Our trip was quickly coming to an end, long gone were the first few days where we felt we had an eternity ahead of us. Today was likely going to be our last full day of sightseeing as the last few days would be full with shopping and picking up all the items we need to hold us off until our next trip to Japan.
Episode 26: https://youtu.be/Ao0VUNK6CRs
And despite a sense of urgency to make the best use of our time we still were struggling to get out for the day at a decent time in the morning. A third trip to McDonalds for breakfast happened, but this time I was determined to have an onigiri in the morning and chose a tuna with mayo option which was really good. I demonstrate how to open an onigiri in the accompanying episode if you’re interested in seeing how the seaweed remains crunchy.
Our first stop for the day was one we had done in the past, well Nicole did, I missed most of it because I became very ill on our last visit. It was a very odd sickness, hitting me while at our attraction, I managed to give Nicole as much time as possible by laying on a bench. But we then hurried back to the hotel where I went straight to bed, and eventually fell asleep. When I woke several hours later I was practically cured, all better. It was very odd. This was back during the SARS scare and happened the day before we were to fly home. I was sure I had SARS and wouldn’t be able to go home.
But luckily this time around I remained healthy and was able to fully enjoy this sight, the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Without going through the rigour of sitting down, compiling a list of all the things to do in Tokyo, and just going off the top of my head, I would put this museum in my top 5 favourite things to do. Definitely top 10, to be safe that my bad memory is not missing some key sights.
As soon as you turn the last corner on your walk to the museum you will see it, and the building itself is quite astounding. A large slab on top of large concrete pilers is probably the best way to describe it. It’s quite the site! Tickets for the museum are purchased down on the square under the building before you take the very long escalators up into the belly of the building.
As you finally reach the top of the escalators, I counted four, you will start to understand how special this place is. Here you’ll find the history of Edo, then Tokyo, stretching back to the 1600s when the Tokugawa shogunate made Edo it’s home base. Edo of course is the name given to what we now know as Tokyo. The name Tokyo was not used until the Tokugawa shogunate were overthrown in 1868 and the emperor was moved to the city. The museum does an amazing job detailing all this history through the use of reconstructions, models and dioramas.
The first reconstruction you will encounter is that of Nihonbashi, or Japan Bridge. It was a gateway into Edo and it’s a great way to start the tour in the museum as it acts as the gateway to the exhibit. As you cross the bridge you get a sense of how large the museum is. There are two floors and the exhibit starts on the second floor and the route leads down to the first floor which has two storied open areas. In one of these open areas sits a reconstruction of a kabuki theatre, of which you can get a great view from the bridge.
Once on the other side of the bridge you will be presented with my favourite parts of the exhibits, a bunch of large dioramas showing what Edo used to look like in years past. The attention to detail in the dioramas, on all the buildings and the little models of people is astonishing. You could stand there and stare at the models for hours taking in all the intricate details. Another interesting model was that of a daimyō’s residence from the early 1600s. It had sections where the building was missing from the model so that the floor plan could be seen, each tatami mat highlighted.
While the first floor you visited (which is technically the second floor) is all about the city’s history, the second floor (technically the first floor) on the tour concentrates on the people of the early days. There are also reconstructions and models, but more life sized giving a glimpse at how the people would live. There was also a lot of interesting comparisons to days of old and the current trends, for example how the diets compare, or salaries, or the average “day in the life”. The exhibit does a good job of giving a high level view of the city and general life then helping to make that feel a little more real by concentrating on the smaller details of everyday life.
I was very happy that we made a return visit to the Edo-Tokyo Museum and that I was able to enjoy it on our second visit. I highly recommend a visit here, especially if you are interested in the Edo Period of Japan. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed it so much because I am quite interested in those years of Japan’s history. That could be clouding my ranking of the museum, but having said that the exhibit is outstanding. Hopefully this episode gives you enough of a view of the museum to decide on whether it would be of interest to you on your visit.
After the museum we had some fun lined up. A few trips prior we tried an activity which we weren’t too sure of. But at the time we were curious and were caught in a miserable day of rain and cold. To escape that we decided to give Karaoke a try. We were instantly hooked which surprised us because it’s not something either of us really had a desire to do, nor have we ever done it at home. But we loved it, Karaoke is so much fun. Perhaps our prejudice against Karaoke was the North American take on it, where you go to a bar and sing in front of a crowd. Or at least that is how Hollywood portrays it. That does not appeal whatsoever. But in Japan it’s quite a different experience. Firstly it’s very private. A karaoke establishment is full of different sized rooms which are essentially rented out. Nicole and I are able to get a small room where the two of us can belt out our best impressions of our favourite songs. And secondly you can order beverages and food and they are brought to your room. It really is a blast!
We’ve had success finding a Karaoke place in Shibuya on previous trips, not that it’s very hard to find one anywhere. But we also hadn’t made a visit to Shibuya on this trip yet and wanted to see Hachikō and cross the famous scramble crossing again. I didn’t leave our trip to chance though, I found an Echo Entertainment, a Karaoke chain, right beside a CoCo curry restaurant so we could grab lunch and then sing our hearts out. CoCo curry was actually recommended to us by some friends, one of the better chains serving Japanese curry rice. Several birds were gotten with this one stone.
Lunch was very good, and Karaoke was a success. We’d had a great day so far, but it was winding down. It was getting close to dinner time and we knew another spot where we could make the best use of a single stone. Nicole wanted to visit the Omotesandō area, a great place for shopping, and there is a mall there which we’d found some good food on trips past. We made our way over to Omotesandō from Shibuya on foot, strolled the main street visiting the odd shop and then made our way over to the mall. Unfortunately the restaurants we remembered had turned over since our last trip and nothing really appealed to us. Our evening then became a search for food, and after several failed attempts we stumbled on an interesting food court sort of place in a subway station. It was brand new, a posh sort of food court with restaurant caliber seating. The food options looked good so we gave it a try and had a very good dinner. This place was called MARCHE de METRO, but in collecting the locations for this post and episode I discovered that it has been renamed to CAFE de METRO but looks to be just a name change.
After dinner we made our way home. We needed to get a good sleep and do our best to get up early and make the most of our second last day in Japan. Our trip was almost at an end and every minute would count.
There were several locations featured in this episode
- Park Hotel Tokyo – Our home away from home for our stay in Tokyo and the hotel we’ve chosen for each of our trips to Japan.
- Family Mart – My favourite konbini chain in Japan.
- Shiodome Station – The subway station basically down the elevator of our hotel, not as well connected as Shimbashi station so this was our first time using it on the trip.
- Ryōgoku Station – The closest station to our first stop for the day.
- Edo-Tokyo Museum – An amazing museum outlining Tokyo’s history from the 1600s to the present. A lot of reconstructions and dioramas to checkout which really bring the history to life.
- Hachikō Statue – Famous meet up spot in Shibuya right beside the famous Shibuya Crossing.
- Shibuya Crossing – A visit to Tokyo wouldn’t be complete without crossing this famous scramble crossing.
- CoCo Curry – One of several curry rice chains in Japan. It was very good!
- Big Echo Karaoke – A few trips ago we braved karaoke and were instantly hooked. Now a trip doesn’t go by where we don’t do some karaoke.
- Omotesando Hills – Posh shopping mall on a posh shopping street, we were in search of food.
- CAFE de Metro – An amazing food court of sorts with some higher end fare than normally found at a food court. We had a delicious dinner down in the subway at this fancy spot.
Thanks for watching/reading!