Tokyo #1: Asakusa Kaminari Gate (雷門)

This is Tokyo’s first postcard from back in 2009, and depicts the Kaminari Gate to Asakusa’s Sensouji Temple. It’s popular with tourists, foreign and domestic alike, because of the big lantern and the statues on either side guarding it. Through the gate you find a long street filled with vendors leading to a second gate, and finally to the temple itself.

Postcard and gate

The Kaminarimon during my first visit to Asakusa

Through to Sensouji

A “must-see” for anyone in Tokyo!

Tokyo #2: Tokyo Tower (東京タワー)

We’ve had a long enough break for a new Tokyo post, right? Yesterday a big typhoon came right through the middle of Japan, but luckily it was not so bad in my area. Some heavy rain, heavy wind, and then clear skies and warm temperatures followed. But that’s not what I want to talk about with this post.

Next Monday the 13th is another holiday here in Japan, this time Health and Sports Day (体育の日) which began after the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 to commemorate Japan’s successful games and to promote sports and physical and mental health. Schools all around the country often hold a mini-Olympics called undokai or sports festivals on or around this time of year.

There’s nothing in postacollect about anything related to this day, so I chose to highlight another Tokyo postcard as the next best thing. By the way, in 2020 Tokyo will host the summer olympics again. I wonder if we’ll get a new holiday after that one too?

Iconic Tokyo Tower is the subject of this second postcard for Tokyo Prefecture. Recently eclipsed by Tokyo Sky Tree, it nevertheless continues to be a popular destination and symbol of Tokyo for locals and tourists alike! Built in 1958 it is 333 meters tall and like all new towers, it was the world’s tallest until the title was passed on, as it usually is. Today, you can visit the tower. Check out the official site here!

I’ve never visited the tower up close, but have seen it on all my visits to Tokyo. I especially like the view of it from Odaiba along with the Rainbow Bridge. Unfortunately, I can’t find a good picture of it from Odaiba. I think the night views are the prettiest, but also the hardest to get. I’ll try to get some pictures of it the next trip to Tokyo I take. Meanwhile, visit the official site to see photos and videos

Tokyo 3: Ueno Zoo (上野動物園)

“ANOTHER Tokyo Post?!” you may ask. I’m sorry. I’ve run out of excuses. Content yourselves with the knowledge that this is probably the last one for a long time, as I am pretty much Tokyo-ed out now. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tokyo, but we need a break. Absence makes the heart fonder and all that…

So, yes, Tokyo! Today let’s go to the zoo! Actually, I have a confession to make: I’ve never actually been inside Ueno Zoo. I’m more of an aquarium person to be honest… I could stare at fish swimming around for hours, but the zoo has never held much interest for me. Sure the pandas would be cute, and I’ve caught sight of a few lemurs through the gates before, but usually I’m too busy looking for Mexican food to spend any time inside.

So these pictures are not very informative of what the zoo actually looks like, or the animals they have. From the postcard you can see that obviously there are pandas (Ueno went crazy when we got a mated pair from China in 2011! CRAZY!). There are definitely gorillas and other monkeys. I mentioned the lemurs. I believe there are tigers. I bet there is a petting zoo too. But I honestly have no idea. So go for yourself and see what there is to see! Meanwhile, I’ll be in Shinagawa Aquarium.

I live for these pictures. Really.

These bushes could use a trim… the back animal is definitely supposed to be a gorilla, but the front one just looks like a blob to me.

Sign detailing zoo information outside of Ueno Station

Did I mention the panda craze? There are pandas EVERYWHERE in Ueno. You don’t believe me, I can tell, but I’m really really serious. If you don’t like pandas, don’t go to Ueno!

There are actually a ton of things to see and do in Ueno Park besides the zoo, so don’t spend your whole day in the zoo! Also check out the fantastic museums, shrines, and temples there too!

Ueno Zoo is open from 9:30 to 5PM, usually closed Mondays, and is 600yen. The official site is here, and you can read more about what Ueno has to offer here.

Say “hi” to the pandas for me when you see them!

Tokyo 4: Shinjuku Government Building (東京都庁舎)

I’ve been going to Tokyo a lot recently. Although I really like Tokyo generally, usually I go maybe once every three months, if that, so it’s always nice to go. The past few months, however, I’ve going at least once a month, and this past month twice. It’s exhausting!

It also means that while I’m getting plenty of new pictures for this blog, it’s getting pretty Tokyo-centric around here. I promise to start posting more from other prefectures soon… I’ve just been going to Tokyo too much to go anywhere else!

While I hopefully gather some new material this weekend, let’s talk about the Shinjuku Government Building in Tokyo. Shinjuku is one of the most famous stations in Tokyo (and the biggest station in the world!), and is a well-known tourist destination. There’s a lot to see, a lot to do, and a lot to eat in Shinjuku at all hours of the day and night. While you’re there, consider heading to the Government Building to see not only its unique shape, but the view from the observation platform. If you get lucky, you might catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji!

This past trip was extremely rainy. I grabbed this picture in a light drizzle, but it wasn’t worth going up to see nothing but rainclouds!

So I’m also posting a few pictures I’ve taken before in fairer weather!

The view from the observation platform around sunset

The Shinjuku Government Building Observation platform is open from 9:30AM to 11:00PM, although the times differ a bit depending on which Tower you visit. You can read more about the towers and how to get there here, and if you go, don’t forget to check out the second story as well… if you’re lucky, there may be a fair going on! There wasn’t when I went unfortunately.

Tokyo 6 – Shibuya Scramble Crossing (渋谷スクランブル交差点)

Ahhh, Tokyo. Always filled with thousands upon thousands of people. When you’re a country-living girl like me, going to Tokyo is at once fascinating and stressful. The idea of living jam-packed with people like that is an exhausting one… I like visiting Tokyo because I know I can leave!

One of the best places to people watch the mass of humanity is in Shibuya. Right outside Shibuya Station’s Hachiko exit is the famous “Scramble Crossing”… 5 roads meet at an intersection that allows pedestrians to cross any way they wish, resulting in a “scramble” from one street to another in all directions. Standing in the middle is a bit exhilarating. Trying to take a picture in the middle and realizing you have about .5 seconds to get to safety is terrifying. Tokyo traffic means business!

Tokyo Postcard and Shibuya Scramble Crossing

And the crossing without the postcard

There are a ton of youtube videos and pictures of the crossing on the internet, and it has been featured in many a movie, including “Lost in Translation” and “Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift” among others. A great place to watch the action is at the Starbucks across from the station. Its second floor has a great view of the entire crossing. I particularly like this article from which perfectly describes the crossing experience.

Tokyo 5 – Tokyo Station Marunouchi Station Building (東京駅丸の内駅舎)

Tokyo Station’s iconic red-brick Marunouchi Station Building is the subject of the 5th postcard in the Tokyo series. This beautiful building was recently restored to its former 1914 glory in 2012, after being damaged greatly by the bombing of Tokyo in WWII in 1945. At that time, the domes were shattered among other damage, and the temporary square roofs became permanent over the years. The renovations took about 5 years, and the Yaesu entrance on the other side of the station is still being renovated. You can read more about it at wikipedia here.

Tokyo station is the busiest in Japan, and because the renovation is still very recent, it is not uncommon to see huge hoards of people photographing the building. As the main station in Tokyo with connections to both airports as well as Shinkansen lines stretching across the country, it is an easy station to visit for tourists and locals alike!

You can read more about what to do and see around this station at Japan Guide here.

Postcard and building on a cloudy day

The building is a striking contrast with the modern skyscrapers around it

There are always people photographing in front of it!

The renovated domes are very beautiful inside too!

It is also beautiful lit up at night