(The pictures above are various ones from January through May. Pictures referenced in this post are near the end.)
Kerri here. With precious few vacation days, it is crucial that we never waste a three day weekend by sitting around at home. For the Memorial Day holiday we decided to really spend time exploring Tokyo. We had been to a few areas and done a few things but didn't feel that we had "done" Tokyo. Unfortunately, we hit upon this plan a little on the late side and could not find a hotel room in the "reasonable" price category of under $200. Since our house is really only an hour by car, we could stay at home and drive in each day. A more affordable, if less vacationish, option.
We drove in Saturday morning, parked, and took the subway. We went first to Akihabara, the famous electronics district. Jesse had been once before during the iPhone debacle, but didn't really look around as he was focused on his task. I really wanted to see human-like robots, but we didn't find any. We did, however, find the best shawarma I've had since leaving Kuwait. It was worth the entire trip.
Next we headed over to Asakusa where the spirit of old Edo still lives. We did visit the oldest shrine in Tokyo, the Sensoji Temple. The main attraction here, for us anyway, was Kappabashi-dori or Kitchen street. Everything for your restaurant, including fake food for advertising, can be found on this street. We didn't buy anything, but it was really fun looking at all the shops.
At this point we headed back to our car and drove home. We sat out on the patio with the cool breeze sipping a beer and decided that home wasn't so bad.
The military runs a hotel in central Tokyo which we have access to. With it's excellent rates and being that it is quite a nice hotel, it is booked solid every weekend for the rest of the year. We had been told, however, that if you keep calling there might be a cancellation. I did keep at it with no luck for Friday or Saturday, but lucked out on Sunday and scored us a room.
So we headed there Sunday morning, parked the car and walked to the subway station from there. Sunday we went first to the Imperial Palace. You can't actually go in the palace itself, seeing as how the Emperor still lives there, but they do have a large portion of the gardens open to the public, for free. It is a beautiful area right in the middle of all the bustle. The few buildings that could be seen were quite impressive.
After that we headed over to Shibuya, a famous shopping district. Its most famous landmark is the huge pedestrian crossing of Lost in Translation and just about every image you see of Tokyo. There was a store that I really wanted to check out called Tokyu Hands. I didn't know much about it, just that it had fun stuff of all sorts. Well it turned out to be seven stories of fun stuff! The top floor was all science stuff, another was all sewing, another paper crafts, another office/school supplies. There was even a full bike shop. It was so much fun, but we were all so tired. I need to go back with girlfriends and really spend some time.
We were about to crash so we headed to the hotel. We went swimming in the very nice pool and soaked in the hot tub. We ate at one of the five restaurants in the hotel. I'm telling you, it's a nice place.
Monday morning we were up bright and early to get a jump on our final day. Today was Disneyland day. We figured it's a Monday, not a Japanese holiday and the weather is nice, not super hot. What a better time could you do the whole Disney thing? Boy were we wrong. No one knows why, but that particular Monday, all of Japan decided it was a good day for Disney. We managed to get on five rides the entire day. Some lines were three hours. One of the things that Tokyo Disney is famous for is the crazy varieties of popcorn. There are little carts all over selling different flavors. Some of the lines for popcorn were an hour. Needless to say, we sampled none. Rowan and I still managed to have fun, but Jesse said, "never again". There is another Disney park called Disney Seas that we will try next time. I think it's kind of like Californian Adventure, but it has some unique rides only found in Japan. The cool thing is that we live only an hour away so I know we will have plenty of opportunities to go back.
All in all we had a great weekend. We decided that we love Tokyo, but are very happy with where we are living for now. It feels good having a better idea of where things are and how the neighborhoods are organized. I think I could pretty much find my way anywhere now, and feel perfectly comfortable doing so. That's a nice feeling.