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Wednesday 7 Nov
Tokyo, Japan

Loving those Hotels...

We had certain things on our agenda in regards to Tokyo. I wanted an authentic Japanese garden, and some crazy shopping. Owen wanted to visit 'Electric Town' and to find a 'Puchi Puchi'... not as naughty as it sounds, it's eternal bubble-wrap, in a box on a key-ring. Pop to your heart's content. Perfect Christmas present apparently.

We located the famous street 'Takeshita Dori' just opposite Harajuku train station, and discovered a world of fashion we never knew existed. Tartan tutu skirts, knitted boots, fancy dress to extremes...and they completely refused to let Owen try on a Jack (from 'A Nightmare before Christmas') outfit, even though he would only have stretched the outfit a TEENY bit. Unreasonable...

We had a mission hunting down big department stores like 'Tokyu Hands' and 'Loft' for Owen's popper Wink, then hours later, sitting outside one of them, we notice they're marked on our map... doh.

We found Electric Town. Honestly, it's nothing great. Better for buying touristy souveniers than actual electrical goods!

The Japanese garden wasn't really at its best (blossom in the spring is the way to go), but it was still fantastic to wander around lakes and woods with the Tokyo cityscape rising above you. Owen might not agree, he very luckily, for some reason, stopped millimetres away from walking face-first into a giant spider's web, complete with giant spider. The remainder of the walk saw me marching in front of him, waving a branch like a forest parade leader, just in case other webs were lurking evilly in the shadows...

With that 'lunge' into nature, getting back into the urban was a relief!

We spent a LOT of our time going in and out of Shibuya, it's a good shopping area, with that famous crossroads where you see thousands of Japanese pedestrians swarming across. There were some Western students acting as excited as we were feeling...they were jumping about in the middle of the crossroads, waving and cheering amongst the pedestrian hordes at a friend with a camera. We almost joined in, except for the fact that there were people giving away free hugs (yeah, we grabbed some of THAT action Cheesy).

Just outside Shibuya train station is the statue of 'Hachiko'. Hachiko was a faithful dog that would wait at the station for his master, Professor Ueno, every day, and carried on doing so for over a decade after his master's death. This statue is a famous landmark, and we gave him a pat for being such a good dog.

So, why else were we hanging around Shibuya so much? Apart from discovering ninja shoes ('Tabi'), there was something else on our mind: finding the Love Hotel district.
It was a novelty we just HAD to include on our list of places to stay. Obviously it's not advertised, and even if it was, our Japanese was not at that kind of level yet. After many hours of trudging up and down hills, it was only a chance encounter, after we'd given up, that showed us the light. The red light.

Just to make it easy for you, if you get to Shibuya, just find the Shibuya 109 building...it's right on a corner, and as you look at it, has one road going up to the left of it, and one up to the right.
Take the left (Dogenzaka). There's a massive archway with a giant Pac-man on the right-hand side some way up, just before KFC. Go through, and you will seem to be in a red-light district. Actually, 'seem' is not the word...you ARE in a red-light district. Cheesy

Just brave it, and you will suddenly happen upon a giant maze of Love Hotels...I'm sure there are at least fifty. Most have their names in neon lights, others have castle spires, cherub stautes and roses engraved over the entire building. I'm telling you, these hotels were as discreet as we were, running in like kids at a candy shop, skirting and jumping over the furtive-looking young Japanese couples.

The deal is simple: you can walk (or run) in and out of the empty hotel lobbies, and look at pictures of the rooms available on a board. If they're lit up, you can choose one, press a button, pay at the desk nearby...and off you go! You can pay for a 'rest' Wink by the hour, or after 9pm, you can book an all-nighter...and this works out cheaper than a conventional room. Most are normal rooms anyway, with 'extras' that you may or may not utilize.
We were after a themed room, but there's a real shortage of that, especially in Tokyo, as Japanese women generally want to feel as relaxed as possible in these places, so they make them BORING.
Osaka is THE place to go, you can ask QuirkyJapan.

But, we were ecstatic with the Japanese-style room we finally chose...cheaper than staying in the Capsule Hotel, and we had the space all to ourselves, with TV and 'videos', own bathroom with a spa bathtub (very noisy, but even at 2am, you're almost expected to be using it!) and you could choose your own mood music from a switch box by the bed. Together with 'umeshu' on ice, we had a very chilled last night in Japan...hell, last night of THE TOUR!

Tokyo, and Japan in general, is such a different culture to ANYTHING else, we did not do it justice with just one week of our presence. It is an expensive place however, despite the fact we ate mainly from burger joints and convenience shops, so you will have to sell a member of your family in order to afford a holiday here.

One granny should be enough.

1 Comment for this Travel blog entry

Dartmoor Says:

12 November

Dartmoor offers more to see and do than could be included in theaverage holiday to devon or Dartmoor itself. From great attractions forchildren through to museums and the natural attractions that Dartmoorhas to offer such as disused quarries and Railways.

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