Japan, Day 11: Tokyo – Random Wanderings

Day 11 was not terribly exciting, from either a photography or a reportage perspective.  Leigh was in her conference all day, so her pictures are full of things like this:

Academic poster
Interesting stuff, but requires a bit of background, and not particularly Japan-specific.

Meanwhile I didn’t do any big things – I just wandered about.  I started the day in Ueno park, which DuoLingo informs me is “a very pretty place.” (とてもきれいな場所) It is, too, although I did see my first evidence of homelessness since we had arrived in Tokyo.

Paddleboats in front of a city skyline
I only wandered around the south end of the park, and mostly failed to find a few geocaches.  I returned to the north end of the park later in the trip, so more here later.

Most stuff in Tokyo doesn’t open until at least 10, so I was at least partially killing time at this point.  Looking at a map, I noticed a nearby shrine (Yushima Tenjin), which as it turns out, was dedicated to education and learning. I like those things, so I wandered over and had a look.

Oh good, more stairs.  Did I mention it was still really, really hot?

Still, the shrine itself was pretty cool, and among other things, still had a functioning gas lamp.

Gas Lamp

The reason I was killing time is that I wanted to check out the bookseller’s district.  Tokyo does this thing where a lot of the vendors of a particular thing will cluster in one place.  The downside is that you may not have a good used book store near you (although you probably still do).  The upside is that there are DOZENS of used bookstores all right next to each other.

It was REALLY fun to walk past and look at all of them.

Naughty French Spot Illustrations (book)
However, unsurprisingly, the books were mostly in Japanese, which three months of DuoLingo was really not enough to prepare me for.  I was hoping to find some sheet music, but the one store that had some didn’t have anything that really jumped out at me.

Just down from the bookstore district is the musical instrument district, so I had a peek down there, but I certainly wasn’t buying any of those, and I was too self-conscious to ask to try out a French horn.

And overlapping with both of those districts is… the curry district!  If you Google for the national dish of Japan, the most likely result isn’t ramen or sushi – it’s curry, made with sauce cubes out of a box.

Fortunately, in the curry district, they go a BIT nicer than that, although it’s still a similar sweet-mild flavor profile.  Found a great place where I could try two different styles, separated by a fortification of rice.

After lunch, my plan was to go explore the east gardens of the Imperial Palace, but… I just couldn’t do it – I got maybe a third of the way from the nearest train station to the entrance, and realized that I just wasn’t going to be able to appreciate them properly while trying to stave off heat exhaustion.  So instead I went back underground and made my way to the Seiko museum, more or less reversing the route we had taken a few days earlier to get from Ginza 6 to Tokyo station.

Apparently, most big companies in Japan have a museum dedicated to how great they are.  (This isn’t a Japan-only phenomenon, as anyone who’s been to Battle Creek or Hershey can attest.)  The Seiko museum is full of fascinating old clocks and watches.  Here’s a bunch of them that were fused together in the fire after the Kanto earthquake of 1923.

Pile of melted watches

And here’s probably the most famous Seiko in Ginza. (This is not the museum, which was on a back street.)

Seiko House

I also went to the Yamaha main music store, which had an absolutely amazing sheet music store on the third floor.  Still too shy to ask to play either any pianos or horns, though.

After all this walking and museum viewing, I decided I deserved a treat, and stopped off for some gelato. Matcha and salted watermelon.


I made my way back to Ikebukuro to have dinner with Leigh, who discovered that all of her slides for her presentation the next day had randomly borked themselves, so after a brief flurry of cursing and fixing stuff, we went out for a rather frustrating attempt to find dinner.

I had planned to take us to “Gyoza Stadium”, which is a cluster of different kinds of gyoza shops, inside an amusement park, inside a shopping mall, which I had been assured was tasty and entertaining.  However, the admission price to the amusement park had been raised a LOT since the reviews I read, and most of the shops were about to close anyway.  So we spent quite a while wandering around neighborhood trying to find somewhere to eat that didn’t look too skeevy, but still wasn’t a Denny’s.

We eventually got some chicken skewers at an extremely understaffed restaurant, and vowed to find some good gyoza later in the trip.  (Spoiler: we did.)

So… yeah. Went to book stores – didn’t buy books.  Went to music stores – didn’t play instruments or buy music.  Went to gyoza store – didn’t get gyoza.  Went to park – didn’t actually go to park.  On paper, it doesn’t sound great, but it’s fun to just BE in a new place.

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