Thursday, December 4, 2008

Philly Jump to Japan! Day 2

Day 2 in Japan was our first day of touring. We woke up very early and headed down to breakfast at in our hotel. Although the breakfast buffet cost way more than I would ever pay for a meal it was pretty awesome spread. There were mini pancakes, rice, noodles, little Japanese salads, french fries, seaweed and chicken nuggets just to name a few. After breakfast we took a guided tour over to the Imperial palace. It was a gray and foggy day so we did not see the palace in full splendor but we did see the lovely bridges and entrance. We found out that it is almost impossible to actually enter the palace so we did what any tourist would do, take pictures as close as possible to the entrance.

We headed back into the city to KOOMON culture center for a laid back green tea ceremony. The instructors at the center were very sweet and the actual set up of the ceremony room was pretty funky and modern . The main section of the tea room hung from the ceiling and was surrounded by hanging glass shelves giving it this light futuristic feel. The tea and treats weren't bad either.

Our next stop was Sensoji, Asakusa Kannon Temple, and its nakamise shopping arcade. Upon entering the temple we noticed many children dressed in traditional Japanese clothing. During our trip there was a nationwide festival called Shichi-Go-San (seven-five-three) is a traditional rite of passage and festival in Japan for three and seven year-old girls and five year-old boys. The kids dress up in kimonos and visit shrines to rid them of evil spirits and bless them with long healthy lives and of course smile and make peace signs for their parents and grandparents cameras. The temple and temple grounds were a mess of tourists, clouds of incense smoke and strong smells of fried festival foods but it was still a great place to see and enjoy. We ate some yaki-soba and strolled the along the long shopping plaza filled with souvenir shops. Near the end of the shopping arcade we found a store selling hilarious tote bags.

I ended up purchasing this one.

Afterwards we made our way over to Sumida River Cruise, passing the Asahi building adorned with flaming turd ornament. The cruise was a relaxing way to unwind for an hour, drink a beer, look at gray buildings and bridges and bond with other tourists and group members. After the cruise it was off to Tokyo Tower. We were greeted by friendly ladies with silly turquoise outfits who ushered us to fancy elevators with disco balls and a pretty light show. We didn't go to the top of the Tower but somewhere in the middle. It was good enough though, we could see the vastness of Tokyo and how the city, high rises and all, stretched out for miles and miles.

The remainder of the day was spent strolling around Ginza. I introduced Dave and Amy to the wonder that is the food court at a Japanese department store: fascinating foods, hundred dollar melons and lots of free yummy samples.

At night Sam, Amy, Dave and I headed out to dinner at an izakaya in Shibuya then strolled around and took some purikura, wacky Japanese photo booth photos, attempted to enter a tiny lounge, went to some shops and then we were all seized by a wave of intense jet lagged so for the second day in a row we returned to our hotel and passed out.

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