I have been in Tokyo for over two months and am finally bringing you an update. I blame this lapse on the fact that my camera quit working during my first week back here. But I now have a new camera (which, by the way is a Canon S120) and am excited to share some highlights from the last few weeks.
I still love Tokyo. I’m very comfortable with my life and sometimes I can’t believe I live here. I work five days a week, 7:30 – 4:30. After work I often walk around the city, finding new corners and side streets to explore. I find it fascinating, as I always have, that I can just traipse on down to Tokyo Station or meander by the Imperial Palace or stroll by Tokyo Skytree whenever I want to.
This is the first term I’ve actually lived in Tokyo. Before, I’ve lived in Nagoya, or a suburb on the outskirts of Tokyo. But now, I’m actually within the borders of Tokyo, albeit on the very edge. It’s only a 25-minute commute to the office in Yushima, where I work with staff from Japan, England, Australia and the U.S.
Two weeks after I finished backpacking the CT, I packed for the next four-and-a-half months of life in Japan. In mid-September I flew from Denver to L.A., then from L.A. to Narita International Airport on the biggest passenger jet in the world, the Dreamliner Airbus A380.
It felt like a cruise ship taking off, but once we were airborne it felt pretty similar to other wide-body aircraft.
Here’s a fun fact: According to the inflight magazine, the Singapore Airlines flight attendants’ uniforms have not changed since 1968. If it’s not broken…
(Click pic for photo credit.)
I love the anticipation of returning to Japan. Despite my anxiety about flying, I still enjoy the flight knowing I’ll be touching down in a place that has become very familiar and which I love. I’ve heard other teachers mention this relaxed sense of satisfaction they feel as soon as they arrive at Narita. It’s exciting, calming and reassuring. We know what to expect and feel at least a bit confident that we can successfully manage our lives in the most populated and enigmatic city in the world.
I arrived a day earlier than I had to and stayed the night at the Narita Airport Rest House. The airport hotel was verrrry basic, but I was so happy to get to sleep after the two-hour flight from Denver to L.A., a five-hour layover and a 12-hour flight across the Pacific. It made meeting the Westgate staff, traveling to my apartment and getting settled the next day actually enjoyable.
A new first for me – seeing The Teaching of Buddha along with the New Testament (both in Japanese) – in the bedside drawer.
Over the course of the last four terms here (this is my fifth term in Japan), I’ve walked all over Tokyo. Usually in pursuit of some goal I’ve selected out of my Lonely Planet guidebook, or just random meanderings, stopping at various train stations and following paths and roads that beckoned.
This term, I decided to be a bit more organized about it and bought Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City. Every once in a while, I choose a different walk. Sometimes I take a detour, but mostly I follow the route described.
Since I get off from work at 4:30, I have a good portion of the evening free for a long wander. But the days are getting shorter, so the walks are turning into night walks. If the weather cooperates, the weekends are nice for day tours.
One of these excursions led me through Kitanomaru Park.
Near the park is the Nippon Budo-kan, the Japanese Martial Arts Hall. It was built for the 1964 Olympics and can seat 14,000 spectators. The Beatles played here in 1968, which was the first time it was used as a concert hall.
As much as I love the quiet gardens and side streets, I also love the chaotic energy of the city. Sometimes I’ll walk through Shibuya just to take in a bit of the lights and craziness.
Shibuya Crossing – the world’s busiest intersection.
People go to the 2nd floor Starbucks of the Tsutaya store to watch the massive crossings. I took this picture on a week night.
Ginza is another famous shopping district. On the weekends, the roads are closed to cars and it’s transformed into a walking mall.
Tokyo Tower is an iconic landmark and was the tallest structure in Japan until Tokyo Skytree opened in 2012. It was opened in 1958 and is reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower. I visited the tower on one of my after-work-walking tours.
1,093 ft. – almost half the height of Tokyo Skytree.
View from the top. To the left is Odaiba and the Rainbow Bridge.
Omotesando Hills is another famous place in Tokyo. On the weekend that I was there, the fall colors were beginning to peak.
This street is lined with high-end stores.
A friend and I made the trip to Omotesando so we could have breakfast at bills.
bills is a popular restaurant which originated in Sydney, Australia by Bill Granger. He went on to establish other restaurants in Japan, England and most recently, Hawaii. Lunch and dinner are served, but the specialty is breakfast, especially the ricotta pancakes. Hannah introduced me to bill’s during the term we taught together and I’ve been a fan ever since. There are other bills in Japan: Yokohama, Odaiba and Shichirigahama (Kamakura). Click here for a review.
bill’s in Omotesando.
This is the view from the office. If you have to work in an office, there could be worse places than the 8th floor in the middle of Tokyo. It’s a 10-minute walk to the famous Ueno Park and we can see the top of Tokyo Skytree tower from our window (but not from this view).
One day, there was a man on the roof of the building across the street. We don’t know what he was doing. That’s the tippy top of Skytree on the far left, peeking over the white building.)
Oh, and here’s Skytree now. Another post-work night walk.
Tallest tower in the world – 2,080 feet.
Now you’re a bit caught up. I’ll post more Tokyo excursions and walkabouts in the coming days.