Tokyo - Lost in more than just translation
Tokyo Travel Blog› entry 3 of 22 › view all entries
April 13th, 2008 – by: jaxzhao
We were greeted in Tokyo by Jay, who went on ahead to make arrangements in Japan. Jay was easy to spot, as his 7-foot frame had him towering head and shoulders above the rest of Tokyo, and led us to withdraw some yens from an ATM at the airport.
Leaving the airport, we rode the van the Canadian embassy provided and what a ride! Despite the fact that the little van was close to being fully amortized, the little japandese driver floored the peddle like I've never seen before (I guess the embassy plates excused him from speeding tickets!) and there were several occassions where I swore we were going to crash right through some of the automatic gates! What was also surprising to me was that the Japanese also drove on the left side of the rode, with the driver on the right side of the vehicle.
The hotel we stayed at, the New Otani, was extremely posh and everyone spoke English here (resulting in me having this false sense of security which will land me in a bit of hot water a few days in the future). Several members of the traveling party stayed out a bit late in Beijing the previous night, but the rest of us still standing dropped our bags off and headed off to the Asakusa area to visit the Sensoji Temple. The metro ride there was quite amuzing, and I must say I approve of the fashion sense in vogue in Tokyo. I'd say over 90% of the girls were wearing mini-skirts and boots!
Upon arrival, the first thing we see coming out of the train station is an architecture supposedly resembling a flame.
The way to the temple was lined by shops and stands selling all sorts of souvenirs and touristy gadgets, but made the scene very festive. My very first purchase in Tokyo was yam flavoured ice cream for our group; it was surprising good actually. At the top of the temple, we came to this little hut where you make a donation and get your fortune by shaking one of those canisters until a single stick comes out. You match the number on the stick with a corresponding fortune. Several people got bad fortunes, in which case they were supposed to tie them onto the nearby racks so the wind would blow away the ill fortunes. My fortune was excellent good luck! So apparently whoever I'm waiting for will come, and whatever I'm looking for will appear.
After getting back to the hotel, while waiting for the rest of the troupe to come down, we visited a samurai store in the hotel where they were actually selling katanas from over 450 years ago. You can tell the owner really loved what he did, because he started explaining everything to us (in Japanese so unfortunately none of us caught a single word) and gave us a helmet from 400 years ago and a katana from 350 years ago to try. When you picked up the katana with both hands, you can tell it is definitely the real deal because of the heft. But the strange thing was, when you actually grasped it by the hilt and lifted it with one hand, it felt extremely light because of the way it was immaculately balanced.
Supper that night was at a sushi bar close to the hotel in the Akasaka (meaning "Red Slope") district. It was quite an experience because the waitress obviously spoke very little English, so it was a lifesaver that we had one person who knew some fundamental Japanese and a menu that had lots of pictures to point to. The very first word I learned in Japanese that night is beiru, which means beer.
We finished the night off fairly early because the seminar was the next day. We had our nightcap of sake at the hotel bar on the top floor and soaked in a bit of Tokyo at night. The floor to ceiling window at the bar had the most perfect view of the Tokyo tower, and I headed off to bed that night debating where to start the partying the following day.
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