Elan and I have become good friends from the hockey association both our daughters played in. In fact I was coaching his daughter for several years and the friendship in our early days kept going on strong. He too had a passion for travel and luckily enough I had some buddy passes in which I was able to pass along to him. We decided to travel to Tokyo in May of 2010. This was going to be a great trip since Delta was operating a 747 for this route and we were fortunate enough to take the First class department on the second floor. I think I had more room and comfort than my bedroom at home.
Our 14 hour flight seemed more like 4 hours and when the large 747 landed in Narita, the adventure began. We took the train to the city center and couldn’t help notice the cleanliness of the downtown area with over 13 million habitants.
The building structures were also so noticeable and impressive. We quickly see the Cocoon and Spherical building in Shinjuku area. If this is only the beginning, we’re anxious to see what other structures we’ll come across.
We make our way to the Tsukiji fish market and not reading properly the signed placards, we enter in from the back and see the “behind the scenes” of the hustle and bustle before they display the fish. I’ve done some fishing and scuba diving in my time but the fish at this market were definitely species I’ve never seen before. Coming across the next building wonders were the Tokyo Big Sight and the Edo Tokyo Museum. Interesting part of this walk was that we come face to face with a Sumo wrestler that just finished a fight and unfortunately was on the losing end of the combat.
Upon crossing the Rainbow Bridge, we enter the district of Odaiba which we come across a replica of the famous Statue of Liberty. The area seemed extremely affluent with boats sailing in the patches of water. A classy hotel with its courtyard facing the Statue was calling our name to peek the premises. The lobby area was filled with marble and a lovely Japanese woman playing the piano. We continue a Grand staircase to an adjacent opened area and see many people engaged in some party. A violinist and accordionist were playing and entertaining many guests. While in Tokyo…head to McDonald’s for a quick food break.
During our walk, we end up crossing a massive parade along the city street where the Tokyo Skytree is located. Our timing was off by a few days since the opening was the 22nd of May. Gorgeous broadcast tower. Next day we decide to visit the Palette town which is an area of shopping and commercial facilities. We decide to take the ferris wheel ride to capture the impressive architectural delights Tokyo has to offer. One building stood out when we were circling around the axis, was the Fuji TV Building. Talk about the “Jetsons”. Real futuristic looking complex. Along the same area, we couldn’t help notice the exaggerated amounts of “anime” characters all over the city.
Standing over 60 feet high, the Giant Gundam Robot, which is based on the Japanese popular animation series, was a must for us to see. We were under the impression that this robot would move its legs and arms and mimic actions of a Superhero. Well we walk along the park overlooking the Tokyo Bay and wait patiently for any signs of life. We actually wait our 2 hours as the area was filling up with people. As we’re about to throw in the towel and move along to the Mall next to it, we hear music from the robot in a music key that builds up the suspense. We then see smoke emitted from his facial area and while we’re all anticipating it to start moving, it quickly ends and Voila….the show is over. What a disappointment. Waited over 2 hours for a Robot to release some facial gas. Nonetheless the structure was definitely impressive.
I’ve been to Shanghai and was amazed on how many people can occupy a geographical area, but our visit to the Temple of Senso-ji was simply crazy. I was literally bounced around side to side making the visit quite uncomfortable. Nothing but sea of heads moving along like ants with blinders on. Something you have to experience at least once. The temperature was hot, the perspiration was at its maximum, completely clueless of the language and yet I had a complete blast. I’d do it again!
Last stop, the Tokyo Tower! With a quick glance it resembles the Eiffel tower and with the clear skies that day, we had to take it to the top. In the elevator and away we go. The scenery was spectacular and both Elan and I were taking many pictures. The building design, the geometry of the city and the futuristic styling would make for an architect’s delight. For such a metropolis city, I still couldn’t believe on how clean the city was.
Interesting fact during this trip was that one morning while Elan and I were heading for breakfast, we noticed everyone looking up to the sky. Several were with these special glasses staring into the sun. By asking around, it was clear that Tokyo was experiencing an annular solar eclipse. We borrow someone’s glasses and were fortunate to see the eclipse.