Japan has some of the fastest, most reliable trains in the world. One measure of how much locals appreciate them is the glee in kids' faces when a Shinkansen glides past their commuter train. Or they line up in front of the sloped nose of a parked bullet train for a photo before taking off on a trip.
That excitement has naturally created a market for train souvenirs. You can find socks, shoes, even chopsticks shaped like any number of specific Shinkansen trains. Local train lines also sell their own branded train gear across Japan.
The Shinkansen souvenirs are all over Tokyo Station, but a big cluster of them can be found near the underground Yaesu central exit. Leave the turnstiles, and the omiyage shop is immediately on the left.
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A Touch of Creative
We were dropped at Tokyo Station for a daylong layover in Japan. On a February day filled with high clouds and cool temperatures, I struggled to find color in this area of the City. Hundreds of business men and women emerged from offices around lunchtime wearing nothing but black, gray, white, with a spot of tan in a woman's skirt or bit of blue in a man's tie. Snapping this photo of surprising creativity and color beneath our feet, and on a utility hole of all things, was like spotting a bit of gold on a treasure hunt.
We certainly did not do Japan justice with our one day of ambling around the Toyko Station neighborhood, but I was amused by my search for color all the while we were there. Instead, I left a lot of the Japanese brilliance of culture to be discovered if I return!
View from Kitte building overlooking Tokyo Station.
Great view overlooking Tokyo Station from the sixth floor of the Kitte building. The Tokyo Station building has recently been renovated and the area around the station is going through a renaissance. The old post office has also been renovated into a shopping mall, called Kitte (stamp in Japanese). The roof top of Kitte has an open garden space that overlooks Tokyo Station. Inside of Kitte are several restaurants worth checking out.
What's more exciting than riding in a super-fast train across Japan? Riding in a super-fast train across Japan while eating a beautiful, delicious and regionally specific ekiben.
(Ekiben combines the words for train station and boxed lunch.)
This store in Tokyo Station's Central Passage has an incredible selection. One I still want to try comes in a ceramic pot with the design of an octopus climbing up the side. The shop also has a display booth where you can see one of the bento varieties coming together.
Tokyo Station's eki stamp is at the Marunouchi south exit at ground level, under one of the station's two beautiful domes. As you're exiting the turnstiles, it's on the left. The stamp features the nearby Meganebashi (Eyeglasses Bridge) that spans the Imperial Palace moat.
Tokyo Station can be a hectic place, especially at rush hour and during Golden Week. Escape the madness at a rooftop plaza on the recently renovated Yaesu side. From the ground-level central entrance, look for an escalator to the second floor. There are always open benches underneath the lush fern wall. Grab a bento at Daimaru and eat it here in peace.