Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Family Visit on our Return to Tokyo, Japan: May 27-31, 2016

After two weeks of getting familiar with the transportation system, returning from Osaka to Tokyo was a piece of cake. We were able to change trains, find the easiest path for roller bags, and locate our Airbnb lodging without a hitch.

We returned to Tokyo to meet up with my nephew Lary, his wife Jerrene, and Kent their 5-year old son who live in Hawaii but are about to begin a vacation in Japan. They arrive tomorrow.

Before they arrived, we took advantage of Thursday's late night hours at The National Art Center. We also strolled through a nearby mall with gourmet (they are all gourmet in Tokyo) groceries to get provisions for our Airbnb stay. Fruits and vegetables are displayed like fine jewelry. Each piece is perfection. They have $100 melons; we weren't buying.

After Lary, Jerrene, and Kent arrived, our first joint visit was to the Tokyo Zoo---on a Sunday with every other person in Tokyo who had a child. To say it was crowded is an understatement.
Tokyo Zoo
I don't know which exhibit Kent liked best, but I liked the polar bear exhibit with their underwater windows.

After the zoo, we went our separate ways to take advantage of our differing interests. Dan and I headed back toward our Airbnb apartment in the Chuo-Ku area of Tokyo. This area is a small island connected by bridges to greater Tokyo. It was a warm evening for taking photos of the view with tourist boats on the Sumida River as the light faded.

View of the Skytree
Chuo-Ohashi Bridge over the Sumida River

Our second joint visit was to the Samurai Museum. This is a new museum open now for just a few months. One of the nice benefits of the museum is getting an English-speaking guide to explain the costumes and other exhibits.

We watched an impressive short presentation on the many ways of using a sword.

We dressed up in Japanese costumes and took photos.

We wandered over to the Meiji-Jingu where the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken are entombed. Their bodies are entombed in Kyoto. Emperor Meiji passed away in 1912 and Empress Shoken in 1914. After their demise to commemorate their virtues and to venerate them forever, 100,000 trees from all over Japan and from overseas were donated to create a beautiful forest that now surrounds the shrine. This shrine was established in 1920.

Sake barrels donated to the shrine

On our last day in Tokyo, we visited the Imperial Palace. One can't actually visit the Imperial Palace or see it, but we visited the grounds outside of the gated area that surrounds the Imperial Palace. The G7 gathering was going on while we were in Tokyo and disconcertingly, helicopters were constantly flying overhead. 

Outside of the Imperial Palace area

In the park-like surrounding area nature is manicured and harnessed into shape. Walking on the grass is prohibited.

In stark contrast to the preciseness of the grounds around the Imperial Palace, our last stop in Tokyo was to Takeshita Street in the Harajuku district. Takeshita Street is a shopping area and it is where the fashion culture of Goth and Little Bo Peep merge. It is flamboyant people watching at its best.

We enjoyed our visit to Japan. Japan is so very neat and organized. We rarely saw trash cans, but people don't litter. Clean public toilets were near everywhere we visited even on the trails.When we were confused about which direction to walk, passersby would willingly help us by showing us on their cell phones which way we should be walking to get where we needed to go. Free WiFi was available in most places we stayed and visited. In the large cities, free WiFi is usually available in the transportation stations and in shopping malls. Food and food choices were great. There are instructive signs: how to use the toilets, how to purify yourself at a Shinto Shrine. There are scolding signs that  prohibit scribbling or prohibit running to trains. The transportation system is organized and well timed. We quickly figured out how to navigate the subways and trains. This is a regulated society where the needs of the group are elevated above the needs of an individual. The concept, as I write this, feels pretty desirable right now. It was a wonderful place to visit.

Kent, a seasoned subway commuter