Christmas in 17th Century Japan03 May, 2014 by Chad
Hoping to spend this Christmas day at the beautiful island of Enoshima, we’d head over to Shinjuku Station in the early morning. There we’d be joined by Allan, and were to meet up with Chisaki again later in the day. Arriving far too early for any shops to be open, we’d look around for breakfast and eventually settled for some at a nearby Segafredo.
Breakfast was ok but it was hard to taste much through the thick smoke. We stayed around only long enough for the shops to open at 10. The plan was to visit a Uniqlo this morning so that Randy could pick up a pair of jeans. The only bottom he had brought over from his business trip to China was a pair of dress pants which was a problem.
Didn’t take long for Randy pick up a pair of jeans at Uniqlo. But it’d take some time for them to make some alterations and we’d need to wait for Chisaki anyways. The upper floors of this particular “Bicuro” outlet housed a Bic Camera, so we spent some time looking around there, but found nothing of particular interest. When it was finally time to collect Randy’s pants, we found a middle aged lady awaiting eagerly downstairs. Seems she had finished it some time earlier.
Thinking it was a little too late by now to head over to Enoshima (it would take a couple of hours by train to get there), we decided to spend the day within Tokyo itself while still hoping to avoid the Christmas crowds. Delving into my memory of attractions on the West side of Tokyo, the only thing that came to mind was Edo Tokyo Open Air Museum at Koganei.
The Open Air Museum is sandwiched between two Koganei Stations to the north and south. Must had stopped at the further station though, since don’t remember it being that far away. The walk there ended up taking much longer than expected as we took a long path through lots of houses and a school. Koganei’s a pretty nice relaxed neighbourhood to stay in though, while still being close enough to the city center. Eventually, we did one we ought to had done in the first place; return to the main road and make our way from there.
We arrived at Koganei Park where the museum was located at, but making another wrong turn, we ended up at the back of the museum with no way in from there. Seeing us looking lost, a friendly elderly caretaker pointed the way back to the side entrance. While we took a leisurely walk to the entrance, the rather fit elderly man finished up his errand and catch up to remind us of the way again.
We’d get sidetracked a bit upon coming across an empty playground. I could imagine the old guy shaking his head at us while we messed around at the equipment which were much too small for us.
Apart from us, the only other people in the rather large park were folks walking their dogs or a lone person practicing the guitar outside where they would not disturb anyone else. For some unknown reason, sound seems to dissipate much better in Japan. Perhaps it has something to do with the weather, the amount of open spaces, or the way things are built here, but we’ve noticed that sound doesn’t seem to travel as far. If someone could explain this, do tell.
The entrance to the Edo Tokyo Open Air Museum is located at the center of the park. Haven’t been here since a much earlier visit back in 2010 with MJ. Unfortunately, by the time we’d arrive there was only a little time left before its closing time.
I’ve done a full article about the museum some years ago for those interested, but to summarize, the Edo Tokyo Open Air Museum is basically a building museum which preserves various structures from the Edo and Meiji periods. Tickets cost 400 yen, so apart from it being slightly out of the way, it’s a great if not slightly unorthodox attraction for those visiting Tokyo. Granted, you’d need to have some interest in history to fully appreciate it, which not everyone in the group had, and thus we ended up skipping most of the buildings here today.
We did enter the some of the more group friendly Japanesy buildings however, including this old Meiji prime minister’s estate and later the area where old shop houses from around Japan had been preserved. Spent the most time inside the rather grand Takahashi Korekiyo’s house, which was probably the exact image of what a traditional Japanese house should be like.
Outside, what seemed like the only other people in the park were gathered around a lone red tree, snapping away with their cameras. We followed suit. This was the last tree we’d see still sporting lovely fall colours this winter. After, we carried on into the right side of the park where the commercial buildings were collected.
A really young kid repeatedly ringing away at the bell inside the old tram bus parked beside a clearing. She was really excited at being able to pull the bell as much as she wanted, while her family laughed away.
Beside, there was an open area and a pond with some ducks in them. A bunch of grade school kids were playing with some stilts there. We decided to try them out just as they were leaving too. Foolishly, I grabbed the nearest pair which turned out to be taller than the rest. Between that and attempting to try them while carrying a bag, ended up falling backwards quite violently onto the ground. Hurt quite a bit, but was most concerned on having to send my coat to the dry cleaners now.
After the little girl got bored of the bell, it was our turn to mess around in the tram too.
Various commercial buildings are kept at the right end of the museum. If you’ve seen any period Japanese dramas, chances are you’d have seen this place before since it’s often used for sets, especially the large traditional public bath at the center, which is basically the to go place for filming any sento scenes.
After looking around area for a short while, we headed over to the other side of the museum, but skipped through the buildings here. On the other end were the oldest buildings including some of these well preserved grass houses. In the previous visit with MJ we got to speak with a volunteer here. There wasn’t anyone around today except a couple of tourists lazing along the outside.
Maybe it was the cold, or the fact that we hadn’t had any lunch but everyone seemed quite tired and disinterested by this point. We took a break on the way out at the resting area by the entrance while planning for our next destination. Took the opportunity to whip out some of the castella I had brought over from Nagasaki to share with the group.
To start with, we headed back to Shinjuku. We had skipped lunch so were all starving by now. Was hoping to have udon at Edo Tokyo but the shop there was closing by the time we had arrived. On the way back, the rest decided on “tabehoudai”, so despite it being our third consecutive day having a buffet we quickly found a restaurant along the main street at the shady Ichome for an early dinner, it’d be sukiyaki this time. Including drinks, it cost 3,500 yen per person.
Inside we were greeted by an over eager middle aged lady who upon learning of our foreignness took it to herself to instruct us in detail the workings of sukiyaki. The cuts were really good here, which seemed like a bit of a waste since between the thick sukiyaki sauce and the consecutive days of beef buffets we all couldn’t eat as much as we hoped.
After dinner we entered the adjacent pachinko joint. Allan wanted to give pachinko a try. But it was rather crowded and I guess he felt intimidated. We entered a milder and pretty much empty arcade/pachinko combo which was broadcasting Koisuru Fortune Cookie at the entrance. But after a long while inside he disappointingly walked away without giving it a go.
True to its word. Christmas in Japan sadly means Kentucky Fried Chicken. We passed by a long queue that wrap around the corner consisting of people queuing up for the colonel’s chicken.
Next we took a walk over towards Shinjuku’s Takashimaya Times Square. It’s probably one of my favorite malls in Shinjuku and easily one of the most impressive looking ones. It’s connected to the center of Shinjuku by a large overpass which had been decorated for the holidays. Again, a really lovely place for the couples.
Needed to visit the Tokyu Hands at Times Square to pick up an ankle brace, having been walking on a sprained one since Nagasaki. In the meantime, Gage also looked around for a wallet, while the rest continued on their conversations. Sadly, we didn’t have much time to shop, since the mall was already nearing closing time.
Chisa would have to miss visiting the adjacent bookstore too, since we found it closed by the time we were done, which was a shame, since I was looking forward to the bookstore to. The one here is rather large with an extensive selection of books and magazines. It had served me well during the last visit, when I had an appointment in Shinjuku delayed for a few good hours.
Since everything else was about closed it was time to head back. Though we did consider a stop on the way back for coffee, but were all too full for anything else. By now we were already regretting having had 3 days of consecutive beef buffets, since it had lost its charm.
On hindsight, we ought to had just stuck to the plan to visit Enoshima regardless of the time but given all the missteps, the day turned out to be less than had hoped for. Though to be fair, the decision to head to Enoshima on Christmas was also an impromptu one meant to accommodate the unforeseen expansion of our group. We’d make plans to visit Enoshima tomorrow instead. Perhaps now that the holiday was over, things would pick up?Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.