Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tokyo rain

We had a very smooth trip, flying from Gimpo, Seoul to Haneda, Tokyo yesterday. Haneda is only a short monorail trip to Tokyo city, and we're staying at a hotel in Hamamatsucho which is where the monorail terminates - couldn't have been easier!!!

We met up with Maxie and Rod, who'd arrived earlier on a different flight, at the agreed time (always nice when it works that way) and headed out to explore the streets around our hotel for somewhere to eat on our first night in Tokyo.  It didn't take us long to find a fun and buzzy ramen noodle joint (Ippudo) on the next block! 

We woke to really heavy rain this morning, which continued for as long as we stared out the window wishing for it to stop. Rob and I had to register our JR Pass so we decided we'd make that our goal for this wet, windy and miserable morning. 

We caught a taxi to Tokyo Station (it was too wet to even walk the 300 metres or so back to Hamamatsucho Station so we could use a train!) and achieved our JR Rail Pass goal very quickly and easily. However we did manage to waste most of the next hour at Tokyo Station trying to work out how this MASSIVE train station worked, how to use our JR pass to get around Tokyo and then how to work out where to go for the day without getting lost in the wind and the rain somewhere. We found everyone to be very helpful and polite, it just took us a while to work out the right questions to ask!

Eventually we made our way to Shinjuku - because we thought it would be fun to go to the world's busiest railway station (!!!!) and the skyscraper district surrounding it. However, it was still raining very heavily - and impossible for us to walk and try and figure out where we were going so we sat in a very quiet and classy "Paul" cafe just out of the railway station for an hour or so drinking coffee and eating croissants and baguettes (we'd not eaten breakfast yet) and eventually planning our next move.

We caught the train south to Shibuya - one of Tokyo's most colourful shopping districts (a bit like NY's Times Square). Right outside the Shibuya Station's Hachiko Exit is the large intersection of roads (Shibuya crossing) that gets flooded by people crossing when the lights allow...a favourite spot for photographers and filmmakers! Today it was a sea of umbrellas.

We took the easy way out, deciding to stay out of the rain, and did a bit of shopping at Uniqlo and then found a good late lunch spot in the very upmarket Shibuya Hikarie.
 The rain was starting to ease as we emerged from Shibuya Hikarie.
Finally, I could stop and get my bearings properly, revealing L'Occitane and Starbucks, two of the recommended viewing spots for this colourful part of Tokyo!! 
 The crossing in full flight (minus umbrellas).
 ...and smoker's corner (right outside the station).
Next we travelled North again, just one station, to Harajuku - the centre of Tokyo's most extreme fashion styles and teen culture (but also some extremely good shopping for adults too we found later).  Just opposite the station exit is the famous Takeshita Dori (street) which is the focal point of teenage fashion and culture (especially performance art "costume play" - cosplay)

It all looked very glittery and trashy to me, and no one much was dressed up today - which was a bit of a disappointment. However I thought the food offerings fulfilled a lot of what is described about  this particular street.
..and lots of waffles!..
The further we walked away from Takeshita Dori, the quieter and more beguiling the area became (for me anyway) until eventually we found Omotesando - a broad tree lined avenue referred to as Tokyo's Champs- Elysees ... we understand why... and it is much more classy than the Paris Champs- Elysees is these days!

The pic below is for Ella- who really knows how to rock a tulle skirt and boots too!
It was around 6.00pm before we found our way back to Harajuku's very distinctive railway station.
 .... and then back to Hamamatsucho to our modest little hotel - quite a new, well appointed Tokyo Hotel, but the rooms are like a well  designed, immaculately clean shoebox (but ours even has a king size bed). It is perfectly fine for our stay, very convenient location, and very reasonably priced for Tokyo - I would recommend it. 
 ..and it has a nice view of Tokyo Tower outside of our 12th floor window.
We have found the people we have interacted with today to be unfailingly polite and helpful. It seems to be such a well ordered, clean, efficient city and there are lots of people to help and provide information everywhere (you just need to know the right questions!)...makes it a very easy city to visit (except for the rain). 

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