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Published: November 13th 2019
Nothing says welcome like a towel sculpture.
We arrived in Tokyo after an uneventful 11 hour flight, featuring lots of films and no sleep.
Getting through the airport is a testament to Japanese efficiency and politeness; with gentle directions and lots of bowing (and with the chance to test out our first few tentative “konichiwa”s and “arigatou”s), the hordes of people are ushered through and we are out past customs in record time - and with both of our bags having made the trip, thankfully. Charlie had pre-booked our own personal WiFi box, apparently something that people commonly have here as surprisingly the mobile internet is not very good, and which we will be using with GoogleMaps and Translate whilst we are here. It’s an interesting service - we picked it up from the post office at the airport and it came with a return address envelope so that, when we’re leaving, we pop it into any postbox and it will make its way back to them.
Our transfer to our hotel was pre-arranged and it is the fanciest airport transfer I’ve ever experienced, and probably the closest to being chauffeur driven that I’ll ever get - our driver (who was also tiny and sat on
Konichiwa from Shibuya crossing - the busiest crossing in Tokyo ✌️
a booster seat) was even wearing white gloves! It’s an hour or so from the airport into the city and it’s easy to believe that Tokyo is the most densely populated city in the world with 37 million people living in the greater Tokyo area. The outskirts are full of high rise apartments with the buildings only getting taller and squashed closer together the more central we go. Our hotel is situated on the 25th to 30th floor of a tower block building, and our room is on the 29th floor; the view is amazing and we can even see Mount Fuji in the distance. The room is lovely, but the real highlight is the toilet. It has a heated toilet seat and is basically a spa for your bum. The warm water spray is, I must say, shockingly accurate in its trajectory. Having experimented with the different settings I would recommend sticking to “bidet” rather than “shower”; I’ve never been sprayed by a super soaker at close range up the bum, but I can imagine that’s what the latter setting feels like. Having said that, though, the phrase “clean as a whistle” did spring to mind.
View from our room, 29 floors up. That’s Mount Fuji in the background
for a walk was a little overwhelming, especially on little to no sleep (and not related to any after effects from accidental undercarriage power washing). We are staying at the edge of Shimbashu, the main Tokyo business district. Like any new place we are hit by new sounds, smells and waves of people as we step out of our hotel. But what is missing, in comparison to anywhere I’ve ever been, is the chaos of a big city. The experience is like being in a hive of industrious insects who are all following a pre-set plan and secret set of rules and who are happy to let you join in their swarms but won’t tell you what’s going on. It took us 2 hours to find a cash machine and eat lunch (noodles and dumplings - very tasty) and the 2 hour nap was a welcome relief!
For the evening we had booked a walking tour of the Shibuya district, the bustling and vibrant shopping, eating and drinking area surrounding the main Shibuya Railway Station and home to the famous Shibuya Crossing; this is the series of zebra crossings that are host to up to 3000 people crossing at a time at their busiest. We had planned to get the subway but, after leaving the hotel late and still blurred with sleep, then taking a wrong turn to the station we ended up getting a very expensive taxi to make it there in time. The tour was great and really gave us our bearings and a bit of confidence in navigating round and some good ideas for food places. Shibuya is the Tokyo that we’ve seen on TV and in photos - full of neon signs, karaoke bars, small restaurants and shops selling all sorts of weird and wonderful things.
We finished our first night rather classily with a glass of champagne in the 25th floor bar admiring the view. Then rather less classily eating bento boxes in our pjs looking over the lights of Tokyo. Not a bad first day.
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