First Impressions of Tokyo

First Impressions of Tokyo

Arrived in Tokyo after a week of obstacles: dog kennels all full, no one able to cover Lunch Club or children’s work, house being painted (will not comment on the wisdom of deciding to arrange for renovations to coincide with a trip away). However, we did finally make it to the airport (after a brief return to the house because one of us forgot to put on shoes and suddenly realised they were wearing slippers – but we won’t comment on that either).

The flight, with BA, was about 11 hours, which is way too long wherever you’re sitting, but if your seat happens to be right next to the toilets, is even more unpleasant. The highlight – which almost made it worth it – was a brilliant view of the peak of Mount Fuji as we landed.

Finally arrived at The Westin in Tokyo. Hard to keep track of time when travelling, so several days had merged into one long one. Hotel was nice, dumped bags and went for a wander.

I have never been to Japan before, and had fairly low expectations. Tokyo is unexpected. It reminds me, on first impressions, of the Stockholm I visited 20 years ago, in that it appears to be very clean and functional but with ugly buildings. And massive flyovers. Things are designed to work efficiently, not to look nice. Perhaps in a city this is sensible – I’m not sure people who work in London are particularly enamoured with the time it takes to edge your way around Trafalgar Square.

We went for a quick stroll, to a river near the hotel. The weather is humid but not too hot. We wandered through a little park, where school children were growing vegetables. We saw lots of bikes – many of them electric, and lots had a young child sitting in a child seat at the back. Japanese children are very very cute. I am guessing, by the number of bikes left unlocked, some with bags in the basket, that Tokyo has an unusually low crime rate. My mother tends to leave her bicycle unlocked and no one steals it (but then, it is particularly old and unfashionable) but I’ve never seen other bikes abandoned before, and certainly not in cities.

I can tell you that: everyone obeys the traffic signals, the streets are very clean, and everyone has the same hair as me. This is weird, and feels rather surreal (perhaps not helped by being awake for about 36 hours now). In England, straight dark hair is fairly unusual, but here everyone has it. It is like looking at the back of me all the time. People are also very smart, and I feel scruffy and crumpled. I may have to do some ironing while we’re here.

There are lots of men with flags, who wave you around every obstacle (sort of the opposite to India, where a deep hole in the street will be completely unmarked). There are also vending machines everywhere. As in, everywhere.

We went to the Shibuya district. There’s a statue of Hachiko, a dog who sat outside the station every night waiting for his master, for ten years after his death. We also saw a famous road crossing, where people were pausing, in the middle, to take photographs – it’s one of the iconic scenes of Tokyo.

We wandered around a district which appeared to be full of hairdressers – lots of shop windows filled with photos of women’s faces. Read the Chinese characters, and realised that they were in fact brothels – suggested to Husband that we might find a better area to walk around.

Thanks for reading. You can read the full version in my new travel book: A Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary.
A sort of “Bill Bryson meets The Durrells” – for people who like to laugh and enjoy travel.
Available now from Amazon:


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