T is for Tokyo Station


For the letter T in the A to Z Challenge, my obvious choice (if you’ve read many of my other posts) is Tokyo. There are many places to visit in Tokyo, including Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree, so it was difficult to narrow it down. But I narrowed it down, and decided that T is for Tokyo Station 東京駅.

Tokyo Station

Tokyo Station – photo by kei

Tokyo Station is located in the Marunouchi shopping district of Tokyo, Japan. It is the main intercity rail terminal and the busiest station in Japan with over 3,000 trains per day, and serves Shinkansen bullet trains from around the country.

Tokyo Station Ceiling

The iconic ceiling of Tokyo Station – photo by kei

Tokyo Station opened in 1914, and has been rebuilt several times due to fire and WWII bombing, as well as undergoing extensive remodeling. When I was there in late 2014, the surrounding streets were undergoing renovation.

Tokyo Station Christmas Illumination

Tokyo Station Christmas Illumination – photo by kei


In addition to being a train hub, Tokyo Station is also a shopping hub, with many stores, souvenir shops, and small restaurants within the indoor station complex.

Tokyo Station Shops

Tokyo Station Shops – photo by kei

If you are traveling around Tokyo, to the Imperial Palace grounds, Ginza, or by Shinkansen, you may find yourself in Tokyo Station. If you have some time to spare, it’s well worth a look around this iconic train station.

Have you ever visited Tokyo Station? Or a train station or major hub in another country? Tell me about it in the comments!

Japanese Diaries Day 34 Part 2 – Imperial Palace & Tokyo Station


It was the last day of my one-month trip to Japan, and my last sightseeing trip with my fiance before I headed back to the states was to Meiji Shrine 明治神宮 and the Imperial Palace 皇居 in Tokyo.



After walking through Meiji Shrine 明治神宮 and eating some amazing shrine food (and of course picking up some omiyage), my fiance and I took the train from Meijijingu-mae Station (明治神宮前駅) to Otemachi Station (大手町駅) on the Chiyoda Line (千代田線). From there, we walked a short distance to the outer gardens of the Imperial Palace or Koukyo 皇居.

Wadakura Fountain Park

Wadakura Fountain Park, outside Otemachi Station on the way to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo – photo by kei

The Imperial Palace is the official residence of the Japanese Emperor. The huge grounds contain the main palace or Kyuuden 宮殿 as well as the imperial family’s private residence. The grounds are built over the site of the previous Edo Castle and includes 3.41 sq km with the gardens.

Imperial Household Agency Building

The view of the Imperial Household Agency Building from outside the Imperial Palace grounds – photo by kei

The Imperial Palace is generally off limits to the general population, but visitors are allowed inside on two occasions: December 23rd – the emperor’s birthday, and January 2nd – for New Year. Visitors can gather in the plaza of the main palace, and watch an address by the imperial family from the balcony.

Tokyo Imperial Palace

Outside the Tokyo Imperial Palace grounds – photo by kei

After a brief visit at the Imperial Palace, I have some suggestions for those planning to visit! My first suggestion is not to go in the middle of winter, because the gardens are dormant, and I imagine spring or autumn offer much better views. If you are interested in going to see the imperial family, just be aware that it will be very crowded on either the Emperor’s birthday or the New Year! The second suggestion is not to approach it from the south later in the day, because the pathways that cross the compound to the Fukiage Gardens on the western side of the Imperial Palace have restricted access just before dusk (like the Otemon 大手門 gate). I wish I had gone to the gardens earlier, because they are quite extensive, but I didn’t want to walk around the entire compound to get back to the station when the pathways closed. I really had poor planning for this stop ^^;; Check the Imperial Palace Official Site (and click on the Guide in Facilities link) to see the map of the grounds.

Tokyo Imperial Palace

Tokyo, outside the Imperial Palace – photo by kei

When dusk began to fall, we headed to Tokyo Station 東京駅, where we visited at Christmas, which is only a 10 minute walk away from the Imperial Palace. I wanted to do some shopping at the character shops that have special Tokyo Station editions of some of the most popular characters (like Hello Kitty & Rilakkuma), and then we headed back to my fiance’s apartment.

Tokyo Station

Tokyo Station – photo by kei

I really didn’t want the day to end, because the next day I would be getting on a plane back to the US and my graduate studies. I would have to leave behind my fiance until he could join me later in the year, and that was not a pleasant thought. But, I had spent over a month with him in Japan traveling, getting to know his family, and most decidedly not studying, and so it was time to return to university and prepare to defend my thesis.

Next time, the exciting conclusion to my adventure: flying home on an airplane! Stay tuned (we’re almost to the end)!

Have you visited the Imperial Palace in Tokyo? Do you have any suggestions to plan a better trip? Have you ever had a trip go not quite as well as you had planned? Or maybe you didn’t plan at all and it was the best trip ever? Let me know in the comments! 

Japan Diaries Day 21 – Christmas in Tokyo


After returning from Fuji-kawaguchiko on Christmas Eve, I spent Christmas day in Tokyo with my fiance.



Christmas in America is a mainly religious holiday, celebrating the birth of Jesus, and often involves some combination of church visits, family visits, turkey or ham and lots of other food. Even if the people celebrating it are not particularly religious, presents are exchanged and extended families gather together.

Christmas (クリスマス) in Japan is not primarily a religious holiday, and although most Japanese understand the Christian origins of the holiday, they celebrate it without a religious underpinning. Christmas presents from parents are common for families with young elementary school students, but after the 4th-6th grade (depending on the family), presents are limited to birthdays. Christmas is not commonly a holiday where extended families gather, and rather than turkey or ham, Kentucky Fried Chicken is a common holiday meal. For dessert, a Christmas cake is common. This is usually a sponge cake, topped with strawberries and whipped cream.

Rather than being a family-oriented holiday, Christmas is instead mainly regarded as a couples holiday. Couples make reservations at restaurants with special Christmas courses, and then may make a trip to a nearby love hotel. Illumination (Christmas light) events, Christmas gifts, and other Christmas-themed events are primarily directed at couples, making Christmas a very commercial holiday.

My favorite part about Christmas in Japan is the illumination イルミネーション, which is usually a very elaborate Christmas light display. The major places throughout Tokyo and other major cities offer huge, elaborate displays of Christmas lights that twinkle, sparkle, morph, and fade with timing to specific music and patterns. These displays usually happen at night, which comes early enough in winter to have a nice enjoyable show. Most illuminations start in early December, where they mostly run on weekends, and run up to Christmas, when the shows become more frequent.

Yokohama Landmark Tower

Disney’s Cinderella Illumination at Yokohama’s Landmark Tower

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