MistyNites

My Life in Motion

Archive for the month “November, 2020”

Tokyo Delights

I might be a bit spoiled for good coffee in New Zealand, so I’m often left disappointed when I’m desperate for a good brew abroad. The coffee in Tokyo hadn’t thrilled me so far, but that didn’t stop me parking up in a cafe in Shibuya on my last day in Tokyo to have breakfast. My legs were still a bit achy from being on my feet for 14hrs the day before, but that wasn’t going to stop me from another day of traipsing the streets of one of the World’s largest cities. Just down the road from the cafe was the infamous Shibuya crossing, the World’s busiest pedestrian crossing. Rush hour had passed but there was still plenty of activity with people regularly piling out of the train station and jostling across every time the traffic halted. It drew quite a crowd of onlookers, and I joined them initially before wandering around to look at the Shiba Inu artwork on the station wall and the dog statue in the square. I’m not entirely sure what the significance of the dog statue was but it seemed to be rather revered.

 

When it was time to cross myself, I got swallowed up by the masses that crossed with me but what I couldn’t believe was the amount of people that would stop in the middle of the crossing to get their photograph taken. And it wasn’t tourists. It appeared to be locals on proper photo shoots. I’m not sure if they were modelling clothes or something else but it was intriguing and astounding in equal measure. The people were never fully finished crossing when the traffic lights turned green again so the vehicles would just start to push through the stragglers. It almost seemed like a well-orchestrated dance move that everyone was unwittingly taking part in. I guided myself on a walking tour of the Shibuya streets. I could just imagine what this place would be like at night all lit up, but the businesses didn’t really interest me during the day time. There were signs confronting me everywhere I went though, and after to-ing and fro-ing through the neighbourhood I eventually found myself back at the junction.

It was a short train ride to Harajuku station to visit Meiji Jingu. Once out of the station, I headed into the expansive park and was swiftly greeted by a gigantic torii gate. It was a lovely tree lined walk from there past beautifully decorated saki barrels and more torii gates to the shrine itself which was a hive of activity. Locals and tourists alike mingled together as people gave thanks and prayer either within the halls of the shrine itself or on the prayer walls outside. Without fully understanding the culture, it could be easy to get ‘shrined-out’ in Japan – the amount of shrines around the country is incredible, and I made a point of limiting my visits to them so as not to get complacent or bored with them. But here, I did get a little caught up with the vibe of the place and it was quite humbling as I found myself becoming introspective and silently taking stock of where I was. I even bought a wooden prayer piece to hang by the prayer tree with my wish for my friends and family.

 

There was so much to look at on site, with little interesting pieces of detail on the buildings themselves and strung round the trees. At one point a stir went through the gathered crowd and what looked like a wedding party appeared: a group of people in traditional dress accompanying what I think was a bride. They garnered quite an audience because of their garb and I felt quite sorry for them as loads of strangers rudely started taking their picture without even stopping to think whether it was appropriate or not. I watched them pass, the gathered audience dispersing shortly after and I headed out the side entrance of Meiji Jingu to walk the quieter path through the trees back to the entrance.

 

Almost directly opposite was a broad tree-lined dual carriageway that cut deep into the city again, leading me back to suburbia. Just one block down there was a mall with a striking mirrored frontage, escalators leading up into it from where I wound my way up to the Starbucks on the roof to take a look from the rooftop terrace. Although it’s probably more polite to purchase something while you are there, it is actually possible to just go up and visit the terrace without spending money, and from there I could see down to the hustle and bustle below. It wasn’t as dramatic as the traffic and people of Shibuya Crossing but it was still a nice perspective of the streets immediately around.

 

Another part-block down the road I found myself at Cat Street, a quaint street full of boutique shops and eateries. It was a mix of architecturally eclectic buildings and unlike anywhere else in the city, there was a gorgeous historic-looking brick building. I felt a little self-conscious in my clothes wandering through there, and having planned on eating here, I couldn’t find anywhere that looked like it had space or was affordable. I spied some funky street art on the wall as I walked and before I knew it I was at the far end of the street. I could see on Google Maps I was within walking distance of Shibuya Crossing having almost completed a large circle, and I was once again very grateful to have organised a pocket wifi unit to allow me to access the Internet on the move. It had been essential to me navigating my way through this immense metropolis. I happened upon a lovely place to have lunch as I continued and devoured a huge meal and plenty of drinks to balance out the amount of walking I was doing.

 

I’d read about a rooftop area above Shibuya Crossing which I was keen to get up to but found it a little confusing to work out how to get there. Eventually I worked out that I had to go into the department store type building directly opposite the main station entrance then head up to the food court. Even there the sign wasn’t immediately obvious but at the far side of a burger joint, a heavy door led outside to a metal staircase that led up to the roof. A machine released a token on paying the entrance fee, and then I was able to pass through the barrier and look down on the busy crossing below. It would no doubt be more impressive at night time but I also suspect the viewing area would very busy at night also. As it was, I just had to share it with 2 couples and we took our turns to stand in the prime spot and watch the dance of traffic and humans.

 

Floor by floor I headed downstairs through the department store, briefly mulling over the Japanese fashions, the weird mannequins and pop-culture shops. On the ground floor I popped out in a Hello Kitty store and couldn’t help but purchase a small kimono-wearing plushie. I don’t usually buy much more than fridge magnets when I go abroad, but Japan has such quirky and World-famous pop-cultures that it was really difficult not to buy a few extra souvenirs. I’d already bought a Totoro plushie at the Ghibli Museum, so even though I was 36 at the time, I bought it a friend. I’m still waiting to reach the age where I outgrow buying soft toys. I burst back out into the sunlight, purchase in hand and crossed the Shibuya Crossing yet again to head back into the large and bustling train station.

 

I cut across the city to Roppongi to visit the Tokyo City View and Sky Deck. There is no shortage of observatories in the city, and as I couldn’t visit them all, I decided that I’d rather have a view of the Eiffel-Tower-like Tokyo Tower rather than actually go up, and its distinctive orange colour made it an awesome building to witness on the skyline. I had arrived at the City View a little before 3pm and it was a gorgeous sunny afternoon. This particular observation tower has an inside viewing area with floor to ceiling glass windows, and an outdoor viewing area on the helipad on the roof. I’d highly recommend getting the ticket for both. I took my time enjoying the view from the comfort of indoors. I really loved the view from here and far preferred it to that from the Tokyo Skytree. The view south-west was hazy and I squinted my eyes in an effort to make out the distant peak of Mt Fuji, the country’s tallest mountain.

By the time I’d done the full circumference of the building inside, I found myself at a cool little self-service coffee station. Little pods of filter coffee of varying strengths, tastes and origins sat within gumball-type machines which could be purchased with a coin. Then you could watch the machine filter it through into your cup. It was a novelty that I took full advantage of, despite normally only having 1 coffee a day and having already had a disappointing one at breakfast. This turned out to be the best coffee I had in Japan, and I parked up at a bench with a window view of Mt Fuji to enjoy it. Afterwards I did another full circuit of the viewing area before cutting into the middle of the tower to reach the escalator up to the roof.

The rooftop is completely exposed and as such you have to lock all your belongings away in lockers, taking only the bare minimum with you and only what you can wear or attach to yourself. When I stepped outside onto the platform and realised the angle of the sun was getting low, and the shadows were stretching out, I quickly came to the conclusion that I wanted to stay here till sunset. I didn’t care about going anywhere else that evening, I didn’t care that this meant spending multiple hours here, and I didn’t care that this was to be the last of my daytime sight seeing. This was the place to be. As the sun continued to lower I had an uninterrupted view of Mt Fuji which was now much clearer on the horizon. A wisp of cloud hung around its midriff just like I’d seen from Kawaguchiko a few days prior.

 

As the sun lowered, the sky turned from blue to peach then yellow. The shadows grew ever longer until the sun finally dropped below the line of cloud that sat above the hills on the horizon. The peach returned in the sky and then it deepened to purple as the sun sunk further to the west. I couldn’t stand still, there was so much to look at in every direction as the colour palette changed and the moon crept higher and the city lights blinked on below me. Mt Fuji dominated the horizon to the south-west, remaining visible as a silhouette for a long time. As the colours faded to black, the Tokyo Tower showed its true colours. It simply glowed orange, a beautiful beacon on the city skyline and I couldn’t get enough of it, photographing it repetitively from every possible angle and frame. I spent about 2hrs on the roof before I could tear myself away and head back down.

 

I had one last experience to have in Tokyo before leaving it behind the next morning, and that was to experience Shibuya at night. I retraced my steps on the metro system to the huge Shibuya station and as I crossed the pedestrian bridge within the station which has a large window looking out onto the crossing itself, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The square below was absolutely mobbed. By now 7pm I was amidst the commuters heading home at rush hour, ever watched by the throngs of tourists that had descended on the place. It was standing room only and once outside myself, I struggled to move through the crowds, eager like everyone else to get a vantage point of what turned out to be utter madness when the pedestrian lights turned green. The people moved in giant waves, and with four points to the crossing it seemed inevitable that people would get swept in the wrong direction, but somehow it just worked. I finally was able to hop up onto a low wall to watch the chaos enfold in front of me.

 

Once in the maze of bright lights of Shibuya I was again struck by the constant noise and brightness of the night here. The sensory stimulation was insane and I was torn between following my stomach and wanting to just watch the city life play out in front of me. I found a cute little place to have delicious ramen, one of my favourite Japanese dishes, and one which was readily available throughout the country, and once satiated I headed back out onto the streets once more. I played a bit more in one of the many arcade halls that litter the city, feeling joyful and stress free like a little kid. Eventually it all just got a bit too much, and nearly 12hrs after I’d left the hotel that morning, and once more with pained swollen feet and legs, it was time to limp my way back to my bed. I could easily justify many return trips to Tokyo to see more but I was satisfied with my attempt to do the city justice on my first visit. But all good things come to an end, and as there is so much more to Japan than its biggest city, it was time to move on.

The Lights and Sights of Tokyo

It wasn’t difficult to appreciate how big Tokyo was. With each day’s explorations involving a multitude of train connections as I skipped around the city, there was no denying the scale of the place. But a lot of my movements had occurred under ground in the vast network of Tokyo’s metro system, so I was looking forward to getting a bit of a raised perspective of this immense metropolis. There are plenty of observation decks to choose from, and I decided to make the Tokyo Skytree my priority. Not only was it a distinctive building in itself, but its location meant it was well placed for an impressive vista.

There was a haze in the sky evident as I reached the upper observation deck at 445m (1460ft), but it was still possible to see for miles. When I visited in October 2019 there was a temporary display about space travel and astronauts. It was a slightly random theme, and was heavily dotted with Snoopy & Friends characters but it was actually interesting and it filled the gaps where there wasn’t a viewpoint. But it was, at the end of the day, the view that made it worthwhile, and in every direction, Tokyo life played out below me. A mishmash of skyscrapers and lower buildings interplayed with each other, and on close inspection some historic building or shrine could be seen dotted amongst the more modern developments. Snaking through this urban landscape was the large sinuous Sumida and Arakawa rivers. The observation deck also snaked round and up as well to a final height of 451.2m (1480ft), the highest publicly accessible point in the tower.

 

I took my time at the upper observation deck before going down to the lower observation deck at 350m (1148ft). Following brunch in the cafe, the viewing areas in this lower observation zone spanned 3 different floors and were a bit more broken up. The difference in height from the upper observation deck gave a slightly different perspective of the city, and more detail was obvious such as the random giant golden bean that was nestled among some skyscrapers. There was also a glass floor here, as is often found in observation decks like these around the world, offering a vertigo-inducing view of the street below if you are afraid of heights, or a chance to scare other people by jumping up and down on the glass in front of others. I spent about 2hrs up the tower making it worth the entrance fee for me.

 

After the obligatory visit to the gift shop on the way down, I decided to take a wander around the neighbourhood. The Skytree is next to a canal so I followed this watercourse for some way to get a different perspective of the tower itself as well as to nosy around the nearby area. At a total height of 634m (2080ft), it was difficult to get a photograph that fitted the full scale of the tower in, but that didn’t stop me trying. After a while it was time to get moving and head on to the next part of the city to discover: Ueno Park.

 

As often happened in the underground rabbit warren of Tokyo’s metro system, it was a bit confusing which station exit I wanted to get where I was aiming to be. Sometimes it could be blatantly clear, and other times it was a complete guess and trial and error. Ueno park is a huge greenspace within the city containing a few museums, a zoo, shrines and a large pond. As always it was blisteringly hot to walk around it, but the park was very busy with locals and tourists alike. At the southern end there were multiple sculptures, and a couple of water features next to which a band was playing. I watched them briefly before making my way deeper into the park, following the side road past museums, eventually finding myself at a giant blue whale sculpture outside of the National Museum of Nature & Science. Beyond here was the impressive looking Tokyo National Museum at the top end of the park. Despite the respite from the heat that these museums would offer, I had neither the time nor the interest to go into any of them. Instead I was much more interested in the large market that was taking place in fountain square. Row upon row of wares ranging from teapots and cups to chopsticks and fabrics filled the square and it was really popular. I would have loved to have bought all sorts of pottery from there but in the end I settled for a few sets of chopsticks that I have made good use of since.

 

About halfway back through the park, on the far side from the road I’d cut up through, was a shrine and pagoda. Although I was keen to absorb Japanese culture during my stay, I feel that I missed out a lot on the significance of some of these places that I visited. I wasn’t always interested enough to read the signs, and sometimes the English signage could be somewhat lacking, so mostly I just admired the architecture or the gilding. Finally I happened upon a set of torii gates which led me down a pathway round the side of another shrine, and once across the road I was met by the large Shinobazu pond.

 

The Shinobazu pond was transected from the Shinobazuno pond by a series of bridges. The lower pond was a mass of floating water plants which hid the water below it. In what few gaps there were, large fish could be seen at the surface. As much as this pond felt like an oasis, it was completely surrounded by suburbia, and skyscrapers filled the circumference, the sounds of the city ever present. Once at the southern end of the pond, the plants offered a natural frame to the view of the Shinobazu no Ike Bentendo shrine and the skyscrapers to the west. It was a beautiful juxtaposition between an urban landscape and nature.

 

I cut round the pond and followed the dissecting causeway that split the pond in two, past weeping willow trees and people on pedal boats, eventually finding myself at the shrine in the middle. There was some sort of service taking place that I couldn’t make sense of despite observing for a while, so eventually I left, continuing to head towards the northern end of the pond where there was a plethora of giant fish and red-eared sliders hanging out on the rocks. The Ueno zoo is situated here and as I looked back towards the centre of Tokyo I could see the very top of the Tokyo Skytree sticking up above the trees. Between the ponds and the main part of the park, Ueno park offered plenty of variety of things to pass the time, and I’ll definitely return here if I ever make it back to Tokyo.

 

But there was still so much ground to cover and so much sightseeing still to fit in. Although it was now well into the afternoon, I still had a few hours of daylight ahead of me. My next stop was within walking distance, and already at the northern end of the pond it was just a 15 minute walk to reach the Nezu shrine. Initially walking through a typical city landscape, nearer the shrine down back streets there were a few traditional buildings present. After a short while I found myself at a giant torii gate marking the entrance of the shrine grounds. Following the long entrance path, there were a variety of buildings at the end and a plethora of torri gates lining the various pathways around the property. A couple of women in traditional kimonos were doing a photoshoot, but otherwise it was a very quiet place with hardly anyone there. There was a large koi-filled pond and the main shrine building itself had some gorgeous gilding on the roof.

 

I was both knackered and hungry by the time I reached Rikugien gardens an hour before it closed. Not only did the garden have an unexpected entry fee but it was also fully walled and gated, meaning it closed ahead of sunset which caught me off guard. I had grabbed some snacks at a nearby convenience store and found myself a spot to have a picnic overlooking the central pond. This was such a peaceful place with gorgeous shrubbery and a cute little boat in the middle of the pond, and was one of my favourite gardens to visit in the city. I felt rushed though, having to work my way round it all before it closed for the night, and sadly by the time I reached the final garden on my list of places to visit, it was already closed.

 

The Koishikawa Korakuen gardens was in an interesting part of the city. Stepping out of the Korakuen station I was immediately met with the large structure of the Tokyo dome and intriguingly an inner-city rollercoaster. After discovering that the gardens was closed, I walked round its circumference and round the edge of the Tokyo Dome, the forecourt of which had a host of entertainment centres including the aforementioned rollercoaster, but also a giant swinging dragon boat ride. Dusk was pushing on as I continued to wander around listening to the screams and chatter of the people enjoying themselves.

 

Because Tokyo doesn’t sleep there was no rest for the wicked. Taking the train to Shinjuku, one of the most active parts of the city at night, I started my night time adventures at the free observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Governmental building. The view was of a mass of city lights spreading out in all directions. I bought myself some sake and takoyaki at the cafe and proceeded to get myself nicely merry on the strong liquor. Takoyaki are battered balls of octopus but the highlight of them is the fish flakes that are sprinkled on top and that appear to dance, the heat causing them to flutter on the plate. At 202m (662ft), this observation deck was far lower than the Tokyo Skytree and its location within a built up part of the city meant the view wasn’t quite so interesting, or at least at night time it wasn’t, so after walking round a couple of times, and despite it being over 12hrs since I’d left my hotel that morning, I was ready to experience the chaos of nighttime Shinjuku.

 

Japan is a barrage on the senses at the best of times, but especially at night, where lights and sounds bombard you from every direction. Shinjuku was chaotic and highly stimulatory but also very fun to walk around. The crowds here were crazy and I discovered a plethora of games halls which I loved, spending far too many Yen on arcade games, the likes of which I hadn’t played since I was growing up. The Japanese seemed obsessed with these arcade halls with large complexes of them on nearly every street corner in this hub in the city. I stumbled across the infamous Robot Restaurant (which has since closed down) and there were eateries and bars galore down every turn. Every surface of almost every building was covered in neon signs advertising things I couldn’t make head nor tails of, and eventually the constant stimulation added to my increasing tiredness. That didn’t stop me from getting an ice cream pancake but after sitting down to eat it I struggled to get back up again as my feet were in quite a bit of pain from walking all day. It was after 11pm when I returned to my hotel room, over 14hrs since I’d left that morning. My legs were throbbing and my feet swollen, but I’d had a thoroughly enjoyable day. It wasn’t hard to get to sleep which was just as well as I’d be doing it all over again the next morning.

Tokyo’s Art Scene

Back when my trip to Tokyo was just a future dream, there were two places that I knew would be an absolute must for me to visit, and I made sure I booked them both ahead of time to avoid any disappointment. After a couple of days spent out of the city, it was time to do Tokyo justice and get and about. A few years ago at my local International Film Festival, I watched an animated movie called The Red Turtle, that had me in tears. It was the first Studio Ghibli movie I’d watched from start to finish and I loved it. I hadn’t watched any others since, but I knew of some of the main characters and most popular movies from the Studio, and I was well aware of Totoro, one of the most famous characters. Despite not being well versed in the movies, a visit to the Ghibli Museum was something that I was really keen to do, but required a good bit of forward planning. Gaining access to the museum requires a ticket that goes up for sale 1-2 months prior, and they sell out fast. Thankfully, I had been given a heads up by a friend who had visited the year before, and I set off from my Yotsuya hotel in October 2019, armed with my ticket.

I was by now very comfortable with the train network around Tokyo. Yotsuya was well connected, and with my pocket WiFi and transport app, negotiating the route I needed to the suburb of Mitaka was simple. It was already blistering hot when I got off the train at the other end, and I had about a 15 minute walk from the station, all the while wandering through residential streets in a part of Tokyo so different to where I’d been so far. Every now and again, I passed a sign counting down the distance to the museum, a grinning Totoro popping up above it. Arriving at the museum, I was greeted by a fancy big building and a giant Totoro in the bay window as I entered the grounds. The entrance ticket was allocated in time slots, and I’d secured the first entry of the day. As the queue slowly moved around the building, the building itself became more colourful and was covered in large swathes of ivy. Eventually it was my turn to get inside and was handed my entrance ticket, which included a reel from a Studio Ghibli movie, and after being pointed in the direction of the entrance, I was set free to explore.

 

You are not allowed to take photos inside the museum, which I respect, but despite only knowing a handful of the Studio Ghibli movies, I was absolutely enthralled with the place. Downstairs had various rooms with props and artwork on display, and towards the back was a small cinema that showed the most delightful short movie. Spiral staircases led upstairs, and I went into room after room of artworks and videos displaying how some of the movies had been made. I spent hours there, making sure I saw every thing there was to see, even queuing in the busier rooms to make sure I didn’t miss a thing. In one corner, a spiral staircase led up onto the roof, where I was immediately sweating in the intense Tokyo heat. Standing tall to greet me was a giant robot statue, representing one of the characters from the movie Castle in the Sky. It was impossible to visit this place and not buy something at the gift shop – there was some serious money changing hands here – and I left at lunchtime, satisfied with my morning.

My second must-do of Tokyo was also pre-booked to a time slot, but I had a few hours to get there so I decided to walk to a further away train station to allow me to visit Inokashira Park. The heat meant that every day of walking left me with painful and swollen legs, but it was hard not to make the most of Tokyo’s expansive parks by exploring every square inch of them. The Ghibli Museum sat at the most southern end of it, and I cut through sports fields where locals played tennis and ran round a track. The dominant feature of this park was a large lake which I reached after passing through wooded areas and statues. The reflections on the water were divine, and a series of bridges criss-crossed the water. I made sure to cover as much of the perimeter path as I could, circling round the long length of the lake before crossing back and forth across a few of the bridges to make a sort of figure-eight. I was surprised to see some cormorants, a species which I also see back home in New Zealand, and there were a few ducks and a heron to add to the bird life. It was possible to hire paddle boats, and even although it was a weekday, the place was full of locals, from mums out with children, to retirees out for a stroll, and workers taking a lunch break. I’m sure there were other tourists there too, but I felt like I was seeing the real Tokyo, away from the usual tourist hubs nearer the city centre.

 

I had several connections to catch to push me around and across Tokyo to the Aomi region within Tokyo Bay. In hindsight, I would have loved to have explored this area more in depth, but as it was, I arrived with just enough time to walk across the open complex at Tokyo Teleport station, where I was greeted by a giant multi-coloured Ferris wheel. Instructions in hand, I headed into the mall and almost immediately found myself inside a giant Toyota showroom. Looking down on reams of shiny cars, I cut across the galley and found myself directly under the Ferris wheel, watching it spin past me as I headed to the building next door. I was excited to get inside and see what all the fuss was about, with 3hrs prior to closing to make the most of it.

 

From the first photos I’d come across online, I knew immediately that teamLab Borderless was a place I had to visit, and I was not disappointed. This place blew me away, and I could happily go back again and again. Effectively a giant warehouse divided into rooms and floors, there’s no set path through, and its up to you to find every access doorway to every room – and boy do you want to make sure you see it all! Essentially an interactive art gallery, this place goes well beyond that, and it simply needs to be experienced. No photo or video could ever do this place justice. The first room was immense, and was a series of walls that displayed an ever-changing artwork of flowers. The place was effectively in darkness aside from the light created by the artwork, and it meant that some of the doors to different rooms were almost hidden. It made it a bit of a game to work out where each of the rooms were, and I’m fairly confident that I got round every single one of them. The place was packed, but it did make it easier to spot some of the room openings, however a few of the more popular rooms had long queues to get into them, and due to this, it took me the entire 3hrs to get round the place.

 

The whole place was an assault on the senses, but one that I very much enjoyed. Music played everywhere I went, and the lights and moving images led you round corners and down corridors. One of the most beautiful rooms was a large space with a high ceiling, in the centre of which was a raised area to get some perspective from. The art work moved across the floor and up the walls, and it was simply mesmerising. Everyone in the room became part of the art as the colours swept across their bodies. It was divine. The door out of here was quite well hidden but it wasn’t long before I found myself in a room of flashing rope lights and a mirrored floor. I went through this room a couple of times, because it was so pretty, but out the far side in an alcove, the vision of a bird dramatically flying across the space took my breath away.

 

Making sure I saw everything occasionally involved doubling back a bit, but I didn’t mind seeing some of the rooms more than once. I walked through fields of lillies where leaves fell and sat in a room with waves crashing around me before I realised that there was more than one floor. My first queue started at the bottom of the stairs and slowly led me upstairs to one of the most famous rooms at teamLab Borderless – the room of coloured lights. I’d seen the most photos of this room online and it was clearly very popular. The queue to get into the room was longer than the allotted time allowed inside it, but with a galley window to look inside as you waited for your turn, there was plenty of time to get a feel for the place. The room was a deep red when I first entered, eventually turning to a mix of pastels before I had to leave.

 

Upstairs was even more interactive than downstairs. As I entered the main area upstairs I was greeted by humpback whales swimming across the walls and geckos crawling across the floor. It was possible to draw art here that could be incorporated into the moving images, and at the far end I was greeted by a room full of giant air-filled blobs that changed colour as you walked through them. There were climbing poles to traverse, and moving platforms to try and cross, before I found myself in what could probably have passed as a kids room but was instead mainly visited by adults: a giant room with planes, cars and boats moving around, that could be manipulated by moving the objects across the floor and walls. The large slide just outside the city room made me wonder if upstairs was supposed to be for kids, but there were hardly any kids there, and every adult I saw was taking great delight in interacting with the artwork, myself included.

 

I watched the humpback whales frolic across the room before heading back downstairs to visit the last few rooms. There was another long queue that left me standing among a corridor of falling flowers, the colours dancing across my face and including me in their movement as I stood there. It took 20 minutes to get into this last room where I had to lie down on a large hammock suspended in the middle of the room. This was the only artwork I was underwhelmed by, and not really worth the wait, but when I came out I was close to the entrance and had just 15 minutes left before the place would shut. I walked round the flower walls I’d seen on arrival and headed back to the dancing rope lights once more before stepping outside into the darkness of the Tokyo night.

 

The reality is though that Tokyo isn’t really dark at night. The sky may look dark if you look up, but that is because it is hard to see any stars with so much light pollution from the city itself. If Tokyo goes to sleep, I don’t know when it does, because it always seemed so busy, bright and brash in the hours of the night, just as it did during the day. The colourful Ferris wheel was still turning as I walked below it once more, but this time I decided to wander around the Toyota warehouse as I passed through. Aside from the standard Toyota cars on display, there were some space-age models and some artistic body work on display too.

 

I visited Tokyo during the Rugby World Cup, and with the New Zealand All Blacks playing that night I decided to be social and visit one of the RWC hubs to watch the game in public. The crowds were massive but sadly it wasn’t set up that well so it was really difficult to see the screens through the throng of heads in front of me. A little dejected, I decided to head back to my hotel to watch the game there. Only my second hotel didn’t have the TV channel to watch the RWC. My initial hotel had, and I’d been able to watch the Scotland match a few nights prior. I was gutted to miss out on the experience, but I had acquired some merchandise at the shop before leaving that night. Sadly the All Blacks didn’t bring the cup home that tournament. They were outplayed several times, and that night’s match was one of them. But it was time to take my throbbing, swollen legs to bed ahead of another Tokyo adventure the following day.

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