Note: this post was re-posted from my old website, originally published in December 2016.
This is the second part of my ‘rush’ Tokyo trip. You can find part 1 here! Quite a contrast with the first part, the second part contains more city vibe of Tokyo.
Day 2 started with me going to a place that I have been wanting to visit for a long time: Hamarikyu Garden. Hamarikyu Garden was one of the very first places I googled to find information about Tokyo when I was planning my first trip to Japan several years ago. I did not go there in the end, so it had become my Moby Dick.
And the place does not disappoint. Hamarikyu Garden is as big as you would see from Google Map. I came from Nakanogomon Gate after getting down the train in JR Shiodome station. Once I passed the gate I was straightaway treated by the vast landscape of the garden. It was greenery everywhere with Tokyo tall skyscrapers in the background. The stark contrast adds another layer of beauty to it.
There are quite a few ponds here, the biggest one has a tea house floating in the middle, connected by a wooden bridge (top image). During the Edo period, this garden was used as a duck hunting ground. The remnants of the duck hunting era could still be seen throughout the garden, mainly in two of the ponds that house reconstructed duck hunting blinds and moats to keep the ducks from fleeing.
Visitors could also take the water bus to or from Asakusa from the garden. The water bus platform lies in the side that faces the large canal linking to Hinode Pier.
After lunch, I decided to head to a place I never visited before: Midtown. I have been to Roppongi before but not Midtown, although they are actually side-by-side.
If Yanaka represents the traditional, intimate side of Tokyo, Roppongi and Midtown represent the modernity and glamor of Tokyo as the biggest, most populous city in Japan. Nothing much I can say other than this is the super fancy part of the city. You’d love it if you’re a fan of big cities.
Honestly, though, I was slightly overwhelmed by the sheer number of people here, especially on weekends. Finished with Roppongi, it’s time to visit this second biggest city in Japan. I specifically went to Minatomirai area just because I was told it was beautiful there at night. So the trip was to prove that suggestion.
And it was not overrated at all. Yokohama’s Minatomirai is indeed beautiful at night. It has a small theme park Cosmoworld nearby, a ramen museum, and even a sail ship anchored nearby. It reminds me a lot of the bay area of Singapore, where the night is bright and vivid as well.
I went back to my hotel sometime later but not before I stopped by Asakusa and the nearby area. It was still majestic even at night. And best of all, there were almost no people nearby. I was happy enough to capture some night shots with my camera.
On the morning of day 3, I spent some time strolling down by the Sumida River, not so far from Asakusa. As I’m used to seeing rivers in South East Asian cities, the river here looked very clean in comparison. You could see Tokyo Skytree from the distance here.
Before I got to lunch I decided to do a short stop at Akihabara, hailed as the otaku heaven of Japan. I had to admit, my fascination with anime culture had faded away years ago, but even so, I could still enjoy seeing things here and there in Akihabara. If I had extra money I would have spent it going to one of the many maid cafes there just for kicks!
After lunch, I went to Ueno. I have not been here previously so I was curious. There is a huge park right in front of Ueno station, in which lies Ueno Zoo. As it was Sunday, there were a huge amount of people crowding the place. Nevertheless, I did enjoy going to the zoo. Though small and felt a bit cramped, it was pretty interesting.
Exiting the zoo, I stopped by the park, which is so immense that there are plenty of other things to see, such as small temples or museums. Seriously, there are many museums there that I kind of regret not being able to stay there longer than I did. Although, I was delighted to find a group of locals clad in traditional kimonos practicing Bon dance at a remote corner of the park.
In the last destination of day 3 itinerary, just as the night came crawling in I took the train down to Shinjuku. While waiting for my bus back to Sendai, I thought I ought to visit a little place not far from JR Shinjuku station called Golden Gai. This area is comprised of small, narrow alleys is a drinker’s haven. Golden Gai is basically what happened when you collect a number of pubs/bars and jam them all in a very tiny enclosed space.
Walking through the narrow alleys of Golden Gai you got a very bizarre feeling as if you have traveled back in time to the olden days where Japan had booming economic growth after the end of the war, resistant to the modernization that affected the entire Shinjuku area.
It is probably fun to try drinking here, but from what I read not every establishment welcomes walk-in patrons as they only accept regular customers. I saw many bars put ‘foreigner welcome’ on their signboard but I had yet to try. Best to check first to see what is the etiquette of visiting such premises. I was content just to walk around and see this historic spot.
And with the night visit to Golden Gai, my trip to Tokyo was over. I am sure there are more places untouched in Tokyo, but I will leave that to next time.