but each couple was given their own.
|Here's ours. The seats were heated, which was a nice touch on a chilly night.
|Up we go! There's the Toyota City Showcase ...
|... and there's the little outdoor food court.
|There's the Tokyo skyline with the Tokyo Tower visible in the distance.
|Off to the right, the view was equally sparkly. This was taken near the very top, so you can see a car next to us.
|Looking in toward the center of the wheel, you can see the neon lighting up the wheel's spokes.
|Next, we headed to Palette Town's huge arcade hall. We started out in this virtual reality ride for two simulating a Blue Angels flight, complete with tiny wind fans in the visors.
|These machines dispensed tiny figurine keychains with birthdays on them. Must ... resist ...
|Tom tried out his pitching arm for several rounds on the pitching game.
|Japan is famous for its vending toys, so we tried our luck with this Star Wars miniature bust machine. We got Princess Leia. No, you can't have it.
|It's hard to pass up ice cream crepes when the display contains life-like representations of the real thing.
|Debbie exchanged a digital photo of the display for the real thing: chocolate ice cream, whipped cream, sliced bananas, and chocolate sauce wrapped up in a fresh crepe. Indiana needs more crepe stores.
|We peeked into the mall next door. It's called Venus Fort and it is described as being specifically designed to attract women. It looked suspiciously like the interior of the Venetian in Las Vegas.
|From the outdoor food court, we looked back at the Ferris wheel ...
|... and did it again just outside the tram station.
|We took the tram back across the Rainbow Bridge to the end of its route, then transferred to a train back to our hotel.
|Before heading to our hotel room, we made our nightly stop at the attached 7-11 on the ground floor, where we bought one of the steamed buns we had seen advertised earlier ...
... and another round of shrimp salad and tasty sandwiches for dinner and breakfast, respectively. What looked like a cup of mango pieces turned out to be mango gelatin instead, but there's always room for Jello.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy