Tuesday, 31 December 2013

IT'S COLD IN TOKYO … in more ways than one.

Date: Tuesday 31st December 2013

MP3 track of the day: I'm yours – Jason Mraz

Weather: Hot but over-cast in Okinawa. Cold with clear skies in Tokyo.

Due to a rare early night, I found myself wide wake within my bunk bed at 6am. Not seeing the point of just lying there waiting for the clock to strike 7, I got up, got packed, washed and dressed before using whatever time I had left to read the latest news. Being an F1 fan, the news of Schumacher hit me personally and, right there and then, I wished him a speedy and full recovery.

At 8am I left and boarded a monorail system I was so used to by now, I could have used it blind folded. On the way to the airport I chatted to a Japanese guy – who had also stayed at the hostel last night – about life and traveling. Once at the airport we went our separate way, but not before swapping Facebook details.

Check-in was a breeze and once through I bought a pack of two 'onigiri' (rice-triangles protected by a layer of seaweed on the outside, with some kind of animal in the middle). I bought a salmon onigiri and a tuna one; being not too keen on tuna I ate it anyway as both were sold as a set. Soon after the call to board was given and so I did just that.

This flight was even more sparsely occupied than my flight out, resulting in I having my whole row to myself. Though more than helpful, I did notice that the cabin crew wouldn't win any 'best looking cabin crew of the year' awards, and I longed for the lady from yesterdays flight (had it only been a day?). Due to this I sat back in my chair and alternated between reading my book and looking out of the window.

As we moved further and further away from Okinawa the clouds got less and less dense until I could see the ocean (plus some beautiful small islands within said ocean). Due to the way flight chairs are positioned it did hurt my neck to constantly look out of the window; once my neck could take no more I switched to my book and, once my brain had given up reading, I switched back to the window.

The flight was just under two hours and we arrived at Narita Airport bang on time. This was a first for me but, after I collected my luggage, I actually had to prove it was mine before I could exit the terminal. I didn't mind doing this and with so many suitcases looking the same, I wondered why this wasn't more of a routine thing.

Once out of the terminal I headed down to the underground where I bought a ticket for the 'direct access train' to Asakusa. Unlike eleven days ago (is that all; it feels longer), I did wait thirty minutes for the correct train and didn't board the first thing which appeared. Waiting was an American (I presumed he was American as, A: he looked like an American and B: he had a phone case and bag with the American flag on). A giant of a man; not only was he tall but he was also well built making the average Japanese man look like a child. Needless to say, I sat opposite this giant and every oriental kept their distance until it was impossible for them to do so. I did feel for this guy; on the platform he looked lost. If he'd asked, I would have tried to help him but he did not. On the train other passengers gave him the same disconcerting (probably due to his size) look which I have been given countless times in the more rural parts of Japan and, admittedly, the more rural parts of the world.

After an hour we arrived at Asakusa station where I alighted before heading for fresh air as quickly as possible. I then proceeded to walk down the same streets I'd done eleven days ago before I reached my hotel for the evening. I was staying in a Toyoko Inn and standard procedures stated that check-in was at 4pm at the earliest however, given that it was New Years Eve the lady, though not in the pleasant tone I'd become accustom too on the islands of Okinawa, said that even though the time was 3:30pm, I could check-in and proceed to my room. Once again my room was on the 9th floor however this time, the internet reached this far up.

After putting my stuff down I did quite an odd thing for me and 'freshened up' by taking a long, hot shower. I hadn't had any lunch and therefore I was starving however, I also felt quite drained from the flight and so a shower was required. By 4:15pm I was ready to hit the streets once more.

Even though I had a huge bag of 'omiyagi' (biscuits for my work colleagues) I still hadn't got anything for my friends. This was a strategic ploy as I decided, quite a while ago, that I would get their presents from Tokyo's Skytree. Sure I hadn't really been to Tokyo this holiday however, the banana sponge cake, filled with caramel sauce, was too good to miss; I therefore got myself a box of four. Going and coming back I stopped occasionally to take photos of Tokyo as the light faded. As I walked I noticed that people were going about their business without, it seemed, a care for the other people around them. I also noticed that people seemed a little more abrupt in their manner here than they did on the islands; not only was it cold temperature wise, but Tokyo felt cold through the people. I realised very quickly that the Okinawan islands 'family feel' had gone forever.

As I was heading back to my hotel I stopped at a restaurant called 'Denny's' for an extremely late lunch, or an extremely early dinner (you decide) where I ate a 'beef burger steak'. As this was my last meal of the year I pushed the boat out and ordered whatever I wanted, which included a caramel dessert and a cup of hot chocolate. This was the same 'Denny's' my mum, dad and I visited back in March and, as I stared at where we sat that time, I started to reminisce about 2013's positives and negatives. I had been employed throughout the year in a job which, though at times I dislike, on the whole I enjoy (though I do worry that I'm wasting my time as it's a job which I can't see will lead anywhere). I'm still in Japan and loving living in this amazing country. I have been on holiday six times this year (Feb: Sapporo Ice Festival. Mar/Apr: on holiday with my parents and sister. May: Shimokita pensular, Aomori. July / early Aug: Southern Honshu plus Akita's summer festival. Late Aug: Sado-ga-shima for the drum festival. Dec: Okinawa) which must be the most I've traveled, in one year, bar my year around the world. My Japanese has improved so much over this last year that I can now hold a basic conversation though, I really do need to put more effort into reading Kanji. Finally beautiful women seem to be all around me and yet, it seems impossible to get hold of one; this shall hopefully be rectified next year (though I have no idea how as, though in Tokyo there are a lot of beautiful women, where I live all the women my age have buggered off to the bigger cities).

Once I'd finished my meal I wished the cashier a 'happy new year' and headed back to my hotel, which is where I am now writing this, rather short, account of my day. The time is 7:30pm and the 'plan of action' for tonight is to chill until 10:30pm or so, before heading out into the night taking photos of Japan's capital as it enters 2014.

Tomorrow night I shall be traveling home at this time so therefore, expect the last blog on the 2nd of January. I've thoroughly enjoyed my holiday and don't want it to end though, if their has to be an end, seeing the New Year come in from the worlds largest city cannot be too bad.

Happy New Year!

1 comment: