Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Golden Week!

Hey there awesome people!
As promised, I am here to relay the new experiences I had during Golden Week in the Tokyo area.  But first, please let me explain what Golden Week means.  Collectively, it is a period of nearly consecutive holidays which fall on April 29th (Showa Day) and May 3rd-5th (Constitution Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day/Boy’s Festival, respectively) annually.  Many schools, colleges, and business are closed on these days.  Likewise, specialty stores, shopping centers, restaurants, and public attractions are open an increased amount for business.  Thanks to the help of several gracious friends, I was able to arrange traveling to and from Tokyo by overnight bus, and stay with a friend I met at Columbia College my freshman year in her family’s home.
During my stay, one can bet I did a lot of exploring, shopping, and eating!  While in the Tokyo region, I was able to visit the Chiba, Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Taito areas just to name a few.  Despite visiting some of these areas more than once, I probably did not covered more than a couple square miles at each location.  The activities were abundant, as was the food.  I have learned how (1) matcha parfaits are by far my greatest weakness, and (2) raw horse meat is rather delicious.  It is a good thing the former are not readily available in my area, and as for the latter, after consuming my first bite I spoke a quick apology in my head and promised my two horses in Missouri they would have nothing to fear. Seeing as my trip was not solely based around food, please keep reading so I may share with you the awesome-sauce that was my holiday.

The actual sequence of events in the coming days is a little iffy (I am not really good with chronology), but they are memorable nonetheless. Within the first few hours of arriving, I found myself with friends walking the roughly 5-kilometer outer sidewalk of Kokyo, the Japanese Imperial Palace.  This one sidewalk has so much regular foot-traffic, there is a rule saying which direction you are have to jog. Fast-forwarding the same day, one will find us inside a Starbucks overlooking an even higher-trafficked area, the famed Shibuya Crossing. On this trip, I was blinded by the sun when gawking up at the Tokyo Sky Tree, and calmed by the glow of city nightlife when gazing down from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. While the choice of forest over cityscape is an easy one for me, I have a certain amount of amazement set aside for indescribably tall buildings.  This being said, there was one other tall building I will mention.  It is physically smaller than the others, but it is larger in my heart. In Shinjuku, I was able to visit the Square Enix HQ along with their accompanying merchandise store and café, Artnia. I will not bore you with my deep-seated esteem for this company and its history, but I would have had no complaints had it been the only place I visited during my holiday.

Actually, my former statement would be a slight exaggeration.  Every place we visted was worthwhile in its own way. Such an example would be Sensoji temple in Asakusa.  The grounds consist of many divine buildings and structures, each with their own unique craftsmanship. From what I was told, Sensoji is Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple.  It is obviously a major tourist destination as there is an entire street just for shopping which connects the outer and inner gates. While there, I did a little shopping, drew my fortune and said a prayer. Seeing as I am a layperson with a smart-phone camera, the photos I took are unable to give true credit to the beauty which existed all around.  My favorite view was looking down the shopping street at the temple.

Since the majority of this post involves awesome views and sightseeing, one of the last places we visited as a group was the Tokyo Sea Life Aquarium. Aquariums are obviously not exclusive to Japan, but here they have an astounding collection of species encompassing all the oceans, most seas, and a few places in-between. If you are ever in the Tokyo region, all of the places mentioned here are fairly easy to get to, and are either free or at minimal cost. The biggest expenses are probably travel and food, and even then one is able to find good bargains and conveniences. May I someday be able to return the favor to the awesome people who made my holiday a colossal success and pleasure.
It seems that is all for now.  Thank you for persevering through another one of my ramblings. Stay safe and well, everyone.

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