Trip Start Oct 17, 2007
49Trip End Feb 04, 2008
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Since we are so highly travelled and experienced now, or ridiculously unprepared, whichever way you look at it, we arrived at Tokyo airport with no accommodation or plan of action
Now I can't believe how useful the tiny bit of Japanese I learnt working in Australia has come in! Like I knew how to say the words ticket and photo and I could count a bit. Sayaka also taught me how to say a few phrases and words, such as days of the week, "I don't want a bag please", "Where is..." etc. So, for example, much to my surprise, when we needed train tickets, I realized could say "Two tickets Thursday please". Ha! All people were so lovely also, they smiled a lot and really appreciated my effort at speaking their language, so it just encouraged me to try harder. I had lots of fun doing it.
Tokyo is one eclectic, bright, hyper-active, pulsing city. Clichés or images you may have of Tokyo are often real and it's so incredible to see! Blindingly bright lights illuminate the night. Teens dress outlandishly. We saw a girl dressed like Little Red Riding Hood, and guys dressed like they were from a pop band, jeans tucked into black, pointy, chain-laden boots
Japanese television is also a crack up. Language barriers do not apply for us to understand how hilarious it is to watch people in a studio audience watch a robot make a pancake (why was that on t.v.? Who cares! We couldn't stop watching!). And the televised English lessons!!! Why don't they have French or English lessons like that in Canada? They are a riot, the silliest, funniest show you've ever seen. I'm not even going to explain, just watch the video I've downloaded. Scott and I had sore guts from laughing so hard.
Tokyo is a city which makes even the most ardent anti-shopper a bit weak in the knees. You see things you don't need, but want, simply because you've never seen it before. For example, we found a tap-dancing Mickey Mouse... funny! But my absolute favourite where items such as face cloths, water bottles and pencil cases, all designed by a person named Shinzi Katoh. The aluminum water bottles were tops with captions such as "Gibbon is friend with banana" (yes! It's true, why didn't I think of it before!), and "Three ducks went out with three black umbrellas. But it did not rain." C'mon, you must find that funny
As for purchasing food and drink, we became fanatics of the coupon and vending machine. For coupon restaurants, you go to a machine, pick the noodle bowl etc. you want, take the coupon in and they call your number when ready. This is good food! As for the vending machines, they sell everything imaginable, our favourite being hot coffee (lattes, black, whatever you want). The taste was great and so economical. Vending machines like this are everywhere in Japan by the way. I mean everywhere. Lobbies, alleyways, you name it, the machine of your needs or wants is there.
We covered a decent amount of Tokyo by subway, which we managed to master, and on foot. Besides Shinjiku where we stayed, we visited the Ginza area, which is the mecca of designer shops and fancy restaurants. In Ginza however, was the Sony building where you can go in and see all the latest technology, some of it not yet released, and many of the items are interactive and free to use
Other areas we visited were the Tsujiki (spelling?) fish markets, only the largest fish market in the world which was bursting with activity and well, seafood. What a vast place, it covers acres and acres, vehicles zip around everywhere, fish mongers prepare their cuts, people shop for their dinners... an incredible place to see, really quite overwhelming. We also headed to the neighbourhood of Roppongi which is where wild Saturday nights are to be had. As we were there on a week day and unable to experience the night zoo, we walked the streets and went to another inner city onsen (not a sand one though, just water) to relax in the boiling waters. We knew the onsen etiquette this time, and managed to pull the visit off all by ourselves. I was also sick as a dog again, and sitting in the steamy water provided a bit of relief. We also visited the royal palace grounds, which are stunning in winter, we could only imagine what they would look like in spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom or in early autumn when the leaves are changing their colours. Next was Shibuya, this is apparently the most famous crossing in all of Asia
I think it's important to mention that Japan has the friendliest, kindest, most accommodating people. It doesn't matter who serves you, helps you or guides you, what job they are doing, how far they have gotten along in life, all people treat you warmly and are helpful beyond your expectations. They display a pride and professionalism in all they do, and to also encounter that in a city, where people are normally colder and indifferent is an incredible surprise.
We LOVE Japan!
Shopping in Tokyo (ok, window shopping for us): 5
Shibuya crossing: 5!
Coupon restaurants and vending machines: 5
Sony building : 5!
Atmosphere: 10 ++++ what a city!