My journal entry for Day 3 starts out: “I think that when you come back to the hotel after a day of hoofin’ it all over Tokyo, the first thing you should not do is to lie down on the bed… And the next thing you should not do is to soak in the tub—at least, not if you still have a journal entry to write!” It was a loooooong day!
I got to spend the first half of the day with Patrick because his call for the shoot wasn’t until 2pm. We got up around 8am and, when 7-Eleven failed to yield as good a selection of breakfast items as the previous day, we hopped a train to the flagship Mitsukoshi Department Store to dine in the food hall.
Here are a couple of daytime views from our hotel room to set the scene…
Before we could hop on the subway, we had to get Patrick his own PASMO, so I decided to learn how to use the machine. There’s a big “ENGLISH” button in the upper right hand corner on the first screen, and then it walks you through either buying a new card or adding money to an existing card.
Some of the subway train cars have light-up signs that show you which stop is coming up next, which is super helpful. (Even if it doesn’t light up, there’s still a map of that line above the door.)
Mitsukoshi has its own stop, and its own entrance right inside the subway station.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought to check the hours, and Mitsukoshi wasn’t open yet. So we decided to take a few pictures, grab breakfast, see the next thing on our list, and come back.
This building dates to 1914, although the Mitsukoshi empire started in 1673, with a dry goods store.
I thought it terribly novel to see a crew carefully planting flowers on a busy city street, so I made Patrick take a picture.
Our destination was the Nihombashi bridge, which used to mark the start of the great road running between Edo (now Tokyo) and Kyoto (then the capital of Japan) and is still the spot from which all distances from Tokyo are measured. It also used to be a beautiful red lacquered structure but, like so many of the historic structures in Tokyo, has long-since been destroyed by one of the Great Trifecta of Japanese Calamities: fire, earthquake, or Godzilla.
In fact, just about every historic sight we saw in Japan was a replica (although some of those replicas are still older than the US!). The bridge that stands today was constructed in 1911 and covered by the Shuto Expressway in 1962. I guess in an overbuilt city, it makes sense to plant an elevated highway over the river, but it’s hard to look at this and imagine the vibrant fishing district that eventually became Tokyo’s financial center.
Patrick decided to risk life and limb to run out in the street and photograph the original distance marker…
…only to later discover that it’s a replica too!
The coolest part of the bridge are the elaborate details.
We grabbed a bite to eat at a suspiciously Starbucks-esque coffee shop, and as we waited for Mitsukoshi to open, I cribbed from my guidebook to regale Patrick with a superficial and wildly inaccurate account of the history of Japan from 1457 to present day. (“And then there was this fire, so they rebuilt, and then there was this earthquake, so they rebuilt, and then there was this other fire, so they rebuilt…”) I’m sure all the English-speaking patrons around us were rolling their eyes as they eavesdropped.
We started taking pictures of all the kawaii (cute/adorable) signs everywhere.
Finally it was almost 10am, so we went to wait at the entrance of the Mitsukoshi Department Store.
As we waited, four staffers came to the door and performed an elaborate ritual of announcements and bowing and unlocking the doors, standing outside, bowing, then going back inside, relocking the doors, bowing and finally unlocking the doors again and welcoming us all inside.
Inside, all the salesclerks were lining the aisles, and as we walked down the main drag, every single person, on both sides, bowed and welcomed us. It was like running down the high-five line at a football game.
We were so excited, we almost did run, and as we rounded the corner, we saw this:
As our jaws hit the floor, organ music filled the air. Mitsukoshi imported a Wurlitzer theater organ in 1930, and it’s still played daily.
The statue is of Magokoro, the Goddess of Sincerity, and was carved from 500-year-old cypress over the course of 10 years.
We decided to ride the escalator up to every floor and have a quick look around. At the time, we were gaping at all this opulence and comparing it unfavorably with the Mitsukoshi department store in Epcot. However, I’ve since learned that the interior of Epcot’s store is supposed to look like that of the Imperial Palace—good thing, too, because when we later toured the Imperial Palace, all we got to see of the inside was a couple of pixilated photos.
There’s even stuff to see on the roof, including the garden center, a small shrine, and an amphitheatre.
The next floor down sold some food items, but it was more like the various departments of the grocery store and less like a food court.
The real action was in the basement, where you could get hot food from dozens of vendors for take-away.
We got a variety of snacks and sat on a bench in a breezeway to eat them because we couldn’t find anyplace with tables. Then we walked a few steps to the subway and rode it to Shibuya station so I could show Patrick Hakuhinkan Toy Park. Along the way, I asked him to take pictures of a couple nearby shops I’d missed when I didn’t have the camera.
As expected, Patrick loved Hakuhinkan Toy Park. And I got the not-so-wacky picture I wanted!
This is also where we discovered the secret lives of some beloved Disney characters. In Japan, Mickey and Minnie are MARRIED!
Even Stitch is married!!!
Why must they hide their love in America?
Another surprise was stumbling on a cache of what the Japanese call “Sylvanian Familes” but are better known to American children of the ’80s as “Calico Critters”!
Patrick is a closeted Calico Critters fanatic. …Closeted until just now when I typed that on the Internets. I think he’s embarrassed cuz they’re so cutesy and girly, but he loves the tiny playsets with all their adorable little details.
So I let him get one (the candy shop, no less) and a little kitty to run the place.
We explored the building a little more and checked out the restaurants on the upper floors.
On the way back to the hotel we spotted another kawaii character:
And I discovered I’d been committing a great faux pas by applying my lipstick on the subway…
Here’s what a subway tunnel looks like, if anyone’s curious…
Before Patrick left for work, we got a pick-me-up at 7-Eleven:
And here’s our toy store loot (yes, those ARE light saber chopsticks!)…
I’m going to break Day 3 into two parts because we’re only at about 2pm and the installment is already this huge!