I am in Japan, in Tokyo, Japan. I am with Martin Bailey and David DuChemin on a photography tour. How does this happened?
Back in the fall of 2012 I have got reminded that Martin Bailey offers a photography tour to the Snow Monkeys and around the national parks on Hokkaido. Martin offered two tours, one with Chris Marquardt and on with David DuChemin. I know Chris already from many previous trips in Germany and in the Himalayas. David, I only know from books on how to improve photography by telling a story with your pictures. Because of this I decided to go with David.
Now, I am here in Tokyo. I arrived around noon on Friday, the 15th. The tour officially started on Monday, the 18th at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel. So, I decided to stay at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel. Unfortunately, check-in time not earlier than 14:00. I waited about 2h with a good coffee and sandwich at the Bar and Lounge in the 29th floor of the Shinagawa Prince Hotel Main Tower. Somehow new to me the bar is smoking bar. Over the last years in Germany, in the part I live, I have got used to it, that in restaurants and bars smoking is not allowed anymore. As such, it feels uncomfortable to me, to be at a smoking bar. What paid off for me, was the fantastic view on Tokyo.
Then I checked in into my room at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel East Tower. The East Tower seems to be cheaper part of the hotel complex. It is a simple single room. It contains a small wardrobe, a bed, a working desk, and a small bath room. The bath room is such small, that it has an height of about 1,90m. The room is not that kind of a room you want to spend your holidays in. It is OK, if you just need a sleep over on a business trip or so.
Saturday and Sunday I spent on my own in the city. On both days I wanted to visit some places a friend of mine, Verena had recommended to me. Verena spent a lot of time on Tokyo studying Japanese history and present society. Verena suggested some places to visit and to go to. I used the iPhone App CityMaps2Go to mark those spots.
Saturday, 1st day Tokyo
First, I wanted to get a nice scenic overview on the city. There two spots in Tokyo where you can go to, to have this overview. One spot is the governmental building and the other one the Tokyo Skytree. I decided first with the governmental building, forgetting that in most countries governmental services are shut down on weekends. It was closed. Then, I was heading to the Tokoy Skytree not knowing what that meant. Arriving at the Tokyo Skytree on Saturday morning at 10:30 I realized a huge crowd of people. Not only that, the service personal started to put up signs that ticket sales has been discontinued for this day. There will be no more tickets sold for this day. There is no possibility to buy tickets for any other day. There is only same day ticket sale. I looked around the stores in the building. Then I was heading for Ginza. Ginza is the main shopping street with almost all the big brands you know in terms of cloth, watches, jewelry, and as such. The nice thing here, the city closed down the street for traffic. The whole street was available for pedestrians only, on a Saturday. It was a nice shopping experience, even that I shopped nothing. After that I headed to Akihabara. Akihabara is better know for its electronic stores. Basically, its a huge catalog of all the electronics you can image and you can buy them there, if you include all the side streets and corners. It is like heaven for electronic nerds. Then I was heading for he Pokémon store. Unfortunately, I did not found it at the spot I had marked and giving the address I found on the website to Google Maps did not helped either. Later on, back in the hotel checking again for the address, the PDF available on the website describing the location helped much more.
As the evening had arrived, I was going back to the hotel and having my dinner at the hotel. I decided for the Japanese style restaurant and had great Sagano for dinner. It started off with an appetizer containing some salmon, tuna, and octopus nicely presented. It gone on with a miso soup and seasoned salad. The main dish was a Japanese beef cooked to perfection and some vegetables. It ended with an ice cream. It was a perfect diner.
Sunday, 2nd day Tokyo
The second day I wanted to give the Tokyo Skytree another try. I arrived a little bit after 8:00. Because I knew, that the ticket counters will open at 8:00. But again, the area was already filled with lots and lots of people, maybe about 500 or so. I do not wanted to waste my time with just waiting hours and hours to get a ticket and then to wait hours and hours just to get up. I heard from others I took them about 8h to get up. Definitely not an option for me. On the website you can buy tickets for a specific date and bypass the crowd. Unfortunately, you need a Japanese issued credit card for this, and the website itself to order the ticket is available in Japanese only. I skipped the Tokyo Skytree again.
I decided to go back to Asakusa to visit Sensō-ji. Sensō-ji is a nice temple., but at same time it seems to be also a touristic scene. Lots of people visiting and also receiving their blessing.
After the temple I wanted to visit the Kanda Shrine. I wanted to use the beautiful day to walk from the Sensō-ji temple to the Kanda Shrine and maybe to try some street photography on the go. I walked from Asakusa to Ueno. There a came across a street market. Basically, you can buy anything you need at this street market: cloth, shoes, watched, perfumes, jewelry, vegetables, fish, meat, anything. Next on my way I crossed Akihabara again. Today the main street on Akihabara was also closed down for pedestrians only. Again a very nice shopping experience.
When done shopping and a small coffee I headed further to the Kanda Shrine. The Kanda Shrine is a nice small place where you can receive your blessings.
To finish off the day, I went back to the hotel. On the way home I stopped shortly at the Pokémon store.
In the evening we had our first team diner, where we had our first get together and to know each other.