Published: September 4th 2008September 5th 2008
(Day 154 on the road)
From Kyoto, Ann and I took the famous Shinkansen train to Tokyo. The ride was smooth as expected and felt very fast. Once we were walking around Tokyo, the images that I had in my mind of this city were soon confirmed: The city is very much neon and high-tech. One example: The Internet cafes we saw were full-blown amusement and recreation centres, with free drinks available, DVDs and comics for rent, private cubicles with fully reclining chairs to sleep in, and showers. Apparently quite a few people use them as "hotels" if they missed the last subway home; guess I need to spend a night there one day to experience that. Also, you might have read or already experienced about the high-tech toilets in Japan that sprinkle water onto you from beneath - it is a weird experience and I feel that I need a good deal of time to master all the functions these toilets offer.
In Tokyo, Ann and I had a fabulous time together. We spent four days taking in some of the major sights of the city, including the famous temple of Meiji Jingu, the Imperial Palace, the neon areas
of Shibuya and Shinjuku, and the modern bay area of Odaiba with its popular rainbow bridge. Shopping was also on our list of things to do, as was sampling as much of the Japanese food as possible. After leaving China, I was worried that I would not have such great food as back there, but after a week in Japan now I am happy to report that these fears were unfounded. Unfortunately however, Japan is a lot more expensive than China, especially accommodation (about seven times more expensive than cheap China!) and food (so I will be cooking for myself considerably more here rather than eating out all the time).
After Ann left back for London, I stayed in Tokyo a few more days, mostly relaxing, doing laundry, catching up on emails and my blog, and contemplating my next moves. Ann had brought me my tent and my portable stove, and I also splurged out on new hiking boots and a self-inflating mattress. So now I am all set to do some serious hiking and camping, possibly up north on Hokkaido in its vast Daisetsuzan National Park.
One one of the days in the city after Ann had
left, I also met up again with Frances, my old friend from Hong Kong whom I had met in Beijing by chance and who also happened to be travelling in Japan for two weeks now. We had a nice chat and visited the Sensoji Temple near Asakusa.
I was shocked however about one thing Frances told me: An old Chinese classmate from our MBA-class in Hong Kong had just been released from three years in a labour camp in China. He had worked for an NGO in Beijing and the organisation was somehow said to be linked to Falun Gong. One day, he was arrested by the Chinese authorities in the middle of the night and taken away to a labour camp. He spent three years in that camp enduring brainwashing and torture, and has now received political asylum in the US, where his wife already lives. This horrible story seems to be the stuff that happens to people in the news, and I cannot believe that it has actually happened to an old friend that I went to university with! His wife has published a book about this incident, and I will try and get hold of a copy.
Next stop: Daisetsuzan National Park (Hokkaido, Japan). Also have a look at my pictures at http://pictures.beiske.com