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Friday, 26 November 2010

Tokyo, Japan

Chuo Dori, Ginza, TokyoWe loved Tokyo.  It’s enormous, modern, clean and interesting.  It’s actually several cities fused into one giant metropolis, home to 36 million people within its 35,000 square kilometres of urban conurbation.

We arrived Sunday on a bullet train from Hiroshima and checked into the Gracery in the heart of Ginza, one of Tokyo’s quieter and more sedate districts.  Nearby Chuo Dori was wall to wall designer stores with more Tiffanies and Hermes than you could poke a credit card at.  Not that we did – window shopping was strictly the order of the day here with women’s dresses on sale for a heart-stopping $5,000 each, and more.       

P1130228The excellent Tokyo subway with a dozen or so intersecting lines is the best means of getting around (under) the city quickly and inexpensively.  We spent a week crisscrossing the city to enjoy a few of Tokyo’s sights and experiences. 

The controversial Yasakuni war shrine was more interesting than we expected.  A memorial to the country’s 2.5 million war dead, including, unfortunately, several nasty war criminals, the shrine grounds also contain a war museum that gives a surprising perspective on Japan’s military battles of the 20th century.  It was fascinating but shocking to see the degree to which the museum downplays and misrepresents Japan’s actions in China and South-East Asia before and during World War II. 

More uplifting was the Tokyo National Museum, housing the largest collection of Japanese art in the world, including paintings, potteries, ceramics and textiles.  From there we moved on to the Ota Museum at Harajuku to see its stunning collection of exquisite ukiyo-e (wood-block prints), including works by masters of the art such as Hiroshige.  Considering how these are made, the fine detail in the images was amazing.  

Not far from our hotel, on the edge of Tokyo Bay, is the famous Tsukiji Fish Market, the world’s largest.  The wholesale tuna auction begins each morning at an ungodly hour, so we were happy to stroll around the giant complex, dodging the swarms of whizzing forklifts, at around 9 by which time the last of the day’s tuna was being cut up or loaded whole in ice boxes onto trucks.  But there’s much more here than just tuna.  If it lives in the sea, it’s here for sale.

Shibuya Crossing, a wide-open five road intersection surrounded by blazing high-rise neon similar to New York’s Times Square, is one of Tokyo’s more popular and stunning night views.  So we made time to be here after dusk and join the surge of humanity crossing the road when the lights turned green.  Shibuya was the setting for the excellent movie Lost in Translation.

And we saw a lot more besides.  What a great city.   

P1130207 P1130188 Zero airplane
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