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The Adventures of Vivi and Robrob

TOKYO: Meeting Chatou & Chasing Cherry Blossoms

JAPAN | Friday, 24 April 2015 | Views [1154] | Comments [2]


Hello, Helo, Hola and Konnichiwa!

We are here in Japan and loving it, here are a few of the things that have happened so far..

Walking like a zombie pack horse from the redeye flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka, towards the immigration desk, I receive a Whatsapp from the other side that Viv has arrived safe <Yey!> and is waiting at the gates with an ‘unorganised surprise’ <what?!>. Through the arrival gates I walk to shouts of “Rooooob!”, a dual waving Viv bounces over to greet me, with a camera crew in tow.. “oh Boy.”… 

Saying my last goodbyes to my Dad, Nina, Verona, Mintar, Nicole and Kim I was finally departing Melbourne after months of preparation.

Arriving to terminal 2 it wasn’t overly busy but I noticed there was a camera crew. I put my bags down right at the front of the the arrival gates waiting for Rob with crazy but nervous excitement. Looking around again from my left to my right I was suddenly introduced to a camera in my face, an interviewer with a massive microphone and a translator.

"Do you mind if we ask you a few questions on why you came to Japan for Tokyo TV?"... "Can you speak much Japanese?".."Do you have a favourite Japanese Word?!"
my answer “Peko peko!!” ("hungry, hungry!")....
“OOOOOHHH!!!, and what made you want to come Japan?”
“FOOD, calligraphy, art, a year off after working and studying for 9 years.”
“OOOOOHHH!!! And Why are you carrying such a big bag"
“I’ll be camping and working around Japan as a graphic designer, working on organic farms and teaching English!”
“OOOOOHHH!!!” "Are you travelling alone?" "No" I say, "I'm meeting my boyfriend, this is an adventure for both of us and I haven’t seen him since January" "Can we film the reunion!?"
"Sure!"(I knew Rob would be a little startled! LOL)


...who knows if we’ll be wide eyed and on TV but we’re waiting to see..Outside the terminal we finally got to say hello to each other properly, when out pops a a quote I may never live down “OH!! Look! A vending machine! :D”, I’d heard they would be here, but seeing the first one was an indication I’d really arrived.

They’re the same shape and everything as the ones back home, and do the same job, so shouldn’t be so notable, but they really are. It’s maybe their ability to live unharmed in the wild, under railway bridges, in bus stations, down the darkest streets and on deserted rooftops, their omnipresence is comforting, their street white glow illuminates and guides you on the walk home, and they'll serve you a hot canned coffee like a 'Boss’ whenever you’d care to ask them to.


“How many people actually live here?” 

“Too many” replies the seemingly over-exposed dude from somewhere in the UK.

The other housemates from around the globe however, the other 8 of them have been generally full of optimism and advice, and have mostly been here for at least 2+ years, living the Japanese dream. 

On arrival, our hostess with the most-ess landlady Masa and her husband had picked us up from the station, and driven us the two blocks to our ‘Gaijin House’ (house for foreigners), bleary eyed we hopped out and looked up at our new home, a large four storey house opposite a little park, excellent. We started unloading our stuff as Masa and husband marveled at Viv’s ability to manoeuvre her rather chunky life moving rucksack with ease.. ‘Ohhhh… Superwoman!!!’

We chose to go for a foreigners shared home as the red tape surrounding renting a place otherwise for foreigners in Japan is plentiful, and we’re initially only here in Tokyo for a month, the area is nice and the rent reasonable. Yatta!

We spent the first few days exploring, the second day, a rainy one we went to the large park Ueno, famous for Cherry Blossom flower viewing picnics, the Hanami. We were meant to have arrived during the average yearly date for full bloom, but had heard rumours from the house people, that the weather had made the trees peak a little earlier.

Walking through the gates of the park, the rain continued to fall, and we witness the last remaining petals of the cherry blossoms beautifully dripping off the trees, ah nuts. 

Goodbye Cherry

Rob was a little ill from jetlag or something, so we seeked refuge in a nearby restaurant, which turned out to be a fusion Japanese-Korean DIY BBQ, unplanned but delicious. Experiencing for the first time the impeccable service of the Japanese as they put our shoes in lockers, took us to our floor level mat seats, gave us hot towels to cleanse, and introduced us to the innovative fold out bib-cape! A great first meal… although unfortunately we were still carrying the bento box lunch we’d planned pre-nausea to eat in the park.. which we ate later under the cover of a convenience store, in the rain, romance isn’t dead.

We then discovered a 5 Floor toyshop..Funassyi was written by the towering doors, and 'Funassyi' it delivered, the experience of walking from the already noisy busy Tokyo street through the entrance into the toystore, was similar to divebombing into a swimming pool, the world changes, the ears are full, the sound surrounds… we swam through, all senses consumed by the thousands of individual ideas stocked on the shelves, fighting for our attention.


Mr lazy egg man to the right, Studio Ghibli and all it's beautiful cast... the girl that keeps getting trapped on stuff (?)… every conceivable character to date all under one roof, some, like Adventure Time (yeah!) have hit the global bigtime, with Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. Others live only here, in Asia, they are equally great (shout out to lazy egg man, Gudetama), but are still waiting for their big break.. (to crack the market, beat the competition.. hmmm).


Stepping off the bus, almost back in time, Eleanor Rigby by the The Beatles plays from a little side cafe, it feels like a Murakami novel, the sun shines down on us, it’s a different day, we’re in Koenji an area famed for it’s vintage stores. Walking around we discover a relaxed vibe as we stroll down Central Street, in search for the unmistakable scent of second hand style.

We see a shop to the left, three ladies bask in the sun around a table, drawing away, not meaning to pry, we look over their shoulders at the artwork, a cat with a big smile, a multicoloured cat with big ears, the beginnings of a paw...

We were caught staring, one lady is stood up now and pulls us into the shop with her invite, we enter through the small wooden door, cats. 

Cats as far as the eye can see, paintings, hanging mobiles, manaquins, ornate fans.. this is a pretty cosy shop and is floor-to-ceiling cat, we finally notice infront of us a smiling non-cat, a gentle looking man with a head band behind a counter, his bow and hand signal greeting in harmony with the chime based lullaby soundtrack. We smile and bow back, before taking a look around…


We select a few postcards from the many, and approached the till, to the owners left there was a cage, he brings us over and points to a cat in an elevated cage “Chatou,” he says.. “…sleeping”. Viv gives Chatou a little stroke of acknowledgement being careful not to wake the beast; our cat host then points to the paintings surrounding Chatou’s cage, “Chatou, Chatou, Chatou.. Chatou.. Chatou!”

He’s pointing one by one to the numerous framed paintings that cover the nearby walls, they are all of a ginger cat with one eye, he’s a ballerina, he’s a God, he’s a sailor, he’s a bigger God, he’s a samurai, he is many things, he is Chatou, and we got to meet him. We left the shop, turning back to photograph the sign, as Chatou gave us a knowing wink from up above.

Chatou ;)

Music was one of the draws to Tokyo for me personally and being a fan of the record Label Flau, we ended up in noise venue called Soup under a public bath and dumpling shop in Shibuya for a gig.. it was a smokey room filled with no more than 50 people, the cover charge was high but the hip flask was full (budgeting) and the sound system was fuller. Here's a little video of how the toilet roll was handling the bass..


The gig was all consuming with simple effective visuals, and after the gig we stayed for shots with the headliner for his birthday, n.b learn to sing happy birthday in Japanese… afterwards making the most of our first weekend in Tokyo, we went in search of the superclub 'Womb', a little lost our friendly guides whom we asked for directions took us to an R&B club they were DJing at….. we agreed, we danced.. we sang... we also found out the the underground closes at 12:45, and that we live in a distant suburb, but also learnt Taxi's with amazing automatic doors have amazing drivers. Totally worth it.

Tokyo has a distinctive sound, the ears are always alert and receptive, strolling down a street the sound changes many times from passing the many 'pachinko' parlours to the sound of the cities train stations, after a week, the sound of the bird calls in the metro station became too familiar to be natural, and the absence of any birds another clue, a closer look discovered a speaker above for the visually impaired, which emminates a different bird call to help guide people around, #geniusJapan (lots more to come in this series).


Robot Restaurant, close friends Kerem and Liv are are visiting, adrenaline is already high but this is perfect... it's a must see if in Tokyo. A definite highlight, it’s touristy, over the top and completely bonkers, but still somehow seems to maintain the decourum and rythm of Japanese culture. (We have videos to share if you can't make it!)

Having not properly experienced the cherry blossoms in bloom, the chase was on. We jumped on a bus to the Lake District of Tokyo, Kawaguchico. The Five Lakes area, which also reportedly offered stunning views of Mount Fuji. The village being 910m above sea level means the cherry blossoms flower a couple of weeks later than the rest of Tokyo and surrounds, perfect!

We got off the bus after two hours and stepped directly into a gray drizzly cloud, we somehow found our campsite and pitched our tent, the only colour that wasn't gray being a red tophat on a solem looking swanboat bobbing on the lake. After paying the equivelant to a nights stay at a reasonable B&B, we fired up the soggy camping stove to heat our dried noodle ramen, perhaps feeling a little short changed, but Chilean wine, good music and chats will always lighten the mood.

The morning came, the light was different, and upon unzipping the tent, we got to witness Fuji in all it's glory, the swan was looking much happier.


Cherry Blossoms!


What a spot, and what an experience, we'd found our Cherry Blossoms.. until next time... Yatta! (hooray)

In other news:

* We have just visted a Cup Noodle museum in Yokohoma, it was amazing and surprisingly inspirational, coming in the next entry!

* Viv is some sort of Japanese expert, where as my new language skills are taking a bit of time to warm up.

* Kit Kat's are the biggest selling chocolate bar here, allegedly as the name sounds like 'kitto katsu' which means, "You will surely win".

* Viv is staying true to form and has lost one 1 x Metro Travel Card (correct on 27th April, 11:43am). 

* Maybe don't drink Sake from a carton friends!

Sake Yikes!

Thanks thanks for reading!


p.s Here's a bonus video of the politest and most Japanese way of telling customers that the car park is currently full..

Polite parking 


Tags: action, advntrs, japan, japan2015, tokyo



Hi guys, loved your story so much we decided to feature it in Nomads News this month!


Jesse Perez - WorldNomads.com

  Jesse May 27, 2015 5:15 PM



That's excellent to hear, glad you enjoyed it!

Vivi and Robrob

  vivi_and_robrob Jun 1, 2015 10:52 PM

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