Days 12 – 13: LAST DAYS IN TOKYO

As our time in Tokyo came to an end we had to see the sakura (cherry blossom) at least once. The sakura forecast predicted the blossoms to be in full bloom five days later but we wanted to see them opening nonetheless. Our flat was located next to the Gyoen Park so we decided to give it a try there. As countless other tourists and Tokyo inhabitants did. Despite the size of the park, it was really crowded. We strolled through the park with our camera equipment and the tripod. But we were actually one of the modest photographers there. Some of the park visitors had very expansive cameras and even more expansive lenses. But there were artists as well. People created images with chalk or pens. Some painted with brushes. They were all inspired by the beginning cherry blossom, it seems.

One can only make so many pictures of the cherry blossom (at one day) without getting tired and hungry. So we exited the park and went to the center of Shinjuku. We thought about getting onto the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for a good view over the city. Before we arrived there we had a burger in a restaurant which looked promising but was only OK. One could ask why we would eat burger when we are in Japan, a country with so good food. The answer is easy: We love burgers. At least really good burgers. And we sampled a few of them on our trip. Yet in Japan we hadn’t had an exceptional burger so far. Regardless of the mediocre burger experience we were refreshed and full of energy. We put this energy to good use and visited a big department store (BIC CAMERA) in Shinjuku. I was curious about the PC and laptop range and prices where as the both of us wanted to have a look at the Nikon lenses for Tinas camera. One thing we noticed about at least this department store was the sheer amount of clerks. The walls were filled with booths of people helping customers get the right laptop, the best mobile plan or what ever the customer wants. You could barely stand for a minute without getting asked if you need some help. A huge difference to German department stores where customers often don’t want to get talked to by clerks and clerks seem to hide IF customers want something.
We ended up not buying a lens as they were more expansive than in Germany (even with the “tax free” discount you get sometimes in Japan).
After having finished our comparing studies of department stores we finally got to the Government Building. At the 45th floor of the building at the height of 202 meters there is a public and free viewing platform. Again we were not the only ones with the idea and we had to queue for 45 minutes outside at the drafty ground level of the building. Because of the queue we barely missed the sunset but we still had a nice view of the darkening sky and the illuminated city. If you ever visit Tokyo, a view from the platform is highly recommended. Even though we had to queue and platform being cramped with people the view ist impressive.
The next day we were bound for the Miraikan – The Museum of emerging Science and Innovation Tokyo. The museum is located on an island in the northern part of the Tokyo harbor. As title of the museum suggests it mainly revolves around science and technology which one would associate with the future. So from robots, space and time travel, particle detectors everything could be seen. For children there were held lots of workshops like programming Lego Mindstorm robots, quizzes or chemistry labs (white scientist coats included!). For adults there were many interactive installation and shows. One we (and seemingly all other guests as well) saw was the demonstration of the Honda ASIMO Robot. The both of us were really impressed with the progress robots did in the last years. I had seen videos of ASIMO in the past but seemingly of an older version. The robot was able to have a short jog which looked almost fluent and kicked a football to the staff. It was really impressive. He also did a short dance but to put it bluntly this robot will not win the next dance contest…
All in all the museum is very interesting and the staff is always around to help you if you are lost. We left the museum in awe (mostly because we could see ASIMO) and headed back to the train station.
Actually we did a short detour as we were near two other attractions Tokyo has to offer: The Gundam and the Rainbow Bridge. Gundam refers to an anime franchise of giant robots, of which the series had been popular even in America and Europe (and obviously in Japan). The series had been so popular in Japan that in 2009 for the 30th anniversary a 1:1 model of one of the robots hat be constructed and erected on the DiverCity Tokyo Area, next to the Miraikan Museum. And in this case 1:1 means that the model is 18 meters high! Or at least was. When we were at the area only the supporting steel beams were visible. Turns out after almost eight years the Gundam model was taken down, just weeks before we had a chance to see it…
The other attraction I mentioned is the Rainbow Bridge. The bridge is a long suspension bridge and the two towers supporting the bridge are illuminated every night by using solar energy obtained during the day. As we were there before nightfall… we hadn’t had a chance to see the “rainbow” part of the Rainbow Bridge. And as the weather wasn’t that good and the illumination didn’t start we decided to call it a day and drive back home, as we wanted to meet another friend.
We met our friend in Shinjuku, the district our flat was located. We have met at sport back in Germany but hadn’t seen us in a year as he had moved back to Japan. As we were hungry and cold we decided to go to a restaurant he recommended to us. It was an Udon place which we alone never would have found. The Udon were amazing and and because of the “choose your own topping from the counter” style you could have as much topping as you liked. After we’ve had toppings with a bit of Udon, we moved out to find a bar. As we were strolling around Shinjuku it began to rain and we stopped at an Izakaya (Japanese pub). The Izakaya was packed with locals but we found a place for us three. We tried some of the snacks there as well as a beer and also quite good Sake (showing you’re a good host, the glass is filled to the brim). We had a good time and talked about everything and nothing. When we departed we gifted us a wedding present (Japanese Wedding Sweets) for our marriage which we didn’t expect at all. We are really lucky for having such nice friends all around the world.