The Chalice from the Palace

Major Architecture

New Year’s Eve is a quiet time in Tokyo – not quite a public holiday, but most things are shut from 28 Decemeber to 4 January. There’s enough action around the place though, you gotta expect that in a city of 35 million. Our hotel concierge did explain though, that it is customary in Japan to celebrate New Year’s quietly with family – so no big communal fireworks and the like. In keeping with the quietish pace of the day, we decided to forgo the hotel shuttle bus and walk to Shinjuku which isn’t actually very far and passes through some rather major architecture. We also wanted to check out an area we’d seen from the bus stop. This is an area we now know to be known as Electric Street, as opposed to Electric Town, which we visited yesterday.

Electric Street, Shinjuku

Electric Street is small time compared to the Town version – it’s also filled with little restaurants and Pachinko parlours. We roamed around the 2 or 3 blocks that make up the zone for a while – I have to say at this point that I could roam around this city’s prefectures for months it’s so damn interesting. We all of us love it.

Marinouchi Centre

Our main aim today was to chart our course to Tokyo station so we’d know where we were going on Sunday (our train to Kyoto). While we were there the tourists’ code demands a visit to the Imperial Palace. Tokyo Station is in the Marinouchi business district of the City and was particularly quiet on this holiday day (it was also cold so not many burghers on the streets). On spec we headed for the Marinouchi Centre, a large building near the station, which housed on it’s lower floors a number of stores including a department store with the inevitable food hall in the basement. The street level presented us with a full orchestra and choir performing Beethoven’s 9th which was a pleasant and unexpected diversion for a trio of Imperial Palace hunters. The foodhall also presented us with a little chinese deli nook we could sit in and enjoy some lunch – chicken noodle soup for me, dumpling soup for Pip and egg fried rice and pork buns for Eams – just the shot for a chilly day.

Eamon at the Nijubashi Briodge

Back to our quest and we continued into the outer palace gardens and followed our noses to the Nijubashi Bridge and our glimpse of the Palace, which was preparing for it’s one open day of the year on January 2. Our feet and legs were asking for respite at this stage, so back to the nearest subway station and home to Shinjuku Station where the hotel shuttle would carry us home for a rest before we needed to head out to dinner.

Food Vendor in Electric Street

We decided to try our luck back in the Electric Street area for dinner and liked the look of the sign outside one of the hundreds of restaurants that you never actually see because they’re either up on the 4th floor of a building or down in the basement. This was a basement one, so down a narrow, winding flight of stairs we trooped. We’ve learnt by now that there are rewards for those who dare and this stairway was no exception opening into a lovely, dark, smoky room. We weren’t clear on the type of cuisine – barbecued meat with a selection of small side dishes and sauces and rice and beer and wine and the inimitable egg-ey, cheesey saucey stuff, that the kind lady who was sitting next to us explained we should pour onto the rice a little at a time. All delicious. All full. All stupidly tired and footsore. On our return to thotel, the Marble Bart in the lobby had been transferred into a Countdown Salsa Party, complete with salsa dancers, salsa DJ and salsa vibe. Of course, my white suit was still at the cleaners…

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