Next Stop, Japan

Next Stop, Japan

Pike's Tokyo Weekend Tour

Day Two: Shinagawa -> Ginza -> Asakusa
Tokyo Introduction | Day 1 | Day 2

For the last day, we woke up a bit earlier and went to bed a great deal earlier. When I was planning for the trip, I thought the Odaiba district or maybe the famous fish market, Tsukiji, would be interesting to see. Since we were headed to Asakusa the former was out of the way and there was no way we were getting up early enough to go see a fish auction. So, we settled on heading to Ginza on the way to Asakusa. I wasn't exactly heartbroken as there's an Apple Store in Ginza.


First, we headed off on the Yamanote to the east and transferred to the Asakusa subway line at Hamamatsucho Station. We left our bags at the station in a locker because we were returning there on the way back to Haneda Airport. Ginza is also, conveniently, on the same subway line as Asakusa. This subway is one of the oldest in Japan and the low head room proves it. I almost had to duck in places and I'm not exactly tall by western standards.

We got to Ginza a bit before the department stores opened at 10. I took the lead and wandered a bit until we consulted a map and found I had been going in the wrong direction. I seriously have no sense of direction at all.

Apple Store

The Apple Store in Ginza was as good a retail experience as I've ever had. Each section's propose is clear and fulfills a definite customer need. Every product is allowed to shine and uses of Apple products in niche areas are showcased. In a way, the Apple Store felt more like a classy car dealership then a computer store. The biggest difference is they let you test drive the "cars" in the building.

Its this kind of retail experience that will win Apple new customers despite the cost of switching to a new platform. Many independent Apple dealers have complained bitterly when a new Apple Store entered their market, but, there is more than enough room for those stores to survive and thrive. The number of products in many areas outside of software is left artificially low to simplify and showcase a few "Apple blessed" products.


Asakusa is one of the most historic areas of Tokyo. Many of the buildings in the area survived the war and there are a large number of temples and shrines in the area. The most famous of these are Asakusa Shrine and Sensoji temple. The Sensoji Temple is the older of the pair and its "Kaminari-mon" or thunder gate and the market stalls leading to the temple are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tokyo. Asakusa Shrine was built adjacent to the temple in 628 around the image of Kannon which was purportedly fished out of the Sumida River.

We arrived ahead of my friends so we wandered up to the temple and past the stalls. The area was packed with tourists from Tokyo, all over Japan and the world. There were a large number of English students hanging around and wearing signs asking some of the many tourists to come up to them and chat in English.

We headed back to the gates after giving an offering to the temple and getting our fortune or Omikuji from the temple. The temple is quite aware of its popularity among international tourists and the fortunes are written in Japanese and English. I originally met my Tokyo friends in Canada working in the ESL tutorial room at UVic. We met at the Kaminarimon and, together, we discovered none of us knew a good place for lunch. But, we found a decent soba restaurant and got busy catching up.

After, we wandered around the temple's market and stuffed ourselves with fresh made rice crackers, green tea and other cracked rice treats. Then, we took a tour of the more seedier district of Asakusa to the north west of the temple. There is a small amusement park there but I had a definite sense of shock when we walked around the gambling hall. The sheer number of people crammed into small run-down coffee shops, sitting on street corners and standing around peering over betting odds was incredible.

Finally, we sat down and had a traditional Japanese desert. We were all very stuffed and everyone was sad that we had to leave at 3:30 to get to the airport.

Return to Hiroshima: Asakusa -> Haneda Airport -> Hiroshima Airport -> Hiroshima

We got to the check-in counter nearly on time. We were 2 minutes late and we got bumped from our flight onto standby. There was nothing preventing us from clearing security on time and having over 10 minutes to walk to the plane but rules are not bent easily in Japan. Oh well, it gave us an hour to rest in the airport and nap. At least they seemed to be consistent and we got some unlucky couple's seat on the next flight. It might have been a messy end to a lucky trip but it actually worked out on the Hiroshima end better. We barely had to wait for our bus to Hiroshima Station and after a rushed dinner at McDonalds we were on the train back to Kure.

The return trip was incredibly bittersweet for us. We really didn't want to leave Tokyo. It had shown itself to be more than just a collection of concrete and steel buildings and an arrangement of neon lights. It is the texture and substance of the people that live there that make it wonderful. In fact, many parts of Tokyo have wonderful gardens, parks and other green areas.

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Posted: April 17, 2011 Updated: February 8, 2015

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