Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tourist Time

In addition to meeting some amazing people and learning really interesting things about how Japan handles people with disabilities, I have been doing some touristy things in the last week too! Here are some of the highlights of my tourist adventures so far.

Took the train to Asakusa one day, a district which features the oldest temple in Tokyo. My 'Tokyo Handy Guide' says it was built in 628 AD. It's famous for its main gate where a huge lantern hangs.

I don't know why I do the whole peace sign thing for pictures now... it just comes so naturally, everyone does it here! Anyway, almost more interesting than the ancient temple was the decidedly modern thing I found in front of it.

Yes, this is a panda bear bus. Kawaii!!! (This means cute in Japanese. I use this word a lot.) Actually though, I find this juxtaposition of ancient and modern quite interesting. Across the street from the temple is a building with a viewing area on one of the top floors. Seeing the temple surrounded by modernity displays just how much the city has changed and the history it contains.

Now, let me introduce the maneki-neko or "beckoning cat".

Kawaii, right!? Well, this cat is everywhere, in various shapes and sizes. Statues both big and small, flags, handkerchiefs, you name it. The beckoning gesture is said to welcome good luck, customers, and wealth so it is often found at the entrance to shops or other attractions. I'm growing oddly fond of this lucky cat. Also quick sidenote: notice the Tokyo Skytree in the background of the picture. It is the tallest structure in Tokyo. Pretty cool!

The beckoning cat welcomed me right to the Tokyo Water Bus which I rode from Asakusa to the artificial island of Odaiba, about a 45 minute trip. Got to see a ton of bridges spanning the Sumida River which runs into Tokyo Bay.

One of my favorites, complete with the Skytree in the background.

This was one of the first times I was reminded of home as I thought about all the awesome bridges across the Willamette River in Portland. A little bit of familiarity on this short cruise was a welcome feeling.

The temple, the panda bus, the cruise, it was all awesome. But probably my favorite part of this day of touring was riding on the Yurikamome, a fully automated train that connects Odaiba with Tokyo. When we got on the train, it wasn't too crowded and I got to sit in the "driver's seat"!!

I definitely felt like a little kid pretending to drive the train. hehe. But seriously, it was like a ride at an amusement park! I am continuously amazed by Tokyo's transportation system. There are above ground trains, subways, buses, automated trains... They see a need for some kind of transportation and they make it happen.

The Yurikamome opened in 1995. Before it was finished, many people didn't think the multibillion yen project would succeed. This brought to mind the French transportation system, Aramis- a highly complex idea for personal rapid transit in the 1970's. However, unlike Aramis (which ultimately never came into being for a number of reasons), the Japanese succeeded in keeping the Yurikamome technologically advanced and practical. Fascinating!

This past weekend, I also went on a quick trip with the Kokuho Family to an onsen (Japanese hot spring). Before going to the onsen we stopped at another ancient, beautiful temple in Nikko. The temple was originally built in the 700's AD, but is maybe most famous as the burial site of Tokugawa Ieyasu, a very powerful leader at the beginning of Japan's Edo Period in the early 1600's.

I really like the pagodas, beautiful.

The view from the hotel where we stayed. Wow!

And here's the whole family! I am so thankful for their incredible kindness. And aren't the grandkids adorable!? :)


  1. You are too kawaii, Hannah! :)

  2. I love Yurikamome too. Everytime friends come to Tokyo, I will take them to ride this transportation,hehe.