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Published: September 25th 2005
Now that's what I'm talkin' about, Japan baby, yeah!!!!
We've been in Japan for nearly a week now and it's totally amazing, unlike anything we have experienced on this trip so far, or in any of our travels to date come to mention it.
The number of temples and shrines are breathtaking, the countryside beautiful and the friendliest people we have ever encountered. Everything is so efficient, the trains run to the dot, and do so at 180 MPH (300KM/hr). We have never seen anywhere so clean, believe it or not there are wee wimmen hoovering the streets, the actual pavements with wee cordless vacum cleaners, it is chicken oriental.
We started in Tokyo, and why not? This may be the most amazing city anyone will ever encounter, it's like we got on the plane from Sydney and went forward 20 years rather than the one hour time difference, it really has to be seen to be believed but I'll try my best.
First up Tokyo is huge, busy and built up as far as the eye can see, there probably isn't a more different country to Australia than Japan, there is zero space here, the country
'mon the shed!!
Andrew tries out the ideal headware fir Tannadice in January
seems quite small, certainly in relation to Oz, maybe about 5 hours from top to bottom by Shinkansen (Japanese Bullet Train), but the population is about 127 million, so about a 10th of the size of Australia with about 7 times the population, roughly.
Tokyo, Yokohama and Kawasaki are 3 of the countries biggest cities and in fact are so close together now, due to the increase in consruction works, that if they were considered one city, which they almost are now, then that city would be the biggest in the world with a population of over 21 million.
So it's dead busy basically, and land comes at a premium, that's why Japan is expensive. Property prices are huge and therefore the hostels rates are higher than anywhere else in the world, and they're real small, I mean tiny, I mean if I hit my head on one more door frame I'm going to go mental, that's the only bad thing with Japan, the door frames. Seriously, I know they're just wee people but even they need to duck to get in the doors, we don't build doors in the UK that we have to duck into, why
do it? The room surely doesn't have to be a certain size to have a bigger door does it? It doesnae have to be scaled to phi or that? Even if it does then they're wrong, the whole world of construction is wrong, dinnae worry I'll have a word with Jolo or the Horse and they'll put a word in, we'll get it sorted, leave it with me.
So land is expensive but Japan doesn't have to be, it's no where near as bad as we though it would be, accomodation is dear, train travel is dear (it cost us about 260 poonds each for a 14 day rail pass) but other than that it doesn't have to be expensive. Sure you can pay loads for a slap up meal and drinking in bars is about the same as Edinburgh but you can get food out of street stalls for anything from 1 pound for a simple rice dish to 3 pounds for a steaming bowl of noodles filled with shrimp and crab, or dog maybe, but that's another story. There is also vending machines for everything, on almost every street corner, it's unbelievable, and cheap, you can get
a 500ml tin of local beer for 220Y, just over a pound, so it's all good. No one eats or drinks on the street here but you'll often find me on the street corner with my kerry-oot and cup noodle, my parents would be pwoud, so vewwy pwoud as Sir Alex would say.
Anyway back to Tokyo, it's huge, it's made up of loads of wee cities, we stayed in a place called Asakusa, the old part of the city that was always considered the heart and soul of Tokyo in Edo times. It also houses the most famous temple in Tokyo, Senso-Ji. It was in Asakusa that Japan's first cinema opened, where the first concert hall opened and where Western opera was first performed, it is also home to the first strip clubs in Japan, of course this all happened after Japan ended it's own isolation period.
Asakusa was pretty much flattened by the bombing at the end of WWII and although the temples were rebuilt it still remains the charm of old Tokyo without the bright lights of Shinjuku.
We also visited the centre of Tokyo, Shinjuku, where Times Square and the huge Skyscrapers of
Maunouchi lie. The centre is, as you'd expect, breathtaking, the buildings, the amount of people, the technology, everything is jaw dropping, and it's very hot. The temperature just now is about 31 degrees, nothing major from what we've been used to but it's suffocating here, you can't see the sun, it's not particularly bright but it is so humid, it's like walking about in a bowl of soup, murder. As soon as you step outside your t-shirt is stuck to your back, not nice.
We also visited the beautiful Shinjuku Chuo-koen Gardens in the middle of the city, it was so peaceful it was sureal, in the middle of the busiest square mile in the world there was this huge garden with stunning traditional Japanese gardens as well as English and French displays.
Our last port of call on this trip to Tokyo, we're back for another 3 days on the way out of Japan, was the downtown delights of Kabukicho. This is where the seedy side of Tokyo raises it's head and it is as busy as the business district. There are loads of hostess bars and dodgy Japanese drinking holes full of business men buying and
The 'entertainment' district, Tokyo.
selling whatever they have to offer and they like to pay for foreign ladies to accompany them while they do, if you ken what I mean.
All in all Tokyo was amazing, we can't wait to get back, it drains all your energy and leaves you wanting more, it's busy bright and friendly, and most of all safe, a great introduction to Japan and a wake up call to our senses that had become dulled by easy street for the last 6 months. This is what we came looking for when we left home over 8 months ago and for the next 4 months it's going to be one amazing day after another.
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