With this post I would like to wrap up my Japan 2018 series and show you some photos which I did not include in the previous posts. In case you do not know, Japan is actually not the only place I travel to, and on my hard drive I have gigabytes of photos taken on other trips to countries in Europe, Asia and North and South Americas. So, after this post, before I continue showing you Japan in the photos from my most recent trip to this amazing country (I went there again in March 2020), I am planning to take you on a journey to some other beautiful destinations.
Having returned from the JR Pass trip through the country, we spent another week in Tokyo. I already showed you the blooming cherry blossoms in Chidorigafuchi park and the lucky cat temple Gotokuji — the photos in these posts I shot on the two days when I was not lazy to bring my heavy DSLR camera with me. Most of the photos in this post, in contrast, were shot on my old iPhone or on a tiny Ricoh GR II on the days, when I did not feel like carrying much stuff on me.
So, what else did we do on that week? First of all, on each day we would meet with people. During our previous stays in the city we developed so many good relationships with different folks living there, and it was really nice to see them again. We would go to izakaya and restaurants, party at Shibuya or enjoy doing hanami with friends. Aww, great times!
Of course we also did some touristy things. Let me list here some of them!
Riding a boat under cherry blossoms on the Sumida river
When our friend Paul asked us, if we would like to do a guided cherry blossom viewing boat ride, we thought it was a great idea. We planned it for the day we were returning back from Osaka. After we brought the luggage to our hotel, we met with Paul and walked towards the Nihonbashi bridge, a historic landmark in Tokyo and the starting point for the boat ride. On the way Paul said that we should get us some drinks for the ride. We wondered whether it won’t be strange to have the drinks during a guided tour, but he said: ‘You will see!’
Soon we were seated in the boat. Our guide, a friendly Japanese lady, has welcomed all passengers, translating everything in English for our small group. The atmosphere was super cosy and friendly. The boat has started and we were surprised to see that and all passengers at once took out their drinks and even some bento boxes. Haha, apparently that would have been even weird not to have anything with us! As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, hanami always comes together with food and drinks, and watching cherry blossoms from a boat is in fact nothing different than doing a hanami!
We were truly enjoying the ride. Our guide was telling us interesting facts about the city before we started reaching the places where blooming trees were densely framing the riverbanks. It got dark by that time, the metropolis turned on its lights and the blooming clouds were beautifully lit by lanterns. There were many people on the river banks and bridges, also enjoying cherry blossoms. Many were waving at us when the boat was passing by. We were waving back and it was super fun.
I felt nostalgic when the boat was passing by the area where we once used to live. It has brought back the memories of the time when the three of us met as flatmates in an old apartment building, which has since been demolished. I could see the Sumida promenade, where I would often enjoy my late night jogging. I even enjoyed the strong smell of water and algae, which I used to find disgusting back in the days.
When the boat ride was over, we decided to grab some snacks and continue doing hanami in the tiny Hamacho park close to the water. We knew this place from before and it felt so good to be back.
I have been to Tokyo many times already and no matter what, somehow we always end up going to Akihabara as one of the first things after we arrive. Akihabara is a very vibrant city part, with huge concentration of electronics shops, gaming gear, anime stuff and other otaku attributes. Even if you are not into electronics or anime, most certainly you will still be amazed by the vibe of this bright and noisy neighbourhood. In Akihabara, I love entertaining myself by going to the Big Camera store and trying out the newest photography gear.
We had a short break in an Excelsior Caffe. It is a popular chain in Japan, which can be compared to Starbucks. Their coffee is ok, not specialty (but I’ve noticed on their website, they also opened a specialty branch), but they have nice cakes and the atmosphere is usually cosy. The one in Akihabara is a bit overcrowded though.
Back in the day Sergio was upgrading his computer and wanted to buy a new GPU, so we also checked out some shops with computer components. However, we soon have discovered that there was no advantage in buying the stuff there. I probably should add that it was certainly before the day I joined the famous GPU company :)
Odaiba and the Miraikan museum
During my first internship in Tokyo, my supervising professor had another lab in Miraikan, which is not only a museum of science and innovations, but also a big research center. It happened that I visited the place a couple of times. I even got invited to a summer party organised for its employees, where me and some other foreign students had a quick informal chat with Mamoru Mohri, the Executive Director for the Miraikan, also famous for being the second Japanese astronaut.
Although I happened to visit the place, I never got to see the public exhibition. During that trip we decided to tick it off the list. That day we got up relatively early in the morning and took a futuristic monorail of the Yurikamome line, which brought us to Odaiba, a man-made island in the Tokyo Bay. It is possible to get to Odaiba by bus or by subway, but I would totally recommend taking the monorail, since the ride through the Rainbow Bridge on itself is an absolutely fun experience. If it is not that crowded, try to get a place in the train’s front (the ‘driver’s spot’) and you will enjoy the feeling of a roller coaster ride through a futuristic landscape.
Before going to the Miraikan, we made a quick stop at the DiverCity Tokyo Plaza mall where we had some takoyaki for lunch in the food court area.
We also appreciated the giant statue of Gundam, which has replaced the older one.
The museum itself I found a bit disappointing. I am not sure now what I was expecting to see, but being there it felt like the whole exposition was designed for kids as its target audience. We saw some android robots and watched a part of the performance of Asimo, Honda’s famous robot. We went through the interactive installations demonstrating some scientific principles. It was ok, but somehow not very engaging for me.
After the museum we decided to return to the DiverCity mall to do some shopping. Sergio wanted to buy a Gundam constructor in The Gundam Base located in the mall, and I helped him to chose a Unicorn Gundam kit. Here I must say, although I am not a Gundam fan myself, I still enjoyed the store, in particular looking at the huge display with so many variations of different Gundams.
On the last day of this trip, after visiting the Gotokuji temple, we decided to go to Roppongi. Roppongi is another district in Tokyo. This city part is known as a place where many foreigners live. There is also a big number of foreign restaurants and bars there, and there are also some night clubs, where the majority of visitors are usually foreigners. I am not sure, if it is still like that nowadays, but this is how I remember it from the days I was living in Tokyo.
This time we wouldn’t have time for clubbing or bar hopping in Roppongi. We actually wanted to visit the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, a 54-story skyscraper with an observation deck on top, and yet again — the line to get there was so long, that we decided to leave it for another visit. Instead we spent some time in the super cool museum shop in the building. I bought a set of two plastic flower vases in original Mori Art Museum design. I just love museum shops in modern art museums! There is always so much fun stuff to see there!
Having left the Roppongi Hills, we made a quick stop at another Hard Rock Cafe, where I bough another cool pin for my collection. After that we met with Paul again, who agreed to join us for a ramen before we left to the hotel close to the airport in order to catch our early morning flight to Hong Kong.
Photos taken in March 2018