We purchased the Tokyo Morning tour from Sunrise Tours. After a ten-minute walk from our Villa Fontaine Hotel, we met the bus at the Hamamatsucho bus terminal.
Our tour guide, Mina-san (san is good for both men and women), was very polite. She told us many interesting things about Japanese daily life. For example, to purchase a car, you need to have a parking space rented or purchased beforehand; otherwise, a car dealer is not allowed to sell it. Another interesting fact is that the average Japanese commuting time from home to work is 70 minutes one way. Or another fact—the average life expectancy for women is 85 years and it is expected to rise to 90 in 10 years. Her stories included many interesting and amazing facts about Japanese life.
The first stop on our tour was at Tokyo Tower, the younger sister of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Tokyo Tower was built 70 years later and it is 10 meters higher than Eiffel. This tour took us to a 150-meter-high observatory. The tower also had a special observatory, which was 60 meters higher but was not included in our tour. However, this was okay for us, as we had already been to two observatory towers.
Our next stop was near the Imperial Palace Gardens. The main garden is closed to the general public; only the east garden is open. We had a chance to walk through the gates, and our tour guide Mina told us about the role of the emperor in Japan.
Our third stop was at Asakusa Senso-Ji temple. We were told about the rituals in the temple with water and smoke. Also, the main religions were introduced. The main religion for Japanese people is Shintoism. The second largest is Buddhism, and the third is Christianity. Those religions are mixed, so, commonly, Shintoism is for happier occasions, Buddhism for sadness, and Christianity for one day a year.
Senso-Ji Temple is huge and famous as Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. The grounds of the temple were very crowded with tourists. There was also Nakamise-dori, the temple precinct’s shopping street. Only volunteers working for the temple can get the right to sell on the main street.
Our bus tour took us through different parts of Tokyo that we had already visited by ourselves. Now we have heard some stories for background. The last stop of the Tokyo morning tour was at the Tasaki Pearl factory. This was a bit of a waste of time. The guide there explained the process of pearl cultivation, and one participant was presented with a pearl. But still, it was a kind of selling activity, as on the way out there was an opportunity to buy pearl items.
The tour finished at 1 PM, so we still had plenty of time for Tokyo. First, we went to Tourist Info to book the hotel in Kyoto, where we had planned to go next. Tourist info was very helpful. They helped us book a Japanese-style room in the Ryokan for two nights and a western-style room in the hotel for three nights. We also asked for suggestions on how to get the most out of the afternoon of this day. After asking what we had seen so far, the lady suggested we go to Odaiba, the bay area. We took a monorail train called the Yurikamome. This train had no driver, so when departing from Shimbashi station and being quick, you can sit in the driver’s seat and enjoy the best views. The train passes the Rainbow Bridge.
In Odaiba, there are many things to do and see. For example, we exited Daiba station (a single fare from Shimbashi to Daiba was 310 Yen), and the first thing we saw was… the Statue of Liberty. It is a replica (albeit smaller) of the one in New York. The views of Tokyo city, the Rainbow Bridge, and the Tokyo Tower were great. And the views were even better at sunset.
Odaiba is also a “must” for car lovers. There is an interesting Toyota showcase at Megaweb. You can see future models and try driving all current Toyota models, including the electric car. Unfortunately, we did not have time for the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, as it is open until 5 pm.
The Tokyo Morning tour and a visit to Odaiba made a perfect day for us.