Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Last day in Tokyo

This morning we got on the subway and headed for the Imperial Palace Gardens. The forcast was for drizzle so we though we'd try to beat the rain and visit the gardens in the morning and then go to the Ginza shopping area in the afternoon.

The gardens cover 210,000 square metres and occupy the site of the former Edo Castle. They have been open to the public since 1968 and are surrounded by amazing stone walls and moats.

Because we were early we almost had the place to ourselves.

After exporing the gardens we walked to Ginza, having lunch on the way at an Italian restaurant near Tokyo main station with a $12 early bird (before noon) special of dish of choice plus a salad and a drink. We hadn't had any breakfast so we didn't take long to wolf it down.

Ginza was very disappointing. When I first came here about 30 years ago Ginza was very Japanese. It had hundreds of neon signs in Japanese script and huge department stores selling domestically produced goods of every kind. Now it is mostly Cartier, Bulgari, and all the other stuff you see in any big city in the west and the high rise department stores are anonymous stroctures in glass and concrete. After half an hour of wandering around we fled back to Asakusa on the subway. Ginza isn't our scene at all.

The 10 square kilometre area of Chiyoda that includes the Palace area, Ginza and the Diet (their Parliament House) is said, at the height of the Japanese land price bubble, to have been worth more than the value of the whole of California.

A comment on Japanese protocol. They always keep to the left on footpaths; there is absolutely no litter in the streets despite an almost total absence of litter bins; on the subway the people standing always face the windows and not another passenger; in shops and restaurants your purchases and change are always handed to you with both hands and a bow; politeness is everything. Yet they are very friendly people and keen to help with directions if asked. For a westerner Tokyo is a very easy city to get around in on foot or public transport. The ticket machines on the subway have an "English" button, which if pressed changes the whole display to English and a voice gives instructions in English.

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