I had signed up for a tour of the Imperial Palace grounds that began at 1:30pm. I left my house close to 12:40pm but realized I was on the tail end of the trains. Finally arrived at Tokyo station at 1:20pm and started jogging towards the palace grounds. I had looked up a map online and found where I thought I was supposed to go. I jogged all the way over there, only to find nothing looking like a gate (I was looking for Kikyo mon gate) and when I asked a nearby policeman, he pointed me back in the direction I came from. By this point is was almost 1:30pm so I was really pissed. Swearing while walking back pissed. I didn't want to run much more since I was starting to sweat and didn't want to get much worse. Finally got to where I was supposed to go, thinking that I was much too late to get on the tour but they let me in.
A guard walked with me inside the gate and took me to a building where all the our tour people were watching a video of some ceremony the emperor was proceeding over. Another guard handed me a a box with a series of taped explainations in English so I could tell what was going on. Before each site they would announce which number was to be played and I would key it into my little box. A good percentage of our group was made up of elderly Japanese who were all on the tour together. Some of them had even dressed up in their finest suit and here I was, T-shirt, jeans and a jacket. They finally lead us outside and started the tour. Two guides went with us, one who gave explainations and lead the group, constantly telling people to keep in a small area and another one who looked very old and always had a very concerned look on his face. In fact, every person who worked there always looked deadly concerned and worried that something might happen. During one explaination an older man started moving away from the group towards the little fort that the guide was explaining. That caused all manner of uproar from the guides.
The tour itself was pretty lame actually. The areas you got to see, save for one small area of road, is the exactly same thing you can see if you watch the emperor give his birthday or new years speech. The explainations were a little interesting but mostly meaningless trivia. Also got the feeling that the English canned messages were missing stuff as the other members of the tour (all Japanese save for 3-4 Koreans) would "oooh" and "aaah" sometimes. Maybe I'm just hard to impress.
Eventually our tour ended after a little more than an hour. We were then allowed to enter the East Gardens, an area that is usually open tuesday through thursday. That area was far more interesting. I noticed a lot of feral cats living in the area. One walked by one of the rest areas and sat down right in front of some people sitting on a bench, enjoying some ice cream. The cat just stared as if expecting food. I tried to pet it but it wanted nothing to do with me or anyone else unless in involved food. The open areas were quite beautiful and you can walk up to the top of the foundation of the original castle that only lasted 16 years before burning down. It gives you a nice view of the surrounding area. By the time I got back down from the castle foundation a speaker informed everyone that the park was closing soon and we needed to leave.
As I started to wander towards an exit I noticed a foreign couple where the guy was taking photos of the girl. The way she was posing and constantly moving her shirt lower and lower lead me to believe that they might be trying to do something other than just take pictures, but I didn't investage. What an odd place to do such a thing, if you catch my drift.
A whole other part of the park remained but I was out of time. They actually had officers stationed at each entrance to the last part to deter people from entering. Wandered over to the exit and tried to make up my mind as to where I was going. I had originally planned to walk over to Akihabara but instead wound up following different signs and found myself in all manner of different places. Found the area that the Sakura Hotel (where I spent my first night) was in and took a slightly different route of the area. Wandered until I found the Kasuga area.
Went to the amusment park and saw that it actually doesn't look that bad when you still have daylight. Also was much warmer than when I first went there and many people were walking about. Stopped into the ramen place and got some wonderful ramen. Also hit up the Baskin-Robins and got an ice cream cone. Yeah yeah, I know, an odd concept on a cold day. My cares not what the weather is like. Lastly, before heading to the Kodokan I stopped by a place that was disigned like an English Pub. They were in the middle of happy hour so a coctail was only 310 yen. Got an "American Lemonade" which consists of Lemonaide, Lemon Licqour and Wine on top. Don't ask me how that's American because I have no bloody idea. Finished my drink (which didn't affect me, naturally) and went to go watch some Judo.
Imagine my suprise when I discovered that they weren't having practice but holding a tournament. It was really nice to see these Judoka actually full out fighting. Saw a lot of bloody noses. Come to think of it, I've only had one bloody nose in my life and it came about from Judo as well. The blackbelts were very interesting to watch. The grip fighting followed by the massive effort to get into a throw was wonderful. Almost no shidos for them which isn't much of a suprise really (A shido is basically a defensive penalty for not being aggressive or using an improper grip for too long). Watched until the tournament was over and decided to head home to get some sleep. I had walked too much on too little sleep and was going to pay the price.
Took the subway home but only to Sugamo. There I went into the arcade, tempted to play some more Gundam Card Builder but decided against it and just started walking home. I stopped early to force myself to walk even more, thus ensuring that I would really be tired. Got some steak, butter, bread and water at a supermarket on the way home. Took my shower, had some toast and wrote up the previous day's events. I'm starting to fall behind and need to catch up again. Got myself ready for sleep and passed out close to 1am.
Photos for February 8th, 2007