Day 15 of Japan: Edo-Tokyo Museum and Souvenir Shopping

Our last full day in Tokyo was quite a trip– we hit the biggest museum, and then wandered some familiar streets for souvenirs. Descriptions to come, once we’re back in the states! Commentary finished!

With our last day in Japan we figured we should learn a bit more history about the country we’d been in for the last two weeks, so we headed for the Edo-Tokyo Museum, the largest historical museum in Tokyo. Luckily pictures were mostly allowed (except of the actual artifacts), so we snapped away. Overall, the museum was very informative of the history of Tokyo (previously named Edo), with an emphasis on the 1600’s history, but it left us wanting to know more older history of Japan. There were very good English translations available in all the permanent exhibits, and an English audio guide was available (though it was virtually reading the English plaques off of the exhibits). All the pictures up to and including Andrew by the little car were in/around the museum. Some things of note:

* The museum starts mostly around 1590AD, when the Tokugawa clan moved into what was currently a little village. Before 1590AD, the museum has some ancient artifacts going back several thousand years from people inhabiting the area that is now Tokyo — seems like several different people inhabited this area at different times. Quite a lot of history, but they only had a few little pots and remnants to show this.

* They had some really neat models of different parts of the city in the 1600s. It really demonstrated how, even back then, the streets of the (poorer) areas were really crowded, whereas where the upper-class citizens (i.e. samurai) had a ton of space, with big yards/gardens, etc. 60-70% of the city was destroyed in a fire in 1657, after which is was largely remade to have the upper-class citizens have more reasonable amounts of land/housing.

* They had some antique paliquins on display. They’re basically little carriages without wheels that have a support on either end where two people could carry it (clearly for the wealthier citizens). Some were actual antiques whereas some were replicas that people could actually get into — Andrew thought they were actually quite roomy. The more ornately-covered ones were for women.

* Though we didn’t get a chance to see any Japanese Kabuki theatre while in Japan, we did see a good-sized exhibit on the history of kabuki at the museum. They also had a replica of a stage with performers as well as a miniature stage house.

* It’s really amazing that it was only around 1800 that Japan started Westernizing, and politically their world really changed in the mid 1800s with the forced opening of the harbor to the world. After this point there was a lot on “modern” Japan — Westernization and the World Wars.

* What was really rather interesting was a couple maps they had in the World War II area. They were maps of the U.S., some with lines from Japan to the U.S… but they were one of the very few exhibits without English translations. Very suspicious. We think they were most likely Japanese plans to fly over and attack the U.S.

When we came to the museum there was also a special exhibit featuring Osamu Tezuka, who is thought to be the first manga artist with his creation of Astro Boy and is thought of as Japan’s Walt Disney. It was the most crowded exhibit area (with few tourists). Unfortunately, we couldn’t take any pictures of this exhibit. Also, it was largely in all Japanese, so it was harder to translate, though there were many little movies of his work going on that didn’t require much language understanding. But overall it was very informative — admittedly I knew of Astro Boy, but didn’t know much about it and didn’t know of Osamu Tezuka. It was interesting to really see his work progress over the decades and become what is more recognizable as modern-day anime/manga style. Also, it seemed like Disney may have gotten some ideas from Tezuka — one of his most famous series/movies is “Kimba the White Lion” from the 1960s, which reminded us both a lot of a famous movie about a lion named Simba…

After hours at the museum, we decided to head to Harajuku to go to Kiddyland and buy some souvenirs we realized we had to get, such as a 3D model of an animal cell (and now it lives on Teisha’s desk at work). While in Harajuku we caught lunch at what turned out to be a Chinese restaurant (well, Japanese take on Chinese food) and were rather disappointed… but glad to try it. Andrew basically got rice with veggies and Teisha had a veggie stir fry… they were both OK. But the server was nice and took our picture without us even asking.

Side notes:

* The subways are awesome. Cheap and your next train is every 3 minutes!! And they go everywhere and it’s super easy to transfer to another line.

* Nearly all women wear heels and most wear a skirt/dress, as seen in the leg/foot shots on the subway. Also, something disturbing we noticed over time — a lot of people are bow-legged. We mostly saw it in the women, but it could have been because of skirts… We have some theories for this — excessive wearing of high, thin heels, or, maybe more likely, sitting traditionally folding one’s knees under the body. Not sure what it was, but it was fairly common… Common enough that of the little TV we watched there was an actual advertisement for knee braces to fix this problem..

* We’re missing our tasty snacks from Japan. Our favorites were: Milk tea (black tea with cream) — could be bought from just about any vending machine!, waffle ice cream (sometimes with chocolate) which was often in vending machines but more often in 7-11s, and Teisha really liked these snacks that were (maybe) rice made into a soft homogeneous texture coated in a sauce with honey and soy (I think) and put onto skewers (Andrew didn’t like them) — they were at most convenience stores. The milk was also quite good — very rich. (There’s a picture of this stuff in the third from last row of picts.)

After Harajuku we ventured back to our Ueno station area for our last night. We ate dinner at a little ramen shop we’d eaten dinner at about a week before — the fourth from last picture is of the store front. We both had sobe noodles with tempura (of shrimp and veggies mostly) in it, and Andrew had a side of oyakudon. Teisha happily discovered a whole area with multiple claw machine arcades just blocks from the hotel (on the last night!!) and had much fun there. As the big shops were closing, it was neat to see little street food vendors come out and basically make little restaurants on the side of the street.

And that concludes our last full day in Japan! All in all, it was quite an interesting and fun honeymoon.


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