from “Fear of Music”, Talking Heads, 1979.
Well here we are back in Tokyo and enjoying a final week in the big city before we fly to Bangkok. It’s been a wonderful time travelling across some of Japan – it’s a big place and far more than we can hope to properly explore even in three months. So while there is still plenty we could do, we decided that in our final week would be to revisit a few old memories as well as catch special events that were on while we were in town.
The first memory we revisited was the Hie Shrine (日枝神社) in Akasaka-mitsuke. This was the location of the hotel we stayed in on our very first visit to Japan back in 2002. We discovered the shrine while exploring the local area and were drawn to it when we saw the series of red torii gates leading up a wooded hillside. Climbing the stairs within the gates takes you to the smaller rear entrance to the shrine.
The Hie Shrine is nestled away in a pleasant green space in one of the business and political areas of the city near the National Diet Building. Our first visit to the shrine had coincided with a Shinto wedding ceremony, though on our return this time there were just a few locals there making their devotions. As we found before it is a very peaceful place hidden away in the city.
On the way out of the main entrance we discovered the area had been renovated and expanded into a larger public space with adjoining office blocks, and also included a set of three escalators for those who don’t feel up to the climb.
Another favourite place to revisit and re-experience was the Tokyo Tower. Styled on the Eiffel Tower, but a bit taller and a lot less brown, this is one of the iconic images of Tokyo and pretty much the first thing Godzilla knocks down on his occasional visits. The tower itself is 333m tall and there are two observation decks: one at 150m and the other at 250m. Both give unobstructed 360 degree views of the city.
It was here at the Tokyo Tower back in 2002 that we got our first views over the mega-city that is Tokyo and upon revisiting it in 2016 we both think that the views from here of Japan’s capital are still the best. The Tokyo Skytree may be taller (see our blog entry 17. Big In Japan) but it is not centrally located and for us lacked a little something, aside from being inordinately busy. There are quite a few places in Tokyo now offering sky high views but for us the Tokyo Tower remains the one to do.
Something new, but for an old favourite in terms of cinema, was a visit to see the Studio Ghibli exhibition in Roppongi Hills. Studio Ghibli has made many wonderful animated films over the years, particularly in conjunction with Hayao Miyazaki, and some of our best-loved are Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away.
The exhibition was – unsurprisingly – busy and almost too busy to actually see some of the artwork on display. There were loads of movie posters, concept art, models and more, and the place was packed with fans all wanting a look. Unfortunately the information was only in Japanese so we missed out on some of the details and background, but we were still able to appreciate the exhibition. Photography was not allowed in most of the event, although people were permitted to take pictures of the flying machines hall towards to the end of the exhibition.
This was a wonderful display of art and more from Studio Ghibli and a great couple of hours viewing for any fan of their work.
Our final old favourite to revisit this week has been to return to the Tokyo National Museum, located in Ueno Park. This has been the premier of the various “national museums” we have visited in Japan, not only because it has a wonderfully selected collection of Japanese artefacts, but it also allows almost unrestricted photography in all the galleries, yay!
It has been a wonderful, exciting, relaxing, crazy, and at times occasionally somewhat confusing, three months in Japan and we have thoroughly enjoyed every bit of our time in the Land of the Rising Sun, and we are already looking forward to coming back again.
But for now we must bid Japan a very fond sayonara (さようなら).