Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Tokyo 2009

As you can see from my ‘25 Things’ blog, I have recently visited Tokyo. I have wanted to go there ever since I saw Lost in Translation for the first time in 2004 and I have always been excited by the eclectic fusion of neon streets, ancient temples and cutting-edge technology. It was well worth the wait.

Tokyo is everything you expect it to be.

The parodies you have seen in popular culture - whether it be the hyper-animated otaku (geek) culture or the armies of businessmen sleeping on the train after working 16 hours shifts – are all true and then some. You have also probably seen beautiful views of Mount Fuji and the shrines of Kamakura on Japan tourist websites. Again, these are just as beautiful as they are depicted and are even more breath-taking in real time.

Tokyo – and Japan – is the sort of place where you return after just one week with hundreds of stories to tell. Even the billboards and rail system make for interesting stories because everything is just that little bit different. And for me, who has never ventured outside of Europe until now, it was a huge culture shock. I now have some serious newfound sympathy for tourists in this country because I was completely lost. Had I not been so skilled in the art of charades, I would never have found my way around.

There is too much to write about – enough content for a book, let alone a blog – and so here is a quick breakdown of my week:

Monday – flight out. I watched a glorious six films and ate ice cream.

Tuesday – Imperial Palace and the East gardens, followed by my first taste of Japanese eating. I also met a Japanese dentistry student named Yassu.

Wednesday – Kamakura, (shrines and temples as far as the eye can see, and then we watched the football in the evening: Japan vs. Australia. It was 0 – 0.

Thursday – Akihabara, the geek town of Tokyo: cutting-edge technology, toys, arcades and comic books. I have found my new spiritual home.

Friday – Tsujiki Fish Market, the largest fish market in the world and the most dangerous place I have ever been. This was followed by Asakusa and the Museum for Studio Ghibli, the Japanese equivalent to Pixar/Disney. Their films are wonderful. The evening was brilliant, as we watched Alex’s friend’s Japanese Metal Band. I then spent the night in a Capsule Hotel.

Saturday – Hakone, outside of the city and home to several hot springs and epic views of Mount Fuji.

Sunday – Ginza, the posh shopping region of Tokyo, and then Harajuku, where Japanese people dress in their finest or most bizarre clothes and strut. We then watched Quantum of Solace.

Monday – Odaiba, the man-made island which acts as a port to Tokyo, which boasts the Fujitsu HQ, the Toyota showroom and its own Statue of Liberty.

Tuesday – souvenir shopping splurge and then the long flight home.

Wednesday – jet-lagged in France and then home.

It was a surreal and eye-opening week. Plus, I have never used my camera and camcorder so much in all my life. And that’s saying something. Special domo arigato to Alex, who let me kip on his floor all week. Legend.

So, Japan: done.


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