Friday, February 17, 2017

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Shinjuku, Tokyo

The end of August took me to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building with my friend K. and her two year-old toddler, K.

K. and I have actually known each other since 2005, when I was a JET in Takaoka, Toyama, at the same high school where K. was teaching. She was one of the teachers I taught with and we've kept contact intermittently over the years. When hubby and I moved to Tokyo in the late summer of 2015, we met up for lunch every few months or so.

This was my last meet-up with K. in Tokyo as she was getting ready to move back to her hometown Takaoka to stay with her family. She was having her second baby, and believe it or not she was actually 8 months along in the photo above. Some women just don't show much, if at all, unlike me who's about the size of a whale right now xD

Anyway, it was a clear, sunny day and nowhere as hot as it was in Kyoto. Being in a valley, Kyoto is just hotter and more humid than Tokyo in general. So K., little K., and I had lunch together in Shinjuku and then off we went to the Metropolitan Government Building.

We lined up in this lobby to go on the elevator for the South Tower first. Each tower has an observation deck on the 45th floor, and entry is free! 

The white building with a fanned out base is the Sompo Japan Building (center, left photo). That tall and stretched out bird nest-looking building is the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower.

Let's just say Tokyo is massive, as in mind-numbingly massive.

Don't believe me? Let's zoom out a bit. Okay, a lot. These two photos were taken in August 2005, almost 12 years ago, as my flight was taking off from Haneda Airport for the 1-hour trip to Toyama. That little cluster of skyscrapers you see at the center there is Shinjuku. Getting goosebumps yet?

How about zooming out a little more? Hair-raising, right? It's a sea of concrete for as far as the eyes can see. 12+ million people and yet is probably the safest metropolis in the world. For all of Japan's faults and social problems, that's quite an amazing feat if you ask me!

Anyway, back to the Metropolitan Government Building. Here's a model of it on display in the observation deck of the South Tower.

Once we got bored of the South Tower, we went back downstairs to switch elevator for the North Tower.

K. told me most visitors prefer the South Tower, but my personal opinion is that the North Tower has better views.

That's the Metropolitan Government Building #2 at the lower right in all three photos.

And that's the Shinjuku Park Tower at center in the left photo, top right in the right photo, and left in the bottom photo. It's home to the Park Hyatt where our Tokyo afternoon tea club had had a couple of tea sessions.

Also on the North Tower's observation deck was a Local Specialties Fair, basically all manners of edible and inedible souvenirs from all over Japan. You bet I picked up a few things, some of which I brought home and still have with me: two bottles of honey-colored Yuzu (left) and Ginger (right) Sweet Vinegar, Anzu (Apricot) Black Tea (rightmost tall round tin), ume salt (bottom row, leftmost pink bottle), yuzu kosho (next to ume salt), and the tiny travel-sized bar of honey soap (bottom row, rightmost package). 

If you're wondering what the sweet vinegars are for, well believe it or not, you're supposed pour a teaspoon or two over ice, wait for it to dilute some, and then drink it. Tried that, and while the ginger vinegar was decent the yuzu vinegar was way too tart. So now I mix the ginger vinegar with sparkling water to create a tart ginger ale (yum!) and save the yuzu vinegar for dressings and marinades.

As for the Anzu Black Tea, it's actually surprisingly tart and tastes more like a hibiscus tisane than a black tea. The ume salt I sprinkle a pinch over vanilla ice cream (try it!), and the yuzu kosho is also excellent in dressings and marinades. Good ol' chicken noodle soup is getting bland and boring? No problem. Add some yuzu kosho and it'll be wicked tasty ^.^

Anyway, back down to the lobby and found an exhibition for kumade (decorative brooms). Neat stuff!

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