July 16 – Leaving it All on the Field

There’s saying in sports to, “Leave it All on the Field”. This means that at the end of the game, you have given all you had and done your very best. Win or lose, there are no regrets.

This phrase came to mind as I walked back to my hotel after what was an absolutely crazy day. This is my last day in Tokyo, I’m leaving on the Shinkansen (bullet train) in the morning for a one night stop in Kyoto before I get to Hiroshima.

After yesterday, which was a valuable day, but a day that I cut short due to my failing body and general cruddy weather, I needed a day of just fun things that I would kick myself if I left Tokyo without doing.  I wasn’t quite sure I’d be able to get to them all, and I didn’t know if they’d be worth it.

I did…and they were!

National Museum of Nature and Science

tjuly16-tokyo-00201I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for a good science museum. I’ve been to one in pretty much every town I visit (the best one being the Exploratorium in San Francisco and I will not hear debate on this). I am a science teacher after all. I’m one of those weird ones that things science is pretty cool and wants to make students feel the same way.

This was a pretty cool museum!

It’s a pretty standard “hand-off” (for the most part) museum but everything they do is done to a pretty high quality (I’ve seen some stinkers in my day).

I was at first baffled by how to actually get to the museum (a pattern I’m noticing with Japan, you usually don’t get your ticket and then step into the middle of the museum, you’ve got to go somewhere).  Once I got there, I saw the first floor, which was cool – but I felt like it was a little small for such an important museum.  Turns out there are (split between two buildings) about 8 floors of stuff to look at (Japan builds up – not out)

They had a huge variety of stuff.  Of course I spent most of my time in the more “physics-y” room which had some cool demos and exhibits I hadn’t seen before that did a good job of communicating a point (I think…I am guessing at what they were showing because most things were 100% Japanese).

I spent about two hours which is a lot for me…I tend to go quick and very much enjoyed it.  They even had a nice rooftop herb garden that contained some drink machines (THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!!!!) that gave me a nice break to look out over the surrounding area.

It was also nice to be a museum that wasn’t all about killing people and who was to blame for what!  Again, today was a nice day to follow yesterday!

Seven stations allowed people to "experience" the seven fundamental SI Units (s, m, kg, mol, cd, K, and A)

Seven stations allowed people to “experience” the seven fundamental SI Units (s, m, kg, mol, cd, K, and A)

They had a Periodic Table with the actual elements (at least the ones they could show).  I enjoyed seeing the new element 117 (although they were more excited about 115)

They had a Periodic Table with the actual elements (at least the ones they could show). I enjoyed seeing the new element 117 (although they were more excited about 115)

Ueno Park

After visiting the science museum, I took a little time go walk around Ueno Park. This park contains many museums, a zoo, and a lot of large public spaces.

While the park was hopping when I was there, it is nothing compared to what the park is like in April.  In April, the cherry blossoms bloom briefly and the entire park is engulfed with locals and tourists alike wanting to see the pink flowers for themselves.  Sadly, they were long time by the time I arrived, but it was still a neat park.

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Very nice lily pond surrounding a temple of some sort

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Strangely enough, this was the 1st of 2 knife jugglers I saw today

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Cool fountain show

 

Odaiba

After Ueno Park, I took a train ride to the wrong stop…took a while to figure it out.  I actually had lunch at this wrong stop and was offered a scratch off card when I checked out.  I scratched it off and the lady reacted as if I won something.  She couldn’t quite communicate what I had won however.  Oh well – the mysteries of life!

I finally figured out how to make it to the place where a water taxi would take me across part of Tokyo Bay, under the Rainbow Bridge (which is a white bridge that has rainbow lights on it for one week of the year), to a manmade island dedicated to shopping and pleasure.

This place was bananas!

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I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into, but it was amazing fun!  Unlike most of the places I had been (museums and such…), this was a place where Japanese people come to have fun!  It was fascinating seeing the similarities and differences in the popular culture in America and Japan.  There was enough that was similar, but with enough of a twist on it that it was strange and interesting!

I’m just going to write a list of some of the things that I saw…tjuly16-tokyo-00246

  • A giant gundam robot thing
  • A huge inflatable Pikatchu with a bouncy house for kids inside the stomach
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • 3 separate J-Pop bands (2 boy bands and a girl group)
  • A mall that has one floor modeled after an ancient Venetian market.
  • A wedding
  • A Wal-Mart sized building filled with arcade machines – my senses are still overloaded
  • A crazy Toyota…museum?…filled with concept cars, test drives, and a press conference with what looked like some Toyota racing team.
  • A 7-story ridiculous mall that was a happenin’ place to be
  • Street performers
  • A huge ferris wheel
  • A great view of the Rainbow Bridge
  • Most importantly, a cool sea breeze that kept the temperatures bearable.

I spent most of my time just wandering around and enjoying the spectacle of it all.

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Tokyo Skytree

tjuly16-tokyo-00284After an interesting river cruise up the Sumida River, I walked over to the Tokyo Skytree. This tower is the second largest tower in the world and it gives tourists (who are willing to pay of course), the opportunity to visit observation posts at 350m and 450m.

Since I was there at night, I was in for an amazing display of the Tokyo skyline at night.

Since it was pretty packed already, and I was already getting tired, I took advantage of the special, “Fleece the Tourist” rate to get fast access to to the top.

The elevator was pretty impressive by itself.  It was incredibly smooth, but got you to the top with an amazing speed.  My ears were popping as it sped to the top.

The view was, of course, pretty spectacular.  Arrayed below me in every direction were the city lights of Tokyo.

There’s even a restaurant at the top if you want to eat overlooking Tokyo.  I didn’t have the stomach to even look at what that would cost.  Suffice it to say, I passed on dinner.

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All in all, it was a pretty fun day. I headed back to the hotel exhausted and sunburned.

Tomorrow will be a low-key travel day as I take care of some things from home and sit on a bullet train for a while.  I’ll have a chance to go explore Kyoto a bit, but I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to see due to the time I’m getting in.

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By the way…in case you missed it, scroll back up to the picture at the top of the post. Look below the first two letters of the word, “ALL”.

That was not photoshopped in by me.

Japan is great!