October 31, 2009
Because we had done Nikko as a day trip rather than the overnight trip we had originally planned, we were staying in Tokyo one night longer. Unfortunately the ryokan did not have room so we had to change hostels for tonight. We packed up early and headed to the new place which was not far away but still convenient for the main train stations for tomorrow going to Kyoto.
We weren’t able to get into the room straight away so we headed for breakfast at the closest thing we could find – a McDonalds. I hate these places but I think we’ve eaten more here than we would ever usually. Running on a budget, these places are normally pretty cheap too. Over our late breakfast, we read through the Kyoto section of the travel guide to see how much stuff we wanted to do there. Having visited temples and shrines in Osaka and Tokyo, we decided to not overload in Kyoto, despite the fact that is what the city is best known for. Oh well, temple overload, here we come!
Back at the hostel, our beds were not ready but we were able to get locker keys. We left our large packs at reception and went and dumped our smaller bags in the locker while we headed out for the day. We also checked out the dorm rooms to see where our beds were – the beds here were cabin beds which means you are fully enclosed in a wooden box all to yourself. Elizabeth later commented it was like sleeping in a coffin.
We headed out to the Imperial Palace Gardens for a walk around. The park was so green and had many less of the autumn colours we’d seen elsewhere. It made for a nice environment to wander around and spend our last day in Tokyo. Much of the palace itself is closed to the public but the east garden is open so we went in. it was free to enter so this was a bonus too! Inside, we visited the little museum which was exhibiting items based on the current emperor and empress who had been married 50 years this year and the emperor had ruled for 20, also. This was the 5th and final exhibition in the series that had run throughout the year. We were not overly interested but as it was also free we decided we had nothing to lose.
Inside were a collection of everyday items from the royal household including the empress’ harp, some cufflinks the emperor had received from the empress as a gift and some of their china tea sets. The exhibit was only small and nothing much caught our interest but it was a good little side stop!
As we wandered further into the park, stopping for ice cream on the way, we saw more of the autumn colours as different areas of the garden had different types of plants. The Nimomaru garden was beautiful, with lush trees surrounding a lake filled with massive carp. This area was what we expected of a typical Japanese garden and it was nice to be out in glorious weather in the fresh air.
We walked around the rest of the garden and saw some funny things which the Japanese thought noteworthy. One of these was the bamboo grove which contained about 5 bamboo trees and was a bit pathetic, really. There was also the stone cellar, ishimuro, which might have been a passageway entrance or might have been a storage area or might have been anything. Given that so much of Japanese history is so well documented, you’d think someone would know what it actually was! Finally, the site of Matsuno-o-roka, a small corridor amongst the trees where one lord was supposed to have murdered another. This site is famous in Japanese folklore but walking through, the significance was lost on us, even after reading the English translation of the incident.
Back outside the gardens, it was still quite early and we weren’t sure what to do. It was still quite warm and I quite fancied a beer. As beer is so pricey everywhere in the city, Elizabeth recommended the one place we knew was cheap and was open – the beer museum. So, that is where we headed!
We headed straight into the tasting room and were lucky to get a table. Previously we’d been one of only 2 or 3 groups in there but today it was packed. We settled down and enjoyed our rest and our beers, all three of them.
By this time, we were getting hungry and the beer snacks just weren’t enough. We started to head back towards the hostel but half way there changed our minds and headed back the other way. We had read in the book about an area where lots of weird looking kids pose for pictures at weekends and thought we might catch it. These kids are often outcasts and bullied at school and this is their outlet. We were too late to see them but we exited the metro station into a massive crowd so we had found an area that was obviously buzzing. As we walked around looking for some food, we saw a few of the “freaks” walking around including two girls who were wearing everything black, had black lipstick, had numerous facial piercings with even the studs being black and silver hair. Yes, they had foregone the whole Goth look by dying their jet-black hair silver. That’s one way of being different!
Walking through the crowds we eventually found a little pub which claimed to serve English food. Inside, the menu wasn’t really anything of the sort but we were worn out from walking and beer consumption and just wanted some food. We ordered a pizza and a portion of chips to share between us.
On the table next to us were two young Japanese girls dressed as witches on their way to a Hallowe’en party, I suppose. As we went to leave, one of them got up and handed both of us a little jelly sweet and in perfect English wished us “Happy Hallowe’en”. If you think the Americans go crazy for hallowe’en you should see this bunch! I think Elizabeth was quite pleased with her little present!
We got back on the train and got off at Tokyo station to pick up something sweet, eventually getting a cinnamon and raisin loaf which neither of us actually wanted by the time we got back to the hostel – that will be breakfast tomorrow.
Back at the hostel, we went and found our beds ready for us up on the 4th floor. Given we were only staying one night, we decided to leave our packs downstairs rather than carry them all the way up.