The plan for July 10 was a solo trip to Tokyo while the Wife spent time with her family. I have been to Tokyo many, many times before, so the goal was to find something new. After some time spent on Wikitravel, I ended up with a plan to go to the Edo Tokyo museum, the nearby Fukugawa Edo museum, and then shopping at Disk Union in Shinjuku.
From The In-Laws house I went to nearby Ooka station on Gotemba line. Ooka station is so small that they don’t have an automatic ticket gate. You have to show your ticket to the JR employee in the station window as you pass. When I arrived at the station I was wondering why everyone was sitting down in the station building and nobody was waiting on the platform. Then I realized that the platform was directly in the sun with no shade. Even at 9:00am it was crazy hot. Travel Protip: when all the locals are doing something, it’s probably for a good reason.
From Ooka station it was a short ride to Numazu station, where I changed to the Tokaido line bound for Mishima. At Mishima I upgraded my ticket to a Shinkansen ticket for Tokyo, which can be done on the machine easily in English. My train was not coming for some time, so I went into the nice, air conditioned waiting area hoping to find some Wi-Fi. Unfortunately there is not a lot of free Wi-Fi in Japan, and I didn’t have a subscription to any of the available paid options. This is exactly why you should always travel with a book.
On the platform at Tokyo station I got my first blast of the days weather. It was just before 11 but the temperature was already north of 30 degrees and the humidity had to be in the high 70% range. I quickly worked my way inside to the main station and followed the signs for the Sobu line. Tokyo station is quite simply well organized chaos. There are excellent signs directing you to the various train lines and exits, and a huge selection of restaurants, food stands and souvenir shops. Also about a zillion people walking around in every direction.
One final quick ride had me at Ryogoku station. Ryogoku is the home of sumo in Japan, with several stables in the area. On this particular day there was a tournament going on in Nagoya, so I didn’t see any wrestlers walking around on the streets. Ryogoku station to the museum is only a few minute walk, but in the heat it felt like half an hour. The museum itself looks like a giant AT AT walker from The Empire Strikes back. Unfortunately due to its massive size it is nearly impossible to photograph from ground level.
Edo Tokyo museum shows the history of, unsurprisingly, Edo, which is now known as Tokyo. The main attraction is the detailed scale models of street scenes from Tokyo’s history. Most of the scenes of the have hundreds of tiny people, all with different clothing and facial expressions. Binoculars are provided so you can get an up close view. You could literally spend hours looking at everything in the models. Other highlights include a recreation of a late 1700’s book store, Japan’s first phone booth, and full size recreations of houses that you can walk around in. The museum is one of the best in Japan, and an absolute bargain at 600 yen.
After the museum I walked back to the station. At this point the sidewalk was so hot that I could feel the heat through the soles of my shoes. I avoided the nearby McDonald’s and stopped to eat at Pepper Lunch, a hamburger steak chain. Hamburger steak is a ground beef patty usually served with some veggies. When I left the restaurant, I was so hot that I decided against the Fukugawa Edo museum due to the 10 minute walk from the station. I instead headed to Akihabara, the geek capital of Japan.
Knowing that I would be back in Akihabara about a week later, I confined myself to Yodobashi camera. If you like electronics, video games, models, etc, and only have time go to to one place, make sure you go to Yodobashi Camera. The Akihabara store is 6 floors of awesome. I bought a memory card reader, a Bluetooth audio transmitter and successfully avoided buying about 500 other things that I really really wanted to buy.
Escaping from Yodobashi, I returned to the station and took the Chuo line to Shinjuku. The Chuo line cuts right through the centre of Tokyo at a high rate of speed. It is very convenient, but it is also host to a lot of train suicides due to the high speed and number of trains. Fortunately I got through with no incidents.
At this point it is repetitive to say that any part of Tokyo is insanely busy, but Shinjuku station and surrounding area is the very definition of insanely busy. The station is used by over 3.5 million people per day. The key is to think of the crowd like an ocean current and just get into the flow that is going in the direction you want. Also, know which exit you need to use.
Disk Union has 5 different stores near Shinjuku station. Some of these have multiple floors and different genres of music on each one. The stores are very narrow and crowded, so I immediately regretted wearing my big traveling backpack. I ended up in 4 different Disk Union genre stores – classic rock, Japanese rock, punk and metal. The final tally was 8 used CDs and one brand spanking new copy of the 40th Anniversity Ziggy Stardust rerelease with Japanese writing on the package.
Since I was close to the entrance to Kabukicho I wandered over and started taking pictures of the famous entrances and tall buildings full of stores. I wad not feeling adventurous enough to wander through Kabukicho itself and take pics, and by this time I was started to really feel that I had been walking around in the heat all day. In fact, other than sitting to eat lunch I had been on my feet all day. It was well and truly time to call it a daay.
If going to Tokyo – wear comfortable shoes, check out the Edo Tokyo museum, and don’t go during the summer. Just don’t. It’s too f**king hot.