Before visiting, whenever I thought of Japan, Tokyo in particular, I envisioned a bigger, busier version of Hong Kong. With bright, neon lights and over 32 million people, if you count the outlying prefectures. However, Tokyo was quite the opposite to what I was expecting. Spacious, tranquil, and I only saw big crowds in the obvious places such as Shibuya and Shinjuku. The air seemed remarkably fresh for such a big city too. The three of us on this trip had booked into a place in Chiba, quite last minute. By the time we looked at booking a place to stay, there was little choice left (booking in advanced is essential in Japan it seems). Sadly, being Hong Kong dwellers, we'd overlooked just how vast other cities can be. Chiba, it turns out, is quite a distance from anywhere you really want to be in Tokyo (except Disneyland..) We didn't let this set us back, up we got at the crack of dawn on our first day and headed out for a cycle around the city.
Cycling through Tokyo was a fantastic experience, it's such a bicycle friendly city, there are cycle lanes everywhere. I felt like we saw most of the 'must see' sights of Tokyo in this one trip as well as some other lesser known ones. Check out Noel's cycling destinations on Tokyo Biking Tours, his trips are fun, informative and especially good if you're planning a short but action packed trip to Tokyo.
Here are a few highlights:
The lotus flowers of Ueno Park. In cherry blossom season this lake is surrounded by pink cherry blossoms. In summer, the lotus flowers bloom and the lake is a sea of white. This stop was quite interesting as the other guy on our tour works in material engineering, apparently the big smart phone companies are currently working on the 'lotus effect'. Lotus flowers don't absorb water, the water just runs off the leaves or forms a pool, applying this technology to a smart phone would make the phone waterproof, so the water would just run off it.
This tree is located in Ueno Park, it is the original cherry blossom tree!
Ueno Park: Japan, 〒110-0007 Tokyo, 台東区上野公園・池之端三丁目
We stopped off at a lovely shinto shrine. Apparently this particular shrine is not on the usual tourist trail, so we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves to enjoy the tranquility. We performed a traditional cleansing while we were here.
Apparently if you have any sickness or pain, rubbing this bull in the area where you are suffering will help to heal your ailment.
Ryogoku - just around the corner from the shinto temple. This is were you go to watch sumo wrestling in Tokyo, we were lucky enough to spot a couple of sumo wrestlers while we were here.
This last stop was my favourite of the day. The Kiyosumi Teien traditional Japanese garden. Incredibly beautiful and tranquil, it was hard to believe we were in the middle of one of the world's largest cities.
Kiyosumi Gardens: Japan, 〒135-0024 Tokyo, 江東区Kiyosumi, 3−３−９
According to Noel we cycled over 32km on this tour, although the roads are quite flat and undemanding, the after-burn had well and truly kicked in by time we were back at the hotel. As this was the girls only full night in Tokyo, we forced ourselves out of bed post-cycle-nap, got dressed up and went to check out the notorious night life in Tokyo.