Day two was a day of wind, scenery and cool cars. We started the day at the emperor’s palace and grounds, which were located near the Tokyo station in Tokyo. This was the same area the law gala was held, but it was nice to see more of it than the inside of a building.
Initially Ang and I were confused because we couldn’t find any way into the park surrounding the palace. Some equally as confused tourists suggested that we had to make a reservation to get onto the main grounds. Luckily, we refrained from passing this information on to other tourists, because it was inaccurate. After walking around most of the perimeter of the emperor’s grounds, we found a bridge across the moat, which surrounded the grounds. Interestingly, we never actually found the palace. The travel books, as well as some of my friends from the program here, claim that one exists, but as of now, I remain skeptical. When we found our way inside, a cute little old Japanese man walked up to Ang and me and offered a magnifying piece to better view some of the plum blossoms, which had just bloomed. He was sooooo excited about these plum blossoms. Ang and I accepted his invitation to view the flowers close up. We made sounds of approval and smiles indicating how beautiful the flowers were, but really had no clue why we were using this magnifying piece, as the flowers looked no different to us, than with our bare eyes. This man, however, was in ecstasy, so we continued to oblige. He then followed us into a small museum and again offered us the magnifying piece for viewing some of the art – again very weird.
The emperor’s place in Japanese society has diminished since WW2, when he claimed he was not devine, and the government passed a constitution declaring the same. To many, the emperor represents nationalism and Japan that was destined to take over the world. These ultra-nationalists, as well as some of their brethren not so far to the right, still believe the emperor is either divine, or of divine blood. Compared to other rulers and their palaces, like Versailles and London, the emperor’s palace here in Japan, while nice, was not extraordinary. Of course, when I say palace, I mean grounds, because I never found the palace. Maybe, if the palace does exist, and I find it, I will change my mind.
We left the palace and headed out for Odaiba. Odaiba is an island right off the coast of Japan (just past Tsukiji. To get there you have to take a boat or car or monorail. We opted for the monorail. It’s about an 18 minute trip across a very long and beautiful bridge (posted a few weeks ago) and the view is spectacular. Before getting on the monorail, however, we walked to the Hamarikyu Gardens. The gardens were very peaceful. There was a lake in the center, where you could drink tea. The landscaping was very manicured and the trees were manipulated. Manipulated in that people shaped their growth. I will likely go back to the garden with the flowers are in bloom.
We got to odaiba and the wind was kicking up. I had passed the point of being cold and was probably delirious, as I was tempting the gods for more wind. Ang, however, had to check her fingers to make sure they were all still attached. Luckily they were. When we entered the Toyota megaweb, we were just excited to be out of the cold, but it turned out to be a really neat place. They had concept cars, a regular show room, a little café, classic cars (Toyota and others), and a test track for electric cars. We pretty much visited each section. After Toyota, we walked around an upscale and well designed mall. The ceiling was blue, the lighting replicated the time of the day, and the storefronts looked like the side of a street, so as you walked around, it felt like you were outside (minus the wind). Our last stop was an arcade where Ang hopped onto pig that, to our surprise, actually moved her around the store. Also, the arcade had more of those little claw games than any place I’ve ever been.