East Capital - Day 1
15.09.2010 - 15.09.2010 27 °C
Having descended in the East Capital, as its Japanese name so perfectly describes, we were both filled with anticipation and excitement to discover this Eastern Metropolis.
Although exhausted and somewhat jetlagged, we managed to wake up at a reasonable time and decided to head to central Tokyo for a tour around the imperial Palace. Not far from our hotel are two of the Tokyo`s train/metro stations, if you`ve ever seen the map of the rail system you`d understand how confusing it can be, not only are there plenty of lines illustrated clearly, in Japanese, (ok fair enough there is an English map for tourists) there`s also a series of private companies that operate within the system, that make fares and stations a bit confusing. Problem solved, we headed to the platform and took our train enroute to Tokyo station, attentively looking out for names, numbers and any sign that could tell us exactly where we needed to get off.
Tokyo central station, and a series of underground paths later we made it to the surface. Not very sunny but muggy we walked for a few minutes and found this enormous luscious park situated amongst tall office buildings and broad roads. Over its moat ancient bridges lead you into this green, serene and very slow paced historical site. We wandered around old samurai forts, sloping cobbled paths, stone walls and bamboo forests and then, felt we needed to see this city`s wildside and the rivers of people that cover the streets. Headed to the Ginza district, a commercial/shopping destination, via some of the tall corporate towers. Along the way, nature calls, we needed some food, authentic Japanese anything! We found this area, which at the time we thought as unique, but now know it happens all across town, in which quaint little restaurants, behind sliding doors and hanging lamps serve "affordable" food to businessmen, little old ladies (which slurp after slurp devour a reasonably sized ramen bowl in five minutes) or hungry tourists, otherwise known in Colombia as "el corrientazo", for our latinamerican readers. Two bowls of noodles and 30 minutes later our excursion continued. "Where is everyone, why aren`t we being pushed, squeezed" uttered the anxious city boy, it wasn`t empty no, except everyone walked orderly and gave us room to hold hands and swing our arms as we walked. We reached the sony building for a little taste of Japanese technology, and was also our first sighting and attempt at the famous Tokyo "jay-walking", yet the human hordes were very controlled and manageable.
After half a day of aimless meandering under very intense humidity, and another metro ride we arrived at Shibuya station, to see what this city is known for, neon lights, people, people and more people. And what a taste we had. The frenzy lasts about 2 minutes, but it also happens every 5, and is worth every minute of it. At once, when the gron gubbe (green man) lights up, hundreds of people (literally, imagine Oxford Circus times 3) are all released in unison from the 4 corners of this intersection, in every direction, left, right, centre, diagonally, around. Not one of them sighs in desperation or pushes each other, it`s human harmony at its best, really unbelievable. What a way to end our first tour of this wonderful city. On this first day we realised that amongst the rumble, the hectic rush hour courteous white glove pushing onto trains (which we haven`t seen), the crazy "jay-walking", this city can be very tame and quiet, that is not always the crazy urban jungle we imagined. However this in no way should be read as disappointment. On the contrary, for a city that has blurred the boundaries between its neighbouring towns and has a combined population of 35 million inhabitants (arguably the largest city in the world), to be able to provide you with space to breathe, is rather a compliment.