Day 15: On my own in Tokyo
The group tour over, I was on my own and back to Tokyo for a night in the Shinjuku region. In many ways, Shinjuku is the epitome of what I associated with Tokyo. The train station is like a mini city in itself. Skyscrapers, bright and bizarre advertising everywhere you look – a bombardment of ‘Japan-ness’. I love it. I didn’t have much of a sightseeing agenda, but thanks to the awesome Tripadvisor app, with it’s downloadable city guides, I made a quick plan of action. I’m not working for Tripadvisor but I really can’t recommend the offline city guides more. When you’re struggling for wi-fi (which I was nearly everywhere in Japan), having a guide with map and transport help is invaluable.
Anyway, my priority was experiencing Isetan, a massive department store that has been around for over a century. I spent about 2 hours walking around the basement alone, completely overwhelmed by the food section. Everything looked so delicious, occasionally rather alien, and ludicrously cute…
After that I thought it best to see some things with a little more cultural value. Tokyo was looking stunning with the cherry blossom in full bloom.
I headed to the Craft Gallery, part of the National Museum of Modern Art. I mentioned before why I don’t really like spending too much time in art galleries and museums when I’m travelling, but this was a truly worthwhile visit. It isn’t every day you get to see traditional Japanese arts and crafts, from a variety of ages. No photography is allowed so I can’t prove how amazing the work here was, but it’s only ¥200 entry so I implore you to go!
It’s also very near the Imperial Palace area, which I felt I was obliged to visit, despite not hearing the best things about the Palace itself. You can’t go into the palace buildings or inner gardens, and guided tours for open parts are bookable only in advance, and apparently a bit of a pain to book (passport required). The gardens that are free to wander are actually quite impressive, not my favourite outdoor area of Tokyo, but definitely worth a stroll.
I then headed to see a recreation of Tokyo in the Edo period. I love the idea of toy towns, so I was not prepared for disappointment. The Fukagawa Edo Museum(great photos here) does deliver what it promises, but like in other museums, I was a little gutted nothing as in English. Don’t get it confused with the (much larger) Edo-Tokyo Museum, which is what I did. The latter is in a massive modern building, there are English audio guides (apparently) and I think you would learn a little more about Tokyo’s history, than Fukagawa. That said, it was still cool to walk around a to-scale model town.
I can’t imagine being able to get model skyscrapers of Shinjuku into a museum in the future though…