tokyo – part one

I have finally started writing about the tokyo trip… here is part one.

Our flight left from Johannesburg to Dubai International (8 hours) where we caught
another flight to Osaka, Kansai Airport (9 hours 45 minutes).  First thing I did at Kansai was
buy a Starbucks hot chocolate… I needed to make some change moneyand
satisfy the craving.

We arrived at Haneda Airport, Tokyo at about 20:30 local time. We took a
limosine bus for ¥1200 each to Shinjuku station.

It was raining on and off
since our arrival. Thankfully Faiz had seen our hotel from the bus and had a
good idea of how to get there from the station. Decided to save a taxi fare
of ¥800 and walk the 1km to the hotel. Also it was good that we both packed
light. The weather was not cold at all. In fact it was very warm during our
entire stay in Tokyo, much like Durban weather, humid and warm with rain.
New City hotel is across from the Tokyo Government Metropolitan Building…
twin towers. A simple basic clean twin room… that cost a fortune in
comparison to a hotel here in SA. After resting for a little while and
showering, we went out in search of food. Ended up at what I can only
imagine as a noodle bar. At most cafes of this type you select and pay for
your meal at a vending type machine, you receive a coupon which you give to the waitress. The food is freshly prepared and served piping hot in under 10min.

People were so friendly even if they did not speak English, they tried to
help. If they did not speak English, they would just speak to us in
Japanese but very slowly… hoping we would get it eventually or understand
what they were trying to convey. We even had someone draw us a map and
write the street names and directions in Japanese. Very cool =) Amazingly
we did understand or at least we think we did.

Our first morning in Tokyo we got out of the hotel at about 10:30. Faiz and I had prepared very little for this trip, we had some basic city guide information that we printed from travel sites.  We wandered across to the
Tokyo Met building, south viewing deck on the 45th floor.
It was raining quite heavy, lots of cloud cover, we couldn't really see much of the view.
Decided to go back there when it cleared up. Shinjuku Station is hectic.  People everywhere walking very fast to catch a train to wherever.  Little cafes in the station where you can get a quick meal. Standing sushi bars, noodle bars, western style coffee places, bakeries.  It was daunting trying to figure out how all the trains worked as there is the JR line and the metro lines owned by various companies, not just one.  We were lucky and found a very helpful guy
who worked at Shinjuku Station. He spoke fluent English, helped us buy a
prepaid Seica cards for the JR and underground lines. Cost ¥2000. From
Shinjuku we headed to Odaiba…

walked in the rain, checked out the shopping
centres and futuristic type buildings, the Megaweb car showroom. Rode in an electric car that drove itself. Quite cool!

*Price check: Umbrella ¥500; Coffee and sandwich ¥1300; drink from a
vending machine ¥130

In the evening we ventured around Shibuya. So many people! We had dinner at a japanese fast food place called Mos Burger…I had a teriyaki chicken
burger and it was just delicious. A beer cost about ¥500. Somehow I always
ended up taking us through a red light district. Ended up at a bar that was
frequented by ex-pats. Can't remember what it was called.

Most nights I only fell asleep at 4am… reading or watching BBC.

On the Saturday night we went to Roppongi Hills which is supposed to be a great nightlife
area, lots of clubs, bar, restuarants. We had dinner (tuna cheek steak and salmon something) that cost ¥3000, our
drinks at a place called Gas Panic was ¥4000 for just one round (double
vodka with orange juice and a double baileys). I felt harrassed in
Roppongi… Nigerians trying to get you to come to their clubs / strip
clubs. At a normal club most places on the main street don't charge a cover
fee, and instead have this absurd rule that you can only be inside the club
if you are drinking, so there are literally bouncer guys walking around
checking if you have a drink in your hand… which makes it very awkward to
dance… besides just feeling pressured into drinking and spending obscene
amounts of money. We left Roppongi Hills and headed back to Shinjuku where once
again I led us through a red light district… unintentionally of course. On our way
back to the hotel we walked into the Hyatt, but the bar had closed already
at 1am.

The women in Tokyo are just beautiful… well-dressed, well-groomed,
attractive. It's incredible.

*Some observations

– At almost every restuarant, bar, cafe… you are given a hot towel
(such as those on planes) to wipe your hands.
– Tipping is not customary.
– People wear those medical face masks – mostly to prevent their germs
from spreading if they have a cold or flu. Also if they have allergies.
(this freaked me out before I understood the reason for wearing these masks)
– There was no pollution in comparison to Bangkok, London and other
European cities.
– The streets are clean. No litter.
– Most people are well-dressed. The fashion, is just incredible.
Layering seems to be in. Shorts with long socks/stocking and boots.
– People are friendly, respectful, helpful.
– Did not see any gay people / lesbian women (openly)… only in red
light districts.
– Seen lots of men that could be gay
– People are always on their mobile phones, which are accessorised /
individualised. Phones have big screens and are the folding kind. You can't
buy a prepaid sim card in Japan. If you need a phone you have to rent one at
the airport.
– Desserts are big in Tokyo
– The trains are efficient and always on time.
– People queue. There is no pushing, no aggression… just a natural
order.
– Bars closed early… probably due to the trains running only till about
midnight.
– There was never a completely sunny day. We carried our umbrellas with
us everyday.
– We walked a significant amount.. about 6km every day at the very least.
– I always felt safe walking the streets alone at night, early morning.
– There are a lot of homeless people (at least in the area around the
Tokyo Met building and along the river), who seem to come out only at night.
They are so neat and orderly with their belongings.

Tokyo slideshow

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