>Day 3 19 Nov 2007 Tokyo – Imperial Palace, Odaiba

>After breakfast, we headed to the Imperial Palace. Phew it was bitterly cold! I could only breathe by gasping like a fish out of water everytime the wind hit. Isaac walked backwards so that his back faced the wind and all of us just kept our heads down, hands in pockets as we trudged across the huge wide plaza to the Imperial Palace. The sun was out, the sky was blue but our teeth were chattering!

On hindsight, I did wonder what was the purpose in going there since we could not enter the palace and did not feel inclined to wander its grounds since the cold was so sharp that morning. We stopped by the moat and took the usual pictures of the famed Nijubashi bridge in the background.

The place was crowded with tour groups – people from China and Taiwan. One of them asked us curiously: “Are all these children… yours?” We said yes and the woman beamed: “Wah! We thought you were looking after some other person’s children, not all could be yours… Well you are lucky – how wonderful to have a large family. In China, we can’t have so many. For people to have even 2, it costs a great deal of money.” Ah, in Japan as in Singapore – we get the same reaction.

After the Imperial Palace, we took a subway to Shimbashi station and changed to the new state-of-the-art Yurikamome line. This is a driverless train which ran to and around Odaiba where we were headed. Odaiba is a reclaimed island that now houses the high-tech modern 21st century face of Japan.

So yesterday we saw the ‘old’ and today we’re exploring the new. The Yurikamome was a comfortable ride (very different from the sentosa monorail!) that took us over the waterfront area and onto the beautiful Rainbow Bridge which leads to Odaiba.

First stop in Odaiba was the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation or Miraikan as it is known in Japanese. We arrived just in time for a quick lunch at the cafe and then to the robotics section to see ASIMO, the world’s first humanoid robot. Unfortunately, everything was in Japanese so we could not understand what was going on, but it was cute to see ASIMO run!

The exhibits in the Miraikan offered translations in English, but many of the technologies on show there really went over my head! Just too ‘cheem’. We did enjoy the exhibits on the human brain, entered a real submersible (you’d be surprised how tiny the actual amount of space was!), walked through a real space capsule and saw the cramped living quarters of astronauts (now I know how they ‘did their business’ up in space – one literally has to be strapped down for the fun to begin! The Miraikan also had this huge plasma globe suspended in the air which showed the weather patterns of the world in real time, so one could see the shifting clouds, the wind, the ocean currents all on the move. It was a very pretty sight!

From Miraikan, we took the Yurikamome to Venus Fort where the Toyota Megaweb was. The place is a big car showroom with every Toyota model under the sun – including KH’s ‘favourite’ Wish! The fun thing to do there for the kids, is to put together an electric battery car and then drive it round the circuit. But because all instructions were in Japanese, we begged off that part and opted for just the driving bit. So Isaac and Gillian went a few slow and sedate rounds – which annoyed Isaac who itched to speed and groaned when he was told “No overtaking and no speeding!”

Following that, we all went for a joyride in a real electric car. Two per car so disgruntled Isaac had to cool his heels until Gillian came back and took him on the ride. Gillian was tall enough to ‘drive’ so she took the wheels of one car. So did I. Owain sat with me. What a let-down – everything was programmed already so all we had to do was sit there – the car went at its own speed, on the fixed route (there was only one track!). But Owain and I had a very entertaining chat in the car about how he was going to be rich someday and buy this car for me, and how he was going to be so rich that he would fill his house with money – never mind the furniture! And everyday, he added eyes sparkling with glee, he would count his money!! Ai-yi-yi!

After we finished the Toyota Megaweb, it was already night. So we went to Venus Fort to the Burberry Blue Label to buy one very auntie-looking bag for my bro. Paul had asked me to do this so in consideration of our new-found bond at dad’s bedside, I agreed to do so. Geez. We bought the bag 38000yen (remember this figure!) and went off ‘home’ via the Rinkai Line.
Stopped for dinner at a ramen joint beneath the Shin-Kiba station. Then as we tried to get the tickets for the train home, we witnessed Tokyo rush hour in its glory. Sort of. There was just this never-ending stream of people – suited in black or dark blue, men and women, carrying briefcases, bags etc all looking very purposeful and moving almost as one body – flowing from the ticket-gates to the entrance/exit of the station.
The river of people was moving so fast we could not cut across to the bank of ticket vending machines opposite. So we just stood and watched and marvelled. Shenton Way at peak is nothing compared to this. And we’re only talking about Shin-Kiba here – just a semi-suburban outlying station – not even Shinjuku and yet the massive stream of people was just amazing to watch. Where do they come from and where are they headed and why does everyone look so busy and why are they always in such a hurry?

Pictures: http://picasaweb.google.com/chongbrood/Day3Tokyo

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