Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Circumnavigating the Yamanote Line

Today is the Culture Day national holiday.

If I realised in advance that I'd have two days off in a row, I'd have planned something really special to do. Anyway, we'd thought to make the complete circle of the Yamanote line.

To those that don't know, the Yamanote line is the main train line, that does a complete 35km circle around Central Tokyo. It takes about 1 hour on the full loop. Instead of doing it like normal people, actually CATCHING the train, we did it the more DIY way, and took over 9 hours!

At 2.24pm we said goodbye to Nikon, the camera cat, sleeping blissfully unaware of our adventure, in her box bed under our apartment.

We thought it'd be best to start in Shinjuku and head south.

First stop on the line is Yoyogi at 2.50pm. Not much to see here. Probably most known for the Empire State doCoMo building, and also a common place to change trains to other lines .

At 3.05pm we reach Harajuku, a really popular youth district of Tokyo.

LOTS of people around today. I stop to take a picture at Takeshita street.

By 3:20pm we were in Shibuya. Here is one place that I think it's safe to say the most popular youth area. If you're in Tokyo, it's well worth a visit. At the front of the station there was some kind of political spokesperson blaring loudly atop a van, and people were as usual taking photos around the Hachiko dog statue.

We got to Ebisu at 3.40pm. Most noticeable around here is the Hinomaru driving school building which looks like someone lobbed a huge red ball into the building. Quite unmissable from the train line.

By 4pm we were in Meguro. Like Ebisu, this area looks very clean, and it looks like quite an upmarket exclusive place to live in. When I took a photo of the Meguro station sign a woman thought I was taking a picture of her feeding some pigeons. As if!

Gotanda(4:05pm), isn't very far away from Meguro, but there is a definite contrast of surroundings. There are many more office buildings, and in my opinion this area's kind of boring.

Just before we arrived at Osaki Station (4:20pm), I couldn't resist hamming it up with photos of the cool Art Village gnome.

You can't tell from this picture, but his hat rises up high into the sky. You can see this quite easily from the train too. Not a whole lot to see in this area. Just a lot of business parks otherwise.

Getting to Shinagawa station (4:40pm) felt like the longest gap between stations. Here is a big station which serves as another hub where many train lines come together.

By this time it was starting to get quite dark, and markedly cooler.

Before arriving at Tamachi (5:05pm) station, we made our way over a big street overpass where you can easily see Tokyo Tower peeking between the buildings.

You might remember from my other posts, Tamachi is a good place to get off to walk along the Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba.

Also, if you happened to be at this station it's possible to walk to Maruichi Bagel in Shirokane-takanawa a few blocks away for a good bagel fix.

We pass Hamamatsuchō at 5:30pm and Shinbashi at 5:43pm.

We got to Yurakuchō at 5:53pm. If you're on this line , here is an easy stop to make the short walk to the expensive Ginza area.

While we were here we first went to Kimuraya to hopefully get some anpan. We JUST missed out. Instead we went to the Chinese Tiger gyoza restaurant and had a spicy sesame mince noodles, fried rice and dumplings. Delish!

After eating we finally get to Tokyo station at 7:15pm. For a place that IS called Tokyo, this area seems really devoid of life. Just another area full of tall office buildings. As a policeman might say, "Move along, nothing to see here".

We pass Kanda at 7:26pm and Akihabara at 7:35pm. It must be the first time that I didn't notice any maids around! We had to take a short break because someone had to buy some stuff from Uniqlo!

Between Okachimachi (8:05pm) and Ueno (8:20pm) is Ameyoko, a great little market. I'd never been here before. Lots of shoes, and clothes, and other stuff.

I saw some "Basic Creative Reasonable" shoes that were a VERY close copy to another brand for only about 6,000 yen. I'll have to get a pair or two next time I'm here. Also worth checking out Ueno Zoo here too.

In Uguisudani (8:33pm) you can't help but notice a LOT of love hotels in this place.

The neon signs have enticing names like "Hotel Charme".

Rest or stay?

Passed Nippori (8:47pm), Nishi-Nippori (8:52pm), Tabata (9:02pm), Komagome (9:12pm), Sugamo (9:23pm), and Otsuka (9:31pm). These places are just about entirely residential. From the train these places look quite uninteresting. From the outside they don't look as bad. Only come here if you live here or visiting someone from here. There was a busker girl singing sweetly in Otsuka. She might still be there if you go ;)

Things start to get more interesting once we got to Ikebukuro (9:50pm).

I used to not like this place, calling it "Ikky", but it has definitely grown on me, particularly the higashi (east) side of the station.

Someone once told me it's like a little Shinjuku, and that's pretty close to the mark.

We got a bit disorientated getting to Mejiro (8:06pm). Didn't see anything of note here.

Next stop was Takadanobaba (10:20pm). Most notable as the "birthplace" of Astro Boy. The JR line departure song is very recognisable. There were quite a few drunk university students around here tonight.

I'm quite familiar with Shin-Ōkubo (10:30pm). I come here (too?) often to check out the wares in the "TC Gakki" music store.

Finally we get back to Shinjuku at 10:40pm.

Was it worthwhile doing this?

It's one thing to catch a train and watch the world go by, but to actually walk around and see what's around gives you better bearings, and a sense of place, and knowing where things are.


next time I'm catching the train!