About six months ago, I was invited to give a presentation on my research at a conference in Tokyo in May 2013 (TOEO-8). Aside from being honored of having the chance to give my first invited talk, visiting Japan had always been one of my dreams. I therefore accepted the invitation and my wife and I decided that we would take advantage of this unique opportunity to visit Tokyo with our two and a half year old daughter! All in all, we spent 10 days in Tokyo (3 for the conference) and I have to admit we were sad to leave! We definitely plan on returning to Japan in a few years to continue exploring Tokyo as well as to visit more traditional cities such as Kyoto!
I hope you enjoy the following pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them!
Camera configuration: Nikon D800 equipped with a 24-70 mm f/2.8 Nikon lens + circular polarizer or 50 mm f/1.8 Nikon lens.
Learning the ropes
We got to Tokyo after more than 20 hours of travelling (plane, bus, taxi). Already, we could tell from our trip from Narita airport to our hotel that things were going to be different in Japan. The service we got was very personal and exemplary, the timing perfect and you could feel a general sense of calm; we automatically knew that we were going to love our stay in Tokyo.
On our way to Tokyo from Narita via limousine bus.
Once at our hotel, the Royal Rihga Hotel in Shinjuku, I went out to get us some take-out for supper. Funny story, when I got to the restaurant, which was right in front of our hotel, I had a really hard time opening the sliding door. It’s only when I left and once again began forcing my way out that I noticed that there was a handle which one needed to push to simply have the door open automatically! Now I understood why the waiter had been looking at me kind of funny when I had first arrived 😉
Restaurant in front of the Rihga Royal Hotel in Shinjuku.
Once in the restaurant, I asked the waiter if I could order some take-out food. He said yes, and pointed at a picture of some fried dumplings on a vending machine. The indicated price was 300 Yen so I took out my money and tried to give it to him who surprisingly did not want to take it! He then pointed once again at the vending machine and showed me how to proceed: put your money in, choose your food, take the printed coupon and give it the waiter! At first, I found this quite funny, but I met a Japanese professor at the conference who explained to me why these machines are so popular in Tokyo. One, the waiter does not have to manipulate money which for sanitary purposes is just great; two, it is much safer since no money is lying around, although in Tokyo this would most probably be an insignificant issue and three, one can leave whenever he wants since the food is already paid for! Everything in Japan is optimized and as an engineer I love it!
Having said that, our dumplings were delicious and I really enjoyed the look and feel inside the restaurant!
My first encounter with a coupon machine!
These banners are very popular in front of small restaurants in Tokyo.
On our second night, I ordered our first bentos from Hotto Motto, considered a fast food restaurant in Japan. I have to admit we weren’t able to identify every item we ate, but most of it was very good!
Toilets in Japan
Toilets are taken very seriously in Japan! Heated seat, bidet with adjustable pressure, sound effects to camouflage unwanted noises, etc. Going to the bathroom can rapidly turn into an adventure since it’s not always easy to know which button does what! I tested the following one in our hotel room and fortunately, I came out unscathed!
Beginning of our vacations
The conference finished three days after our arrival and we were free to explore Tokyo. Wednesday evening was thus spent walking around Shinjuku with my family, something I had not had the chance of doing yet! I could have spent hours exploring the side streets of Shinjuku and taking pictures and here are some of those shots:
The main street of Shinjuku is just bustling with activity and pacted with neon lights!
You may note the yellow textured bar on the ground on the following picture. These bars are there to help blind individuals navigate their way through the city. They are absolutely everywhere, on the streets, the metro stations, etc. Really impressive.
Now playing in a cinema… far from you!
There are so many inviting restaurants in Tokyo, I have the impression you could eat in a different restaurant everyday and a lifetime would not be sufficient to try them all! In fact, I’ve heard that there are more than 80 000 restaurants in Tokyo!
This shot was taken near our hotel; I just love the Blade Runner feel about it!