Oriental Outings – Section 2

As the underground system in Tokyo had confused me beyond repair, I decided that walking around would be safer for all parties. Day two brought a lot of walking.

First stop was a beautiful spot that I still dream about walking through.  I went to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. It is a singularly beautiful place.  I visited during the colder season so many of the most popular plants and trees were bare and looking rather sad but that didn’t bother me. I was able to imagine what the gardens would look like in full bloom and that was enough.

There were row after row of cherry blossom trees.

Cherry Blossoms Shinjuku Gyoen

I managed to get this close up.

cherry blossom close up

One of my favourite areas was the Taiwanese style structure seen here reflected in the water flanking it.
Shinjuku Gyoen temple

There are several beautiful lakes in the gardens with various coveted seating areas and rest houses so you can sit and admire the view. I like the contrast of nature and engineering in this shot.

Shinjuku Gyoen beauty and modern buildings

The garden offers many outdoor areas but also a greenhouse. The greenhouse contains more exotic plants ranging from banana trees to cacti. There’s a fake waterfall and pond in the greenhouse too so you can look on lilly pads and lotus flowers.

lillypads in greenhouse at gyoen

After the beauty of Shinjuku Goyen, the rest of the day had a lot to live up to! I continued my day by visiting the Imperial Palace East gardens. You cannot visit the Imperial Palace itself as it is still a private residence but the east gardens, and the historic items there, are available to the public. It is free to go round the east garden too so, really, you have no reason not to go. You will enter via a bridge and then a great big gate. Once you’re in, there’s an impressive guard house for you to look at. It’s fairy self explanatory but, this is where Palace guards would live.
Guard House Imperial palace
The gardens themselves are tiered upwards via a series of slopes. The slopes themselves are noted as important cultural and architectural exhibits. They have undergone restoration and preservation work so that visitors can use them as they were intended.

Imperial Palace Slope

Once you reach the top, you can see the foundations of the original keep of the Palace which was destroyed in an earthquake hundreds of years ago.

I enjoyed being able apply some of things I learned at the Edo-Tokyo museum to current Tokyo at the Imperial Palace. There is a replica of the first bridge built in Edo at the museum but, I got to see the real one at the Imperial palace. Here it is in the distance:

imperial palace first bridge built

The gardens, for me, were not nearly as enjoyable as Shinjuku Gyoen but still worth a walk around.

Once the Imperial Palace gardens had shown me what they had to offer, I headed back to the hostel for a rest before my night time trek began.

That evening, I walked down to Shinjuku. It was incredibly bright and busy. What I liked the most though was being able to walk down the narrow side streets in the area. These side streets hid many places to eat good food at reasonable prices. Here’s an example of the side streets. You could easily walk past them.

shinjuku side street

I ate my dinner at one of the small food stalls. I had tempura and soba noodles cooked by these two guys (the food was very tasty too).

shinjuku local food

The food shops were crammed in every which way. Some were open on corners, others were flanked by competitors and very cramped inside. Everyone was willing to jostle down the line if needed though.

WP_000965

Shinjuku is a big area of Tokyo and has one of the most massive transport stations I have ever seen. It’s basically a mall. Anyway, there are government buildings in Shinjuku that have viewing platforms so that you can enjoy all round views of the city for free (woo hoo). Naturally I took advantage of the freeness of these platforms. It’s 45 floors up in the Government buildings and easy enough to find (they have signs directing you to the viewing platform lifts. It looked suspiciously closed when I went but it wasn’t. The main building closes but the platforms are open until quite late in the evening. When you get up there, the scale of Tokyo really hits you. It is an unfathomably huge city.

Tokyo at night from government buildings

The lights seem to go on forever. I spent a good hour looking around at all the views of the city and reading the bits and pieces around the platforms. For free, it’s brilliant.

My day two highlight was definitely Shinjuku Gyoen. I would go back to Tokyo again just for that. Truly so beautiful.

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