Where do I start? Probably with HAPPY NEW YEAR (akemashite omedetou gozaimasu, kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu)! It’s been a few weeks since New Year, but it feels a lifetime ago! I had quite an adventurous trip – first stop was Tokyo (riding down in the night bus was eventful to say the least, definitely cheap travel for a reason).
I arrived in Tokyo to this:
(this is literally just after I stepped off the bus in Shinjuku)
Not only did I feel ridiculously small, but the weather was absolutely glorious – especially compared with the mess we had in Akita. The bus arrived in Tokyo at about 8am and I couldn’t check in until 15.30 so I had a lot of time to kill. After a little trouble, I managed to dump my suitcase in a coin locker and went off to explore Tokyo.
Since the weather was this fabulous, I thought it would be a good idea to go up Tokyo tower and see if the view would be decent. I certainly wasn’t wrong! When I reached the top, all I could hear around me was people going ‘ah, Fuji-san’.
After this, the weather was still lovely, so I went for a trek around Ueno Park with all its temples:
However, the best bit? Sitting down by the huge fountain (in front of the art museum), listening to an old man play his banjo in the late afternoon sun. It was the most relaxing time I’ve had in a while…..
Next was a whole different type of fun! In the backstreets of Ueno, there are some windy narrow streets full of shops selling foreign merchandise, kebabs, etc. That day was unexpectedly crowded so, even through there were police trying to split up the traffic flow, the crush was immense!! It was great fun just trying to get from one end to the other without getting pushed over.
Skipping ahead to the second day (missing the part where I got lost trying to find my hotel and then surprising the clerk when he found out that, yes, I could speak Japanese), it was beautiful weather again. This time I decided it might be rather nice to walk under the Rainbow Bridge. There is a promenade, I’m not just going all spiderman on it! I took the train over the Minato-ku and then walked the few kilometres across the bridge to a park on the other side (in Odaiba I think), where some old battlements and cannons are still there. I also happened to see a bunch of people dressed up as Power Rangers…..
At this point, I could ignore the call no longer and decided I had to let the geeky part of me loose in Akihabara – the biggest geek paradise of them all. I randomly met 2 AIU students there and we went for a trawl of a HUGE figurine store (I escaped with a few key rings, despite the fabulous Predator and Avengers figurines they had for sale).
Since it was New Year’s Eve that night, I had to decide what I was doing pretty early on. Unfortunately, the people I was supposed to meet up with were being stupidly unorganised and not answering my texts. So by about 8pm I went with ‘screw you, I’m going to enjoy New Year my way, by myself’. I trekked over to Tokyo Tower and just got in before they shut down for the New Year viewing (it was 9.30 by then). People who wanted to see the first sunrise were already queuing up with thermal blankets and whatnot! The view from Tokyo Tower at night was pretty spectacular and I tried to grab a good spot (facing rainbow bridge) ready for the countdown.
3 hours I stood there, I could see the people crowding into the temple down below for the first visit of the year, I could see an outdoor show in the park nearby. The countdown got closer and the Fuji TV building was lit up. So what happened when the clock struck 12? Bugger all. We could see the fireworks going off in Yokohama and what did we get? Balloons. Friggin’ balloons!! I cheered with everyone else and then caught one of the very crowded trains back to Shinjuku for my 4 hours sleep (it was 2.30 by then and I had to be up by 6.30 to get to the airport).
I’ll cut this off here, next stop: INDONESIA!!