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 One – 30th December 2007
On the 30th of December I had to wake at 5am. I had already packed everything so it didn’t take much effort to get to the airport for a flight to Cairns and then out of Australia direct to Tokyo!
The best thing about planes shall always be the bread rolls.
The flight went really quickly for a seven hour flight. They fed us actual meals twice, gave us warm towels, two snacks and then hot chocolate and an ice-cream too. For those who haven’t flown international before, the screen (in additional to a large selection of music, tv shows and movies) also has a channel that plays a map, the outside temp, how far we’d come and how long we had to go, all on rotation.
Soon enough the flight was over. In the age-old rule of travelling all you do is follow the masses – which we did – which led us to a train which took us from Terminal Two (I think we arrived at gate 88) to the main building, which meant customs. We had to fill departure cards and they scanned our fingerprints and took headshot photos. From there you go on to collect your suitcase and then on to the basement to buy N’es and Suica passes which would get us into and then around Tokyo. It’s like a debit card, you can put money on it and then swipe it whenever you use a train – like the Oyster card in London. When we got to the train station of the airport there was a very helpful attendant who ensured we knew which part of the platform to catch it from. He explained the train will be RIGHT on time, so don’t get on an early one as it’ll be wrong. Trains come past every five or so minutes and they’re on time to the exact minute. Most often within a few seconds. The Japanese are incredibly, incredibly efficient.
Once on the train, on the wall there’s an electronic map showing where we and all the stops where so we could see how far it was until we got to the station (Ōtemachi).
My travelling buddy and I were met by our friends at the station and they led us through another train and another station until we arrived in Monzen-Nakacho. Travelling from 7am until 7pm meant we were pretty tired, even though we hadn’t done much more than sit and doze all that time. Once at the hotel (Toyoko-Inn) we were given a gift, a little travel bag that had soaps and a headband and face mask stuffs and the like. Once in your room, there’s also a set of pyjamas for you awaiting on the bed.
Once settled, we went for a walk to get a snack! I had gyoza for the first time, thus spawning an obsession, and it was delicious. Then we went home and slept, as it was suddenly 11pm and we had an 8am meet planned for the next morning.
Day Two – 31st December 2007
An early start of 8am and unfortunately I had woken multiple times throughout the night for some reason, what joy. Excitement for being in Tokyo overrode any exhaustion though. We stopped by McDonalds (eugh, yes, what a crazy thing to do while in Tokyo of all places) as we wanted to see the quirks of the menu and observe them being scarily efficient. Everything from taking the order (pointing at a pictured menu) to how they pack and fold the bag (of all things) was utterly perfect and cute.
We went on to catch a train and eventually ended up where we had to be for Comiket (which is the world’s largest dōjinshi (self-published manga) fair, and at any one time boasted more people in the buildings housing it than who live in the whole state/territory from where we’re from in Australia). Like the British, the Japanese seem to love lining up and we stood in crowds for quite some time, chatting to everyone in the Pictochat function that was used in DSs back in those times. So many people have DS consoles there, and though the chat only works for a few dozen feet, there were countless people available to chat to.
So after many lines and hours we got into Comiket. It was MASSIVE. There were rooms upon rooms of dōjinshi so it was maybe midday by the time we escaped the madness of the crowds to venture up to the roof top where all the cosplayers were… and this part made it all worth going! We saw so many awesome costumes. They get right into it, even wearing coloured eye contacts!
The best I saw and loved, was Captain Jack Sparrow, Auron from Final Fantasy X, and Tamaki and Kyouya from Ouran High School Host Club. After an hour or more of walking around, taking photos we decided to head back to find food and rest in our rooms. So we got on a nice warm train and headed back in the direction of home.
At most of the regular ‘business-man eating places’ you go in and order by vending machine. $5.80AUS (or so at the time) and we got a bowl of yummy salad, a bowl of rice, miso soup, tea and a plate of fried beef and onion – also known as Gyūdon (牛丼).
After a rest, we headed for Roppongi so we could go to the Zojo-ji temple for New Years. We got there at about 7:30pm but there was already heaps of people around. We looked around for a while and found out for free, you could get a (biodegradable) balloon and paper to make a wish. You had to line up at 8:30 to get your wish, and then at 10:30 you could get your balloon, so until then we walked to Tokyo Tower to line up to get a ticket. You can go up 150 meters to the observation deck to take photos of Tokyo at day or night, and night was so pretty! Once we’d done that, we hurried back to line up to get our piece of paper to make the wish.
I wished for ‘Strong, happy and healthy relationships’ (which sadly didn’t come true that year, but ah well). Then we went to get food and grab a seat. It was coooolllddd sitting on the stone floor, but good after such an exhausting day. Travel buddy and I kept our spot while the others went to get okonomiyaki (pancake mixed with vegetables and meat, very hot and good to eat when cold) and takoyaki (octopus balls – for the others at least, as I don’t eat seafood. Which is also why I sadly don’t like okonomiyaki so much as it’s flavoured with fish flakes, but at least doesn’t make me ill.)
We ate, ran to get our balloons, and waited some more. It was utterly freezing – my notes said it was about 3 degrees but I can’t remember whether that was a guess of if I’d actually found that out somewhere. Monks were singing, the temple was crowded, and it was lovely to see such polite and excited and busy nightlife so early into our stay in Tokyo.
Then suddenly, after all that waiting, it was time to count down (backwards in another language is always interesting), release our balloons and cheer!
From there we immediately started to try and make our way out. It was almost impossible, as there were thousands of people and they all wanted to come IN to prey in the temple – we really would have stood out, being silly tourists. We went directly home, I was practically dead in the corner but the train warmed me up – did I mention earlier I had chosen not to wear my thermals and didn’t have a coat at this stage? I’d been wearing only my jeans, a shirt and a thin jumper, and it was freezing – stupid! We stumbled home and I was glad I’d left the heater on in my room. I had a loooooooong luscious bath and then typed up everything – stayed up until 3am and then crashed asleep. Fantastic day.