Japan Trip 2 – Day 18

Oooof. I think all this travelling and sightseeing has been catching up with me. When I woke up on Sunday morning, I was feeling pretty knackered. It hadn’t been a great night’s sleep. Still I struggled out of bed, and headed off for a spot of breakfast. Today, McDonald’s! I had learnt there was one only five minutes walk from my hotel.

I had a McGriddle – because it’s something you can’t get at home. It’s like a sausage and egg mcmuffin, but has maple syrup baked into the muffin, so it’s a bit sweet as well. You can get them in the States as well, but not in the UK. It really hit the spot to be honest, and set me up for what would be a day including lots of walking.

On my walk back to the hotel I noticed a Burger King, and saw their Hallowe’en burgers on the menu…

If I was them I’d have spent a bit more on a food stylist – they don’t look particularly appetising, so I won’t be trying them!

Today’s plan was to go shopping, but I wanted to do a bit of sight-seeing as well, so my first stop was the Imperial Palace East Gardens. You can get in to another area of the palace gardens (but no the palace itself) but you have to reserve a place in advance, and I’d missed the boat on that. I caught the subway to Tokyo station, and then spent at least forty five minutes trying to get out of it. Railway stations in Tokyo are absolutely massive, and have an underground warren of labyrinth corridors and shopping centres. I felt I’d done a full day’s walking when I eventually found my way out the right exit.

I strolled through the stylish Maranouchi district, and walked through a park to get to the gardens. What was really cool was that they’d closed the street beside the park off, and it was full of cyclists. In the park itself, you could rent a bike for free, and the place was full of cute Japanese kids learning to ride their first bike.

I headed in to the East Gardens, and strolled around. They’re billed as being a mix of English and Japanese style, but for the life of me I couldn’t find the Japanese bit, which was what I was wanting to see.

In the centre of Tokyo though, with the sun shining, there’s no doubt the bits I did find were a calming oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The palace being slap bang in the middle of the city as well is just a typical sign of how old Japan frequently meets new Japan.

I walked the length of the park, and then headed to catch the metro to Shinbashi Station – which is near one end of the main Chuo Dori street in the shopping centre of Ginza.

I know the area well, having been twice before, but jeez – again, finding the right exit out of the station was a bit of a mare. Here’s the map I was faced with:

Getting the wrong exit means a lot of walking. Eventually I found the right one. First stop of the afternoon’s shopping was Hakuhinkan – a brilliant toy shop where you can pick up the latest crazy Japanese stuff. I was quite impressed by a robot dog that could follow commands in Japanese and English, but it was about £100, so I didn’t bother. I did pick up some Hello Kitty sweets with her face in the middle for my niece’s class at school though.

Chuo Dori’s closed off to traffic at the weekends too, which made it quite calming walking up the wide street and taking everything in. Next stop was Mitsukoshi – probably one of the biggest department stores in Ginza. I was hoping I’d find the elusive bento box I’d been looking for in there.

And I did – amazingly the day I chose to visit the store was host to a man making bento boxes out of wood in the store. I swear – he looked about 104. I managed to get a photo of him (on his mobile phone) – he’s the one in the background, not the Scandinavian man who was also making boxes

My bento box, well I forgot to take a photo of it. It’s lovely though – and at around £65 it should be. But it’s something that should last me forever. When I was buying it, the old man came up to me and told me that he’d made it. Which was pretty neat.

I spent a little while exploring the rest of Ginza – which is home to loads of buildings trying to out-do each other in the style stakes before heading to the world’s biggest Muji. Their flagship store is located in Yurakucho, just a short stroll from Ginza, and it has the bonus of having a Loft on the bottom floor. If you like Muji I’d recommend visiting this one – it’s the only Muji in the world apparently that stocks every single line they make. And has a model of Muji’s house inside as well (which is pretty cool).

I picked up a couple of wooden storage units for my desk, and then decided it was time to head back to the hotel.

After thinking I’d really cracked the subway station exits at the hotel, I came a cropper by picking the wrong line, and ended up with another massive trek once I got out of the station. Looking at my Fitbit app, I saw I’d walked ten miles in the day. No wonder my feet were aching!

I headed to the spa in the hotel, and sat in the jacuzzi for ages relaxing, and then went and swam 30 lengths of the pool. I had a glass of wine in the bar while writing my blog, and then picked up a tonkatsu sandwich from 7-11 before heading to bed.

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