Japan Day 5
February 26th, 2001
@ Tokyo, Japan
All Photos © 2001 Ting and Randy Vogel

Map of Today's Travels with picture key
1. Map of 
Hama-rikyu koen with picture key

Ting had to go into the office again today. I started off the day with my errand to find a Sony Service Center so that the broken hold switch on my DAT deck could be repaired. Armed with a neighborhood map and knowledge that Higashi-Ginza was the closest subway station, I set off at around 9:30 AM, just in time to catch the end of the morning rush on the subway. Good thing I'm big enough that I could bully my way into breathing space once the doors shut!

After a bit of confusion about which exit to take from the subway station (Higashi-Ginza is another one of those 20 exit stations...), I made it outside, oriented myself, and set off for the Sony Service Center. After a few minutes walk, I found the right street (it helped that the Nissan building was near my destination), and then the right building, with a small 'Sony' sign hanging out over the street. At this point in the day, I was so focused on my task -- dropping off the DAT -- that I completely forgot to take any pictures...oh well!

Once inside the repair center, I did my best to explain my predicament in broken Japanese to the girl at the counter. It was a little frustrating, since no one there spoke English, but by the time I left, fifteen minutes later, I understood that they were going to try and get the deck fixed by Saturday (instead of the normal two-week turnaround), and that the charge would only be 2/3 the normal flat rate. Good thing I had lots of practice haggling from past trips! I gave them the phone and address of the Akasaka Prince Hotel for reference, then left and walked about a half mile to the Hama-rikyu koen, or Imperial Detached Gardens.

Originally an official hunting ground for the Tokugawa Shogunate (17th Century), the marshy fields here were reclaimed and re-engineered for construction of a second residence to the Shogun in 1704. During the Meiji Era, the Emperor received President Ulysses Grant during his visit to Japan in this garden.

The pine in (1B) was planted by the 6th Shogun, Ienobu, when the garden was extensively renovated. It is one of the largest black pines standing in Tokyo today. The flower gardens were dead at this time of year, but the blooms on the  plum trees were bursting forth in explosions of pink and white.

At the Shogun's dock (1D) which was destroyed by Typhoon Kitty in 1949 after surviving the bombings of WWII, a friendly old man who had just disembarked from the Water Taxi offered to take my picture, so I took off my gear and smiled! Unfortunately, I forgot all about the fact that I was backlit by the morning sun, so the picture is a little dark. Note the Rainbow Bridge in the background. You can see a clearer shot of the Rainbow Bridge (1E), taken from my lunch spot atop Shinhinokuchi-yama, a pint-sized mountain. And in an interesting mis-translation, the historical marker at the dock refers to the shoguns as tycoons (rather than dictators or warlords).

Every ten minutes or so, a Water Taxi (1G) would pass by, each one differently shaped and colored, and each one full of people traveling between Asakusa (where Ting and I visited yesterday) and Odaiba Seaside Park to the East. Upon reaching the giant water gate (1H) they would slow down and carefully maneuver inside, then the lock would close with a dull clang. A few minutes later, the turbines to the right would stop whining, the gate would reopen, and the taxi would be gone!

I took the next picture (1I) because there seemed to be an exceptionally clear and bright reflection of the antenna tower on the glass walled building immediately behind the tower. Unfortunately, the camera didn't seem to grab the image as well as my eye did...in the photo, the reflection is pretty indistinct.

The Otsutai bashi (cedar bridge) and the Nakajima no Ochaya (Tea-house), depicted in the next few pictures, were originally constructed in 1707, but bridge was rebuilt in 1997, and the current tea-house structure dates to only 1983. It sits in the middle of Shioiri no Ike, a sea water pond connected to Tokyo Bay by a small water gate situated near Shinhinokuchi-yama.

The rulers must have been very big on having tea, for in addition to the Nakajima tea-house, still standing, the park contains foundations of several other tea-houses, all within a stone's throw of one another. One such site (1O) has been put back into use-- as a modern snack bar, with sake, tea, beer and all the usual fare. Another, the Tsubame Tea-house (1S) must have looked directly on at the Nakajima Tea-house, though another attraction at that spot would be the wisteria vines trained onto a large trellis.

Several duck hunting blinds have been maintained in good condition, though hunting has been officially banned here since 1944. The opening to the first blind I visited (1P) was about two meters tall and almost as wide. Inside was a small 'room', big enough for two or three people at most. The wall opposite the opening had two or three slit windows, maybe 15 cm long and 5 cm tall, facing an artificial water channel about a meter wide. Although the next blind (1Q) was constructed entirely of wood, instead of being dug out of an earthen berm, the inside was pretty much identical to the first.

According to an explanatory sign posted nearby, the Shoguns (and later, the Emperor) maintained flocks of captive, clipped wing ducks here year round. Migrating fowl would see the captive flocks and assume that the ponds were nice places to land and rest. When it was time for a hunt, hunters would wait with bows and arrows in the blinds, while attendants would draw the captive ducks into the appropriate channel by clapping a slit drum, which the captive ducks had been conditioned to as a sign that food had been set out at the end of the channel. When the captive ducks swam up the channels, the wild ducks would follow, and the hunters would shoot once the wild ducks were in range and the shot was clear. A pretty complicated system if you ask me, but it must have worked well, since the park contains not one, but two such hunting ponds, each with over a dozen blinds.

Walking over to the Shin-senze pond, I was charmed by the appearance of a small monument (1U) to the many thousands of ducks killed here. Apparently, one of the Shoguns felt guilty enough to commission a memorial stone in their honor.

On my way out, I passed by the statue of Umasimadenomikoto, (1V). Like many of the signs I encountered throughout my visit, this one had been written by someone with only a tenuous grasp of English. As near as I could tell from the description, Umasimadenomikoto was a mythical warrior from Japan's prehistorical period; his statue was commissioned as a gift for the Meiji Emperor on the 50th Anniversary of his reign by the Army Ministry.

And with a quizzical quack from the big brown goose at the entrance gate, I was finished with the Imperial Detached Gardens and off to see more of Tokyo's sights! Next stop: the Imperial Palace East Garden and the Kokyogaien National Garden. On my way back to the subway, I stopped to check out a capsule office building. Concrete boxes about the half the size of a typical shipping container or train boxcar were available for lease. Once rented, a huge crane would lift your capsule into place somewhere along the central service tower. Weird!

Sadly, when I arrived at the Otemon (3C) after a brief subway trip to Otemachi station and a short walk, I found the gate shut fast, as the East garden is closed on Mondays. Curses! 

I began walking back in the general direction of the Akasaka Prince, and stopped first at the Fountain Plaza in the Kokyogaien National Garden. About a dozen fountain installations, some large, others small, and all interconnected via 'streams' and 'rivers' were spread across a paved plaza about 200 m on a side. At the east side of the plaza was a large tea-house with an outdoor deck where a few people sat drinking tea and enjoying the constantly changing play of water in the fountains. The anteroom to the tea-house contained the map and diorama shown in (3) and (3A).

North of the tea-house was a small zen garden of carefully raked gravel; I arrived simultaneously with a group of about 20 upper elementary school boys, so the garden wasn't particularly peaceful at that point in time! The boys had entered from a passage on the far side, and walking over, I found a path across the moat leading back into the heart of Tokyo. I stopped to shoot a picture of the ducks (3B) then returned to the fountain plaza to try and capture photos of some of the fountains at work.

After stopping in the middle of the street to take a picture of the Tokyo Station Hotel in the distance, I began walking towards the South end of the Kokyogaien National Garden. One small section of pine forest seemed to be a gathering point for the homeless; many were grouped together, hanging out and killing time while other slept in the waning afternoon sunlight, or played with their dogs. One guy was riding a beat up old bicycle in large circles, while exhorting his three dogs to chase him 'round and 'round. I continued on to the end of the park, where a magnificent statue of the famous 14th Century Samurai General Kusonoki Masashige mounted on a war horse stood at the center of a circle of benches inside a circle of parking spots.

From there I walked west through the pine forest towards Nijubashi and the main entrance to the grounds of the Imperial Palace. Even though it was about a kilometer away, off past Tokyo Station, I could clearly hear the metallic clang of men working on the building shown in (3J). I paused to wait for the pedestrian crossing light at the expressway (it seemed odd to have a six lane highway running through the park, but when space is tight...), then proceeded over to the Imperial Gate. Guards in full dress uniform stood unmoving inside teensy guardhouses at the far end of the bridge, but a waist high gate on my side kept me from getting up close for a better look.

As it was approaching 4 PM, the guards on this side had began cordoning off walkways and closing gates -- the better to fend off late night carousers and terrorist attacks, I suppose, but the Imperial Gardeners kept hard at work, trimming pines into just exactly the right shape for his Imperial Majesty's viewing pleasure. A couple more glances at the palace and then it was time to resume my walk back to the hotel.

I continued South and West around the palace's inner moat, eventually reaching the Sakuradamon, where I exited from the palace grounds by crossing over the outer moat. Several flocks of small birds -- chickadees? -- were having fun chasing each other in circles around the bushes growing atop the bridge leading out from the Sakuradamon, sometimes jumping to the ground in pursuit of invisible bugs or wind-blown seeds.

After descending into the Sakurdamon subway entrance I crossed under the expressway in safety (and protected from the cold wind that had begun to blow), then exited and walked up the long hill to the Diet Building (4). Now walking North, I found an interesting garden just past the Diet Building, full of dormant fruit trees carefully tagged with planting dates that ran back as late as the mid-19th Century. The 'Plants wearing Sweaters' picture is from this garden. On my way out of the garden I heard a bird chittering in a bush and stopped to try and locate it. It was well hidden, but I finally spotted it when it began pecking at the yellow heart of a faded red flower on the camellia bush that was its perch.

Upon reaching Nagatcho station (5) I stopped to take a few more pictures from the top of the hill. Looking south were assorted tall buildings in the government complex, including one that seemed to be topped by a sort of 'hat'. Looking north were commercial buildings. I shot the one of the Pentax building because of the 'eye in the pyramid' design on it...which turned out to be even more exciting at night, when the design was outlined in neon.

Most of the streets leading into the government complex were gated off, and cars pulling in would be carefully checked by uniformed guards. Each gate seemed to have a full squad of six to eight guards, most of whom were sort of lounging around, paying only half attention to the traffic scene. In one spot, a medium sized army or police bus was parked with the engine idling, and it looked as if the bus was being used as sort of a break room, since some guards inside were obviously snoozing, while others were drinking tea, or playing cards. I asked one of the guards standing attention at a gate what the orange ball was sitting next to his staff and shield, since I'd seen several of these balls at other gates, but no one was juggling or playing catch. In Japanese and pantomime, he explained to me that it was a paint ball, designed for tagging any intruding people or vehicles with fluorescent paint. Ah!

Following this conversation, I crossed the street and entered Nagatacho subway station to escape the cold wind and avoid crossing over the last hill between me and our hotel. Once inside the station, I realized that I could not walk from my entrance point to my desired exit point without passing the ticket gates that led to the tracks. Conveniently, no one was manning the booth at the gate, so I simply walked in and continued down to the tracks, down the walkway, and then up the other side. As I was walking up to the gates on the far side, I recognized a flaw in my plan, as the gate booth there *was* occupied. I noticed that one of the five or six ticket gates was open, so I strode confidently up to that one, began walking through, and found that as I entered the gate, I tripped an electronic eye, which slammed the turnstile shut on my knee! Ouch! I quickly crouched forward to pull my knee through onto the far side, lifted my other leg over the turnstile, grinned and waved at the guard in the booth, and then made haste for the exit.

Up until then, i hadn't been in Nagatacho station, so I was quite surprised when the station exit I took brought me back up above ground about 50 meters from the rear entrance to the Akasaka Prince. Wow, how convenient!

When I got up to our room, I found a message from Ting that she was with Hiro and Kimiko and had left Hiro's cellphone number. When I called, she said they were inside the New Otani Hotel across the street at a JTB office trying to book our Kyoto trip. I pulled my jacket back on, and hustled over to meet them and shared my preferences as to trip details. Once everything was settled, I went back to the Akasaka Prince for a quick shower and change of clothes, then met up with everyone again in the lobby.

Hiro thought that he could find us a shop selling an English/International version of the Palm Vx in the Akihabara, so we set off to do a little shopping before dinner. We looked really hard, but everywhere we stopped, the only news we got was arimasen, "sold out." As the shops were starting to close up, we decided to find a dinner spot instead. Hiro seemed to have something in mind, and after a bit of searching through the maze like neighborhood off of the main streets, he found it, a basement pub called Irakuya Shirokiya.

The staff set us up at a booth and we began ordering drinks and dishes. The menus shown on the side are scans off of the flyer we brought home...the actual drink menu was about four times larger, and the food menu was similarly huge and diverse. I let Hiro select sake for me all night, since that fell outside of my area of expertise, while Ting tried out different fruit or tea drinks, and Hiro and Kimiko sampled the sake cocktails. We had fun eating and talking and eating and drinking, but eventually we were sated so we called for the bill and then climbed back up into the cold night.

Walking back towards the main drag, we came across a coffee shop with a large cup dispensing mist. Reminded of the incense burning urns at Asakusa-jinja, we took this as an auspicious sign, and went in for coffee and Jell-O desert with fresh strawberries. Yum! Fresh fruit!!

Finally, we parted with hugs and good-byes upon reaching the main thoroughfare that runs through Akihabara, and as Hiro and Kimiko walked back towards Akihabara Station on the JR line, Ting and I descended into Suehirocho subway station. A couple of minutes wait and then an empty train pulled in (no big shoes spotted tonight) to take us back to the Akasaka Prince. 



Entrance Ticket
(1A) Entrance gate
(1B) 300 year old pine
(1C) Plum Trees in Bloom
Close-up of Blooms
 (1D) Randy at the Shogun's Dock
 View from the Shogun's Dock
 (1E) View to Rainbow Bridge
 (1F) Self-Portrait at Lunch
 (1G) Water Taxi
 (1H) Big Locks at the Water Gate!
(1I) Nice Antenna!
(1J) Nakajima Teahouse from across the pond
(1K) Old Bridge to Nakajima Teahouse
(1L) Ducks on the Saltwater Pond
 (1M) Nakajima Tea-house from Konoji Shima
 (1N) Nakajima Tea-house
(1O) Snack area
 (1P) Duck 
Hunting Blind
 View from inside the Blind
  (1Q) Another Duck Hunting Blind
 (1R) Narcissus
 Feral cat
(1S) Site of Tsubame Tea-house
View from the site of the Tsubame Tea-house
(1T) Duck Memorial
 (1U) Another duck hunting pond
(1V) Statue of Umasimadenomikoto
 Park Mascot!?
 (2) Construction Everywhere!
 Rent an Office!
 ...And attach it to the building!
 (3) Kokyogaien map and picture key
(3A) Fountain Plaza diorama
 (3B) Imperial Ducks swimming in the Imperial Moat
 (3C) Otemon
 (3D) 'Helmet' 
Fountain from afar
 ...with Wedding Cake Fountains
Helmet Fountain
(3E) Triple Play
Rainbow in the Spray
(3F) Homeless in the Park
 (3G) View to 
Tokyo Station Hotel
(3H) Nice Pine Forest
 (3I) Kusonoki Masashige
 Pines in the Afternoon Sun
 (3J) Another building under construction
 (3K) Nijubashi
 Imperial Gate
 (3L) ...Gotta keep those pines looking sharp!
Imperial Gardeners at work!
Palace View
(3M) Sakuradamon
 Sunlight beaming through the gate
(3N) Imperial Chickadees
(3O) Sakuradamon 
from across the moat
 (4) Diet Building
Plants wearing Sweaters
 Find the Birdie!
(5) Another Weird Building
 Pentax is Watching!
Police Riot Gear
Star Neon Sign
Robot Neon Sign
Irakuya Flyer
Hiro & Kimiko
Irakuya Special Menu
Irakuya Drink Menu
Baby Mussel Soup
Assorted Sashimi
Giant Crunchy Anchovies
Randy Anoints Himself with Coffee Mist
Ting in Subway
What Else To DO in Subways but Make Faces?