Today was our final full day in Tokyo! We began the day by checking out of the National Olympic Memorial Youth Center. With all our rooms swept and our bedsheets properly folded and returned, we made our way to the Hotel Washington Shinjuku. This central location next to the giant Shinjuku train station was a good jumping off point for our final day in Tokyo, which Professor Martin left open for us to see some final sights on our own. My intention was to buy some final gifts and then visit a large park or two to document for our project. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain!
I decided to start off in Asakusa, which we visited on Day 7. I wish I could say I wanted to return to the Senso-ji Temple, one of the most beautiful we saw while in Japan. The truth is, the area around the temple has a large, covered shopping area that I thought might yield some good gifts for my coworkers! I ended up with some yummy treats for them. Then I decided that the crowds were a bit overwhelming (I think lots of people had the same plan I did for beating the rain!), so I got back on the train to Shinjuku.
Once I got back, it was still raining, but I decided it would be a shame to miss this last opportunity to see some of Tokyo's open space. My first stop was the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. This is not 100% technically public space, as there is a 200 yen entry fee, but really this fee is negligible (it costs more to lock your belongings in a locker outside)! Originally a residence of daimyo (the elite of the Edo era), this garden maintains a traditional Japanese garden form.
The gardens were extremely beautiful. I've been impressed since we arrived at how lush and green this city is, with all the different kinds of foliage, due to the relatively temperate and wet climate. The garden is truly an oasis in the city. It is arranged with winding paths, ponds with wooden bridges, traditional tea houses, etc. It is easy to forget that you are actually surrounded by the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Look at how the Docomo Yoyogi Building hides behind the trees!
After a while at the gardens, I decided to head back toward our hotel. After a long, rainy walk, thanks to the power of Google Maps and the prominence of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building across the street, I finally found it! I noticed that Shinjuku Central Park was right across the street, so I stopped in to snap some photos. Although this park was smaller than Ueno or Yoyogi, it shares many of the common features, including the opportunity for active and passive recreation, as well as the seemingly requisite homeless presence. After a quick stop here, I went back to the hotel to get ready for our Disorientation dinner.
The final dinner was a really lovely wrap-up for the trip. Our group was joined by Murao-sensei and his family, as well as Benika-sensei, who we met earlier in the trip. Unfortunately, because of the rain, the view from the Tokyo Sky View Restaurant's 52nd-floor windows was not what it would have been otherwise. Still, we took the opportunity to enjoy final helpings of fish, soup, tofu, etc. I will certainly miss the food here!
All-in-all, this trip has been an amazing experience! We've done and seen so much in just two short weeks, and made some great connections with local faculty and students. It has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, thanks to Professor Martin and Alexa's tireless work, as well as the support we received from the Japan Foundation and the hospitality and generosity of our colleagues in Tokyo.