Tokyo is really far from my home state of Ohio. Really, really far. It takes at least two planes and approximately 15 hours in the air to travel from one to the other. And that’s not counting time getting to and from the airports and time sitting in terminals. Then once you arrive, you’re stuck with a body living 14 hours off of its usual time zone. It’s a beastly journey. That’s why I was somewhat surprised, though pleased, when my 77-year-old father decided he was willing to make the journey. Daughters get kind of pleased when their dads are willing to travel halfway around the world to see them. It actually makes us feel pretty darn loved, especially when the travelling father is not someone who makes a habit of journeys outside the U.S., let along journeys that involve any kind of plane. His grandson was pretty darn pleased, too.
Of course, once your 77-year-old father arrives at your home in Tokyo, the challenge then becomes: What to do with him? We made the decision to stick to a Tokyo sightseeing itinerary. It was nice to have a home to come back to each night and for Liam to not take a big break from attending kindergarten. We did small things, like exploring my local Japanese grocery store and mall. We did big things, like going to the top of Tokyo Skytree tower and visiting my favorite Tokyo temple, Sensoji in Asakusa, both common tourist must-dos. Most of our outings involved trains, and most of those outings involved crowds. He held his own, uncomfortably, more than once when a train car filled to beyond capacity with Japanese salary men and personal space became a forgotten luxury.
More comfortably, he got to spend quality time playing with his grandson and hanging out with me. The last time I spent this many days under the same roof with my father, I was a fresh college grad, living with my parents while I got my journalism career up and running. My mother passed away almost three years ago and it’s been tough on all of us, especially now that my little family moved abroad. I can’t be there for him the way I’d like to but we knew Wil would be away for work in November so he decided to be here for me.
I’m fortunate that my dad is rather spry for his age – he jogs at least once a week – so our explorations were fairly broad. Here’s a sampling of the places we visited:
Kichijoji, Tokyo: He got as big of a kick out of visiting the squirrel enclosure in the zoo at Inokashira Park as I do, as well as the park’s small shrine. We also had fun exploring the neighborhood’s many little alleys and shops. Kichijoji is one of my favorite Tokyo cities.
Asakusa, Tokyo: This neighborhood is home to the beautiful Sensoji Temple. (Read more about the temple in an earlier post.) We wandered up past the many booths selling souvenirs along the Nakamise street that leads to the temple and Dad was impressed/overwhelmed by the sheer amount of shopping opportunities crammed into a small area.
Ukai Toriyama restaurant, Takao, Tokyo: A Japanese friend of mine very kindly hosted my father and I for an amazing multi-course Japanese lunch at Ukai Toriyama restaurant. Located at the foot of Mt. Takao, the restaurant consists of a series of small traditional Japanese buildings set in lovely grounds, complete with footbridges, carp ponds and gardens artfully arranged as only the Japanese can do. The presentation of the food was equally as lovely, served in a tatami mat room overlooking one of the ponds. We feasted on tofu, grilled chicken, fish and vegetables, mushroom soup, miso soup, rice with pureed yam sauce and mochi (pounded rice) with red bean sauce, among other things. Dad passed on the carp sashimi course but I found it delicious.
Yasakuni Shrine and Yushukan war museum, Chiyoda, Tokyo: Yasakuni shrine is a Shinto shrine that commemorates Japan’s war dead. The shrine was founded in 1869 and enshrines 2.5 million people. It has a controversial recent history, however, since 14 class A war criminals are also enshrined. The nearby museum provides a conservative Japanese perspective on the country’s wars. We found the museum’s films, memorabilia and artifacts fascinating.
Tokyo Skytree tower, Sumida City, Tokyo: It’s the world’s tallest free-standing broadcasting tower and, as you’d expect, it offers incredible views of the vast expanse of city that is Tokyo. They even had a quirky Star Wars themed display going on. Wil, Liam and I previously took in the views there last spring.
Imperial Palace East Gardens, central Tokyo: We took a few hours to stroll through the grounds of what was once Edo Castle. There’s not much evidence of the palace’s greatness left, but we did enjoy imagining what was once there as we looked at the remaining guard houses, moats and walls. It’s a nice slice of classic Japan smack in the middle of the city.
We’ll consider this Part I of my post. I’ll try not to tire my readers out as much as I tired my father out with our many destinations. Join us again, soon, for a glimpse of Roppongi, Odaiba, Ueno and Showa Kinen.