We took the overnight flight from Delhi to Tokyo on an Air India Dreamliner. Excellent flight and service, but as usual I couldn’t sleep and Dawn got no more than a couple of hours.
We landed at Narita airport and to our surprise, it wasn’t busy at all. We found our way to the bus stop for Tokyo station and boarded an immaculate bus for the drive into Tokyo.
After Delhi, Tokyo was another shock. This is easily the cleanest and best laid out city I have seen in my life, everything is well ordered and calm. Once at Tokyo station, the one thing you notice is how quiet it is for a city centre. The traffic makes virtually no noise and I can only assume this is because of their emission regulations and the number of hybrid and electric vehicles on the road.
We grabbed a taxi from the station to the hotel, an old fashioned (but obviously new) Toyota Super Crown. As the cabs pull up, the left had rear door opens automatically and you dive in and the door shuts itself. The cab was immaculate and the driver was in uniform wearing white gloves, it was more like a limousine! We had printed out the address of the hotel in Japanese so there was no confusion, which was useful as he didn’t seem to speak any English.
We settled in to our tiny room (this is Tokyo – they are all tiny). It had a tiny bedroom and a small bathroom but with a fantastic set of toiletries including razors (I was running out) and an all singing and dancing toilet with a heated seat, bidet and shower functions (I won’t go into any more detail, but I’m buying one when we get home).
We set off late in the afternoon for Ueno park. A beautiful space for walking round, with wide walking boulevards that familes, and both old and young, seemed to be strolling in There was an international fair in the park, with stalls from countries all over the world (though none from the UK) selling food wine and other wares. There was a band stand and a school brass band were playing a medley of music from various musicals and my favourite, the theme from Star Wars.
We wandered round the park and it’s lakes, one of which was completely grown over with some kindo of huge lily pad, the sun was going down and it was beautiful in the twilight.
As we were walking by the lake, we noticed that more and more people were starting to run past us, mainly young men, plus some who were older and the odd teenage girl. It became a mob in front of us and we wondered what was going on. As we got to the spot where they had all gathered we could see on the many raised phones what was happening – Pokemon! Yes, literally hundreds of people had massed to rub their phones at a virtual cuddly toy (one of high value I guess) because “gotta catch them all.” I suppose it saves them from having to talk to girls!
As the sun set, we went to Ameyoko market. Tokyo at night seems like a different city, chaotic and brght. We braved a restaurant sat down only to be told that it was an auto restauraunt and you order your food and drink from a machine, then sit down and give your waitress the tickets for each item (I say told, she didn’t speak English but ushered us to the machine, which fortunately did speak English).
We had a wander round the streets in the neon and light rain, it was very different and exciting, if you have ever seen Blade Runner you have a picture of what it’s like here.
On the Sunday morning we went to the Harajuku district, famed for it’s youth culture and crazy fashions, it didn’t disapoint. It was rowded with tourists and locals, and most Japanese teenagers seem very fashionable even when they are more extreme in thier style.
From there we went on to Yoyogi park, another beautiful Tokyo park, full of families in their Sunday best, including several little girls dressed in traditional Kimonos, with their hair all done. Family photoshoots seemed to be the norm here. The temple was very impressive and most of the visitors (families and all) were praying here.
We walked (it was a long walk) to the Government Metropolitan building in Shinjuku. It was free to get in and there is an observation deck. When we got up there, there was a break in the clouds and we managed to see the sun setting over Mount Fuji in the distance. We watched it in awe, then after it had set spent the next 20 minutes recovering from looking at the sun for such a long time. We finished the evening wandering round Shinjuku, marvelling at its own bright neon lights and watching a live DJ set outside Studio Alta playing 90s dance music (though we were still in bed by 10pm).
On Monday we went to the Tsukiji fish market, a busy area with stalls with all sorts of fish and foods I can only guess at, and they let you wander round the market itself whilst they are working – it’s a bit like Billingsgate I guess. We went to the Tokyo International Forum, a very modern steel and glass building and now one of my favourite buildings, then onto the Imperial Palace Gardens which due to a mis-calculation were shut.
We finished the day in Ginza, the really posh shopping district. I wanted to see the Sony building to see all their latest gadgets (not worth it). However the relentless days of the last 4 weeks, and an overnight flight with little sleep had taken their toll and we ended the day miserable and knackered. We had done so much, with little or no down time, so we decided that we needed to come off the gas a bit. We grabbed an early night and made the decision to cut down what we see and take a little more time for ourselves!
Our last day in Tokyo started at Shibuya, another bustling district with the world’s busiest pedestrian road crossing.
We then went to the Senso-Ji temple, Tokyo’s most famous and amazingly beautiful temple, albeit sadly the Pagoda was under some scaffolding. We finished the day in Yanaka, a relatively long metro ride from central Tokyo. This is an old part of town that wasn’t damaged in the 1923 earthquake, or the American bombing in WWII, so is pretty much untouched and is an indication of what old Tokyo was like. Then it was back to our hotel to get ready for the next days journey by bullet train to Kyoto.