I do not speak a word of Japanese, apart from konchiwa, arigato, and sayonara. So why in the world did I think it was a good idea to go to Tokyo for 5 days? Luckily, I had a friend from undergrad who was getting his Master’s in Japan and had a few days to kill. I landed in Tokyo on January 1st and headed to Shibuya which served as my home base for my 5 days there. I didn’t know until I got there that the 1st of January is like Christmas for the Western world. People spend time with loved ones and even the busiest shopping areas turn into ghost towns.
When I was doing research on my Tokyo trip, I discovered that the Emperor only makes public appearances on two days of the year. Once is in December on his birthday. The other is on January 2nd to deliver his New Year’s Greeting. It was also one of the rare times when the inner palace grounds are open to the public. Of course, I had to go. And I dragged my friend, Andy, and his brother along.
When we got off the JR, we walked from the back of the palace to get to the front. Surrounding palace grounds is this beautiful moat that unfortunately had no crocodiles.
Kids were handing out flags in the front of the palace so the crowd could wave them when the royal family appeared.
The emperor made a short speech, probably wishing everyone a happy new years and the royal family bowed, in true Japanese manner, before they disappeared back into the palace to wait for their next reappearance an hour later.
After the palace visit, we headed to Ueno for lunch at a random sushi bar. It carried a full menu and everything was only ¥80 (80 cents!). My favorite were still the unagi and the salmon, regardless of which country I’m in. But the restaurant also carried horse meat sushi, which I obviously had to try. I wasn’t going to find horse meat anywhere else for this price!
It was just a thin slice of horse meat, dotted with ginger paste and chopped scallions. The texture resembled a very chewy variety of beef. There wasn’t much favor as what little favor it might have originally carried was overpowered by the ginger and scallions. It wasn’t anything to write home about, but, nonetheless, something to check off my list.
After lunch, we walked around Ueno and to a lotus lake nearby. It was in the dead of winter so not much was going on, but I imagine it would be gorgeous during lotus season.
Our next stop was Tokyo Tower. As we walked out of the JR station towards the Tower, we noticed the World Trade Center had an observatory tower for a relatively cheap entrance fee. When we reached the top, we were rewarded with this wonderful view of the Tokyo Tower and the city skyline. The sun was just setting and we decided to wait half an hour for this.
The view was breathtaking. I couldn’t help but miss the bf a little as I was sitting and taking in the view, wishing to share the moment with someone.
I’ll be back with more on my trip to Tokyo soon!
Photo credits: All photos taken by me with my Nikon D90 and HTC One X