Holiday, Photography, Travel

Japan Day 17: Tokyo, Akihabara & river trip (12/04/2015)

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Today we visited Senso-ji, a temple on the Lonely Planet must see list, took a cruise down the Sumida river to the Hamarikyu gardens and spent the afternoon shopping. The temple was a bit disappointing and the river cruise was relaxing and a different way to travel round the city but not hugely interesting. The gardens were beautiful.

Senso-ji was extremely crowded on a Sunday morning with everyone trying to squeeze through the main entrance gate and walk down to the temple. The path to the temple is lined with shops that sell all kinds of items from cheap souvenirs to traditional hand crafted items. There were so many people, many in large groups led by guides, that we were swept along by the crowd and it was virtually impossible to do more than glimpse the shop contents as we passed. This was one of the only times that I felt the oppressive side of the ubiquitous Japanese crowds, the others being at Takeshita dori and at the food stalls in Ueno Park.

Once we got to the temple it was quite pretty but again so crowded that we weren’t able to appreciate it properly. Having travelled around Japan looking at spectacular temples and shrines for the last couple of weeks, I was a bit underwhelmed by this one and I wouldn’t put it on a must see list for Tokyo.

The main reason for coming out this way was to get a river cruise which leaves from nearby the temple. We took a short walk down to the river and found the ticket office. We bought a combined ticket for the cruise and entry to the Hamarikyu gardens at the other end and settled down to wait for the boat to arrive. You can see the Skytree and several other iconic buildings from here and from the boat.

The cruise itself was not very exciting but was an interesting way to travel about the city after spending so much time on trains. I love the different aspect of a city that you can see from a river and we got to see some interesting things like a group of people jet-skiing in the middle of Tokyo which is not something I ever thought I’d see.

The Hamarikyu gardens were beautiful and tranquil, especially when compared to the chaos at the start of the day. The gardens are surrounded by water on 3 sides and were originally a residence for a feudal lord and have also been a duck hunting estate and an imperial palace before being made a public park. There is a pretty tea house on a lake but unfortunately they appear to have demolished the coffee shop where we had hoped to get some lunch. Demolished shops turned out to be a theme for the rest of the day.

After the park we headed out on foot to Ginza to do some shopping. Unfortunately they seem to be redeveloping this area and it turns out that some of the buildings housing the shops we are looking for have been knocked down. After a few hours of walking round and getting increasingly frustrated, we stopped for a coffee and decided to go to some different shops.

On the way home we went to Tokyo station intending to eat dinner at the famous Tokyo Ramen Street which is actually a small part of an underground shopping arcade beneath the station. It took a while to find the ramen shops at the end of a long run of other restaurants. All the ramen places had really long queues and we were starving so we went to an Izakaya which had mediocre food.

Tonight is our last night in Akihabara so we went for a last walk around looking at the neon lights and night-life before heading to bed.

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