Day 5: Imperial Garden and Roppongi Hills
Can I just say that there's so much to do here?! For people who think New York City is big, it's only a fraction of what Tokyo has to offer. This city is so vast and expansive. I feel like I need another week to really get a full glimpse of life here.
We kicked off Day 5 with a trip to the Imperial Garden. Before heading out on our walking excursion, we had lunch at Finn McCool's, an Irish Pub that nailed every nuance of pub dining from the slightly dated top 40 music to the dark tabletops to the drink specials and relaxed atmosphere. With full bellies, we began our walk through the Imperial Garden. The garden is a huge area characterized by nature and history. As we walked through, we could see defense houses where samurais once lived and stood guard to protect the Imperial Palace. There was a ton of open space filled with grass, bonsai trees, flowers, and fruit trees. It was beautiful and peaceful. It was amazing to find this free sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo while still in the heart of the city.
Our evening was spent in Roppongi Hills. Roppongi is a luxe, upscale district that's home to the Mori Art Museum. Renowned artist Takashi Murakami's exhibit, The 500 Arhats, was the prime attraction. On the first floor, before entering the museum, we had dessert, coffee, and tea at The Flower Cafe which featured special art and food items inspired by Murakami. Then we descended upon the exhibit, which was nothing short of breathtaking. Much of Murakami's art is inspired by the mix of anime and Japanese cultural values. The pieces were larger than life, full of vibrant color, and mysterious. I was intrigued, and I can honestly say I took the most pictures of the entire trip during this museum visit. I picked up multiple items for myself and my mom while visiting the gift shops on our way out.
We then spent the evening dining and chowing down at bars and restaurants spread throughout the Roppongi Hills shopping center. Another inspiring and educational day under our belts, we grabbed late night snacks from a mini mart and dragged ourselves back to home base.
Day 6: Tokyo Tower and Ichiran Shibuya
Tokyo Tower is the Japanese equivalent to the Eiffel Tower or One World Trade. It's an opportunity to see the vast landscape of the city from over 800 feet up from the ground. It's truly a site to behold. Tokyo seems to go on and on forever. It was a reminder to us that, as much ground as we covered in a week, there was still so much more to be done.
We decided to end our last full day where it all began-Shibuya. We were sucked back in by the contagious energy of the neighborhood. We went back to Loft, the massive lifestyle store, to pick up last-minute gifts for our parents. Then, we grabbed drinks and light eats at 10th floor hot spot Hikari Cafe and Dining.
But nothing could prepare us for the authentic ramen dining experience at Ichiran Shibuya. At the entrance, you select your choice of ramen on a vending machine. After finishing, a meal ticket prints out. Then you fill out a sheet of preferences that include your choices of noodle firmness, flavor strength, and spice level among other things. You're then escorted to your seat where you can choose to dine alone or with others if you have more than one in your party. You're seated at a window where the curtain only opens when you receive your food. If you're still hungry after finishing your first round, you can order more noodles and other toppings. You pay at the table (cash only), and continue slurping away. It was a tasty, efficient, and all around magnificent experience. A great way to close out our last day.
Day 7: One last run in Harajuku
Our flight wasn't leaving until later in the evening, so we checked out of the hotel early and decided to visit Harajuku one last time before heading home. We spent the bulk of our time visiting boutiques and thrift stores that we'd missed on the first round. We also took a stroll through Ometesando Hills, a mega luxury mall with a beautiful zig zag design of half floors that packed in designer brand after designer brand. We also visited the MOMA Design Store, which was full of amazing and peculiar creations that are unique to Tokyo.
I am leaving Tokyo a changed man. I'm inspired to take a new direction with my looks. I'm captivated by the culture-so rich in tradition and respect. I'm amazed by the possibilities of what society could be like. I'm motivated to make healthier food choices and live life in a way that promotes balance and peace. I'm leaving Tokyo engaged and prepared to embark on another new journey and chapter of life. This has truly been the best vacation I've ever had and one I'll never forget. I love you, Tokyo! Until next time...