Our late December 2011 trip to Tokyo

Finally got some time to continue posting our (somewhat stale now) travel bits.

My company asked me to visit Tokyo to work with an important client in Tokyo just a week after we returned from our vacation in Tokyo, I touched a little bit on this in our post about Tokyo Dolpa 26.

We have arrived on Dec 16th and stayed in Kawasaki most of the time.

Sara Udon
This is our first dinner after arrival, quite late in the day when a lot of restaurants have already closed and it was hard to find a non-smoking place anyway. It's called Sara-Udon and we totally expected Udon to be a soup bowl, but it turned out to be something else, sigh.

On Dec 17th we headed to Shibuya to see if we can find something interesting, as generally it seemed that there is nothing to do in Tokyo during winter.

Disney Store in Shibuya
Disney Store entrance.

Shabu-shabu restaraunt in Shibuya
This is our dinner in Shabu-shabu restaurant. Such restaurants are mostly operating on all-you-can-eat basis, but with a time limit.

Nothing interesting happened on that day. On 18th we went to Tokyo Dolpa 26.

Starting from Monday, December 19th until Thursday December 22nd I was quite busy with the client and Ksusha was wandering around shopping and whatnot and taking some random pictures.

Chopsticks with crystals
Chopsticks with crystals.

Pillow with a cat
The cat from Kiki's delivery service pillow.

Pillow with Totoro
Totoro pillow.

Chopsticks holders
Chopstick holders in various shapes and forms. Perfect SD-sized items, but way too expensive.

Wallets on a keychain ;)

Plate with a dragon

Chopsticks holders
These are chopstick holders again.

Japanese rubber stamps

Japanese rubber stamps
And Japanese rubberstamps.

New Year postcards

New Year postcards
Ah, postcards. It was a New Year season, so we were shopping for nice ones. Some of you might have received these from us, we did send quite a bit of them ;)

Manga section in a bookstore
Manga shop.

Full metal alchemist stamps
And at a post office Ksusha stumbled upon anime-based post stamps (Full Metal Alchemist on the picture)! How come nobody told us about these before, we would have used these instead of the more boring usual ones.

December 23rd turned out to be a double holiday in Japan. Not only it's Christmas eve (though Christmas is not an official holiday), it's also emperor's birthday which is an official holiday.

On it's birthday Imperial Palace is open to the public and emperor with his family makes an appearance before the public three times a day, so we decided to head to the Imperial Palace.

East (Ote-Mon) Gate to Imperial Palace
Ote-mon gate from across the street.

At the gate there were guards not letting anybody in and a banner letting everybody know that the emperor only meets people before noon three times in total. And the admittance is from 9:30am to 11:20am through the main gate for this event.

Us being what we are, of course we were already quite late for that, so the only option remaining was the greeting book signing, so we headed to Sakashita-mon gate.

Moat wall construction

Moat wall construction
Some sort of construction was going on with external palace wall.

Imperial guards in the moat
Guards patrolling the outer moat.

Before we got access to Sakashita-mon gate to get inside we passed through security posts that checked if we have various dangerous stuff with us, almost like at an airport.

Sakashita-mon gate
Sakashita-mon gate itself.

Imperial guards at Sakashita-mon gate
Imperial guard at the gate.

Emperor birthday wishes signing pavilion
These are the booths where you can sign the guestbook and then all of them presumably would be read to the emperor later in the day.

Emperor birthday wishes cards
Examples of signatures.

Signing emperor birthday wishes card
Signing in the book.

Signed Emperor birthday wishes card
Our entry. Being no able to write in Kanji, we resorted to English ;)

Imperial household agency already fenced off. Pity, as there are only two days with free admission to the grounds.

Lotus moat
Lotus moat around internal castle.

Inner wall
Fujimi-yagura, Donjon of the internal castle containing East gardens.

Marked stones from dismantled piece of castle wall
A collection of labelled boulders, I suspect these are from the construction work at the outer moat and will be returned there after completion of the works.

Another look at Fujimi-yagura.

Skyscrappers around Imperial palace
The Imperial Palace itself is surrounded by skyscrappers of Central Tokyo.

Obansho (Great Guardhouse)
O-bansho great guardhouse. One of the three remaining guardhouses this was the most important and the last one before the entrance, as such it was guarded by high-ranked samurai.

Inside the wall are East Gardens that were built there in 1961.

East orchard
Right near the entrance is East Orchard made by the Imperial family. It contains cultivars popular in Edo period and contains citrus trees planted by His Majesty and pear trees planted by Her Majesty, also some plum cultivars are planted there. His Majesty idea was that guests should be able to enjoy these old but once popular cultivars.

And indeed we can see that there were many citruses ready to be consumed, though Ksusha was to shy to enjoy His Majesty fruits for herself. This is Kunenbo tree.

And this is Sanboukan.

Tree blossoming in December
We were also surprised by this tree, blossoming in the middle of the winter, when it was actually quite chilly already.


Some installation
Some stone installation in the gardens.




Site of Tenshukaku Donjon
This is site of Tenshukaku Donjon from afar.

Meanwhile we moved to a bamboo garden on the other side of the lawn.

In there several of different types of bamboo were growing side by side.




I think this one is the most common Chinese bamboo or something like that.

Site of Tenshukaku Donjon
And now we came closer to the Tenshukaku Donjon site. A donjon was built here long ago, but was since then destroyed and only the base remained.

Former honmaru Goten palace lawn
This lawn and big surrounding areas is built in place of Honmaru Goten Palace of Edo period build inside of this castle.

Tree at the top of Tenshukaku Donjon site
A tree at the top of the donjon base.

At the top of Tenshukaku Donjon site
View of the surrounding Tokyo sky scrappers.

Sunlit branches

Sunlit branches


Skyscrappers and castle walls
Now we are exiting East Gardens area.

East Garden


East garden

Boots and leaves
Nice arrangement of maple leaves and also notice the difference between our shoes here and in Paris ;)

Blossoming tree
Another blossoming tree.


Sannomaru Shozokan
Sannomaru Shozokan (The Museum of Imperial Collections).

And now we are back to Ote-mon gate, only this time from inside.

Stylized dolphin from the old gate
Stylized dolphin from the roof top of old Ote-mon gate that was damaged during WWII bombings.

External moat

External moat
And exiting through the Ote-mon gate, crossing the outer moat.

Bridge over external moat
People observing some ducks and two swans in the moat.

Fur shorts
The weather was chilly, so I wonder if this fuar coating helped her at all? ;)

Feather on a water
Swan feather in the moat water.

From the Imperial Palace we went to Ginza.

Jam testing

Spread tester
Tastings of various jams and spreads, some were quite nice, I even got some.


Night Ginza streets.

St Claus in Ginza
Christmas time present delivery ;).

Crab sushi
We had dinner at a sushi place, Ksusha did not like it all that much, but I found it to be interesting. This is a crab-sushi with a piece of crab claw still attached and almost raw. Pretty interesting taste.

Paper jewelry

Paper jewelry
Some paper Jewelry.

Chocolate handbags

Chocolate handbags
And "chocolate" bags ;)

Zipped boots
Now these were quite strange boots if you ask me. The price is also standing out. Ksusha thinks they do look cool ;)

Different-colored socks
Some random girl on escalator with different colored socks.

Roof top of some shop in Ginza

Roof top of some shop in Ginza
Some lit bushes at the top of some shopping center.

This concludes the first part of the trip, pre-Christmas. To be continued... ;)