December 23, 2007, 8:39 am
Filed under: asia, japan, travel | Tags:

Schoolgirls at Sensoji Temple

Originally uploaded by cobismith.

Ian made a great choice, booking our place to stay in Asakusa. I was really looking forward to visiting Tokyo for the first time, but expected after a few days I’ve feel overwhelmed by the bustle and bright lights.

I think partly because we stayed in the more chilled-out, old part of town, and partly because we’d come from near London, rather than straight from Australia, I was underwhelmed, in a good way.

It was not as crazy as I expected. (Ian even deemed one of my outfits put together especially for Japan to be ‘too crazy for Tokyo’).

It was not as foreign-feeling as I had expected (Vietnam was much more exotic to me).

It wasn’t as big as I expected (but the one thing I didn’t do that my friend had recommended was go somewhere to see the city-scapes that blew her mind every time).

It wasn’t as busy as I expected – even at peak hour I think the Tokyo metro is more dignified than the London tube.

Not to say it isn’t any of these things – just not as intensely so as I expected. There were plenty of crazy outfits to admire (though unfortunately people in exceptional outfits hide from cameras – damn you trendspotters for ruining my happy snaps!). The coffee was certainly exotic – in a bad, expensive way. The awesome ramen and tempura well made up for that though. It was certainly big – in our week of sightseeing I think we covered about 20% of the city. It was certainly busy – we had to balance our overflowing luggage and stand up for the first half a dozen stops on our way back to the airport on the metro. But after a week I was not sick of it, as I’d expected – I would have quite happily spend another month in Japan, at least. Maybe more.


Tokyo, post-mishaps
December 23, 2007, 8:34 am
Filed under: travel

Tokyo street

Originally uploaded by cobismith.

I had decided to stop in Tokyo for a week on the way home because my best friend from university was working as an English teacher there. Unfortunately, the company she’d been working for went bankrupt a few weeks before I arrived, so she was no longer there to host me. Lucky for me, Ian had gone to great lengths to book the same flights as me, since mine were the return leg of my round-the-world trip and his were booked much later. Otherwise I would have been in Tokyo for a week on my own (at least until I found some hostel mates) Because of Ian’s effort it was even more excrutiating that he (through no fault of his own) missed our flight from Frankfurt to Tokyo.

I arrived in Tokyo at 6am, alone and tired after not sleeping at all on the 8 hour overnight flight, because of worrying. I worried about Ian finding a later flight and arriving safely, then me finding him. I worried about tracking down the name of our hostel, which Ian had booked and printed the reservation for. My 8 hours of worrying meant I had a solid plan in place on arrival in Tokyo, so despite a couple of challenges I got to our hostel in Asakusa around 12:30. By the time I could check in at 1pm I was deliriously tired, so much so I had trouble pulling on the hostel’s fitted sheet so I could collapse on the bed and sleep. I woke up at around 8pm upon Ian’s arrival.

We went out for dinner to a ramen restaurant recommended by the friendly hotel staff, as somewhere likely to be serving by the time we left the hostel at around 9:30pm. It was packed – there were only a couple of tables free, and a couple blocking our way using the smoke machine next to the counter. Through gestures and the odd word in English we established that we had to use a machine to order our food off a menu that thankfully had pictures. By now the couple blocking our path had been seated, because it turned out what we thought was the smoke machine was the machine we ordered our meal from.

Ian advocated a random button-pushing selection. Luckily I was more picky as some of the buttons were the soup base, some were fillings (like dumplings or veggies), some were drinks. Had we mashed the buttons we might have ended up with a pile of drinks and veggies, or more likely be drawn into an even more confusing attempt at communication about what we were doing wrong.

The chefs were super friendly, after we were presented with our bowls they were quick to ask in broken English if we liked it, with big grins on their faces. We raised our eyebrows enthusiastically and nodded vigorously, engrossed in noodles.