On my first day, I wandered around the Sendagi, Nezu, and Yanaka areas near Ueno in Tokyo. These areas are considered to be similar to what Tokyo used to be like (before it started looking like every other city in the world). Lots of little winding streets, shops, and the like. Quite interesting. Most notable on my tour was the Asakura Chuso Museum, which had a great garden area. The pools were filled with large koi (carp). It was very relaxing to sit and just watch nature do its thing in this little garden.
On my second day, I went to the Akasuka region of Tokyo. This area was described in the book as being part 42nd Street, Coney Island, and more all rolled up into one. And this seems to be true. Lots of tourist shops, restaurants, amusement rides, and such. All surrounding a temple and shrine. Quite interesting to just wander around and people watch. One thing of particular interest when I was there was a couple dressed in traditional Japanese clothes who were having their wedding photos taken in the shrine.
Also took the ferry down to Hamarikyu, which was the duck hunting ground for the shoguns (now a public park). Definitely a nice little park. The ferry ride was interesting as Tokyo has many different styles of bridges along this route.
On my last day in Tokyo, I headed down to Shinjuku train station at morning rush hour. Shinjuku is one of the busiest train stations in the world. Something more than 1 million people per day pass through this station. Many trains every minute enter and exit this station. And there seems to be almost a dance as hundreds of people get on and off each train each minute.
The trains here are nothing like in the States. They are very efficient and come very often. The express train runs from Okazaki every 20 minutes in both directions off peak (more often during peak hours). The trains on the Yamanote line (the busiest in Tokyo) run every 2-3 minutes in each direction during rush hour. The Shinkansen I took also runs every 20 minutes to Tokyo. So I could travel just about any time I want and won't have to wait long for a train.
An amazing amount of people are moved by train. For example, each Shinkansen train on the Nagoya-Tokyo route is 16 cars long. Probably could fit 100 people per car (though usually not filled to capacity, they usually do have at least half the seats taken). There are 3 of the trains I was on per hour headed the same direction. And as many express Shinkansen's per hour also going the same direction (I didn't get on at a main station, so had to take the 'local' Shinkansen).
The trains are also always on time. I have not ridden one yet that was late. I sat up front of a few trains and watched the drivers. Not just at stations, but about every kilometer or so, he had a check point which he would compare his time versus scheduled time. It is a whole process - he would point (with his white gloved hand) to the checkpoint, point to the schedule, point to the clock, and then move his place marker down one spot on the schedule to be ready for the next check point.
Probably no updates for a month or so. I am back in the States for 6 weeks, before returning to Okazaki for 6 more weeks of studying.
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