Adventurer, Writer, Couch Potato.
I have been busy the past couple of weeks so I will start from the day I arrived in Tokyo.
I woke up in Koga at 7am, on the 21/06/14. I got myself prepared and headed back to where I was three days prior in Oyama, but this time I got there by train. I needed to get back to Oyama as that is where I could get the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Tokyo. I decided to get the Shinkansen as it will be the only time for me to go on one. While I was waiting for the train there were a few express ones that went by. I could not believe how fast they were. The noise and power was definitely a new experience for me. It made me realise that the scene in Wolverine when they were hanging on the top of one is not something that would be fun to do, like I had previously thought.
My train pulled up and I went to get in. I found out then that the ticket I had was only for a particular car. It then occurred to me that that was why everyone else were standing in lines, while I was just standing by myself like a douche. So the conductor pointed me to the car. I had to run as the doors were about to close. I made it in. I had a non-reserved seat so obviously there was nowhere to sit. I stood in the bridge between two cars next to the door. It worked for me though as I could look out the window and watch the world zoom by.
I arrived at Tokyo Station. I tried looking for an exit to the street to get my bearings but there is a small city in the underground subway so it was around 45 minutes later when I got to the surface. I felt like a mole emerging from its hole. I needed to get to the Shinjuku district as I was staying in a capsule hotel there that night. I caught another train to Shinjuku and got lost walking around. The main reason for that was because I was looking up most of the time at the sheer scale of the place. Huge TV screens on buildings and flashing lights. You would not want to be epileptic in this city.
I arrived at my capsule hotel. It was above a British pub, down a small street around the corner from a main road. I entered the lobby. Before I could walk in I needed to remove my boots. The area to remove your shoes was tiny so I was trying to get them off while other people were trying to get in and out around me and my pack. I then had to take my boots and put them in a locker. Then put my bag down in a part of the lobby. Only then was I able to approach the front desk. That was when they informed me that check in was not for another two hours. So I had to get my pack. Get my boots out of the locker. Put my pack down, then put my boots back on and find something to do for two hours. I looked around and had some lunch then went back to the hotel and went through the process again.
When I checked in I found out I was not able to take my pack with me. I needed to leave it in the lobby with all the others bags for the duration of my stay. They also make a note of letting you know they accept no responsibility for lost or stolen items. I had no choice so I grabbed a few items small enough to take with me. I handed the key to my boots locker so I could be given the number of my capsule and a key to a small locker behind reception to put small items in. It was a very confusing experience. I eventually made it to my capsule. It was what I expected and was comfortable enough to get a good sleep. The curtain to the entrance of the capsule was made out of wicker so it was not exactly private.
I decided to head out that evening and see how Saturday night is like in Tokyo. I did not get very far. I went down to the British pub and sat there having a pint. At about 3 pints in I met these two guys from New Zealand. Nice guys, they were here on holiday and are stunt men for movies. So was speaking to them for a while until they had to head out. The place was full so there were no seats. I had two spare now and invited a retired British couple to come sit with me. They were having a great holiday. Travelling Japan on a cruise ship and drinking, having a good old time. After they left the memory of my night is a blur.
I woke up in my capsule at 9:30 am dazed and confused. I was unclear of what time I returned to the capsule and I imagine I must have looked quite amusing in the lobby going through the process of removing my boots and getting the keys back. As when you leave the hotel you need to give the key back and they hand you the key to the shoes locker so you can get your shoes to go outside. I needed to check out by 10 am so I go up, splashed my face with water and headed out. It was pouring rain.
I was meeting my family later that evening at a hotel they organised for the week. So I headed there and hoped I could check in early as I really wanted a lay down. It was only a 15 minute walk away so I put my head down and was there in no time.
I couldn’t check in until 2 pm. So I sat in the lobby and had a nap until then. The room had an amazing view of the city. 33 floors up! I met my family later that evening when they arrived and we went out for dinner.
The next morning I had to get up early and make my way to the Embassy of the people’s republic of China to apply for my visa, as I am heading there after this trip. It is in Roppongi and would take me about 30 minutes to get there. The reason I needed to get there early is that the operating hours are from 9 am to 12 pm. Pretty nuts if you ask me as with the amount of people that need to go there it will always be busy. I got to Roppongi and checked my map. I arrived and discovered I was at the wrong embassy. It was the Philippines embassy. I walked around for an hour trying to find it as a lot of the embassies are close together.
I eventually made it by 10 am. The great thing about the embassy was they had areas to fill out the forms. They had photo booths to get passport photos done and glue and scissors to attach them to the form. Very organised. I filled out the forms, got a new photo done and waited in line. I Did not have to wait too long which was good and was out of there at 11:30 am.
As I was in Roppongi I decided to go to the Mori Tower which is one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo. It was a little foggy but it did not hinder the awesome view. Buildings as far as the eye could see. It reminded me of the planet Coruscant in Star Wars which is an entire planet built up as one large city. The cool thing was that if you paid them 500 yen they let you go up to the roof of the building where the helipad is and see the view without the windows. Great view!
I met up with the family later on at a hotel. We had a Japanese guide for two days to take us to see the sites. At the hotel we were shown a traditional Japanese tea ceremony by a woman in a kimono. It amazes me that everything they do has a ritual and a certain way to do things. The tea tasted nice. It was a seaweed type tasting tea. After that we went to a shrine and had a look around. I have seen a lot of shrines on my trip so they are honestly starting to look the same. We then went to Harijuku to see the famous street with the Harijuku girls. Only saw about one or two. The street itself reminded me of the Victoria Market in Melbourne. Just lots of people flogging cheap stuff. As I lost my sunglasses from my escapades the other night I bought some for 1,000 yen.
The highlight of my day though was going to the Shibuya scramble intersection. It is the famous intersection that has appeared in a number of big movies. The one that comes to mind is in The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift but I’m sure there are way more. It was around 5 pm so everyone was leaving work or heading out. Within minutes of people walking across the intersection more would appear out of nowhere and wait to walk across. The one thing that amazed me the most was the way no one got in the way of anyone. It was organised chaos. For those of you that have crossed the road outside Flinders Street Station in Melbourne you know that when it is busy there are people pushing and shoving and getting in each other’s way. At Shibuya scramble it was very seamless. Or maybe it just seemed that way to me because as I am taller than most Japanese people they could see me earlier and got out of my way. Either way it was very cool.
My dad and I spent the next two days climbing Mount Fuji.
The day after we returned from Mount Fuji we headed to the National museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan). It was great. I could have spent two days in there. So many things to see. I was hoping to see Asimo the robot but he only appears twice a day so we missed him. We saw heaps of other cool robots and futuristic inventions. The staff were rolling around on these segway type chairs built by Honda. We were eventually asked to leave as they were closing.
The next day my family headed back to Australia and I am now a lone ranger again. I am taking it easy in Tokyo for a few more days as I need to recover from Mount Fuji. I will update you on the Mount Fuji adventure shortly.
Here is a video of my week in Tokyo.
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