Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Japan, Land of the Rising Sun - 3.

The hotel of our stay in Tokyo was Tokyo Dome Hotel which was in the heart of the city. This 43 storeyed hotel is part of the Tokyo Dome city complex.  Tokyo Dome city is an   entertainment complex consisting of the Tokyo Dome baseball stadium, an amusement park, the La qua spa and shopping mall besides the Tokyo Dome hotel.  The amusement park has various rides and entertainment facilities, including a roller coaster, a Ferris wheel and a tower that drops riders from a height of 80 meters, a water ride and a merry-go-round etc.  Our room window was facing the dome and amusement park and when they were lit up in the night the view was wonderful. Not only the night-view from the window but also hotel’s location was very much to our liking, as a Subway Restaurant, a McDonalds restaurant and a Starbucks coffee shop and a Seven eleven store were all located close to the hotel on either side of the same road. This suited us well as the next two days in the hotel were free days with breakfast only in the hotel as per our tour itinerary. 

On 14th morning we went round the Tokyo dome city and returned to the hotel lounge after lunch at Subway as MichIko, our daughter’s friend, who works in Tokyo had sent a message to us that she will be meeting us in the hotel lobby in the afternoon.  We also knew Michiko well as she had attended my seventieth birthday function in Chennai ten years ago. She is interested in Sanskrit and Yoga and also attends a yoga school in Kerala annually.  Further she also follows my blogs regularly.  We were looking forward  to meet her after a gap of ten years. After spending some time in the lobby we went with her to Shinjuku Garden.  In Tokyo also there are a number of subway lines and manoeuvring through the maze of lines would have been a big problem without her. We were content to be guided by her without bothering to know about various lines. We found the subway trains in Tokyo quite crowded any time of the day like the electric trains of Chennai. 

Tokyo has many noteworthy parks and gardens and Shinjuku garden, one of the largest and most popular parks, is located near the Shinjuku station. It is one of the best places to view cherry blossoms in the city in spring, we were told.  The garden contains three different types of gardens; Japanese traditional garden, French formal garden and English landscape garden.  The Japanese landscape garden has large ponds dotted with islands and bridges and with shrubs and trees surrounding the water.  It has a large number of cherry trees of more than a dozen different varieties.  The formal French garden and English landscape garden have symmetrically arranged wide open lawns besides number of flowering cherry trees. The rest of the park consists of forested areas besides a beautiful greenhouse with many tropical and subtropical flowers.  There is also a restaurant, an art gallery and an information centre.  From Shinjuku garden we went to Dharmasagara, a south Indian restaurant near Higashi-Ginza station and had south Indian dishes for dinner.  The chefs Raju and Pandi were from Melur, Madurai and the owner Didi, is a frequent visitor to India and Nepal. The dishes were delicious and in this happy atmosphere Rajam celebrated her birthday, a day in advance, with a special sweet dish hosted by Didi.  Michiko escorted us back to the hotel and we all went round the Tokyo Dome city in lights. Promising to meet us at 9’o clock next  morning in the lobby, Michiko left leaving us in the hotel.

Next morning after breakfast we met Michiko in the lobby and together we went to the Nature and Science museum in Ueno, located near the Ueno station. The museum has a modern Global gallery and a Japan gallery.  We started with the Theater 360, a spherical theater showing wrap-around movies about nature and space. There is a section on dinosaurs and also lots of stuffed animals from around the world.  There are a number of items on the evolution of humans and animals. There is a big gallery devoted to man's inventions, with full-scale air-planes, cars and satellites. Next to that is a room filled with hands-on experiments that investigate physical phenomena such as magnetism and electricity, light and motion.  Since this itself took considerable time and as Michiko had to report for work in the afternoon, we made a hurried tour of Japan Gallery and left.  Michiko escorted us back to Akhibara station and saw us off in the train to Sudeobashi.  Since it was a straight run with no change involved we had no difficulty in reaching the hotel.  After resting for some time we went round exploring the multi-storied La Qua shopping Mall in the evening. 

On 16th morning we vacated the room and left with our luggage on the city tour of Tokyo.  We first visited the Meiji Shrine.  This shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji, who modernized and westernized Japan to join world’s major powers, and his Empress. It is one of the most popular shrines and it is situated in a large wooded area. Here, we also observed Shinto mode of worship.   Before entering the shrine, we washed the left hand first.  Then using the left hand poured water on the right hand and washed it.. Then using the right hand took water into the mouth and rinsed. With the purification process over, entered the shrine, made an offering, rang the bell, bowed twice and clapped twice before the shrine.  Then said our prayer and bowed again and left. 

From Meiji shrine we went to Asakusa area where the oldest temple of Tokyo, Asakusa Kannon Temple is situated.  We enter through a big outer gate called ‘Thunder gate’. Between the outer gate and second gate lies the shopping street selling authentic local souvenirs.  Here we could buy a few authentic local souvenirs without which any trip is deemed incomplete.  From Asakusa we made our way to Ginza, an upmarket shopping area with numerous department stores, boutiques, art galleries etc.  After going round the area for some time, we came back to Asakusa pier to join a boat cruise on the Sumida river.  The cruise was on the Hinode pier route and we got down at Hama- rikyu and visited the beautiful Japanese Garden.  It is a traditional landscape garden with a number of trees, some large and some crooked.  From the Garden we made our way to Tokyo tower. The tower Is modelled on Eiffel tower.  From the Observation deck we got a good all-round view of the city. With Tokyo tower, the sight-seeing trips in Japan were over.

We retired for the night to Narita Gateway hotel, which was near the Narita airport, from which people returning to Perth were taking their Cathay Pacific flight next morning.  Our flight was from Haneda airport, which was at the other end of town and our flight  was only in the afternoon.  So next morning after a brief rest after breakfast, we went to the Haneda airport travelling all the way across the city.  Our guide accompanied us and saw us off at the airport, waiting to wave us off till we checked in the luggage and entered the restricted area. The return journey to Sydney from Guangzhou was very much enjoyable as the flight was not full and both of us could enjoy the luxury of two seats each. It was a fitting finale to a nice trip with Nexus Holidays where all the hotels of stay were convenient, guide was friendly and helpful and pace of the tour not taxing.  Photos of Tokyo can be viewed in Flickr album “Tokyo” @

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