Lost in Shinkansen

Our day started early so that we could get off the ship and make our way to Shin-Osaka Station in time to catch the 9:24am Shinkansen to Tokyo. The ride was pleasant, even if we couldn’t get much of a view of Mt. Fuji.

The train, including the bathrooms, was immaculate, and the toilets leave Amtrak in the dust (as does the train, which reached 275 km/h (170 mph) for much of the way).

We arrived at Tokyo Station without incident and met Yulia, our guide for the day. We headed down to street level to take a taxi to the Mesm Hotel where we’d be staying…and I suddenly realized that I’d left my belt pack on the train. She suggested we go to the hotel, drop the luggage, and come back to Tokyo Station to check the lost and found office.

So we did (and discovered that the Shinkansen has a different lost and found office than the rest of the JR trains); I filled out a short form, and two minutes later, I was reunited with my belt pack and all its contents. Magic!

We walked over to the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace and enjoyed their beauty.

We were back on Yulia’s planned tour route now; the next stop was a quick one to see the statue of Kusunoki Masashige, who fought on the Imperial side to overthrow the Kamakura shogunate (this was in the 14th Century, not to be confused with the overthrow of the Tokugawa shogunate in favor of the Meiji Emperor in the 19th Century).

A short subway ride later, we enjoyed the views of the Nijubashi Bridge on the Palace grounds.

Onward we went, this time to Meiji Jingu, dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.

I’m used to seeing consecrated saki barrels at Shinto shrines, but this was the first time I’d ever seen consecrated barrels of Burgundy wine!

We continued walking along to the shrine itself.

The Meoto Kusu (Husband and Wife) Trees are a symbol of happy marriages.

It was getting dark, so we left Meiji Jingu and took the train to Shibuya Square. We made a brief stop to admire the statue of the world’s most loyal dog, Hachiko, who waited for his master for nine years.

We braved the scramble, which is supposed to be the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing.

Yulia helped us with some emergency shopping at Bic Camera, and then we had dinner at Neo on the 12th floor of the Shibuya Scramble Square building. They specialize in yakitori, with innovative flavors – it was delicious.

And then onward to Shinjuku; it’s very popular with young people and the odd monster.

We walked down Omoide Yokocho which is an elaboration of the open-air markets of the immediate postwar period. It was crowded. :-)

And that was it, except for yet another train ride back across town to our hotel. We’d walked 15km with Yulia; it was a great start to our Tokyo adventure.