Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tokyo Travelogue Part III: Discussion

Now that I've posted a list of pictures of our trip, I get to talk about it.  This was our first ever family vacation with just our family.  We've lived far away from family for 10 of the 12 years we have been married, so when we have the opportunity to travel, we always travel to see our families.  We have vacationed with extended family before - the Outer Banks with Mike's family, Bear Lake with mine - but we have never taken a trip like this with just the four of us.  If it were possible, I would have been happy to give up Tokyo in order to attend my lovely sister-in-law's wedding reception in Utah this summer, but since that really isn't a viable option, I was pretty excited to take this trip with my little family.  Disney Resort was great.  We had a blast.  We stayed at Disneyland until closing time at 10:00 on Wednesday, and then took a couple of different trains to reach the hotel we had booked in Tokyo.  I think it was after 11:00 when we arrived.  Beaver fell asleep in his stroller shortly after leaving Disney, and even Bear fell asleep on the train briefly before we had to wake him to get off at our stop.  They were wiped out.  Bear slept until 10:30 the next morning, which is absolutely unheard of for him.  We took it easy the next morning, but once we were up and about it was off to see the city.

We started with the Edo-Tokyo Museum.  A good overview of the history of Tokyo, and Japan in general. Next was Asakusa and the Sensoji Temple.  Asakusa is said to be the place to go for a feel of older, more traditional Tokyo.  I would say we got a good sense of that, because we arrived at about 5:30, and by 6:00 everything was closed.  Even all the souvenir shops on Nakamise Street.  I was rather disappointed because, really, Asakusa was probably my favorite part of Tokyo.  I would love to go back and spend some time browsing around the shops in the area.  I had read about inexpensive pottery and a vast street of kitchen supplies, but we didn't get to see any of that.  Luckily the restaurants stayed open so we did get to eat.

Friday was Odaiba.  We spent three and a half hours at the Museum of Emerging Science there.  Not because we thought it was so great, but Bear did.  Mike and I eventually got bored and had to convince him to move on.  We visited Toyota MegaWeb, where Mike got to drive a race go-cart and Bear got to assemble and drive a kid-size hybrid go-cart.  After dinner we rode a huge ferris wheel for a night-time view of Tokyo.  I am quite afraid of heights and didn't love that part of the day, but Beaver cheerfully assured me that, "It's not scary, Mama!"

I can't remember what day it was, but at some point we were on a platform waiting for a train when a family with a caucasian mom walked by.  I smiled, but didn't think much of it.  We saw a lot more foreigners in Tokyo than we see in Kobe.  As they passed, she looked at Mike's hat and said, "You went to BYU?  Me too!"  They were getting on the same train, so we got to talk for a minute.  They were from California, visiting the husband's family in Japan.  Small world!

Saturday we walked to the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace.  Mike and I enjoyed the gardens and seeing the old, historical buildings, but by then Bear was pretty tired of walking, and Beaver fell and scraped up his knee and never quite recovered.  We went back to the hotel for a lunch break and a bath to help Beaver's knee feel better.  After a good rest, we headed back out.  We went for a quick visit to the Tokyo Temple (the LDS one) and visited a foreign foods grocery store nearby to buy some root beer for Mike and Bear.  Then it was off to brave Shibuya.  The peaceful Imperial Gardens are quite a contrast to the energy and chaos of Shibuya.  We crossed the famous intersection and took a stroll down one of the crowded side streets.  Bear couldn't quite understand what the point was.  "What is there to DO here?" he asked.  Nothing, really.  You just come to see it!  After Shibuya we took the train one stop to Harajuku to visit the Meiji Shrine.  We didn't realize that once you go through the gateway, it is a good half mile walk to reach the actual shrine.  Beaver got to ride on Mike's shoulders, but poor Bear was just exhausted.  We gave him piggyback rides as much as possible, and eventually made it there and back.

Now, here's a story for you.  The thing that I was really looking forward to in Tokyo was eating out.  We didn't have much to go on as far as restaurant recommendations, but we tried to do a little research on Wikitravel to get some ideas.  Saturday was our last night, and thus far I had been rather disappointed.  The food I had eaten was good, but nothing memorable.  Now here we were in Harajuku - one of the major hangouts for hip Japanese teenagers - with two hungry, exhausted kids.  We had read about a place called the Kebab Box that sounded good.  We headed down the street through the throngs of people to find it, and when we got there, it was just a street vendor type place - nowhere to sit down.  We were so tired.  We really wanted to find a place to sit down and have a good meal.  It smelled so good, though!  After some discussion, we decided to get one kebab just to try it, and then go back to the hotel and find a sit down restaurant somewhere near there for dinner.  So, Mike got a kebab, which is not a shish-kebab as I was expecting, but more like a gyro sandwich - meat and lettuce in pita bread.  We all had a bite, and it was delicious!  It was so good that I had second thoughts about our plan.  So, instead, we got three more kebabs and found a little alleyway where groups of teenagers were sitting on a curb eating their kebabs.  We went a little farther back in the alley beside a sign telling us we shouldn't be there, sat on the curb, and ate there.  Harajuku is also famous for crepes filled with whipped cream, fruit, and other goodies.  We decided to get one to split between us, just to try it.  We didn't want to get too much because we never know if our kids are going to like things like that.  They did.  And so did I.  It was so good I didn't want to share, but I did anyway.  We ate our crepe on the front steps of some trendy shop.  Who would have thought that my best meal in Tokyo would be eaten on the streets.  If we're ever in Tokyo again, I'm going back to Harajuku.

Sunday we went to Senzoku-ike to attend church.  That is one of the areas where Mike served on his mission.  It was fun to see the area, and we even met a few people that he remembered.  I feel bad because I didn't get any pictures of him there.  We didn't take any on the way because we were very late for church, and then someone offered us a ride to a more direct station after church, which we were happy to accept, but that meant we left in a hurry and I didn't think to at least snap a picture in front of the church.  So, this paragraph is my documentation that we were there.  After church we just went straight to Tokyo Station to wait for the Shinkansen home.  We were too tired to kill time with anymore walking around.

All in all, it was a great trip.  Tokyo was a lot of walking, which was hard on the kids - Bear especially, because he didn't get to ride in a stroller.  I would love to go back with just Mike, but I'm glad we were able to take the kids this time.  I don't know if I would really call it a family vacation, though.  A family trip, yes, but vacation to me indicates relaxing, and Tokyo itself was not exactly that.  When we moved here, people would tell us what a pleasant, quiet city Kobe is, and I couldn't believe it.  Compared to where we came from, Kobe was huge!  Now I've been to Tokyo, and I can tell you that Kobe is indeed a pleasant, quiet city!


christy said...

Yes, cities equal lots of walking. My kids did a ton in HK and were pretty good about it, even uphill. Maybe another reasons americans are fat, we dont walk as much. The food sounds yummy... Fun to read about your travels.

William said...

My favorite city in the world. I can't tell you how much this made me want to go back to Tokyo. I remember buying Taco makings at the foreign foods store by the temple, the long walk to the Meiji shrine, and the crepe stands in Harajuku (I got one near Tokyo Tower), but I didn't know about the Kebab Box. I've got to go back.