Posts/November, 2012/

Tokyo Day 4: The Imperial Garden, Downgrading Hotels, Odaiba Island Via Monorail

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

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Apparently, the Imperial Palace is off limits to visitors. We didn’t receive the news directly, but strolling around the moat lined with fences and security cameras was a tipoff. Buses full of guards were an additional clue.

Luckily, the early start to the adjacent Kitanomaru-Koen, or Imperial Gardens, avoided the worst of the crowds. The area used to be the northern citadel of Edo Castle, and a restored network of massive stone walls hints at its former grandeur. A few historic buildings are surrounded by mostly rustic landscaping of trees, teas, and flowers waiting for the winter to end.

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Fake wooden fence overlooking the moat.
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One of two praying mantises hanging out on a pole.
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J and a massive wall.
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A stylish hall.
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Bamboo.
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Stone cellar.
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Small hill of tea.
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A floral woods.
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Magenta leaves.
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Looking into the main open space of the gardens.
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Japanese or Incan masonry?
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One of the few original, though restored, samurai guard houses.
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Guard house roof.
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Camouflage trunk.
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Ornate lamp.
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A rustic pathway.
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Nature versus the city.

After the gardens, we downgraded hotels to one diagonally across Shinjuku Station. The cramped room, 80s elegance, lack of wifi, and airplane style bathroom would take some getting used to. Outside the window, we observed people in swimming class and a massive advertisement featuring TANO-kun, the happy bipedal shopping dog.

We set our sights on Odaiba, the original epicenter of bayside Tokyo. The subway took us to Shimbashi where we transferred to the Yurikamone monorail. The expensive ride glided above industrial areas before looping into the middle of the Rainbow Bridge.

We disembarked at the first stop and walked to the shore to admire the view of the bridge and walk on the sand. It’s a fake beach, but it’s the only beach in town.

Odaiba is weird. The sense of space is unique for the city, as there is plenty of room to walk without seeing more than a handful of people. Development seemed to have frozen in the optimistic 80s, and the buildings/landscaping have a retro-future aesthetic that hasn’t weathered well.

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Striped gates.
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Beach feet.
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The Rainbow Bridge.
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Lady Liberty observes the crazy looking Fuji TV building.
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Land anchors.
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Lovers overlooking the bay.
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Safety rail.
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Boardwalk cat empire. Every hole in this boardwalk housed a shy cat.
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Wrapped trees and construction wall.
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A few cranes and industry in Higashishinagawa.
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Back door.
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Mono means mono and rail means rail.
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Sunset over Decks Tokyo Beach promenade.

Lunch hunger meant a trip into the malls in search of food. One of them was a time warp into the 80s: vintage arcades, dated posters of both American and Japanese celebrities, novelty shops, candy and cookie vendors, steak houses, food courts, and frumpy clothing stores. Another mall was half virtual theme park, half real Lego theme park.

None of the food options looked good, so we settled on Korean rice bowls in the basement food court. There was a severe sauce shortage for my bimimbap. I had tap beer in a plastic cup.

A pedestrian suspension bridge took us from the mall, across a tunnel-straddling superhighway, and into the weird world of Palette Town, Mega Web, and Venus Fort. These massive gleaming complexes were built for entertainment and commerce, a decadence that not even Caligula could have watched slaves masturbate to.

But it was getting dark, and we had many trains to catch.

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The pedestrian bridge over the highway lead to an outlet mall.
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Wonder Wheel.
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Harbor at dusk.
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A view from Aomi Station before catching the monorail home.

For dinner, another hopeless wandering brought us to a push-button-ordering ramen shop in the Shinjuku entertainment district. We customized all aspects of the meal: the size and firmness of the noodles, which toppings, and how spicy.

That night, we dreamed of wide open spaces.

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