Thursday, 11 November 2010

Oh look … fish

Thursday 11th November 2010 (Remembrance Day)

MP3 track of the day: - In Flanders Fields

Weather: Hot during the day but it's getting dark around 5pm, I think I've arrived near winter.

Last night I boarded the plane, bound for Tokyo, with no particular problems; the flight was scheduled to leave just after 10pm, and arrive just after 6am, the perfect flight to sleep through. There was one slight problem however; due to me having an early tea, by 10pm I was ready for the meal that would be distributed, on the flight, around an hour later. This meant that I had to wait up for that, eat it, and then probably get to sleep around midnight.

I wasn't planning to watch a film (as I wanted to get to sleep asap) but I decided to start to watch 'Eclipse', the next part of the Twilight Saga, whilst having my meal. I thought that I would probably turn it off before it ended. Actually I managed to watch the whole film (not a bad film, better than 'New Moon'), and a episode of 'My Family', before I had finished my meal. The reason for this was that, firstly, it took forever for the plane to make it to the runway (and the seat belt sign was on so all cabin crew had to remain seated); at one point I thought we were going to drive our way to Tokyo. The captain came over the speaker to apologise and explain that, due to a wind direction change, we've had to drive to another runway to take off. Then I was one of the last people to be served my meal; the problems with that being that I would be the last person to finish eating and the last person to have their tray taken away, meaning that I would be the last person asleep.

However there was another problem with my meal; when the cabin crew member came to give me my meal she apologized and said that they had run out of the chicken (the choice I wanted) and so I had to have the fish. The cabin crew member did say that, due to the fact I was served last, and didn't get my preferred choice of meal, she would serve me breakfast first in the morning (meaning that I get woken up earlier than everyone else … brilliant).

The fish was okay, and I was nicely tucked up by 1am Sydney time (11pm Tokyo time). I must have had around four or five hours sleep before the cabin lights came on for us to have breakfast. True to her word the cabin crew member did serve me breakfast first and I had the choice of either the eggs or the fish … umm, looks like fish again. I pealed off the tin foil to find a lovely piece of salmon and rice … it would have been a great meal, if it wasn't for breakfast.

We touched down in Tokyo twenty minutes later than scheduled; I really didn't mind as it was nearly 7am by then and so rush hour was just starting in one of the biggest cities on the planet. I planned to take it nice and easy, no rush, and just apply for my Japanese Rail Pass, get some money out and probably wait around the airport until 8:00am / 8:30am (the airport is around ninety minutes away from the city center and so, I reckoned that rush hour would be over by 9:30am / 10:00am). There was a long queue to get my Japanese Rail Pass and, after withdrawing 30,000 yen (£220 to you), it was 8am and so I went to the train platform.

I was amazed to see so many English signs about (plus a lot of staff spoke English) and I got to my hostel a) in a reasonable time and 2) quite cheaply (less than £10 for three subway journeys for a total of 1hr 40mins). Once at the hostel a nice lady checked me in and I was surprised to find out that I had my own room. I was pretty certain I hadn't paid for an individual room but I wasn't going to turn it down. I dropped all my stuff in my room and I then went into the common room to use the FREE internet (it's soo much faster than Australasia) to catch up on emails, photos and my blog.

It was now midday and with all my internet stuff completed I was itching to get out into Tokyo. My first job was to do a 'mock run' of the trip I will have to take in two days time, to catch my train to Hiroshima. This meant that I had to get to Tokyo's central rail station, which was located near the Imperial Palace … two birds with one stone I thought. Before this could be completed lunch was needed; with me having fish last night, fish this morning (which I'm not sure agreed with me) and I was certain I would probably be having fish tonight, I really wanted something 'unfishy'. Therefore I headed to MacDonalds to get some … well you can read the receipt for yourself:

You're Japanese not as good as you thought … it's a chicken nugget meal.

My mock run went pretty well, and I also managed to reserve a seat for my trip to Hiroshima at the train ticket office, within Tokyo central station. My train leaves at 12:03pm on Saturday and arrives at Osaka around 15:03pm. There I have to change and board another train at 15:22pm to finally arrive in Hiroshima at 16:54pm.

All looked good, apart from the lack of time between my train change; however, as I have a rail pass, I don't need to worry too much about missing my connection as I can always get the next train without any cost penalties. The best thing about this rail journey is, I think, that I shall be traveling on the bullet train, one of my musts whilst traveling in Japan.

Confidence was high, all was looking good and I was beginning to forget my worries about traveling in this fantastic country. I left the train station and found the Imperial Palace (it's a little hard to miss) which is stunning. Most of the palace is out of bounds with barriers restricting access … which is a good thing as this means no stupid tourists getting in the way of my photographs. I walked arou

nd the whole perimeter of the Palace complex before entering the gardens. The gardens were nice, however I had to rush due to it being just after 3pm and they close at 4pm. Like I said, the gardens were nice, but the best bit about the Imperial Palace was just seeing parts of the palace rising behind the stone walls … oh and all the ancient gates, this is what I came to Japan for!

After looking around the Imperial Palace I decided to head for home. It was now 4pm (slightly bad timing as it was rush hour again) and I was getting pretty tired. On my way back I purchased a 'bento' box; this is a meal you can pick up at train stations for around 1,000 yen (£8) and is designed for train journeys. As I was taking a journey in a couple of days time I wanted to try one out beforehand. Each box is beautifully designed with the food inside carefully placed; it looks lovely (my sister would like it here) but I have no idea what I will be eating ... but that's half the experience isn't it … oh and there is fish in this box too.

I then purchased a bottle of apple juice (well I think it's apple juice … looks like it but the label is all in Japanese) before reaching my hostel. So far a few things have amazed me; firstly just how easy it is to get around Tokyo and how much English signage there is. Secondly that the Japanese drive on the left hand side of the road (so that's Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and Japan now). Thirdly the, almost confrontational, stance between old and new architecture, I am certainly making it a point to photograph that (like an old building with new, modern, sky scrapers in the back ground). Finally I have been amazed at how reasonable the prices seem to be, I've spent less that 4,000 yen (£30.00) today and, apart from not paying for breakfast (which I may visit MacDonalds in the future to get something other than fish), it's been a full day of activities. It's early days but maybe Japan might not be as expensive as I first thought (though it is a pain to divide every price you see by 131 to get the UK equivalent).

Tonight will be an early night as I'm pretty shattered. I shall soon be having my meal (which maybe very short depending on how it all tastes) before reading up on what I want to do tomorrow, oh and booking my Hiroshima hostel. I've been told that there is a good train line that runs around Toyko city center, passing all the sights, so maybe a day pass on the trains will be a good move.

Toodle Pip!

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