For this past Christmas weekend, I went to Tokyo to celebrate. While I had visited the city before, this weekend was the first one for me to explore the city on foot and its amazingly complex, yet efficient, train/subway system.
On arrival, I went to a little neighborhood restaurant near my hotel for lunch. In the middle of my meal, two English-speaking customers came in and ended up sitting to the right of me. After getting over my innate shyness, I struck up a conversation with them and found out they were from Australia. In the midst of this conversation, yet another English speaker jumped in from my left; it turned out that he was from California. What were the chances that 4 English-speaking foreigners happened to meet in a random tiny neighborhood restaurant in Tokyo? It was the beginning of my surprisingly happy trip to Tokyo.
Afterwards, we parted ways as I visited a Meiji University torture museum with a small, but interesting, exhibit on the criminal system in old Japan. Then, I was off to window shop in the Ginza area lined with designer shops and the iconic pedestrian intersection of Tokyo. Later that evening, I met back up with the two Australians in Roppongi. While we were not able to locate the international party, we got a nice “scenic route” out of the experience.
The following day, I took a day trip to Nikko, which was about a 2-hour train ride north of Tokyo. This city contained the UNESCO World Heritage designated Toshogu Shrine which was located in a complex of other shrines which were beautifully ensconced among the mountains within a forest of huge trees. Unlike other typical Shinto Japanese shrines, this shrine was unique in Japan given its highly decorative, ostentatious, and colorful style that was more reminiscent of traditional Buddhist Chinese temples to my untrained eyes.
Another landmark in this city was the Kegon Waterfall. I rode the elevator down to the base of the waterfall for a wonderful, but very cold, experience.
On the last day of my trip, I visited the famous Harujuku area (where Gwen Stefani was supposedly to have handpicked some of her back-up dancers) for some people-watching. This area catered mainly to youngsters with a street jam-packed with people wearing quite diverse and, at times extreme, outfits.
I even happened upon the Hermes store where live models were used to exhibit their clothing in the front store window. I must say that while it was nice surprising eye candy, being up close to male models of couture European designers really highlighted their slenderness, youthfulness, and distinct features with their decidedly high cheekbones.
Overall, I had a great time in Tokyo and am glad that while I have been to almost all the major cities of the world, Tokyo can still amaze and awe me with its mixture of history and modern vibrancy. I was even able to relieve my “English withdrawal” that I had been experiencing up until Tokyo. 😉 I look forward to visiting again soon!