The experiences and adventures of an American living and teaching in Istanbul, Turkey
Monday, October 5, 2009
Imperial Palace grounds with Tokyo Tower in the background
View of Tokyo from the Mega Web!
The 5 story Pagoda. My favorite!
Ueno Park Ueno Park
I just returned home from a great weekend in Tokyo. Before I begin to tell you about my adventures, I want to go ahead and apologize to anyone from my school who may eventually see this post. I know I told you I had a great weekend camping with friends on Deokjeokdo like I did a couple weekends ago. I hate lying to you, and I honestly do feel really bad about it. However, since the principal told me I could not leave the country for fear of getting "the influenza" (despite the fact that I have a multiple entry visa, no stipulations about this in my contract, and most importantly that there were already 2 H1N1 cases at school the day I left), I decided that keeping my mouth shut was the best policy. I do want you to know that I feel terrible about blatantly lying to you. Since I am being honest, however, you should know that I will probably do this every long weekend and holiday for the next year if the same situation occurs. I apologize in advance.
Anyway, Tokyo is an amazing city, and I had a great trip. I arrived a little after lunch on Friday then got on a train to Ueno Station to meet my friend Rachel. For those of you who don't know, Rachel is one of my best friends from Wake and my roommate senior year. She is teaching English about two hours out of the city. I finally met up with her (miraculously) about 3oclock, and we headed to our hotel. Surprisingly, we found it really easily only a short walk away from the station. After checking in to our hotel room (which was really tiny and looked something like the inside of a camper), we went exploring. Unfortunately, it was raining, but we did stumble upon a cool temple in the neighborhood and a graveyard. After this, we headed down to the area of Tokyo with the best restaurants and nightlife. As you can imagine, there was an insane amount of people. I honestly don't think I've ever seen more people in my life- to make it worse, it was still raining and everyone had umbrellas up. We joked that you needed protective eyewear to safely navigate the streets. I got poked and hit with so many umbrellas it is a wonder I am not all bruised in the face. We took our time with our fantastic Japanese dinner then met up with some of Rachel's friends. We didn't stay out too late though since we had so much sightseeing to do the next day.
Saturday morning we were up early and headed (still in the pouring rain) to Ueno Park. The park was my favorite part of the weekend. Around every path there was a cool temple, statue, garden, or fountain. It all had an intensely Japanese feel to it- very simplistic and peaceful. We meandered around for about two hours in the rain before deciding we better move on to other sights. After a short sushi lunch and a quick tour of a large market, we headed over to see a great temple- Senso-ji. The temple is at the back of a long shopping street. The walk was beautiful despite the rain (and less crowded too!) After exploring the temple and the nearby 5 story pagoda, we wandered around the area looking a few more smaller temples and some shopping streets. Done with our plan for the day, we decided to head to a peaceful corner of the city where there were supposedly a lot of temples. Unfortunately, our guidebook failed us and we ended up very confused, but we did find a lovely cemetery that had several important families in it (none of which I remember, but I remember being impressed at the time. Fail, I know). We looked at a few of the tombs and statues, and they were all really simple and beautiful.
Saturday night, we decided to take on the Mega Web- the largest ferris wheel in the world. It took a little talking it up to get Rachel on board with this, but we finally decided to do it. To get to the MegaWeb you have to take the newest subway line which is a monorail that goes around Tokyo Bay. This may have been one of the highlights of my trip haha. I actually recommend that if any of you go to Tokyo you need to just buy a monorail subway pass and ride from one end to the other at night. I'm not even kidding. Anyway, the ferris wheel was really cool- it takes about 16 minutes to go around one time then you have to get off. We went to a late dinner after this- more good Japanese food!
Sunday morning we got up early, put our stuff in lockers at the train station, then headed to catch a boat which would take us down the river to the Imperial Palace. After crossing under 16 bridges of varying shapes and colors, we got off our scenic boat ride and headed for Hama-rikyu Gardens. The gardens are really simplistic- we explored the paths and a temple and looked around at some duck ponds. Starving though, we headed out of the gardens pretty quickly. Tired of Japanese food, we had lunch at "Oktoberfest"- stuffing ourselves with overpriced pretzels and sausages. Later, we explored the palace grounds and gardens then rested in the park on the grounds. I headed for the airport again about 4:30, and successfully made it back to Narita Airport right as my flight was boarding.
Now I am back in Seoul ready to start a new week of teaching. I even did my hair for tomorrow. Last week my principal came over to me and said "Andie come here." He then tells me in all seriousness (as serious as you can be in Konglish) that my hair looks better down. I think it went something like this: "Andie, Uh, Andie, yo hair. Yo hair. It look better, I like better. When it (make lots of gestures around shoulders). What word? Down? Down. Andie. I like better yo hair. Down. Ok? Ok Andie? Down." It was only the second time I'd pulled my hair back for school. Now I'm self-conscious and will probably not do this again. Ohhh Korea.