Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo. This is both the start of Spring and the start of our trip to Asia. In our getting-to-Tokyo post called “3 movies, 2 meals, some sleep – how long it takes to Japan“, we describe the trip across the Pacific. In this post we talk about what we did on our first day in Tokyo. Luckily we hired a local guide to take us around town. Not only is this a huge city but the language barrier is a bit difficult to overcome, especially when jet lagged.
Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
We are here in the last week in March. Although the cherry blossoms in Tokyo peaked the previous week, the there’s still lots of blooms left on the trees. We headed out to Imperial Palace Gardens. Cherry trees lined the former moat and when combined with perfectly clear sky, formed a beautiful scene. Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo are a sight to behold. It seems the entire city celebrates.
Red fish, blue fish, big fish, small fish
After seeing cherry blossoms in Tokyo at the Imperial palace, we visited the Tsukiji fish market. The outer market consists of hundreds of retail shops selling everything from sushi magnets to vegetables to seaweed wrap. There’s more fish and seafood shops as you approach the main market. The actual fish market is a set of huge commercial type buildings that house thousands of independent fish specialists.
Walking around is a bit dangerous as this is a working level wholesale market. This means there are many motorized mini trucks everywhere, men with sharp knives, water all over the place and narrow, oft times obstructed pathways. Walking the market gives you a real feel for just how large the place is.
Here’s a nice article about the market – which is slated to be moved later this year.
A walk in the park
From the fish market we went to Hamarikyu Gardens. We walked around a bit, saw a 300 year old pine tree, lots of really nice flowering trees and fields. We saw some beautiful cherry blossoms in Tokyo here – some different varieties of cherry trees than at the Imperial Palace gardens. This park, originally designed in the 17th century by the Shogun provides a really nice respite in the city. From the park there’s a pier to purchase tickets for a Tokyo river cruise.
The cruise went from Hamarikyu to Asakusa up the Sunida River. This provided some great views of the Rainbow bridge as well as the city across both sides of the river. Lots of low bridges, lots of floodgate controlled tributaries and a city that keeps going on and on. The trip lasted about 30 minutes and there was continuous urban environment on both sides of the river. We could see more cherry trees in Tokyo along the banks.
We found a nice little sushi place for lunch. Traditional Japanese table (shoes off, low table with bench seating) with room for only 4 tables. Definitely a mom and pop type of place. The sushi was great – fresh with lots of variety, nice miso soup.
Next we headed to the shrine area. But first we passed through a gauntlet of tourist shops and stalls. It was jammed packed with people – walking, shopping and actually buying.
We finally came to Hōzōmon gate a very large Buddhist gate. Passing through the gate directly ahead of us was the Sensō-ji Temple. In between we found lots of people wearing traditional kimonos (rented for the day), tourists gathered around an incense burning cauldron hoping the smoke cleans what ails you, people buying small fortunes (think fortune cookies) and if the fortune is not a good one literally tying the paper the fortune is written on to a wire mesh, throng of people throwing coins into the temple in exchange for favorable treatment.
Next we took a trip to the Ginza district. This is a massive high end shopping district. There’s everything from pearls to watches to cars to women’s fashion and everything in between. Judging from the crowds, consumerism in Tokyo is in good health. By this time we had enough and headed back to our hotel.
How did we manage to visit all these locations in one day? The Tokyo metro. Luckily we purchased all day passes (3 day pass) which enabled us to crisscross the city effortlessly by subway. This is a very clean, well run system that gets you just about anywhere in the city.
So 8 hours and 17,000 steps later, we arrive back at our hotel. We’ve seen cherry blossoms, Tokyo by river and fish by land. Barely able to stay awake at 8 pm local time, we hope for a good night’s sleep for tomorrow’s adventures.
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Enjoy some other photos from our first day in Tokyo.