These travelling blog posts have been moved here from my old blog – they were originally posted on the dates as shown, and could contain errors – years have passed since they were originally posted (and my memory was never that great) and I may not have got things right at the time as it was!
Day Eleven – 9th January 2008
We woke at 7:30am for an 8am start and met on the corner between our two accommodations. I took a photo of winter oranges which we never tried, but saw on every shrine since they’re offerings to the gods. We didn’t have breakfast at the bakery like we had every other morning because we had plans to go to Tsukiji Fish Market, which is really well known for its fantastic and fresh offerings.
But when we got there, they were all closed. We had been aiming for the inner markets, but even most of the outer markets were also closed… so that idea was foiled! We instead managed to find sashimi (raw fish) and a convini for bento boxes and karaage.
We were on our way to see kabuki, which is traditional Japanese theatre. Woman aren’t (weren’t?) allowed to act in it for their health. The makeup (used to be) very damaging and the costumes then and still do weigh tons. Only the oldest and most graceful of males get to play the female part, so if there’s any females in a Kabuki play you can basically bet it’ll be a 70 year old guy.
We lined up at Kabuki-Za from 9am onwards for tickets even though tickets didn’t even go on sale until 10:30am, and we all made the time fly away by playing on our DSs. Seriously, if you EVER go to Japan… you NEED a DS. They love waiting in line. Lines everywhere! But efficient lines! You still need a DS.
Most people get the expensive seats and turn up in beautiful kimonos. We were only there for two short plays, and we were in the cheapest seats, far and high at the back. There was a beautiful bento store to the right of us which hadn’t opened yet, and apparently it’s very traditional to take in a bento to a kabuki show.
The building the kabuki was in was so so pretty. Such delicate, intricate wood work and of course, all traditionally Japanese style. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos inside.
Time passed quickly, as it does when you play a DS, and we soon bought tickets for two shows and rented little radio type things which told us what was going on in English. The two shows we saw were Shojo and Ichijo Okura Monogatari which took almost two hours. The shows were interesting, but I admit I missed a lot. The radio things didn’t make things very clear for me, personally (or it’s possible I was exhausted, back then I wasn’t yet aware of how foggy my mind is with chronic fatigue.)
We walked through Ginza, which is where all the expensive shopping is and then went to a CC Curry for lunch. I liked the curry place we went to for dinner a lot better though – back in Shibuya, I think?
We then caught a train to Hamamatsucho and went to the official Pokémon store. It was crazy in there. Workers play the card games with the kids and it’s places like there you realise it really is a whole culture where there’s no shame in being a geeky fan, which is excellent. You can even get a limited special edition Pokémon if you go on wireless in the store, or something. But we didn’t, for some reason. Just to give myself a reason to return I suppose!
We then went to Hamaa-Rikyu gardens, which used to be private gardens of the Imperial family, and they used it for duck hunting. Now it’s just a really pretty park right in the middle of tall, tall buildings. We walked around, making our way to the tea house where we sat in the correct formal position, which is called ‘seiza‘… all for about five minutes. Another thing to practise before returning! We took part in a tea ceremony where we were given traditionally made green tea, which is whisked from a powder, and also a sweet called daifuku which looked like a little flower which you had to eat with a little stick of wood in a particular way – you may only cut it twice, once in half and then one of the halves in half once more. Like the tea, you must hold it in a particular way, give it a half turn, and then drink it in a certain few sips.
We walked around the park and rested, played out DSs for a short while again and then tried to catch a boat which would take us for a little scenic ride… but it had ended for the day. We then walked to Shiodome station and saw a TV show being filmed in a studio as one wall of it was entirely made of glass. We also saw the Studio Gilbi store and then we caught the automatic train to Tokyo Bay for this GIANT rainbow Ferris wheel which is bigger (?) and was there before the London Eye. Apparently. Facts to check!
After the fun of being a few hundred feet in the air we walked across a huge suspension bridge and went into a cat cafe, which not only sells everything from pretty rugs to collars, clothes and jewellery… but also has an area that has about 40 cats in it that you can pat and hold and play with. I was missing my cat Sushi a lot by then. We were at the store late, and as soon as the cats look like they’re getting a bit wild they’re taken away, but we got to help feed them.
We were then in JoyTropolus. We didn’t do much in there so I’m not quite sure what it was, other than A LOT of stores. We got a little lost and then found our way to Little Hong Kong, where we had dinner. Best gyoza I have had so far.
We then made our way to JoyDex, which is… well, it’s like a funpark/arcade, but indoors. It had a mini roller coaster and a driving game that used real cars that swing around like mad when you turn the wheel. We got a night pass for that, found lockers and were off!
After starting with Initial D, a few of us – but not all – then went on Half Pipe Canyon. The ride was like a huge skateboard, two people on each platform at once, kinda facing each other but out of reaching distance, more so side-by-side. You’re strapped in and what you have to do is click the floor with your heels back to front really fast, and you’ll SPIN as if doing a 180 or 360… and once the ride starts you’re going up and down the sides as if you’re a pendulum andddd… yeah. We couldn’t coordinate the floor clicky thing but we were happy just flying uppppp one wall and ddooowwnnnn and UP the other wallll, because you’re basically horizontal. When the ride started it was a song from one of the Final Fantasy games, so I was happy! But then it changed to Toxic by Britney Spears and it was SPINNING without us doing ANYTHING so we’re flying left and right until we’re horizontal, while doing 360s!
After that we went on Sky Cruising, which is as if you’re para-gliding. You sit on a bench and have a bar in front of you in front of this huge screen. You’re WAY up in the air and the aim is to fly through circles and collect things, and you steer by pulling or pushing the bar.
I found a drum game, which we played and then found weeks later in DS form. We also played a ball game where you have to pelt balls at a hole and see how many points you could get, and I won a frog weird inflatable wrist band… thing. Yes, it’s as weird as it sounds.
All four of us then went on Power Fled, which is like Bobsledding and we all sang HEY JAMACA WE GOT A BOBSLED TEAM and most of the other people there joined in and it was all quite hilarious and fun.
That was about it! JoyDex is highly recommended in my humble opinion!
Day Twelve – 10th January 2008
My notes for the last day were sadly lacking. The only reason I kept such detailed notes otherwise was because we usually sat down to note everything each day whenever we could and helped each other keep everything in order and note how we got there and what it was all called. The last day was a flurry of cleaning the flat our friends had been staying in for the past month as they would be departing the same day to start travelling through the rest of Japan.
So we cleaned, sent many boxes of things home (which at that time was very well priced), and then headed home. I think we spent a long time in the airport as I always travel from hotels at checkout time to airports as there’s not much else you can do with a suitcase, and I always dread the one time I don’t will be the time there’s huge delays on the transport. So we headed back to the airport to read and wait there, as well, airports are safe, comfortable, have every amenity and are built for those with suitcases.
So here’s a few of the professional photos we collected along the way, and that’s it! Tokyo – and the rest of Japan – is somewhere I need to get back to sometime, and soon. Since these posts I’ve been back twice for a few days each, but I dream of spending weeks there, if not longer.