Headed for Tokyo station to wander around the Imperial Palace. To see the palace is a unique experience. Sky scrapers surround this massive park giving an odd duality to the place: extremely modern on one side and much older on the other. The large parks are very nice and I imagine it would be a great place to relax or have a picnic if it weren't all off limits and completely FORBIDDEN TO TOUCH. The Palace is closed 363 days a year (364 on a leap year) and wouldn't you know it, I there on one of the days it was closed. That are the odds of that? According to my calculator about 99.45%.
I came upon one gate that seemed to be the primary entrance for people coming and going out of the palace. I saw several black vans and cars, all with tinted glass to protect the identities of those within, coming and going within the span of about 5 minutes. I also noticed a police van parked nearby in one of the massive gravel walking areas with a driver in it, talking to someone in the back. It looked like the kind of van that SWAT would drive around in and it made me wonder just how likely it would be for there to be a few heavily armed men standing by at all times to protect the entrance to the Imperial Palace. Anyways, at the gate I noticed that there was this other foreigner who seemed to be following me and taking pictures where ever I took pictures. Very odd. Walked around the gravel area, taking pictures of the skyline and of parts of the palace that I could see. There was a large group of men (and a few women) who were jogging around the overall perimeter of the palace with someone timing them. Good exercise.
Off in the distance I could see the Tokyo Tower and thought it might be kind of interesting to wander towards it. My original plan had been to start at the palace and find my way over to Ginza, but this fell by the wayside and I started walking towards the tower. Little did I realize just how big the tower was and how far away. Had to stop off at one point to get some food since I had decided to skip lunch due to not being hungry. Bad idea to set out with an empty stomach. Got a nice tempura donburi and some hot miso to tide me over for a few hours. Continued walking along towards the tower, taking more than one wrong turn. Turned out if I had remained on the main road I had been walking on I would have made it without any problems but instead I thought I was off course and tried to correct my path only to make my walk longer than needed.
Getting into the tower's main observation deck isn't cheap at 800 yen, and that doesn't even get you to the much higher observation deck. That runs you another 600 yen. I was on a limited budget so I just went to main deck and walked around, taking a look at the town at night. Very beautiful. Had my usual worries about being so high up but was still able to walk around fairly well. On the bottom floor of the main deck they had a few spots there the floor was made of a clear fiberglass and you could see straight down. It was funny watching people cautiously stepping onto it with every now and then someone trying to jump up and down to see if it'll break. No one jumps very hard because even though you know it'll hold you, your brain won't quite let you do it. I had a hard time convincing my body to even step onto it and I still didn't go all the way onto it. They have a nice little cafe up there along with live music three times a week so that might be kinda fun if not for the inflated price tag. According to the guide they gave me on Sundays and holidays they have a staircase that lets you walk from the ground all the way to the main deck and back again. Still have to pay admission but I think I might give that a try at some point. However, even if I had wanted to do it right then and there it was shut down and it was too cold anyways. I got a general direction for Ginza and went down to the building at the base of the tower. It has various shops and attractions like a wax museum and an aquarium, the usual things that a company tries when trying to make back some of their losses. Each one had a price tag of about 700-800 yen. I was curious to see what the arcade was like and found it mostly consisted of UFO games (skill crane games) and photo booths. One of the odder things were a few machines that had what can only be described as combat rock-paper-scissors. Very interesting.
Left the building and started walking towards Ginza. I primarily use my metro map and compass to get a general direction to various places. Keep in mind that the map is not to scale and that short little gap between stations can be a 45 minute walk and that large gap only 10 minutes. After close to an hour of walking, some of it through areas with lots of high class resturants packed with businessmen, I finally found my way to Ginza. My plan had been to find a bar called 300 Bar where everything is 300 yen before tax. Wandering around I finally found it but checked my clock and saw that it wasn't even 8pm. Decided to wander about some more and got some coffee and cheese cake to warm me up and relax. The place was off the main area so it wasn't nearly as expensive and had a nice jazz soundtrack playing. After lounging around for a while I finally got up and headed for the bar. The place was small (to be expected) and requires you to buy drink and food coupons that you then exchange. The catch is that you must buy at least two at a time, something their website neglected to state. Still, it wasn't that much and using my tickets I got two of their signature drinks; the Fire Sign and Lamp. Tasting each one I knew that my hunch had been correct: they made everything 300 yen and afforded it by putting only a marginal amount of booze in each drink. Two drinks did nothing whatsoever for me. It'd probably take me 4 or 5 of these things to even get buzzed. Still, the place was alright and wasn't playing crappy music so I might try it again, although it would be better with friends.
Leaving the bar I found that it had started to rain. I decided to head home due to my small amount of resources (I had only left with 3700 yen) and due to it being close to 9pm. Walked from Ginza to Hibiya station to avoid having to jump from one line to another and because it was only 10 minutes away. Got to the station and got on the train home. Stopped at a super market and with my meager finaces bought some bread, water and cheese for a light snack tomorrow. Got home and finding that I was no longer tired I went online to read random articles. Checked my laundry and found that although my little outside porch is mostly covered the sides of a few of my items were wet from the rain. Setup things so they were further away from the side and took the rest inside. Found that only a few of my items will have to be washed again due to large lumps of soap being stuck to it.
I read on all sorts of random things thanks to Wikipedia, such as Proton Decay and the eventual fate of the universe and just what might happen. Glad I won't be around for it. I wasn't able to fall asleep until well after 3am. Shall have to try some other methods to get a decent nights sleep.
Photos for January 26th, 2007