Hello from Tokyo

Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of Japan  ,
Wednesday, September 7, 2005

During the flight we had to fill in an disembarkation card so that we could get our visa and entry to Japan. Under "Address in Japan" I wrote "Hotel in Tokyo" and still my visa was granted no worries. I now have a 90 day visa although I will only be staying for 10.

Narita airport is quite a long way from the actual city of Tokyo so we had to get the train. We got our ticket (1000 yen, 5 quid) from the ticket counter and boarded the Keisei line bound for Ueno station in Northern Tokyo. The journey took 70 minutes and the views were pretty good. It was endless rows of houses and buildings as far as the eye could see. As there is so little flat land to build on in Japan, they just have to build wherever they can. This definitely shows as there is no real blocks of houses like there are in the UK. It looks quite common to have a 1 story house crammed in the gap between 3 large buildings. Either way it looks very claustrophobic. The houses were also pretty colourful, with bright orange and blue roof tiles on most of the older houses.

The train itself was very similar to the District line in London, in other words old and battered. Not what I had expected really. There were loads of brightly coloured adverts hanging from the roof including one I found rather funny that had a picture of 2 girls that looked like it was advertising a chat line but confusingly had a picture of the Japanese prime minister in the bottom corner?

One thing that I found odd was every passenger on the train went to sleep! There were whole rows on the train with about 10 people fast asleep. Every one of them also carried an umbrella and it hardly rained all day, more on that later.

Once in Ueno we needed to get the Ginza line subway 2 stops to Tawaramachi near Asakusa, which is where our hotel was for the night. Navigating the subway looked confusing at first but we soon got used to it and purchased the ticket (160 yen).

Our hotel for the night was the Taito Ryokan. A ryokan is a traditional style Japanese inn where you sleep on futon mats on the floor and sliding screen doors for walls. When we arrived however we had no idea that the doors were supposed to slide and spent about a minute trying to figure out why we couldn't push/pull the door, which we later found out from another traveller caused great annoyance to the owner! After 14 hours of travelling I think he can cut us a bit of slack!!

After removing our shoes at the entrance and settling the bill we were given the guided tour and shown to our room. The room was pretty much as I expected and quite reasonable for the price (3000 yen, 15 Pounds).

After a few minutes settling in our room we decided to have a walk around the area we were staying. Asakusa is a more traditional area of Tokyo and is home to the Senso-ji temple. The Senso-ji temple is the largest (I think) Buddhist temple in Tokyo. Whilst we were there hundreds of people visited the shrine to make their prayers and donations. It felt rude to take pictures there but everyone was doing it so I joined in and took a couple. Before entering people waft incense smoke over themselves as it supposedly has curative powers. The entrance to the temple, known as the Kaminari-mon (Thunder Gate) has a massive red lantern and 2 large imposing statue guards, Fujin and Raijin Gods of Wind and Thunder. The streets around Asakusa generally consisted of small street vendors, game arcades, pachinko parlours (a pinball type game) and small pubs.

The rain may have been a problem for the Japanese as they all had umbrellas out, but I relished it! It was only light drizzle but it did wonders to combat the oppressive humidity. It was about 30C but 90% humidity, which made it very sweaty indeed. It was good to see I wasn`t the only one as every Japanese person was constantly mopping themselves dry with a handkerchief.

We then headed to the electronic district of Akihabara. If you are looking for anything electrical and you can`t find it here then you aren`t going to find it anywhere! However it is impossible to find anything in Japan by its address and we took a wrong turn and could find the shops! Doh`

However we decided this was a good opportunity to get a spot of lunch in a Japanese fast food restaurant. For about 2 quid I got a large bowl of rice with some braised beef in some sauce on top. Whatever it was it was tasty and far more appetising than a McDonalds any day!

Feeling refreshed we decided to hunt down those shops and found them just round the corner from where we had eaten. Quite how we missed them I don`t know as there are whole streets of them and they are all about 10 stories tall! I saw a Sony PSP on sale for 20500 yen, about 100 quid, and was very tempted but can`t afford to splash out like that. In all of these stores the first couple of floors tended to be electronics whilst the rest were DVD`s of a dubious nature....

We headed back to the ryokan to try and get some sleep. I tried for about a hour and realied it was a futile effort. Dave however slept for a few hours. During this time I arranged to stay in the Ryokan for another night. We had originally planned to head to Fukuoka tomorrow but there was currently a typhoon wrecking havoc down that end of the country so thought it was wise to ride out the storm in Tokyo for another night. So we`ll be off to see the sights and bright lights of Shinjuku tomorrow.

After a shower and change of clothes we headed out at about 9pm to get some dinner. Most places had stopped selling food already so we found a small pub which we assumed sold food. Having got inside we saw there was no English anywhere so ordered a beer and talked about our plans for the next few days.

Still hungry we went to the corner shop in search of suitable refreshment. Settled on a pot noodle type thing and a couple of can of beer which claimed to be "brewed for good times"! Settled down in the Ryokan to eat the gourmet meal and watch the news in Japanese. A Swiss guy came to join us and we had a quick chat. Managed to hit my head on the roof on the way to our room twice! Retired to bed at 12pm having been up for 34 hours hoping for a good nights kip.
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