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Japan20091013

Page history last edited by Phil Baraona 14 years, 8 months ago

Tuesday, Oct 13

Today we learned a valuable lesson: if Monday is a national holiday in Japan, Tuesday is a horrible day to see sites in Tokyo. Many museums and parks are regularly closed on Mondays. Unless Monday is a national holiday. Then the museum is open for the holiday on Monday but makes up for it by being closed the next day. We learned this the hard way.

Our day got off to a slow start after the great night’s sleep. We had a quick McDonald’s breakfast and then headed over to the Edo-Tokyo Museum. It was closed. How bizarre. After some searching, we did find a sign explaining why (see above). Undeterred, we decided to head across town to Ebisu, but first we meandered through the neighborhood nearby the museum. Not all that interesting. Ugly 60s or 70s era apartment buildings without any character. I suspect far more Tokyo-ites live in places like this than in the places we’ve seen in some of the more interesting areas of Tokyo.

On to Ebisu. Our goal there was the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. As you can probably guess, it was closed (see explanation above). At this point, we decided to head out to Ichioji which Lonely Planet described as a hip, interesting suburb about 10km west of Shinjuku. We figured they couldn’t possibly just close the suburbs, could they?

And we were right. We found it bustling with activity, even on a Tuesday afternoon. Unfortunately, the area right outside the train station didn’t look all that much different from other neighborhoods closer to the center of Tokyo. But there was no map to tell you where you were or how to get where you wanted to go. While trying to get our bearings, I noticed a sign for an LL Bean store a couple of blocks away. How bizarre since I thought LL Bean was mostly a New England phenomenon. We had to check it out. Unsurprisingly, it felt just like the stores back home. We did get one thing out of our visit: a very eager, helpful sales clerk was kind enough to point us in the direction of the nearby park that we had been trying to get to.

Fortunately, the park was actually open. Lots of Moms with their young children. Couples out for boat rides on the pond. A very nice little place to get away. We sat on a bench and enjoyed it for an hour or so. Mike even found the “hip street” we had been looking for outside the train station. We stopped at the restaurant on this street closest to the park to have some tasty chicken skewers and corn on the cob. Overall, a nice visit to “the burbs.”

Next stop: Shinjuku where we meandered through the closed up bars in the Golden Gai. We had some time to kill so we headed over to Shinjuku Park. Which was closed (see above). We walked around a little more and stopped into a smoothie place for a late afternoon snack. We briefly considered trying another onsen, but Mike noticed Lonely Planet said the one we were interested in was closed on Tuesdays so we headed back to the Golden Gai.

On the way there, we walked through the red light district. It wasn’t quite as seedy as I would have imagined. Unless you looked closely, it could have been many of the other neighborhoods in Tokyo with bright lights and lots of shops/bars/restaurants. It’s only when you look a little more closely at the names on the signs that you realize they are probably not just places to have a bite to eat or a drink. We did not venture into any of them, in part out of fear we’d end up spending a lot of money just for the “privilege“of talking to someone.

After this little side trip, we headed back to the Golden Gai which was starting to pick up steam. The Golden Gai is somewhat of a throwback to times gone by. It’s a neighborhood full of tiny little bars inside of rickety old one or two story buildings that have been there for a long time. When I say tiny bars, think closet sized. We went into a place called the Carrot that consisted of a bar with just three stools. Nothing else. Well, except for the nice old lady behind the bar who was selling a couple different kinds of liquor. We each had a glass of something really strong for 500 yen apiece. She tried to get us to do the “all you can drink” for two hours, but we resisted. At 3,000 for the “all you can drink,” we couldn’t imagine we would still be standing up if we had the 6+ drinks (in two hours) we’d need just to get our money’s worth. In spite of the tasty bowl of carrots she served us to go along with our drinks, we moved on after just one. The Golden Gai is quite an experience and, with literally dozens of places like this packed into a small area, I imagine it could add a whole new dimension to a pub crawl!

Our next stop was dinner back in the Harajuku area. Getting there was kind of interesting since my subway map did not have the Fukutoshin line on it. Fortunately, Mike saw it on his map and it took us directly there from Shinjuku. Despite its recent failures, we’re trying another Lonely Planet recommendation today. This time, we actually found the place AND it was even open. The Tokyo Apartment Café is an interesting, quirky little bar/restaurant on Omote-Sando, one of Tokyo’s best known bar-hopping streets. We had a couple of drinks and a nice dinner there before calling it a day.

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