Jill and I are back in Japan to spend a few days in Tokyo and catch up with some people we know. Perhaps because we have been here before, we find this to be a very comfortable city to visit. It is bright, bustling and very friendly (apart from the young lady that knocked Jill over in the crowded station today because she was concentrating on texting rather than looking where she was going).
We had reserved our hotel room from the night before so that could have access as soon as we arrived early in the morning. We were glad to get access to it for a shower after traveling overnight rather than having to wait for the normal check in time of 3.00 pm.Our room is on the 35th floor at the Keio Plaza Hotel in the district of Shinjuku and we have a direct view of the imposing Tokyo Council Government Building opposite. We have a nice room but it does take some time to scroll through 121 channels on the TV to find the English ones.
We were reminded of Japanese formality as soon as we arrived at the airport. We caught the ‘Limousine Bus’ which went right to our hotel (amongst a few other stops). Each time we departed a bus stop, the dispatcher on the kerbside would face the bus and bow at a strict 45 degree angle until the bus had left the stop. And in every restaurant in the hotel there is a little basket by each table for the ladies to put their handbags. It would be totally inappropriate for them to be placed on the floor (that is so clean anyway that one could just about eat their mealS off it).
It seems more people here are speaking English and we are always impressed by how welcoming and friendly Japanese people are. I was standing at the ticket machine at the station, looking a bit befuddled, when three people asked if they could help me. I was actually just looking for the button on the ticket machine screen that would convert the display to English and then load some more money onto my travel card. Rather than just tell me how to do it, one young lady insisted on doing it all for me. Very nice of her!
It looks as though the Sumo wrestling season is in full swing. We watched some of it onTV and tried to remember the names of some of the old time favourites that we knew from the days when David was here as an exchange studeent – Akebono and Takenohana, I think. There is a great deal of ceremony and ritual bluffing and psyching out as each contestant enters the ring. They throw salt into the ring and it generally tasked two or three false starts before contact is finally made. It’s fun, and a relatively short period of time that these extremely large wrestlers then try to win their round by upsetting their opponent or pushing them out of the ring.
We found an Udon restaurant for lunch and while many people may think that Japan is expensive, it only cost us $8 each for a steaming hot plate of rice noodles and beef in a very hot and tasty broth.
We spent a few hours in the area near Shinjuku Station looking around and trying to find the location where I needed to meet the guide for my photo tour tonight. We are on the West side of the station and our biggest problem was trying to find a method of getting across to the East Entrance. On the surface, this would seem easy, but this station not only has 14 platforms it also has different entrances to over seven different subway lines, three department stores and a maze of shops and eating places. It is huge! Over 10 million people pass through this station every day.
After an early dinner, I headed off to join my pre-booked photo tour of the areas around Shinjiku and Shibuya. The tour visited a number of local spots that allowed us to capture city lights and moving traffic trails. One little alley of tiny cafes was a photographer’s paradise. I was back to the hotel at 10.00 pm, very tired and grateful for a good day.