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.
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.
Went back to Ebisu district, which is where our hotel is. Wanted dinner, but didn’t have the energy to cope with anything unfamiliar, so opted for Burger King. Buying a burger in a foreign language is challenge enough, but a combination of pointing and smiling, plus a very helpful server, managed to buy a couple of burgers. In Japan, “small” means small – I think I had a child’s dinner (about 8 fries and a half-sized coke).
We pretty much sussed the underground system – I will explain it in another blog, but it’s a brilliant way to get around Tokyo. I’m looking forward to discovering more of this city.
Went to bed feeling exhausted but not at all sleepy. The joys of jet-lag…
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*Coming Soon…The Sarcastic Mother’s Travel Diaries by Anne E. Thompson…”Bill Bryson meets the Durrells in this laugh out loud diary of travel around the world”…available in 2019, from an Amazon near you.*