Not really feeling the jet lag in spite of almost 27 hours of travel over the past two days, I decided to do some exploring today. Fulbright orientation doesn’t start until Wednesday, so I’m treating this as a mini vacation. Since it was a national holiday, Respect-for-the-Aged Day (敬老の日), I thought that the touristy things in Tokyo might be too crowded, so I decided on a less conventional itinerary.
First thing I did was go to the Tokyo Pokemon Center store – the largest one in Japan – to pick up some gifts for friends and some goodies for myself. The shopkeepers kept pointing out “rare” items that were “only sold in Japan” and telling me that if I spent enough I could earn a free スペシャルプレセント (lit. special present). For only about 3000JPY (~$30) I got 12 items…clearly they jack up the price in the U.S. to take advantage of Pokefans. The best part was this kid who was just standing awestruck in front of the wall of Pokemon character dolls they had (see picture below).
Then I really wanted my coffee/free wifi, but there aren’t too many Starbucks around here. I remembered hearing from another blog I follow there’s one near Tokyo Station (東京駅) in Marunouchi. This was kind of out of the way for me, but it gave me an opportunity to stop at Shinjuku before changing trains. Shinjuku is known for high-end department stores and its Electric Street (電気街). Some parts of it are kind of funky in that you’ll see seedy-looking maid cafes next to something fancy like a Gucci store.
After exploring Tokyo Station – which was really crowded because of all the people trying to get home from their long weekend – I saw a sign near the exit for the Imperial Gardens (皇居公園). At this point the typhoon-esque winds and rain from this morning had stopped, so it was possible for me to walk the entire perimeter of the moat around the palace grounds as well as through most of the East Gardens. I was especially struck by the imposing stone walls in the areas at the base of the towers and citadels…would not want to be the guy who has to invade that back in the day when there’d be armed sentries at the top.