Tuesday, April 19, 2005

4/19/2005 : Final Day in Tokyo

Final day. Have I mentioned that I can't believe this trip is almost over.

We wake up early again today to do the breakfast send off for Patty, Erica and Kelli. Again, we go the Cafe Pronto and have our usual breakfast of asagopan and breakfast hot dogs. Again, we're the loudest people in the place, but it's OK. It's our last day in Japan together, so we eat and talk and reminisce. Erica mentions that she's ready to go home, and it's easy to understand why. This trip wasn't really much of a vacation for her, as there was a lot of stress with the event.
Today our plans are simple, try to see Tokyo Tower and shop for friends and relatives and make the last of our money disappear. This will actually be our first day of doing stuff on our own and trying to navigate by ourselves. but I think I've got it down.
We head back to the hotel after breakfast and the two of us begin to make plans for the day. First off we arrange for the shuttle bus trip back to Narita. Looking at the guides, Tokyo Tower is not that near Tokyo station, in fact it looks like it's smack dab in the middle between Roppongi and Ginza. Both of our Tokyo guide books give Tokyo Tower the big dis, but for us it has special allure, it figures in a lot of anime cliches and Godzilla and Gamera are always stomping on it. So, naturally we had to see it.
At around quarter to 11 we head down to the lobby to do the send off. Emi is there, too and there's lots of hugging, some crying, and "ja ne' exchanges. (You only say "Sayonara" - Good Bye when you have no intention of seeing someone again.) With Emi's help we figure out the best way to get to Tokyo Tower from Ikebukuro and then we wave as Kelli, Erica and Patty board the shuttle bus and head off to the airport.
Emi thanks us for our help and we part ways hoping to see each other again soon. And then it's off to Tokyo Tower.
Erica and Patty had given us their JR cards which had a little bit left on them, so to put them to good use we hit the Yamanote line toward Shinjuku.
I remember the first day at Ikebukuro station was really overwhelming, lots of people bustling everywhere, and at least 5 different lines all converging at that station, and not knowing which way was which. But, now, though certainly not expert at it, I at least had a clue. Which is good, as it was my job to navigate.
The ride to Ebisu station was quiet and we both just looked at the window marvelling at the sights, making fun of the Engrish, and people watching, which is always fun. The variety was fascinating, from obaa-sans in traditional kimono and happi, sararimen all wearing the same suit, to school girls and boys, kogals, OLs, etc.
We get off at Ebisu station and make our way outside to get to the Tokyo Metro station, since there was no direct connection underground. It takes us a bit to figure out how much tickets to Kaimyachou are, but we do, and we're on our way.
Getting off at Kamiyachou, there's a sign at the top of the stairs that says Tokyo Tower and points left, so we make the left and start to walk.
One of the things I particularly like about all the places we've been in Tokyo is that weird mix of the ancient with the modern, the humble and the poor, and the ostentatious and the rich. You could be walking down the street and next to that high rise building from the 60s is a tiny little shrine. Theres isn't that same kind of feeling here in Philly. Sure you have old and the new mixed in, but the old in Philly is not really that old comparatively.
Anyway, so we continue walking in the direction the sign pointed us and after a while of not seeing anymore signs, we stop at this pedestrian island in the middle of big street, so I can take out a map and figure out where we're going. Donna calls my name and points to the sky, and there is Tokyo Tower looming directly over us, not very far away. Erica had mentioned in the morning that Tokyo Tower could be surprisingly hard to find, and it was easy to see why. Tokyo Tower is not the highest point in Tokyo nor does it dominate the landscape in any way shape or form. It's not like Liberty Place, the Sears Tower, or the Empire State Building, where you can see it from anywhere in the city.
So, we head in the direction the Tower is looming and go in. It's totally done up as a tourist/amusement park destination, with the tour bus parking, the group entrances, etc. A tour bus full of school kids pulled up as we were getting tickets, but it was hardly crowded at all. It must be a hopping weekend destination thing, I guess.
Besides the two observation decks, the main one and the special one, Tokyo Tower boasts a "Trick Art" gallery, a Wax Musuem, an Aquarium, a "Mysterious Walking Zone," and two informative exhibits, as well as an entire floor for shopping. Everything is separate charge for admission, but they have a special "amusement" package which includes everything but the aquarium and the special observation deck for one price. We add in the special obersvation deck and we're off. They politely herd us into a elevator with windows with other tourists and we head up to the main observation deck. If you've ever been to the observation deck of the Empire State Building or the Sears Tower, et al, it was setup exactly like that. The view was spectacular, but I wish it wasn't so hazy. We should have been able to have seen Mt. Fuji from here, and our hotel room, too , now that I think about it. But, there's always been some haze on the horizon, and today was no exception. Ah well, we have another legitimate excuse to come back. ;)
I end up taking a bunch of pictures, and I know I should have probably taken more, since all we both wanted, at this point, is to bring it all back with us.
From the main observation deck, we head to the special observation deck. We climb some stairs to get to a small platform to wait for an elevator. The Japanese, we discovered, like a little Vegas in everything they do. So they had a bit of a light show and some mood music for us as we walked up the stairs to get to elevator. The elevator was waiting for us, and it was tiny. They managed to pack a dozen of us into this tiny rickety elevator with windows and an operator and shoot us up to the special observation deck 825 feet above the ground. Donna was very glad to get off the elevator after it jostled us on the way up.
Coming down from the special observation deck we ended up on the second floor of the main observation deck with the souvenir shop, a cafe, and a stage for live music. We decided to get lunch at the cafe, and we picked a corner booth and looked out over the city in the direction of Mt. Fuji and started talking about the things we needed to buy and how we both don't really want to go home.
After lunch we started shopping at the souvenir shop and bought quite a few things for friends and relatives, then it was down to the roof of the main building which was intended as a kids amusement park. Though there was only a family of four enjoying a mini-train ride while we were there. Donna tried playing a shooting game, but we think it was broken, since the aim was severely off.
From the roof we hit the fourth floor for the informational exhibits put on by the Japanese government. We didn't linger very long here, since 98% of all the exhibits were in Japanese. They had some English titles, and it looked interesting, especially the bit about declining birthrates and the government's plans in this area, but we couldn't read any of it, so we moved on to the "Trick Art" gallery. The "Trick Art" gallery was basically a bunch of interactive trompe l'oeil paintings. It was neat in a very cheesy, silly way. The paintings were very well done, but the gallery's charm was pure kitsch.
3rd floor was the Wax Musuem and the "Mysterious Walking Zone" I had never been to wax musuem before, that I can recall, and I really had no desire to go to one before, but, hey, it's our last day in Japan, why the hell not. So we wander into the wax museum and I have a desire to take pictures, to share this randomness with everybody. Be sure to check out those pictures. The musuem goes from celebrity and historical figures to famous art reenactments to a special torture exhibit, and finishes with tributes to musicians who were huge in Japan apparently, but we had never, ever heard of before.
The "Mysterious Walking Zone" was just a exhibit of hologram pictures, some of which were actually impressive.
Finally we made it to the 2nd floor and the shopping arcade, we were shopped and bought lots of stuff for folks back home. We had experienced our first earthquake last week, and we were kinda hoping Tokyo would oblige us with a Godzilla stomping through the city to Tokyo Tower or that we'd be whisked off to another dimension to fight for justice, or save the world, or something. But, alas, no, all we got were gaggles of schoolkids to make us feel old. ;)
We decided to head back to the hotel with our swag, but on the way, we made a little side trip to this shrine we saw on the way, but was on the other side of the street. We also stopped at an antique store we saw earlier as well, where we saw lots of great things that we would buy for us, if we had more money, and weren't shopping for other people at this point.
This antique store also had something that really, really impressed us, besides all the old vintage Japanese antiques. There, in a corner, was a Victrola. A genuine, 1904, made in Camden, New Jersey Victrola with two horns and the hand crank, sitting there in an antique store in Tokyo, Japan. Donna really, really, really liked that Victrola. It didn't have a price tag, like verything else in the store, so we figured it must be really, really, really expensive. Donna couldn't stop talking about that Victrola for hours.
We drop stuff off at the hotel and I get the sense that we're probably not going to be able to fit our stuff in the bags we brought. So it's off to the Tobu department store to see if we can get another suitcase. Which proved to be more difficult than we thought. The Tobu store was massive and was more like a big mall than a department store and it was kinda confusing trying to figure out where we could have gotten a suitcase. Plus we were feeling the time crunch, and we still had some shopping to do for people, and we noticed that most stores started closing at 8pm, and it was 6:30pm
I'm not sure but I think we were in Tobu for half an hour before we found a suitcase. It was cheap, but it only really had to last us the return flight home. So we bought it, and then wandered Ikebukuro one last time, buying stuff.
It was 9:30pm by the time we got back to the hotel. Donna wanted dinner tonight to be special so we headed up to the Sky Lounge on the roof of the Hotel and had an exquisite 3-course dinner there. It was our last night, and we were going to live it up. There was a jazz trio playing, vocals, bass, piano and the singer had pretty decent English pronunciation. We lingered for quite a bit, again talking about our trip and reminisicing and again how we didn't want the trip to end. Finally, we wandered downstairs to the Oriental Express bar to use the drink tickets the Hotel gave us upon our arrival, and had our free drinks. The bar was also very upscale like the Sky Lounge, with lots of dark wood and very English drawing room kinda of feel to it. It made me wish I was filthy rich so I live like that all the time.
Finally around 11:30pm we wandered back to our room and began the long intense task of packing all of our stuff. There was a lot of stuff, I mean, really a lot of stuff. Our bags were not full on the way over, but they were certainly full now. Donna was worried that we were over the weight limit, but I think getting the extra bag relieved that. It took us quite a bit to get everything packed, and we were in bed by 2:30 am.
And as we finished packing, we realized that we were finally leaving and just as we were really excited to arrive, we were just as sad on the eve of our departure.
Today's photos here, here, here and here.


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