Woo Hoo! I can’t believe I have actually left Australia for quite a long time! I was really quite sad saying final goodbyes to everyone: realising that I might not see these people for ages! But, I’m sure time will fly and all be well (if not the same) when I see them all again.
Arriving the next morning in Tokyo we did the classic “no preparation” thing and called a hostel that had its pamphlet at the tourist desk at the airport. I thought the place was quite good, Turns out, that it may have been the cheapest youth hostel in Tokyo (for the bargain price of $60 AUD a night) but was actually a prison with a massage chair… probably some previous sort of torture instrument. The bathrooms for men and women were sharing – with exaclty twice as much time allocated to men as women. Becuase everybody knows women don’t need to pee. Our room’s door came with its own peephole – or food serving hole as it previously wouild have been used for, with a “non smoking” sign stuck on the back so people can’t see in…or maybe it was so we couldn’t see out and see exacly what was going on there in the wee hours of the night!!. I think I have a deeper appreciation for the Japanese economy with space and resources. Even the homeless people in the surrounding streets seemed to have that dignified, organised Japanese style about them. Actually, I think I’m making that up. He definitely is.
A vegetarian meal for lunch turned out to be a bit harder to find than I had imagined. There was no shortage of fish to be bought from loud and unhygenic fish salesmen, but we had to enlist the help of a Japanese (and English) speaking traveller to order some noodles. My 4 or 5 years of high school Japanese had started to come back to me, but all to slowly for my stomach.
Next it was off to Asakusa to a temple that has been standing since 628 AD. It was lovely to see people still sincerely worshipping while snapping and flashing tourists tried their best to make some of these simple, sincere acts a circus spectacle. Speaking of circus spectacles, we decided not to linger near the performing monkey show on the way out for respect for the little chimp in pants on a string. I didn’t think it was appropriate!
However, strip joints with signs atop their door proclaiming the “the need for humanity to unite to create a more sustainable future” are totally appropriate! This was one of the fantastic sites as we wandered in and out of the alternately packed and isloated streets of Shibuyu: home of a very, very busy intersection near the train station. Where do all these people come from and go to? Actually, I know the answer to that one – they go inside these bright, flashy buildings to quietly search (side-be-side with a million other people) for very, very expensive clothes!
Roppongi, the Asahi beer ‘golden object (a jumbo jet sized golden turd atop a building) and the oppulence of Ginza were all visited and enjoyed over the next few hours. Unfortunately our rendezvous with Josh fell through due to him getting lost on the way home from the beach the night before, AND the fact that 4 hours is a long way to travel to basically just say hi (Josh, I will post your boardshorts to you soon!).
The Imperial Gardens were beautiful and a really good “space” in the middle of the city. Photographically, it was a bit grey, but I like the idea of closing the surrounding roads to all but cyclists! Back towards shibuyu and harajuku, we found the Crayon House restaurant, organic food shop, toy shop and art gallery. An absolute highlight and you can find it’s address in the Japanese tourist bureau’s “Vegetarian Eating guide”. All you can eat organic, vego fare including dishes with chicken, fish, pigs, and what looked disturbingly like a cat!! (since not being able to read the meal signs – you have to go by the stickers stuck on them to see what you are eating…) in a lovely environment went down a treat. And, while in the area, you just hare to visit harajuku – home of the mad Japanese teenage girl who dresses up as a vampiric nurse with beetlejuice stockings to sing karaoke Madonna on a street corner. Tourists (us) love it and so do the girls. There was even a pretty good, young jazz band playing while everyone stared at the freaks.
It really was interesting to see all these girls there, and then contrast their style with the clothes and behaviour of some of the tourists in the vicinity: now who’s the freaks?
Final plug has to be for the Tokyo government building. It was great to ride 45 floors in the silent, fast elevator and be able to look out over Tokyo. Gabrielle suggested we’d had enough when I started to talk about the inevitability of a major Tokyo earthquake in the near future; and the horror of the poor people in New York or any other tall building disaster. I’d love to be there on one of the rare, clear days when you can see Mt Fuji though! ( acutally – they say you can see Australia on a clear day – its just they’ce never had a clear day so no one has been able to prove it yet!)
OK off to London for the night, then Turkey for 10 days.
By the way – for the many of you who have asked – both andrew and I managed to refrain ( and not without large amounts of effort mind you) to purchase used womens underwear from vending machines – which were going at very reasonable prices. thought i’d better save something for next time!!