Date of Travel: 07/03/2012
Once again there was a slight sense of sadness in the air, as this was the penultimate day of our trip in Japan. But that would not stop us from having a great time! We started off our day by walking to the Asakusa district, where the Sennoji Temple resides. We walked through Kappabashi along the way, which is a district well known for selling kitchen utensils and wax models of food. I was tempted to buy some wax food model items, but they were surprisingly pricey (I could probably have the real food at half its price!). Along the way, we could see the Sky Tree towering in the background. Its interior is not opened to the public at the time that we were there. We had a quick stop along the way to have some breakfast. It was the first time I came across a sandwich comprising of strawberries, cream and custard, and it was pretty good too!
We soon arrived at the Kaminari Gate, which is one of the more famous sights of Tokyo. This gate marks the start of the Nakamise shopping street, which is lined with dozens of shops selling souvenirs and local foods. Unlike the previous times I was here in summer, the place was not overly crowded, which made it easy to move between shops. The shops themselves are very small, and I found it hard to manoeuvre around with my backpack. Generally though, the goods here are reasonably priced and are of pretty good quality. At the end of the street is the Hozo Gate, which in my opinion was actually more impressive than the Kaminari Gate.
Past the Hozo Gate lies Sensoji Temple which is the most famous temple within Tokyo. The layout of the temple was very simplistic, and the red colour of its exterior reminded me of shrines rather than temples. The place has its own charms, and the spaciousness of the grounds meant that it never felt crowded despite this being the most people we had encountered at any temple throughout our trip. There were also a few small gardens around the ground which were quite nice to wander through. We did spot some strange small house shaped rides being suspending high in the air. Turns out that this is a ride at Hanayashiki Amusement Park, which was located just a few metres away from Sensoji Temple. Looming in the distance is the Sky Tree, which I must say I was surprised that such a large structure located such a short distance away did not take away anything from the atmosphere of Sensoji Temple.
We headed back along Nakamise street, then headed down Shin-Nakamise street looking for lunch. After lunch, we headed to the Sumida riverside, where we had a good view of the Sky Tree and the Asahi Beer Tower. Tokyo, like many old cities in the world, have old and new districts lying side by side with each other, and none better example than the contrast between the sight in front of us and the Asakusa district we were currently standing in.
Our next destination was Odaiba, and we were deciding whether to take the Tokyo Water Bus or the subway/yurikamome. We decided on the later as it would be quicker and that we were running behind time. I had been to Odaiba once before in 2003 at night time. Walking around the place during the daytime, it really sunk it how modern this area compared to many other parts of Tokyo. It was also very eerie that the area appeared almost deserted. I suppose it was a weekday after all.
We headed to Miraikan, which is the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. We were a bit worried that we were going to be disappointed with this place, as the museum from the day before fell way short of our expectations. However, this place far surpassed all expectations we had. Even Brownie who was not a fan of museums really enjoyed the place. As the name suggests, many of its exhibits were geared towards emerging technology and innovative ideas. The exhibits were very interesting and interactive, and we found that we had barely covered half of the exhibits by closing time! There weren’t many people around, which allowed us to explore the place at a relaxed pace. Just a note that there is the Dome Theater, which featured a video of some kids watching stars. It was an incredibly cheesy video which in my opinion was a waste of 15 minutes, but overall the museum was great. I would highly recommend it for anyone who find themselves in Odaiba.
The next place we wanted to go to is the Tokyo Big Sight. We decided to walk over instead of taking the yurikamone train so that we could explore the place in more detail. It was a good thing too, as we stumbled across the Gundam statue being erected outside Diver City. The architecture and landscaping of the place was very appealing too, and the spaciousness was much appreciated compared to how claustrophobic some other parts of Tokyo and other big cities around Japan can be.
Tokyo Big Sight is the site of many convention halls, and is perhaps most well-known to fans of Japanese pop culture as the site of Comiket and AnimeJapan. Its inverted pyramid design was very unique, and it did look like a spaceship. We had a quick walk around the premises, took a few photos, then headed off to look for dinner.
We found another Tonkatsu place at Wanza Ariake Bay Mall located close to the river. As I mentioned previously I am not a fan of deep fried foods, but we were quite tired and the place did look quite good. I did not realize it at the time, but it was also symbolic that we were eating at this particular Tonkatsu restaurant chain, as it is the same chain as that we ate at back at Kyoto JR station on our very first meal of the trip. This would turn out to be the last sit-down meal we would have in Japan outside of airports, so in a strange way we were ending our trip in a similar way as it started. After dinner, we started heading towards the Odaiba Seaside Park, passing by Palette Town and its ferris wheel along the way.
We reached the park via a pathway between Aquacity and Decks, two large shopping malls locaed next to the Fuji TV station. This area is known for having great views of the Tokyo Tower (supposedly inspired by the Eiffel Tower), the Rainbow Bridge (inspired by the Golden Gate Bridge) and a mimic of the Statue of Liberty. So in a way, it was like visiting so many places of the world in a single place! This place was a great way of spending our last night in Tokyo, as it reminded us of the uniqueness of Japan and also how different this country was compared to our home.
As we were heading back to our hostel, Brownie wanted to stop by Akihabara again to buy a ship model he was interested in the day before. As it was quite late, some of the stores had already started closing, including the one which Brownie wanted to go to! We then headed back to the station, where we saw a girl singing and playing on her guitar next to the station exit. We stopped and listened for a few minutes, enjoying her music with the large crowd that had built up around us, before finally heading back to our hostel for the final night’s sleep we would have on this Japan trip.
Subway/Train from Asakusa to Funenokagakukan – 580 yen
Train from Daiba to Akihabara – 460 yen
Train from Akihabara to Uguisudani – 130 yen
Toco Tokyo Heritage Hostel – 2,800 yen
Breakfast from 7-11 towards Asakusa – 638 yen [melon bread, prawn onigiri, okonomiyaki break, strawberry sandwich]
Lunch at Juraku at Asakusa – 1,180 yen [seafood stirfry]
Dinner at Tonkatsu Wako @ Wanza Ariake in Odaiba – 1,830 yen [prawn/oyster tonkatsu and beer]
Miraikan entrance fee – 600 yen
Fan at Kazusaya @ Asakusa – 1,740 yen
Doll @ Asakusa (estimate 3,000 yen)
Kimono gift @ Asakusa – 5,000 yen
TOTAL (cost for whole trip in brackets)
17,958 yen (624,040 yen total)