Sunday 24 October 2010

japan :: tokyo part 1


As much as S and I love to travel, 2010 has not been the most successful year in that respect. Our flight to Istanbul was cancelled in April when the volcano erupted in Iceland. We nearly missed my cousin's New York wedding in May due to strikes on BA. So when we started to plan A Big Trip, we wanted it to be something memorable. Neither of us have been to India; China was also enticing; but two weeks seemed too short for either country. In the end, I proposed a trip to Japan. At the very least, I knew we wouldn't need a tour guide and we could see different aspects of the country in two weeks. S kindly agreed, and the planets must have been properly aligned because our flight left without difficulties from London Heathrow...

Much has changed in Japan since I lived there (1994-1998); not least of all has been the development of online information - in English, no less. I booked hotels using We took the Narita Express to Tokyo Station, then transferred to the Keiyo Line to find our hotel in Shiomi. The hotel would not let us check in before 3 PM, so groggy, unwashed, and wearing the same clothes we had flown in, we went in search of some food.



Our first meal was not particularly inspired but it hit the spot: cheap and cheerful gyudon (beef bowl) and oyakodon (chicken and egg on rice) at a place where you order your meal by purchasing a ticket at a vending machine.

Fortified, we headed to the Imperial Palace. It was fairly busy on a Sunday afternoon.





Punk rock kid and mother at the Imperial Palace

As dusk began to fall, we went to Roppongi to see Tokyo Tower. I had forgotten how quickly (and early) it gets dark - between 5 and 6 PM, the sky turned black. I decided that Tokyo looks better at night, especially with a view from above; I had never really noticed or felt that before.



Braille sign showing Mt Fuji on the observation deck at Tokyo Tower


Our first view of Rainbow Bridge and the ferris wheel in Odaiba

When we were finally able to check into our room, it was tiny!


To be fair, the website had described it accurately, but how many people know how big/small 11 square meters really is? Still, it came as promised: Always Pleasant Amenity (APA Hotel).


On Monday, we started by walking through Meiji Shrine.



S wanted to know about the ropes and 'lightning' paper. My Japanese memory failing, I asked several friends. No one knew, but wikipedia had an explanation: shimenawa ropes.



From Meiji Shrine, we walked around the trendy areas of Harajuku, Shibuya and Ginza.



Shibuya crosswalk has to be seen and heard to fully appreciate it:

If some cities have a distinctive smell, Tokyo has a sound. Sofia Coppola captured the sounds of Tokyo in Lost in Translation, which made it so authentically brilliant in my view.



Tokyo International Forum



Although we had only just begun to scratch the surface, it was time to leave Tokyo and head to Mt Fuji.

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