Land of the rising sun
Tokyo Travel Blog› entry 29 of 35 › view all entries
We got up at the crack of dawn in Bangkok (crack of dawn?! even dawn was still asleep!!) and went to the airport for our flight to Japan. It was a pleasant journey (and a VERY big plane, with an upstairs!! It even had actual stairs!) and we arrived in Tokyo (to a plethera of advertisements sporting Gundam Robots and Pokemon!) and headed off to find somewhere to stay. We found the train/subway system extremely easy to use and the Japanese people very friendly, and arrived and booked a guesthouse without any hassle. The accommodation was traditionally Japanese with tatami mats on the floor and a fold out mattress (and when it came to to paying for the room we realised our budget might end up going through the roof!) and free green tea too! On our first evening the woman on the front desk offered to show us the location of some restaurants when she finished her shift (but despite her friendliness and eagerness to help we ended up at McDonalds!).
The next day we explored the ares (Asakusa) and walked to Sudima park on the riverbank (where we saw an awesome super-duper spaceship boat! It looked like something from Captain Scarlet and I knew then that Japan was going to be awesome!!) to see the cherry blossom trees beginning to flower. We found a nice little bar on the evening called Aizuya (where as you entered you were faced by a 2ft statue of the original Gundam Robot! Something I've become interested in finding out about!) where instead of paying with yen you change your money into Aizuya coins and everything on the menu is priced from 1 to 5 coins! It just so happened that this evening was free soba noodle night so all we had to pay for were our drinks!
The following day we got the train to Akihabara - electric city (quite literally a geeks paradise!) - which as the name suggests is full of shops selling a variety of electrical items (far cheaper and in some cases superior models to those at home). Including the most awesome Disney mobile phone (and shelves and shelves of robot figures!). The biggest shop (Yodobashi-Akiba) was a 9 floor department store dedicated to electronics, games and figures!
The morning after, we moved to some slightly cheaper accommodation then headed to Ueno Park to meet up with Chris and Jen (our friend Charl's brother and his girlfriend who are in Japan teaching English). After a nice stroll in the park we went to the Science Museum (which is like the old one in Brum, but all the way in Japan!), and had a look around the weird and wonderfull!! We got some lunch (ramen and gyoza. Thanks Chris and Jen for introducing us to these awesome dishes!), then the train to Shibuya where we sat in upstairs in Starbucks watching the busiest crossing in the World (don't know if it actually has that title, but it sure as hell looked like it! Apparantly it has a starring role in 'Lost in Translation' too!). We thought it would be fun to take it in turns and run down to the crossing to pose amongst the crowds for a photo (and it was!)!!
We ahd been told how friendly the Japanese are and had so far found them very polite, but it wasn't until we were standing in the street consulting our map for the post office, that we realised exactly how true this statement was! We were approached by a man on a bicycle (who anywhere else we've been would have tried to balance us on the back and ask for an obscene amount of money to take us there!) who offered his assistance. When he failed to recollect the location of the post office he requested we wait while he cycled off to make a phonecall to establish where else we could withdraw money! 10 minutes later he returned asking us to follow him. He lead us to a bank where despite all his efforts (he did all the translating), the cashier on inspection of our card replied "impossible"! We said thankyou and goodbye (even though he looked very disappointed he hadn't succeeded) and it was back to the map to find the elusive post office! After much strolling around we finally found it and 3 steps away from the door, our bicycle friend came hurtling around the corner with a smile on his face and proceeded to direct us to the international bank (1/2 an hours walk in a southerly direction). We thanked him again, waited for him to cycle off, then slipped into the post office and withdrew our money (bless him, he tried really hard and must have cycled half way around Asakusa for us!)!! With a full wallet we proceeded to the train station and Harajuku!! We were greeted on the platform by the very appropriate music for this cute town (all the stations have their own little jingles. Some of them parts of epic manga classics and others tailored for the area!), and went off to browse the many shops (the first shop we entered is a good way to gage what this town is about..... A Tamagotchi shop!!! I was in for a long one!). Walking down the street we saw some of the famous Harajuku Girls with their little outfits and big hair and make-up, shops selling stroves of Hello Kitty, Care Bears and other cute characters and after finally emerging from a shop called 'Pink Latte' I think Jim needed a break (erm, Jim definitely needed a break!)!! So we stopped for a coffee and re-energised before carrying on along the street! There were so many things I wanted to buy from the many shops! This is literally the cutest place in the World (I came to name it 'Hannah Land'!)!! So we got some tasty food in a nice restaurant (traditional Japanese style, tempura chicken, miso soup, japanese cabbage, pickles and rice, all served with a mug of green tea) and decided to return to Harajuku another day!
We went to the Sony Building in Ginza the following day (what an awesome experience! We have literally seen all the mod-cons yet to come out) which was basically 8 floors of gadgets! Amongst the cameras, laptops and MP3 players we saw 3D televisions sporting movies, documentaries, sport and even PS3 games (obviously the next innovative move in technology) and continuing with our little Japanese ritual, we stopped on the 3rd floor for a coffee (this time quite a bit more expensive. Now we know where Sony get the money to fund their experimental research!). We got to the top of the building and found a mini 3D concert hall plus free web access, so we browsed the internet atop the Sony Building (awesome!)! This was a good day for spending indoors as the heavens had opened! But we quickly ventured outside to photograph the crossing from the front of Tokyo's Lonely planet book!
Back in Asakusa we went to our favourite bar, Aizuya, for Wednesday nights free soba noodles (again! Not that we're complaining!)!!