Japan Day 14: Last Day In Tokyo

Today was a rest day. I slept in and took my time getting ready. There wasn’t much left that I really wanted to do at this point in my journey – mostly I wanted to explore Harajuku a little more and check out this other cute neighborhood south of Shibuya called Daikanyama.

I headed over to Harajuku, to the subway station Meiji-Jingumae and walked around. I ate at a cute cafe and then walked over to the Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art. This museum houses the private collection of Ota Seizo, the former head of the Toho Life Insurance Company. The collection specializes in ukiyo-e woodblock prints, featuring some key works by artists like Hokusai,  Hiroshige, Utamaro, Kunisada and others. The displays change constantly, and in this one there was an abundance of Hiroshige works, particularly his prints from the book 100 Famous Views Of Edo. I absolutely love ukiyo-e  prints so it was a real treat to visit this small yet lovely museum and see so many.

After walking around Cat street (a street featuring a lot of shops and boutiques) for a little while, I made my way south to Daikanyama.

Daikanyama is sort of a hipster-ish neighborhood, with a lot of quirky shops and art galleries. Many expats choose to live here as there are a number of more European style cafes and things (I had a wonderful quiche at Le Cordon Bleu). While the neighborhood is pretty quiet compared to others in west Tokyo, you can tell that it’s starting to become really trendy. Judging by some of the stores that are planning to open up in the area (I saw a sign for a Ralph Lauren Polo store coming soon) this neighborhood will become  a standard tourist shopping neighborhood soon, if not already.

I probably hung out in the area for about an hour and then made my way back to my hotel by Gaienmae and had my final dinner in Japan: sushi (surprise surprise).

In the morning bright and early inhead to the airport and from there I head home to New York.

This trip as been terrific from beginning to end. A few final thoughts:

  • As a foreigner the Japan Rail (JR) Pass is a must. It proved to be incredibly useful for getting around the country and having flexibility with train schedules.
  • Naoshima is not a day trip – stay the night! It’s a pain in the ass to get there but it was one of my favorite places to go and I wish I could have enjoyed it more by not having to travel so much to go there.
  • Osaka was my least favorite place. I didn’t spend almost any time there but the little I did was not particularly impressive. It felt like a non-descript generic commercial city.
  • Kyoto definitely needs at least 3 or 4 days. There’s a lot there and there were even a few more temples, shrines, and mountains I would have liked to see or visit.
  • Staying in a ryokan was a very fun and cool experience. Everyone visiting Japan should do it for a night or two.
  • Miyajima was magical. I initially was going to lump it into a day trip with Hiroshima but then decided to spend the night instead so I could do some hiking and see the sunset over the red torii.
  • Train stations and metro stations are a mess. They are often massive and if you don’t take the right exit getting out of the station you could end up walking for an hour to get to a place that is really only be 50 meters away. Knowing your exit number is key. Don’t try to figure it out yourself – ask someone st the information counter. It makes life so much easier. Otherwise traveling in and around Japan was pretty easy to manage and figure out.
  • English is not as commonly spoken as I thought it would be. A lot of the hotels and shops I encountered did not have any English speakers. You figure things out after a while and basic gesturing is usually a helpful communication aid, but generally the language barrier was more pronounced than I expected.
  •  And finally, Mt. Fuji was definitely one of the highlights if not THE highlight of my trip so I obviously recommend the experience to anyone interested and able.

Well, Japan, it’s been fun, but off to NYC I go. Sayonara!

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