Day 3 – Akihabara, Tokyo Sky-tree
Our second full day began with a metro out to Akihabara, where we walked the remaining distance to the Edo Tokyo museum. We were dismayed to see that our 30-minute walk had led us to a museum that was undergoing renovations and closed until at least March 2018. We did get to see the sumo wrestling hall (adjacent to the Edo Tokyo museum) and there is also a sumo wrestling museum. We continued with our walk out to Iki Espresso.
We had read about this New Zealand owned café in Air New Zealand’s inflight magazine a few months prior and were keen to try it out. Not just to show our support, but we were in serious need of some NZ grub and hearty, full-bodied coffee. We weren’t to be disappointed – a café as funky as you would find in the heart of Wellington, with delicious food and even better coffee. We probably overstayed but we just loved it so much.
After we were feeling sufficiently re-energised, we began the next stage of our hike across to Tokyo Sky-tree. We had heard far more impressive things about this over the Tokyo Tower, so visiting here instead was a no-brainer. At 635m high, this is supposed to be the tallest free-standing tower in the world. At night it is lit up in beautiful colours, and you can see it from almost any viewing point across the city. I think the perfect time to go is sunset, so you could see the dramatic transition into night, but for us it was just more convenient to visit during the day.
There are two observation decks – one at 350m high and the other at 450m high. After some deliberation, we opted for the 350m high deck. Our main reasons for this were (besides being $10 cheaper) that at 350m high, you are already basically at the highest point in the city, so being 100m higher doesn’t actually allow you to see anything more. The extent of the view is always going to come down to the visibility of the day – of which air pollution and weather are the main contributing factors. Our day was relatively clear, and we could just make out the outline of Mt Fuji in the distance. We heard somewhere that if you go the day after a national holiday (of which Japan has 18!), you’ll have a better chance of seeing Mt Fuji because all of the factories would have been closed, meaning air pollution will be less.
We spent about an hour and a half in the Tokyo Sky-tree complex, and upon leaving we decided to check out Senso-jei temple, which was nearby. It was beautiful, and literally one of the busiest places I think I have ever visited in my life. There was a service of some kind going on, meaning that the area was flooded with people, some in worship and others just visiting. There were streets upon streets of vendors at market stalls selling a range of delicious food, crafts and other trinkets. I would describe it as quaint, but there were just too many people. It was really fun though.
Temperatures had dropped significantly, so we opted to warm our souls with a matcha latte (me) and a mocha frappucino (Andy, of course!) before we headed back to Shinjuku to do some much needed laundry. There were washing facilities at our accommodation, but I had been noted a few laundromats around the place if it was necessary. Afterwards we headed out into what was now a very chilly evening for some delicious Japanese curry at a recommended buffet (where only the women are allowed to use the soft drink machine – sexism in one of its more entertaining forms; Andy was not impressed). To top the evening off, we stopped in at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government observatory desk on our way home to view the city by night. Wow! So many lights, so many colours – spamming as far as the eye can see! It is hard to believe how big Tokyo actually is.