Friday, June 25, 2010
Tokyo Station 東京駅
I still remember arriving in Tokyo station on my first visit to Japan. I took the Narita Express in from the airport, fought my way through the commuter crowds and hunted out a hotel. I knew next to nothing about Japan, and nothing about the layout of Tokyo. These days, I usually head straight to the west side of the city, and the urban centers of Shibuya and Shinjuku, which are just more fun than the office buildings and ultra expensive boutiques that surround Tokyo Station.
I actually still visit Tokyo Station fairly often, I just never leave the station! You ride the bullet train, get off at Tokyo, and get right back on a local train bound for your true destination. Though that doesn't mean anybody should dismiss the area right off the bat. After all, the Imperial Palace is just a few short blocks away, as is the museum that hosted the Manet exhibit I saw recently.
Real estate in Japan is expensive. Real estate in Tokyo is even more expensive. Real estate in central Tokyo is astronomical. So, if you want to build an area of shops and restaurants, but don't want to build a new building, why not go underground?
I walked through this arcade for well over two blocks without ever going above the surface, and there were plenty of intersections and offshoots. I explored merely a small portion of a veritable underground labyrinth! Tokyo Station is hardly unique in having a huge subterranean support network, but that doesn't detract from the experience. Ironically, one might imagine a cluster of fast food and other assorted sub par eateries, but I must say that lunch was cheap AND delicious, and there were plenty of restaurants and even a few bars that looked just as good as any surface side counterpart.
Once you've shopped and eaten though, it's time to jump on a Yamanote line train and head to the next stop on the line....