Tokyo: The Big Japple.
Trip Start Mar 15, 2008
30Trip End Oct 02, 2009
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We arrive in Tokyo at about 3 pm, from Osaka after a three-hour train ride. We find our hostel by about 4:30, and find we have a squishy room not much bigger than the half-a-rich-mans-closet we had in Kyoto. But we are, as per usual, just happy to have a bed and a base. We go for lunch/dinner at KFC, you know, to try the local cuisine (I think Leah had the Asian style chicken pieces or something) before heading out into the main city centre of Tokyo.
We wander out of the Tokyo train station into the early evening twilight, stretching a beautiful deep blue as night stains the city
We walk around the central part of Tokyo, which stretches for several blocks either way and is dominated by an endless squint of neon lights. I walk around in awe at the immensity of the place, the size of the buildings and extravagance from Louis Vitton to Dolce and Gabbana to the Sony building to an endless array of bars and other fashion shops. We eventually stumble upon the Sapporo beer house, which is three floors of bars and restaurants, and we decide to stop for a drink of the local brew. On the second floor we order a large Yebitsu and a medium Sapporo, both with outsize your typical imperial pint. We end up chatting to a family of English tourists and have a lovely natter for about an hour. The experienced Japanese travellers that they are, they give us some good tips for sights to see around Tokyo.
And so, the next day, we find ourselves crawling out of bed at 5:45 am. So, what could possibly be worth getting out of bed for at that ridiculous hour on a Saturday, you may ask? Especially for a couple of unemployed, lazy backpackers?
Well, about an hour and a half later, we found ourselves at the lively squirm-fest that is the Tokyo fish market
We travel then to Electric town, also known as Akihabara, an area where you can find almost any mainstream electronic toy you can imagine. The block or so that is Electric town has an endless choice of cameras, TV's, I-pods + accessories, whitegoods, computers and software, shavers, CD's, DVD's and on and on. Unfortunately we weren't in the market for any electronic goods so only ended up buying a new set of headphones each. I was also disappointed that they didn't have much in the way of unnecessary Japanese electronics - you know like spectacles that transform into a pizza cutter or umbrellas that capture rain and turn it into drinking water (this idea is now © copyright me). The most bizarre thing we saw was what first appeared to be a mechanical bull but turned out to be a ridiculous new ab exerciser.
After Electric town we head to the Harajuku region of Tokyo, the trendy youth and youth shopping district. When we arrive it seems that about 12 million of the 12.9 have also decided to be here today, as I've never seen so many people out in public in the one place for something as banal and uneventful as fashion shopping. Just imagine the Royal Show showbag hall at 7pm on a Saturday night and times it by ten. The shops have some pretty cool stuff in them, the very best of new youth fashion and enough pairs of spray on pants to suffocate all the giraffes left in the world
We eventually extract ourselves from the masses, and, finding ourselves near exhaustion and with time quickly slipping away, we head for the Tokyo Municipal Government Building. This particular location, found in the 'Skyscraper District', as it's known, gives visitors free 360-degree view of Tokyo the 45th floor. As far as the eye can see is a Pacific ocean's worth of man made structures, and, if you squint, you can make out the outline of more Skyscrapers in the distance, home to another city centre much further out. On one side it was just clear enough to make out mountains, their hazy black outlines, but it almost seems like a mirage.
Finally we crawl home, at about 6:30 pm, having been awake and tourist-ing for over 12 hours. We get cheap Bento boxes from the Seven-Eleven around the corner and at some point pass out from exhaustion.
The following day is our last in Tokyo
Anyway, we then head to another Japanese giant, the Sony building, where the public can visit the 5 floors of electronics and discover the latest that Sony has to offer. It's sort of a play zone for adult electronic aficionados, where the next big thing is being put on display. The most impressive things we saw included a camera that only takes your picture when you smile, and a new MP3 player called Rolly that looks like a giant toy egg, and dances in time to any song it plays. I know it sounds stupid, but first hand it was actually really cool. I guess you'll have to wait to see what I mean.
After that we board a train for Narita, a suburb that neighbours the Tokyo airport, and book into a Ryokan for the night to await our flight to Los Angeles the following day.
A Ryokan is unique to Japanese culture. A hotel room of sorts, the Ryokan is a room that embodies all the trimmings of Japanese culture. The white screens, the beds and table low to the ground, view of a Japanese garden - you feel you're being transported to ancient Japan. Plus we enjoy our last taste of the Hot Baths in the Ryokan's private bathhouses (separate male and female).
And finally our Japan journey ends. We fly out at around 5 pm; our flight is almost on time (only 10 minutes late), which is the best so far. It is also our longest flight, nearly 9 and a half hours, right across the Pacific and the turbulence is horrific for the first hour, perhaps a metaphor for the turbulent land of adventure, promise and risk we are venturing to. Please see our next instalment for our summing up of Japan. Cheers!