Friday 7 July 2017

Travel diaries : Japan (Part II)

[Click here to check out Travel diaries : Japan (Part I)]

When you are traveling in a large group (17 of us in our case), things cannot be expected to work at a super fast pace. We checked in at the hostel at around 3 PM on the 20th of April'17, changed quickly and came down to the reception area. Obviously, not everybody got ready at the same time, so I decided to go exploring again. I had a couple of friends with me, so I left my Wifi device in the hostel and we started walking in the direction we felt like going to, took turns we felt like taking. No internet, no calls, no gps to guide us to a destination.. just us, wandering aimlessly, soaking in all aspects of the foreign city, unfiltered, unhindered, unprejudiced.

We randomly found a park after walking about 10 minutes. Named Yokoamicho park, it was opened in 1930 as a memorial to the Kanto earthquake which occurred in 1923. It also became the main memorial for the victims of the bombing of Tokyo in 1944-45. Ashes of more than 100,000 people were interred in the park during that time, and a memorial for the victims was opened in 2001. We were totally unaware about its history at that moment, but we found the park to be very peaceful and serene. It has a gravel pathway on one of the entrances leading up to the central part, which contains a shrine, benches right in front of it, the memorial, and a pond. The path which leads to the other entrance has a small boulevard of trees, leading out to the road. There were a couple of cherry blossom trees next to the benches, where people would sit, and I spotted a few one or two year olds, playing on the gravel with their mothers. It was so heartwarming, it felt like a happy ending to a movie or something.

Yokoamicho park, Ryogoku

Half an hour later, we started ambling towards Asakusa, which is about 2 kilometers away. The walk helped us look at the city more closely, and all we could discuss was how awesome Tokyo is, and how we love it so much, and how I don't want to come back to India, ever!

Our friends were in Sensoji temple already, so even we decided to go and have a look. The way to the temple is through a 250 meter long street, called Nakamise Dori, which has shops on either side of it till the temple itself. The temple has o-mikuji stalls, where you can pick a stick out of a metal box with hundreds of them inside it, and then retrieve your 'fortune' written on a piece of paper, from one of the drawers with a sign similar to that on the stick. I think mine had an okayish fortune.

Nakamise Dori, or the street leading up to the Senso ji temple

Senso ji temple

Anyway, we then went to the Asakusa culture and tourism centre. I remember using it as a reference for one of my projects, and seeing the same building right in front of my eyes, felt a little surreal to be honest. What impressed me a lot about the design of this building is that it is not just a tourism centre where you go and get pamphlets regarding the places of interest of the place. Each of the 8 floors has a distinct section, purpose and role. In addition to a conference room, a multipurpose hall, and an exhibition space, there is a terrace next to the cafeteria on the top floor, which overlooks the Kaminari-mon (the gateway leading to the Senso ji temple). Even the Skytree is visible from the terrace.

Asakusa culture and tourism centre

The view of the Skytree as seen from the Asakusa culture and tourism centre

By the time we left, I was starving. So when we reached Akihabara, I was more interested in finding food, than absorbing all the strange things unfolding around me. I found food quickly though; some chicken, some beef, some octopus. And only then did I start observing my surroundings. Akihabara is unlike anything I had ever seen before. The streets are lined up with pretty, young, costumed girls, probably handing out menus or coupons for maid cafes. The place is known for electronic goods, but I didn't care about that! There were animations or installations everywhere, and most of them featured 'provocative content' in the most creative of ways. It was overall quite fascinating, strange and a unique experience to say the least.

I did not opt for the metro, but decided to walk back to the hostel. It was probably a 45 minute walk, but in my opinion, walking gives me the opportunity to delve deeper into the layers of a place. I did not have the wifi device, and I did not know the way to the hostel, but figured it out by talking to people on the streets. They did not speak English, I did not speak Japanese, but they were always nice, and tried their best to help me out. These kind of interactions might not count in the list of places I visited, or things I did in Japan, but it definitely adds an extra dimension to my experience of the city and of its culture as a whole.

So that was my first day in Tokyo, and I was already in love with, as I might have mentioned it 300 times already. The experience of the rest of my trip will be up soon, as opposed to the ridiculous amount of time I took to upload this post. Apologies for that, and have a great day everyone.


Links to the later parts

Travel diaries : Japan (Part III)
Travel diaries : Japan (Part IV)
Travel diaries : Japan (Part V)


  1. Ah, here is the second part! Waited for it impatiently and missed somehow.

    1. thank you so much for reading the series on my travel tales from Japan. I am really sorry for being so lazy and posting each part of the series after such long intervals. I will try and be more consistent, because readers like you give me the motivation to post better content and do it more regularly. Thank you once again. Have a great day!