Trip Start Apr 29, 2008
Trip End Oct 11, 2008

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Where I stayed
Hotel Villa Fontaine Roppongi Annex

Flag of Japan  , Kanto,
Friday, July 25, 2008

I had to leave Russia on the 25th July as my visa had expired. After some weeks of trying to find out the best way to get a new visa, we decided Tokyo was my best bet. We had received numerous replies to our question of how to get a new visa to stay in Yuzhno for another couple of months varying from "No, another visa is not possible unless I had been out of the country for at least 3 months", "Yes, I could get another visa if I went to Seoul for two weeks and waited", "Yes, I could have a visa processed in Sapporo if I either waited for two-three weeks OR got an immigration stamp that allowed me to stay in Japan for 91 days in which case it would only take 2 days" or "a single or double entry visa could be processed overnight in Tokyo". these were all confusing and apparently each consulate has their own particular ways of dealing with visas. Even so, I was worried until I got the visa in my hand especially after reading that foreigners could only get visas processed in their own country!

Anyway, I had a nice few days in Tokyo although it was very humid and quite hot. My first day after initially getting lost (I have no sense of direction and the subways make it worse) was spent in Tokyo Tower. It's a great view from the top and not terribly expensive to go up. I was rather touched when a grandmother came over to me and asked if she could take a photo of her grandson and me together. I think I might have been the only Westerner there that day - seemed to tower over everyone as well as being the only white skinned person.

I had to laugh when I bought a t-shirt for a friend in the shop at the top of the tower for 3000 JPY only to go down to the 2nd floor to find a huge range of souvenir shops with t-shirts of equal quality (and in some cases nicer) for only 1000 JPY!

Tokyo tower was also my first experience of ordering my lunch via a vending machine. It was always going to be a bit of a surprise as I can't read a word of Japanese and the people I asked couldn't speak English! So I just pushed the button, paid my money, got my change and picked up my vender number. It turned out to be just fine.

The next day I went on a tour - up another tower (World trade center), on a river cruise, through some market area, a shrine and then on to the imperial palace. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed inside the palace grounds (it's only open to the public twice a year). I was a bit footsore after having walked to the bus depot and then walking around some more so I took a taxi back to the hotel. The subway system is incredibly huge and complex and although I could easily have gone on the train to get to different places, I decided not to especially when I heard about the professional pushers that employed to get people onto the trains!

Monday saw me lining up with 20 or so others waiting for the consulate to open to apply for my visa. After about an hour, I was on my way again, hopeful that the visa would be granted. I wondered through a park, was swooped by crows (they are just as intimidating as magpies) and then onto Shiba Park. This was a really interesting place. Here there were hundreds of Jizo statues. Jizo protects children who have died before their parents. The statues are often dressed with little caps and bibs and there are also offerings to Jizo next to the statues.

The park also has shrines and statues throughout. One shrine had a Black buddha - seen as very lucky. Shrines are a good business as good luck charms are sold at the front of the shrine. Naturally I had to succumb and came away with my lucky dip turtle charm!

on the Tuesday I went and picked up my visa! I had a really nice few days in Tokyo and would love to go back to see more.
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