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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together


JAPAN | Tuesday, 24 June 2008 | Views [1353]

Sun 22nd Jun - Up early and off soon after to catch the train to Tokyo. The limited express trains run fairly regular so no need to book in advance. Got the train through to Ueno, which is a hub for the metro network and cost 810 Yen for the 1 hour journey. The same journey done on the Keisei line Skyliner would cost almost double that. Straight off one train and aimed for the Asakusa station which means taking the Ginza line for 3 stops, cost 160 Yen. The ticket machines are so easy to use, and have a touch screen with an 'English' softkey for us foreigners. Perfect timing as pulled onto the platform just as I arrived.
A short walk to where I was supposed to be staying (Khaosan tokyo guest house - 2000 Yen/night), but they were full on arrival. Fortunately, they were able to get me into their annex building a further 10 minutes walk away. All sorted and off to the 7 eleven for a quick and cheap bite to eat (microwave ovens in the shop to heat up what you buy), then off to explore Tokyo.

It was chucking it down, so had to buy an umbrella!

Got the Metro back to Ueno station as wanted to explore the adjacent Ueno Koen Park. This covers a massive area and incorporates numeous art museums, a concert hall, pagoda, central fountain, the science museum, plus more. As I only have half a day to look around before they close for the day, had to be selective. Spent a bit of time listening to a live french singer and jazz musicians and then aimed for my main reason for coming here, the Tokyo Museum.

Split into a number of buildings, the most important one is the main hall, which is spread across two floors. A wonderful display of period artefacts ranging from pottery to samurai armour, to scripts  and all manor of everything Japanese from about 2000BC onwards. Another building contained asian artefacts, but that doesn't take long to look around. A worthwhile couple of hours. By the time I came out, most other places of interest where closed, so walked through the rest of the park in the pouring rain passing the pagoda and the main lake, which is crammed full of lotus leaves (must be stunning wen there are flowers out), before heading back to the train station, pausing for a while to look at the brilliant technicolour displays in the streets and shops, that are the dazzling image you expect from Tokyo at night...interesting antics from a guy dressed up as a green bean. What a way to make a living, jumping up and down outside a shop in a funny outfit! Guys...the Tokyo girls really know how to dress for effect. Just keep an eye on the traffic before you step out into a road or walk into some object in your path! Returned to the guest house via what I call the sperm building, but more correctly called the Flamme D'or, or gold flame. It is the headquarters of the Asahi beer company. It is outstanding at night, with the gold Flame/sperm thing on the roof of the black and gold building. The perimiter of the base are illuminated steps. The whole building is an excellent design. Out for something to eat later and found a super restaurant that served its delicious food in a traditional divided lacquered box, prettily organised with a lid on it to keep its contents warm.
Not much else to do but grab a glass of Sake at a local bar and head back to the digs to do some catching up with stuff and plan out tomorrow. Was able to get free wifi here, so made some use of it.

Mon 23rd Jun - Last night was full of disturbances. The downside of staying in a dormitory. Pople coming in and out til 3am or so. Ended up falling into a deep sleep and woke up at 11am in a bit of a shock at it being so late. Jumped out of bed, threw my clothes on and grabbed my breakfast from the locker, then ran downstairs to eat. Was out of the door by 11:30 still waking up! Fortunately, it was dry this morning but sill took an umbrella just in case.

Walked to the Sensoji Temple complex, which you access along through the Kaminarimon  gate. The junction of the gate is eye catching with lots of stuff going on in the street and an amusing display from the musical Seiko clock on the street corner. Brings a smile to the already happy people just watching it.

Though the gate ande into the wonderful Nakamise Dori, lined with a hundred dazzling and beautiful stalls selling lovely merchandise and plenty of tasty snacks. Bought some nice chestnut mixed shape waffles fresh from being made. A really tasty comestible to keep me going. Not enough hands...just then a Geisha girl walked by, so tried to juggle stuff to get a photo. What a beautiful sight! Petite, perfect features and wonderfully dressed in typical green kimono and wooden platform sandals. An elegant serene smile to complement her beauiful make-up. Wow....that set the scene....

The temple is a beauty but was much busier than the one in Narita recently, and smaller, but no less detailed. The site has a 5-storey pagoda and a couple of other small emples and made a nice hour or so walking around and people watching....one of my favourite pastimes as you learn a lot about their rituals by just watching.

Next on the agenda was a visit to the Tsukijishijo fish market, which I reached on the Oedo line fromKuramae station for 210 yen. I knew it was too late really but it fitted into the loop I wanted to do. By the time I got there, virually all activity was over as most fish selling and distribution happens in the morning. It was still interesting walking around this massive place and seeing them cleaning up and finishing off the small stuff. Lots of small fish restaurants tucked away in the alleys.

Back onto the Oedo line to my next desination of Akabanabashi, the nearest stop to the Tokyo tower (170 yen). At 333m in height and weighing 4000 tonnes (the Eiffel tower weighs 7000 tonnes aparently although about the same height), this gives one of the best panoramic views of Tokyo available in this incredible city. Opened in 1958 to carry TV transmissions, it is now much more developed as a carrier for all kinds of transmissions (24 to be precise), plus a great financial concern too. Two public observation decks are accessible at 150m and 250m. Cost 820 yen for the 150m level by lift, which is enough. Costs an extra 600 yen to get to the 'Special Oservatory' at 250m. Graphic displays on the ceiling and walls of the lift set the scene as you would expect in Japan, plus a pretty hostess to operate the lift in a smart uniform. The view is stunning and interactive media displays show you what the buildings are from all sides. Perfect day considering what yesterday was like. Commited some buildings to memory as navigation aids for when i'm  back on the street. A quick whizz around the 'Foot building' at the base, which houses amusement arcades, eateries and shops, and then out on the streets to had for Roppongi. Once renowned as the entertainment centre of Tokyo, but now replaced by neighbouring Shibuya district. Diverted on the way there to look around the Reiyukai Shakaden Hall. This amazing building has the exterior feel of a Samurai worrior, designed around a concert and exhibition hall environment. Excellent use of shape, lighting and angular marble columns, give this hall amazing impact. On the approach road to the hall I also noticed a couple of nifty multi-storey garages. Stacked compactly on top of each other and raised/lowered hydraulically. Really clever idea. Something else I noticed in this space hungry city, was fuel stations with the pumps on the roof and the hoses dangling from the roof rather than the normal floor standing pumps that we usually see.
Carried on to the glitzy Roppongi and watched the world go by for a while as my feet were getting tired and sore. Immaculate multi-coloured taxis diven by equally immaculate drivers nest up at traffic junctions to create that unforgettable scene. The beautiful people of Tokyo passing by.....

Decided that i'd done enough for one day, so headed back to Kuramae and then a slow walk back to the guest house....now raining, so perfect timing again.

Straight into the shower for a full clean-up....that felt better! Out for a nice meal later at a little cafe (the Decora), acoss the other side of the Sumida river. Plenty of places to choose from around Asakusa district.

Tue 24th Jun - Last day in Tokyo, so wanted to get up early to cram in a few more places. As expected, had a terrible night's sleep. These dorms are noisy. Despite asking people to be quite....bodies came wandering into the room until 4am or so....clattering and banging of lockers, so didn't get to sleep until some silly hour. I do wonder someimes if it is the right decision to go cheap. A hotel room here could cost 4000 yen as opposed to the 2000 I am paying. Will see. Anyway, up and out by 10:30....bleary eyed again. The sun is shining brightly today and it's a hot one.

First call of the day is the chinese embassy in Roppongi, so off to Kuramae station again. The embassy is the usual chaos of bodies wondering about with  papers and queing. Not a single enlish word anywhere. You would think there would be a procedure written on a wall somewhere to give a clue of what to do. Didn't find one. Anyway. All I wanted to do was to confirm the arranements and pick up a form. Will take 4 days to process, or 2 days if you pay more. Currently only issuing 1 month visas. Crazy but true! Never understand this when other countries process visas on the spot. Surely, they are making more work for themselves? Will have to allow for this in my plans and go to Osaka early to get my visa underway there before getting on the ferry to Shanghai, which I have provisionally booked for 4th July.

On the main expressway through Roppongi is the awesome  Roppongi hills developement. A high tech gargantuan building of glass and steel that is striking. If your into building architecture, then this one is high up there. If you're into spending lots of  money in flashy surroundings then this one is definitely high on the list.

After an overdose of photoraphy, decided to walk to Shinjuku and Yoyogi park...well that was the idea. Wandered off-piste and saw some superb buidings and decided to give Yoyogi a miss by the time I had reached Shibuya.  No wonder this place is touted as the successor to Roppongi, as it is crammed with fancy stores, massive displays on the street corners and a lively feel. The temperature was hot hot...not helped by the stunning women here. Simply stunning!

Eat at one of those super cafes where you order your food by choosing from the menu, pay your money at a machine in the corner that issues you a ticket. Hand it to the chef and sit at a space at the polished bar. Fresh cold water provided while you wait a couple of minutes for it to arrive. Superb taste... Thanks tastebuds...

Made a rash decision to go to Akihabara and check out what is referred to as Electric Town. A long way across the city, but well worth the trek. Wall to wall hi-tech shops selling every gadget you could ever want. Was looking for a small laptop and a new watch. So much choice it's overwhelming. I did find the prices too high and can get a much better deal elsewhere, which surpised me. Bangkok was cheaper and have been told that Hong Kong is even better. I suppose it's because of the expensive economy here. Well, after another day on foot, my feet are worn out again, so back to Asakusa.

Just before the exit at Asakusa station is an amazing food hall, where you can buy the most beauifully presented food. Some great photographic opportunities too....just meant to be photographed, shame to eat it!

Tomorrow is moving on day from Tokyo. This is one hell of a city. Incredibly clean and organised... colourful is an understatement. Extremely friendly people and just gorgeous. Hi-tech as expected from the world's leading technology producer...everyone is permanently connected to somebody, as they walk the streets with the latest CDMA/3G device stuck to their fingertips or playing on-line games through their game console.

Manga (cartoon strip) is much alive, as the shops cram endless merchandise on their shelves. In a land where people don't have many pets...Hello Kitty merchandise also thrives with shops dedicated to selling nothing else! A transport system to envy... Superb metro that is incredibly easy to use... Nothing is allowed to get much older than 10 seconds here, or it gets replaced....well at least that's the impression you get by not seeing a single spot of rust anywhere! I am sure that not polishing your vehicle to a dazzling gleam is punishable by beheading with a highly polished Samurai sword! The traffic police are smart and some have flashing vests and flashing batons.

Food to die for...or at least die in ecstacy when eating it?

Have I painted a good enough picture of Tokyo then...good....put it high on your list of places to come before you die.....


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