Armed with 3 maps (2 city, 1 JR trains), 1 "point to it" book, 1 novel and of course the trusted Lonely Planet guide I set off to see the sights of Tokyo.
Imperial Palace - East Gardens
Kitanomaru Koen - park with martial art displays
Yasukuni Jinja - Memorial to Japanese war dead
Shibuya - general area and Hachiko statue
Ebisu - Yebisu Garden Palace and Sapporo beer museum
National Theatre of Japan - performing arts
Things got off to a slightly rocky start when after I got off at Tokyo station I wandered in various directions for 45 mins before I accidently stumbled upon the right path towards the Imperial Palace. Even though all you can actually see of the Palace is one little building, its still quite nice and there are some lovely photo opps if you're patient and wait for the excited family tourists to get out of the way!
Wandered around the East Gardens for a bit soaking in the beautifully landscaped trees and lawns all around. I'm very glad I decided to come here in Spring - it couldn't have been more beautiful. Everywhere little green leaves were making their debut and the gorgeous cherry blossoms beamed at you around every corner. I know I'm going to a Hanami Sakura thingy on Sunday, but I just couldn't resist taking picture after picture of the blossoms.
After exiting the gardens, I cut across the Kitanomaru park heading towards the Yasukuni Jinja. Dozens of vendors line the road leading to the shrine selling mostly food, but also all kinds of curious knick-knacks. Funnily enough I had just finished telling myself that I wasn't that hungry and would skip lunch when I came across the vendors and then BAM.... my stomach decided I was starving after all!
I took a quick round of the shrine which proved to be a great site for pics both of the monument itself as well as the interesting tourists there. I found it interesting that there were almost no "foreign" tourists to speak of. All the people coming there (and by the busloads too) seemed to be older Japanese folk.
After searching through the many stalls that sold eatables like salted fish-on-a-stick (gills still attached) to deep fried octopus tentacles to other concoctions that I couldn't even identify, I finally settled on some bbqed pork-on-a-stick, noodles and beer! Everyone was just sitting around on the grass under the cherry trees and so that's what I did too!
I then made my way to the nearest JR train station and then on to Sibuya - Tokyo's version of Times Square. Like the original, Sibuya slaps you with its sensory overload of flashing lights, large billboards, running adverts and crazy traffic all competing for your attention at much the same time. What Sibuya has that Times Square lacks - a funky crossing system whereby ALL traffic stops and people then cross the road in every which direction! Its really cool to watch and I took a bunch of pics. Wish I had a camera to capture the full effect.
Before I left Shibuya, I made a quick stop to pay hommage at the statue of Hachiko - the faithful dog of Japanese lore who waited for his master at Shibuya station even after the master's death and ceased only when he himself died. Located in a little garden just outside of the station's "Hachiko Exit" the statue is a popular meeting spot for Japanese youth and I enjoyed watching them as much as the chaotic scenes around me.
Sadly I had to give the beer museum and the National Theatre a miss as I was already bone weary and in any case it was too late to catch a show. By now I was much more confident with the JR lines and getting home was easy as apple pie.
I have a day trip to Nikko planned for tomorrow - can't wait.
On the flip side, I STILL don't have accomodation for 2 days in Osaka! Everything I've called/ emailed or googled is full and I'm not sure how to proceed. Ah well.... I'm determined not to worry (too much)... things are bound to settle themselves eventually.