Tokyo Day Tour: Meji Shrine, Asakusa Temple, Tokyo Bay Cruise

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Asahi Beer Headquarters (left) and Tokyo Tower (right)

Before leaving for Tokyo, we scheduled a Tokyo Day Tour: Meiji Shrine, Asakusa Temple and Tokyo Bay Cruise. We are picked up by our transfer bus at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. We ride to the Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal to board our Hato tour bus. On our way to Meiji Shrine, we pass the red and white replica of the Eiffel Tower, Tokyo Tower, and Asahi Beer Headquarters.

Meji Shrine

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Meji Shrine, Tokyo

We enter Meji Shrine through two large, wooden torii gates, separating everyday life from sacred life to the purification area. I pick up the wooden ladle and fill it with water. First, I pour water over my left hand and then my right. Next, I form a cup with my left hand holding enough water from the ladle to take a sip. I swish it around and spit it out to cleanse my mouth. Finally, I hold the ladle upright causing the remaining water to run down the handle, purifying it for the next person. The water used during the purification falls onto the ground allowing the water in the fountain to remain pure.

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Purification at Meji Shrine, Tokyo

After our cleansing, we walk to a structure resembling a large wooden pallet covered in tiny papers. Visitors can purchase a fortune for a small fee, but only about forty percent are good. Bad fortunes are left behind at the shrine while good fortunes are kept by the recipient.

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Bad fortunes left behind at Meji Shrine (right), Tokyo

Imperial Palace Garden East

After touring Meji Shrine, we board the Hato bus to the Imperial Palace Garden East. Passing the National Diet Building, our guide explains this is not a meeting place of healthy dishes, but an important government building in Tokyo.

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Entrance to the Imperial Palace Garden East, Tokyo
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Imperial Palace Garden East, Tokyo

We arrive at the moat surrounding the Imperial Palace. Inside the garden, I feel miles from the city, but just above the lush vegetation I can still see Tokyo’s skyscrapers.

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Imperial Palace Garden East, Tokyo
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Imperial Palace Garden East, Tokyo

As we walk along the winding gravel paths, coy fish swim near the surface of the garden ponds, brightly colored butterflies float from flower to flower, perfectly shaped hedges pepper the garden, and visitors throughout the garden silently sketch the view from their bench. Just as suddenly as we emerged into this enchanted garden, we exit back into the city.

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Imperial Palace Garden East, Tokyo

Senso-Ji Temple and Nakamise Shopping Street

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Outside the Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo

Next, we visit Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa. Stepping off of the bus, the architecture transforms from modern skyscrapers to a seventh century village. A giant cauldron of burning incense emits smoke behind a giant red and gold temple.

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A cauldron of smoke to purify visitors at Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo
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Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo

Visitors purify themselves by waving the smoke over their bodies. Some believe putting the smoke in their pockets will bring them wealth. Walking by the cauldron, we arrive at Nakamise shopping street.

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Senso-ji Temple (left) and Nakamise shopping street (right), Asakusa, Tokyo

Outside the temple, we approach a busy street of vendors, shops, and local food. We browse through figurines, Japanese lanterns, tea, pottery, kimonos, shoes, t-shirts, chop sticks, trinkets, and green tea inspired foods.

Tokyo Bay

Tokyo Bay, Japan
View From Pastel-Tei Restaurant, Tokyo

We rejoin our tour group at the bus munching on a warm, green tea donut. Passing through Ginza, we arrive at Tokyo Bay and take a glass elevator to Pastel-Tei Restaurant. The tables and chairs face a wall length window with an incredible view of the bay. Our lunch included with the tour exceeds our expectations. The servers deliver four courses of salad, soup, an entrée, and an icy orange sherbet or vanilla bean ice cream for dessert. After finishing our coffee, we walk to the Symphony Cruise dock.

Symphony Cruise, Tokyo Bay, Japan
Our Symphony Cruise ship (left) and  passing under the Rainbow Bridge (right), Tokyo

Expecting a small boat for our sixty minute cruise, we are surprised to see only massive four and five story cruise ships at the dock. Boarding the ship, we peek into the ornate dining rooms with dark wood, deep red carpets, centerpieces, and elaborate table settings.

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We pass a shipping Dock (right) and enjoy a beer at the Symphony Cruise bar (left), Tokyo

Passing under the Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo’s skyline slowly comes into view. Farther from shore, giant cranes stack red, white, and blue cargo onto a barge at a nearby shipping dock.

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Captain Mitch outside our Symphony Cruise ship at Tokyo Bay

Descending below deck to the bar, we find a table by the window to enjoy our Asahi and crunchy rice snacks. As our cruise comes to an end, we notice a rack of captain jackets and hats as we exit the ship. A sign encourages visitors to try on the uniforms and take a photo. Captain Mitch wiggles into a navy jacket, pulls on a hat, and throws up his best peace sign for the camera.

Odaiba

Rainbow Bridge
Passing over the Rainbow Bridge (left) and The Statue of Liberty replica at Odaiba (right), Tokyo

After boarding the bus, we drive over the Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba, a man-made, futuristic island. Passing the railing comprised of individual pieces each painted subtly different shades from red to violet, the colors blend into a beautiful rainbow. At Odaiba, there are shops and the best view of Japan’s Statue of Liberty. We browse a Japanese dollar store, very similar to those at home, then find the pedestrian walk way for an up close view of Lady Liberty.

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A Geisha Performing a Traditional Japanese Dance, Ginza, Tokyo

Leaving Odaiba, we reach Ginza where we will see a geisha perform a traditional dance. The geisha has a white painted face and hands. She wears bright red lipstick with a light blue and purple kimono. Dancing, she tells a story with her movements.  After the performance, we take the metro from Ginza Station to our next destination, Harry Hedgehog Café.

Harry Hedgehog Café

Harry Hedgehog Cafe
Harry Hedgehog Café, Roppongi, Tokyo

Stepping out of Roppongi Station, there are no businesses in sight and sparsely placed street lights. Walking only a couple blocks, the streets become alive with businessmen wearing black pants and a white button down dress shirt. The men all dress in this uniform every day to promote harmony and feel as a single unit. Continuing down the street, a giant yellow sign with a hedgehog comes into view down a street to our left.

Harry Hedgehog Cafe, Tokyo, Japan
Harry Hedgehog Café, Roppongi, Tokyo

We climb the stairs to the third story and open the door. Light wooden tables and chairs line the small room decorated with coffee cups, succulents, and vines. Each table holds a recessed glass tank with at least two hedgehogs.

Harry Hedgehog Cafe, Tokyo
Harry Hedgehog Café, Roppongi, Tokyo

We sit down as an employee reviews how to properly handle the hedgehogs during our sixty minutes. I gently place my hand under the hedgehog rolling it slightly onto its side, scooping it up and out of the tank.

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Harry Hedgehog Café, Roppongi, Tokyo

With two hands I hold the hedgehog as it nuzzles into a comfortable position, burying its nose into the spaces between my fingers to hide from the light. When our hour is over, we reluctantly say good bye and walk back to Roppongi Station with smiles on our faces.


September 2017

 

 

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Author: The Traveling Gingerbread

My fiancé, Mitch, and I have been traveling together over four years. Living and working full time in Pittsburgh, PA, we travel as much as our vacation days and finances allow. Each adventure is packed with activities, tours, and experiences to maximize our time. As craft beer lovers, we always try to fit in a visit to a local brewery. 
In Tokyo, we laughed every time we saw someone talking on their large, animated phone case. We had to buy one. Having an obsolete IPhone 5, the selection was limited. We purchased Gingy off a neglected rack in Shinjuku, Tokyo and The Traveling Gingerbread was born. You can purchase your own adorable gingerbread friend here! 
The Traveling Gingerbread is an entertaining account of our travels, fun facts, and tips we learned along the way.


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