Posts Tagged tokyo metropolitan government building
Disclaimer: UPS is the nickname of one of my friends visiting Japan. This post has nothing to do with United Parcel Service.
UPS and I got up early in the morning, and met The Penpal at Mishima station in order to go to Tokyo for the day. I love having a chance to introduce my girlfriend to friends from home. I was hoping to get a chance to do that on a large scale over the Christmas holidays, but she was unable to get the time to travel to Canada.
I wasn’t worried at all about UPS meeting The Penpal. He is one of those friendly people who can have a conversation with anyone. We took the shinkansen from Mishima to Shinagawa, talking the whole way. By the end of our hour long trip, The Penpal and UPS were talking like old friends.
Our first stop of the day was Shinjuku. It’s always impressive to show off the tall buildings around Shinjuku station. Today was Sunday, so we got a chance to look at the buildings without the usual mobs of people crowding us. It was almost a bit spooky to see how empty the streets were. We walked in the direction of the Tokyo Metro Government Building, making sure to pass through the NS building to see the world’s largest water clock. I filled UPS in on my adventures coming to this building two years ago for NOVA new employee orientation. Even though it had only been 2 years, it felt like a whole lifetime ago.
As we left the NS building and continued towards the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, we saw a strange sight; a small ramen stand in the middle of an empty courtyard surrounded by people. As we got closer, we noticed TV cameras, and standing in line for ramen was comedian Hard Gay. They were filming something for one of his TV appearances.
As someone who has lived in Japan for over 2 years, I am now used to the idea of a muscular, leather clad comedian named “Hard Gay”. It took some explaining to get UPS to understand what he was looking at, and I promised to show him some Youtube videos later. UPS took out his camera to capture the moment, but one of the producers came over and asked politely in Japanese not to take pictures. I translated for UPS and he put his camera away, although in retrospect this would have been a good opportunity to forget Japanese and get a picture of Hard Gay in action.
We eventually got to the Metro Government building, and went to the observation level, located 202 meters above street level. We spent about an hour taking looking at the never ending sprawl of the Greater Tokyo area in every direction. We also got a picture with the cute mascot of the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation (TOEI). I don’t know why every business and government department in Japan feels the need to have a cute mascot, but maybe that’s because I am Canadian.
We could have spent a lot more time in Shinjuku, but had to keep moving to take advantage of UPS’s short time in Japan. Next stop: Meiji Shrine.
Today we went to Shinjuku for sightseeing and to activate my family’s JR rail passes.
The JR Rail pass is a must purchase for visitors to Japan that will be doing a lot of traveling. Passes are available in 7, 14, and 21 day versions. They allow free transportation on all JR trains, all local JR busses, the Narita Express, and all except the fastest shinkansen. You need to purchase the pass before you travel to Japan, and then activate it when you arrive. The time period starts as soon as you activate the pass. Unfortunately the JR Rail Pass is not available for foreign residents of Japan, only visitors.
The closest place to Noborito to activate the JR rail pass was in Shinjuku. We boarded the Odakyu line and took the 20 minute ride into Shinjuku station. The plan was to quickly activate the passes, get lunch, and then explore Shinjuku for the afternoon.
It took us a while to actually find the travel office where we could activate the rail passes, and when we arrived we found a huge line of people ahead of us. By this point I was already hungry and looking forward to lunch. After waiting for about half an hour, we were at the front of the line. I asked my parents if they could take care of the passes themselves while I got something to eat. They were worried about doing something wrong or needing to speak Japanese, so I had to stay.
By the time the rail passes had been exchanged, I was ravenous. The staff at the travel office spoke English very well, which was good because I am pretty useless when hungry, and the Japanese language part of my brain had shut down. I declined their offer of help to book a hotel in Kyoto so we could leave sooner. Just before 2:00pm my family walked out of the travel office with active rail passes and one grumpy translator. Eventually we found a nearby Becker’s Burgers in the underground mall and I proceeded to stuff myself.
Now that I was fed and feeling like a human again, we left the sprawling Shinjuku station and started to explore the area. I walked my family down the main streets, near all of the restaurants, stores and pachinko parlours. I took them through the NS building and showed them the world’s largest water clock, which was the first landmark that I had seen when I arrived in Japan in September. In addition, we went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
The government building, also known as Tokyo City Hall, has two large towers on each side of a central structure. Each tower has a free observation level on the 45th floor that provide breathtaking views of the Greater Tokyo Area. On a day with no clouds and minimal smog you can see Mt. Fuji. We had no such luck.
After completely overwhelming my family with tall building after tall building, we returned to Noborito to get packed for our 3 day excursion to Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Numazu. We all tried to watch a DVD in my room, but everyone was still jetlagged from the travel and we all had an early night.
(2014 Update) The JR travel offices that can be found in major train stations and airports are fantastic. They are happy to help you make your travel and hotel plans, and they can provide maps and recommendations for places to see. The best part is that they can do all of these things in English. Just make sure you get some lunch first – the lines can be long!