From May 10th until June 13th of this year, I was in Japan. In those five weeks, I took nearly 2500 photographs. I have since parsed them down to 489 that are going to show up in this blog. I’m not going to post them all at once, though, because I actually like my readers (both of them) and I don’t want to overload you guys.
Besides, some of them are kind of silly, like this snap of the screen on the back of the airplane seat during my twelve and a half hour plane trip from Detroit to Tokyo-Narita Airport.
We landed in Tokyo on Sunday morning a little before lunchtime. My first visible sign that I was in Japan was right outside the plane window. The guys handling luggage were all wearing safety helmets. Japan is just full of people in safety helmets while doing their jobs. I have a whole bunch of other safety helmet pictures for another post later on.
Thank goodness there’s plenty of English in the signage in the airport. I don’t know a lick of Kanji.
One of the first things I needed to do in the airport was to find the post office. I had previously arranged to rent a wi-fi device so that I would have data throughout my trip. This device is about the size of a deck of playing cards, and it gave my phone Internet access for the rest of my time in Japan. The WiFi Rental Store had reasonable rates and delivered it right to the post office, charged and ready to go. This was invaluable for finding my way around, especially on that first day.
The next order of business was getting on the express train that took me from the airport to the city. When I was waiting to board, the seats all rearranged themselves so that they were facing forward when the train started moving again. This picture is halfway through the little automated seat rotation dance. High tech train seats are neat!
The train into the city was very high speed, and I had a nice view out of the windows during the ride to Ueno station. I’m pretty sure this is a rice paddy, but I’m not positive.
I think this was the Sumida river. I landed on a very pretty day.
In Ueno station, I changed to the regular trains to get closer to the hotel. This is the Keihintohoku line, which is one of the lines I used most frequently while I was in Tokyo. The train system in Japan is fantastic, and I was able to get around the city very easily, with only a small amount of confusing lostness.
I only experienced true rush hour once or twice while I was in Japan- my hours in the office were mostly night-time hours. I think it’s fantastic that during rush hour, there are subway cars where men are not allowed. Given how crowded the train can get, I can see why this would be more comfortable for women than a coed car.
Finally, after a very long travel day, I reached Kanda station. Kanda was my home base for the entire five weeks I was in Japan, and the happy little dog on this store’s sign was always good to see when I got off the train.
I was in Japan during festival season. There had been a festival on the street during the day before my arrival. I missed that, but caught another one later in my trip. I’ll talk about that one in another post, because that’s even more pictures. This is from the festival I missed- it was sitting on the sidewalk near my hotel, waiting to be transported back to wherever they keep it when it isn’t festival time.
Finally, I reached my hotel. The Hotel Mystays is a chain throughout Japan, and they have great extended stay rooms. The little green card with the penguin on it is a Suica card, which is good for most of the train and bus systems in Tokyo. It can also be used in some convenience stores, which is very handy.
This is an electronics and department store in Akihabara. It’s about eight stories tall, and was kind of amazing inside. If ever I doubted I was in Japan, this building is a sure sign that I was really in Japan.
Speaking of signs that you’re in Japan, if you go to Shinjuku, you might run into Tokyo’s tourism ambassador, Godzilla. (Gojira!) Apparently, this is a life-sized Gojira head and claw on top of the Toho building. I was pretty stoked to see him up there!
More signs that I was really in Japan: Crowds like this!
On a side note, one thing that I love about crowd photos is that I always notice something fun in them a long time after the photo was taken. For example, I didn’t notice that guy’s epic yawn until just a moment ago.
I took this picture just because I liked the Japanese poster for Inside Out. But again, check out the random guy stink-eye in the bottom-right corner of the photo!
When I went to the Edo-Tokyo Museum, which I’ll talk about in yet another post, I walked right past this fantastic bike rack set-up. I’ve never seen one set at an upward angle like this, and I thought it was a pretty genius use of space.
I also was unfamiliar with the concept of a “Sumimasen” button. Sumimasen is what you would say to get someone’s attention or to pass by someone politely. It translates to “excuse me.” In many restaurants, there’s a button like this which is used to signal to the wait staff that you would like to place your order or pay the check. This photo was taken in a Denny’s restaurant (to be seen in another post, naturally) and it was my very first exposure to the button. Once again, this is a brilliant concept that I’d like to see used in American restaurants, where you sometimes need a signal flare to get the wait staff’s attention.
Apropos of nothing, this building just makes me bust out in Charlie Brown jokes. After all, it’s a Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!
This was seen during my train ride out of Tokyo in the third weekend. Naturally, I’ll be talking about the rest of those trips in other posts. Are you beginning to sense a pattern here?
Something that never stopped being funny to me- American celebrities doing random advertisements in Japan. Here’s Tommy Lee Jones and his very black coffee drink.
Another thing that was very commonly seen in Japan- giant animated creatures on buildings to denote what sort of establishment they were. This giant moving crab was obviously fronting a toy store, right?
Kidding, kidding. I know it’s a seafood restaurant.
This is the San Ai building in Ginza. I went out to Ginza to photograph this building because my research about the area had brought me to the conclusion that it was a very popular landmark and many people go there to photograph it.
When I told Amelie, she thought it was pretty funny that the only reason I wanted to go to Ginza to photograph this building was that other people had done so, and that it’s supposed to be famous.
In hindsight, she was absolutely right. It took me forty minutes to find this building, and it really wasn’t worth the schlep.
This is what the street running alongside Kanda station looks like at night. One of the lessons it took me a few days to learn was to always look up- Tokyo is a very crowded city, and there are often businesses and restaurants on the upper floors of a building.
Another Japan custom that was kind of interesting- in some restaurants, you do take off your shoes. Often, they have little shoe-locker cabinets to put your shoes in before you go further.
There are shrines and temples all over the city. This one was about a block away from the hotel. I didn’t stay here for long, but I’ve got lots of pictures of other shrines. (For another post, of course.)
One of my favorite things about Tokyo is the way that the temples and shrines are nestled in the middle of modern skyscrapers and city life. They just blend into one another in places. I think that’s kind of fascinating.
This post contained 26 out of 489 photos, so there’s only 463 remaining to go in future Japan posts!
Have you ever been to Tokyo? How did you like the train system?