Spring of 2004. The company I was working at sent me for a business trip to Tokyo. Coincidentally, a college classmate and a college friend’s then-boyfriend-now-husband were also sent by their employer’s their company’s headquarter in Ibaraki Prefecture. One weekend, their group planned for one day Tokyo Trip and I decided to join and meet them at the Hamamatsu train station in Tokyo. At that time, smartphones (or even roaming mobile phones) and social media weren’t yet that popular or readily available so we only communicated via emails (and Friendster). The plan was to meet at the train station at a certain time and, without any further texts messages or whatnots, we met at the exact time and place agreed upon.
At present time, everyone has access to mobile phones and advanced travel applications yet still need to constantly communicate on their way to a meeting. Funny how technology has only made things more complicated and I’m going to stop here for it only shows how much I aged since this trip.
I was not aware of the itinerary but as it turned out, the route would be Asakusa, Akihabara, Shibuya, Tokyo Tower and a bar in Roppongi. From the train station, we walked past the very tall World Trade Center Building towards Asakusa Water Bus Station where we took the water bus headed to Asakusa.
Tokyo Water Bus, Sumida River
That’s one of the Tokyo water buses in 2004. Years later it would be replaced by more sophisticated and more futuristic-looking water crafts.
Carlo, the college classmate, is the one on the left and the college friend’s then-boyfriend-now-husband, Ody, on the right. And the tallest guy in the photo below was their training leader who also acted as our tour guide.
As it turned out, a ride on the water bus can be a sight-seeing itinerary in itself. You’d cruise along the Sumida River where countless modern Japan architecture are banked on the riverside.
That’s Odaiba’s famous Rainbow Bridge on the next photo.
Asahi Beer Headquarters, Asakusa
The tall gold building and the shorter one with a golden flame (also referred to as the golden poop by the locals because look at it) on top are the two buildings comprising the Asahi Beer headquarters. Asahi is one of the top beer brands in Japan and is also being distributed in many other countries.
Kaminarimon (Lightning Gate)
A few minutes walk from the water bus terminal and you’ll find yourselves at the first of the two gates leading to the Sensoji Temple. The first gate is called Kaminarimon or the Lightning Gate. From there, one must be prepared to get photobombed should they wish to have their photos taken. The crowd is quite large, especially on weekends as it is in any other tourist spots anywhere in the universe. The world, rather.
If ever I would have a chance to visit Asakusa again, I’m going to reserve at least an hour photobombing. I’ll be in everyone’s photos and no one will notice and if they do, how can they complain? Everyone’s photobombing everyone’s photos be it intentional or not. It’s going to be fun.
Statues of Fujin, the god of wind, and Raijin, the god of thunder, adorn the east and west sides of the gate, respectively (right and left in the photo). Hardcore fans of the anime and manga series, Flame of Recca, will surely go gaga over this piece of information. Check out Fujin and Raijin in case you do not know.
Two other statues of guardians are on the opposite side of the gate but since I’m not familiar with them, I paid less attention. Sorry!
Past the Kaminarimon gate is a series of souvenir shops called Nakamise-dori. I bought a few ones for omiyage or pasalubong.
And by the way, should there be any grammar nazi reading this page, please be warned that the phrase “Kaminarimon gate” is redundant if you know what the “mon” in “Kaminarimon” means. Google it for your own protection.
Hozomon (Treasure-House Gate)
Passing through the Hozomon or Treasure-house gate, you’ll finally reach the Sensoji Temple.
Sensoji Temple, Asakusa
It was the first huge temple I saw in Japan and outside the Philippines so you could just imagine the awe and excitement it brought me only to find out years after how it was nothing compared to the towering temples at the top of the mountains in China.
There was a huge incense burner where Buddhist locals and tourists burn their incense and pray.
A few sights were seen and tons of photos taken, we left the temple and went to the nearest subway station to take a train to Akihabara, Tokyo’s home for cheap, brand new and used electronic products.
Akihabara Tokyo Electronics Shopping District
Akihabara Electronic Town and Anime Center, the holy mecca for all things electronics and manga. Otaku overload.
Seeing the girl handing out tissue papers reminded me of what my sister told the first time we went out to Tokyo, “You don’t need to bring tissue papers when going out, someone along the way it ought to give you one.” Shops hire promo girls to hand out tissue papers carrying the shop’s name on the packaging.
And then these girls in Cosplay appeared.
Unlike the one handing out paper napkins, these two promo girls were dressed in full cosplay and were both willing to have our photos taken with them.
Above photo was taken in front of a popular electronic shop, Radio Kaikan.
There were so many electronics products being sold in Akihabara for very low prices. If I only had enough money with me then, perhaps I had bought myself a ton of electronic loots. The only thing I bought for myself was a CASIO men’s wrist watch for just 2,000 Yen from a sidewalk vendor. While you are reading this, I’m still wearing the very watch and have not replaced it even once.
But aside from electronic products, we also found other interesting merchandise being sold at specialty shops such as a life-sized nude doll made from soft silicon alloy. I believe sex toys are a fad among Japanese men. Correct me if I’m wrong.
Our next stop was Shibuya. It was already becoming dark when we reached the famous shopping district but the place remained so crowded. Watching people move from one side of the street to the other during traffic lights changes was like watching military platoons marching at the command of their officer.
“The Scramble,” Shibuya Shopping District
It was told that the best spot to watch the Shibuya Crossing (The Scramble) is from the Starbucks building across the street but the guys at Wowsabi know a secret place with an awesome view of the crossing.
Things there are still expensive for us third-world citizens so we didn’t do any shopping. We just enjoyed the lights coming from huge screens mounted on almost every building.
We saw a big red bike parked on the street and took turns taking our photos riding it.
I was hoping the tour guide would lead us to where the famous Hachiko statue but he didn’t. He must not have been a fan.
Two train rides and a very long walk and we reached the Tokyo Tower. It was already late so we didn’t stay for long. We just went to the floor where you could see the entirety of Tokyo in full 360-degree view. We didn’t even had the chance to visit the wax museum so we just took photos at one Madonna wax model and the miniature Tokyo Tower on the ground floor.
A few more minutes of walking and we reached our last stop in Roppongi, Tokyo’s “United Nations” District. The place is a popular hang-out for expats because of the series of pubs, night clubs and disco houses operating there. We saw a lot of couples doing their drunk scenes. Meanwhile, in a McDonald’s outlet, an intoxicated couple (a Japanese girl and a Caucasian guy) went together in the toilet and stayed there for about fifteen minutes. We didn’t judge them.
View of Tokyo Tower at Dawn from Roppongi area.
The sun has already started to shine when we parted.
I walked towards random directions to find a subway station for hours. The sun has already risen completely before I saw a train station to Shinjuku where I would take another train to my sister’s place in Kawagoe.
This Tokyo trip entry first appeared on Multiply (a now-defunct social networking site) in 2004 and later moved to WordPress. Tons of new information was crammed on this post between edits.