Our first couple of days in Tokyo
06.11.2008 - 09.11.2008 -17 °C
After an 11 hour flight we arrived in Tokyo Narita Airport and we were quite quickly flying through the Japanese countryside on a clean and prompt train. Only then did it dawn on us that in our sleepless haze, we'd made our first expensive mistake, remembering our research had told us to avoid the very train we were on, as it costs far more than the alternatives. Too tired to care, we thought we might as well get a cab from the main train station rather than trying to navigate the Japanese subway system, again ignoring what we'd found out in our research. Actually, in hindsight this was a great idea as we had a brilliant view of Japanese life while whizzing through the city. The cabs are great, and the cab drivers take such good care of their cars, we even saw cabbies dusting them with fluffy dusters while waiting for fares! It's not just cabbies, it became apparent very quickly that no matter what job someone was doing they did it with diligence and pride.
We felt slightly underdressed arriving at our luxury five star hotel, which quite obviously doesn't often have backpackers staying, but the staff weren't in any way snotty and made us feel so welcome. It was something straight out of a movie, loads of gold and marble, without being over done. Our room looked out onto Tokyo bay and we had a view even from the bath. Just outside the hotel we had a great view of Rainbow Bridge, although it wasn't lit up in the colours of the rainbow as promised. Our first wander around took us past loads of food places and although we were hungry we didn't have the courage to just bound in, as the food was simply unrecognisable and there didn't seem to be any English menus, so we settled for pot noodles from the local convenience store. There's an old saying along the lines that you're never more than a few feet from a rat in London, well it seemed to us that in Tokyo you are never more than a few feet from a convenience store or vending machine. Although, the vending machine's range were not as we expected, it was comforting to know that you could get a Coke, or our new favourite, Fanta Grape, at any time of day or night. That night we were in bed by 7.30pm, a personal record for both of us.
We woke up early the next day and navigated our way to the Tsukiji Fish Market, which is championed in every guide book and travel show. We didn't quite make the auction, which end at 7am, but nonetheless the market was really interesting, and the fish on display looked literally out of this world. On our walk back to the subway we stumbled upon the Panasonic centre, something we had always planned to visit. This is their showcase of new gadgets and gizmos, and needless to say, we both really enjoyed it! We had no idea that Panasonic had a hand in making a massive range of things, from roof tiles to letter boxes. You could literally kit your whole house out in Panasonic. The day was hot and sunny, and we had a wander around Ginza which is the up-market shopping district, think Bond Street but bigger than the size of the West End. We again faced the challenge of eating. There was no lack of choice, but everything seemed to involve a raw or hard boiled egg, and meat which could have been anything. We finally found a Muji restaurant, which was great and a very kind lady with amazing English helped us choose a few things.
The next day we celebrated our fifth year wedding anniversary. The whole trip started with a conversation about how to spend this momentous occasion, so it was significant on both levels. Our hotel was situated on a piece of reclaimed land that used to be a landfill, which doesn't sound idyllic, but actually was really nice and meant that there were plenty of things to do in the area. We visited the Toyota museum, which had hundreds of models scattered around a massive warehouse style building. Unlike England, where these cars would be hidden behind rails etc, visitors were encouraged to get in the cars, play around and even have a look under the bonnet. We rode in an automated car on a track than ran around the building. If this is the future, then it's going to take a long time to get anywhere, as it slowed right down to take corners. We had a stroll around and came across an indoor mall that was modelled on Venice and the painted ceilings looked very much like the sky. We had fun in a pet shop, again in true Japanese style there were loads of pedigree puppies and kittens on display and the pet shop sold every crazy accessory for them imaginable, including Santa suits and prams designed for those little dogs who don't look like they can walk very far. We also found an arcade that housed original retro arcade games, and Brads was lost in a world of wonder and delight. It had all the original classics, that he hadn't even dreamed of seeing. In the evening we decided to visit Sega Joypolis, which is an indoor theme park. We were a little sceptical as the Sega centre in the Trocadero in London was always disappointing, so we imagined the same. We actually ended up having loads of fun, although there were times when we truly felt lost in translation. At one point we were running through a simulation of a prison break, based loosely on the TV show, with everyone shouting in Japanese and a guy chasing us with a fake gun. We actually got pretty scared due to the confusion and afterwards laughed so hard we nearly cried.
And so our nice stay in the luxury hotel came to an end. We'd both felt a bit dazed with jet lag and culture shock, so we were pleased we had the nice surroundings to settle us in. We knew from here on in, it would be totally different, so we packed up our backpacks and made the most of the spa with outdoor jacuzi and swimming pool.