Tuesday, February 4, 2014

gonpachi and allons-y!

It's been dreary and wintry over the last few weeks, so I've been looking back at vacation pictures, wistfully dreaming of warmer (and snow-less) days. I realized today that I never blogged about our Tokyo Thanksgiving trip...so here we go!

Ben and I have some friends who also teach in Japan - we met them while living in California and we always see each other when we all go home to visit family and friends. Last summer, we agreed that the next time we saw each other needed to be in Japan. We decided to meet in near the middle, in Tokyo, for Thanksgiving.

As per the usual, we took the overnight bus and arrived in Tokyo around 6 am. Now that we are seasoned Tokyo veterans (three times brings us to expert status, right?) we had no problem traveling through Shinjuku Station with our luggage and making our way through the various metro lines to get to Nogizaka, the closest station to our hotel. It felt like decades ago that we had made our first trip to Tokyo, marveling at the sheer size of Shinjuku and the tens of thousands of people making their ways through the busiest train station in the world. This time, it was just the first station of many to go through on our first day.

Out of the 50 busiest train stations in the world, 44 of them
are in Japan, with Shinjuku being the busiest.

Once we made our way across the city and settled into our hotel, we visited Roppongi to see all the Christmas decorations. We had heard Roppongi was home to some amazing decorations and the famed Illuminations.

You might remember the spider from previous photos...

After taking in the sights, we headed to Arisugawa Park to meet our friends. We enjoyed a nice stroll through the park, photographing the autumn leaves and catching up. Then we made our way to Gonpachi, my favorite Izakaya restaurant. The food was amazing, as always, and we were happy to see that our friend Teresa still worked there.

The more times we visit this park, the more I think it's
become my favorite spot in Tokyo...

I'm always captivated by the architecture of this
building. It was especially beautiful with the sunlight
streaming in through the windows!

After our meal, we proceeded to Harajuku to visit Meiji-jingu, a Shinto shrine named after Emperor Meiji. It was quite lovely, though the wall of sake barrels was my favorite part of the experience. Well, that and the Allons-y shop we spotted on our way back to the train station! (Finding a Doctor Who reference in Japan is no easy task...but more on that later.)

Torii Gate entrance to the shrine complex

Kazaridaru, or decorational sake barrels, outside Meiji Shrine

Gateway to the courtyard

Meiji Shrine with the Docomo Building in the background

"There's an old Earth saying, Captain. A phrase of great power and wisdom and
consolation to the soul in times of need. Allons-y!" 

Exhausted, we all headed back to our hotels to try and get some shut-eye before our early morning trek to Disneyland!

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