I didn’t spend all day making poor food choices. I make THOSE on the spur of the moment.
I spent most of the day trying to play tour guide, and succeeding right up until the point where I got cocky.
Let’s rewind a bit, say six months or so. I had a whacky plan, zany even: I have plenty of friends and family who are interested in Japan and such, why don’t we do a group thing and ALL do a trip to Japan at once, so I can get them past the “oh my god how do I feed myself and get around in a weird foreign country where all the signs are written in kanji?” stage.
This plan was going along great until the dollar crashed and people started realizing how expensive a trip to Japan would really be.
So, all of my friends cancelled out, and my sister cancelled, and in the end it was just my father and me going to Japan – but due to some problems with making my reservation, I wound up in Japan a full week before him.
So, really, from the point of view of the original plan, abject failure.
On the other hand, I did get to use my father as a guinea pig for my tour guide skills, and I got to revisit some parts of Tokyo that are OK to see once on your own, but you wouldn’t go to a second time by yourself.
We started by getting from his hotel, the Sakura Hotel near Jimbocho, to Tokyo station and buying him a suica. This is a little card that I’ve mentioned before, it’s essential to travel around Tokyo even if you happen to have a JR pass because it works on all the lines the JR pass doesn’t work on, like the subway and the Yurikamome monorail.
After this, we took the Yamanote around to Ueno and the Ginza Line subway to Asakusa, where we surfaced for Senso-ji. It was, as usual, full of throngs of people, but more throngy than usual because it seemed as though at least two schools had sent their students there for a day of being cultural, which is to say that the boys were hanging out in groups trying to culturally outmacho each other and the girls were hanging out at the fortune-seller buying fortunes and giggling in highly cultural fashion.
The next generation of Japan rests in their hands. It’ll work out, somehow, it always does.
But, on with the main account: We hung out at Senso-ji while he got some photos in, then had lunch at a cheap lunch counter where I showed him how to work the ticket machine to order food. I now know that he won’t be starving during his trip, and that he has the means to get around Tokyo, so I feel pretty good about those things.
From there, we took a water bus to Hinode Pier. We didn’t take the Himiko, which turned out to be for the best – the Himiko is closed to the elements, so it’s hard to get any photographs while you’re on board, and it doesn’t have an English running commmentary as you go down the river, so it’s not terribly gaijin-friendly.
The regular water bus lets you get up on deck and look around, and it was a perfect day for it. My father’s camera battery died not long into the voyage, but since we have very similar cameras and I’ve already taken the trip once on my own, I swapped him my own, fully charged battery for the rest of the trip.
Afterwards, we retreated to my hotel where we put a partial charge on his battery and recuperated a bit – I tend to walk fast in Tokyo and he has a bad knee, so I’m a bit wearing to follow around.
Afterwards, well, we’d done Asakusa, of course we needed to do Tokyo Tower.
To get to Tokyo Tower, you go past Zojoji Temple, which is normally quite stunning. Right now – not so much.
Tokyo Tower, well, you go up, you look around, it’s very high and the elevators are quite crowded. If they actually do tear it down in a few years, there will be quite a few elevator girls and professional “point you in the direction of the elevator” workers put out of work.
We made a few more stops before things went wrong. We took the monorail around Odaiba so he could gawk at some of the more funky architecture out that way and the still-vacant lots on what has to be the most expensive real estate on earth, Akihabara so he could get a new camera battery and a larger memory card… all was going well until we got to Shibuya.
We did the requisite photo-with-Hachiko and took him through the Shibuya Crossing – these are accepted touristy things – ate, and then, well, I decided he needed to see Tokyu Hands.
There are a few minor flaws I will admit in myself. One of them is an unwavering faith in an internal compass which has proven to be quite inaccurate at times. Another is the tendency to assume that streets will always be laid out in a nice grid and there will always be a way to turn in the direction you want. The third is a complete unwillingness to turn around and retrace my steps to get back to a known starting point.
When we started off for Tokyu Hands, I made the joke that, the last time I’d gone walking at night in Shibuya, I’d ended up in Harajuku, and wasn’t that funny?
Half an hour later, when we got to Harajuku station, it was a little less funny.
At least, on the way, we went past this business. I’m not sure what they REALLY do, but I hope it’s not what they have on the sign.