MP3 track of the day: Open your eyes – Snow Patrol
Weather: Surprisingly cold in Tokyo. I knew it would be cold, but throughout the morning I thought it was colder than 'up north'.
At about 6am I woke up within the southern suburbs of Tokyo, which for you readers out there presents a problem. How on earth did I get to Tokyo; let alone be there at 6am. Well I shall solve the mystery right now. On Friday 20th December, I left school and boarded a night bus bound for Tokyo. The bus didn't leave until 9pm meaning that I had a good 4 hours at home before walking to the bus stop at 8:30pm. This was a good thing as, during this time, my Christmas present from my parents arrived (just in the nick of time).
Anyway I digress. So I found myself getting off my night bus, at 6am, and collecting my luggage. The winters day was still young and so I quickly added layers to the jumper and trousers which I was already wearing. The first port of call was to get rid of my bags; due to finding myself on a direct underground line to the Tokyo station where I will be boarding a train to Narita Airport (where I will fly to Okinawa), I decided to head to said Tokyo station and put my bags within a locker. With this done I headed back onto the streets of Tokyo.
With my hat, gloves and mp3 player on I walked into town realising I had made my first tiny mistake of the day. It wasn't the fact that I'd passed a bank without using it (I was in need of money as ATM's on Okinawa can be a problem), it was that fact that I'd left my camera within bag which was now in the locker. Opening said locker would have meant that I would have to pay again, therefore I decided against going back. My MP3 player's camera would just have to do.
After taking a few more steps I felt more positive about my 'mistake'. This was my 5th time to the worlds largest city and so I knew I had more photos of Tokyo than I knew what to do with; I decided that I would spend the day without a lens in front of my face and just open my eyes. This philosophy carried through to take over my entire days plan. Every time I've been to Tokyo I have always bought an underground 'day pass'. This has meant that I have seen all of the major tourist areas, but I haven't seen how they connect together. Today this would be rectified as I attempted to walk between them.
I started this 'voyage of discovery' at Asakusa's Senso-ji temple complex, an extremely impressive Japanese temple complex which I have visited every time I've been to Tokyo. As I walked down the main pedestrianised shopping street I remembered the first time I set my eyes on this site; even now the massive red gate with a huge lantern in the center, with two guards flanking it, raises a smile. I didn't spend long gazing at the big red temple; neither did I take any photos. Instead I walked west towards Ueno, where I would have breakfast.
I arrived at Ueno at around 8:30am. The walk hadn't been that exciting. I'd seen a huge 'chef head' on the top of a building, some fish which hadn't got a clue that they would soon be 'lunch' and a shop with jars of snail shells and other items I couldn't guess at what their purpose was.
Before visiting Ueno Park I had a quick 'pit stop' for breakfast . Once in the park I found a lot of it under construction and so I quickly strolled down the 'lake path' as I gazed into the water and the buildings which formed the background. Once done I walked south towards Akihabara, the home of AKB48. If I was a betting man I'd say that this part of town is Tokyo's 'old town'. The buildings were very close together and the streets narrow. Akihabara itself is a sea of colour with hundreds of bright advertisements hanging from the many skyscrapers all around. After this I wondered aimlessly through the many streets of down-town Tokyo. Until I stumbled upon the Emperor's Palace. This is a place that I have also visited before and so I had a quick peek at the gardens before moving on. I would have moved on quicker if the pavements weren't swarmed with 'runners'. I hate runners, and this organised group (which took up the whole pavement) were no exception. After battling my way through (sliding in a few elbows and sticking out my foot a few times) I found myself on the road to Shinjuku. The buildings had changed a little and seemed to be more refined; the advertisements attached to said buildings had certainly changed and instead of the bright and 'in your face' yellows of Akihabara, the posters were more refined using mostly blue and white.
When I decided to walk around London (instead of using the 'tube) I found the main tourist area to be quite compact and easy going. I was hoping to find the same with Tokyo's tourist sites however they were very far away. The time was now around midday and my feet were hurting like hell. I was only halfway to Shinjuku and so I abandoned the trek and took the underground back to Asakusa where I had lunch at an Indian restaurant I'd been to before. I was planning on eating fish and chips however, I'd left the map to the pub with my camera in my bag, in the holdall (tiny mistake number 2). Still the chicken curry was delicious and I can have fish and chips on my return journey.
After, I Stopped for cash before picking up my bags. I then found myself on the underground platform for 'trains to Narita Airport'. I had just missed the 'express' by two minutes and the next 'express' wasn't for another forty. I therefore opted for the 'rapid' which stopped at more stations than the 'express', but would get me to my destination (or so I thought … tiny mistake number 3).
Once I'd boarded the 'rapid', from a 'all trans leaving from this platform go to Narita Airport', I soon discovered that this train terminated at Sakura. Sakura is not Narita and so I checked the route map, pretty confident that I could switch trains at Sakura. I therefore found a seat, sat back, and relaxed … until everyone with a large bag got off the train nine stops before Sakura. Instead of sticking to my guns, I asked a 'local' who said I needed to get off at the next station and go back to where everyone else had got off. Great; I thanked the lady, got off the 'Rapid' at the next station and met a ticket inspector for a second opinion. He had just finished telling me to get back on the 'Rapid' and change at Sakura when said 'Rapid' pulled out of the station. I therefore sat down for a fifteen minute wait wondering how many other 'tiny mistakes' would occur.
Thankfully I caught the next 'Rapid' and changed at Sakura with no problems. I also managed to guess correctly the terminal which I was leaving from (Narita has two terminals and I had no idea which was domestic ... terminal 2 as it turned out); maybe my luck was changing.
Once at check-in I met a beautiful Japanese woman who 'checked-in' my holdall luggage within a flash. All cabin staff look beautiful, but she was Japanese and had a big smile. I chatted to her for a little while before I went upstairs to use my PC and update my blog. The problem was I'd put, by mistake, my net-books charging cable within my holdall luggage with no way of getting it back. I used whatever power I had left in my net-book but it wasn't a lot; in the end I resorted to old fashioned 'pen and paper' with the hope of writing my blog up later. Out of all my 'tiny mistakes' this was the most annoying as it would take at least another hour to type up my blog.
Once I'd written as much as I could I went through security (which was ace; got in the queue for 'staff' by mistake and then had my baggage looked at by a team of five fit Japanese women … fantastic). I then sat down and waited to board my flight.
The flight turned out to be pretty empty; I had a window seat with the seat next to me unoccupied. An American woman, visiting her sister and brother-in-law on one of the bases, was sat in the isle seat. We chatted for a little while but both of us had been traveling for almost a day. Due to this we kept the talking to pleasantries before trying to get some sleep.
Before I knew it I was landing at Okinawa's airport. Normally I'm not in a rush to depart a flight however, I'd read in my guidebook that the last monorail service finished at 11:30pm. The time was 10:45pm and if I missed the last service then there was no other option but a taxi. Even though this is a holiday, and not a backpacking trip, I still had to watch the pennies and any opportunity to save £10 or so was more than welcome. However, knowing how long airport immigration is I didn't hold much hope.
At 11pm, fifteen minutes after I'd landed, I was walking out of the airport. I'd forgotten that this flight was a domestic one so no passport checks, security or anything like that. My holdall luggage arrived promptly and it felt as though I'd just alighted a bus. I was therefore able to catch the 11:15pm monorail train into town.
Due to it being pitch black I couldn't see much, however it was still reasonably warm given the time. I got off my stop and proceeded towards my accommodation, by-passing a fire crew forcing their way into a restaurant, with 'on-lookers all around'. For tonight I would be staying in a 'capsule hotel'. Unique to Japan, I've always wanted to try one but have always been a little apprehensive. Capsule hotels have a little bit of a seedy reputation but, as I found out, I need not have worried. The lady en-charge spoke perfect English and showed me to the men's locker room. Here I had a numbered locked which matched my 'capsule number'. I opened the locker, with a key fob, and put all of my stuff in bar what I would need for the night. She gave me a quick tour of the facilities however I was eager to fall asleep.
The capsules themselves are just about my height in length. They have a blind, a TV, radio, alarm, shelf, air filter and a futon. The capsules were in rows with one capsule on top of each other. I likened it to a hostel bunk-bed with sides. I rolled out my blanket and put my head on the pillow. I set my alarm for 6:15am and went to sleep.
Tomorrow I need to be at the airport to pick up my car at 8am. After I shall drive south to visit some WW2 museums before heading north for my overnight stop.
Okinawa baby yeah!