Jet lag is not the friend of sleep and after a pretty broken night and an early wake up we embarked on day two of our Tokyo adventure…
The breakfast at our hotel was pretty interesting we opted for the sweet corn soup which, although delicious, is a bit of an oddity for us in the morning! This was followed by a more appetising scrambled egg and sausage.
The day’s mission took us to the towering skyline of the CBD, with it still being a public holiday the huge mirrored buildings stood eerily in empty streets. It was surprisingly quiet to walk through and we headed to the Imperial Palace and Gardens in the Chiyoda district, the official residence of the Emperor of Japan. The Palace sits surrounded by both scenic park land and a deep moat. Although most of the Palace grounds were shut the white buildings of the Palace stood out along with the ornate Nijubashi bridge which arches gently over the moat. The tranquillity and greenery of the gardens was quite the juxtaposition to the jagged geometry of the surrounding city.
We decided to walk towards the Tokyo tower, something of a red and white mini Eiffel Tower. On our way we passed through small parks and even in the metropolis that is Tokyo we saw heron, resident koi carp and even some terrapins.
Following a main road the pavements were filled with crowds of people, teams of cheerleaders and bands all in different team colours. As we discovered from a helpful local we had stumbled across the annual Hakone Ekiden. This is a highlight in the Tokyo calendar where university athletes compete over two days in a relay race from the city of Hakone to Tokyo, each runner takes on a 20km section of the course. The most amazing part of it was that they hadn’t closed the roads, each time a runner got close they would close off one lane of traffic and halt the flow from side streets, once they had passed everything continued as normal with absolute efficiency!
Near to the Tokyo Tower, which turned out to be quite the walk, is the famous Zojoji Temple which dates back to 1622. The torii gate to the temple was as impressive as the temple itself, a huge wooden structure. As we were finding to be the norm on public holidays, another huge queue stood waiting patiently to say their prayers.
We decided to skip this one though, instead heading across the city to Osiage where you can find the Tokyo Skytree. Visitors take note that if you by pass all the signs, and ushering, and head around the side of the ticket building you will find a separate international visitor area. This allows you to skip the queues and the allocated entry times, and head straight up the lift. We headed straight to the highest point, 450m, and as we hopped out of the lift the sun was beginning to set along the horizon.
The apex of the tower is actually at 630m, but 450m seemed dizzying enough. With vast views across the city and beyond the sun sets almost directly behind Mt Fuji in the distance, making for a spectacular sight. In our case it had been glorious weather all day but a mischievous little cloud just drifted enough to obscure the best of Fuji. Following the Sumida River out towards the coast was pretty cool as it meandered through the high rises too.
We stayed up the tower for a beer with a view, expensive, but very worth it as the city fell under darkness and the roads below became ant trails of headlights. On the way down via the 1st floor (350m) we walked over a mind-boggling glass floor, enough to make my stomach lurch a bit.
After a day of exploring we headed back to Asakusa for dinner, this is a great area of the city to hunt down a good eat. The main street is lined with restaurants, as are most side streets, giving a multitude of culinary options. This is always our downfall, too much choice and two indecisive eaters, still we eventually found a great little place with a real local feel.
I opted for rice and Japanese style omelette and Guy chicken, rice and gyoza. All delicious!