It was my last full day in Tokyo and I still hadn’t been able to visit two places I wanted; the Imperial Palace and Takeshita Street, so I decided it was time to venture out and see if I could put my new knowledge of the trains and subway to good use and find my way there.
I used my PASMO card that I had purchased a few days earlier when I had spent the day with a guide from Tokyo Free Guide, you can read about that in my post about the fun day. From Shibuya Station I took the JR Yamanote train to Tokyo Station where I took the North exit and walked the half mile or so to the Imperial Palace grounds and the Ote-mon Gate, the entrance to the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace.
The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace were created as part of the renovation project of the Palace grounds in the 1960’s and are crafted from part of the original Edo Castle compound. They have been open to the public since 1968 and entrance is free but be aware that the gardens are closed on Mondays and Fridays.
On entering, I passed on by the Museum of the Imperial Collections, it was too nice to be inside and I wanted to get on and see the gardens. I continued on past a couple of guardhouses, and went straight to the Iris garden where there are 84 species of iris, and on my visit there were carpets of beautiful Iris Japonica in bloom!
There was plenty of colour to see, the Azaleas were coming out and formed a fabulous mass of colour in front to the Tea House, there was a pretty pond to walk around in the Ninomaru garden. and throughout the gardens there were the remains from the Edo Castle moat and buildings.
3 Yagura buildings remain on the grounds, there used to be more than 20, and these buildings were used to store guns, bows, long spears, artillery etc.
And of course, I just couldn’t resist getting in among the Cherry blossom in the section of the garden called Cherry blossom island, to take a selfie! The double blossom looked and smelt wonderful.
As I left the East Gardens and walked along by the moat, I passed by Sakurada-niju-yagura, one of the towers that was used for storing weaponry.
I walked through the outer gardens of the Imperial Palace to the Nijubashi Bridge. This is one of the more iconic views of the Imperial Palace and very popular with tourists like myself as it is the entrance to the current Palace over the inner moat.
There are actually two bridges, though the second further bridge is completely obscured by the closer one until you walk further up. The stone bridge is often mistakenly called Nijubashi Bridge, but actually it is the steel bridge behind that is actually Nijubashi Bridge, and this misconception has happened so much that nowadays the area of the two bridges is generally called Nijubashi.
From the Palace grounds I walked south and into the Hibiya Park, towards the Hibiya Station. I noticed in the Park, and at other outdoor areas that I had been in, that the men gather in designated smoking areas to smoke, even though they are outside. I have since learned that Wards in Tokyo have different rules, but in some it is illegal to smoke outside these designated areas. Like many countries, the number of people smoking in Japan is declining rapidly.
From the Hibiya Station I looked for the Metro/subway Chiyoda Line. On my last train ride I was fairly sure I had used up the majority of my money loaded on my PASMO card, and you can check the balance on the machines in the Stations. I didn’t have enough for my final subway ride, so rather than refill my card (there is a minimum amount required which was way more than I needed), I decided just to buy a single ticket for my ride to Meji-jingumae Station. When looking at the subway map for your destination, it will show you the amount you need to pay to get to that destination right above it. I think it was about 6 stops to my Station and cost 200 Yen, just under $2 depending on the exchange rate!
Takeshita Street is just a short walk north from the Meiji Jingumae Station and is a busy, buzzing, narrow pedestrian shopping street that is very popular with teenagers.
There are a range of shops including subculture boutiques, small independent tourist shops, cafés, restaurants and nowadays more commercialized chain shops.
I have to admit, I was on the lookout for some unusual Japanese Street Fashion, and did see a few interesting outfits but wasn’t quick enough with the camera in a crowded street to snap any photos. I was there late afternoon and the Japanese school kids had obviously finished with school and were hanging out all along the street and eating various things including fun looking rainbow Candy Floss. I couldn’t resist the Crepe shops, displaying a huge array of flavours, and indulged in a delicious Caramel Apple one, boy it was good and I would highly recommend a stop here even if it is just for the Crepes!
After gobbling down my crepe, I finished my day by leisurely walking back south through Shibuya, window shopping as I headed to my hotel to have a cup of tea and put my feet up for a while. I couldn’t help feeling just a little proud of myself as I had successfully pushed my comfort zone by exploring some of Tokyo and figuring out the trains and large stations by myself.
Date of Visit; April 2017.