Day 9 – Meiji University, Imperial Gardens, Metro Towers, Meiji Shrine, Ginza and Roppongi

June 11, 2007 at 4:00 am | Posted in Japan, Tokyo, Travel | 2 Comments
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Day 9, Wednesday, was hectic as I ran around Tokyo trying to cover off the last items on my list. Although my first item was a new entry – the Meiji University Museum. I’d only heard about this museum quite late as it didn’t appear in my Time Out Tokyo guide book, however in the Lonely Planet Pocket Tokyo guide Karen gave me it is given a brief description. The pitfalls of relying too much on one guide I suppose, thank you Karen! My main reason for going was to check out its crime section but I was pleasantly surprised by the range of archaeological content, including ancient Jomon period artefacts and belatedly post-Sakai kofun materials as well. Additionally they had some handicrafts but I skimmed through that area. The crime section largely focused on torture and misuse of official power during Japan’s medieval period and ended with a small cross comparison against similar means of coercion from Europe (for example Iron Maidens and the like). The latter element seemed a little defensive in nature but for the small space and the period of history it’s discussing it was a reasonable display on crime. I was disappointed that there wasn’t anything more recent in the collection – not in terms of torture – but rather the state of crime in the post-medieval period. At any rate there is a reasonable amount of English and these descriptions help to place the items into a broader context which was very useful. Given the space available, its lack of crowds and that it’s free mean it would be worth a visit – in many respects I feel I gained a better historical perspective of Japan after visiting this university museum than after going to the much hyped Tokyo National Museum. Although I’ve already complained about that institution.

After an early lunch I hopped back on the train to Tokyo station and the Imperial Palace East Gardens. These free gardens in the middle of Tokyo are a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle and are fine for a wander around or to look at some of the old fortifications but honestly I didn’t think they were particularly fantastic, just another garden (albeit large) to look through. I only hope that the Royal family’s private gardens on the other side are of a higher quality. In my humble opinion this is not a “must do” rather a “it’d be nice”. The Imperial Household offers guided tours (in Japanese) of the palace which you have to pre-book for, I did ponder this (despite the lack of Japanese) but chose not to due to time. In the end this was probably a good choice as I saw the tour group in the gardens and they were all old grandmas forced to wear these white plastic vest/bag things to show they were part of the official tour group.

Done with the gardens I jumped on another train, this time back to the other side of the city and Shinjuku and the Tokyo Metropolitan Towers. Getting to the towers from the station is remarkably easy with an underground path virtually the entire route, lots of English and quite a few travellators to ease your journey. Realistically, the only reason to go to the towers is for the free observatory floors (one in each tower). I chose the North tower (although you can do both if you’re particularly keen). Presumably on a rare clear day the skyline would be absolutely glorious but on a more normal overcast / polluted day it is merely excellent. You freely walk around the windows, comparing the view with the information board in front that shows prominent landmarks. To an extent I think it was a good idea to come here at the end of my trip to see all the places I had been (plus many I hadn’t), it helped to put the geographical experience into perspective. On the other hand at the beginning I wonder if it would have provided a sense of anticipation to all that my trip may offer. Perhaps next time I should go to the South tower upon arrival and return to the North tower on departure? The observatory deck also had a live singer, coffee shop (awful) and gift shop in case you got bored looking at the view.

Now done with the Towers I rushed back to Harajuku and my other Meiji of the day, the Meiji Shrine. Determined not to be beaten by a simple inability to read a map a few days ago I made it a mission to return and actually reach the shrine I had been to so many years ago. After leaving the station I made the two right turns that landed me almost at the entrance to the park and on the path to the shrine. So easy! I walked purposefully across the gravel and under the shaded and cool branches of the surrounds (a completely different atmosphere to the Imperial Gardens from earlier in the day). I ignored the other tourists but did stop occasionally to ponder whether something was a new addition or not. In any even I found my way to the Meiji Shrine without great difficulty and took the requisite number of photos, now feeling somewhat vindicated I walked quickly back to the station to get the next train to Ginza.  

There were two important reasons to come to Ginza today, the first was to check out the Sony Building and the other more important reason was to meet Miki for coffee and cake. First off, the Sony Building does not look particularly cool or innovative but that’s ok it was probably built in a different era. According to the official site and wikipedia it’s from the 60s. Last time I was in Tokyo it was closed so I was adamant I’d get in the door this time around and of course that was done without difficulty. Myself and a number of other interested foreign tourists (ie none of us had any intention of buying) walked through the various floors that made up the showroom. Much like in Akihabara I was oblivious to any new technology beyond what was obvious from the exterior and honestly I was surprised by the limited space and the lack of any “concept” items. Another oddity was the almost complete lack of presence for Sony’s own Playstation range. Is that an ominous sign?

At any rate the lack of anything momentous at the Sony Building meant I could get through it very quickly and try and find Miki. After a few phone calls back and forth we managed to meet and head towards this small French cafe, “Quil fait bon” and the 10 minute wait to be seated was well worth it. While the coffee was fairly average the cake was absolutely delicious. I had a green tea cake that was so light and easy to cut I am still drooling over the thought. One of my London goals is to find a bakery that equals or exceeds my Tokyo experience. While I will probably gain weight it will be well worth it and if you have a suggestion please let me know!

Saying farewell to delicious cake and a very cool friend I made my way to Roppongi to meet up with another awesome friend – jjag80 – where we ventured into the district and got some dinner before heading to a local pub for a few drinks and saying final farewells.

All in all a very busy day that ended rather satisfyingly with good food but also somewhat sad as I said goodbye to both Miki and jjag80.

At any rate my final full day in Tokyo was rapidly approaching.

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2 Comments »

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  1. email me: I have lost your email address.
    looks like you are still having a good time.

  2. […] There are an assortment of small quirky shops around town that you can stick your head into or a range of gardens to take a brief respite from the city. Besides shopping here are a few other places of interest: – Greyfriar’s Kirk is a historic graveyard to wander around and inspecting the gravestones -The Police Museum on the Royal Mile is actually a working police station with some  small exhibits on punishment, law and order in the city. From what the officer on duty said the museum is to try and help tourists feel comfortable about reporting problems. It’s quick but nothing like Japan’s. […]


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