People had said to me that we would get a culture shock when we got to Japan. Everything was going to be so scary, strange and alien. People wouldn’t speak any English, menus would all be in Japanese, they ate weird stuff, listened to Babymetal and watched tentacle porn. However arriving in another country had never felt so much like coming home.
When we met Hajime from Japan in Laos, he had shown us a map of the Tokyo underground and it looked scary as hell. So, as we landed and made our way nervously through the airport, we were already stressing about how we were going to find our air bnb using this multicoloured tangle of a map.
Immigration took a matter of seconds. No queue. No messing. Just pure efficiency. We were off the plane and reunited with our bags within fifteen minutes. We went to the train station in the airport and braced ourselves for the communication problems. The lovely lady explained to us in perfect English, how to get to our subway stop. She gave us a map (which we used the whole time) and highlighted our route and explained the subway changes we had to make. It was so easy. The subway is really so simple once you understand what the colours and numbers mean. And it is super efficient. I mean we noticed when a subway was thirty seconds late – that’s how impeccably on time it is!
So within no time we were in our cute and tiny air bnb with the most delicious store bought cheap sushi and chocolate that tasted like an eighties easter egg (when chocolate was still good). I was in heaven!
We spent the next two days exploring Tokyo. I loved it all.
I ate the most delicious mackerel that I have ever tasted in a little restaurant near our air bnb. (They had an english menu and it was fine!) I had no idea what all the little side dishes were or how I was meant to eat my seaweed but it was all delicious. I’m getting a juicy mouth just writing about it!
We went to the government building which is one of the tallest in the city.
You can get some great photos there and if you hang around before dusk you can get both day and night pictures. Plus they have some really cute things in the shop up there whilst you are waiting!
We went to Golden Gai, which is a collection of over 200 bars, most of which fit less than ten people! They are so cute – Many have themes such as the Troll pub, or Halloween. We were obviously in “Death match in Hell”, a metal and movie bar, complete with Japanese Wayne from Wayne’s world. We met some great people in there and had an amazing (and toe curlingly expensive) night.
We went to the famous Shibuya crossing and I just happened across a mall with a whole floor of stationery. Hundreds of diaries, bullet journals, stickers, and washi. All there for the taking, and all ridiculously cute. I had to walk round with the mantra of – “everything I buy I have to carry on my back. everything I buy I have to carry on my back” (It would be worth a spinal injury I think).
We bought a subway day pass and just hopped between areas – Tokyo really is enormous but the subway is so easy. And the places are so different – upmarket Ginza with it’s offices and upmarket shops, is a couple of stops from Akihabara, which is geek central – with it’s teens dressed in anime costumes and many games arcades with crazy Japanese music. It’s a city of contrast but with a common thread of perfectionism and good manners.
We went to a few parks in the city. If Japan does one thing impeccably (and it does everything impeccably) it’s parks. In the middle of the biggest city in the world and I can’t hear a sound other than birds and the soothing music they play in the park (which was randomly “auld Lang Syne”).
It was in the first park where I contemplated the fact that I might be dead, This was heaven or some kind of perfect holding place until I accepted I was dead. Actually, if I remembered correctly there was really bad turbulance on the flight in. Maybe that’s when it ended and I didn’t know. Why else would food taste so good, the air smelll so sweet and the temperature be so perfectly just right? And as if there would be so many planners and stickers in one shop? And what the hell is Japanese Wayne doing here? Why are the trees growing up out of the ground?
Surely it’s not real. Everywhere I go smells like flowers mixed with my childhood and everyone I meet is lovely and polite and sweet. I look at Andrew and wonder if he died too? I asked him and to my surprise (I thought he would ridicule my idea) he agreed. It appeared we were in heaven.
So we decided the test would be that, if when we tried to leave Japan we couldn’t, we would know we were really dead. I’m writing this in Cairns, Australia so we know we are alive. But we also know that we utterly and completely love Japan and will definitely return.