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October 29 Shitamachi

Center-city Metropolis Ginza - quiet backstreet Yanaka Ginza

Still jet-lagged when I woke up. Not in the wee-hours, but still early in the rush, so I went out audio-taping. One of this trip's objectives was to bring home Yamanote line sounds - most of its stations have a generic buzzer-tone indicating doors closing, but I've wanted a recording of that special, wintry jingle they play at Shibuya, so I brought along my little Sony recorder. Rode up to Shinjuku and back, and along the way came to the realization that all the stations have unique sonic signatures now! Some even have different musics for trains traveling in opposite directions. Later I came to the conclusion that only Ueno, of all the 29 stations on this circular JR line around the center city, retains the old generic tone.
-- Hear Shibuya (100K mp3 file) --

Then over to the Ginza to change more money - initially thought a better deal for my Traveler's Checks could be received at an American Express office (this is true in Europe - no service charge), but a futile search for their local bureau was eventually terminated by a telephone call which revealed they don't cash their checks in Japan, must go to a bank instead - so I did, a Fuji Bank, after some bookstore browsing at Jena in the Ginza.

Then I had one of the Little Adventures in Tokyo, provided by a somewhat obscure little guide I came across by chance a few months back. This one was the chapter titled "A Walk Through Old Tokyo" and out of all that book's excellent information, it's the adventure I followed the closest, using the text's map and detailed instruction. ("Cross the red bridge and walk around the shrine... take the alley in front..." etc.) Initially it took me through a delightful little "pocket" park called Sudo Koen, then on to the winding neighborhood shopping street of Yanaka Ginza, where I bought some green tea at a shop called Kamekichi Tea Merchants. Although I didn't plan on a souvenir tea purchase until later, the place was so nice and they serve everybody a cup, I couldn't resist. The path continued, meandering around this neighborhood, through a graveyard (not a common sight, since cremation's the norm in this crowded land) and onto a region dense with temples, shrines, and little shops - I was reminded of Kyoto. At one point I discovered a viable ryokan, and took one of their brochures for reference, next trip.

Eventually, feet and legs aching, I returned to Gotanda, exploring the area around the hotel, which is dense with eating and entertainment establishments. For dinner I had some grilled chicken at a rabata-ya called the Yakitori Akiyoshi, which I decided (based on the slick presentation encountered within) must be part of a chain.

Next: Kamikaze

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