Get ready to laugh and cry as I take you down a road of contrasts. The thing I take away from Tokyo is that Japan and it’s people are embodied by contrasts. In a few steps one can go from standing inside some of the most sophisticated LED light shows to a temple that’s hundreds of years old. So let’s take a stroll down this road.
First stop is Tokyo Tower, one of The Two Towers (JUST LIKE THE MOVIE!). It was built in the 60’s to transmit radio and TV signals to the locals. It still broadcasts some local TV stations. It is a major tourist trap (attraction) with around 3 million visitors and for a good reason. It offers breathtaking views of Tokyo. It’s still used but sadly with the conversion to digital HD TV it could no longer be upgraded so a new one had to be built (more on Frodo and the second tower later, for now you have to sit through two hours of trees talking before the cool battle at the end).
It is a beautiful structure. The red is a nice deep color and it’s repainted every 5 years, a process which takes a year to complete. Contrast that with the Golden Gate Bridge. How often do you think that sucker is repainted? Turns out it’s never been repainted. Yeah I know I was shocked too, it’s impossible to tell with all the corrosion and staining all over the bridge, but it’s true. The Golden Gate Bridge paint has only re-touched, not actually re-painted. Someone should tell them that Sherwin Williams sells Golden Gate paint color swatch.
But anyways, this story is about Tokyo Tower and how much more awesome it is. Here’s me being happy underneath it.
Make your way to the top and you got some magnificent views of Tokyo. Here’s what you see.
… and some more Tokyo.
If you take a closer look at that last image you’ll see an ancient Buddhist temple at the bottom. We are gonna take a look at that now.
The temple name is Zōjō-ji. It was built sometime in the past (obviously) but it doesn’t matter because during WWII Americans bombed the shit out of it and destroyed the original buildings. The gate is the only original structure remaining.
The reconstructed temple has many beautiful architectural aspects. I especially love the contrast between the old and the new here. Hence the title. Get it? Moving on.
One peculiar thing were all these little stone statues. It is actually known as the Garden of Unborn Children. It is for all the babies that were not born for whatever reason. Parents will select a statue and it is then accordingly dressed up. Some have small stones around their feet to help the kids get to the afterlife easier. No jokes here, pretty sad stuff.
Ok so with dead babies out of the way we can return to jokes. Next up was the Tokyo Imperial Palace. I couldn’t wait, my very first Japanese palace, it’s going to be beautiful and magnificent, and I would run out of superlatives to describe it. Nothing could possibly go wrong… at all…
Looks beautiful, let’s go in through the gate. So you get in and there are these guard barracks at the entry.
Another close up of the spot. Contrast the old and the new and behold my college level English 300 ability to carry a thesis throughout, that’s what $45,000 in tuition buys you.
And as you get further into the imperial gardens you come on to the imperial gardens.
I sat there perched on top of a hill with natural spring water coming out of the ground. I meditated for 20 minutes as I contemplated what the crows were crowing on about above me. I couldn’t figure it out so I moved on to the palace. After all that’s what I’m here for.
Really nice workmanship on the Samurai guard barracks. Yep they had Samurai in Japan, crazy. So we (you the reader and me) walk another half hour through the gardens and finally we’re hitting the grounds. You can tell because there’s this ornate lightpost.
If I’ve learned anything from my world travels is that the more money you have the more ornate your stuff is. So I’m on the right track.
Naturally, like any good wealthy person the emperor also lived in a gated community. Except his gate was a moat.
There was a way in so another 40 minutes later I made it into the actual imperial grounds. You pass through this giant stone gate and past this guard tower.
You can see the stone foundation right about now. I asked some people to stand in the middle of my photo and ruin it to give you a sense of scale.
I walked two hours with no water on a hot day with a heavy backpack, but this is it, it’s the moment that makes it all worth it.
Guess what’s not up there?
The Tokyo Imperial palace.
Why? Because: reason. There are no signs. I take a deep breath, launch Google and search for ‘how the fuck do I get to The Imperial Palace’
Turns out you can’t actually see the palace. It’s in a closed off part of the imperial grounds. You can’t access it. What the hell is the point of this park? The palace is there, it exists, you just can’t see it or access it unless you have like super special tickets for some special days. Or unless it’s January 1st. You have to plan ahead and I didn’t. My planning is restricted only to finding places to eat.
Pissed off I made my way to the nearest Sushi restaurant. Eating food I can do. I was told online to order the egg custard soup, which was omg amazing.
And then I was told to order crab soup. The review said it comes with generous pieces of crab. They were not kidding! It comes with a whole effin’ crab that can barely fit in a bowl.
It was a bit much to deal with though. I prefer to vacuum my food, and meat inside a hard spiky shell doesn’t lend itself to that very well. But it was so good. So I ordered an eel sushi or whatever. It said whole eel. Again they weren’t exaggerating. This was a footlong plate and it cost $5.
Eating all this food is exhausting so I had to find dessert pronto. The restaurant is located inside KITTE, a modern mall situated next to the newly remodeled Tokyo Station. This station is amazing.
This thing is huge.
With all of that out of the way it was time for some nice dessert just down the road. The place is called “LA BOUTIQUE de Joel Robchon”. It’s French for Dessert Shop.
With that out of the way we return to Frodo and Sam on their pass through the second tower: The Tokyo Skytree!
Sidenote: Tolkien never said which buildings were specifically The Two Towers in The Lord of the Rings but Peter Jackson made them the Orthanc and Bara-dur.
The Tokyo Skytree looks like it was dropped literally out of the future into the present. Maybe out of Gundam Wings or something like that.
What’s the purpose of The Skytree you may wonder? To be honest I didn’t wonder, but I looked it up for you. Basically when they converted Japan to HDTV and Digital Television the old Tokyo Tower was not tall enough to broadcast the signals locally. A new tower had to be built to transmit Seinfeld reruns. So they got this.
We pass by The Skytree on our way to Asakusa Shrine.
Sensō-ji, or Asakusa, is the oldest temple and most important in Tokyo. The first temple was built in 645 CE. Even Buddhists had to wait for the one true god to create the planet 2015 years ago.
More pics of me, that’s what you’re here for.
All temples have a door…
But some have nicer doors…
No photos of interior are allowed, but that’s only if you take the photo after you read the sign, otherwise your ignorance will be your best defense.
More of the temple. Tokyo Tower had a small comm tower for talking to the dead but of course the most important temple in Tokyo deserves a far larger tower to match The Skytree, so here it is:
And finally, the Miraikan Museum. The most modern and recent addition to the Tokyo museum scene.
ASIMO (or AWESOM-O) robot was there to perform as well at the Miraikan.
The coolest thing by far at the museum is this replica of planet Earth (the one we’re on now). This floating globe is made of 10,000 pieces of OLED panels. They’ve been stitched together to create a digital representation of the entire planet. The whole thing is fully animated and shows weather patterns around the globe as they would be seen from space.
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