Tokyo Excursion

5 04 2009

Shinjuku Gyoen

TOKYO here we come! We got up early to be on the 8.06am express bus from Apita to Tokyo train station. It took about an hour to travel through Kisarazu, along the Tokyo Wan bridge to Umi Hotataru, under the tunnel to Kawasaki and up the expressway into Tokyo. We took the train for a short hop to Shinjuku (the train station is huge – easy to get lost if you don’t know what coloured line you want to travel on). We walked to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building(s) and travelled up the elevator to the 45th floor where there is an observation deck. We looked at the sprawling metropolis of skyscrapers stretching across into the fog/smog horizon. Back on the first floor we stopped off at the Tourist Information Centre to pick up some maps and a guide to veg* & macrobiotic restaurants in Tokyo.

tokyo_skyline_2View of Tokyo

tmgTokyo Metro Building


Lara & Benno by the cherry blossoms (sakura)

We wandered across to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden where the line up was huge…flocks of people were converging at lunchtime to enter the gardens for hanami (picnic under cherry blossoms). The cherry blossoms were indeed beautiful – mass plantings of massive cherry blossoms all in bloom with pale pink petals floating in clouds whenever the wind blew. We sat down in the Japaneses-style garden section and enjoyed the sakura (cherry blossoms). By 12.30pm the garden was packed – not a single area of lawn was free of a blue tarp picnic rug with millions of Japanese enjoying hanami with their friends and family.

crowds_hanamiThis was the garden when we first arrived – you couldn’t see any of the lawn by the time we left.

sakura_treeBeautiful Sakura

It was time for our lunch so we followed the advice of the T.I.C. brochure and ate at a macrobiotic restaurant called de Chaya in Isetan on the 7th floor, behind the Shinjuku 3-chome subway station. We ate delicious meals – worth waiting for since there was a line up of about 10 people when we got there. We had a tempeh salad with steamed potatoes and tofu tartare sauce and tofu and pea fried dumplings with salad. We also had desserts of strawberry cheesecake and toffee and nut slice. Delicious!

Lunch: tempeh salad above, strawberry pie and nut slice below.


We caught the train to Harajuku, the hub of trendy high-school aged kids and one of the busiest shopping districts. We saw crazy teenagers dressed up in costumes (who stood around on the station corner for hours).

harajuku_stationHarajuku station – so many people and most of them under 30.


Some of the crazy dressups outside Harajuku Station on the way into the Meiji Jingu Shrine complex.

We joined all the other tourists in ‘paying our respects’ at Meiji Jingu Shrine, where there were just as many people as in Shinjuku Gyoen but the ratio was now 1:1 foreigner to Japanese. The Shinto Shrine was built in 1920 by/for Emperor Meiji and is surrounded by around 100,000 trees in a huge garden, making it an ‘enviro-hotspot’, apparently.

meiji_shrine_buildingThe main entrance building to the shrine complex.

meiji_gatesHuge Torii made from massive big trees – entrance to the shrine.


The wall of prayer tokens.


A Shinto wedding occuring at the time – they paraded through the complex a few times and then sat down for wedding photos.

Then we wandered past the fashionable shops (all the big names in fashion have stores along with many small boutiques) and through the narrow backstreets filled with more shops to the Organic Bakery der Akkord. We treated ourselves to a vegan apple pie, adzuki pie, rock-cookies and basil pate/spread. Dinner was at Brown Rice Organic Macrobiotic Cafe. We had another totally delicious meal that included a vegie-burger with fries and salad, bean curry with brown rice and salad, soy chai and a hot sweet drink made from fermented rice called amazake. We had little muffins with struesel toppings for dessert – quite interesting considering the macrobiotic philosophy is no sugar, but the fruit sugar is sufficient.

vegie_burgerBenno’s vegie burger dinner

dinner_curryLara’s brown rice bean curry dinner.

dinner_muffinFruit Struesel Muffin for dessert.

By this stage we were stuffed to the brim with good food so we caught the train back to Tokyo station and took the express bus home. But we caught the wrong bus back to Kisarazu and instead of stopping at Apita near our house it stopped at the train station, about an hour’s walk from our house. All of the local buses had finished so we had to catch a taxi back home. Oops. We’ll remember that for next time.

tokyo_lights_from_bridgeTokyo by night from the bumpy bus going over the Tokyo Bay bridge.