Friday, 12 November 2010

Japan's amazing

Friday 12th November 2010

MP3 track of the day: The way of Life - The Last Samurai

Weather: Not too hot but quite humid.

So last night I opened my 'benton box' and started to eat the contents, whilst drinking my apple juice. Firstly the 'apple juice' was actually cold tea … yuk! I fared better with the 'benton box'; the meal may not have looked like a lot, but it was so filling that I couldn't even get close to finishing it. Most of it food was okay, I wouldn't call it 'mouth watering' but I could eat it. I then retired to my room where I went straight to sleep at around 9pm … and I woke up at around 7am the following morning.

I was too tired to look through my guidebook last night and so I planned my moves, for the day, as soon as I got up. It was a toss up between taking a two hour train to Nikko (North of Toyko, Nikko has a very impressive temple) or spending the day in Tokyo. I decided to stay in Tokyo as I could go to Nikko on my return here. Looking through my guidebook the area of Asakusa was a must, however I had to get out of the hostel first.

Because I was leaving before 10am, the main door was closed and so I had to use the side door; this door had a lock on it which, for the life of me, I couldn't open. After, what seemed like an age, I managed to get out … however an alarm had started to sound. I then started pressing every button, in every conceivable combination, hoping that the alarm would stop … it eventually did.

As you may remember in yesterdays blog my plan was to go to McDonalds and get … oh maybe a pancake and syrup breakfast however, before arriving at McDonalds I had to go by a local supermarket and so I popped in to see if there was anything for breakfast that didn't include fish. I was surprised to see a bakery stand, within the supermarket, which had loads of hot pastries. I picked up two huge pastries (a banana loaf and danish pastry thing) for 260 yen (£2) and took them to Asakusa.

By the time I had reached Asakusa the pastries were cold but it didn't matter, I found a seat and eat my breakfast, feeling pretty full after wards. The area of Asakusa was amazing; there is the Senso-ji temple which has a long narrow street leading to it. At either end of the street there are two huge gates erected to guard the temple. In between these gates are a row of shops (which looked good for souvenir shopping when I return to Tokyo); all of these structures are built in an old Japanese design (however they were all built post-war) and the whole area is so beautiful. There were hundreds of people within this area, particularly located around the shots; I spent ages walking through the crowds taking hundreds of photos and loved every second. Just outside the main temple there was a 'well' looking structure with a guy burning incense that passers by wafted towards themselves so they could breathe in the fumes … not sure why. Other things within the area included a place to put wishes which were then knotted onto a metal line. The place was amazing, the experience was full on and it was lovely just to stand back and take it all in. It's hard to explain what the area was really like in words; to have a look please see my photos on my Flicker account.

I spent around three hours in the crowds, just admiring the history of the place, when I decided that I had seen enough and that I wanted to be somewhere a little more peaceful. Two stops on the underground later brought me to the station of Ueno, which is located on the west side of Ueno park. I spent about an hour walking around the park free of having to squeeze between people. The park was okay, but it was definitely in the shadow of Asakusa; after an hour I was pretty hungry and so I headed into town to find something for lunch. Again I found myself in a supermarket; outside the window to my right I could see the golden archers of the McDonalds 'M'. A slight debate occurred inside me; do I opt for another, but quite different, 'bento box' meal that was located in front of me however, I still didn't know what was in it (it looked like chicken). Or do I go for the safe option of McDonalds, which is American food that I can eat anywhere in the world. For quite a while I looked at the 'bento box', then I looked out the window and then back at the meal. In the end I went for the 'bento box' which had plenty of rice in it (at least it's something that I would like) and I was surprised to see that it only cost 460 yen (about £3.50). Just encase I didn't like the contents, I bought a packed of crisps and some cheese stick things. One more surprise was that, once at the cashier, the lady put my meal in the microwave to warm it up for me, and then gave me a fork and something to wipe my hands with after eating. I took the meal back to the park where I sat down and opened it up. This meal was quite nice and, what I thought was chicken, was actually chicken. After finishing my meal I had a further walk around the park before heading back to the underground station at around 2pm.

My final port of call for the day, and the furthest away from my hostel, were the areas of Roppongi and Akasaka. From Roppongi station I immediately headed north into the district of Akaska. The walk was pretty long but I found what I was looking for, the Hie-jinja shrine. Quite small compared to the Senso-ji complex, it didn't take me long to walk around the shrine. It was all very nice however, by now, I had seen enough ancient Japanese buildings and so I continued north to a hotel, which my guidebook said had a beautiful Japanese garden open to the public. I walked into the 'New Otani Hotel' where, immediately, I felt as though I didn't really belong there. The hotel was very posh and everyone was suited and booted; bless the Japanese, no one commented or even stared at my hiking boots and t-shirt … I even got a few bows from the staff. As I had traveled all this way I was determined to find the gardens, however I did feel really uncomfortable and so I only had a quick look around, following some signs but not getting anywhere. I decided to leave the hotel and instead, I would walk around the perimeter of the building. Across the street was a small park, however it didn't look like a garden and it was closed. I continued my hunt until I found a sign to the Japanese Gardens. As I got closer I noticed a few signs stating that things were shut, but I couldn't work out what was shut. I went through the entrance to the gardens but I couldn't see anyone else around. I decided to leave as I was pretty sure that I would find other Japanese Gardens in other places (If not I could always come back).

My feet were really starting to hurt and so I decided to take the long walk back to the underground station, passing through a small street with shops on either side and lots of illuminated signs. Once near the station I asked just a little bit more of my crippled feet and I walked for a further ten minutes to see Tokyo Tower, a cheaper version of the Eiffel Tower, which was okay. Finally I got on the underground train and headed back to my hostel; I went back to the same supermarket, that I went to for breakfast, to purchase some goodies for tonight.

Tomorrow I shall be heading to Hiroshima. As my train doesn't leave Tokyo until 12pm, I shall take it easy in the morning, purchasing breakfast and some snacks for the journey from the local supermarket, before checking out of my hostel, hopefully around 10:30am.

It's impossible for me to write all the different experiences I'm having in Japan; everything I hear, everything I see and everything I smell is new … it sometimes feels like an overload, and that's why I think I'm feeling a lot more tired than usual, but I'm loving it!

Toodle Pip

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