Wednesday, 4 July 2012
Thanks for reading our travel blog. Hope you find it interesting. Sorry for any of the boring details. I’ve sometimes found blogs helpful on finding information about visiting a place and maybe one day, someone else will find my ramblings useful too.
Leaving Edinburgh in the morning and arriving in Tokyo at 9am leaves you with pretty bad jet lag. It was hard staying awake on the two hour journey from Tokyo Narita to our hostel. Though on the plus side, our room was ready by the time we got there. We tried really hard to stay awake (okay not that hard) and instead of heading out for lunch we thought we’d have a short nap and go for a late lunch at 2pm. At 5pm we managed to drag ourselves out of bed and onto the streets of Uena in search of cheap Japanese food (probably just called food here). We got what we were looking for. Two minutes after ordering we had the most delicious miso soup, salmon, thinly sliced fried beef and pork. A good start to the trip.
We managed to sleep for a few hours in the actual night time like normal people but were up again at the crack of dawn. Spent the day walking in the glorious sunshine. Ueno Park was pretty disappointing. It has a few temples and shrines and the face of an old Buddha but was largely paved roads and few green spaces.
Shitmachi Museum was worth a visit. The best part was the kind old man who volunteered at the museum. He spoke some English and took us on a tour of Old Edo (Tokyo) downtown/’lowtown’ life, explaining the lives in the small Japanese house, bath houses, etc. It’s a very hands on museum where you get to play with toys so I liked that too.
We wandered around Asakusa neighbourhood too. The big draw card here is the Sensoji temple complex. There is an incense cauldron at the front which people stand over, rubbing the smoke into their bodies for good health. Barry says it’s bollocks, it’s just smoke.
We met our first couch surfing host that evening. Takahiro, originally from Yokohama, kindly let us crash on his floor for the night in the most expensive city in the world and gave us an introduction into Japanese culture. He took us to this local sento, public bath house. Most popular with older generations, this is where men and women meet to bathe in baths of varying degrees of temperature. Takahiro and Barry disappeared into the men’s side and I to the women’s. Takahiro had explained how it all worked beforehand and I mostly copied the old ladies, getting naked, sitting under a low showerhead with a bucked to soap off, lazing in the hot pools and steam room, recovering in the cool pool (not ice cold like at a sauna). Barry also enjoyed the experience. The boys side had a mild electric shock bath too.
The next morning Takahiro took us to a small local soba noodle shop for breakfast. I’m glad I didn’t bother carrying a jar of vegemite as a breakfast of muesli and toast is a thing of the past (Barry is too but for different reasons). Instead cold soba noodles and tempura is the order of the day. I really enjoyed it. Takahiro had other plans for the weekend so our cultural exchange was over as he sent us off to the Tourist Information Centre, which turned out to be the best tourist information centre in the world and probably should have been our first stop.
Went on to meet our second couch surfing host, Aussie James, who has lived in Japan for about five years. His flat has a great view of Tokyo Tower and Roppongi Hills. The skyscrapers are more what I imagined Tokyo to be. James took us out to Odaiba, a bay area of Tokyo with its Statue of Liberty and Rainbow Bridge which did not light up in Rainbow colours for us. We met Eri, a Japanese friend of James, for a beer on the imported beach. Another very Japanese thing was to head through the arcade halls, watching folk trying to win stuffed animals or play old school space invaders. Near the Toyota toy room (sorry show room) was another arcade where we spend about 20 minutes watching three guys have an electronic dance off. Only in Japan. Literally as that particular machine can only be bought and sold in Japan.
We headed back to Roppongi for a late dinner (10pm is pretty normal here for a Saturday night) of more fab Japanese food. I can’t remember the names of all the dinners but funnily enough we haven’t had sushi yet. As we are too old for clubbing we went to a wee jazz club for a few drinks and home to bed around 3am.
The Tokyo nightlife kept us all in bed until about 1pm which solved the dilemma of what to eat for lunch. So after a brunch of bacon and eggs we went to Yoyogi Park. Just as we arrived the heat broke with a steady rain. It was a bit like being in Edinburgh except 20 degrees warmer. Yoyogi is famous for people hanging about doing their own thing, not necessarily busking, but drawing a crowd; rockabilly dancers, musicians, Frisbee players and painters.