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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Diving into another world: Japan, Part 1: Tokyo

Planning? No need! Making a schedule month before? Not needed! Listening to travel agencies? Never done this! While I had a business trip to Finland (happens quite often lately) it was on Antje’s shoulders to get the main things done. The Japan Rail Pass arrived surprisingly quick, express delivery from London, the flight was booking just one week before departure. Although it was said it’s gonna be tough to find hotels during the cherry blossom, we gave it a try. And there still were some, luckily.

Via London Heathrow, we took the flight to Tokyo. Two meals, an half-finished movie was enough to sleep the rest away. It took us a while to orientate, money was needed and we wanted to change the Japan Rail Pass voucher into the official one which is set to a specific starting date. After that we obviously bought the right train ticket at the counter, and thus, after another 1 ½ hours we reached the Kanda station, from now on we had walking. We shuffled through the streets and somehow found the right hotel. I didn’t really understand what the receptionist was wanting, but handed the keys over to us after a 10 minute phone call to somewhere or someone, just to confirm if my credit card would be accepted. It looked like it would.

The “room” was small, like really small. With our luggage on the floor, there was almost no space to move. With an huge step, we were able to enter the bathroom. One person fits in there quite well, the other one had to stay outside. Luckily there was an instruction provided on how to use the tab. In Japanese language of course. I would have been so helpless without. But the best thing: The full-automated toilets! The seat was heated, two levels available. All kinda water spraying functions as well.

After a short nap we decided to explore the area we are staying in. Buildings have been in constructed in skyscraper manner. As we were walking through tiny narrow streets, there was another thing quite different to what we are used to. You basically cannot dehydrate, there are various refreshment vendors available on every corner. They directly guide you to them by shining in every colour imaginable.

We ended up in the Imperial Palace Garden where Eric Clapton was giving his concert. As it seems, Japanese like his music. We decided to walk on, checking the street restaurants and their specialities. Which is quite an endeavour. An English menu is apparently not available, in most cases. We had to decide by pointing on pictures. That worked well, but doesn’t give all the information needed for choosing wisely. But people are very patient and willing to help.

The next three days have been fully packed with the main tourist attractions. The Imperial Palace & Gardens, the Hamarikyu Gardens, the Tokyo Tower, which is a copy of the one in Paris, but of course it needed to be higher. The World Trade Centre offers spectacular views over the cities’ skyline. Mostly we took the metro which was an unexpected challenge. You really had to look closely where you actually are and where you wanna go. There were just too many stops you possibly get off, and different metro companies as well, covering different metro maps. It’s just crazy.

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