Earlier last month I went to Tôkyô to get a feel for the city. I will be spending more time there in the coming months and years to promote my writing and explore career opportunities. This time, however, I didn't have much of a plan or anyone to meet so I wandered about the city for three days.
The map above shows the course I walked on my first day. I arrived at Haneda in the morning, put my luggage in a coin locker at Shinagawa Station and then headed for Harajuku. After a visit to Meiji Jingû, my second time in about fifteen years, I made my way towards the English gardens. Unfortunately, it was at the peak of the cherry blossom viewing season and the lines were unlike anything I had ever seen before. No thanks! I soldiered on towards Akasaka Palace, which I had no idea existed before, then on to the National Diet building and other governmental places of interest.
It was in front of the Diet that I met a former student and friend of mine who relocated to Tôkyô about six years earlier. We walked to the Imperial Palace, said "Hey" to the Emperor and continued on towards Tôkyô Station, the Bank of Japan, the original Mitsukoshi, and Nihon Bashi.
It was late in the afternoon by the time we made our way back to the Maru Bldg so we popped into a wine bar and had a few drinks then parted ways.
After checking into my hotel, I went for another walk around Shinagawa, but didn't find much of interest. If I am not mistaken, my ex-wife now lives in a high-rise condo near the station. As fate would have it, we did not meet. We must not have had en after all.
I walked close to 30,000 steps on Sunday.
On my second day, I took the train to that Mecca of Geekism, Akihabara, but as it was still early on Monday morning nothing was going on. Oh well.
From Akihabara, I took a meandering course through Taitô Ward and made my way to Asakusa. Whereas my first day's walk was a trip through the elegance of Meiji/Taishô Era Japan, this was my shita machi tour of no nonsense working class neighborhoods.
I visited Sensôji, the great temple in Asakusa, then went to the Sumida River to gawk at the Sky Tree tower that is scheduled to open on the 22nd of May. From there, I doubled back, passing through the temple grounds again, and heading up the Kappa Bashi Dôri which took me to Ueno.
After wandering around Ueno Park and the neighboring buildings and universitiies, I made my way to Tôkyô University which was far better looking than I expected. Half of the students, of course, looked retarded, and the campus had that unmistakable smell of male virginity.
From Tôdai, I hopped on a train and went to Shinjuku which promised a Lebanese restaurant called "Simbad" of all things. It was crap. I should have googled a Turkish restaurant instead. At least they had Almaza beer from Lebanon and Arak. The drinks put me in the mood for a smoke, so I googled shisha cafes and discovered two promising joints in Shimokitazawa.
(Let me tell you, I would still be lost in Tôkyô today if I didn't have the GoogleMap app on my iPhone.)
I spent about three hours in Shimokitazawa smoking a nargileh and chatting with people. It was the start of the highlight of my trip.
I returned to my hotel in the late afternoon, took a short nap, then headed back out and met that former student/friend of mine for dinner in Hirô.
Incidentally, when I first came to Japan I bought a phrase book which had the old Rômaji spellings. Hirô was spellt Hiroo, so I used to think that the neighborhood's name rhymed with "kangaroo" rather than "hero".
Live and learn.
Yûko and I had an excellent dinner at Cicada. A delicious mélange of Lebanese, Turkish, Greek dishes. And the service was impeccable. More on that in another post.
After Cicada, we walked to Ebisu where we had drinks at Bar Martha, easily in my all-time top five bars. On the way, I happened to pass by HachiHachi, one of the many yaki-niku restaurants owned by my neighbor. The English menus at the restaurant are mine, by the way. It was odd being so far from home and coming across something I had written a few years ago.
By the time I got back to my hotel, my dogs were dead tired. I had walked almost 35,000 steps, a new record for me and the soles of my Tricker's had sprung a leak.
On the following Tuesday, I relied more on the public transportation, taking the train or subway whenever possible.
In the morning I visited the Foreign Correspondents Club. Unfortunately, it was too early. I had intended on setting myself on fire to gain some publicity for my works. No luck. From there, I walked up to the old Court House which is almost as beautiful and grand as Tôkyô Station. I then took a train to Shinjuku where I had a drink at the Park Hyatt after which I headed out to Timbuku to the Museum of Modern Art. Both the Hyatt and the museum were something of let downs.
By now, I was ready to go home. Fetching my things from a locker in Shinagawa Station, I hopped on a train bound for Haneda where I was able to get onto an earlier flight.
All in all, I walked over sixty kilometers during the course of those three days. And while I didn't get one step closer to promoting myself or my book, I was happy to have at least gotten to know Tôkyô somewhat better.
I'll be back soon.