Over the weekend my roommate and I decided to try and get out and see a part of Tokyo that we hadn’t been to you yet, so we biked from our house in Shinagawa to Chiyoda with the goal of seeing the Imperial Palace.
The bike ride was actually really easy; essentially all that we had to do was take the route we take to get to TUJ’s campus, and then continue down that road, up into and then past Roppongi. Or at least it looked that way on the map. What Google neglected to tell us was that this route seemed like it went out of its way to hit every massively steep hill in Tokyo, and after an hour of this, my legs were so sore that I almost fell over stepping off of the bike.
We finally made it to Chiyoda around three thirty in the afternoon. The size of the park where the palace is was astonishing; things in Tokyo tend to be much larger in real life then they look on the map. We tried to cross one of the bridges over the moat, but the gate was closed. We could just catch a glimpse of what looked like a tall, traditional Japanese style building over the wall. It turned out that we would need to go around to the other side of the park to the east gate to get in, but the park was closing in an hour, and we decided it wasn’t worth it.
Instead, we biked over to Hibya park, and to our surprise, found it the sight a large, international food festival: The Taste of Tokyo festival. This was so much fun, a ton of food stands offering different food and drink native to the nationality the stand was representing were scattered all over the park, and people were sprawled out with their families, eating and drinking and enjoying the fall weather. We eventually settled on getting Indian food, and I had a delicious Tandoori chicken sandwich, which I ate sitting in the grass watching a Japanese movie that was being projected on a big screen. All in all, though we didn’t get to see the palace, the day was a definite success.
The next afternoon I met up with a friend from one of my classes, and we actually went back to Chiyoda, to the other side of the park where I was the day before, to go to the National Gallery of Modern Art. The first thing that surprised me about this visit was the cost of admission. It was only about one hundred sixty yen for a student, which was incredible compared to American museums.
We started at the top floor and worked our way down through an incredible collection of both western and Japanese work. All of the labels and information plaques were in English as well as Japanese, which was life saving. Most of the exhibits were arranged by a certain overarching themes, such as life in the midst of war, the impact of industrialization, or nature and solitude. My personal favorite was an exhibit of modern Japanese art that all had to do with the moon and its relationship to and impact on the human mind.
Both of my trips over the weekend were a lot of fun, enabling me to see a part of the city that I haven’t been to before, and with the museum especially, allow me to experience a side of Japanese culture that I am not usually exposed to in my day to day life here.