Impossible of a Visit
Posted by Heliocentrism on March 6, 2015
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
The impossibilities are endless!
Well, I didn’t expect everything that we planned to see this day to be open. Somethings I knew would be closed, even before we got to Tokyo, and had expected to view only from afar. What I didn’t expect were things like high walls blocking my view of imperial flowers.
The Yasukuni Shrine was a 30 minute stroll from our hostel. So, we got up early and ate cereal before heading out. We passed by the Yushukan War Museum first. There we were greeted by a sign telling everyone that the museum was closed and we should come back after the winter break. “When exactly do they expect working people to come visit this thing?”
Then we went to the museum’s accompanying shrine. It was very shrine like; nothing over-the-top special about it. We could tell that the real festivities would not happen until New Year’s eve night. But we came to say, we saw the shrine that everyone gets all upset about when the Prime Minister of Japan visits. That was really the most interesting thing about this shrine.
We walked towards the Imperial Palace Gardens. It’s open whenever the Emperor is not in residence. People walk the gardens to relax and some even run there to train for the many marathons in Japan. But, Emperor Akihito always spends New Year’s day with his family at this palace.
I thought we could walk around it and look towards that general direction and maybe glimpse some trees or something.
I guess we could have come back on New Year’s day and stood in line out in the cold with millions of other people to hope for a chance to see the emperor waving at everyone from a balcony. But, crowds, the cold, and waiting are three of my least favorite things.
We came upon a small crowd of people walking around the entrance to the Imperial Palace. I knew the palace should be closed, but there was a crowd. Maybe they knew something I didn’t.
Mark and I walked all the way to the main gate, which was really far away from were we first saw the crowd. There were clumps of people walking up to the gate to read the sign saying that the palace was closed. That’s why you should never follow a crowd!
Next we went to the Nakagin Capsule Tower where we stood on the side walk and took photos. There was no way for us to get in. To discourage anyone from asking to be let inside, they put up a sign on the door that said, “This building is impossible of a visit.”
Well, that ends that.
Now for things that are open.
Next we took the subway to Sensoji Temple (also known as Asakusa Temple). This temple, like most temples, is never closed for holidays. And this particular temple is always crowded.
This was actually the very first temple I had ever visited. Back in 2006 when I first moved to Japan and worked for GEOS, a company that has since gone bankrupt, two of my students took me to see it. I told them that I hadn’t seen much of Tokyo besides the many times I had been there for business meetings that GEOS forced be to go to.
Two of my adult students took it upon themselves to show me a little of Tokyo. I don’t remember much of what we saw that day other than this temple. It really impressed me. I took everyone who visited me that year to this temple.
We then walked around looking for what Mark called, “stupid tea cups”. I liked it and really wanted to see the giant tea cups in person. Mark was unimpressed.
The shop that the tea cups advertised was open and they even had a sale going on, but we didn’t care about going in. I didn’t want to find some fragile thing, like a tea cup or kettle, that I really liked only to have to carry it around the rest of the day.
Next we went to see Asahi’s Golden Turd. The building was closed. Mark stood on the steps wishing for beer and cursing the Tokyo gods. “The stupid tea cups shop is open, but this, this you close!?”
Once he stopped weeping, we walk towards Tokyo Skytree. Since the day was filled with so much disappointment Mark was determined to go up the Skytree, if it was open.
It was. But everyone and their mom was in line hoping to buy tickets before it closed. Later, we talked to some people staying at our hostel who went up the Skytree. They wasted a whole day to buy tickets to go up only to spend about 30 minutes up there before getting bored.
I didn’t have the heart to tell them that if they were willing to pay about 8USD more, they could have taken their passports and gotten the special foreigners’ Fast Ticket and skip the line entirely.
I didn’t feel like dropping ¥2,820 on the Skytree, when we could go to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for free. Rather than tell Mark this out right and start an argument, I suggested checking out Tokyo Tower first, then seeing which tower we would rather go up.
After seeing Tokyo Tower, it was clear that Tokyo Skytree was better. Tokyo Tower’s tickets were cheaper and it had shorter lines, but the Skytree was more exciting. Mark concluded that if we were going to see one of these towers, we should see the other one, but not today.
Negotiating the subway in Tokyo when you still don’t have the hang of it is stressful and tiring. It also takes so long to figure out what to do.
There is free wi-fi at most of the subway stations in Tokyo and navigation apps help a lot. We were doing great until my tablet’s battery died. There are no charging areas at any of the stations.
Once we had to figure things out by looking at a map, we lost interest in sightseeing. It’s that damn confusing! (At least at first.)
By the end of the next day we figured out how the whole thing worked and stopped using the apps to get to places. But by the evening of this day we had had enough.
It took us so long to find the right station on the correct line to take us back to our hostel, that we chose what restaurant to patronize based on its proximity to said station.
Unlike other subway systems in other cities, in Tokyo you can be at point A and station A wanting to go to point B near station B and have no way of doing that. Sometimes, you have to go above ground and walk to another line because there are no transfers between the line you are on and the line you need to get to.
Later we chose where we wanted to go based on whether they were on one of the Toei Lines or Tokyo Metro Lines. Then we stuck to either Toei or Tokyo Metro Lines for the whole day. It just made life easier.
How to get there:
You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.
Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.
- Emergency Numbers:
- Police 110
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Important phone numbers to know while in Japan
- Comfort Woman
- The Commoner
- Empire of the Sun
- Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
- Geisha, a Life
- Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission
- The Last Concubine
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
- Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan. Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
- InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask whatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
- ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
- The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
- You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)
Ace Inn Shinjuku
- Coordinates 35°41’32.2″N 139°43’22.3″E
- near Akebonobashi station ontheToeiShinjuku line
- Exit #3
- ￥3,300 ~ 4,500 per person per night
- Check in 16:00
- Check out 11:00
- There is a receptionist available 24 hours a day.
- The wi-fi is pretty decent throughout the whole hostel.
- There is one parking space. (You can see our white k-car in the photo above.)
- ￥1,000/ night
- My Hostelworld review:
“Tokyo is expensive, so I can’t expect too much from a budget hostel. The place was clean enough for the most part. My bed, sheets, and towels looked pretty clean, but I did get run over by a huge roach in the common area. The kitchen is quite small, and dirty looking. Because the place looks a bit run down in the lobby, some travelers don’t make as much of an effort to pick up after themselves as they should. But, if you just want to stay for a night or two this place might be okay.”
(Tōkyō no chikatetsu)
- 0120-104106 Customer Service (Japanese Only)
- 03-3834-5577 Lost and Found
- Lost property is kept at in Ueno Station’s (Hibiya Line) Lost & Found Center (across from the pass office) or 3-4 days.
- Regular Tickets
- Discount Tickets
- 500 JYN 1 day pass for Toei Lines Only
- 700 JYN 1 day pass for Tokyo Metro lines
- 1,000 JYN 1 day pass for Toei and Tokyo Metro lines
- 1,500 JYN 3 day pass for Toei and Tokyo Metro lines
- PASMO (prepaid transportation card)
- 5:00 – 0:00 (actual time varies from station to station)
- The trains run later on some holidays.
- Rush hour:
- Getting to the Airport
- Special Cars and Rules
- Some cars are only for women (and children under 12) during the rush hours.
- No eating or drinking.
- Don’t put luggage on the seat beside you.
- Do not talk loudly or make too much noise.
- If you’re having trouble remembering what line you need, just remember the first letter of the line’s name. For most of the lines a tourist will use, the line’s symbol will be the same as the first letter of the line’s name.
- This is not true for all the lines of the Tokyo subway system, just the ones mostly used by tourists.
- There is a steep learning curve. At first the Tokyo Subways system will confuse you, especially when you compare it to more logically planned subway systems like that of Seoul or London. But you will get a hang of it.
- The Suica card can only be used to ride the JR Railway.
Tokyo Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace East Gardens
(Kōkyo Higashi Gyoen)
- Coordinates 35°41’06.6″N 139°45’10.0″E (Tokyo Imperial Palace)
- Coordinates 35°41’10.5″N 139°45’33.8″E (The Imperial Palace East Gardens)
1-1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda, Tokyo Prefecture 100-0001, Japan
- +81 3-3213-1111
The Imperial Palace East Gardens:
- 9:00 – 16:00
- Mondays, Fridays, New Year (Dec 28 to Jan 3)
Yushukan War Memorial Museum
- Coordinates 35°41’38.6″N 139°44’37.8″E
3-1-1 Kudan-kita, Chiyoda, Tokyo Prefecture 102-8246, Japan
- +81 3-3261-8326
- 800 yen
- 6:00 – 18:00
- 9:00 – 16:30
- A few irregular closure days in late June and late December
Nakagin Capsule Tower
(Nakagin Kapuseru Tawā)
- Coordinates 35°39’56.1″N 139°45’48.2″E
〒104-0061 Tōkyō-to, Chūō-ku, Ginza,
- Free to look at from the street.
- Always available to look at from the street.
- There is no way to get inside to look around, unless you’re paying to spend the night.
- There are many rumors that this building will be torn down soon. But, these rumors started in 2007, so…
- Coordinates 35°42’53.0″N 139°47’47.7″E
2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
- +81 3-3842-0181
- 6:00 – 17:00
- Sensoji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo.
- Sometimes referred to as the temple near Asakusa.
Niimi Head & Teacups
- Coordinates 35°42’38.0″N 139°47’17.1″E
1 Chome-11 Matsugaya, Taito, Tokyo
- It’s actually a shop.
- The shop’s hours are 10:00 – 18:00
- Closed Sundays
- The head and teacups are advertisements for a shop that sell table and kitchen ware.
The Asahi Beer Hall
(Super Dry Hall)
- Coordinates 35°42’35.4″N 139°48’01.1″E
1, 1 Chome-23-1 Azumabashi, Sumida, Tokyo
- +81 3-5608-5111
- 11:30 – 23:00 for Flamme d’Or,
- 10:00 – 21:00 for Asahi Sky Room
- The gold thing on the top of the building is supposed to be the ‘burning heart of Asahi beer’ and a frothy head.
- But, most people refer to it as “the golden turd” (kin no unko, 金のうんこ) and the Asahi Beer Hall itself as “poo building” (unko-biru, うんこビル).
- Apparently, it’s not a bad place to get a beer and a view of Tokyo.
- There are several restaurants in the building.
Tokyo Sky Tree
- Coordinates 35°42’36.1″N 139°48’38.5″E
1 Chome-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida, Tokyo 131-0045
- +81 570-55-0634
- Online Ticket Purchase (Japanese Only)
- TEMBO DECK (350m)
- maximum of 10,000 tickets per day
- ¥2,060 – no time assignment
- ¥2,570 – day/time assigned
- TEMBOGALLERIA (450m)
- additional ¥1,030
- Skytree Fast Tickets
- Show your passport to be able to purchase this ticket. (Japanese Citizens accompanying a foreign tourist may also buy this ticket.)
- This ticket allows you to skip the line.
- 8:00 – 20:30
- The tower is expensive and crowed. I preferred going to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It’s free and has a great view of Tokyo Skytree.
- Coordinates 35°39’30.9″N 139°44’43.6″E
4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato, Tokyo 105-0011
- +81 3-3433-5111
- main observation deck (150m) – ¥900
- Special observation deck (250m) – an additional ¥700
- 9:00 – 21:30
- The tower is not as expensive as Tokyo Skytree but, just as crowed. I preferred going to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It’s free and has a great view of both Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower.