Let me start off by saying that I have a love-hate relationship with travel. I love to explore new places, or even revisit for nostalgia, but I hate getting out of the house when I could be reading and resting. Traveling alone is a bit of a challenge for a social introvert like me. But yesterday, since I was already out, I made plans to go see the bloomed hydrangeas at Hakusan Shrine. Though I had my books on my phone, I took along my copy of The Young Elites for company- I just started reading it the day before and what better thing to do in the train?
So, first I headed to Hakusan where, I confess, I first got lost and entered the campus of Toyo University (which is directly opposite to the alley leading to the shrine). After circling the block and ending up in the same place and finally seeing that alley, I proved to myself how blind and dumb I am. Well, not much was lost, except the amount of sweat in those 20 minutes – it was hot out and sunny (really sunny – I forgot to bring a hat/sunglasses). The garden tended was right there, and I was so enchanted by the variety of colors in one place! I never even noticed hydrangeas closely before, how their petals have different shapes and sizes.
The Young Elites (TYE) also got a chance to pose with these beautiful flowers.
The trip didn’t take much time, which still left plenty of hours of the day remaining. Where to go next? I wanted to check out this used book store in Sumida, Infinity Books, but I didn’t want to waste daylight. I could go to the Koshikawa Korakuen, but as I said before, it was hot out and unprepared as I was, really wasn’t in the mood to be sweating in a beautiful place. So, bookstore it is. TYE also agreed with me, hoping to gain more YA brethren. So, I went there, on the slim chance of probably getting some more books.
Sadly, when I reached there, after walking about 10 minutes, and realizing I was close to Sumida (like where the Tokyo Skytree is), I was disappointed on two counts – firstly, the bookstore was small and immediately the probability of finding YA books diminished. Secondly, there was no YA bookshelf – there was a children’s bookshelf (technically it was half a shelf) in which a few YA books were placed. I recognized Incarceron, and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, but that’s it. I looked through the general fiction session, rolled my eyes and walked out. Not to put a disappointing end of the day, I headed towards the Tokyo Skytree (I was going to stay out until night, damn it!)
At this point, I should confess something. I have never been to the Skytree before, despite being here for over a year, primarily because I had been to the Tokyo Tower, and thought the Skytree (at least from afar) paled in comparison. But I thought, heck, let’s be a typical tourist for a day and check this off my bucket list. It was a painfully long walk from where I was – the tower is so tall that it seems close no matter where you are in the area, and by the time I reached I was relieved to get out of the sun. (Goodness, this is only the start of the summer! I was raised in harsher summers than this! I am so disappointed in myself)
Up close, the Skytree makes you go – whoa! I knew it was tall but standing below it, you realize, man, it is marvelous. The tallest freaking tower in the world! What an engineering marvel! I went straight to the Tower first – it was clear, which meant the view would be spectacular. Ditched my bags into a locker and went to purchase the ticket.
The tower is made up of five lower floors containing stores, and what-not – where you don’t need a ticket for entrance. On the first floor, there is a 45m long digital mural about the scenery around, as well as crafted towers mirroring the actual one. To get to the tower viewing galleries, Tembo Deck (340-350m) and Tembo Galleria (445-450m), separate tickets have to be purchased, the former from the 4th floor while for the latter, you have to go to Tembo Deck to purchase. Waiting period was short, so we got into an elevator pretty soon and then it was a short (and pretty fast) ride to topmost of the Tembo Deck, which has three floors. Here, you get the 360-degree view of Tokyo and beyond. Since it was a little cloudy, Mt. Fuji was once again denied to me, but the Tanzawa mountains were visible.
The views here were so spectacular, I spent about an hour just walking around and getting a thousand pics, comparing them to the little map I had and spotted the Sumida and Kita-Senju rivers. I also learned that the Skytree is a great place to view the Sumida river fireworks from, since they had video footage of that playing. The floor also had a cafe, with signature drinks, and I ordered a Litchi-vinegar soda (I was a little surprised too). TYE enjoyed the view and marveled at the layout of the city. I then bought some souvenirs, like a Skytree holographic bookmark.
Now, onto higher places – I went for the Tembo Galleria, and they had a Ultraman-themed celebration (the 50th anniversary of Ultraman) which meant you could take commemorative pics at the highest point. The Galleria is a sloping spiral, taking you form 445m to 451.2m while allowing you some breathtaking views. The sun was playing hide-and-seek at this point, but I was able to spot the Arakawa river, and it was here that TYE was happy looking out at Tokyo.
I got back down to the Tembo deck, and rested at one of the seats placed to look out, for about an hour, seeing the sky transforming.
I was thinking of waiting out till sunset, but there was more to explore (Tokyo Skytree is not a single tower but a town made of two adjacent buildings with plenty to see) and reluctantly descended in the quest of dinner and more attractions. Dinner was had in the East Yard, at a Tonkatsu place – delicious curry accompanied with Plum liqueur, and wrapped up just in time for sunset and to see the tower lit up (Iki lighting for today).
As for exploring the next on my agenda was the Sumida Aquarium (in the West Yard) and the Planetarium. Sumida Aquarium was awesome – they had a jellyfish exhibit first on the entrance and watching the moon jellyfish slowly dancing through the water was enchanting. TYE was sad it couldn’t take a picture here, since the aquarium was darkened (and flash photography prohibited). Then there was the coral reefs and other aquatic creatures. The lower floor consisted of the main exhibit – penguins! They were loud, really loud, honking and gliding and basically being a kid magnet. There was also a fur seal gliding smoothly in endless repetitions, but it was being upstaged by those penguins. Having had my fill, I went ahead to the gift shop, bought some more souvenirs and this adorable penguin feather charm for myself.
By this time it was 8pm, and I hurried over across the town to the planetarium (in the East Yard), and found to my dismay that the last show with English audio support had just begun, which meant I missed it. 😦 The next show was in Japanese, but I wasn’t yet confident enough (read absolutely terrible) in my skills to understand it well, so I gave up and promised myself I would come later. After this, it was mostly browsing through the stores, looking for more souvenirs, and then heading home. I took a direct route train from Oshiage station, which meant I could read TYE in peace. At the end of the day, my feet were screaming at me to give them some notice and training, but I loved every moment of it, even with the aching feet. And already, I am planning the next place to see.