28 October 2017

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Tokyo, Japan

Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands, the four largest islands are Kyushu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Honshu, where the capital Tokyo is located. It has a population of 127 million, of which 98% are Japanese. Tokyo, the biggest city in Japan in terms of population and area, with a total population of over 37 million inhabitants,  has the largest population concentration of any city in the world.

I was left to amuse myself on Friday, as Erol had to go to work. So I decided to go on the Hop on Hop off Bus tour round the city, these are usually a great way to see a lot of a city in a short space of time. Unfortunately the bus had high glass windows so it wasn’t easy getting photos. The main façade of Tokyo rail station dates to 1914 when the station opened.

At 634m high the Tokyo Skytree is  the world’s highest stand-alone communication tower, it opened in May 2012.

Odaiba is a  shopping and entertainment district on a man made island in Tokyo Bay. The Fuji building, the headquarters of Fuji Television, is located in this area, as is a 115 meter tall, brightly coloured, ferris wheel, which is one of the world’s largest.

The links connecting these two buildings are to ‘earthquake proof’ the structure.

Tokyo Tower, at 333 meters high, is the world’s tallest, self-supported steel tower and 13 meters taller than its model, the Eiffel Tower. A symbol of Japan’s post-war rebirth as a major economic power, Tokyo Tower was the country’s tallest structure from its completion in 1958 until 2012 when it was overtaken by the Tokyo Skytree.

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DSC_0089 (6)The area were Erol lives, is like a little village, with it’s small independent shops, and quiet, narrow streets.

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Outside Shibuya Station is a statue of a dog called Hachikō. Hachikō came to this station every day to meet his human owner returning from work, when his owner died in 1925, the dog still kept coming to the station, until he died ten years after his owners death. Hachikō became legendary and so this statue was erected of him.

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The Hachikō statue is where I was on Saturday morning, meeting a friend of Erols, to walk around the area and have coffee while Erol was at work, again! Shibuya, is one of Tokyo’s most vibrant and busy districts, filled with shops, restaurants  and nightclubs. Huge video screens constantly blare out their messages, competing with the, ‘quieter’ signs that cram every available space, providing a patchwork of colours on the streets. It is what one expects to see in Tokyo and it does not disappoint.

Shibuya intersection is the busiest in Japan, at peak times it is thought that as many as a thousand humans cross here at any one time. It wasn’t that busy when we were there, however it is fascinating watching the crowds on the pavements grow, as they wait for the light to go green, and when it does, the whole intersection becomes a mass of people, all heading in different directions, in the midst of this there are people taking selfies and videos, lest they forget how they crossed the road.

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As soon as the lights go red the traffic reclaims the crossing, this happens every two minutes, every day and well into the night.

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As we made our way back to the station, it started raining, and marshals were now at the crossing, blowing whistles, (very loudly),  ensuring the mass, of umbrella carrying, humans all got across the road safely.

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Even in the pouring rain Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is beautiful, it opened in 1949 and is one of Tokyo’s largest parks. The garden contains three styles, English Landscape, French Formal and Japanese Traditional. We got there shortly before it was closing so only had time to visit the Kyu-Goryo-Tei in the Japanese Gardens.

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Kyu-Goryo-Tei is also called the Taiwan-Pavilion due to its special features of southern Chinese architectural techniques, and that many of the building materials used were brought over from Taiwan. This building is designated a historical building by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

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View from Kyu-Goryo-Tei

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Undeterred by the rain we had a wander around the Kabuki area in the evening. Named after a kabuki theatre, whose construction plans were never realized, Japan’s largest red light district features countless restaurants, bars, nightclubs, pachinko parlours, love hotels and a wide variety of red light establishments for all sexes and sexual orientations. Bright, shiny, loud, flashing, busy, tacky, neon, glaring, colourful, and when we were there, wet, it’s all there, on the streets, waiting, tempting one to enjoy the experience.

We came across a robot restaurant, endless gaming parlours, and Godzilla watching over us from the rooftop.

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Next we went to Omoide Yokocho, meaning memory lane, a network of tiny alleyways along the tracks northwest of Shinjuku Station. The lanes are filled with dozens of tiny eateries serving ramen, soba, sushi, yakitori and kushiyaki. The restaurants, are about the size of a large cupboard, and consist of just one counter, usually the size of  chopping board, with a couple of stools, some had tiny tables, the food looked and smelt amazing, a lot of it was being cooked on open coals. I couldn’t take any photos.

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