Monday, 16 March 2015

東京 | Tokyo (5) - Imperial Palace, & Tokyo Tower

So, if you've been wonderful and reading all the previous Japan posts, you might have noticed my constant mentions of how glorious the weather had been. Warm, sunny, inviting and generally really pleasant to be out and about in.

Enter day 5.

Rain. And lots of it.

I'm not even sure where it came from (the sky, hurr) considering the absolute clarity of the sky the day before, but oh well. At first it was only drizzling so we thought we'd take a chance and head to the Imperial Palace for a look around, but by the time we got there it had worsened to the point where we were worried about the contents of our bags (expensive cameras ahoy!) and our shoes were starting to get...sloshy. I wouldn't have minded, but half of us had come without umbrellas and they weren't exactly big.

Sparrow friends, hiding from the rain.
Nick and I also realised that we'd run out of cash (Well. He'd run out of cash and I'd forgotten to bring any from my stash for the 2nd day in a row) and set out to a) hide from the rain in the hopes it would stop, and b) find the KEB bank that was supposedly not too far from where we were.

At first, we couldn't find the KEB. Then, we found the KEB, but they couldn't help us because of the type of card we have. Thirdly, they pointed us in the direction of a post office where there was an ATM that might be able to work. Fourthly, we couldn't find the ATM. Fifthly...We found it in a large, serious-looking building with staff members looking at us with high levels of suspicion (I'm not surprised really.

Anyway, my final point is that I think we eventually got a bit of money out with my card, which is a little different to the standard foreigner card we started off with. Yay yay.

Sadly calling it a day on the Imperial Palace thanks to the insistence of the rain, we headed off in pursuit of something indoors to do that wasn't a museum.

Not sure what this is, but it looked like the start of some incredible adventure.
We ended up heading to Tokyo Tower, considering it was on the list of places we wanted to go, as well as being an indoor activity. Check and check. Annoyingly, the nearest subway stations to the tower...aren't really all that near. So we still had a bit of a walk to go.

Looking very ominous.
On the way towards the tower, which was hard to miss and thus fairly easy to walk to even without directions, we stumbled across a shrine. It looked fairly empty, and the rain gave it an overall eerie and melancholic feel. We decided to explore a bit, as the rain had lifted a little, and there were some trees for cover.

Reading a sign, it turns out that there was decent reason for the place to feel melancholic, what with it being specialised as a place to pray for children that had passed well before their time, or worse.

On a lighter note, and another stroke of serendipitous luck, the shrine was also the home to a special image of buddha. A special statue considered to be so scared that it's only put on public display something like 3 days a year. So we couldn't resist taking a peek and donated a few coins in thankfulness for our seemingly unending good luck. (rain notwithstanding)

There was also a sweet little souvenir shop selling new year's goods, so lots of sheep-themed things up for grabs. I did in fact buy a little pair of gold sheep, considering Nick and I are sheep ourselves.

With the continuing promise that the rain was in fact now stopping, we headed over to Tokyo Tower. I've been wanting to visit this place since I was quite young, so needless to say I was really quite excited.

I suppose really, the view from all tall buildings in Tokyo is kind of the same, but it's fun nonetheless. The first observation deck, which was split into 2 levels, provided us with a 360° view of the city, with helpful little notes on the window frames to tell you what to look out for.

There's also, horrifyingly (to me) a few "view panels" where you can stand on a thick (I hope) slab of perspex and enjoy the sensation of feeling your stomach lurch as your brain realises you're floating very high up in the air.

We were treated to a free light show, which was nice if not confusing, projected onto one of the windows as you walk around. There was also a live band playing near a cafe, a merchandise shop, and a fun set of machines where you can get a souvenir coin and engrave it yourself with any message you like.

Anyway, we finally finished looking around and bought tickets to go to the very top level. We'd held off on buying a ticket that let us go to all the floors of the tower in case the cloud you could see a few photos back was still lurking around, blocking the view and thus creating a big waste of money.

Thankfully, this must be a common thing, as there's a ticket booth on the first viewing platform where you can pay the rest and go to the top.


Thank goodness. Despite the slight caution from the ticket seller, the weather wasn't too bad at all. It was fun to see the rain whipping off the eaves in the wind, catching in the bright lights that shone all around.

Weirdly, the brochure they hand you when you first enter the tower marks out two things as being a particular highlight of the top deck.

1) specially-compiled sci-fi music and glowing lights to make you feel as though you're on a space ship (their words, not mine)
2) the bathroom?

According to the pamphlet, the bathroom was really something remarkable and a must-visit location. Harking back to my younger days where I had a weird fascination with visiting the bathrooms of places I deemed 'fancy'. Why not? I thought. What could possibly make it so special? Dear lord, have they got one of those see-through floors? Float high above one of the world's largest cities while you do your business?

Turns out, it's just fancily-decorated with lights and space-age fittings. Nice, but not as interesting as the brochure hyped it to be.

slightly disappointed selfie
although I will say, This sink was pretty cool.
Here's the most fun part of this story, and generally the part that I'll be telling people for years to come.

For some context, when I was really quite young, at some point in primary school, I watched Cardcaptor Sakura. It was great. To this day, it's one of my favourite shows and (whether directly or indirectly) is probably responsible for a lot of things including some of my likes, dislikes, and many aspects of my personality. A lot of people have that one book, movie, show, or quote. Well Cardcaptor Sakura is mine. And in the first season, Tokyo Tower plays a reasonably iconic role.

Anyway, joy of joys, when I showed it to Nick he also loved it. So he knew all about the real, nerdy reason why I was so determined to come here.

I'd wandered off a bit from everyone else to have my musings, having just completed a life quest, and voiced my thoughts to Nick about how much the Tokyo skyline and the tower itself must have changed since I first saw that show nearly 15 years ago.

This is the part we keep forgetting the details of, so it'll seem rushed, but basically we agreed to come back in another 15 years to see if it had changed again, and then agreed to get married sometime beforehand.

It wasn't a big surprise with bells and whistles like you see on TV, with crying and hugs and applause. Which pretty accurately reflects our personalities and our relationship in general. We're very private, subdued, and laid back. People who have since asked us about it always seem a tiny bit disappointed or surprised when we tell them his casual question and my equally casual of response of "that would be nice, yeah". But I mean, we'd already been discussing it for several months, and bought the rings together, so it was never going to be a big surprise. Just a wait for the right moment and a nice, gentle conversation.

I think this is also because every time Nick has tried to surprise me with a treat or gift, it's ended with me sobbing hysterically from either happiness or "why would you do such a nice thing", so I might have put him off of grand gestures. Sorry if that's true :p

"Yay! Finally!" selfie in the lift on the way back down
Tokyo wanted to celebrate with us.
That's all I've got, really. I can't remember what we did afterwards, except for Tom eating quite possibly one of everything from the food court downstairs. And hoping that our shoes would dry out enough for tomorrow.

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