I bought tickets to Japan on a whim/last minute misinterpretation of Korea’s re-entry laws when I was leaving China, and ended up with a day less than I would have planned for if I’d given it more thought. So, my experience of Tokyo ended up being two half days instead of the two days or so I would have gone with. Thus, no crazy Odaiba district, but I think I made the most of things considering.
The first day I had was more of an evening, and I underestimated how difficult it would be to get my bearings in the massive city. Thus, I missed getting into the Meiji Shrine by a matter of minutes (no worries, plenty of shrines to come down South). However, I did get over to the trendy Shibuya district just after nightfall, and walking among the neon signs and crowded streets gave me a taste of the Tokyo I’d imagined (as well as a taste of a spectacular ramen soup with tender boiled pork).
The sight you might most recognize there is Hachiko, the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. The overhead view of the three white-striped pedestrian lanes radiating across the massive road seems to be a staple shot for any Tokyo-set film. Another staple that proved surprisingly true was the odd kinkiness of the older men there, which I found out by wandering into a 711 and finding a row of business suited dudes all reading manga comics full of scantily clad schoolgirls while they sipped their mart coffees or whatever they’d come there for.
After that I headed back to the Shinjuku Skyscraper district where conveniently I would be catching my bus south to Hiroshima. The tallest building there (and in all of Tokyo) is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which happens to have a viewing platform that is also free. The lines are formidable, but move fairly quickly, and the view of Tokyo’s nighttime skyline was absolutely fantastic.
The night bus to Hiroshima wasn’t the best vehicle I’d been in, but the seats were awesome, with personal power plugs, velcro-attached pillows, and eye-shading hoods for sleeping. It might have been the long day, but I slept beautifully.
My return to Tokyo was the mirror image of my departure earlier in the week. I got in at 6 a.m. and headed straight for the Tsukiji Fish Market. This is the largest fish market in the world, and when I got there you could definitely tell it was an extremely busy one by the ancillary hustle and bustle of packing and transport going on around me.
Unfortunately, if you want to see the fish auctions, you have to start queuing up around 4 a.m., and if you want to see the secondary market where many of those fish are sold off, you have to wait until 9 a.m. I was stuck firmly in between those two times, so I decided to cut my losses and have a sushi breakfast at one of the several stands on the outer edge of the market.
This was a great decision, as I can honestly say I’ve never had better sushi. I got an 8 piece platter with 4 vegetable rolls and a cup of miso soup. The star attraction, of course, was the sushi, especially the tuna and a whitefish I couldn’t identify. They were almost melt in your mouth tender- just incredible. This place also didn’t have wasabi on the table (Osaka didn’t either), but did include it with a few of the sushi pieces, as a binding agent between the fish and the rice (with a brushing of sesame oil on top of the fish itself).
After this excellent meal I headed back to Shinjuku to be close to the airport train, and opted to go back up to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building viewing platform, although this time I opted for the opposite tower. Seeing the city in the daytime made for an interesting comparison to my night view the first day of my trip, and a nice bookend to the trip as a whole. Mt.Fuji’s snow-capped peak shimmered in the distance, giving me one more reason to come back sometime soon.