Highway's divided; the city's in view
(This post, like a few others of mine, is pretty picture-intensive. So I can know how often I can get away with this, who are the dialup users out there who're attempting to e-strangle me right now for these things?)
We're coming into the home stretch now. Tuesday is the day of my final exam for my language class. Wednesday I have to co-give a 5-10 minute presentation to my pop culture class (on vending machines--insert your own 'pop' culture joke here). And Thursday I have some sort of amorphous 'oral exam' for same pop culture class, in addition to a final chapter test for my language class. Go figure.
The long and short of it is that this Friday and Saturday were going to be the last time I would have to myself until the 30th or so, so I was darn well going to make the most of it. I started with the walk around Makuhari I had been putting off for so long; I went through the park, a few arcades and down some side streets I hadn't seen before. There was a light drizzle, which is about the best weather you can consistently ask of Tokyo during the summer.
Then came Chiba City, about fifteen minutes east by train. The "safe, suburbian lifestyle" didn't come too much into play in the two-block radius from the station that I saw, but I had a fun time looking at the vending machines and filling out the forms in the downtown there. I also came across this fun street band who called themselves 'Dream Rainbow' in a shopping center below the tracks. I wanted to stay, but had to get a move on, alas. I went back and got some sleep,
primarily because Saturday was going to be the day in which I got everything done. I had a list a page long of 'Things I Want To Do In Tokyo Before I Leave', and doggone it if I wasn't going to cross as many of them off that day as possible. After going to my second Hippo language meeting and doing some laundry, I got off to a late start--but hey, that just made the challenge more fun.
I arrived at Akihabara, my first stop, around 3:30 in the afternoon. I bought some gifts, convinced myself not to buy myself some more gifts, and moved on.
Next was the Imperial Palace, which I had tried to see earlier in the month and failed utterly at. Miraculously, though, it wasn't pouring rain this time. The palace proper was closed (it usually is, save for guided tours), but I did get a good shot of Nihombashi Bridge and the very outer part of the palace itself. From there I walked through Hibiya to Ginza, the famous shopping district. I only stayed for a minute, though; it was expensive to the point I probably should have been paying to breathe the air. Besides, I had a train to catch.
A monorail ride took me out to Odaiba, one of Tokyo's new reclaimed-land developments and a burgeoning beachside attraction. I walked around, took a picture of a 50-foot-tall Statue of Liberty, dipped my hand in the Pacific Ocean, &c. &c.
After that was Harajuku. I ate a crepe and performed some somewhat more secret activities there. Oh, I bought a beach towel with the subway sign for Akihabara on it. I guess I can mention that. It would have been worth it just to go for the crepe, though.
Two stations away was Shinjuku, where I was hoping to go see the Park Hyatt hotel of Lost in Translation fame. After reconsulting with my Frommer's guide, though, I found out that it was about a 20-minute walk away. Not having that much time, I promptly turned right back around and got on the train.
From there, I headed to Shibuya, the business district of Tokyo. I snapped some photos of a really large vending machine for my project (at the Excel Hotel) and went to Tower Records.
After that was the Tokyo Tower. Somehow inconvenient to every subway station despite being smack in the center of town, this was a hike in itself but ultimately worth it. I got in about fifteen minutes before it closed, so I couldn't go to the 850-foot observatory at the top, but I did get a look from about 450 feet up, which was a good enough moment for me to close the day on.
From there, I took the subway and then the JR Line back home. Still, I managed to check off one more item on my list--eating at Becker's. In virtually every train station in Tokyo, there's either a Beck's Coffee or Becker's Burgers and Sandwiches. As far as I can tell, there's no relation between the two, but their ubiquity and inane Americaness meant I simply had to go to one before I left. I got a ham sandwich and an apple pie; they were okay.
So for review, here's a list of the stations I went through that day. This is transfers only, of course; if I included the stations we passed through that I didn't actually set foot in, this would be a novel. Anyway:
Kita-kashiwa -> Kashiwa -> Ueno -> Akihabara -> Ochanomizu -> Otemachi -> Nijubashimae -(walk to)> Ginza -> Shimbashi -> Daiba -> Shimbashi -> Harajuku -> Shinjuku -> Shibuya -> Nagatacho -(walk to)> Akasaka-mitsuke -> Kasumigaseki -> Kamiyacho -> Kita-senju -> Kashiwa -> Kita-kashiwa
Wasn't that interesting? Sunday I slept and studied. Because of that final exam, I won't make any guarantees about the length or quality of any of my posts until I get back to America. I'll still be doing my best to make it once a weekday, though, so keep stopping by.
Vending Machine Special: Newspaper
Seen in Chiba station, this is so totally going in my report. I think half of the newspapers are today's and half are yesterday's, but don't quote me on that.