Japan Day 14: Tokyo Tower 東京タワー, Meiji Shrine 明治神宮, Ueno Park and Karaoke カラオケ Booth!
Day fourteen was packed with things to see and do! I had been to Tokyo twice before, and had a list of places that I wanted to take Jives to see before our time was up in Japan.
We were really lucky with weather during our stay in Japan, the autumn leaves were just changing colour, and the weather was much warmer than back home! The days were on average around 20 degrees Celsius. We could not have chosen a better time to visit (October 21st-November 2nd)! We only had two rainy days out of sixteen. Day fourteen was one of those rainy days, but we didn’t let it slow us down.
We jumped on the metro from our hostel, taking the train from Asakusabashi to Hamamatsucho station. There are closer metro stops to Tokyo Tower and Zojoji temple, but with our JR passes, this was the closest “free” stop. The Daimon station on the Toei and Oedo line is much more convenient. We then walked to Zojoji Temple, at the base of Tokyo Tower. When you emerge from the metro, all you really need to do is locate the orange Tokyo tower and walk towards it! EASY!
Zojoji Temple 三縁山増上寺 is beautiful, with its backdrop of Tokyo Tower, but also very somber. The temple is dotted with rows of jizo, tiny statues that are child sized, clothed and decorated by the family of children who have passed away. The statues are beautiful, but it remains important to remember their somber meaning.
From Zojoji, we walked towards Tokyo Tower. At the very bottom of Tokyo Tower, there is a shop selling Harajuku style waffles. Harajuku waffles are made incredibly thin, like a crepe. The crepe is then filled with toppings, and rolled up in a shape not unlike a ice cream cone. This shop had both savory and sweet waffles, and well over 100 options and combinations.
After our meal, we purchased our tickets and ascended Tokyo Tower! I would recommend going to Tokyo Tower, and have now done so twice, however……. it is pretty cheesy and not nearly as fancy as the new Sky Tree. I feel that the tackiness of Tokyo Tower somehow helps it’s appeal, plus how could you not visit such an iconic landmark? The tower it self is filled with shops and booths and things that will take your money. However, the view is pretty incredible and right in the heart of the downtown core, unlike the SKY TREE. Also, unlike the Sky Tree, the ticket is affordable (900 yen). The first time I went up Tokyo Tower, it was after sunset and the view of Tokyo lit up in lights is pretty neat! If you don’t have a clear day, I’d recommend visiting around sunset.
After our stop at Tokyo Tower, we wandered back to Hamamatsucho station, through Zojoji Temple. We took the metro to our next stop, Harajuku station. From Harajuku station it is an easy walk to one of the entrances of Meiji Shrine. Turn right out of the station (when facing Takeshita street) and cross over the bridge….. you’ve arrived! The walk into Meiji Shrine 明治神宮 takes a bit of time, but the experience is pretty relaxing and a tad magical. I’d say the walk in takes about 10-15 minutes. Along the way you’ll see barrels of wine and sake that have been given as offerings to the Shrine. Also, if you’re lucky….and you probably will be, there will be a wedding procession walking through. There seems to always be a wedding happening at the Shrine. I’ve had the privilege of watching three couples march through Meiji during my three visits to the site.
Here is a video I took in 2013 of a wedding procession:
After our visit to Meiji, we took the metro to Ueno station for Ueno park 上野公園 . On my previous visit to Tokyo I spent so much time wandering Ueno. The park is massive and filled with museums and cafes, a zoo, temples, rides. Undoubtedly my favourite part of the park is the temple in the middle of Shinobazu pond. Depending on what time of year you visit the park, the pond will look differently. In winter, the pond is filled with frozen lily pad skeletons, and in fall the pond was filled with the slowly changing colours of the green lily pads. I have yet to visit in the spring or summer!
From Ueno park, we decided to head to Shibuya to find The Mandarake shop, to allow Jives to buy all the manga! We wandered around the area of Shibuya where Mandarake was supposed to be, but the back streets of Shibuya proved to be very maze like, and we gave up looking for Mandarake for a second time (we found it on the following day). While looking for Mandarake though, we found an Alice in Wonderland Cafe! Our first themed cafe in Tokyo! AMAZING! The decor was incredibly detailed, the music was cheesy and Disney-fied, and the menu was filled with Wonderland references. I ordered “the very un-birthday drink” complete with a lit sparkler and light-up ice cubes and fruit and wonder! Ordering was a bit tricky because instead of describing the food and drinks, the menu just gave them crazy names… needless to say, we ordered pretty blindly but were not disappointed!
Our drinks both terrified and delighted us!
Our last stop of the day was an impromptu decision to try Karaoke. We walked up to a random Karaoke shop, and conveyed to the man (who spoke zero English) that we wanted to try a 30 minute session. The experience was definitely an interesting one… like a pair of bumbling baboons, we managed to get songs playing in Japanese. I tried my best to keep up with the quickly scrolling Japanese lyrics, but alas my Japanese skills are pretty abysmal. Jives rapped over the music in English (which in his defense…he also does at English Karaoke). We had an amazingly awkward time!
We speak basically zero Japanese…and received a phone call in our booth presumably telling us that our time was about up.