Because I slept on the plane (which was more or less overnight Japan-time) I woke up early along with some of the Japanese business men who were staying in the hotel. Because the subway system stops running early it is common for business men to stay overnight at these capsule hotels as it is cheaper than taking a taxi across the city (which I will come to see how vast it is this evening). Nicole flew in early this morning to meet up with me in Tokyo, she was on one of her work trips through Asia visiting factories that produces furniture for EQ3 - specifically she reviews the mock ups and prototypes that they built for the new designs. We had originally planned to store our bags back in Tokyo Station as there are many coin lockers at the train stations, except because of G7 summit being held in Japan have been closed down for the week for fear of any tourist activity.
Instead we agree to meet up at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo which is a relatively short walk from my hotel which takes me through Kiba Park as we intended to do this morning as the Museum will hold luggage. The museum was hosting the travelling exhibition "Pixar: 30 years of animation" and was absolutely packed with locals, and their current contemporary collecting exhibited as "Ongoing Collection" of Pop Art included Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney. To conclude was a selection of works related to paper including some great wood work from an artist named Yasuko Toyoshima. No photos in the gallery.
We then headed towards our AirBnb apartment location which was west of the central area. It required 15-20 minutes of walking from the staion through a residential area of Tokyo. It ended up being a gruelling experience dragging up our bags through a chaotic grid (or lack of) of buildings, uphill and downhill. Only to realize we had mapped the location wrong and had to backtrack. However it was great to see the scale in which people live at in Tokyo housing, very small footprint houses with no yards or much space in between. I should note that Tokyo, that despite being such a large and vast city, has been clean to a level I wouldn't think possible of a city. Their is no litter, graffiti is incredibly rare, and there is not so much as a stray leaf on the ground. In fact when there was a terrorist gas attack in the subway system in '95, Tokyo removed nearly all public garbage and recycling cans as a preventative measure. The thought was that this would cause litter, however since public space is of such importance there is seemingly great care taken by the citizens to ensure its maintenance and people are accustomed to carrying their trash for long periods of time with them until they can be deposed, typically at home or work. I have not yet encountered an instance in which I was able to dispose of something in public setting. So despite the crazy power lines the densely packed houses seen in the photos, my experience thus far has been that the city is very lush with plants everywhere, absurdly clean, and also incredibly safe (more on that later).
Cars are also very small and in these areas there is no sidewalk. The winding streets have convex mirrors similar to those you see in grocery stores to see around corners. The address system works different than that from the West. Rather than the address system being based on the road system, it is based not the blocks. Where we would number all the buildings along a street, here a block is numbered and then all the buildings on that block are numbered starting at one particular building as 1 and moving in a clockwise system. I can't say I could find my way with just address, but it seems work for a city that has no consistent grid system. Once we settled in we made our way back to Asakusa.
Then headed out to the Asakusa district which was historically an entertainment district and famous for the Buddhist temple Sensō-ji. We stopped first at the tourist information centre in the area - not for the tourist information but rather to see the building designed by Kengo Kuma + Associates which looks like 8 stacked sections of building with different densities of vertical wooden fins. From here we walked over to the Tokyo Skytree, the tallest structure in Japan, and world's second tallest structure to go up to the viewing deck and see the city just before the sunsets to catch a day + night view. It is amazing how far the city spreads in all directions. Unlike New York (Manhattan) in which you have many buildings which are very large, Tokyo is largely small footprint buildings extending out in all directions.
After the tower we ate cold noodles at the base of the tower and returned back to Asakusa to see the Sensō-ji temple at night. There was an area to have your fortune pulled. Shaking a tin jar of numbered sticks you find your paper fortune (Omikuji) with the corresponding drawer at the temple (numbers where in japanese characters so we to do some careful scanning to match the symbol). Unlike, say, fortune cookies in which all fortunes seem to be positive, here there are a range of 7 scales of fortune from positive to negative. We both received bad fortunes! So if I am to believe my fortune - things are maybe not looking positive for the trip ahead! If you receive a bad fortune you tie the paper to a nearby string to leave it behind and hope that it doesn't come true.