Thursday, November 03, 2011

Japan - The First Day AKA Culture Shock

What a nerveracking weekend it was. Just two days before I was due to leave Alan Joyce pulled the carpet out from under my feet. At 1am on Sunday morning I was on the Cathay Pacific website making alternative arrangements.

I made it, although via Hong Kong rather than Sydney, can't say I'm upset though. I thought Cathay Pacific provided great service, although I kept missing the water runs, because of being in the window seat on the Melbourne - Hong Kong leg. The Hong Kong to Tokyo leg was a "red eye", leaving Hong Kong at 1:15am and arriving in Tokyo shortly after 6am. As it was a four hour flight I only got about an hour of sleep. It wasn't too bad though as the flight was nearly empty so I could at least stretch out.

The rising sun welcoming me to the land of the rising sun.
Could't think of a better way to arrive in Japan.

What can I say about arrival in Tokyo. Complete culture shock comes to mind. After clearing customs I bought a train ticket and got the train to Tokyo proper. By now it was the middle of the morning peak hour and as the train filled up very quick. I thought I was on the Narita Express, but it was actually a local train taking commuters to work. Eventually we made it to Tokyo station where I needed to change to the Yamanote line. I just followed the signs and all was fine. Another 20 minutes later I was at Ikebukuro, the neighjbourhood I am staying in.

I arrived at the hotel about 2 hours after leaving Narita. Talk about a hard slog. Being so early, it was still only 9AM, I was told to come back at 3pm. I left my bag at the hotel and set off to find something to do.

I decided to take the train to Shinjuku and go to the free observation deck at the Tokyo government office. I found my way and spent about an hour up the top. On the way back to the station I got lost as I couldn't find the way in to the platforms (it is in a different spot to the exit).

Just how big is this city?
It goes as far as the eye can see in every direction.
The view from the 45th floor of the Tokyo Government Building.

Fujisan through the haze (and reflections). I seem to reacall
it is rare to actually
see Mount Fuji all the way from Tokyo.

One thing I knew I was going to like even before I left are the trains.
This is a Yamanote line train arriving at Shinjuku.

By now it was all of 11:30 am and all I wanted to do was sleep. If only I could go back to my hotel and check in. Maybe something to eat might help. No that's not going to happen. Looking at the restaurants I had no idea what I was looking at, and in my hazy state of mind I wasn't in the mood for trying. So I resigned myself to going back to the hotel and waiting.

So I waited in the lobby for about 3 hours, too tired to do anthing and too timid to try anything too adventurous. Eventually I decided to go for a wander and stopped at a convenience store to get some water. What are they yelling at me? I don't know, I made my purchase, nodded a lot and got out of there.

Finally I checked in and went up to my room. So small (I knew that when I booked), but just right for me. Oh god, a Japanese toilet!

My small but entirely functional room. Perfect for the salary
man or office lady on their travels.

That's a single bed, desk, chair and TV. Out shot to the bottom
are a small fridge and kettle. To my left is the small bathroom,
and behind me is a small space for luggage and the door.
All in all an efficient use of space.

After resting for a few hours I decided to out and face the world head on. Come on Ben you need to get over it, just go and buy some food. I should mention the last thing I had eaten was about 2 am that morning on the plane. No no good, lots of looking , but I couldn'tdo it. Oh well I'd have to starve.

"Irashimasu!" I went back to my friends in the family mart and bought some western style comfort foods, a bottle fo Coca Cola and a bag of potato chips. Eventually I decided to give room service a chance. The hotel's restaurant is and italian restaurant, so that's what I had. I ordered a Pizza, Capricciosa. Not really like any Pizza I've ever had.

That is day one in Japan. I think I spent it in denial more than anything. I blame tiredness. As I write this it is the end of my third day in Tokyo, and I must say I am really liking it. I've seen some wierd sights in the last few days. Sometimes I have to stop myself from laughing out loud, but often I'm just walking around with a massive smile on my face.

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