Sunday, 25 March 2018

Autumn Aurora in Japan - Day 6

 Tokyo                                                                                          Japan

Sunday 9th October 2016

I woke up in the morning with the sound of Craig speaking to my auntie about our time so far. It was only a short conversation, which I joined into as well until it was time to head down for breakfast from Tomoko. Once more, a lovely display lay ahead of steamed dumplings encased in a wicker basket along with fruit. We had a fantastic conversation with Tomoko about our plans today especially the trail for the 8 tier ice cream at a place called Nakano. With the necessary information we needed, we grabbed our essentials and made our way out realising heavy rain was upon us once more; not to worry though as we had our trusty umbrellas with us. We headed straight to Nishi Kunitachi station at an attempt for our expedition of station stamps as it would be a temporary hobby for us both during our time in Japan. We were very happy when received our first stamp and then straight away we made haste for Tachikawa station. There was no wasting time either getting onto our next train heading straight for Nakano.

Unfortunately, the train was already full so we had to squash ourselves in and stand for the rest of the trip. Stopping at several stations along the way resulted in us arriving at Nakano Station. It was still pouring with rain but lucky for us the area we needed was sheltered from the station to the shopping area. Once we left the station we walked straight towards a very pretty shopping area which was quite narrow along with orange coloured decorations around the glass ceiling; it was definitely inviting and drew us into the bowels of the shops even for a couple of men who don’t like shopping. Along the way, we came across a few gift shops, home ware shops, amusement arcades and restaurants bewildered by the items they had for sale. What was unique; and something I just noticed about the restaurants, was that they had a fantastic window display of what they were providing to eat; the food on the plates looked so real but it was surprising to know everything was plastic.

We eventually reached another area called Nakano Broadway, which was the location of the Nakano 8 tier ice cream. Craig informed me that it would be at the basement level so that was where we headed for the search of the elusive ice cream parlour. It seemed to be hidden well in the area and could we hell find it; we searched every single place in the basement and we did come across a small parlour. However it was not the right place; also we came across an elaborate sign stating ‘NO ICE CREAM BEYOND THIS POINT’. With no luck, we decided to head for the higher floors again with no luck; it seemed as though one would have to be deemed worthy of this unique ice cream but we wouldn’t give up. Fortunately, Craig with his Jedi internet powers figured out the exact area, which was dead centre at the basement floor. So we headed down and we couldn’t believe it when we caught sight of it; how it was right behind us at the smaller ice cream parlour and elaborate sign. We were laughing our heads off at how stupid we were and made it official that we were 2 idiot Geordies.

We then caught sight of the plastic display of the magnificent 8 tier ice cream with a price tag of 490 Yen. We immediately paid and watched on as the woman prepared one for us each. How it balanced on a normal cone was beyond me and then we became mesmerised by this marvelous spectacle. We couldn’t waste any time though as it would have melted and so we began to eat it as quickly as possible; brain freeze kicked in straight away so then it became an endurance task. People passing by were amazed at the sight of us eating that ice cream too. What was also funny over time was that I was that focused on getting the ice cream down quick I forgot the majority of the flavours that was in it. Time went on and so we had accomplished Nakano’s ice cream; one of the few greatest triumphs I’ve ever achieved in my life. We waddled away from the parlour like a couple of penguins heading for the train station.

We had soon squeezed into the packed train on our way to Tokyo due to the fact we had missed the most major attraction; the imperial palace. We were squashed in for the next 20 minutes and then just before the doors opened, we prepared for the swift exit at one of the busiest stations in the world; on your marks, get set, GO! We left the train flowing through the countless waves of people surrounding us at all sides. We somehow managed to find the correct exit along with a nice sight of a station stamp stall for our stamp collection (as geeky as it sounds). We left the station straight for the palace area and what was great was the palace grounds was only a 15 minute walk away.

At first we seemed to be caged in by the skyscrapers all around us but then the land opened out drastically with the area covered in trees and large areas of tarmac and gravel. We then caught sight of the large walls above the moat surrounding the palace area. It also had a beautiful sight of white temples spread around the area with green rooftops too. We then took a long slow walk to the western side of the palace area witnessing a most precious Japanese scene of a bridge leading to a temple hiding up between the packed in groups of trees. What else was a lovely sight was the skyscraper panorama behind us with the beautiful greenery in front of it. I had never witnessed anything like this before which I found incredibly special.

Obviously we weren’t allowed into the palace as we weren’t invited by the emperor so we turned back around and noticed that the eastern gardens were open to the public. As the palace was surrounded by water we had to walk around counter clockwise along a very busy pathway having to share it with runners of all ages who clearly had priority. It was quite a walk around until we came upon an old low bridge leading to the eastern gate. Once we paid the small fee, we entered through the humungous wooden gates which looked as though it was harder than steel and then immediately we walked into a small network of pathways which were all pretty much leading to the same destination of small temples, rest houses and gardens.

We took a slow walk in each section admiring every detail enjoying the slight peace too despite the fearless black ravens calling out. There was so much to see and do and we had all the time in the world, which meant we also had time to sit and relax on a bench for a while with nothing but precious greenery all around us. As we sat for a long while, we noticed a higher vantage point of the area so we headed straight for it. We eventually made it to the top to a lovely view of yet more skyscrapers which was a surprise given the fact we were in Tokyo. As we looked out over to the horizon, we noticed a very unique huge green dome trying to hide beneath the trees not very well. We got curious and decided to take our leave not without grabbing a couple more stamps for our collection.

We eventually exited through the eastern gate once more and continued counter clockwise. We made our way around still in one piece surprisingly due to the countless joggers and cyclists racing from behind us and then we noticed something intriguing. Waiting at the nearby traffic lights were a small group of people sat in go karts dressed up as Spiderman and Mario characters which looked really fun to do especially in Tokyo. We eventually pulled away from the palace area on our way towards the green dome. We had bypassed a monstrous building known as Tokyo’s science museum, which seemed like a good place to visit. However, we continued on through a peaceful park area until finally we arrived to the sight of the green dome.

Upon arrival we realised it was a type of theatre but a huge shock came to us when we caught sight of thousands of Japanese teenagers lining up to get into the building. They were on their way to see some popular band called ‘Blue Enchant’. We had never heard of them so we headed to the nearby rest house for a well deserved bite to eat. We eventually sat down with our food and relaxed for a long while with yet more ‘blue enchant’ fans and yet again, we stood out from the crowd as we felt as though we were being watched; maybe we were blue enchant and all these people came to watch us eat our food. It was time to leave for the long walk back to the train station but this time we had to weave through the oncoming runners who looked as though they had been jogging since first light but somehow they kept going.

It took quite a while to leave behind the peaceful sight of the imperial palace where we then walked into a chaotic train station head first. As we were making our way to our platform, we came across a most beautiful window display of golden baked goods all shapes and sizes just waiting to be emptied by Craig and I. We were spoiled for choice on what to get but we came out with a good few things to try. We loved every single bite and wanted more; however, Tomoko would make us food tonight so we couldn’t plus I had a feeling tonight would be a kind of big finale with it being our last day with her.

Onto the busy Chuo line we went heading straight for Tachikawa a good 45 minutes away. One quick trip from Tachikawa brought us to our final station of the day and then we headed to our favourite local shop. We had finally returned to Tomoko’s at night where we would pack our rucksacks ready for the journey west the next day. I managed to get mine done quite quick with the help of Tomoko’s cat ‘Jasmine’ and then all of a sudden Tomoko shouted up for us to come down for food. I was right about the food being grand as she had made us an exquisite bowlful of soup and noodles with different varieties of vegetables and tofu.

Along with the food came great conversations throughout the evening mainly learning Japanese, French and Italian. It was a very long time until we left the dining area saying goodnight as well as making final preparations for tomorrow’s departure; we were definitely going to miss this hospitality as well as Tomoko and Jasmine the cat. For now, we were happy to be resting from another perfect day knowing we had conquered the Nakano 8 tier ice cream with pride.
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