This weekend was my first time in Tokyo, and I thought plane would be the best way to go. Tokyo is only one hour away from Osaka by plane, or three hours by shinkansen (bullet train). In retrospect, I think taking the plane was a big mistake. Unlike America, trains are significantly cheaper than planes and often faster. While from Osaka airport to the Tokyo airport technically only took an hour and the price tag indicated it was cheaper, that did not include the necessary trains to and from the airports that ended up costing more and making the total travel time longer than just taking the shinkansen. Future plan: take the train everywhere.
For my first time in Tokyo, I had three places in mind to visit: the imperial palace, Akihabara district and Ueno district. I began in the imperial palace gardens, an enormous flat expanse of cordoned off dead grass and trees carved out among the concrete jungle that is Tokyo.
The gardens are multiple islands, divided by man made moats and joined by the occasional bridge. These gardens are so big, it took over an hour just to find the entrance to the only part of the gardens accessible to the public: the East gardens. Here, I was a little disappointed. I was imagining lush green fields and picturesque Japanese gardens, but instead I found a high security maze of gravel paths bordering vast swaths of yellow, dead grass and the remains of various ancient buildings. It was only when I had begun to lose hope of seeing the spectacular gardens I had pictured that, completely by accident, I stumbled upon a lovely coy fish pond and budding plum trees (different than cherry blossom trees).
The next stop was nerd city, a.k.a. Akihabara district. Just as I was warned by coworkers, block after block of the main street were lined with anime figurine shops, Pokémon stuffed animals, manga comic books and gacha stores (stores filled with vending machines of toys). Interestingly, behind the main street I found alleys selling sexualized female anime figurines, female anime posters and even stores with real women dressed as female anime characters! I was obviously the only woman in these streets and, after feeling increasingly objectified with every passing store, I rushed back to the safety of the juvenile main street.
Lastly, there was the Ueno district, known for a park so large that it contains a zoo within! Lining the main walkway to a shrine overlooking Ueno park’s biggest pond were vendors selling fried chicken and squid and even long, chocolate covered, waffle textured dessert.
After tucking into this treat, the six year old inside of me went to a paddle boat ride in a swan shaped boat on the Ueno pond!
I am now truly exhausted from doing so much in such a short amount of time but I can’t wait to go to Tokyo again! What I saw wasn’t exactly what I envisioned when I thought of Tokyo; I pictured a huge nightlife and endless lights. It is refreshing to know Tokyo is more than just the crazy busy bustle and endless shopping, but next time I hope I can see more of what makes Tokyo world famous.