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Sunday, 01 March 2015

10 days in Tokyo - Page 2

Written by Ben Gould
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Long have the days passed since real executive power was wielded by Japan's head of state, the post-1945 Showa period (1945–1989) reducing the monarchy's role to a mere ceremonial one. The residence of the royal family was, and still is, the Tokyo Imperial Palace in Chiyoda. An imposing series of private residences, gardens, halls, offices, and a museum and archive, they're surrounded by moats and gargantuan stone walls. It's unnervingly quiet, a serene hideaway a mere ten-minute walk from the perpetual cacophony of sound at Tokyo Station, a major transport hub. 


                 Inside the Imperial Palace


The subway system itself is an exhaustively complex series of interconnecting lines touching every facet of the city, a marvel of technological innovation. A train is seldom, if ever, late, and staff are on hand to aid commuters – particularly tourists – in any travelling endeavor. English is omniscient in every station, and announcements are made on the trains as to the arrival and the next station stop.


There's even the monorail-like Yurikamome train. Elevated and driverless, it's a streamlined cruise through the sky, weaving in and out of the city's glistening high-rise steel structures. It takes you over the Rainbow Bridge onto Odaiba Island, an artificially constructed micro-city of shopping malls, bars, restaurants, and exhibitions. The trance event Ultra Music Festival (UMF) is held here -- thousands of revelers descending upon the island for two days of music. 

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                Dark clouds forming over Odaiba


The most breathtaking spectacle was Shibuya, with its world-famous crossing. It's a sight to behold, a shimmying neon grid of hustle and bustle, a near 24/7 artwork of commute. A moment's silence suddenly segues to shuffling chaos as pedestrians make their way over the intersection in a Koyaanisqatsiesque slice of life out of balance. I spend two hours there taking photographs, landscapes, candid street snaps, and yes, the occasional selfie.


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                            Shibuya Crossing


The surrounding bars and restaurants are pricey as one would expect from a central tourist attraction and transport hub. A beer in a local bar will set you back ¥1000 whilst a standing bar just behind Asakusabashi, for example, will charge you ¥300 for a pint. Food prices also mirror this change, dropping down substantially the further away from the crowds you proceed.


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Last modified on Sunday, 01 March 2015

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