Sunday, June 8, 2008

Day 2 - Having Fun in Tokyo (Sunday)

Still feeling the effects of the time zone change, everyone woke up around 5:30AM (4:30PM back home). We took our time to get dressed and decided to go for a hearty breakfast at the hotel. By the way, we are very impressed with the Hilton Shinjuku. It was great that we arrived during the weekend which gave us the chance to get acquainted with the transportation system without being overwhelmed by the huge crowds.

Today we learned that the hotel has underground connection with the Nishi-Shinjuku Station (M07 - Marunoichi Line). To be absolute honest, walking from the hotel to the Shinjuku station is not much more than this underground connection but... Anyway, we bought the day pass (710 Yen for adult and 360 Yen for child) and headed to the Imperial Palace. The concierge instructed us to take the Marunoichi line all the way down to Tokyo Station (M17). From there it was a short walk to reach the Imperial Palace grounds.

The Imperial Palace
We got there through Miyuki Dori which led us through the Wadakura Fountain Park and the Sakashitamon. We decided to walk south so that we could take a look at the Imperial Palace itself (we were told that you can only enter the walled area if you have a special permit - which of course we did not have). A few tour buses dropped lots of visitors in that area so it was kind of hard to take quality shots of the guarded gates and the Ni-ju-bashi. We walked all the way down to the Sakuradamon and then decided to walk back since it would be too long of a walk to continue surrounding the palace in our clockwise path. By the way, lots of joggers were running around the palace that day. Seems a very popular spot.

So we went back north and entered the Imperial Palace East Gardens (Kokyo Higashi Gyoen) via the Ôtemaimon. Lots of things to see there. Our favorite was the Ninomaru Garden which features beautiful flowers with a nice color mix. We didn't even enter any museum and just like that we spent 3h in the Imperial Palace grounds. It was time to take off since my wife had to attend her Soba making class.

Our schedule was very tight and we ended up having lunch at a McDonald's. Yeah, I know... Wife is a chef and we still went for a MickeyD? Even after watching SuperSize Me? We did... Kind of embaressed to do it but... I don't remember exactly how much we spent there. Her Soba class was in the Tsukiji district and we spent a good 10-15 min trying to decipher the instructions given by the instructor and the maps on the streets.

One of my goals in this trip was to watch a baseball game in Japan and the most popular team in the country is supposed to be Tokyo's Yomiuri Giants. Right now they are playing interleaguegames between central and pacific leagues, so I decided to take my chances and headed to theticket office at the Tokyo Dome, where the Giants hosts their games. We were lucky and found tickets for the match against the Seibu Lions that same day! I ended up chosing 3rd base seats which were supposed to be better but waskind of disappointed as they ended up being closer to the outfield seats (paid 3700 Yen each).
While we were waiting to get into the stadium my daughter convinced me to take the Thunder Dolphin ride, one of the attractions at Tokyo Dome City, an entertainment complex built around the baseball stadium. The minimum height to enter the ride is 1.30m and the minimum age is 8. The interesting thing is that this roller coaster goes through the ferris wheel and it has an impressive drop (80m tall). My daughter was exhilarated. Me? I am getting too old for this!

A few notes from the baseball experience in Japan
*While attendees also eat and drink before and during the game, I noticed that the stands were very clean after the game, nothing like the big mess that is left after MLB games.
*Throughout the whole game, there are girls who sell all kinds of snacks and drinks to the attendees. No big deal there. The Japanese touch is in the fact that they come all the way down to the bottom ofthe stairs, take a bow and work their way up trying to sell their items, usually with a big smile (granted sometimes a fake smile).
*Like in the US, things are not very cheap in the stadium. I paid 800 Yen for a small draftbeer plus 250 Yen for a small cup of water.
*The featured player that night was #8 Tani (center fielder, I think) and he actually made the difference, hitting the only home-run of the game, scoring 2 in a 4-0 shutout win by the Giants. The pitcher Utsumi threw a complete game improving his record to 4-4. Still the Giants are 3rd. or 4th. in the standings...

Very few people left the game before its end, so the bulk of the 40K + attendees left at the same time and it seemed like everyone headed to the subway station. Still, everyone did it in a very orderly fashion and it was not difficult to get on the train back to our hotel. The bad thing was that it was already late and we did not find anything opened (not even the food courts in the nearby i-land or even at the Odakyu Department store in Shinuku. The alternative was to eat at a Denny's nearby. The food was ok (the menu had nothing to do with the US Denny's menu) but the cigarrette smell was very strong even though we were sitting in a non-smoking area. Probably that was the low-light of the day.
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Just got a phone call from my mother-in-law asking if everything was OK. I did not understand what she was talking about until she explained that there was some wacko in Tokyo who stabbed to death 7 people and left 11 more wounded. Here is the CNN update on this tragedy: http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/06/08/japan.attack.ap/index.html
I am thankful that we were not visiting Akihabara, the district in which this took place, today. Our hearts go out to the families of those who were affected by this.

1 comment:

Blogger said...

Tava ansiosa por notícias. Que bom q esta tudo bem. Te mandei um email com a notícia q saiu na capa do jornal. Tinha um feeling que estava td bem, mas agora tenho certeza.. Melhor assim ;o))
Manda uma foto da Lulu em Tokyo!!!
Beijos, Dinda.