Walking around Tokyo #1

(beware: this is a super-long post! you can see a slideshow of the pictures here)

I spent two days just being curious and checking out what Tokyo has to offer.. well an incredible amount of stuff, although in general I don’t feel that qualitatively there’s more than Osaka. Just more and bigger things to see, so to say, and consequently also more (many more) tourists and westerners compared to Kansai.
So here’s a brief summary of my wanderings:

Got out of my hotel (in the Tamachi area) and took a couple of snapshots of the quiet hotel surroundings..

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.. and the busy morning life of office workers..

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I quickly jump on the subway and go to Asakusa (google map), where the Sensō-ji temple is located.

Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺 Kinryū-zan Sensō-ji?) is an ancient Buddhist temple located in Asakusa, Taitō, Tokyo. It is Tokyo’s oldest temple, and one of its most significant. Formerly associated with the Tendai sect, it became independent after World War II. Adjacent to the temple is a Shinto shrine, the Asakusa Shrine.[1]

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Before getting to the main temple, there are a lot of shops selling all sorts of japanese art&crafts products..

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The temple itself is very spectacular; you get there by crossing a huge red gate :

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No pictures were allowed inside the temple, but close to the entrance I found various other interesting things…

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The adjacent buddhist garden..

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Awasima-do, a small temple dedicated to a god famous as a guardian of women..

Large numbers of women visit the hall every year on February 8, placing broken or otherwise unusable sewing needles in soft tofu and offering prayers of thanks for their use (harikuyo).

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Then I started walking towards Ueno station, through a long commercial district. Also here there’s plenty of things that catch my attention:

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Motley crew

Back on the main road, a traditional skewered meat shop :

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.. a bunch of little school boys in uniform start waving at me..

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.. that I meet them again outside a local temple..

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The temple’s cemetery is quite an unusual sight too (especially the way they advertise ’empty’ spaces):

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Ueno station doesn’t look very attractive, but right next to it there is a busy market which seems to be preferred mainly by locals ..

Ueno Station (上野駅 ueno-eki?) is a major railway station in Tokyo’s Taitō ward. It is the station used to reach the Ueno district and Ueno Park — which contains Tokyo National Museum, The National Museum of Western Art, Ueno Zoo, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and other famous cultural facilities. A major commuter hub, it is also the traditional terminus for long-distance trains from the northern Japan, although with the extension of the Shinkansen lines to Tokyo Station this role has diminished in recent years. A similar extension of conventional lines will extend the Takasaki Line, Utsunomiya Line and Joban Line to Tokyo Station via the Tohoku Through Line on existing little-used tracks and a new viaduct.

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I take the opportunity to recharge the batteries with a nice bowl of ramen

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From here, I walk south to the Akihabara district (google map), also known as the ‘electric town’ as it hosts a variety of shops and small stalls selling all sorts of technological stuff.

Akihabara (秋葉原?) (“Field of Autumn Leaves”), also known as Akihabara Electric Town (秋葉原電気街 Akihabara Denki Gai?), is an area of Tokyo, Japan. Akihabara is a major shopping area for electronic, computer, anime, and otaku goods, including new and used items. New items are mostly to be found on the main street, Chūōdōri, with many kinds of used items found in the back streets of Soto Kanda 3-chōme. First-hand parts for PC-building are readily available from a variety of stores. Tools, electrical parts, wires, microsized cameras and similar items are found in the cramped passageways of Soto Kanda 1-chōme (near the station). Foreign tourists tend to visit the big name shops like Laox or other speciality shops near the station, though there is more variety and lower prices at locales a little further away. Akihabara gained some fame through being home to one of the first stores devoted to personal robots and robotics.

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Prices don’t seem to be any cheaper than in the UK though…

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I get on a train and move on to Ryogoku, which is said to be the capital of sumo in Tokyo, but it’s 6:30 already so I don’t get to see much there, apart from some evocative traditional restaurant.

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So I move on to Shinjuku (google map), one of Tokyo’s nightlife hotspots.

Shinjuku (新宿区 Shinjuku-ku?) is one of the 23 special wards of Tokyo, Japan. It is a major commercial and administrative center, housing the busiest train station in the world (Shinjuku Station) and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, the administration center for the government of Tokyo.
As of 2008, the ward has an estimated population of 312,418 and a density of 17,140 persons per km². The total area is 18.23 km².[1]
Shinjuku has the highest numbers of registered foreign nationals of any community in Tokyo. As of October 1, 2005, 29,353 non-Japanese with 107 different nationalities were registered in Shinjuku

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Head straight into Shomben Yokocho (“Piss Alley”) as my guide says it’s one of the best places where to get some traditional food..

Not as the name suggests, “Piss Alley” is in fact a collection of ramshackle huts and restaurants located between the train tracks and the side of the Odakyu Department store. In 1999 when a fire broke out in a ramen shop, the area was almost completely destroyed. Now however it’s been re-built, and as the character has been retained, at night it still remains one of the city’s most atmospheric places to wander.

.. quite soon I get invited into one of these street-restaurants by a chatty lady and I decide to give the place a try. Some of the other customers spoke some english too (although they weren’t that good at taking pictures), so I couldn’t ask more for the ending of my first day here..

Yes in japan's restaurants smoking is allowed The chinese owner

Meat balls made me a happy man #2

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