Certainly our expectations of Tokyo were high - perhaps a little too high. Contrary to expectation, there were no cyborgs roaming the streets, no vending-machines selling live pixies and no sign of Godzilla. Nevertheless Tokyo is a fab city. Having landed on our feet once again, we checked into our upgraded room at the Park Hyatt (aka the hotel from Lost in Translation) and spent a significant amount of time recreating scenes from the film: lazing in the fountain spas, doing laps in the pool, and sipping very expensive drinks in the famous New York Bar (thankfully, my Diamond status meant they waived the $20pp cover charge...)
On the rare occasion we prised ourselves out of our Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson roles, we hit the streets in an aimless manner, wandering through parks of cherry blossoming trees, popping into vending-machine restaurants to slurp noodles with the locals and tracking down some real robots at the Museum of Emerging Science. As is sometimes the way, the bits we had expected to enjoy the most were a bit of a letdown. Our guidebook made Maid and Manga cafes sound a hoot. But in reality they're just a bit odd and raise some serious questions about the status and sexualization of women and children in Japanese society. It's the same with the amusement arcades and pachinko halls. In real life, it's not so amusing to find middle-aged men wasting endless amounts of money and hours staring at clattering ball-bearings or using a 'claw' machine to win a doll of a manga schoolgirl. Even the kareoke was a disappointment, I wanted to go to a public bar but was told that they are nearly always strip joints (or "gentleman's clubs" as the concierge put it). I thought there must be some mistake until I saw a number of bars advertising kareoke with neon images of naked women...
But on the other hand, there were unexpected delights. The first of which came when we drew back the curtains (at the push of a button, of course...) on our first morning and saw a huge snow-covered Mount Fiji. Having gone all the way to Hakone to fail to catch a glimpse of it, it was inexplicably satisfying to see it at last. A good start to our Tokyo stay. Then out and about, it was just plain dandy to naviagte the crowded streets and gaze up like bewildered toddlers at neon signs and huge TV screens plastered onto sky-scrapers. Even sitting in a cafe watching the teenage fashions is an experience; many of the crazy outfits and hairstyles matching the gawdy, neon lights. Every so often, someone would pass dressed up as their favourite Manga character - in a fluffy pink coat with dyed hair in bunches. "Cos-play" as they called it apparently is the newest form of recreation. We were also lucky enough to see a traditional wedding at a local temple... And let's not forget the highlight of our stay: the Ninja Restaurant. I'm tempted to say that the airfare to Japan is worth it just to come to this restaurant. The portions are small and the menu is pricy, but really, who cares? This place is the bees knees. Yes, it's a themed-restaurant but it's a themed restaurant Japanese-style. All I can say, it we LOVE IT.
And we love Japan. We're very sad to leave, but we'll not say seyonara this time, because we'll definitely be back.