We then proceeded to the Imperal Palace where the Emperor and his family live. Again, our timing was not optimal because much of the Palace grounds were closed since on the day following our tour – April 30th 2019 – the Emperor was going to abdicate and for three days thereafter there were events involving the abdication and the coronation of the new Emperor. What we learned is that although the Japanese follow the Gregorian calendar, they also have “eras” that are given a name – and each era starts with the coronation of a new emperor. For example the era associated with Hirohito who was the emperor during the second world war was the “Showa” era, his son Akihito who is now abdicating had an era named “Heisei” and the era of the new emperor who is taking over – Emperor Naruhito – will have an era called “Reiwa”!

Given that access to the palace was limited, the images shown below are stock pictures from the internet.

Imperial Palace

Nijubashi Bridge – within the palace grounds

We were then taken to a location where the Japanese have a smaller version of the Statue of Liberty – apparently the only ones that exist is the one in NY, one in Paris and this one in Tokyo. We also were taken to view this very large – gargantuan robot – which apparently is associated with some movie.

Odaiba Statue of Liberty Replica

We then went to a lunch that was provided by the tour operator – nice enough location – but lousy food. I think if my lunches were like the one that I ate, I’d also be slim like the Japanese. I had chosen the chicken option and was served about 4 ounces of breast, literally 3 pieces of fries and a couple of pieces of vegetables. With it came some soup that looked like a consommé. It was all edible – but that was about it! I was obviously not the only one who was unimpressed with the lunch because our guide asked people on the bus how they liked the lunch and there was vocal disapproval! Anyway, between the walking and the limited eating, I am sure it was good for my attempts at weight loss!

With that came the end of the tour and we made our way to the metro station to return to where Lekshmi lives. Now this was an adventure in itself. We had no idea of how to use the Metro and most of what was written was in Japanese though there were a few signs and maps in English. We spent almost 30 minutes trying to figure out how to get to our destination. Our problem was that despite our best efforts we could not find the station on the map where we were headed to. We even sought the help of a young couple who spoke adequate English. She spent about 10 minutes looking for the station and then told us to wait while she sought assistance. She went and asked some official and when she came back she told us that we were looking at the wrong map – we were looking at the Japanese Railway map when we should have been looking at the Metro map! Sort of like looking at an Amtrak map when we should be looking a Metro map in the US. Once we headed to the Metro section, all was well – we bought a ticket and then proceeded to the train making sure we were headed in the right direction. Then we anxiously sat watching each station and hoping that we would not miss the correct station to get off. The doors stay open for literally 15 seconds when it comes to getting off so it requires a quick decision. There is even an announcement that passengers exiting at  “blank” station should make their way to the exit before the train comes to a stop.

The railway system in Japan and the metro in Tokyo is truly impressive. It is comprehensive, all encompassing, clean, super efficient, punctual beyond belief and fast. It is not cheap and spending the equivalent of $5 for a round trip journey on the metro is common – which seems a lot given that incomes are relatively moderate. Trump frequently criticizes some of the airports in the US such as New York La Guardia which he – correctly – says is antiquated compared to airports abroad like Dubai and Singapore. Trump has obviously not used metro system in Tokyo and is probably not familiar with the metro system in NYC because he would have some scathing criticism of the system in NY and other major cities in the US. There is not a trace of vandalism in the trains or the stations. There are lots of young people in Tokyo but causing the sort of destruction that one sees in some parts of the US is non-existent based on our limited travels.

Anyway all went well and then we took a taxi for a ten minute ride to where Lekshmi lives and that was the end of our adventure for the day. We were both exhausted having done almost 7 miles of walking despite being on a tour bus much of the time.

Brito had cooked a delicious dinner – Cornish hen, some veggies and a black bean red bean combination thin gravy served with brown rice. A gourmet meal which we relished especially after the lunch we had!

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