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December 10, 2019 / Jim Fenton

Japan/Singapore Day 5: Intro to Tokyo

November 12, 2019

We again awoke to a beautiful clear day. Once more we sought out a nearby Starbucks for breakfast, which was fine but getting to be a little boring. We continued with a short walk to Tokyo Tower, which is actually only one of two towers with observation platforms for tourists.

Mt. Fuji over Tokyo

After paying the admission fee and taking the elevator to the platform, we started looking around, came around a corner, and — there is Mount Fuji! Today was apparently an unusually clear day; we were told that it isn’t usually visible. That made up for only getting a glimpse of the mountain from the train yesterday.

After leaving Tokyo Tower, we headed for the subway to the Ginza shopping district. We had a fine time exploring the local flagships of stores we know (Apple, Uniqlo) as well as one of the big Japanese department stores. We looked into eating lunch in one of the department store restaurants, but they were all quite pricey so we looked elsewhere.

Leaving the Ginza, we found a Japanese “diner” which was fine, but not notable, for lunch, before walking toward the Imperial Palace grounds. We were impressed by the huge immaculate lawns and grounds, and that this head of state still has a moat around his residence. A bit more walking brought us to the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, which are open to the public and as expected both elegant and peaceful.

Next we walked to Tokyo Station and were quite impressed by its size, since we ended up having to walk quite a distance to get to the other side of the station, where we finally stopped at a Starbucks to rest our feet.

Shibuya Scramble Crossing

One of the things we had heard about was the huge “scramble crossing” in Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s neighborhoods, where several streets all converge in a single intersection. So we took the subway to Shibuya, and found throngs of people everywhere. The crossing itself was crazy and fun — when the pedestrian lights change, people go every which direction, and some even stop for selfies in the middle of the crossing!

We had been wishing for more sushi, so we found a sushi restaurant on the 4th floor of a nearby building. We noticed that, unlike in the US where restaurants tend to be at or close to the ground floors of buildings, there are buildings here with different restaurants on each floor. There are signs at ground level telling people what restaurant(s) are on each floor, and apparently these restaurants gain a reputation that allows them to make a go of it. In any case, we had an excellent dinner at the sushi bar, and felt a friendliness from the staff that we really enjoyed.

Kit Kat selection

After dinner, we were stopped by someone from the local tourism board to do a survey (they didn’t ask any personal questions, fortunately) and she pointed us at a “mega” souvenir store nearby. So we walked over there and found a very impressive selection of Kit Kat candy. We had heard that Kit Kat was a “thing” in Japan and this was an example. We picked up a few packages to take home.

Overall, Shibuya is just a fun place to be — lots of music everywhere, young people having a good time, and we felt safe the whole time. The tourist board seems to be doing a very good job. We highly recommend the place.

Total walking today: 10.9 miles, 16 floors climbed

This article is part of a series about our recent travels to Japan and Singapore. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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