ontokyo


StraightJap Diaries: the Beardsmore Chronicles
DAY 4
Platform nine and three quarters….Kyoto
i do not have time to write in depth as it is now 12.30am and will be waking up in 3 hours to go to the early morning fish market, which opens at 4.30am.

Today was awesome…we made a dash for the bullet train for Kyoto which was really speedy. Push your spine into the back of your chair and that was what it was like. i couldn:t look out the window cuz it made you dizzy.

shinkansen (bullet train)

Went to this buddhist temple which was about 850 years old and had 1001 golden statues with an enormous buddha in the middle. I discovered that the temples have a seal system…you can buy a blank book and this dude will inscript in perfect japanese calligraphy the seal of the temple in a blank page of the book. There are loads of temples and each one has its individual seal.
We also went to the golden temple, which is actually coated in gold leaf and sits over a lake. It reflects in the pool beneath and is STUNNING. I got a seal in my book from there too.
The national temples close at 5pm so there wasn:t enough time to see the zen garden temple…maybe for another day πŸ™‚

Just got back and for tomorrow we have planned:

fish market
hot springs in the mountains with views of mt. fuji
return to tokyo and chill out in Ueno Park and see the cherry blossoms and kimono girls.

later!

C

DAY 3
edible jiggly-puffs and jiggly bottoms…
tokyo is just bursting with energy!

This morning we went to the roppongi hills district in southwest tokyo. Damn…everywhere is nice! I was quite tired as I had only had 5 hours sleep the night before, however a quick “smoru carumeru makiato”(small caramel machiato) from starbucks did the trick. The main building here is the mori tower which has the skydeck and the most commanding views over tokyo. From there you can see the faint view of mt. fuji in the distance, the Tokyo tower (basically an orange and white eiffel tower), and everything else that you could imagine a skydeck to have. Our guides had sorted us out with the exhibition, which was pretty much the top luxury cars and clothes brands in the world. From ferrari to bugatti and maserati to rolls royce, wow these cars were nice. There were also strange manequins promoting gucci, prada, armani you name it. Anywhere in tokyo is incomplete without some nutty girl dressed like a victorian in high heels, luckly that was up on the skydeck too.

Afterwards we hung around in midtown tokyo and went to a bookshop and checked out some of the newly budding cherry blossoms. The girls all start to come out in their kimonos and the cherry blossom season is a national excuse to get pissed. Someone in the train station was handing out free cartons of sake. Arigato gozaimas! (thanks very much!)

After a quick traditional lunch with grapefruit jelly for desert we made our way to shibuya train station to book our bullet trains for tomorrow. Unfortunately you have to book in advance and so we only have space for us all on the smoking trains. We will however be returning on the non-smoking so hey, not so bad. We went off to go round Shibuya district, which includes Harajuku. We visited this shopping mall designed by Tadao Ando.. one of the most famous japanese architects. It is now beginning to settle down that japan is the king of all things fake. Speakers twitter bird song everywhere (due to the lack of real birds) and special lamps recreate tree shadows on the ground.

We were given the afternoon to do whatever so 3 of my friends and I got together and made our way to harajuku. We got lost and on our travels found a small traditional temple. The 2 lads in my group are both camera junkies and taught me how to use the manual settings on my digital. They both have super fancy SLR cameras which can be set to have a shutter speed of 5 seconds, meaning that if the camera is set up on a tripod, you can get still buildings, but red flashes of light as the traffic moves through tokyo and clouds for moving people. My camera isn:t so fancy, but i can get a shutter speed of 1 second, so I can still get semi blurry people, but when i take pictures of traffic it isn:t so impressive. oh well!

Then there was Ginza. This is the typical view that everyone knows of Tokyo, you know, the street with the high buildings on either size with all the flashing lcd screens and neon signs flowing upwards and downwards? My jaw dropped when I saw this because its just so intense! Big brand names fight for attention and big names which normally keep a low profile in the UK have their names in massive letters and really stylish buildings. De Beers, Cartier, Coco Chanel, Bvlgari, you name it, its there, and its big.

Just of the main steet of ginza is a plaza with the bullet trains gliding like swans along the elevated streets of tokyo, waiting to take off. They:re so graceful…i can:t wait until tomorrow to actually go on one.

And then…dum dum duuuum…BIG CAMERA…imagine walking from the dark placid streets into the most brightly lit intensely noisy electronics emporium you can ever imagine. Vendors with placards strapped to their heads shouting at you to buy their mobile phone plan or camera or speakers or whatever (and thats just the women!) from all 6 floors of this migraine of a building. There is big bold japanese writing on every free space of wall.This department store is so important to Tokyo it even has its own underground station tunnel. We went to the TV section and saw a 103″ plasma TV for sale. On the 3rd floor was for sale…bucking broncos. Next to the broncos were leg toners which vibrated your legs at really high speed and, ahem, jiggled your bottom in the process. We were all wetting ourselves when we saw this woman standing on it, her arse jiggling furiously. Only in Japan. In the camera section I bought a case for my camera as well as a flexible tripod.

For dinner we decided we just couldn:t be arsed for sushi or noodles any more, so a dobaru quota poundaru from macudonardo was on the menu. Damn that was a tasty burger. For desert we went back to the local 7-11 and i held up one of the local sweets from the counter. I asked if it was “oiishi” (tasty) and he said “hai!”…and this is where i now ate what i can only describe as a jigglypuff. Its white dough with a dusting of flour and castor sugar…stuffed with fig paste. And it is very very squidgy and it almost feels alive. you cannot really hold them in your fingers and they ooze everywhere. Was it oiishi? Yes…but in an “only in japan” sort of way πŸ™‚

Anyhow i have an early start tomorrow so i will keep you in on the adventure tomorrow!
Arigato Gozaimas!
C

DAY 2
noodle hot-dogs, collapsable chopsticks and karaeoke
Β 
Just had my second day in tokyo city, my my this city is crazy!

i was woken up this morning to the sounds of a very organised street protest at around 6am. At first I thought it was a robot road cleaner, but no, it was a man on a megaphone and a flag with a procession. My roommate Nimesh managed to get some photos before they moved on.
After having a quick shower (please insert 100 yen/80p for 5 minutes) i made my way to the 7-11, where i proceeded to buy liquid “energy” aka peach flavoured carbohydrate jelly, weighing in at 180 calories and about as much energy as “traditional rice portion” as advertised. I have just discovered that the straws are not circular as one might imagine. although they are hollow they are in the cross section of a…cross! a straight x. I do not know how the lumpy bits of jelly get through that but hey, it works.

protest

Guess what…the Tokyo tube is split into 2 companies. Buying an all-day pass for one layer of the tube will not let you go everywhere…you have to buy seperate tickets if you want to go off on another layer of the tube network you have your ticket assigned for. anyhow, after discovering this (rather expensive) error we proceeded our way to the Tokyo reclaimed land ‘renaissance’ development agency. There prepared for us was an entire scale model of the whole of Tokyo, scale 1:1000. After a very impressive lights display which spotlighted various districts of the city and the future plans that tokyoites intend to do, we were able to go up close and examine the model. I’m serious when i say that this model would have taken months to do. The whole thing was like 7 metres by 5 metres and was on a mechanical table which split up on command so you would walk within the model. I, ahem, accidentally knocked one of the buildings with my leg and luckily i had some extra strength super-glue with me. I fixed it without a moments notice and they are none the wiser. hehehe.

Following this we were led by our guides to a rather peculiar district. We had a traditional japanese lunch…eaten in the japanese style. We were sandwiched into this cramped room where the tables were elevated on a platform. (as everywhere in jp) we had to take off our shoes and kneel at the table, which was quite low on the platform. There was (barely) enough room for 4 people per table, and most of the table was taken up by a gas fired hot plate. We had essentially what i would describe as cabbage, lettuce, salami and pickle omlettes, cooked ourselves. We also had special noodles with fish flakes on top. For some reason the fish flakes moved and twisted themselves into wierd shapes due to the heat of the noodles. The waitress prepared us a meal in what I could only describe as what looked like cat sick and had the texture of it too. i discovered that if you let it burn it actually tasted ok.

chris, chris and sylas
If you let the cat-sick burn; it actually tastes ok!

Close to the restaurant was an ancient temple…or so we thought. as a matter of fact it had been built only 50 years ago in the same style of a temple which had burnt down, however made out of steel. Being ancient is not a big deal in japan. Mock style is fine! there was a market in front of it…it seemed like the whole thing had been designed for tourist dollars…and it worked! i bought the most japanese thing that you can possibly imagine…collapsable chopsticks! telescopic in design they fit into a little pouch that ataches to…your mobile phone. kawaii !!!

We saw the fuji tv building, which i have decided is really pointless. All of new tokyo is really pointless and when we looked out over the view it was just big strange building competeing with big strange building, separated miles apart from the rest of toyko with a massive carpark in the middle and a big ferris wheel (tokyo eye) which was too far away to see anything of merit. We discovered that it was another 500 yen to go to the top of the fuji building. We felt it wasn’t worth it due to the fact we have a free panaoramic view (including mt. fuji) tomorrow in a really tall building in the roppongi hills.

We returned to the hostel by about 7pm, exhausted. we had our sushi and noodles, rested for a bit and then went out for sake and karaeoke…which is actually amazing. They take it so seriously here! Because everything shuts quite early we decided not to go into central tokyo to do this. we found a little family run karaeoke bar close to the hostel in Ueno. A-Mazing. We drank and sang until about an hour ago with a finale of Queen…Bohemean Rhapsody. Everyone joined in and it was awesome.

oh yeah…they have noodle hot-dogs here. as in…replace the sausage with noodles. i know. don’t ask. πŸ™‚

laters!

C

DAY 1
hey hey

The hostel is really nice, really clean. We have to walk everywhere in slippers (and even change into new ones when entering the toilet!). Nimesh and I went to Ahakibara last night to see electric city, a district in tokyo, however because it was so late (8pm oooh!) everything was closed. Tokyo is so tame…everything shuts really early! We were stunned at how quiet everything is. The people say nothing on the streets and the cars make almost no noise…no loud music or anything. its almost like being deaf! The police and ambulence sirens are really soft and too, almost make no noise…they don:t startle you or anything.

I went food shopping yesterday and stocked up on fruit and vegetables. you would imagine that fresh fruit and vegetables would be available, however this isn:t the case. Many items are sqashed into a paste and put into packets, so for breafast this morning i had a tube of banana paste. It is also hard to find juice which doesn:t have extra stuff in it. yesterday I had grape juice, but it had small chunks of aloe vera in it…nibbly. I am going back to the 7-11 to buy some bread. Milk is hard to find here. for lunch yesterday I had salmon and rice, with pickles and soy sauce. The people are friendly and although speak no english pointing and hand gestures seem to work.

For dinner last night we went for mcdonalds (macudonarudo!), tokyo style…we had teriyake burgers and sushi (from mcdonalds!) Teriyake burgers are basically pork burgers with plum sauce…and to drink…iced green tea. Everything here is in little single-serving packets…its really annoying. Instead of sugar they have single servings of sugar syrup (guar gum) in packets that look like the ones they put airplane-milk in.

The toilets are heated (the seat is heated!) and when you finish your business you can press a button and a jet of warm water washes you, followed by an air dry.

and everyone here dresses in funky colours and styles…many girls dress like they did in the victorian times (frilly dresses!) and all business people dress in black jackets. On the metro virtually everyone was silent and tapping away at their mobile phones. it was also quite common to see people reading manga comic books on the train and at one station an old man just walked onto the train playing on his nintendo DS without looking up. We:ve also seen a granny on a portable playstation. The metro is packed and to get out i got to practice my make-shift japanese with a quick”sumimasen” (excuse me)… it parted everyone like the red sea.

more fun and adventure to come today.

Chris


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

haha wikid i’d like to take credit for the “straight jap” bit tho!! πŸ˜‰

Comment by Mindy

haha the girls in the frilly dresses are called “Lolita”
how are the really expensive apples?
wicked diary so far!

Comment by neu




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