Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Last day in Tokyo

Tuesday, Tokyo

Woke up early, knowing I had a few hours left for tourism. Had arranged to meet my friend Jun at the ryokan so we could hang out, have lunch, and send me on my way home afterward.

Headed for the Imperial Palace and gardens, a place I had always wanted to see but never managed to get to. Though the palace itself and its immediate surroundings are closed to visitors, the gardens and various museums and vantage points adjacent to the palace are open...and free ! Lots of foreign tourists---this destination is on the must-see list.

Jun is a Korean-born long term resident of Japan, and it was great to spend my last day here with a friend who speaks the language. Though I have always managed to navigate well despite the language barrier, it was a relief not to have to focus so acutely. OK, I'll admit it-- maybe tour buses are not such a bad idea from time to time.....

One of the features of Japanese political and social life on a local scale is the van with a loudspeaker, broadcasting various messages as it slowly rolls through neighborhoods all over Tokyo and in other cities I have visited here. I don't understand a word, of course, but I have various scripts mapped out in my head, most of these based on bad WWII 'B' movie scenes. Today, a 'caravan' of two vans passed by as we were walking through the financial district adjacent to the palace, spewing forth, and Jun captured the gist of the message--- 'all is well in Japan, we don't need any foreigners here, etc etc....you know, Neo Nazi kind of stuff'. Hmmm....

The corporate architecture surrounding Tokyo Station is a superb mix of the best of late 20th century post modernism and reminds me a lot of midtown Manhattan. It was fun to wander along the streets, heads tilted skyward like a couple of out of town greenhorns, which, in my case, I was.

Well, it's about time to head on home. Pleasantly tired and happy to be getting back to my life.

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