On Friday, we did a second day just in Tokyo. It was more low-key than Wednesday because we were starting to drag a bit. After a solid week of travel, with almost no downtime, you just get tired. My family was also getting really sick of the Tokyo crowds. But we weren’t quite finished with the city, so we ventured out again for more adventures – mostly Asakusa since our second pass at the Imperial Palace gardens failed.
Oddly enough, despite having lived adjacent to Tokyo back in 2008, I’d never actually been to Asakusa. For some reason, it was just never a priority, possibly because I wasn’t doing a ton of touristy things. So it was a first for all three of us and pretty cool. The whole area is super touristy, very deliberately “Asian” because that’s what people go there to see. It’s really self-conscious, but I feel like a lot of tourists don’t pick up on that so much because they’re not very familiar with Japan, so it works. I didn’t mind or anything, stuff like that doesn’t bother me, but I definitely could see how carefully constructed it is. There’s an image being cultivated and, while it’s very effective, it’s pretty artificial. But, then again, most of the things Japan markets as “traditional” are.
There was something going on in the main temple hall, a proper service with chanting and a ton of incense, but you could still go in and look around and take pictures. It always feels a little awkward to wander in and out while people are praying, but all the Japanese people do it, so it’s not like you’re doing anything wrong. Different attitude towards religion. And, honestly, that’s what you’re going to get when it’s in a place as famous and public as Asakusa.
It was a pretty nice day, very warm but not raining, so we wandered around the gardens and looked at the little shrines and mini-temples. A man tossed some bread into the pond to get the koi to come up for my sister to try to take pictures, despite a sign clearly telling you not to throw anything into the pond, and we just had a leisurely stroll before moving on. We got a drink in Starbucks and then took the subway a couple of stops to Ginza. Just to see it because Ginza is the heart of designer Tokyo and prohibitively expensive. It’s also where the Takarazuka and Kabuki theatres are, but we didn’t have the energy or motivation to track those down. But I felt like, since we were so close, it was a place my family should see. Because, seriously, Ginza is impressive. Incidentally, it’s also a place I’d been to before, though that time was entirely to go to the Takarazuka theatre and visit the goods store. I’m not even kidding.
After Ginza, I took my family back to a station on the Yamanote Line and sent them back to Ikebukuro while I continued on alone to Shibuya. It was my last day in Tokyo and, though I do intend to do another weekend trip up there before leaving Japan, I wanted to get some shopping in just in case I don’t make it back. Now, as I’ve said before, I am not Gal, but I love some Gal brands and enjoy shopping at 109. And there were sales. I had fab conversations with shop staff in Spiral Girl and Vanquish and ended up with two one-pieces, a cardigan and a top. It was a great way to end my Golden Week Tokyo adventure.
Up next: Osaka and Nara, the last leg of the journey!