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A robot greets us at the hotel entrance as we head out for our last full day in Tokyo.
We went back to the Ginza to visit the store that was closed earlier, Mitsukoshi.
Mitsukoshi was Japan’s first department store, established over a hundred years ago. It’s 10 floors above ground and two floors below ground. The two below ground floors are Mitsukoshi’s answer to Harrods’ food halls.
The first level of the food halls is prepared foods and has departments from countries around the world- Fortnum & Mason (London), Dalloyau (France), Laduree (France).
The second story of the food halls is dedicated to fresh vegetables , meats, seafood, bread, etc.
From Mitsukoshi, we took the subway out to the Meiji Shrine, located in Shibuya, Tokyo. The Meiji shrine is the Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. The shrine does not contain the remains of the Emperor or Empress.The shrine is located in a forest. Since the spirits of Shinto gods are believed to live in natural objects, shrines are often surrounded by forests.
Shinto is called Japan’s ancient original religion. Shinto has no founder, no holy book. Shinto values harmony with nature, focusing on ritual practices to establish a relationship between the present day and the past.
As you walk from the nearest subway station to the park entrance, you become immersed in a forest of towering trees of different varieties, some so large it would be impossible to wrap your arms around them. Walking down the pathway, the trees form a canopy far overhead. The sounds of a busy city don’t totally disappear, but you are surrounded by the quiet deep forest around you.
As we prepare to leave Tokyo tomorrow, there a number of random things that come to mind about things we’ve observed about Tokyo and the Japanese people.
- People we’ve interacted with have been extraordinarily polite; it’s part of their culture. It is little things you sometimes observe- like when you buy something in a store, the cashier takes your card or cash with both hands and it’s polite for you to take the receipt or change the same way.
- We were walking in the Imperial Gardens and a Japanese man walked up to us, wanting to give us an origami swan he’d made. He wasn’t selling anything or soliciting for donations. Just a small gift from a total stranger.
- Taxi drivers- many seem to drive the same brand of car “Imperial”, a small sedan. But the seats in the back are invariably covered with white lace covers, and you are expected not to touch things inside. The drivers wear white gloves and would be offended if you offered a tip, as the pride they have in their service is included in the fare. The cars are well kept and don’t look like NY taxis with a million miles on them.
- The city is very clean. You just don’t see trash on the street, sidewalks or even the subway.
- Subways. Can’t do without them here. They’re pretty easy to navigate. If you use Google Maps or one of the apps for Tokyo’s systems, they will calculate the cost of the route so you know how much to pay for your ticket. Some hotels sell discounted 24 hour passes, some don’t. There are 48 and 72 hour passes as well, but these cannot be sold at hotels (a pain).
- Despite Tokyo-Tokohama being the city with largest population in the world (38 million, becoming the largest in the world 60 years ago; NY is 9th largest), automobile traffic we’ve observed hasn’t been heavy in any part of the city, even in rush hour (they’re in the subway 😉).Tokyo has a high population density at 6158 people per square kilometer, but it’s less than Hong Kong at 6690 people per square kilometer. Tokyo has more green space than Hong Kong, which probably resulted in the flood of people to open areas on weekends we saw in Hong Kong.
- We see women dressed in traditional Japanese clothing. They’re obviously proud of their heritage. Men seem to have one color to their wardrobe- dark (blue or black).
さようなら東京、今のところ (Sayōnara Tōkyō, imanotokoro)