Welcome to Day 13 of Janet, Randy and Family Japan Adventure 2016
Tuesday, April 19th, 2016
Being on a premium floor in the Imperial Hotel included free continental breakfast room service, so we had ordered it for 7:30am. It arrived right on time. It's been a long time since I've had room service, so maybe this was what it normally is like - but it seemed quite deluxe to me (it was deluxe !).
They rolled in a cart containing our continental breakfast - which consisted of freshly squeezed orange juice (so good), coffee for Randy and tea for me, and a basket of croissants/bread for each of us. The orange juice was in a silver container of ice - to keep it nice and cold. It was very good - and I ended up eating almost all of my basket of bread (which I really didn't need to do! - the breads were nice and warm still so it was very yummy).
At 9:00am we met up with the others. We went to the main lobby and booked our return bus to the airport and also arranged a taxi to take us to and from the dinner cruise we were taking tonight. Then we headed off to catch the subway to Shinjuku.
We were taking a subway route to Shinjuku that we hadn't done before - as this was the quickest route to get there. We wanted to test the route out as we had to get to Shinjuku station for 7:35am the next day to catch our bus to the Fuji Shibazakura Festival (Mount Fuji Flower Festival). There is a brand new bus station at Shinjuku (which only opened a couple weeks ago), so they didn't seem to have all the signs in place to get from the subway station to the bus station. We took a few wrong turns, but finally found it. From the front of our hotel to the bus station took us 40 minutes (and that's with getting lost). It would probably take half an hour (or less) to get there now that we know the way (more or less know how to get there).
We thought we would also go ahead and get our tickets for the bus, so that we don't need to spend time tomorrow morning doing that. Which was probably a good thing as the clerk seemed a little confused by our reservation voucher that the hotel had prepared. But she finally figured it out, so we will be able to just go ahead and board the bus tomorrow morning.
Once we were done at the bus station, we walked over to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building - which has observation decks on the 45th floor. There are two observation decks - the North and the South. However, the South deck is closed on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month. And, of course, today was the 3rd Tuesday. The observation decks are free, and there was a bit of a line-up when we arrived, but it moved fairly quickly. Once we got up to the top, there were already a number of people there, and a lot of them were lined up to head back down already.
Even though it was a nice sunny day - it was hazy on the horizon, so we weren't able to see Mount Fuji in the distance. We were able to see the Tokyo Tower and the Tokyo Skytree though. After everyone was done taking pictures and getting souvenirs, we stood in line to go back down. Again, the line went fairly quickly. Once on the ground level, I agreed to take Randy's parents and aunts back to the hotel, while he went to check out an art supply store near Shinjuku station. I found a closer subway station than Shinjuku, so I led the seniors to that subway, while Randy went in the opposite direction to the art store.
When we got back to the subway station closest to our hotel, I hadn't remembered what exit we came in on, so we ended up coming out at a different exit further away from the hotel. But, luckily there was a map around (this is a big government district, so the map was of all the different government buildings). We got our bearings, and I asked whether the gang wanted to go straight back to the hotel, or walk over to the Imperial Palace. As this was probably our only opportunity to do that, the consensus was to walk to the Palace.
A person can't see much of the palace itself - just the moat, the wall and a couple of gate houses. But we took some pictures and wandered around looking for the Imperial East Garden. We finally saw where the entrance was, but it was still quite a walk just to get to the entrance, let alone walking around the garden. So, it was agreed that we would just head back to the hotel (which was a good 20 minute walk).
I did the 2 km walk from the Metropolitan building to the art store (Sekaido). It was actually very easy to find and when I got there there are 5 floors of art supplies. Of course on the first floor, it's all about Manga. There was a floor entirely dedicated to framing and of course there was some local art for sale on the top floor. I was able to find some items I would like for painting. I will admit it is a selection overkill there. There were probably over a 1000 different types of brushes. There were also more brushes/pens/fountain type pens for calligraphy than I knew existed. Some were very exotic in incorporating various types of bird feathers into the brush. I have to admit it was a bit overwhelming with the selection. I gathered up my items and paid for them. Did a quick search to find my best route back to meet up with the group. Turns out my closest subway station was about 30 meters away from the front door of the store.
In the meantime, Randy had texted me that he was finished at the art store and was heading back on the subway. On our way back, we walked through Hibiya Park, and checked out some of the restaurants that are in there. But, they were either too expensive or too busy, so we went back to the hotel to wait for Randy. Once we had rested a bit in the lobby, I suggested that we go to the nearby Sushizenmai (which we had eaten at earlier in our vacation). Everyone was onboard with that, so I texted Randy to meet us there, and we walked over to get a table.
We ended up at the exact same table we were at last time, and Randy joined us shortly afterwards. Randy and I both ordered a lunch set - he ordered a plate of sushi, and I got a bowl of rice and seared fish. Both were delicious (as usual). We headed back to the hotel, but housekeeping was in the middle of cleaning our room - so we decided to head to the nearby Starbucks. It was nice and warm out, so we got some drinks and sat outside enjoying the weather. After a bit, we went back to the room to relax. I spent time working on the journal, and Randy decided to head out to do some time-lapse photography (which didn't turn out as well as I had hoped).
We spent the rest of the afternoon just kicking back and relaxing in the room. It had been a busy 13 days so far, and so just doing nothing was nice for a change (and it helps when you are relaxing in a nice hotel). At 6:50pm, we headed downstairs to meet up with the family to head out to our dinner cruise that we had reserved.
We had arranged for a minivan taxi to take us to the cruise (so we could all go in one taxi). We arrived about 10 minutes before they started boarding the boat, so we bought our tickets and waited for a few minutes. We boarded right at 7:15pm, and were met by the entertainers as we boarded the boat. Included in our ticket was a buffet and all you can drink. We settled down into some seats (seating is very traditional Japanese with just cushions on the floor and very low tables - we did find some small "chairs" that had a back to them as we are not accustomed to sitting like this) and shortly afterwards, one of the entertainers came to ask us where were from and chat with us for a bit. Then we went to grab some food and drinks and settled in for the show that started when we pushed off from the dock at 7:45pm.
The show was a Kabuki-style show (but obviously changed a lot to cater to the non-Japanese tourists). About 95% of the show was in Japanese, but they were quite crazy (zany) and it was a hoot to watch anyway. (probably helped that the drinks were free). Check out this short video of part of the performance. After the entertainment was over, the entertainers were nice enough to let people get pictures with them - so obviously we took advantage of that! These folks were super high-energy and very comical. A slo-mo sword fight scene including the bartender with a pot from the kitchen has to make one laugh regardless of the language.
Everyone enjoyed themselves, and we were back at the pier at 9:15pm. Our taxi back to the hotel was waiting for us, and we were back in our room by 9:30pm. I spent some time updating the journal, and then went to bed as we were going to have an early morning the next day.
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