Ali...

Trip Start Oct 27, 2007
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Trip End Feb 27, 2008


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Saturday, February 16, 2008

There was an unexpected treat at the end of my flight back to Tokyo when I got a magnificent view of Mount Fuji from my window - I totally understand why the Japanese hold Fuji-san in such high regard. The way its perfectly symmetrical cone towers above the whole region is simply breathtaking, and winter really is the best time to view it as the air is so clear...

I had a nice stroll up to Senso-ji on the night before my visitor arrived, accompanied by Bungo and a Vietnamese/Australian girl. There was barely anyone else around, and no matter how many times I go, I'm always impressed to see it lit up at night. We called in at Denny's on the way back to the hostel for an indulgent desert, but then I had to get some sleep as I knew that the proceeding couple of weeks would be action packed...

I first met Ali in Golden Bay midway through my year in New Zealand, and we memorably got absolutely drenched doing a walk along the Abel Tasman track. It's a sign of my forgiving nature that I was willing to travel with her again, despite it being her decision to do the walk in the face of a treachorous weather forecast! In all seriousness though, we get on well and so I wasn't concerned about having a travel companion for a relatively lengthy period of time, despite my independent nature.

Once again, I had to get up early and make my way to the airport, but thankfully Ali's flight was on time and she was in remarkably good spirits, even though she'd barely slept at all. It was just as well, because as my Mum and Stu will surely testify, I'm a hard taskmaster when it comes to my tour guide duties...

After checking Ali into K's House, we went for a walk around Asakusa and once again, up to Senso-ji - this was becoming something of a pattern for new arrivals to Japan! I do think that this old part of Tokyo is ideal for an initial wander though, as going straight to somewhere like Shibuya or Shinjuku would be too much of a mindfuck! The more hectic districts could wait until the next day...

We went up Tokyo Tower in the afternoon so that Ali could get a sense of Tokyo's size, and then we went to a sushi train restaurant for some authentic local cuisine. I was relieved to hear that Ali ate fish and seafood, despite being a vegetarian, as we would have been in trouble otherwise - I had visions of her eating crisp sandwiches for two weeks! Thankfully that wasn't an issue, and we went on to enjoy some delicious meals throughout her trip...

Ali had a good twelve hours sleep that night and didn't suffer from jet lag after that, which is much better than me as I usually struggle for a few days at least. So after breakfast, and our first experience with the milk/cereal thief, we got the subway to Shibuya - it's always good to see how someone reacts the first time they encounter the crossing! With it being a Saturday, it was pretty busy, but that was perfect as I didn't want Ali thinking that Tokyo was tranquility personified!

Shibuya is a trendy area and as a result, it is great for shopping, so obviously we had a couple of hours mooching around...what with Ali being a girl and all! Actually I don't mind shopping at all, and by chance we stumbled upon an official Bathing Ape shop which was a bit annoying because I knew that our Nigel would have loved to have gone in for a browse. It was very expensive though...

I was eager for Ali to hear my karaoke (in)abilities and so we went into a Big Echo for a couple of hours, and she really got into it despite some initial reservations. It is so cheap during the day, around one or two pounds per hour, and it is the thing I miss most when I'm not in Japan. I don't miss their pizzas though, as we ordered one which was disgusting, although that was probably down to our misinterpretation of the menu more than anything else.

We went into Shinjuku that evening and Ali seemed in awe of the bright lights, which is understandable as I still am whenever I go out there, and I constantly lose my bearings which is unsurprising given its vastness. It's a great place for an aimless stroll though, and to get a feel of the Tokyo that you see on TV and in movies such as Lost In Translation (best film of all time). We escaped the mayhem for a while to play some pool - I'd played a lot with Ali in New Zealand, and she was very generous in her praise of my coaching technique.

I was delighted to get good weather again on the Sunday, as this meant that Harajuku would be at its best. The Rockabilly Club were dancing away, there were lots of bands playing outside Yoyogi Park, and the eccentrics were hanging out on Jingu-bashi...perfect! We even witnessed a wedding ceremony at Meiji shrine, so everything really was going to plan.

With no time for hanging around, we activated our Rail Passes the next morning and embarked on the journey south to Hiroshima...
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