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Day #14: Tokyo

After our late arrival, we slept in this morning until around 9am. We had breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant (Lavarock) using the conveniently provided vouchers for free breakfast thanks to my Marriott status. It’s a surprisingly good breakfast buffet w/ my personal favorites being the Asian specialities (steamed buns, dumplings, etc.) and delicious array of fruit.

Getting a somewhat late start to the day, not knowing the city well or how to navigate it, and recognizing the weather might be suboptimal (rain was likely most of the day), I planned for us to stay close to home today in order to get our bearings (how exactly to get to Disney tomorrow?), visit the gardens of the Imperial Palace, tour a couple of the nearby museums (as it happens we only made it to one), and generally just get a feel of the place and what’s around us.

The rain was generally steady but fairly light. It didn’t really pose a problem to our navigation. Although, I learned that when Columbia says “water resistant” about a jacket they mean “entirely and completely permeable in anything other than the lightest and briefest of rain showers.” Oh well. I bought an umbrella for around 500 yen (~$5) at the museum and retired my nearly worthless raincoat.

We first stopped at Tokyo station where I (eventually) figured out how to buy a train ticket from the automated machines and oriented myself to navigating to where we’d need to go. 😂 Although the language differences may make it seem disorienting at first, it’s really little different than dealing with London’s Paddington or Victoria stations at a big station in Japan, which has transport connections via subway, local and long distance rail, and buses.

Tokyo Station is also a wonder in terms of shopping (everything you need and many things you don’t) and eating (it has restaurants galore).

Emerson loved the kawaii (“cute”) merchandise on Character Street.

I, meanwhile, was mesmerized by the food.

We moved on to the Imperial Palace and its gardens, which provided a lot of green space that frankly none of us imagined to exist in central Tokyo:

Next, we visited the National Museum of Modern Art — Tokyo (MOMAT), which traces Japanese (and some Western) art history from the late 1800s through the present. I found two things especially fascinating:

First, the dialogue between East/West — we tend to think of the artistic influence of “Americans in Paris” in the early part of the 20th century and beyond, but their Japanese contemporaries were also there, which strongly influenced artistic expression here too:

Second, the artistic response to the Pacific War (WWII) and its aftermath — a rare, direct view into the psyche of the “other side” and of personal interest given my family’s history in the Pacific theatre during the war:

I didn’t see much hard-edged abstraction and/or minimalism by Japanese artists, but I was captivated by some of the more organic forms of Japanese abstract art:

After the museum, we continued to walk around the Imperial Palace. I’d hoped / thought about visiting the Craft Museum, but it was closed for some reason (changing exhibits, I believe). The structure was originally built in the Meiji Period, which introduced Western influences and rapid societal changes through the emperor’s explicit edict to search internationally for (and presumably apply) knowledge that might strengthen the empire.

Having lapped the grounds of the Imperial Palace, we wandered into the Ginza district, which is just south of our hotel. Like 5th Avenue in NYC or the Champs-Elysees in Paris, Chuo Dori in the Ginza is a premier shopping drag for international brands. We stopped in only a couple of shops to search for more kawaii items, as well as clothes at UNIQLO, for Emerson.

For dinner, we ate at Eggs ‘n Things, which seems to be a popular Japanese outpost of this Hawaiian restaurant. The highlights included my ahi poke rice bowl (perhaps the best version of that dish I’d ever eaten) and Libby’s Hawaiian fried rice (with Spam! — of course). The meal prices were surprisingly reasonable too….

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