Day Two: Tokyo Dome, Imperial Palace, and Asakusa
Day Two: Tokyo Dome, Imperial Palace, and Asakusa
Day two for us began near our hotel, Hotel Niwa. We walked over to the nearby Tokyo Dome/LaQua shopping centre located in Bunkyō-ku and searched for some breakfast options. As it turned out, the day started out bright and sunny. November means autumn in Tokyo but it is quite mild compared to Vancouver (normal temperatures are in the high teens).
One of the things that I noticed in Japan was that they seemed to have a fascination with Ferris wheels. Tokyo Dome is the home of the Big O Ferris Wheel (the largest centreless Ferris wheel) which has Tokyo’s largest roller coaster passing through the centre of the wheel.
Check out our breakfast post at Moomin Bakery & Cafe located in the nearby LaQua shopping centre.
After our breakfast, we headed out to Hibiya Park, located adjacent to the Imperial Palace in Chiyoda-ku. One of the first things that we saw here was this huge round stone that’s about 1m in diameter. This was actually used as a form of currency from Yap Island in Micronesia and was worth about ¥1000 back in 1924. And you complain about your coin purse being too heavy?!
As it turned out, we arrived in Japan during the Kiku (Chrysanthemum) Festival. Chrysanthemums hold a special reverence in Japan – the Imperial Seal of Japan used by the emperor is a 16 petal Chrysanthemum which evokes the rays of the sun and the Chrysanthemum Throne is often used as a term to refer to the Japanese monarchy.
There’s a number of chrysanthemum exhibits at various parks. The one that we saw at Hibiya park wasn’t very large but it did have a number of interesting varieties.
The small Hibiya open-air concert hall (there is a larger open-air concert hall on the south-west corner of the park).
The park itself isn’t huge but there’s some nice views with the neighbouring buildings serving as a backdrop.
To get from Hibiya Park to the Imperial Palace, you have to pass by a moat… a very big moat. I definitely want one of these!
Outside the Imperial Palace is this statue of 14th-century samurai, Kusunoki Masashige, on horseback. He’s highly regarded as representing the ideal of samurai loyalty.
Outside the Imperial Palace grounds, they have these impressively large round stone barriers.
One of the most famous bridges in Japan has to be the stone arched bridge that most people refer to as Nijūbashi (or double bridge). The name actually used to refer to the metal bridge that was behind the current location of the stone bridge. If you walk up to the stone bridge, you can see the metal bridge in the background. While it no longer looks like a double bridge, the original metal bridge had a wooden support underneath which gave it the appearance of a double bridge.
Tatsumi-nijyu-yagura is one of only three remaining keeps of the inner citadel of Edo castle.
Since you generally can’t go inside the Imperial Palace (it’s only open to the public on December 23rd (Emperor’s birthday) and January 2 (New Year’s Greeting), you’ll have to console yourself with walking around the expansive East Gardens.
The remains of the old castle tower are still here and you can get a good vantage point from the top of the ruins.
As you leave the gardens, you can see the impressive stone work surrounded by the moat.
After leaving the Imperial Palace, we headed out to the Asakusa district of Taitō-ku. Asakusa used to be a major entertainment/pleasure district prior to being largely destroyed during WWII.
Asakusa is a popular destination for tourists due to the large Sensō-ji Buddhist shrine, the oldest temple in Tokyo. Surrounding the temple is a large open-air mall of food stalls and souvenir shops.
Just outside of the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), you can find the Asakusa Culture and Tourism Centre where you can get a nice view of the surrounding area.
The Thunder Gate is the outermost of two large gates that leads to Sensō-ji.
Before we get to Sensō-ji, check out our lunch at Isomaru Suisan Asakusa
Outside the restaurant, there’s plenty of stalls where you can find knick-knacks and items that you’d only find in Japan. This one shop sold umbrellas that had a hidden pattern that you couldn’t seen unless the umbrella was wet.
While shopping along the Nakamise-dori, we found these delectable Matcha Ice Cream Melonpans. Check out our post about Asakusa Sakura.
From the Nakamise-dori, you can see Tokyo Skytree in the background.
You can also find food stalls such as Naruto Taiyaki Asakusa which serves up a red bean taiyaki along Shin-Nakamise.
The Hozōmon is the inner of the two gates that leads to the Sensō-ji temple. What you might not know is that the 2nd level of the gate stores the treasured sutras (scriptures) of Sensō-ji.
It’s neat that even the garage doors here are decorated with various murals.
At nighttime, you get a totally different perspective of Tokyo’s bright lights. In the background of this pictures is one of the large Don Quijote discount stores.
After spending hours shopping in the area, we wound up getting dinner at Ippudo Asakusa in Asakusa ROX. Check out the ramen and gyoza that we had here:
Finally, we ended our day by heading back to the Tokyo Dome area near our hotel.
The lights here are really stunning and you can see how they light up the Ferris wheel.
The lights also help to showcase the golden autumn colours of the trees at night.
They had a big Ultraman statue outside of Tokyo Dome when we visited. It wasn’t as big as the Gundam at Odaiba but it was still pretty impressive.
They had some nice Christmas lights set up all around the LaQua shopping mall.