A Travellerspoint blog

All over Tokyo

East Capital - Day 1

sunny 27 °C

Having descended in the East Capital, as its Japanese name so perfectly describes, we were both filled with anticipation and excitement to discover this Eastern Metropolis.

Although exhausted and somewhat jetlagged, we managed to wake up at a reasonable time and decided to head to central Tokyo for a tour around the imperial Palace. Not far from our hotel are two of the Tokyo`s train/metro stations, if you`ve ever seen the map of the rail system you`d understand how confusing it can be, not only are there plenty of lines illustrated clearly, in Japanese, (ok fair enough there is an English map for tourists) there`s also a series of private companies that operate within the system, that make fares and stations a bit confusing. Problem solved, we headed to the platform and took our train enroute to Tokyo station, attentively looking out for names, numbers and any sign that could tell us exactly where we needed to get off.

Tokyo central station, and a series of underground paths later we made it to the surface. Not very sunny but muggy we walked for a few minutes and found this enormous luscious park situated amongst tall office buildings and broad roads. Over its moat ancient bridges lead you into this green, serene and very slow paced historical site. We wandered around old samurai forts, sloping cobbled paths, stone walls and bamboo forests and then, felt we needed to see this city`s wildside and the rivers of people that cover the streets. Headed to the Ginza district, a commercial/shopping destination, via some of the tall corporate towers. Along the way, nature calls, we needed some food, authentic Japanese anything! We found this area, which at the time we thought as unique, but now know it happens all across town, in which quaint little restaurants, behind sliding doors and hanging lamps serve "affordable" food to businessmen, little old ladies (which slurp after slurp devour a reasonably sized ramen bowl in five minutes) or hungry tourists, otherwise known in Colombia as "el corrientazo", for our latinamerican readers. Two bowls of noodles and 30 minutes later our excursion continued. "Where is everyone, why aren`t we being pushed, squeezed" uttered the anxious city boy, it wasn`t empty no, except everyone walked orderly and gave us room to hold hands and swing our arms as we walked. We reached the sony building for a little taste of Japanese technology, and was also our first sighting and attempt at the famous Tokyo "jay-walking", yet the human hordes were very controlled and manageable.

After half a day of aimless meandering under very intense humidity, and another metro ride we arrived at Shibuya station, to see what this city is known for, neon lights, people, people and more people. And what a taste we had. The frenzy lasts about 2 minutes, but it also happens every 5, and is worth every minute of it. At once, when the gron gubbe (green man) lights up, hundreds of people (literally, imagine Oxford Circus times 3) are all released in unison from the 4 corners of this intersection, in every direction, left, right, centre, diagonally, around. Not one of them sighs in desperation or pushes each other, it`s human harmony at its best, really unbelievable. What a way to end our first tour of this wonderful city. On this first day we realised that amongst the rumble, the hectic rush hour courteous white glove pushing onto trains (which we haven`t seen), the crazy "jay-walking", this city can be very tame and quiet, that is not always the crazy urban jungle we imagined. However this in no way should be read as disappointment. On the contrary, for a city that has blurred the boundaries between its neighbouring towns and has a combined population of 35 million inhabitants (arguably the largest city in the world), to be able to provide you with space to breathe, is rather a compliment.

Posted by RuizJosef 16:00 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Lost in translation

Therese's impressions of Tokyo day 2 and 3

On Thursday we meet Linus, who is a friend of Steve's who is a friend of Nico. Linus is Swedish and is also and architect and married to Lina, who is Colombian (how funny!) and a linguist. We spend a nice day walking around the Naka-meguro area, with has little shops and cafes and is very quiet for being Tokyo, but also
looking at buildings and a ferry port which Nico can tell you all about. As they live here we also talk about the city and the culture and we find out more about the Japanese.
Here are some interesting facts for you:
-Public displays of affection are very rare here, even holding hands.
-You can smoke in bars, cafes and restaurants but not while walking on the street. There are special smoking areas on the pavement assigned for smoking (if you click on Tokyo on the map, you can see the photos we have downloaded)
-Japanese girls think its embarrassing if people hear them when they go to the toilet. Consequently they always flush the loo while they are on it, even if they are just doing 'number 1'. However, this led to a lot of water being wasted, whereby new toilets were put in with a button on them for 'flushing sound' (Again, see uploaded photo as I had to try this for myself)
-People who are homeless do not like having their photo taken (Nico learned this the hard way, almost being chased down the street pointing his camera the wrong way)
- When you are over 25, people call you a 'christmas cake' if you are still unmarried. The symbolism being christmas cake is nice on christmas but goes stale after.
- In every shop there is an umbrella stand. People borrow an umbrella when they need one and then bring it back. This would never work anywhere else. I also find myself resisting the bizarre urge to jump on all these unlocked bicycles on the street and ride away on them. Just because I can.

Sushi for breakfast
The culinary adventure continues...Friday morning we get up at 5.45 to get to the biggest fish market in the world. We stumble sleepily around some vegetable market and are almost run over by all the mopeds with carts flying about the place in the maddest rush, wondering what we got up for, until we finally find the fish market. Which is similarily busy and also has suspicious stuff floating about on the floor. Like tuna blood. Good thing we are wearing our flip flops, even though Nico hates them as he says they are just as uncomfortable as wearing ladies thongs (well i guess he knows, after the mankini adventure). There is a lot of fish and seafood to see. We take a lot of photos and feel more like clueless tourists in everyone's way than we have ever felt before, so we make our way to the nearby sushi restaurants which serve the freshest sushi you can find.
We order toro, which is belly of tuna and the most melt in the mouth sushi we have ever had. We also have some ikura, which is Japanese for salmon roe and my favourite. I spill rice everywhere and the Japanese girls sitting next to us are giggling discreetly.
Then we go back to the hostel and wash our feet.
The rest of the day we spend walking the streets and taking everything in. We finish off the day in one of the busiest hubs in Tokyo, Shinjuku. There are three million people coming through there every day.
We have Tempura for dinner. The waitress has to show us what order to do things in. Pouring soy here, dip there, add some salt to that plate. The man on our left chuckles and gives us an encouraging nod.
I try to add some soy sauce to my rice. She stops me and says no no no.

Posted by RuizJosef 06:17 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo Comments (0)

In the Land of the Rising Sun!

Tokyo - Check in

rain 25 °C

Well well, we made it, finally and with time to spare in front of the computer.

It has been a really long day since we left Stockholm yesterday evening at 19.20, with an 8 hour flight to Beijing, then a 4 hour layover at Beijing International and a 3 1/2 hour flight to Tokyo Narita. The plane landed 10 minutes ahead of time (10 to 18.00 local time) and we taxied on the runway for about 20 minutes, or in Therese's words, as far as going to Amal from Bengtsfors. Baggage pick up and customs was very efficient and we managed to catch the airport train at 19.08. After a bit more than an hour on the train we arrived at our stop, changed to the metro and with some help sorted out which ticket to buy to get on our way. Two stops later we had arrived, all we had to do now, was figure the map I had drawn from the Hotel's website. Not surprisingly we were lost, but with the aid of very helpful Japanese people, we ended up at what will be, literally our little room for a few days. A nicely design, and I may fall on a cliche by saying this, minimal building. We are staying in a Japanese style room, meaning two mattresses on the floor over Tatami mats. The room's width is the width of the two mattresses side by side and it's length, well enough for a TV and a fridge. All facilities are shared and outside the room. Bought some Japanese food at the supermarket around the corner; Miso soup and some nice crackers, and ate in our room.

I have to say that I feel foreign in Sweden, with the language and all, but this does not compare, it is really a whole different world. Although there is more English than expected, all signs are illegible, which is a bit of bizarre experience. But people have been very helpful, extremely. The weather is nice, and we have seen nothing yet, so we can't contain our excitement for what we may see starting tomorrow. That is it for now, Sayonara!

Ruiz Josefsson

Posted by RuizJosef 16:42 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

It's On!

Flights reserved, paid and delivered!

10 °C

We think today the trip is starting to feel very real, not to mention very close too. We have (after days of discussions, many reservations and penciled in itineraries) finally purchased our tickets and so we are now Eastbound, well really, only until Monday (13th of September). Although we could technically say that the trip starts on Saturday (11th Sept), as we are then heading East, to Stockholm, our European departure port.

We will be lodged by our Stockholm patrons, the Josefsson Jansson, which will see us off on Monday.

In between now (Wednesday September 8th) and then we will be sorting out the last bit of packing/planning/reserving etc. still pending in our long list of to do items.

As the list shortens, our excitement grows more and more. I don't think (and I think I speak for both of us) we have ever travelled to such unknown and far flung places before. At least I (Nico) know I haven't had such experience and I feel extremely enthusiastic about the trip.

We hope we can pass on this excitement on to everyone as we trek along the far east.

Until our next posting, yours truly,

The Ruiz Josefsson

Posted by RuizJosef 12:35 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

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