After all the excitement on Sunday, we thought that an easy day on Monday might be called for. Also, it was about time to let That Girl have a bit of a say in what we did. I’m not entirely convinced that she’s as enthousiastic about Buddhist temples as Aingeal & I are. So, we started at the Miraikan (the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation), out on Daiba Island. In fairness, this sort of thing is always a lot of fun, so we were not exactly being dragged there either.
Our friends Andreas & Cristina and their daughter Josie had gone there, and recommended it as well, and told us how to get there on the (as Cristina put it) “Blade Runner style elevated railway”. And it was fun, elevated, running on rubber tires instead of rails, great views of the skyline, the harbour and of course Daiba Island.
With a promise like that, and finding ourselves in the first carriage (this was luck: we were running to catch it! I was sitting next to a bunch of gregarious Argentinians, hence all the Spanish in the video below.), I naturally filmed the whole thing, station to station to station… You’ll be happy to know that I have not put that all up (if you’re a rail buff, I could) but did post what I thought was the best leg of the journey on YouTube:
As we approached Miriakan, a camera crew were filming something (an ad?). It was a bit surreal, as all was noticed at first were Japanese business men standing perfectly still for no apparent reason, but time revealed all.
Miraikan itself was a lot of fun. I think everyone’s favorite is probably the giant live-action globe, made up of screens showing the world and its weather. The other thing that we really liked was a mock-up of one module of the International Space Station, with several videos running telling about life there, including (as Aingeal put it) “the answer to every little boy’s first question”. The video of a haircut was priceless!
Another interesting one was very large mechanical contraption with lots of little balls being shunted about. It turns out to be a working physical model of how a router on the internet sends packets (say, one letter) from one place to another. Reminded me of a YouTube video I saw of a (simple) computer built out of 10,000 dominos (warning: 22 minutes, but worth it on a rainy Sunday).
We didn’t go to the exhibition of their ASIMO robot — we’ve seen it on the news, and staying for that wasn’t as interesting as the exhibits themselves. It’s hard to go on at length about a museum, and we took basically no pics… so On To Lunch.
Lunch, Books, Friends
After the museum, we headed into Tokyo Station for lunch and books. Lunch, as it was a convenient time (we ended up in a nice little noodle place).
Books? Well, I understood that Tokyo has more foreigners than Seoul… so more English speakers… so perhaps bigger, better selection of English books. A sound theory, as it turned out.
Getting to a station at one edge of Marunouchi (the neighborhood around the Palace & the very-large Tokyo Station), we ran into The Problem In Strange Cities: once up on street level, which way to go? Having relied on the kindness of strangers, we headed off, detouring only to look a the Palace walls. (You can do tours of the grounds; maybe next time.) Eventually, we made it to Tokyo Station. Which, like so many things seem to be “around here” is very big. But we just cut through the corner on our way to the day’s Second Main Objective: Maruzen Books, four floors of books across the street from Tokyo Station.
We no sooner made it up to the 4th floor (and I’d found the next three books in a series I’m reading, in the “new books” section at the entrance!), than a voice calls out “Peter! Aingeal!” …. our friends Bill & Helen from Seoul, also in Tokyo for Chuseok! Bill’s the Australian Ambassador, and lives around the corner from us. We had a nice chat, did our shopping and repaired downstairs for a drink and more chat.
After that, back to the hotel, and then on to dinner in the Shibuya area.
Shibuya & Hanamidori
Aingeal was keen to see the “scramble” intersection at Shibuya — a large intersection that gets a lot of pedestrian traffic. The foot traffic gets its own turn, and then everyone just, um, scrambles straight towards where they want to go. A bit of a hoot, really, and you get a great view from the two-level Starbucks overlooking the intersection.
Then we wandered up into the brightly lit streets of Shibuya. This was the third thing that reminded me of Seoul: lights. I think “Asian cities” are often depicted as using a lot of neon; that was certainly the case in Shibuya. (In fairness: keep walking, after a number of blocks, the neon disappears. but still…).
Eventually we fetched up at Hanamidori, which managed to look tempting despite being 1 flight up (who’s their designer? Hire ’em!). In fact, it’s a chain, but a good one. In fact, I found everything in Japan good, so that isn’t surprising. Anyway, we had one of the house specialities, a traditional Japanese dish whose name escapes me (but those familiar with Hanamidori no doubt know it). Again, reminiscent of similar Korean dishes, but at the same time completely different.
We had some appetizers, don’t recall what but very good. The main course was a stew. First the stew itself with condiments was brought out. When it was good & hot (cooking at the table again), the maitre d’ / waiter / our cook served us each a glass of the broth.
Next there were some pieces of chicken in the broth. We were served those as “yer man” got things really going, with a plate of chicken bits, a plate of ground chicken and a big bowl of vegetables & what looked like acorn jelly. In go the chicken bits.
Next, he rolls the ground chicken into meatballs, and in they go. And finally, in with everything else. Now, sit and wait until it’s ready. So, well fed and tired enough, we stroll back to the Shibuya metro and home…