July 15, 2011

A Taste of Tokyo (Day 4, 15 July 2011)

A fruitful day indeed!

Despite the runny nose and fever, I dragged myself on a half day city tour, spacing out during the bus rides! Joanne and I had signed up for a morning tour that took us to Tokyo Tower, Imperial Palace Plaza and Asakusa Temple.

We boarded a Hato bus from a little terminal in Hamamatsucho and our guide's name was Junko, who spoke with an American accent.

First stop was Tokyo Tower, not as pretty as the Eiffel and certainly the view is vastly different, but still good for a 360 perspective of Tokyo. Unfortunately it was too hazy to see Mt Fuji in the distance but the other important districts were pointed out to us.

Then it was off to the Imperial Palace but just from the outside, and a short 15 min stop. Frankly I can't remember what we were looking at, there were tales of the Edo era and shoguns and samurais and that's all I recall!

Last stop was Asakusa Temple, a large Buddhist monument in the Ueno area. We strolled along the numerous shops lining the temple entrance, it was freaking hot today! Took lots of pictures with the bright red lanterns and I offered some coins and made a wish. Interesting fact we found out was that Canon is named after the Goddess of Mercy Kannon in Japan, which is essentially Kuan Yin!

The bus drove through Akihabara on the way back, famous for electronic goods and girls dressed as maids, we spied a couple handing out fliers.

The drop off point was Tokyo Station and our plan was to catch a highway bus to the Gotemba Premium Outlet. Unfortunately the earliest ones were full and we had to wait for a 1.40pm one and so we had lunch in between at a nearby basement restaurant. Food was sucky though, maybe because I wasn't feeling well.

The ride to Gotemba took almost 2hrs, the things we do for shopping! Ray was pretty cranky on the bus, I pitied the other passengers! From the bus station that we got off, there was a shuttle to the outlet and we got there around 4pm and immediately booked places for a 7pm bus that went direct to Shinjuku and took 90mins.

With 3 hours to shop, we wasted no time going in and out of stores, picking up stuff from Gap, Burberry, Gucci and Fendi - well, I did anyway! Joanne was a bit more disciplined and only bought a couple of things.

All the big brand name boutiques had a presence, Bottega, Prada, YSL, Dior, Ferragamo, Tods etc. Prices are not that cheap, but still cheaper than retail.

What's nice about Gotemba is that it's near Mt Fuji, so we got a free view of the mountain but with the mist and haze, we mainly saw a silhouette.

Back in Shinjuku, it was a race against time to find the H&M outlet (with kids stuff) before they closed. Though we were starving, we shopped first as we only had an hour before it closed. From there, we took a train back to Ginza and had some fast food rice and noodles. My udon was unexpectedly the cold type, luckily I had rice too.

As we were tired, we took a cab back even though the hotel was within walking distance...turned out to be a 200m ride, ha ha!

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