Land of the Rising Sun and rain!

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June 27th 2015
Published: June 27th 2015
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One of the best things of backpacking is meeting and talking to people from all over the world, so there I was on a flight from Kuala Lumpur heading to Tokyo and next to me was a guy unshaven, unearned clothes and flip flops..... obviously another backpacker so I asked him straight away if he was on holidays and a conversation struck up. Eric was an american who was on his way to Tokyo for a week before heading back to the States after backpacking round Asia for the last month and the weird thing was he was staying at the same hostel in Tokyo as me! Random as anything, but helpful as I didn't really know where I was going once we landed! Hopping off the plane and through customs which was a breeze and totally efficient, we managed to work out the metro and which one we needed. We were pushing for time as it was nearing 11 at night and we were both tired and hungry. Once we got to Ueno station, our next metro was actually closed down for the night so we had to grab a taxi, to which none of the drivers spoke English. Fortunately for us, a couple that were on a night out asked us where we were going and after looking at our bad map on the mobile, he stopped the next cab, shoved us in along with his girlfriend and took us to our hostel, and paid for the taxi! He walked us both to the front door and wished us luck with our stay! There is no way that anyone back in the UK or even the US would ever do that to a total stranger. The hotel turned out to be an okay place as it was a hole in the wall that you crawled into with the basics of a mattress, sheets and a pillow, but after spending the previous night on a floor at the airport and the 4 nights before that on a boat, this was luxury and to have hot showers after 3 weeks of cold that was a bigger bonus. Grabbing a quick late dinner from a 24 hour Japanese diner round the corner, sleep came very easily.

A week earlier a friend on Facebook, who I have not spoken to or even seen for 6/7 years, had replied to my status that I was going to Tokyo with a message stating her baby sister was also going to Tokyo on the same day but a bit earlier and was a little concerned that she was travelling on her own and if I would meet up with her and make sure she was okay. So the next day of arriving in the Capital of Japan, I was outside Ueno station after messaging her to say what time I would be there for. A typical female and she turned up an hour late but a very good excuse of how the hell do these metros work!!! Straightaway I knew she was going to be awesome. Abi had fell in love with Japanese anime cartoons from the age of 6 and from that obtained an obsession with Japan with the dream of one day going there. After a long time of saving and working out what exactly she was going to do, she was stood next to me with a big smile and I knew that I didn't have to do any research for Tokyo. I just had to follow her and enjoy the crazy few days ahead.

Instead of going day by day of what we did, I need to gripe about some things..... Japan is one of the G7 and therefore one of the richest and forward thinking countries in the world. Why the hell do they not allow foreigners to buy sim cards? Their restaurants and cafes are all westernised like Starbucks and the like and not one of them have wifi. Japanese people are polite and good at queuing but why do they have to push in when looking at stuff? The hostel is known as international but where is the common room where you can meet other international travellers? Why can you not walk and smoke in the fresh air in Japan but you can smoke in the pubs where it's more likely to get second hand smoke? Anyway I digress and Abi was true to her word of knowing what she wanted to see. We went up the Tokyo Sky Tree to see the sights of the city by day and by night in the space of an hour, we went down some street which is famous for Lolita fashion, we saw the street of technology with all the gadgets and anime figures, we went to the crossing which has the famous night lights of Tokyo where we went for a meal while sitting on the floor. There were temples that were seen, posing with ninjas, looking at a lake full of Lilly leaves and turtles, we fed birds out of our hands, in fact I did so much with her it would be impossible to write them all down in detail. In fact when she left and I had a day left to myself, it felt a bit lonely knowing that I had a full day before getting the bus that evening to the next place that I sort of had done the whole city without realising it. Apart from Sumo wrestling but that was way too early to go to, so sitting on the step of the hostel with a cigarette in my hand I started talking to 2 Americans who were in Tokyo for a week and they were military on leave. Having been around for 3 days they admitted that they hadn't seen much due to getting lost all the time, so with the knowledge I had, asked if they wanted me to give them a guide round the place which they accepted. I was doing a walking tour in a place that I had only been in for 3 days ha ha. I must have been good as they wanted to pay for a meal for me for helping them out, which I should have taken up as the budget was slowly getting less. I then spent the evening on the front step of the hostel using their not to bad wifi waiting for the time that I had to leave to go to the next place. I had spoken to a couple of people of where to go next and the majority of people all told me to head for Kyoto, which I looked on a map and found was a bit too far if I was going to go by bus, for the cheapness, so saw a large town/city called Nagoya, so that was ny next place.

Looking at the map of where the bus was to leave at half past midnight was totally confusing and walking around trying my best to look like I knew where I was going and then I had to stop and ask someone where the bus stop was. It was a group of teenagers and they were all talking, one of them looked at my map and he then grabbed my hand and said follow me in his best english. He talked to me as he led the way stating that he was off to London in 2 weeks time and was there to party! His English was passable and he understood me when I spoke slowly and without breathing too heavy as he was walking fast and I had my 2 backpacks on. After 15 minutes the bloke had got me to where I wanted to be and he shook my hand and said you are here. Amazing! 2 lots of Japanese people giving up their time to help a lost soul like my self within 4 days. I cannot fault the friendliness of anyone in Tokyo as I've already said there is no way that this would happen in Europe!

Sleeping on the bus was easy and arriving in Nagoya, I had the directions to the new hostel which was straight forward and got there 7 hours before check in. Oops, but this was a proper backpackers hostel and bags were put to one side and a cup of coffee was offered. They sorted out a bed and said I could check in early as I looked tired! I did want to say that this was my normal face but I wasn't going to argue. The worst thing of the day was the fact it was raining, my first proper rain in a couple of months and a little bit chilly. I did venture out to see what was about and ended up in a Starbucks around the corner as it was too wet for anything else. Coming back to the hostel and I spent the rest of the day chilling and doing nothing which after the 4 crazy non stop days of Tokyo I sort of needed. The hostel had a common room at reception with a massive table of 12 chairs where everyone randomly sat down whenever they were going out or coming back, perfect way to talk to people and as it was a not well known tourist city then to speak to other westerners to find out why they were there and what they were doing always started the ball rolling. A few people staying to find jobs teaching english, some wanting to go somewhere that wasn't on the tourist trail but they were all fascinated in what I'm doing. When people ask me how long I'm staying in Japan for and when do I go back to UK, I have to tell them what exactly I'm doing without sounding boastful or anything like that. It's not too bad when you meet other backpackers who are doing something similar but Japan is the first place I've come to that the travellers are doing Japan only, apart from Eric the american from the plane journey.

Day 2 of Nagoya and today the rain had stopped and this morning I decided that it was time to get a bike out and see the city from the road. There are basically 2 main tourist places to go to and they are the castle and a shrine. Taking a map and following the roads I got to the castle and after finding that during the second world war it was destroyed and reconstructed over the last few years with the final parts to be completed by 2018, it wasn't really THE castle but a replica. I still went around and was interested with lots of photos but wasn't appealing as much as I thought it be. So back on the bike for a random ride. I ended up in a park where everyone was dressed up as anime characters and lots of professional photographers which I had to get involved with. Asking if they spoke English and if they minded if I took their picture, everyone I asked would immediately pose. Nagoya is less crazy then Tokyo and a hell of a lot quieter as well but it has an appeal that I like. I still have 2 days left here and like everyday I have no idea what I'm going to be doing but thats the fun of travelling!


10th July 2015

Phones and Wi-fi
I suggest opening up Google Map and entering the keyword "Free WiFi" "フリーWifi". As a matter of fact, there is free wi-fi at all (if not, most) Starbucks across Japan, and the Renoir chain around Tokyo (I'm currently using it), but you need a phone for a code request for these two (there are dozens of other cafe chains offering similar services). There are of course cafes with wi-fi in places like Tokyo and Kyoto which can be used with a code (ask the staff). Many local people do not use this, as their phones and computers are already bundled with coded wi-fi (LTE highspeed) and would not prefer to use unsafe wi-fi networks which can be easily decoded (see the Economist survey on internet safety of cities around the globe). If you just want a SIM for your smartphone, go to a Yodobashi or BIC Camera Store for a visitor package. If you read guide books or websites like Japan-Guide, how tos are all written. If you can't handle that, go to a Seven-Eleven convenience store and they all have free wi-fi (Lawson also have similar free public wi-fi at some of their shops). Not wanting to be a pest - just wanted to lend a helping hand to a person who seems to be feeling a bit miserable in the rainy season. PS As for the FAX issue - that is because many people see e-mail for business as something less reliable (the other person can make excuses that s/he had trouble opening it in time, or the mail was undelivered because of a virus, etc; there will be no excuses if you send a fax, and ask the person to check it immediately over the phone- that's the way the Japanese work). Again not wanting to be a pest, but there is "local logic" to all things, and British people, however clever and charming they are to walk in the rain without umbrellas, can't claim their logic to be the global standard.

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