Trip Start Oct 05, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Japan  , Kanto,
Friday, November 2, 2012

Got into the airport about 10.50pm and were already so conscious that are last train to our hostel was fast approaching! Luckily, being used to the London tube set up and having more English signs than we expected, we made it!

We were met by Toshi our hostel host at KFC (standard) and he showed us to our new digs. Immediately we loved the area. At midnight there was loads going on, our street was lit up in neon and we knew we were going to love Koenji. We quickly learnt that the Japanese use of space is pretty impressive. They'd manage to cram 7 rooms into a tiny building, so much so that we couldn't turn around through the corridors with our backpacks on! At £27 quid a night though this was by far the cheapest place in Tokyo an recommended by our gorgeous pal Soffina it seemed like a good choice!

The next day we explored the local area. Koenji is famous for its punk music scene and vast array of vintage shops... Jo's ears prick up... one thing we did struggle with at first was the food...

All of the signs to places are in Japanese and most of the good foodie places look closed from the outside. It's not until getting the courage to go up some stairs or push open a frosty glass door that you realise there's something going on inside! The first meal we tried we managed to point at some pictures on the walls to explain what we wanted to the, trying to be helpful, waitress... we got dumplings - which became a firm favourite, and a noodle soup. It's surprising how salty Japanese food is. We have been dehydrated since arriving in this country!

Then we ventured to a local bar, the majority of bars in Japan are tiny! This one seated about 12, at a push. This gave us a chance to chat to the bar man and a few others as they explained the rules to a very important baseball match that was on. Baseball is massive over here... one, who was a music journalist, told us all about his love for the stone roses and the happy Mondays so I think we got on ok!

We noticed as soon as we came to Japan that people generally aren't as interested in us as the rest of Asia. None of the pointing or staring which is quite a nice change, although we did miss the friendliness a bit! But underneath it the Japanese are really kind and really helpful! So
many helped us when we were lost and even walked us in the direction we needed to go.

The next day we explored Shinjuku, very close to Koenji... first we went to a viewing point, the 43rd floor of the Metropolitan Gvt Building which gave us a great view across Tokyo. Then we walked through Gyoen park which was very peaceful and lovely. Then we headed to 'piss alley' not a very flattering name but translated means memory lane... this place had been recommended to us and we are so pleased we went as it was one of our favourite places in Tokyo.

It's very small alley ways made up of tiny restaurants, famous for its Yakitori (meat skewers). It's got a great atmosphere and is packed. You sit around the kitchen with the chefs at work. You just shout your order up and it soon comes your way - obviously it's a little more difficult when a foreigner but we did ok. We ended up chatting to some local girls next to us who got us trying more experimental dishes, we tried raw heart, stewed guts, raw cheek and another meat that they wouldn't tell us where it was! To be fair it was all pretty tasty... but good to have a guide there to help translate. We then headed to the Golden Gai with the girls.

The golden Gai is a lot like 'piss alley' but for bars. All of the bars are tiny! So cute BUT a sit down fee is often charged! The first bar we went in we didn't realise and a fee of 800 yen per person was charged, that's before any drinks etc. thats almost 7 quid! And it's not like you are in a club or anything! As the drinks were really expensive the girls saw our surprise and we split our drinks so we only had to split the sit down fee. Luckily the owner saw us do this and bought us a drink! Hurrah! We were then pointed in the direction of a bar that didn't have a cover fee and also had karaoke! Boom! When you think of Japan you think of cheesy karaoke, you don't think they are all going to be above average singers! I did lady gaga bad romance, and Jo even joined in - must have been the whiskey! It was a crowd pleaser lets say that... not my greatest perfomance.

Had a great night out with these gals, they were great fun and it was nice ust being able to have fun without worrying about being lost in translation! We even managed to get a few free drinks, an absolute essential if out drinking in Tokyo! I think a part of me died when I found out a beer was 6 pounds! And they are so bad at pouring pints that you get a huge head on your pint too!!!

Unfortunately our room was no longer available at Koenji place so we had to look for somewhere else. As Tokyo accommodation is so expensive we ended up on the other side of town in a traditional titami style room ie) tiny with just a futon on the floor. We were pretty gutted to leave the other place but we got to like this area too and loved wearing our kimonos around the hotel... We explored asakusa, the new area, that had a really good market. Got some food and headed to Ginza.

Ginza is the posh shopping district of Japan, I even managed to get a free iPhone (as mine broke) from the apple store! Thank god my warranty that had 5 days left! It was good to see the crazy shops all lit up at night. We explored the basement of big dept store that gave away free tasters of all posh grub - a tip from lonely planet.

Day 4 in Tokyo we headed to the harjuku area. Really cool place with again lots of little alleys packed with shops and restaurants. We headed to a great dumpling restaurant after a quick walk around youogitu park. I managed to find a cool denim shirt from a vintage shop and both me and Jo bought some pretty gangster hats. You can get away with it here! The vintage shops aren't too different to London but the people are so cool here. Especially the guys, with little
Bowler hats and quirky glasses... the Japanese must spend a fortune on clothes as everything seems to be designer. We also saw some of the typical bo peep style harjuku girls and the goths too... the girls wear so much make up its unreal!

We then headed to Shimokitazawa, another cool district nearby. Here we drank in some bars and ate some very tasty grub. Everything is so expensive here and because of these funny cover fees it's really tricky to know how bad the final bill is going to be. The dishes are always tiny too, most restaurants seem to serve almost Japanese tapas. Needless to say we spent a lot and got some free saki and tried a green tea cocktail - which tasted like frog spawn! In one bar we got chatting to a group out for a gals birthday and got involved in the festivities- see video

With a bit of a hangover we planned our trip to Mt Fuji, booked the bus.

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Mum/Cath on

Wow looks soooo fab. You both look really well - can you bring me back a teacup poodle please?

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