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Saturday 14 May 2016
Tokyo, Japan

There's no lock on that bike!??

I'm in Tokyo 2 days now and just getting a chance to start this blog. Sitting here in the lobby of my first hotel I look out the window at the bikes lined up in the bike rack and notice none of them are locked! That's about 30 or so bikes free for anyone to grab, if they so chose, but of course no one would. And that doesn't surprise me in the slightest. The city is as safe as it is clean....and by golly is it clean! It's the first thing that grabbed me upon arriving in my deleriously-tired state: I could drop my bags anywhere on the ground in the city if I needed to check a map and there's 0 chance of me lifting it up to find a nice sticky gob of chewing gum attached.

The flight over from Dublin was an arduous 14 hour affair from Dublin via Istanbul, where I probably managed to squeeze in about 2 hours of sleep. Turkish Airlines seats have some of the worst legroom I've ever experienced so I had one leg stuck out in the aisle constantly acting as a trip hazard through the night... but at least the food was decent! Also the "Trtl" travel pillow I packed seemed to do the trick in preventing me getting the usual neck-cramp, but damn it was hot to wear on the warm flight due to the fleece lining.

Arriving into Tokyo, I had already pre-booked my rail ticket on the Skyliner train which included a 3-day subway pass, so getting to my hotel was a breeze. I'd been warned that most Tokyo-ites don't speak English, but thankfully found this wasn't an issue as people in the city seem more than happy to help out and regular usage of map-pointing and "Arrigato gozaimasu" usually does the trick. I decided to stay in a "proper" hotel the first two nights just to get over jet lag... got a room in one of the "businessman hotels" for around €100 per night.. not bad. Of course the real adventure begins when I start experimenting with my accommodation like using capsule hotels and Ryokans... I'll find out tonight how the capsule hotel works out ;)

Waiting for me at the front desk was my Portable Wifi device that I had preordered only a few days ago.. finding this damn handy to get around as the navigation app on my phone is proving essential! A cheap sim card is also another option, but I didn't really have time to investigate. The deal I got costs about €4 per day for internet and then I drop the device back in an envelope at the airport before I leave.

So my first overriding impression of Tokyo, apart from the cleanliness, is how chilled it seems during the daytime. I was expecting Bangkok-levels of traffic and chaos, but it's a relatively calm place which is surprising consdering over 13 million people live here! Sure the subways can get a bit jammers but, unless you are in the midst of rush hour, it's actually not too bad. I reckon a lot of this is due to the salarymen working indoors most of the time, as the only time I have seen Tokyo getting busy is during the evenings.

Even in the evenings, the crowds are restricted to small isolated sections of the city, and it's quite easy to find quiet sidestreets. It seems most of the action, so the speak, is done indoors. The streets are fairly dull affairs, so you need to pop into an Izakaya or Karaoke bar... or one of the 100s of arcades in Akihabra to see the locals at play.

Anyway apart from general exploring I checked out a few of the tourist sites like the Meiji - Shrine, Senso Ji and Akasuka. Akasuka and Ueno are lovely areas with lots of open parks and a great chilled vibe (the green areas in Tokyo are lovely fresh areas and plentiful.. another stereotype blown out of the water, I was expecting Tokyo to be a Blade Runner-styled tech fest!). Coincidentally I happened to be at Meiji just as a once-per-year festival day was taking place.. so I got some fantastic photos of girls in traditional garb (you see a lot of women walking around in kimonos... a recent revival of cultural heriage saw to that).

So,in summary, Tokyo is a hell of a lot different to what I had expected. Clean fresh air billowing through the quiet streets (apart from the odd busy intersection) is really not what I had planned for. It's true that at nighttime it changes a bit, but it's not too exhausting thankfully.


Oh and the thought put into the technology is another thing altogether... Japanese toilets with built-in bidets, mirrors in bathrooms with heated sections to stave off steam, musical subways... that's a whole other post... right now I'm off to my capsule hotel ;)

 

UPDATE: clearly I was mistaken about the crowds...as I was to find out later this day... will fill in on next entry

1 Comment for this Travel blog entry

Mum and Dad Says:

14 May 2016

Hi Peter, great to read that all is going well and look forward to your next entry. Take care.

peterforan Replies:

17 May 2016

thanks, will try to add some more blogs now

Gig in Japan

Travel blog by peterforan

 


My first foray in the Land of the Rising Sun. Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Sumo-wrasslin and most-importantly wasabi Kit Kat!

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