Tokyo

Day 8 – Marunouchi – Modern Art Museum & Imperial Palace

Bright and sizzling hot day. We take a quick metro over to the central Marunouchi area which houses lots of museums and the Imperial Palace Gardens (the mysterious palace itself is closed to the public). There’s a brass band playing in the gardens and a very pretty area with a little waterfall and a koi lake.

We have lunch in the art museum’s cafe – I have an odd combo of steamed bun and potato wedges (only veggie options on the menu) and a delicious chocolate cake. We buy a joint ticket for the main art gallery, the special exhibition and the nearby craft museum for Y840 – museums here are cheap, like in London. The special exhibition – mainly installation works by Kawaguchi Tatsuo – is a bit pretentious for me but the main gallery has a interesting selection of modern Japanese artists as well as some international names including Paul Klee and Frida Kahlo. The craft museum is pretty dull – there’s only so many glazed ceramic tea bowls you can look at in one day – so we gave it a cursory look and leave pretty quickly.

Our legs are also protesting due to a week’s heavy walking, so we go back to the hotel to do dull things like laundry and planning the next week – tomorrow is our last full day in Tokyo before heading to Kyoto, and today marks halfway through our whole trip. It feels like we’ve been here quite a while already and weirdly, despite not understanding a tenth of what’s going on, I feel quite at home here. I think it’s the politeness and quite English-style reserve of the people that feels comfortable and familiar. It’s a bit like London with the lights and people ramped up to ten, but the litter and rudeness at zero. Things like the pavement drinks vending machines (even serving alcohol) that are ubiquitous here just wouldn’t work in London because they’d get abused and vandalised, but people here have a respect for law and order that seems to make the society run a lot smoother, and I appreciate that.

We stay local for dinner, heading over to Nishi-(west)Shinjuku, the businessy area with tons of skyscrapers, hoping to find a restaurant from the Bento site. Unfortunately the whole restaurant floor of the building has nothing in English and is full of slightly rowdy salarymen celebrating the near-end of week. We go back down to the street and find a little Sri Lankan place called Court Lodge instead. Tasty curries, not so good roti bread (it would be hard to top Sansar’s naan anyway). The nicest part was the homemade chutneys and sauces, which you can buy in their restaurant and online. We have a wander round the streets afterwards, finding the Shinjuku branch of Sekaido craft store – more stickers bought.