Yokohama / Tokyo, Japan

                                                    Kabuki Theater, a Tokyo Landmark

April 12-13, 2010

Yokohama is part of the urban sprawl connected to Tokyo.  Both cities have cruise ship ports.  Once again we arrived in mid-afternoon, and this time it was raining, so we were happy to stay on the ship for the day.  The port area in Yokohama is pretty nice, although the port building, under the grassy area in the photo, was a large, old, empty cavern.  We had to walk through it to get to and from the ship.

We had scheduled a full day excursion for the second day in port.  The drive into Tokyo took maybe 30 minutes.   We knew we were in Tokyo when we drove past the very famous Kabuki Theater (pictured above).  We were told that the theater will soon be demolished to make way for yet another high-rise building.  It is unfortunate that such an historic building would be destroyed, but the sacrifice may be necessary, due to the limited amount of land available.

Our first stop was at the grounds of the Imperial Palace.  The grounds are beautifully manicured, with many carefully shaped pine trees.  The famous double bridge (black and white) is here.  When the Japanese people visit, they make sure they have their photo taken in front of the bridges to prove they’ve been here.  The grounds are very nice, but unfortunately it is not possible to catch even a glimpse of the palace from the part of the grounds that are always open to the public.  The palace is open to the  public only two days a year: on  January 2 and the Emperor’s birthday.  This is evidence of the very traditional Japan that can still be found mixed in with all the skyscrapers and modern technology.  The inner moat pictured here is the only one left of the original three.

From the palace grounds we drove over to the Senso-ji Temple, which is also home to Japan’s oldest shrine.  The temple is a very large Buddhist temple, with buildings similar to the one we saw in Osaka, including the five-story pagoda.  The main building is undergoing restoration at this time.  The outside is shrouded, but one can still go inside.  The temple is very colorful.  As we were leaving there was a large group of Japanese students sitting on the ground listening to a lesson about the temple.  Just beyond the temple is a market area where one can buy all sorts of souvenirs.  Part of it is more like a flea market, while part is regular shops.  It was interesting to wander through the area.

Following this visit we went to lunch at the Ana Intercontinental Hotel, where we were served a buffet lunch of foods that were mostly recognizable to us ordinary westerners.  The food was good but the organization left something to be desired.  The restaurant is located on the 37th floor and the views from the windows are great.  One of the intriguing views was of a couple of small cemeteries.

Our final stop for the day was the very famous Ginza shopping district, where we were given an hour to spend any way we wanted.  We opted to spend our time in the Mitsukoshi Department Store.  We discovered the two floors in the basement that are devoted to food - some groceries and some prepared food.  All were beautiful and expensive!  An example is the asparagus: a bunch of three stalks had a price tag of about 500¥ or $6.  Yes, that is written correctly and you read it right.  It was easy to spend the better part of an hour looking at the food.  We do not have any photos of the food, as the idea of taking photos there was not comfortable. 

In our drive around the city we went past the Tokyo Tower, the red and white structure, which is the tallest structure in Tokyo.  We also saw the Tokyo Tree, the new building that is currently not quite finished.   There are quite a few interesting bridges in the area.  The one pictured here reminds us a lot of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.                          

Tokyo is an interesting city.  As the rickshaw photo shows, some of the Japanese traditions are alive and well, though in a more modern form.  We barely scratched the surface of this city on our tour.  It would be worth coming back to see more of it.

                                                    City View from Ana Intercontinental Hotel

© Susan L. Stone 2015