Emperors surprise party

Trip Start Dec 18, 2009
Trip End Jan 12, 2010

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Flag of Japan  , Kanto,
Monday, December 21, 2009

The flight to Tokio is the start of our round the world ticket. I remember the days around our departure where plagued with bad weather in London, and strikes by the British Airways ground staff in Heathrow. We almost were not able to fly out because of these, but luckily we could get airborne in line with our initial plan. But not without the necessary chaos and confusion. First at Schiphol, where they could not find any details on our connecting flight to Tokyo, so we had to get our boarding pass for that one in London. This was a complete nightmare. Due to the strikes the days before the airport was total chaos. We were so glad we had Business Class tickets as the lines for the Economy counters would have probably taken a whole day to get through. Still no record of our seats to be found, but after two hours of searching and fiddling around in the systems our seats magically appeared, and we just made it in time through security to board our plane to Tokyo. The flight was comfortable and the service on board was as good, not excellent as with the Asian carriers, but still good was nice.

We landed in Tokyo and took a coach that brought us close to our hotel. It is better to take buses in Japan as Taxis are kind of expensive there. From our drop off point we took a taxi to bring us to the Century South Tower hotel, which was close by. Our hotel was perfect and located on the top floors of a big sky scraper. The lobby was somewhere on the 20th floor, and the rooms stretched up to 40th or more. You don't find many extreme sky scrapers here in Tokyo as the city is prune to earthquakes. But  buildings up to forty or fifty floors are becoming more and more common.

The trip half way around the world made us total zombies, but in total denial we made our way to the Harijuku neighbourhood. We were in for a surprise. Yes we would expect Tokyo and especially Harijuku to be busy. But we did not account for the emperors birthday. Yes, not Christmas here in Japan, but around this time it is the emperors birthday, a huge national holiday. So Harijuku was flooded with people. We could hardly get out of the subway and were literally carried by flow of people. Resistance was futile so to speak, so we just went with the 'flow'. We were both very tired, so we did not spend too much time in the neighbourhood. We just walked around a bit, caught some cosplay, had some terrific food in a small takitory place, and made our way back to our comfortable hotel where we slept our jet-lag away.
The next morning, or better early afternoon we headed out to the world famous fish market. We had our minds set on the best shashimi in the world. The market was a lively place, not only selling awasome fish but also lots of other foods that you would only find in Japan. The best kobe and waygu and delicious other yummy things. Everything presented in perfect order and hygiene. We found a sushi place in a guide book that supposedly was one of the best places to go to on the market. And apparently more people had the same book, as the queue outside of the restaurant curled around the corner. A friendly fellow tourists pointed out that one street down there was a similar place, which served even better raw fish but was not in the Hong Kong guide book, so it was definitely less crowded. We decided to go for this and avoid the long wait. It was meticulous, the fish was as fresh as it could be, the cuts had surgical precision and everything was server hard core Japanese style. No funny rolls, just a bit of perfect fragrant rice, a dot of real wasabi topped with a perfect cut of ocean goodness. Writing this makes my mouth water and I have opened another tab in my browser to check the deals on flights to Japan. We tried almost everything on the menu, including the king of shashimi, Otoro. And in my opinion it is true, the real good stuff never leaves Japan, or actually it never leaves the market. You wont find this quality anywhere, not even in the most fancy New York or Hong Kong restaurants. And in a way, that is a good thing. 

After one of the best lunches ever we strolled around the market some more before heading out to the Sensoji temple. It is my first time to Tokyo, so it is a mandatory item on the menu. The oldest and most famous temple in Tokyo deserves a visit from this Dutchman. A short walk from the subway and we enter the Nakamise Dori, the street of small stores and merchants selling their souvenirs to the passing pilgrims and tourists. The street heads up to the thunder gate entrance which is marked by a spectacular big paper lantern. From here we enter the main temple complex which is impressive and in a very good state. we roam around the sacred site for a while snapping some photos of the beautiful decorations before heading out back to our place of rest, our hotel.

The next day we spend roaming around the various districts of this magnificent place. We also raid a shop called 'Tokio-Hands' just across from the hotel. We live on an Island called Bermuda, and there is not much for sale on this rock. And the things that are for sale are ridiculously priced and outdated. So we stock up on kitchen gadgets and other little things that are just not available on our little rock.

In the evening we find a restaurant on a high floor of an office building, I don't exactly remember the name of the place, but it had a nice view over the city. As far as the eye could see there was a jungle of concrete and glass topped with red lights to indicate the highest points of the buildings. No screaming light shows on the buildings like Hong Kong or Shanghai, just blocks of concrete and red flashing warning lights.


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